What Rough Beast Is This? How Fanaticism has a Grip on British Politics

There is a fanaticism at the heart of Corbyn’s Labour Party and Corbyn’s thinking; a blind adherence by his followers and an absolute certainty in the righteousness of their cause to the detriment of truth, decency and parody. Corbyn himself exudes a smugness, a self-righteousness in interviews that makes his supporters dewy eyed and the rest of us cringe – his uninhibited followers brim with moral superiority whilst pouring bile on those with whom they disagree. The Spectator journalist James Bartholomew invented the term ‘virtue signalling’ to encompass the routine displays of piety, which whilst not being confined to the contemporary liberal left, are its custom and practice. Such a demeanour infantilises its exponents as well as the electorate. Recently, Corbyn told the Evening Standard that if elected he would move a homeless family into Chequers and then told a television interviewer that on Christmas Day, he likes to visit a homeless shelter to, “listen to how the government can improve people’s lives.” (Cue the twinkled-eyed half smile). It’s off the grandstanding charts and up the narcissism graph. This was not the character of Blair or Kinnock’s Labour Party, of any Labour Party I have known, nor even the Communist Party of Great Britain and the crass gesture politics and zealousness is also out of our national character.

love corbyn

Corbyn’s doctrinal politics is recognisable in a brand of Trotskyism exemplified by the Revolutionary Communist Group. The RCG’s take on socialist revolution was and still is, that the British working class is incapable of forging itself into a vanguard because of its historical ties to imperialism and the monarchy and that fundamental social change needs to be led by ethnic minority communities. Its weekly newspaper is called Fight Racism Fight Imperialism and has an international perspective supporting national liberation struggles across the globe. Corbyn has never been a member of the RCG or any other Trotskyist party but his political devotions have followed the same path. All ills, all terrorism are the result of American, British or Israeli imperialism. He supported the IRA throughout the Troubles and steadfastly refuses to condemn them to this day. Rather as a get-out he chooses to condemn all violence…. everywhere. If one were to receive a condolences card from Corbyn it would say ‘I am sorry for your loss as I am sorry for everyone else’s loss.’ One of the reasons he is popular with the young is because they have no memory of the barbarity of those times. Take any day…this day in 1972, when the IRA murdered William Bogle, 28, a married father of 3. He was an off-duty member of the UDR and fired on outside Killeter post office. His wife went into post office leaving William and the 3 children aged 3, 4 and 8 months – in the car. Though he rushed out of the car to save the children William died in his wife’s arms. This kind of atrocity was commonplace for thirty years and Corbyn was no mediator for peace, he was in no position to be that, he didn’t want to do that, he wanted the Provos to win.

Support for the IRA has been less of a problem than his support for anti-Semites. This running sore for Labour has two sources: Corbyn’s support for the Palestinians and wider Arab nationalism as well as an opportunism concerning British Muslims. His support for Palestinians is admirable and necessary, few in parliament are prepared to make the case, but it is not necessary to share platforms with, embrace and describe as friends – members of Hamas, Hezbollah, holocaust deniers, purveyors of the blood libel and other Salafists – people who believe gays and women should be stoned and Jews ‘wiped off the face of the earth.’  Corbyn is singular amongst the pro-Palestinian MPs in keeping such company. Part of his thinking is that such people can be won over to socialism but they never are; he thought that about the Provos and he thinks that about British Muslims which is why he has turned a blind eye to their prejudices inside the Labour Party. The Labour Party’s special relationship with the Muslim Council of Britain has always been a one-way street and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

I recently interviewed a long-standing member of a Greater Manchester CLP and he told me how in the last few years there had been an influx of Muslims into the branch, including senior members of the local Muslim community. His view was that ignorance regarding the Holocaust was widespread amongst this influx and there was no education in the branch. They were just pleased to have their support. When I worked in a jail I came across anti-Semitism amongst Muslim prisoners. Admittedly it was a jail and unrepresentative of wider society but the notion of a conspiracy – that Jews control the media and everything said about Islam is a lie was widely held. Myself and other staff took the initiative to get Muslim prisoners to help organise Holocaust Memorial Day which on the face of it seemed a great success with Muslim prisoners working hard to get a big audience in the library to listen to the talk and watch a film. But when I spoke to a number of lads afterwards, some were still sceptical whether the Holocaust had really happened. At the root of this is the Koran not the plight of Palestinians.

In the wake of Corbyn’s leadership ex-Trots have made their way into the party. The notion that Israel has no right to exist is commonplace among the harder left both in and outside the Labour Party. The logical conclusion of the premise is that it would therefore be acceptable if the state was destroyed – the stated position of Iran and Hezbollah. No one ever asks how many people would have to be destroyed along the way. One of the solutions to Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis would be to make it an expressed condition of membership that one accepts Israel’s right to exist and for those that don’t accept that to be shown the door. But then that’s an admission that something institutional is amiss.

Despite all the youtube interviews, the social media posts against Jews by Labour members, councillors, an MP – the footage of Corbyn on Iranian state TV and elsewhere, not to mention the evidence of the Jewish Labour Movement to the Human Rights Commission – there are ample numbers of people on the left who believe the entire saga is a smear. Not that there are a few bad apples – but the whole is thing has been constructed to deflect criticism of Israel. An element of that is the reluctance to accept that you might be in the wrong tribe after all, which can impact on family and friendships – but it also smacks of an irrational devotion and that is fanaticism. See here for a video version.

At the end of November Labour held a press conference regarding a 400 page document pertaining to trade talks with the US. Corbyn held up a few pages of the document and pronounced, “Imagine opening a five-figure bill for your cancer treatment. Imagine paying to give birth. Paying to have a check-up at the GP…. etc etc.” Despite that he and others were later forced to admit that the pages and the wider document didn’t refer to any such thing, that this was essentially a scam as crafty as the Zinoviev letter, many desperately hang on to the accusation and repeat it even if they do not believe it themselves. They do this because of their devotion to their tribe and as such people learn to love the lie.

The refusal to accept the democratic mandate by the Remain camp has inevitably fostered a fanaticism in the UK – it is by its nature a fairly extreme position to take and over the last three years an ugly desperation has been incubated. People have gone from ‘make them vote again’ to ‘these people are worse than Nazis’, from ‘they didn’t know what they were voting for’ to ‘throw battery acid at them’, from throwing milkshakes at the Brexit Party to death threats. David Starkey said that when he heard people (Polly Toynbee) using the death of supposed Brexit voters as a reason to negate the mandate it reminded him of Hitler talking about Jews. Fanaticism is not confined to black and white footage of Nuremburg. It begins with the ordinary folk in the video link above, holding placards condemning bigotry whilst spouting racial malice. It seems embedded north of the border, how else would you describe Nicola Sturgeon’s one-track solution to every problem, her same answer to every question?

I’ve been researching the International Brigade and the Spanish Civil War and recently came across a three-page letter by Orwell at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. The letter concerns the suppression and murder of Anarchists and members of the POUM (a Marxist militia) by Stalinists during the conflict. Orwell wrote an article about this at the time for the New Statesman but they refused to publish it, in fact the left press merely repeated the Stalinist line that these people were on the side of the Nazis. What you can see in the letter to Henry Brailsford is Orwell’s recognition that Communism was no answer to Fascism, a recognition later articulated in Homage to Catalonia and Nineteen Eighty-Four, that the choice to be made is between freedom and tyranny. The choice we currently have in the UK is between EU globalism and neo-liberalism and neither are appealing. What is more unappealing is the growing fanaticism on one side of the argument.

The closing submission by the Jewish Labour Movement to the EHRC is available to download here.