4 May 2017

Corbyn has a shabby history of backing the bad guys

By Charles Salter

Apparently, Jeremy Corbyn intends to argue during this election that he has been “on the right side of history”. It is reasonable, for someone so shortly and deservedly to be consigned to history, that he should want to put a warm gloss on his relationship to posterity.

But has Jeremy’s record over the longue durée shown him to be right? Or it does it actually indicate an addiction to Leftist kitsch and a record of supporting some of the vilest political projects of the last 50 years?

Let us start – as Jezza did – with the Vietnam War, against which he protested as a youth. Amnesty’s 2016 report on Vietnam describes severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, the torture of political prisoners, physical attacks on protesters and activists, with others jailed on trumped up charges.

Meanwhile Vietnam’s southeast Asian peers such as Thailand and Malaysia may not be poster children for democracy and the rule of law, but both of them have seen freely-elected governments for most of the last three decades. Both of them are far richer than Vietnam and have vastly lower child mortality. If Jeremy had really wanted to help the Vietnamese people, he’d have campaigned to reform South Vietnam’s capitalist kleptocracy – not impose Marxism.

Next, South Africa. A staple of Corbynite iconography is the picture of him being arrested outside South Africa House in 1984. Except that Corbyn got himself arrested at a demo which the mainstream Anti Apartheid Movement was wholly against. The “non-stop picketing” with which Corbyn was showing solidarity was a project of the rogue City of London branch of the AAM – which was dominated by the more revolting Trotskyite groupuscules of the time. That included the Libyan-financed, Saddam-supporting Workers Revolutionary Party, later exposed as a rape cult.

This branch of the AAM, unlike the one allied to Nelson Mandela’s ANC, favoured the Pan Africanist Congress with their slogan of “one settler, one bullet”. So vexed were the AAM’s grownups by the infantile leftism of the City of London group that the branch was expelled. Hence it is difficult to say that ending apartheid and bringing in the rainbow society under Mandela were desirable historical outcomes which Jezza had a hand in. If he’d had his way, South Africa would be looking even more like Zimbabwe than it already does.

And on to Ireland, and Corbyn’s claim that by making whoopee with the Provos he was somehow advancing the peace process. The truth is that Corbyn was never pro-peace. He and John McDonnell wanted the IRA to win. He was never interested in the principle that the people of Northern Ireland should have the final say on their status. And he was never interested in democratic nationalist politicians like John Hume, or the views of the majority Unionist community.

While serious politicians supported the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Corbyn opposed it. Instead, he revelled in the opportunity to strike anti-Imperialist poses and pal around with the hard men. In August 2015, Corbyn was interviewed on BBC radio and was asked five times to condemn IRA murders. He refused. Then the line went dead.

Lastly, Iraq. Inasmuch as Corbyn ever rose to prominence before 2015, it was his leadership of the Stop the War Coalition that did it. Surely, at least on Iraq, Corbyn will be shown to have been in the right. Except we can prove he wasn’t and isn’t. Because, in a very rare example of this sort of thing, we actually have a “control” next door to Iraq: Syria.

In Syria, a repressive Baathist regime was left alone. When the dam broke in 2011, it prompted a civil war which had cost at least 400,000 lives according to a UN estimate now more than a year out of date. It is very unlikely that the Arab Spring would not have spread to an Iraq still ruled by Saddam or one of his sons.

Despite the brutality of the Syrian Baathists, the Iraqi variant was even more vicious, and Iraq has a population 50 per cent bigger than Syria. A Syrian-style collapse into barbarity would perhaps have directly killed a million people in Iraq – at least three times as many as have died as a direct result of the invasion, insurgency and civil war after 2003.

One could go on. Corbyn was wrong about the doomed Miners’ Strike in the 1980s. He was wrong about tuition fees. He was wrong about Venezuela. He was wrong when he willingly propagandised for Putin and for Iran by appearing on their state TV channels. He has been very wrong – and for once has admitted it  – in his backing for Hamas and Hezbollah.

He pretended to be in favour of Britain staying in the EU yet still managed to be wrong about that. But most of all he has been wrong when he claimed to believe that the British people will ever vote for him or anyone like him. History on his side? Only if history is bunk.

Charles Salter is a former historian and journalist