Corbyn allies buckle under pressure from the UK’s pro-war establishment

Anyone who has been following the career of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour party since 2015, knows that his key allies within the party have been a small group of Labour MPs and the party membership. They have been Corbyn’s bulwark against a hard core of about 30-40 right wing Labour MPs who have made it clear they’d rather see the Conservatives stay in power than win with Corbyn.  There are also well over 100 more Labour MPs who went along the “chickencoup” – an attempt to oust Corbyn from the leadership in 2016 that was soundly defeated by the membership.

Corbyn’s position within the Labour bureaucracy was strengthened after his shockingly strong campaign in the general election of last June. The Conservatives lost their majority in parliament when they were expecting to inflict an unprecedented defeat on Labour. The Conservatives were forced into an alliance with a far right Northern Irish party in order to form a government at all. Nevertheless, Corbyn still needs all the allies he can get from his own party in parliament.

Unfortunately, recent events show that key parliamentary allies of Corbyn have capitulated to a toxic establishment consensus on foreign policy.

For example, when Israeli snipers murdered unarmed protesters in Gaza (and boasted that they knew where “every bullet landed”) John McDonnell, Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor tweeted

When Israel’s atrocities have been too obvious to deny entirely, it has been common for western politicians to lament “disproportionate” force and call for the resumption of a “peace process” that has simply facilitated Israel’s land theft and ethnic cleansing for over fifty years.  McDonnell’s comments follow that disgraceful pattern. As Ali Abunimah has remarked, these statements are equivalent to the “thoughts and prayers” platitudes US politicians offer after every gun massacre in the United States instead of taking action to prevent them. Where is the call for Israel to be held accountable for the massacre, for an end to UK arms sales to Israel, for expelling its diplomats?

Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, an apologist for Israel who has called the apartheid state a “beacon” and  celebrates the Balfour Declaration put out an even worse statement.

Diane Abbott, another close Corbyn ally, recently said that “It’s clear that at this point, Russia, its role in Syria, what we believe beyond reasonable doubt is its role in the poison gas attacks in Salisbury, is a greater threat to world peace than the United States.

Russia’s role in Syria, which no doubt involves killing a very large number of civilians, has been to prevent Saudi and U.S. armed jihadists from taking over the country. Russia’s hands are obviously bloody, but the United States and its allies are playing a much more destructive role in Syria. Anyone who disputes that should name the western armed group they would like to see prevail in that war. 

Russia has also been accused of botching an assassination attempt on UK soil against a former spy, Sergei Skripal, whom Russia released from prison several years ago. This was the “poison gas attacks in Salisbury” that Abbott mentioned. No credible motive has been offered for Russia to kill this former spy, much less to mess up the attempt so badly that Skripal (who was living openly in the UK) has been said by doctors to be “improving rapidly”. His daughter, the other victim, was released from the hospital and in a taped telephone conversation with a relative in Russia said that her father was going to be fully recovered.

We are to believe that the Russian government not only botched the assassination completely but also left a calling card to broadcast its guilt – the use of a nerve agent developed by Russia decades ago.  The only fatalities in the “poison gas attack” Abbot described were two hamsters and a cat: the Skripals household pets that died from lack of water when UK police locked them in the house.  

That Diane Abbott would mention the Skripal case as evidence of Russia role in the world says a lot about how effectively western media can bully politicians into swallowing very dubious claims. It is staggering that Abbott would say this with Donald Trump in the While House surrounded by neocons like John Bolton who are responsible for the war on Iraq which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Western imperialism is US-led but it relies more heavily than is often appreciated on the assistance of U.S. allies, most especially a club of wealthy states that are mostly members of NATO. If a major US ally like the UK were to adopt  a civilized foreign policy it would significantly impede the ability of the US and its accomplices to rampage all over the world. That’s why the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong and deeply passionate anti-war activist, should inspire a great deal of hope. Labour members will need to speak up and stiffen the spine of some of Corbyn’s key allies, and of course Corbyn himself will need to be very courageous to resist pressure to capitulate on foreign policy.   


  1. avatar
    Joe Emersberger April 15, 2018 5:51 pm 

    Corbyn had the best statements by far, but even his best one only called for a “review” of UK arms sales to Israel. Long past time for review over 50 years into a brutal occupation.

  2. Anton Glaving April 14, 2018 6:49 pm 

    Thornberry couches the massacre in euphemistic language, deplorably so.

    On the other hand, she did call for ending the blockade and the “illegal” occupation of Palestinian lands, which is more than I expected from her.

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