Sunday, 25 March 2018

Corbyn/Smith v May/Bojo

The sacking of Owen Smith from the Shadow Cabinet, by Jeremy Corbyn stands in stark contrast to the inability of Theresa May to sack Bojo from her Cabinet. It demonstrates the fact that for all of the bravado prior to the last election, it is Corbyn, not May who is in the position of being a strong leader. 

In terms of the issue around which Smith was making a stand, the idea that Brexit is a very bad idea, and that Labour should commit itself to holding a third referendum (the first being in 1975, the second in 2016, and the third to be when the government come back having failed to be able to deliver any of the boons the Brexiters promised during the last campaign) I have some sympathy with Smith. Brexit certainly is a very bad idea, all of the revelations coming out about the role of Cambridge Analytics, its connections to assorted Tories, ex members of MI5 and 6, Trump supporters, and shady characters associated with Russia, should give everyone cause to think about what has happened more seriously. In fact, however, these revelations ought to give further cause for thought about the desirability of decision making by plebiscite, the favoured tool of dictators, rather than via a General Election. My view has always been that Labour should commit to a principled position of opposing Brexit, and working on that basis to force a General Election, in which Labour could stand in clear opposition to the Tories on that basis, and on the basis of putting forward a perspective of a progressive social-democratic refounding of the European project itself alongside the European workers' parties and trades unions. 

I believe that Labour Party members, and trades unions should push for resolutions to Party Conference along those lines. But, the truth is that Smith's stand on this issue had little to do with any of that. He knew what collective responsibility meant, when he joined the Shadow Cabinet, and when he authored his Guardian article. The issuing of that article, at this particularly time was no accident. It is part of a well established pattern. In 2016, the right of the party launched their offensive against Corbyn ahead of the local elections. Despite that attack Labour did not do anywhere nearly as badly in the local elections as the Right needed them to do, to be able to use it against Corbyn. They had to wait until the referendum defeat, before they launched their challenge to Corbyn's leadership. That challenge crashed and burned, and Corbyn became stronger. 

Running alongside those challenges was the weaponising of the issue of anti-Semitism. Initially, not even the right of the party dared try to accuse Corbyn of anti-Semitism, such is his history of fighting oppression and discrimination of all kinds over the years. Instead, they focussed on a war of attrition against Corbyn supporters, seeking to drag Corbyn down by association. The failure of the Corbyn leadership to tackle that back-door offensive, to call it out for the witch-hunt that it was, and to make a clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, has simply strengthened the hand of those that were seeking to undermine Corbyn himself, to the extent that they have now felt confident enough to try to ridiculously accuse Corbyn himself of anti-Semitism, in relation to his careless comment in relation to a mural that he had not actually seen, back in 2012, and which he has now said is clearly anti-Semitic, and which if he had actually examined, he would have condemned at the time! 

That continual campaign by the Right to undermine Corbyn via the PLP, and the other elements of the party establishment, was stepped up ahead of the 2017 General Election, which as the documentary from the time made clear, the Right were hoping the Tories would win by a large margin, so as to enable them to pursue a new run at the leadership. Yet, despite all of the carping, despite all of the attempts to divide and weaken the Party, the Right failed. Not only did the party membership expand massively, but this new mass movement mobilised, even in the constituencies of those very MP's who were trying to unseat Corbyn, and won the largest swing of votes in Labour's favour since 1945, depriving the Tories of a majority, and simultaneously destroying the myth that elections can only be won from the centre, and that there was no support for a radical social-democratic programme. 

For a time, the Right were stunned into silence. The election had also put the final nail in the coffin of all those elements within the media who were hoping to find a justification for their own establishment mantras, and hope for some new centre party to be established that would thereby continue to provide them with their usual diet of celebrity insider tittle-tattle, and irrelevant palace politics intrigues. The loss of their control of the NEC, and increasingly of the party bureaucracy has meant the Right have been backed into a corner. The opposition to Corbyn's totally rational and reasonable position over the Salisbury poisoning, was clearly confected, and just the manifestation that, as another election cycle approaches, the Right were on manoeuvres, attempting to undermine Labour's performance, in the hope of portraying 2017 as a flash in the pan, based only on anxious Remain voters having turned to Labour in desperation, and who might now turn away, if Labour was not seen to be providing them with hope. 

