Last month Labour announced that Andrew Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) until he joined Labour following Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in 2016, and chief of staff to Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, would be working in Corbyn’s office part-time as a consultant. Previously he was seconded to Corbyn’s office during the 2017 General Election campaign. Murray is a true hardliner, who has previously courted controversy by urging “solidarity” with North Korea and attacking “hack propagandists” who “abominate the name of Stalin beyond all others”. The CPB has just announced that it won’t stand candidates against Labour during General Elections and is working “full tilt” to help Corbyn become Prime Minister.
The Labour Party had a proud history of complete devotion to liberal-democratic values, the “Western” alliance which has formed around the countries which adhere to them, and constitutional propriety. Thanks to Corbyn, and the elements he has brought with him to the top of the Labour Party, much of that is in question.
Corbyn, I should emphasis, is not a communist. But his relationship with the British communist movement, thankfully a shadow of its continental counterparts, bears no comparison with that of any other post-WWII Labour leader.
On Friday April 29 1929, a British politician on the election trail addressed a crowd of supporters in Limehouse Town Hall. At the back of the room a group of communists, supporters of a rival candidate, gathered and began heckling. The politician gave as good as he got. Communism, he opinioned, was “the way to slavery” which would prevent citizens “living the lives they should live in peace and comfort”. It risked creating “dictatorship of one man or a few men” and many of its advocates took orders “from people abroad”. But the politician was no Red-baiting Tory: his name was Clement Attlee.
Attlee, surely Britain’s most beloved Labour Prime Minister, loathed communism. In 1937 he published The Labour Party in Perspective in which he singled out communism, along with fascism, as creeds which appeal to the “politically immature”. By February 1948 his attitude had hardened still further and he described the confrontation between liberal-democratic West and communist East, then in its infancy, as “a conflict between two ideologies – the totalitarian ideology and the democratic ideology”.
Attlee followed up this rhetoric with action, signing Britain up to the Nato alliance, seeking to lock America into the defence of liberal-democratic Europe and supporting the establishment of an independent British nuclear deterrent. In this respect he established the fundamentals of the defence policy which the UK maintains to this day. Jeremy Corbyn, by contrast, has spent much of his time in politics attempting to dismantle this structure.
Prior to securing the Labour Party leadership in September 2015 Corbyn wrote a weekly column for the Morning Star, which he described as “the most precious and only voice we have in the daily media”. The Morning Star was founded by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPBG) and maintains an editorial line in keeping with “Britain’s Road to Socialism”, the programme of the CPB, the successor organisation to the CPBG. The programme ends with the statement that “For the sake of humanity, the future is communism”.
Not being one to get bogged down with one far-Left platform, Corbyn also worked closely with figures from the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), a Trotskyite rival of the CPB. Each edition of the SWP’s newspaper, Socialist Worker, includes the statement that “There is no Parliamentary road” to socialism and calls for “a workers’ state based upon councils of workers’ delegates and a workers’ militia”. The SWP played a key role in founding and organising the Stop the War Coalition, which Corbyn chaired until his election as Labour leader in 2015, to the extent that it has been described as an SWP front group.
Other key members of Corbyn’s team have a similar track record. Back in 2006 John McDonnell, now Shadow Chancellor and effectively Corbyn’s deputy, gave an interview to the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, an obscure Trotskyite sect. When asked to outline the “most significant” influences on his thought McDonnell replied “the fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky”. Nor does Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s Communications Director, do anything to improve the record. After finishing university Milne first worked for Straight Left. This was a monthly magazine closely associated with the orthodox or pro-Moscow faction in the civil war which engulfed the Communist Party of Great Britain during the 1980s. This saw pro-Moscow “tankies”, so called because they defended the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, struggle with Eurocommunists who wanted looser ties with the Kremlin.
Corbyn has spent much of his political career associating and working with hard-Left authoritarians of one acronym or another; the ideological counterparts to, and sometimes direct allies of, regimes which have been responsible for horrendous atrocities. Corbyn has been lucky. In Britain, amongst a section of polite society, it remains acceptable to associate with far-Left extremists in a way that isn’t the case with their far-Right counterparts. Crimes committed under the red flag aren’t held to the same standard as those committed under some nationalist banner. Conservatives have a duty, especially when faced with Corbyn, to expose this hypocrisy.
It used to be said that the Labour Party owed more to Methodism than Marxism. When it comes to the present Labour leadership, if not the party itself, this is no longer the case. And British politics is suffering as a result.