Nick Cohen

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t anti-war. He’s just anti-West

And his inability to state his true beliefs defines his leadership of the Labour party

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t anti-war. He’s just anti-West
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[/audioplayer]Before the bodies in Paris’s restaurants were cold, Jeremy Corbyn’s Stop the War Coalition knew who the real villains were — and they were not the Islamists who massacred civilians. ‘Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East’ ran a headline on its site. The article went on to say that the consequence of the West’s ‘decades-long, bipartisan cultivation of religious extremism will certainly be more bloodshed, more repression and more violent intervention’.

This flawless example of what I once called the ‘kill us, we deserve it’ school of political analysis takes us to the heart of Corbyn’s beliefs. Even his opponents have yet to appreciate the malign double standards of the new Labour party, though they ought to be clear for all to see by now.

Whatever its protestations, Corbyn’s far left is not anti-war. Pacifism may not be a moral position in all circumstances but, in my view at least, it remains an honourable belief, rooted in Christian teaching. Corbyn does not share it. He does not oppose violence wherever it comes from, as the BBC’s political editor claimed this week. When anti-western regimes and movements go to war, his language turns slippery. Corbyn never quite has the guts to support the violence of others, but he excuses it like a gangster’s lawyer trying to get a crime boss off on a technicality.

He defended the Russian invasion of Ukraine by saying the West had provoked the Kremlin. His spin-doctor, Seumas Milne of the Guardian, the nearest thing you can find to a Stalinist in the 21st century, joined the leaders of Europe’s far-right parties at Putin’s propaganda summits. Meanwhile Corbyn and John McDonnell have defended the IRA, Hezbollah and Hamas. Like many on the far left (and right), they are pro-Assad. So committed to Syrian Ba’athism are Stop the War that they tried to stop Syrian refugees from Assad’s terror speaking at their meetings.

You cannot describe a far left that can overlook Assad’s atrocities as pacifist. Nor can you call its members little Englanders. True isolationists think we have no business wasting our blood and treasure in other people’s conflicts — a view I suspect the majority of the British share. They do not want to call radical Islamists, Assad, or Putin their ‘friends’ and take up their grievances. They hope, vainly I fear, that we can ignore them.

Corbyn, along with too much of ‘progressive opinion’, has a mistrust bordering on hatred for western powers. They do not just condemn the West for its crimes, which are frequent enough. They are ‘Occidentalists’, to use the jargon: people who see the West as the ‘root cause’ of all evil.

Their ideology is in turn genuinely rootless. They have no feeling for the best traditions of their country, and their commitments to the victims of foreign oppression are shallow and insincere. They rightly condemn western support for Saudi Arabia. But if the Saudis were to become the West’s enemy tomorrow, their opposition would vanish like dew in the morning sun.

These double standards were once a problem for those of us who thought the British left deserved better. Now that we have learned from Corbyn’s landslide victory that the British left neither deserve nor want better, they are everyone else’s problem too.

Stop the War revealed the devious inability of the new left to stick by what they mean. As soon as they realised that outsiders were reading the site, they removed the offending article. Corbyn was as shifty. On Monday, Labour MPs implored him to reject the idea that an attack on Parisians by a fascistic Islamist movement was the West’s fault. He ducked into woozy bureaucratic language and said Stop the War’s argument was ‘inappropriate’. He refused to condemn it, however. How could he when he would be rejecting everything he believed for 40 years?

Those who want to see the far left for what it is should be able to detect a pattern in his statements by now. Corbyn’s response to the Paris killings was to join with other apparently moral voices and denounce the media for not giving equal space to atrocities ‘outside Europe’. You do not understand Corbyn if you reply, as Helen Lewis of the New Statesman did, that ‘the media is full of foreign news that barely gets read’ — telling though her putdown was. Nor is it enough to go further and say that Corbyn does not want foreign news that contradicts his Manichean worldview.

Conspiracy theories certainly riddle his far left, who dismiss reports of inconvenient war crimes as lies by corporate media designed to brainwash the masses into supporting western imperialism. The reality, however, is worse than a mere blocking out of unpleasant truths. Corbyn and his supporters do not want us to think about Paris because they cannot accept that privileged westerners can be victims. If Isis kills them, it is their own or their governments’ fault. All you should do is mutter ‘blowback’ and turn off the news.

Understand that the far left believe that only favoured groups can be victims, and you understand the growth of left-wing anti-Semitism, the indifference to demands for women’s equality in rich countries, as well as the ease with which they dismiss bodies on Parisian streets. Privileged whites are the problem. We should shed no tears for them.

Corbyn’s inability to state his true beliefs defines his leadership of the Labour party. To take the most brazen instance, he condemned the assassination of Mohammed ‘Jihadi John’ Emwazi by saying it would have been better if he had been brought before a court. So it would. But Corbyn would not have supported sending special forces to Syria to kidnap Emwazi and bring him to trial. He does not believe in deploying the armed forces. Indeed he is ‘not happy’ with police shooting to kill terrorists murdering British citizens on British streets. His apparently moral stance was built on an outright lie.

A chorus of approval from ignorant cliché-mongers accompanied Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour’s leader. He was authentic. He was not afraid to say what he thought. He was not the creation of focus groups and media manipulators, but an honest man making a new politics.

Every claim they made was false. Jeremy Corbyn and the left he comes from cannot campaign for office by saying what they really think or they would horrify the bulk of the population. They say enough to keep their ‘base’ happy, and then dodge and twist when they speak to the rest of us. Far from being authentic, Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most dishonest politicians you will see in your lifetime.