Comrade Peter Tatchell Speaks for our Left.
I’m backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leadership, despite his unsavoury “friends.“ By Peter Tatchell
This article expresses the views of many of us on the democratic socialist left.
A Corbyn premiership would reverse damaging, cruel welfare cuts and the privatisation of vital public services. He’d tackle climate destruction, rocketing rents and house prices. Trident renewal, foreign wars and the sinister Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership would be nixed. His administration would bring rail and energy companies back into decentralised public ownership. All sensible, compassionate policies. Good for him.
In my book, he is head and shoulders above all the other Labour leadership candidates, both in terms of his past political record and his political agenda for the future. But the single most important over-arching reason for supporting Jeremy is that Britain needs to turn away from the flawed and failed policies of business as usual. He is shaking up the establishment and breaking with the cosy political consensus that has been shared by Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP. The mainstream, middle-of-the-road policies of the last decade are not the answer. All they offer is more of the same, which is what got us into the current mess.
Comrade Peter’s article is lengthy and merits a full read.
Those will long-memories will recall that Peter has been important contributor to Labour Briefing – a significant part of the Labour left backing Jeremy Corbyn. He has also been on the Socialist Society’s Steering Committee. He is well-known to “our” left.
That is apart from all the other campaigns and issues he has fought for so bravely.
Peter Tatchell is one of the most respected and genuine people many of us know.
After having given due weight to his merits, and the immense hope Jeremy Corbyn represents, he sums up our reservations.
Since Jeremy has his heart in the right place and is not an Islamist, Holocaust denier or anti-Semite, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Nonetheless, he has been careless in not checking out who he shares platforms with and been too willing to associate uncritically with the Islamist far right.
While I’m certain that Jeremy doesn’t share their extremist views, he does need to explain in more detail why he has attended and spoken at meetings alongside some pretty unsavoury bigots who advocate human rights abuses – and especially why he did so without publicly criticising their totalitarian politics.
He also notes problems with the stand taken on Hamas, Hezbollah, Russia and Ukraine.
There is much to say on these issues, and others – but read the article.
I will concentrate on those who are crowing that Corbyn’s opposition to direct Western intervention in Syria is another reason why he is unfit to lead the Labour Party.
One of the more distasteful claims now being made is that full-throttled backing of the Syrian opposition would have stopped the present refugee crisis.
What exactly that mean became clear as the conflict escalated in 2012- 2013 and voices became louder and louder that there should have been armed intervention, helped by aerial bombardments.
Those leading the charges against Corbyn were amongst the forces putting pressure for the British government to support military action in Syria.
Parliament voted in August 2013 against this. “David Cameron said he would respect the defeat of a government motion by 285-272, ruling out joining US-led strikes.”
They, above the ‘Eustonites’ and the Labour right-wing, including Blogs such as Harry’s Place, have not forgiven Jeremy Corbyn for helping in the defeat of this move.
It is clearer nevertheless, by the day, that the “opposition” in Syria, that is armed groups, that would have been aided by these measures were the very Islamist genociders (in ‘moderate’ killer or ‘extremist’ killer guise) who now create mass misery.
The result would probably have been, as Phil states, the premises are skewed.
Could Bombing Have Averted the Syrian Refugee Crisis?
The injection of large numbers of US and UK troops might have brought about an Afghanistan/Iraq-style “solution” with all the anti-insurgency actions and casualties that would have entailed, but IS would have been locked out. However, as we know neither the public nor for that matter the political and military elites were taken with such a scenario. Perhaps timing could have made a difference. Had the bombs fallen on Damascus earlier today’s crisis might have been avoided. Possibly, but as the last foray into Libya showed early intervention is no guarantee of success. If the bombs had landed in support of the 2011 uprisings, what has befallen Tripoli, Benghazi, etc. could be a window into the road not taken in Syria. That, however, was never on the table.
This was, and remains, no democratic alternative to the Assad tyranny with the force to replace it.
What can we do?
Peter’s statement on the present state of the Syrian civil war is important.
On Syria, Jeremy seems to have no policies, apart from “Don’t bomb Syria”. I concur. We don’t want escalation and war. But surely 250,000 dead, 1.5 million wounded and 10 million refugees merits some action? Total inaction aids the survival of Assad and Isis (IS).
A good start might be a UN General Assembly-authorised no-fly zone, arms embargo, peacekeepers and civilian safe havens – plus cutting funding to the IS and Assad armies by a UN blockade of oil sales.
Such measures – enforced by non-Western states such as Argentina, India, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa – would help de-escalate the conflict and reduce casualties. Jeremy’s wariness of intervention is understandable. I share it. But surely a UN mandate designed to limit war fighting is reasonable and legitimate for a left-wing candidate?
Peter also speaks on a subject dear to our heart: the Tendance has supported movements of solidarity with the Iranian people, such as Hands off the People of Iran * – which is both anti-Theocracy and for human rights in Iran, and against Western Military intervention.
Like Jeremy, I don’t want war with Iran. I opposed the indiscriminate, blanket Western sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians. But I’ve struggled to find examples of where he has spoken out against Iran’s mass jailing and torture of trade unionists, students, journalists, lawyers, feminists, human rights defenders and sexual, religious and ethnic minorities (such as the Arabs, Kurds, Azeris and Baluchs). Why the silence? He often and loudly criticises Saudi Arabia. Why not Iran?
It is very distressing to see Jeremy appear on the Iranian regime’s propaganda channel Press TV, especially after it defamed peaceful protesters and covered up state violence at the time of the rigged presidential elections in 2009. Moreover, how can Jeremy (and George Galloway) appear on Press TV, despite it broadcasting forced confessions by democrats and human-rights defenders who’ve been tortured into admitting false charges, and who are later executed?
Based on these serious lapses, Jeremy’s critics say his foreign policies make him unfit to be Labour leader and prime minister. I understand some of their reservations, but they ignore all the international issues where Jeremy has a superb record, including support for serious action against global poverty and the arms trade, and his opposition to the Saudi Arabian and Bahraini dictatorships (two tyrannies that most other MPs ignore and which Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron have actively colluded with). Moreover, Jeremy’s been a long-time champion of the dispossessed Chagos Islanders, Kurds, Palestinians and Western Sahrawis. Few other MPs have shown similar concern about the fate of most of these peoples.
We are immensely glad that Peter has spoken out.
- The initiative for Hands Off the People of Iran came from a number of Iranian exile organisations in 2005. On March 16, 2006, Workers Left Unity – Iran wrote an open letter to the British anti-war movement, calling for genuine solidarity with the Iranian people. By 2007 HOPI was fully established, consisting predominantly of Iranian exiles who campaign for regime change in Iran but are against external military intervention, believing military occupation to be the worst condition under which liberation can be achieved. HOPI’s founding conference was held in December 2007. At the Founding Conference, a National Steering Committee was established consisting of seventeen members from a range of different political organisations and political traditions. These include members of the Green Party of England and Wales, Labour Representation Committee, Jewish Socialist Group, Permanent Revolution, Centre for the Study of Socialist Theory and Movements at the University of Glasgow, Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), Workers Left Unity – Iran, Revolutionary Workers of Iran, Anarchist Federation (pc) and Women’s Campaign Against All Misogynist Laws in Iran. An Irish branch of HOPI, chaired by Anne McShane, organised a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in Dublin in June 2009