Friday, 18 September 2020

Beyond the Smears: The Truth About Jeremy Corbyn

It's fair to say no British politician in living memory has been criticised to the extent Jeremy Corbyn has, and none has been so unfairly treated. It seems every week another shitty journalist is writing a newspaper column or releasing a book, offering the "truth" about the former Labour leader. It's been going on for five years, and so much of what's been written about this decent man is either completely false or hugely distorted. But tragically, this smear campaign was successful in bringing him down and for some reason is still continuing. 

Corbyn was defeated, at least in part by lies, by the establishment closing ranks - the media, the corporations, the Labour centrists, all other political parties acting so disingenuously to preserve the status quo and prevent meaningful change.
It's so galling that we complain about the status quo and then take the word of those who would preserve the status quo as gospel, but that's what happened. It's what always happens.

If you could legitimately criticise Corbyn for one thing, it's that he's too nice, too soft, and while on one level, his gentle and sincere nature could be considered his greatest strength, it was ultimately his downfall. Corbyn could, and indeed should have pushed back so much harder when he (and others) were being unfairly smeared, but frustratingly, he allowed himself to become a punchbag. It may seem strange that I'm starting a defence of Corbyn with a criticism, but I think it's a necessary criticism and something I'm still upset with him about because when he allowed himself to become a punchbag, he allowed his supporters to become punchbags too.

Corbyn always knew the smears were coming. He and John McDonnell spoke from the beginning of his leadership about how no socialist will be given an easy ride by the mainstream media. But he should've understood that socialism can never take hold in the UK without a coherent strategy to tackle the inevitable misinformation. Instead, Corbyn seemed to count on enough of the public seeing through the lies and respecting the fact he rose above the dirty games to focus on the issues that mattered. He thought his anti-establishment credentials and pleasant nature would be enough to counter the attacks. This was a huge mistake, as was Corbyn's determination to unite the Labour Party by appeasing his detractors.

In politics you must be prepared to swing back, but Corbyn wanted to befriend everyone, even the most vile of school yard bullies. His ethos that talking to people, rather than fighting them, is a noble one with so much merit, but Corbyn somehow forgot one of the golden rules of politics that appeasement never works.

You can't treat party politics in the same manner you treat international diplomatic relations because your party rivals don't want to be appeased by you. Their only goal is to destroy you and take your place by any means necessary, and that's exactly what the Starmerists did. But as frustrated as I am with Corbyn for effectively allowing his political assassination to take place by not adequately defending himself, I would, perhaps one final time, like to set the record straight and remind the world he is a fundamentally decent man with inspiring ideals, a man from who we could've learned so much, if only we had listened to reason, instead of listening to Rupert Murdoch.

Let's take a look at Corbyn's career and examine some of the key reasons he's been praised or vilified to see if we can draw an accurate picture of the politician many say is always on the right side of history:

In 1984 Jeremy Corbyn was arrested protesting apartheid

During the 1980s, protests outside the South African Embassy in London were common and coincided with intensified resistance to apartheid in South Africa. Officials of the South African government wielded strong influence over the British government at the time and pressured the Foreign Office to quell the anti-apartheid movement. One could easily draw parallels to the Tory government's attitude towards Israeli apartheid today and how Corbyn is vilified for speaking up for the Palestinians. It would seem history has a way of repeating itself.

In June 1984, protests outside the South African Embassy were banned and the Metropolitan Police took the decision to arrest those who would defy that ban. But the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group were not so easily deterred. Many citizens and several politicians were arrested in a noble protest which had become about more than apartheid, but also the right to free assembly. Among those arrested was the current MP for Islington North and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who was led away in handcuffs, wearing a sign which read: 
"Defend the right to demonstrate against apartheid."
This courageous act of civil disobedience by Corbyn and others ultimately led to the ban on protests being overturned. The protests could continue in a place where they had maximum visibility and South African officials could not simply ignore them. We would do well to remember this achievement the next time centrists sneer at the "politics of protest".

Today everyone, Tories included, claims to have supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC's struggle for freedom, but back in the 1980s, the Conservative government were supporters of the apartheid regime who called the ANC terrorists and vilified anyone who expressed support for them, criminalising protesters in the process. While other "progressives" shied away from the fight, Jeremy Corbyn stood on the front-line, jeopardising his safety, freedom and political career to fight for justice.

Corbyn was on the right side of history.

Jeremy Corbyn has been a long-time supporter of gay rights

Since his days as a London councillor in the 1970s, Jeremy Corbyn has fought for the LGBT community, championing causes such as Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). His record shows he has voted 25 times in favour of gay rights and 0 times against.

In 1998, Corbyn was the only Labour MP to back a Liberal Democrat amendment to a bill which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual preference. Years later, as Labour leader, he promised to extend same sex marriage to Northern Ireland and put LGBT history on the school curriculum if he were to become Prime Minister. He threatened "economic and diplomatic consequences" on regimes which did not support LGBT rights.

