Progress | Centre-left Labour politics


It is anti-imperialism that drives Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-left cadre, argues Grace Skelton

Speak to most Momentum activists and they will proudly tell you that for decades Jeremy Corbyn has stood shoulder to shoulder with those struggling against the establishment and has expressed solidarity with civil rights causes across the world.

So why has he often found himself aligned with people who actively oppress marginalised groups? How can a man who has campaigned alongside gay rights activists in the United Kingdom also appear on Press TV, the propaganda arm of the Iranian state – where to be gay is often met with the death penalty?

The answer lies in is his almost religious belief in the anti-imperialism defined by those on the far-left, best shown by the political pressure group Stop the War coalition, of which Corbyn is a former chair.the British public would likely plump for the opposite of the hard-left’s core worldview- greater control over the borders and an openness to free trade.

Stop the War has a world view which dictates that whatever the wrongdoing and whoever the perpetrator, every bad event of any global significance can be blamed on western foreign policy. This is articulated by John Rees, its national officer, who proclaimed: ‘Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.’ The result is that responsibility is taken away from perpetrators and instead they are treated as victims of western oppression.

Look at Stop the War’s response to the Islamic State attack on Paris in November 2015. Isis said they were targeting France because it is a ‘capital of prostitution and obscenity’, yet Stop the War published an article – later deleted – claiming that France was ‘reaping the whirlwind of western extremism’, placing the blame squarely at the feet of the French. Only the faith of a true believer could make one plus one equal five and feel good about it.

This is also reflected in Corbyn’s longstanding criticisms of Nato. Only last month the leader’s office criticised a deployment of Nato troops to Estonia as a ratcheting up of tensions with Russia, yet he has remained nearly silent on Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. The Labour leader is no pacifist, he is a longstanding and consistent opponent of western foreign policy.

Corbyn’s personal politics aside, he arguably owes his leadership of the Labour party to the anti-war movement.

Before 2003, Corbyn was just one of a handful of hard-left backbenchers who were ideologically opposed to New Labour. Iraq gave Corbyn and his far-left cadre a high profile cause and threw them to the forefront of a movement that appeared to be broad-based and focussed on a single issue. Over time, many, such as Liberal Democrats and even Green party leader Caroline Lucas, pulled out as it became clear that the far-left were in control – and do not share.During the 1970s, Benn had reinvented himself as a ‘Brexiteer’, arguing that outside the EEC the ‘siege economy’ measures could be introduced which would build a better Britain.

Despite the continued electoral success of New Labour, there was an emerging consensus among some Labour members and the liberal commentariat – literally the Seumas Milne controlled comment pages of the Guardian – that Labour had lost its way; nothing epitomised this more than Iraq. This view was vindicated in the Labour party when Ed Miliband criticised Iraq in his 2010 victory speech.

In 2015, it was Jeremy’s turn to fly the flag for the hard-left of the Labour party. The new one member, one vote system allowed those far-left groups like Stop the War to sign people up to the Labour party en masse from their mailing lists, built up over 12 years since Iraq. They finally had an anti-west candidate to vote for, and they did so in their droves.


Grace Skelton is former national secretary of Labour Students. She tweets at @graceskelton



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Grace Skelton

is general secretary of Manchester University Students’ Union and Labour Students' National Policy Forum re. She tweets @GraceSkelton


  • Did the career not work out so well after the plebs got uppity, Gracie, darling? Diddums.

    For 25 years, almost completely ignored except in relation to the Iraq War, a section of the political Left and a smaller section of the political Right have consistently opposed the racist, militarist and imperialist policies of the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations. For 20 years, almost completely ignored except in relation to the Iraq War, a section of the political Left and a smaller section of the political Right have consistently opposed the racist, militarist and imperialist policies of the Blair, Brown, Cameron and May Governments.

    A steadfast stalwart has been, and remains, Jeremy Corbyn. His election and re-election as Labour Leader have been significant victories for the movement against liberal interventionism. Another victory was the social media campaign that led to the lobbying of the House of Commons such that it defeated the Cameron Government over Syria. Therefore, it is not correct to say that, “They never did Stop the War.”

    In the event of a State Visit to the United Kingdom by President Donald Trump, it is imperative that those with that consistent, and not unsuccessful, record be the organisers of what would easily be the largest demonstration in British history, and that that demonstration be addressed by Mr Corbyn. This would have the potential to politicise an entire generation, thereby changing Britain in myriad ways over at least 50 years. But it would have to be led by those who would have reacted in the same way to a State Visit by President Hillary Clinton.

  • Jeremy and his friends have been consistent in only one thing over the years- hatred of the West, and so the subsequent support for any gruesome group that shared their misguided but deep-rooted hatred. We are stuck with him (and them) for the meanwhile, but thankfully they have no influence on anything of importance. We just have to make sure the Labour Party is still standing in five years, hopefully with the westophobes reduced to their historic street theatre home.

  • David, I read your 1st line. This vented your frustration. You could’ve deleted it, but you kept it in to make yourself look – ‘clever’, ‘hard’? You didn’t write this to correct what Grace wrote, but to vent. Everyone in Labour needs to control the bike they feel for each other. Otherwise, even I wouldn’t trust us to run Britain sensibly.

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