Thank good­ness Cor­byn wasn’t in charge in 1939

The Sunday Telegraph - - Sunday Comment -

When Cor­bynistas are wor­ried about look­ing wimpy or un­pa­tri­otic, they like to cite the war against Hitler. Not long be­fore the RAF joined the US and France in air strikes against Syria, Diane Ab­bott was asked whether there were any cir­cum­stances in which Labour would back such in­ter­ven­tion. Some­what ir­rel­e­vantly, she blurted: “There’s the Se­cond World War.”

Jeremy Cor­byn has pre­vi­ously called the Se­cond World War Bri­tain’s last just war. Sure enough, in ev­ery sub­se­quent con­flict, Cor­bynistas over­looked the abom­i­na­tions of any armed gang pro­vided it was suf­fi­ciently anti-Bri­tish – the Mau Mau, the PLO, the IRA. Just lis­ten to Diane Ab­bott in 1984, the year of the Brighton bomb: Ire­land “is our strug­gle – ev­ery de­feat of the Bri­tish state is a vic­tory for all of us”. That may sound odd com­ing from a Bri­tish politi­cian but, as she ex­plained, “though I was born here in Lon­don, I couldn’t iden­tify as Bri­tish”.

You might ar­gue that back­ing Left­ist paramil­i­taries is not the same as back­ing Nazis. Yes, fas­cism had so­cial­ist ori­gins, but by 1939 Hitler had banned trade unions and locked up Left-wing ac­tivists. Would that have made a dif­fer­ence to Cor­byn had he been around at the time?

To an­swer, con­sider a fas­cist dic­ta­tor from Jezza’s own life­time who banned trade unions and locked up Left-wing ac­tivists: Ar­gentina’s Leopoldo Galtieri. When he seized a peace­ful neigh­bour, how did Cor­byn re­spond? By sneer­ing at “this waste of un­em­ployed men who are be­ing sent to the Falk­lands to die for Thatcher”, and call­ing the war “a Tory plot to keep their mon­ey­mak­ing friends in business”.

I think we can fairly in­fer that, in Septem­ber 1939, Corbo would have been one of those Left­ists for whom dis­like of Bri­tish mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment trumped con­cerns about hu­man rights, fa­mously de­nounced by John May­nard Kenyes in the New States­man: “The in­tel­li­gentsia of the Left were the loud­est in de­mand­ing that the Nazi ag­gres­sion should be re­sisted at all costs … scarce four weeks have passed be­fore they re­mem­ber that they are paci­fists and write de­featist let­ters to your col­umns.”

Cor­byn would surely have been de­mand­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into “al­leged Ger­man and Pol­ish atroc­i­ties”, and a League of Na­tions cease­fire “to halt the killing on all sides”. Per­haps – bor­row­ing his cur­rent phrases about the Syr­ian strikes – he’d have called Neville Cham­ber­lain’s ul­ti­ma­tum a “legally ques­tion­able ac­tion” which “risks es­ca­lat­ing fur­ther”.

Some Bri­tish Left-wingers at the time ac­tively sym­pa­thised with the en­emy in obe­di­ence to the Nazi-Soviet pact. The Daily Worker (now the Morn­ing Star, in which Cor­byn had a col­umn) de­nounced “the An­glo-French im­pe­ri­al­ist war ma­chine”. The first Bri­ton to be con­victed of es­pi­onage was a Com­mu­nist called Ge­orge Arm­strong who had obeyed Molo­tov’s call to sab­o­tage the Al­lied war ef­fort.

Arm­strong lived just long enough to see Hitler in­vade the USSR be­fore he was hanged in July 1941. That in­va­sion fi­nally pushed Bri­tain’s hard Left into sup­port for the war. Let’s not pre­tend there was any­thing pa­tri­otic about it.

We all tend to think of our­selves as more mid­dle of the road than we re­ally are. A solip­sis­tic fal­lacy makes us be­lieve that our tastes, val­ues and habits are nor­mal, and that the peo­ple who don’t share them are a mi­nor­ity. In politics, this fal­lacy can lead peo­ple badly astray. For months, dis­grun­tled pub­lic fig­ures have called for the cre­ation of a new cen­trist po­lit­i­cal party that would – of course – stand for all the things that they hap­pen to want.

They are right to say that there is an un­der-rep­re­sented strand of opin­ion in Par­lia­ment. But it is not what they think it is. A truly cen­trist party – in the sense of be­ing close to the cen­tre of pub­lic opin­ion – would be Left-wing on eco­nomics, Right-wing on cul­tural is­sues and pro-Brexit.

It’s the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble, I sup­pose, that we’d get the party that Nick Clegg, Peter Man­del­son and Anna Soubry dream of, a Bri­tish ver­sion of Em­manuel Macron’s En Marche. But isn’t it rather more likely that we’d get a Na­tion­alise-The-Rail­ways, Char­i­tyBe­gins-At-Home, Hands-Off-Our-NHS, Hang-The-Pae­dos, Tax-The-Rich, Stop-Bang­ing-On-About-The-Gays, Se­cure-Our-Bor­ders, Stop-CheapIm­ports party? Be care­ful what you wish for, my friends. FOL­LOW Daniel Hannan on Twit­ter @DanielJHan­nan; at tele­­ion

Rus­sian sol­diers in Moscow last year mark their fight against the Nazi in­va­sion in 1941, when Bri­tain’s hard Left fi­nally backed the war

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