Throughout his political career, Corbyn has championed LGBT rights when so many MPs in both Labour and the Conservatives did not. It's easy for some to forget how publicly accepted homophobia was well into the 1990s. Younger readers may not know Margaret Thatcher's notorious "Section 28" banned the discussion of homosexuality in schools, and homophobia was not just a right-wing problem either: plenty in the Labour movement either held homophobic views or did not feel strongly enough to speak out. Corbyn was an exception, and this is yet another example of him taking an initially unpopular position based on principle.

Corbyn was on the right side of history.

Jeremy Corbyn held peace talks with Republicans and Loyalists

We've all heard the accusations that Jeremy Corbyn was an IRA sympathiser due to his meetings with Sinn Féin leaders and his support for the republican movement, but as is so often the case when people criticise Corbyn, key details are omitted, most importantly that Corbyn spoke to both sides.

Corbyn has maintained throughout his political career, the way to make progress and achieve peace is by meeting with, and talking to, people you may disagree with. As a result, Corbyn has travelled the world, often visiting dangerous places to discuss how progress can be made on the most difficult of matters. Often, he has been the first British politician to make such a move, as would be the case with the Northern Ireland troubles.

While Margaret Thatcher was using inflammatory rhetoric and choosing force over diplomacy, essentially worsening the Northern Ireland troubles and costing lives, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell decided to find a better way. They met with loyalist and republican leaders (not "terrorists" as is so often claimed, but politicians) and they discussed peace, years before Tony Blair was lauded for doing the same. 

Such was the progress they made that Sinn Féin expressed a willingness to negotiate with the UK government, but alas, the suggestion was rejected by Thatcher, Corbyn and McDonnell were ridiculed, and the peace process never got started. Many more people died before Blair's Labour finally decided diplomacy was the way forward, a move which resulted in the historic Good Friday Agreement. If Thatcher had pursued the same path as Corbyn such an agreement could have been reached 10 years earlier.

The wife of the late Reverend Ian Paisley, Eileen, said her husband spoke fondly of Jeremy Corbyn and described him as a decent and honest man. She explained her husband did not "approve of [Corbyn] meeting Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin people while the IRA campaign was still going on, but he always found him very courteous and polite. He was a gentleman."

Anyone who would accuse Corbyn of befriending terrorists would do well to remember Paisley ended up befriending sworn enemy Martin McGuiness later in life. Strangely, no one calls the late reverend an IRA sympathiser and nor should they call Jeremy Corbyn an IRA sympathiser. He is simply a man who respected both sides in a conflict, but abhorred the violence and wanted peace.

Jeremy Corbyn has always condemned violence in the strongest possible terms and has signed Parliamentary motions condemning IRA terrorism, but when questioned on the matter, he always points out the loyalist violence was just as unacceptable as the republican violence. Absurdly, the media have used this equivalence to portray Corbyn as the bad guy, as though condemning loyalist terrorism is a bad thing!

In November 1994, Corbyn signed an early day motion commemorating the victims of a terrorist attack in 1974 in Birmingham and condemning IRA violence.

"This House notes that it is 20 years since the mass killings of 21 people in Birmingham as a result of terrorist violence; deplores that such an atrocity occurred and again extends its deepest sympathy to the relatives of those murdered and also to all those injured. ... 

"... And strongly hopes that the present cessation of violence by the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland will be permanent and thus ensure that such an atrocity as took place in Birmingham as well as the killings in many other places both in Northern Ireland itself and Great Britain will never occur again."

Corbyn was criticised for attending an event in which he reportedly spoke in support of those who died fighting for a united Ireland; the claim being this was expressing support for terrorism. What is rarely mentioned is that Corbyn was actually speaking at a memorial service, remembering the victims of a terrorist attack and that he called for an end to violence. He was not supporting terrorism, but rather the victims of terrorism. 

Many people in the republican movement were fighting peacefully for a united Ireland, just like many loyalists were fighting peacefully to preserve the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It must be emphasised Corbyn was on the side of those pursuing a path of peace, not violence.

If you accuse Corbyn of IRA sympathy because he shared the same goal as republicans, then surely you as a unionist must be guilty of supporting UVF and UDA terrorism by the same logic. And let's not forget, the Tory government actually went into coalition with the DUP - the loyalist equivalent of Sinn Féin. Where was the outrage then?

Jeremy Corbyn may have met with Gerry Adams but so too did Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, and many other political figures! It's rarely mentioned that MI5 files show there was "no doubt" Adams was sincere in his desire for peace so why wouldn't political figures talk to him as the Republican representative?

The fact Jeremy Corbyn had the foresight to pursue peace talks in Northern Ireland over a decade before the Blair government, at a time when Thatcher was only interested in a military solution, again risking both his personal safety and his political career to do the right thing, is yet another example of Corbyn taking a courageous stance.

Corbyn was on the right side of history.

Corbyn did not lay a wreath at the grave of the Munich terrorists

In September 2014, Jeremy Corbyn attended an event in Tunis with US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Conservative Peer Lord Sheikh and Liberal Democrat Lord Phillips to commemorate victims of the 1985 Israeli bombing of the PLO headquarters. This bombing was universally condemned as a terrorist attack, even by the reluctant Reagan administration who adopted this position three weeks after the international community, having initially defended Israel.

