A suffocating consensus has made Britain follow wherever the dictates of US foreign policy take it, says Tim Gopsill.
THE HOPES raised by Jeremy Corbyn’s wonderful win in the labour leadership election for people who oppose the UK’s wars are huge. More than in any other area, it will take a mighty effort to make those hopes real.
There is no other area in which politics at national level so ignores the population at large. On the economy, health, education and so on, there is at least debate and sometimes a battle between the interests represented at government level.
But on war, security, intelligence – grouped under the significantly misleading heading of “defence” – there is a suffocating consensus that places the actions of the state beyond serious challenge.
The Labour Party is firmly embedded in the consensus. In seeking power it feels a special need to prove its reliability in this area. For the last 70 years, since the Second World War, it has maintained a steady subservience to the military and security requirements of the USA that exceeds even that of the Conservatives, who have less to prove.
Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-war stance evidently appeals to millions of people. He wins six in every ten Labour votes amid a clamour of warnings from the leadership of all national parties that he is walking threat to national security, a traitor set on surrendering the UK to middle east (or even Irish) terrorists.
No-one could have missed all these; so clearly they are not convinced. The majority must believe that the safety of the country does not depend on tagging along with American invasions and increasing expenditure on defence, including on stupefyingly expensive nuclear weapons systems that everyone knows serve no purpose, while hacking it back in all socially useful areas.
People can see, for instance, from the wave of war refugees fleeing across Europe, that any intensifying of hostilities in the middle east can only lead to more, that the whole morass arose from the invasion of Iraq and that this itself was launched with the rationale of a pack of lies on the part of the security establishment which at the time was in the hands of the Labour Party. And what a “safe pair of hands” they are! Just look at the history.
Many on the left revere the memory of Clement Attlee and his Labour governments from 1945-51, when the welfare state was established, with free healthcare and education for all. But those governments also joined the Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union alongside the USA, jointly founding NATO and building Britain’s first nuclear weapons in secret, without consulting Parliament.
The anti-communism of this movement was intense; it was not as extreme as McCarthyism in the USA, but left-wingers in public service, especially education, were required to prove their loyalty and lost their jobs if they couldn’t. It was the same sort of thing as the so-called “Prevent” agenda under which Muslims are required to prove their allegiance to the consensus values of today, but was imposed then by what is often hailed as the most progressive Labour government of all time.
There was some resistance from the left, which in 1960 succeeded in winning the party conference to the cause of nuclear disarmament. Attlee’s successor Hugh Gaitskell appropriately went ballistic, declaring that he would ignore the democratic decision and reverse the policy. His outrageous 1961 speech to this effect is often held up by establishment Labourites as a triumph of party conference oratory.
Similar veneration is accorded to a speech by the vaunted left-wing leader Michael Foot in 1982, when a special session of Parliament was convened on a Saturday to give him the opportunity to pledge the obedience of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition as Margaret Thatcher despatched her fleet to the Falklands.
It was not enough. The jingoism generated around that war finished off Foot’s leadership as Labour crashed to election defeat a year later, to be succeeded by one-time CND firebrand Neil Kinnock, who gave even more fulsome backing to the Tories when they joined the first invasion of Iraq led by George Bush senior in 1991.
In 1998 Tony Blair launched his own war, in the Balkans. This was not an American war but a European one, with the former Yugoslavia dismembered and its territories set against each other by the then European Community (now EU). US President Bill Clinton was not interested but was dragged in by NATO, to attack Serbia.
This war had another telling parallel with today’s world: the bombing of Kosovo caused a massive wave of refugees, which Blair used for propaganda purposes but ignored their plight, leaving hundreds of thousands unaided, lacking food or shelter.
The propaganda cynically presented this outrage as a “humanitarian intervention”, and the same spurious justification was employed for the assault on Libya in 2011. This again was a European-led enterprise, promoted by the UK, France and Italy, again faithfully supported by Labour.
Such is the party’s war record – without even mentioning Iraq and Afghanistan! Today Labour emphatically backs Trident, the expansion of NATO and its 2 per cent minimum for spending on “defence”.
This is what Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are taking on, in the deepest challenge of all to the core of the Labour establishment.
Winning the leadership is obviously not enough. The left thought they were winning when they won the CND vote, and when Michael Foot became leader; even, some deluded souls, when Gordon Brown took over from Blair. But there was never enough support within the party to stop the right wing re-establishing control.
Since September 12 when Corbyn was announced the winner 50,000 have joined the Labour Party, adding to the hundreds of thousands who joined since the election in May. This should be a solid foundation on which to take a stand.
If people are joining up then they have got to get active. They are embarking on a serious enterprise. Jeremy Corbyn may not be able to get rid of the warmongers in the Labour Party, but with enough help from the grass-roots he might be able to stop them running it.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial
Source: Stop the War Coalition