Nick Cohen

Far leftists do not laugh about Mao to mock communism. They laugh to forget communism

Far leftists do not laugh about Mao to mock communism. They laugh to forget communism
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Nothing about the crisis in the Labour party makes sense until you find the honesty to admit that far leftists have taken over its leadership, and the clarity to see them for what they are.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of so many Corbyn supporters, these are not decent, well-meaning men, who want to take Labour back to its roots. Nor are they pacifists and idealists you can look on with an indulgent smile and say, ‘I wish they were right, but their ideas will never work in the real world, more's the pity’.

To the delight of the Conservative Party, SNP and Ukip, they are genuine extremists from a foul tradition, which has never before played a significant role in Labour Party history. The roots they spring from are the roots of British Leninism, not British social democracy. As their defenders scrabble for plausible excuses, they say that at least Corbyn and McDonnell are an authentic alternative to the focus-group obsessed, poll-driven politics of the Blair days. They are right in their way, but the authenticity lies in authentic far-left prejudices and hypocrisies the Labour leadership is now displaying to an astonished nation.

It is taking longer than I expected, but the sheer ugliness of the world Corbyn and McDonnell inhabit is slowly dawning on many. God help the Labour Party when it becomes common knowledge.

Understand the far left and you will understand why John McDonnell thought it a terrific idea to make jokes about one of the greatest criminals in human history. McDonnell is an old man. When he was a young activist, he had to cope with knowledge that ‘actually existing socialism’ was hell on earth. Good people on the Left resolved the moral problem by renouncing communism. But McDonnell, like Ken Livingstone, sympathised with the Workers Revolutionary Party, one of the nastiest political cults Britain produced in the 20



Its leader, Gerry Healy was a petty Stalin and suburban Mao. Healy enchanted Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, who proved, once again, that actors who spend their working lives reading other people’s lines cannot think for themselves when they leave the stage. The Healy the Redgraves, Equity and, for a brief moment in the 1970s, the artistic directors of the National Theatre adored was a monster. He took money from Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi, and returned the favour by ordering his followers to spy on Iraqi dissidents in London and pass the information to the Iraqi embassy. He demanded that young women show their commitment to the revolution by not complaining when he raped them.

Livingstone stuck with Healy to the end; despite all the scandals about the beatings and rapes Healy administered, Livingstone delivered a glowing tribute to the old brute when he died. If we are to believe McDonnell’s account, he kept his distance. He told the Times that he had never met Healy, but it is a matter of record that the Marxist newspaper he ran was printed on presses the Workers Revolutionary Party bought with Gaddafi’s looted cash.

What, I hear you ask, is the point of dragging up this ancient history; these half-forgotten scandals from so long ago?

I wish we could forget. But the past is the present when Corbyn and McDonnell are providing a pitifully inept opposition; an opposition so terrible George Osborne should be hugging himself with delight and Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage should be muttering thanks to whatever gods they believe in before they go to sleep.

The revolutionaries of the late 20


century who are now in charge of the Labour Party never renounced the Leninism of their youth. Their opponents might use the crimes of communism against them. Traitors to socialism might have their 'Kronstadt moments' and recoil in revulsion at their younger selves. But true socialists suppressed their doubts by turning Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao into jokes.

There are, I should add, many great communist jokes. (There are none about fascism, incidentally, perhaps because no one could laugh at how far it had fallen short of its high ideals, when it had no ideals worth respecting to begin with.) I enjoy them, and must acknowledge too that I greet everyone I know who has walked away from the left with an ironical ‘comrade’. But the irony is at the Left’s (and my own) expense. Meanwhile the communist jokes, which are still repeated today, are told from the point of view of communism’s victims, who learned that mockery was the only weapon they had left.

Far leftists do not laugh to mock communism. They laugh to forget communism. They dismiss the mass murders, and the suppression of every right that makes life worth living with a giggle and a snort, and imply that you are a bit of a prude if you cannot do the same.

Then they throw a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book across the chamber of the House of Commons and look round with utter bemusement when no one gets the gag.

Journalists, politicians and voters need to understand that an unexamined and largely uncriticised ideology is now the ideology of Her Majesty’s Opposition. A disgraceful past has made a disgraceful present, and if Labour MPs do not change it soon, it will provoke a mass Kronstadt moment that will drive millions away from Labour politics for good.