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  • Published in Opinion
Jeremy Corbyn speaking at '15 Years On: Time to Stop the War' meeting at TUC Congress House. Photo: Jim Aindow

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at '15 Years On: Time to Stop the War' meeting at TUC Congress House. Photo: Jim Aindow

The establishment wants to create a consensus under the spurious cover of national unity. The left needs to rally in response, argues Kevin Ovenden

Jim Packard of the Financial Times makes this point about Corbyn’s response to May on the Russia hysteria in parliament:

“Corbyn looks almost entirely isolated in the House of Commons with his ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ approach to Moscow….but he probably felt pretty isolated in the run-up to the Iraq war, which he considers one of his greatest Parliamentary moments.”

To which one may add – not only is Corbyn entitled to feel his speeches in parliament over Iraq were wholly justified, they have been vindicated entirely. And a majority of people in Britain agree with them. But we were denounced as traitors at the time.

It is absolutely clear to what political purpose the incident in Salisbury is being put.

It is not for the British government to “do something” serious over Vladimir Putin – because it cannot, even as it goes beyond the evidence it itself puts forward to claim a state-sponsored plot.

It is certainly not to do anything about peace and the international rule of law because it has just signed over more arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

It is being used to bomboozle working people in Britain and to attack the left, Corbyn and the prospect of him coming to office.

That’s where the major effort of the Tories and their supporters is going – as they say that the Royal Family will not be visiting the World Cup in Russia, as if that is going to change anything.

For all the farce of Theresa May’s response, this is a serious moment.

It is a reminder that the British establishment will stop at nothing to turn any issue into a single-minded effort to throw back the left advance.

Anyone who thought that the cohort of Labour MPs who follow the lead of the establishment would be contained by intra-party manoeuvres must think again. They are once again mounting an offensive against their own leader. And it is more often than not over foreign affairs that they do this. That’s because they can marshall the old reactionary saw about “national interest” and uniting the nation against its “foreign enemies”.

The whole left needs to rally in response. There is no triangulation or nickel-and-dime stuff on this. Calling for higher defence expenditure or a “stronger line against Putin” is not only wrong, it is fantastical.

How is supporting the immense and dangerous waste of Trident renewal going to deal with the possibility of something like the Salisbury event? Ending drone assassinations and making a radical turn to a foreign policy of peace, not killing and spying, can.

The class lines are clear, a day after the Tories cut free school meals to a million children.

There is no room for artful equivocation. The forces of the left and for peace need to hit back.

And as you look at the backstabbers on the Labour benches it is also clear why there needs to be a left that is not constrained by that or by the inner dynamics of the Labour Party.

One that can unite people beyond itself, but can maintain a principled politics that can systematically focus on opposing the Tory government and the ruling class interests it represents.

And do that under all circumstances.

– We won’t be fooled again
– Tories out, and no to May’s sabre-rattling.
– The government lies on the NHS, why trust it on Russia?
– We want peace and an anti-war government.

Friends in Britain should know they are not alone in this. From the Balkans connected in a stream of blood to the terrible wars in the Levant, socialists are having to confront governments and reactionary forces trying to use the crisis to promote a path that leads to greater conflict and war.

You cannot concede to that and to hysteria over international crises today in the hope of tomorrow returning to the domestic class confrontation.

The Labour Party under the leadership of Michael Foot did that 36 years ago over the Falklands crisis. And it suffered catastrophic defeat at the general election a year later.

Jeremy Corbyn and team are to be commended for spurning that line in parliament today.

The left – all the left – should rally to bolster that position and take it out into the wider working class movement.

Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden is a progressive journalist who has followed politics and social movements for 25 years. He is a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010. He is author of Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.

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