Hence the ridiculous resurrection in the last week of talk about the creation of a new centre-party made up of the Labour Right, Liberals and Tory Remainers. But, also hence Smith's launching of his own new platform. Smith knew it would mean he had to be sacked, but the point was to sow division and dissent ahead of the May local elections, once again in the hope of undermining Labour's performance and thereby of Corbyn's position. Corbyn was right to sack Smith, because of what lay behind Smith's actions. That Corbyn was able to do so, whilst Theresa May finds that, day after day, one or more Tory Brextremist threatens to wage a leadership election, that Bojo is free to announce his own agenda on the world stage in opposition to that of May, and that May herself is forced to reverse one statement after another, only hours after she has made them, shows just how weak her position is, and how strong Corbyn's position is. 

And the correctness of Corbyn's position over the Salisbury poisoning has also been illustrated in the last few days. Despite what the Tories and the media have tried to claim, Corbyn did not provide cover for Putin. Unlike May, Corbyn pointed to the vile nature of Putin's regime, and its oppression of ordinary Russians. But, that is also no reason to simply take the word of May or of the British Intelligence Services. As I pointed out a few days ago, given that the job of all intelligence services is to systematically lie, to spread disinformation, only a fool would believe anything they say. 

And, what have we seen in recent days. The Channel 4 investigation showed people from Cambridge Analytica/SCL parading their connections with former members of the British Intelligence Services, as they attempted to sell their wares to foreign politicians, as able to sow such disinformation, to undertake various dirty tricks, and to swing elections this way or the other. We have also seen that assorted Tories have held positions within SCL, and that the government has itself awarded contracts to the company. Also associated with the company was Trump's ideological mentor Steve Bannon. Now we see the company, or its Canadian arm being implicated in channelling campaign funds for Vote Leave during the EU Referendum campaign, with the trail leading right back into Downing Street itself, just as the trail of similar shady dealings in the US, are heading right into Trump's White House, despite all of his repeated tweets asserting that there was no collusion between his campaign, and Putin's Russia. 

I wrote a year ago that we should investigate the links between the Tories and Putin's Russia, because it was already obvious at that time that there were clear ideological links between May's Tories/UKIP and the Trump regime, and with the ideology of various autocratic regimes across the globe, be it Putin's Russia, Erdogan's Turkey, Duterte's Phillippines, Netanyahu's Israel and so on. It is an ideology of National Bolshevism, of a reactionary economic nationalism, of which hostility to the EU is a clear example. Indeed, May's attempt to use the slogan of “strong and stable leadership” should be seen as part of that very ideological trend, as should her repeated attempts to bypass parliamentary and democratic procedures, to undermine legal scrutiny via the courts and so on, which mirror the same approach by Trump in the US. 

The truth is, however, that May is neither strong nor stable. But, then the reason that the Brextremists have allowed her to stumble on with the facade of leadership is that they hope that the EU can be duped into agreeing to successive fudged agreements, and that Parliament will then vote through such a fudged settlement, at which point the Brextremists will remove May, and put one of their own in Downing Street, backed up by the kind of dangerous elements that ultimately stand behind Trump, Putin, Duterte, Le Pen and others, who can be whipped up by professional provocateurs, in a similar way that has been suggested was done in Latvia, Nigera, Kenya and elsewhere. At that point, a British Bonaparte will stand at the head of this rabble, and push through their own version of that fudged agreement, which will entail a rapid process of regulatory divergence, and economic nationalism, as regulations and protections for workers are scrapped, in a race to the bottom. 

That is, if we let them get away with it. That is why its vital that Labour should sound the warning siren of the danger of this development, should stand clearly on the principle of opposing Brexit, and working towards a new General Election. But, that is a million miles away from the perspective that lies behind the challenge of Owen Smith, and of all those Blair-rights for whom he is merely a stalking horse. 

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