FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Resurrection of Jeremy Corbyn

by

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has made a remarkable comeback after his political obituary had been written and widely accepted as recently as seven weeks ago. Although the Tories, led by Theresa May, will still have the largest number of seats, they have lost their majority, after calling the election in the belief that they would increase it. Labour has picked up at least 29 seats. The result is a hung parliament, and it is not yet clear whether a coalition government will be formed or new elections will have to be held.

Observers have pointed to various historical causes that have brought Corbyn to his leadership position and kept him there, such as the failure of the centrist, neoliberal project of “New Labour” to provide economic security or even much of a future for the party’s working class base; or Tony Blair’s deeply unpopular foreign policy, including the Iraq War and the lies on which it was sold.

Many have made the comparison to Bernie Sanders, who despite losing his primary bid last year is currently the most popular active politician in the US, and is especially well-liked among younger people. The appeal of these two senior citizens to youth is striking, and it bodes well for the future.

But one of the most important lessons of the Corbyn comeback is that the truth, so often dismissed as the first casualty of politics, can be an effective weapon. After the Manchester terrorist attack, Corbyn said something that no party leader in the US would say during an election campaign:

“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.”

Corbyn opposed UK involvement in the wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a Trump-like buffoonish character with the moral compass of a sewer rat, responded in character, saying that Corbyn’s statement was “absolutely monstrous” and that it was “extraordinary and inexplicable in this week of all weeks that there should be any attempt to justify or to legitimate the actions of terrorists in this way.”

But these dishonest attacks, echoed by some of the UK’s largest media outlets, didn’t stick, because people knew that Corbyn was telling the truth. A poll this week for The Independent in the UK found 75 percent in agreement that “interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have made atrocities on UK soil more likely.”

There is an important lesson here: the only way to prevent the right from constantly capitalizing on, and perpetuating, the cycle of terrorism and foreign military intervention is to explain to people what is actually happening.

President Obama actually said it for a few seconds in an interview with Vice News back in March 2015:

“ISIL is direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which grew out of our invasion.”

But the major media looked the other way; in the US, it was the more right-wing outlets and blogs who took note because they thought it was scandalous and would hurt Obama.

Of course Obama could have gone further and explained that al-Qaeda itself, including Osama bin Laden, was a product of billions of dollars of US support for jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s; not to mention Washington’s close alliance with what remains the ideological center and major financier of Islamic extremism: Saudi Arabia.

Few have the courage to say that the West’s threat from terrorism is overwhelmingly blowback from its interventions, because they are afraid of responses like those of Boris Johnson and the UK media. But it needs to be said here too, not least because the “War on Terror” is the last refuge for discredited, right-wing politicians like Donald Trump, who is otherwise on the road to self-destruction. Republicans used the build-up to the Iraq War to keep the US Congress in 2002; and despite the fact that the war was already a disastrous failure by 2004, it helped George W. Bush get re-elected.

The “Labour Manifesto” was also an act of courage, sticking to the principles of economic and social justice that had long motivated the party’s base as well as most of its voters. It proposed a substantial expansion of the national health service, government-provided child care, labor rights legislation to increase the bargaining power of workers, prevented increases in the retirement age, and increased public investment. Taxes on corporations, high-income earners, and financial transactions would be increased to pay for new social spending.

As with Bernie Sanders’ proposals for free college tuition, universal health care, and taxes on Wall Street, it has been a mass movement led by younger people that put these popular reforms on the political map.

The UK election also unfortunately shows the power that the mass media has over what many people think, and therefore over electoral possibilities. In the US, the major media helped keep Bernie from the Democratic nomination mostly by giving him relatively little coverage. The UK media, especially the newspapers read by millions, are more aggressively partisan and they have engaged in a war of character assassination against Corbyn. By April 18, when Prime Minister Theresa May announced the elections, the media had almost succeeded in finishing off Corbyn and ensuring a Tory landslide.

What gave Corbyn new life was partly the Labour Manifesto, which allowed many voters to see that he stood for things that they believed in. And he also got a boost from electoral laws regulating the TV media that kicked in at the beginning of May. These are intended to give equal television time to the contending parties.

We will need a more fair and impartial media in the US, among other reforms, if we are going to move toward a more democratic political system. But the most important lesson from the UK election is that some of the most important truths that the media won’t touch are not necessarily to be feared by genuine political leaders.

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail