An Argentinian perspective on the rise of Jeremy Corbyn from journalist Mariano Schuster
Like most wars, the Malvinas war was absurd. Many men died fighting for a distant piece of land. Others went crazy and shortly after took their own lives. In the end, the aftermath was the same as always: a victorious country, a defeated country, and the dead poor from both sides.
The Malvinas' cold was greater than them. They were too young for it. Some had not even finished high school. The majority of them could not point on a map to the place they were supposed to battle for. Their weapons were old, their jackets worn out. They were going to die on behalf of others.
Despite the British being better trained and being professionals, underneath their uniforms they shared the same skin with the South Americans. Maybe it´s true that they had chosen that cruel job, but they were nonetheless the sons of working class families with as many needs as dreams. They were also going to die on behalf of others.
When General Galtieri announced, after one of his customary shots of scotch, the Argentinian landing on the Malvinas, the people supported him. Many left wingers opposed the war, but when it started they embraced it as an anti-imperialist demand. The Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, nevertheless, voiced their claim: ‘The Malvinas belong to Argentina. Desaparecidos too’.
In Britain, things were no different. Margaret Thatcher was starving the coal miners and the IRA prisoners, destroying the public education and the NHS, dismantling the machinery of the Welfare State and enacting the triumph of individualism. But, after the war conflict, a new electoral triumph arrived. The majority of the Labour Party, her biggest adversary, had also supported the war.
In Argentina we are taught to hate them. Because of the Malvinas. Because of the invasions. Because of their economic dominance. And, of course, because sometimes they beat us at football. Some don’t forget when Antonio Rattin was sent off, in 1966’s World Cup quarter-finals. Some don’t forget that Alf Ramsey, the British coach, called us ‘animals’. And there are some who don’t forget –and I count myself amongst them- ‘the hand of God’. Idiocy can be, at times, supreme. And even taint the world’s most beautiful sport.
Luckily, there are people who do not succumb to the absurd. People that can see beyond what appears as real and possible. People that do not necessarily adopt other’s defeats as own victories. People that understand that, in this life of ours, there is only one war. Jeremy Corbyn is one of them. The current leader of the Labour Party was one of the few that raised up his voice to condemn the warmongering towards the Malvinas. While Thatcher celebrated the sinking of the ‘General Belgrano’ cruise, he called out for the kids, who were hardly 18 or 20 years old, that had gone to fight a war that was not theirs.
He belongs to a generation of honest and sensible fighters. He is one of those who, while Thatcher was destroying all of what thousands of men and women had devoted their time and life for, stood in the picket line to defend the miners. He spoke out against the destruction of his country, but also observed the rest: he opposed the military dictatorships in South America and stood with the freedom fighters of the Third World. He was jailed for fighting against apartheid and nuclear weapons. For raising his voice for the Palestinian cause. In the meantime, many members of his party surrendered their principles.
He leads the Labour Party thanks to its members, its supporters, its grassroots. Those who mocked him now fear him. They conspire against him, they want to overthrow him and drag him on the floor. But he withstands, even if they make him renew his mandate over and over again. The sons of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown claim that he will never be Prime Minister. They demand him to step aside, or to adapt to realpolitik. For those who trade seats and positions with the right-wing, he is unpalatable. He is, ultimately, guilty of all evils: dividing the Left, Brexit’s triumph, and the Trotskyist infiltration. For Jeremy Corbin, the only missing accusation is murder.
What happens is, fortunately, that one cannot go on living a lie for so many years. It just so happens that citizens wake up one day. They remember those who opposed the Iraq War and those who spent a life fighting for a cause that is as fair as it is poetical. And so they see a man like the one in the picture. It doesn’t matter what they tell them anymore. Or even who is in front of them. They start to feel more like men than inhabitants of a country. And, even though they will be told once and again that they will lose and that they must relent, they understand that they have already relented many times. And that if they not win this one, they will win the next one. Or the next one. Or the next one. Or maybe none of them. But the defeat will be dignified.
For those people is Jeremy Corbyn. He evokes the anti-fascist who yelled ‘No pasarán’ in Cable Street. He recalls the old Tony Benn and the miners and the dock workers who, when everything was dark, faced up to power.
Let us look to this man, the one who opposed the Malvinas War. He is now waging his own war. He has a movement backing him, willing to win. His combat has no borders. It’s the only war worth fighting for.
Mariano Schuster is a member of the editorial board of Nueva Sociedad, and a contributor to La Nación and Panamá Revista.