A Corbyn catch up

Unaccountably, several days have passed since we last had a new post on Corbyn – so here’s a selection of recent articles in case you missed them.

Tony Blair has made another intervention into the debate; he doesn’t pull any punches:

Anyone listening? Nope. In fact, the opposite. It actually makes them more likely to support him. It is like a driver coming to a roadblock on a road they’ve never travelled before and three grizzled veterans say: “Don’t go any further, we have been up and down this road many times and we’re warning you there are falling rocks, mudslides, dangerous hairpin bends and then a sheer drop.” And the driver says: “Screw you, stop patronising me. I know what I’m doing.”

Most Corbynistas respond to challenge by digging their heels in more firmly – but here’s an example of someone who stepped back from the brink (or turned out to be a ‘masochistic back-slider’ depending on your point of view.) Phil, one of a very select group of bloggers to be cross-posted by both Harry’s Place and Socialist Unity, explains here why he decided, in the end, to vote for Yvette. His reasons were partly tactical, but he is also concerned about some of Corbyn’s associations:

More recently, for instance, Jeremy happily gave an interview to the Australian branch of the LaRouche cult. If you’ve never heard of them, look Lyndon LaRouche up – anti-semitism is but one of their appalling characteristics. This sort of carelessness is a problem for some on the left, and it worries me that Jeremy and/or his staff are seemingly incapable of Googling background information, or don’t deem it to be relevant. If Jeremy wins, this one will come back and come back some more.

Owen Jones’s response to such ‘carelessness’ is to assert his own passionate opposition to antisemitism – and then explain why there’s still absolutely no problem with Corbyn’s connections.  I queried his methods and conclusions on Engage.  More sympathetic, I thought, were two other pieces in which Corbyn supporters grappled with the same issue.  Some way into Nathaniel Tapley’s post he briefly notes that he doesn’t personally think fears about Corbyn’s leadership are justified.  But that doesn’t prevent him from engaging meaningfully with those who disagree with him:

If you are a Jew you are six times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than if you are a Muslim

Per capita, Jews are the most attacked minority in the country. Underdog enough for you, now?

Be aware of what you’re doing every time your response to having antisemitism pointed out to you is to point out that other kinds of attacks happen, too. You’re the guy arguing against shelters for battered women because there aren’t any shelters for battered men.

That’s the context of people’s worries about Jeremy Corbyn. That’s the context of their fears, and it won’t do to brush them aside.

Mark Crawford thinks Corbyn needs to do more to combat racism amongst his supporters.  Like Tapley he approaches the issue of Zionism in a pretty measured way – and, again like Tapley, draws on the discourse around Islam for some interesting parallels.

The fact that Zionism has mutated is an argument against regressive nationalist politics – it is not specific either to Zionism or to the Jewish aspiration for self-determination that it embodies. It is a positive step that some Jews, mostly in Europe and mostly secure, feel safe without a Jewish nation to protect them – but that does not give them the right to make pronouncements about Israel’s legitimacy on behalf of those who do not. Like the religious politics Dawkins is keen to satirise, Zionism has within it the potential to emancipate as well as suppress; and, like religion, the best – and, I would suggest, only – way of critiquing it begins with the recognition that there are as many forms of Zionism as there are reasons for the Jewish nation’s existence, as well as its expansion.

Balancing these more nuanced posts from Corbyn supporters is this careful piece by Bob from Brockley which explores possible exaggeration from the anti-Corbyn camp.  He works thoughtfully towards considered and well-earned conclusions.

Corbyn’s connection to these people is a bit hard to disentangle. Louise Mensch puts the prosecution case in the second part of this post, building on the Daily Mail’s attack. It seems that Corbyn associated with Eisen in 2005, when it was just emerging that Eisen was a Holocaust denier, and again in 2013, by which time the mainstream Palestine solidarity movement had long severed all links with him. Gilad Atzmon performed at the 2005 event organised by Eisen which Corbyn attended; again, this was at the time when it was becoming clear Atzmon was antisemitic. It seems that attending the event is the only connection between Atzmon and Corbyn.

Although I think Bob is right to introduce a cautionary note, Mensch’s posts are also well worth reading, particularly in the light of this storm in a teacup ‘news story’ about her, puffed by both the Guardian and the Independent.  Here she investigates some of his dubious associations, and here’s her post on the racism of some Corbyn supporters:

Next, you have people who are antisemitic but do not know they are. Perhaps these are more worrying. “What, are you saying that all Jews, not just the business owning rich ones, hate Corbyn?’ one man asked me. “Nothing wrong with denying the Holocaust, history is written by the victors,” said another. “Zyklon B was used for delousing.” Another, a Scottish nationalist who likes Mr Corbyn, replied to a tweet saying he had called for an inquiry into ‘Jewish donors to the Conservative party’ with ‘About time!’. (In fact, Mr Corbyn had supported an inquiry into ‘Zionist’ donors to the Conservatives, but every name mentioned at the event when he endorsed this was Jewish.)

Nick Cohen’s recent Standpoint article acknowledges both the problems with Corbyn himself and the problems with Labour which have made so many turn to him. It’s uncomfortable reading for Labour supporters:

When the far Left shades into the far Right, I am tempted to hug the centre and treat it as our best protection against the poisonous and the deranged. Respectable commentators have urged Labour members to do the same. They failed to understand that in Labour’s case the centre ground is as polluted as any derelict site.

Despite coming from quite different parts of the political spectrum Hugo Rifkind and John Wight raise related concerns about the ‘purge’ of would-be Labour supporters.  Wight rejects the idea of blind loyalty to a party rather than to political principles.

My loyalty is not and never has been to a political party. My loyalty is to working class and oppressed people here and abroad, and it always will be. If Labour stands up for working class and oppressed people I will support it. If it attacks working class and oppressed people, as it did under Blair and Blairism, I will oppose it.

When they deny people a vote with the words, “We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party,” they are clearly suffering from a lack of historical perspective.

Rifkind’s piece is much more fun – though unfortunately behind a paywall:

It is here, I think, that the old-school Labourites grow rather irate. “Shut up!” they’ll shout. “Either you are Labour or you aren’t! It’s about values!” Only, which values? What are these supposed values that Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper all share, but that Nick Clegg, Nicola Sturgeon, and even Boris Johnson don’t? You want to carve them on a 9ft-high gravestone, guys, or print them on mugs. That’d help.

Most of those agitating about the purge are from the left rather than the right.  But although I’m certainly no Corbyn supporter I’m uneasy about the way there seems to have been some changing of the goal posts when it comes to deciding who can be termed a Labour ‘supporter’.  If you’re a current member of another political party or have recently campaigned for a rival candidate – fair enough.  But using the data collected by canvassers to weed out those who have expressed an intention to vote for a different party seems a step too far.  They might have been voting tactically in a seat Labour had no chance of winning.  The canvasser might have made a mistake.  Whatever the precise legal position it’s disquieting that this data is being used in a way neither canvassers nor canvassees could have anticipated.