One of the main aims of the event was to reconcile differences between the Palestinian political groups Hamas and Fatah - in other words diplomacy. The event had no connection with the Black September bombers who are actually buried in another country, and while it's been claimed two other people buried in the cemetery may have had links to Black September, this remains unproven, and Corbyn did not visit their graves or even know of their presence. Strangely, no one is accusing General Clark, Lord Sheikh or Lord Phillips of supporting the Black September bombers, only Jeremy Corbyn. There is simply no substance to this story.

This was an unfounded smear against Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn is not an Antisemite

Jeremy Corbyn has worked closely with Jewish groups throughout his political career, and once famously saved a Jewish cemetery in his constituency from demolition. He has repeatedly condemned antisemitism in the clearest and strongest terms, including the below quote ahead of the 2019 general election:

"I made it very clear antisemitism is completely wrong within our society. Our party did make it clear when I was elected leader and after that, that antisemitism is unacceptable in any form in our party or our society, and did indeed offer sympathies and apologies to those that had suffered."

Many prominent Jewish figures such as John Bercow, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, and Andrew Feinstein have stated they don't believe Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite. While most of these figures are on the left of the political spectrum, former House Speaker John Bercow is a Conservative who has known Corbyn for over 20 years. If any Jew would have something to say about antisemitic behaviour from Corbyn, it would surely be Bercow, and yet he is adamant Corbyn does not have an antisemitic bone in his body.

Bercow stated:

"I myself have never experienced antisemitism from a member of the Labour Party – point one. And point two – though there is a big issue, and it has to be addressed, I do not myself believe Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic. That is my honest view."

Skwawkbox and Jewish Voice for Labour published a fantastic article (written by Skwawkbox) citing 50 occasions when Jeremy Corbyn has stood in solidarity with Jews, and you can read it here and here.

Some have suggested that Corbyn's criticisms of the Israeli government and his support for the Palestinian struggle are somehow antisemitic, but the Home Affairs Committee points out:

"It is not antisemitic to criticise the Israeli government without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent
or to hold Israel:
"to the same standards as other liberal democracies or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government's policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent."

Another common attack against Corbyn is that he once shared a platform with a person, or maybe stood in the same room as someone, perhaps shook their hands, only for it to transpire that person has made an antisemitic comment at some point, and therefore Corbyn must support them and their antisemitism. In other words: guilt by association. 

All I'm going to say in response to that is Jeremy Corbyn has shared a platform with Boris Johnson so by the same logic, he must support the Tory PM and his racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia and general bigotry. See how completely stupid that argument sounds? Jeremy Corbyn has never uttered an antisemitic thought in his life and has always condemned antisemitism.

This was an unfounded smear against Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn is not a Communist Spy

Where do I even begin with this one, other than to say it's fucking batshit crazy? I'm not even going to bother with an in-depth analysis on such a baseless claim, I'm simply going to point out Corbyn was a member of the privy council, meaning he was as thoroughly vetted as anyone in the country, and if there was a shred of evidence to suggest he was a foreign agent, he would not have been given security clearance. It really is that simple.

This was an unfounded smear against Corbyn.


The simple reason for so many unfounded attacks on such a decent man as Jeremy Corbyn is that he posed an existential threat to the establishment and inspired the marginalised. He wanted to democratise our society, shifting wealth and power from the top to the bottom, and his detractors would stop at nothing to stop him and the working class from rising up. 

There were so many ridiculous smears I did not have room to discuss, but you know what they are: Corbyn wore the wrong kind of coat, did not bow low enough, must hate our troops because he does not want them to die in war, etc.

I could've gone into depth about Corbyn's alleged support for Hamas and Hezbollah, but really it would've read much the same as the section discussing his alleged support for the IRA: Corbyn likes to talk to people and is determined to pursue peace and as a diplomat, his only crime is being a little too nice to people.

The truth of the matter is no UK politician has taken such principled stands throughout their career, nor been on the right side of history so often, nor been so unfairly vilified as a result. So often, we complain about why so few politicians actually represent us, and yet the answer is simple: the mainstream media crucify the few good ones and half of the public are duped into playing along against our interests; Jeremy Corbyn being a case in point.

Not only was Corbyn on the right side of history with the examples given above, but he's also on the right side of history when he says we must take on a status quo which favours corporations, billionaires and media moguls. He's on the right side of history when he says our public services must be nationalised so the people are put before profit. He's on the right side of history when he says we so desperately need a green industrial revolution. He's on the right side of history when he says we must democratise our media outlets and our workplaces. He's on the right side of history when he says we should stop vilifying the poor, minorities and refugees, and turn our attention to the real villains - the elite. 

Ultimately Corbyn's on the right side of history because he's not out for himself, he never was. This is a politician who gives up his Christmases to help the homeless and shuns chauffeur-driven limousines to ride the bus with ordinary people. He's always on the right side of history because he's fighting for you and wants to create a better world for everyone. And mark my words, the next time a party leader comes along who wants the same, who threatens the status quo, they too will be vilified by the media. When are we going to wake up?

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