I didn’t join Labour. I won’t, not in its current form and even if Corbyn kicks in the door and Galloway and co re-enter, I doubt I would.
My political position is quite simple. I used to be a social democrat who cleaved the political dynamics within Britain from the foreign policy of the state. I celebrated SureStart centres and new hospital wings and pushed the atrocities of Basra and Helmand to the back of my mind. Like I celebrated Atlee’s ‘New Jerusalem,’ and said nothing of chemical agents he was responsible for dropping on Malaya and the concentration camps set up in Kenya (the atrocities committed in which are sickening and belie any conception of an essential moral fortitude of the social democratic position). I stopped that division, realising it was founded on racism. I then began to see the inherent racism that operates in European social democracy, which – to put in a nutshell – shackles and beats the periphery for the good of the metropole.
Now Corbyn is undeniably different. His political stance on Iraq, Palestine, Mexico, Diego Garcia, Venezuela, etc. notable exceptions to the political mainstream which has kept the structures of colonialism in place, by hook or by crook.
Yet, despite the huge areas of positivity, let’s not get carried away. In his interview with Pink News Corbyn picked out Uganda as an area that requires more punitive foreign policy from Britain based on its treatment of LGBTQI communities (noting nothing of the colonial legacies that shaped said policy and the neo-colonialism of the Bush years). In a more revealing understanding of Corbyn’s international policy, he advocates in his BLINK interview with Middle East Eye that Britain become an ‘irritant’ in the global scene, pushing for human rights whenever and wherever and, in so doing, making the UK a bastion of human rights.
As lovely as this sounds, what does it mean? How does such a global outlook address the issues of colonialism and coloniality that structurally determine the humanitarian present?
I ask these questions because addressing the legacies of empire in Britain is fundamental to meaningful political progress. A racist division between us and them cannot re-emerge, nor can Britain acting as a global policeman before it has addressed its depraved inner-workings and the bestial legacies of its colonial past.
I’m all for this optimism, if we can lock it in the right direction. But the laziness in conceiving of the battle to be fought is irksome. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are world’s apart, with Corbyn by far the more progressive voice. Nonetheless, comparisons can be made. If a reparations campaigner in Britain interrupted one of the mass rallies of Corbyn, how many white faces in that crowd would scowl and shout incensed by the very suggestion that Corbyn isn’t doing enough to address the legacies of empire?
Maximum unity and all that, but let’s not make such simple errors. For too long, social justice achieved in Britain came at the expense of those outside of it. A Corbyn led Britain still flies the butcher’s apron above its head, so let’s be humble, be critical and make sure that the needs of the liberal-left for hope do not drown out the need for fundamental, global change. If Corbyn’s Labour isn’t the end point in that struggle, keep thinking.