Tagged: British Empire

Can Corbyn break colonial legacy?

I didn’t join Labour. I won’t, not in its current form and even if Corbyn kicks in the door and the radicals in the wilderness 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.

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Draft letter to MPs to vote for Palestine recognition

When parliament returns from recess on October 13th, you are faced with a vote of conscience: symbolic recognition of the statehood of Palestine. I ask that for this vote, you ignore vested interest and vote based upon reason, compassion and a sense of historic responsibility. As a backbench debate, this is a free vote and therefore how you vote will be taken account of as you seek re-election.

I am not going to condescend you. I assume you know of the inept administration of Palestine when it was mandated to Britain following the fall of the Ottomans. The mandate was hamstrung by the Balfour declaration; a promise to make Palestine a Jewish homeland that was made before WWI was even won. The long and short of Britain’s role in the historic land of Palestine is that it made incommensurable promises and in so doing stoked tensions that burn at this very moment. As Ernest Bevin acknowledged, the mandate of Palestine was the worst error of British de-colonisation as he foresaw the apartheid state-system that now determines the lives of Palestinians, whom Britain had a sacred vow to better under the mandate. 

Over the summer, we witnessed the devastating human consequences: over 2,100 Palestinians killed, even Israeli data acknowledges the vast amount of those were civilians. Out of the 72 people killed on the Israeli side, 66 were soldiers – meaning 91 percent of Israeli fatalities came in the battlefield. The disparity of this conflict is stark. The Palestinian people must have a voice on the international stage and the occupation of their lands must come to an end. A huge step towards this is recognition of Palestinian statehood. Given Britain’s role in the conflict, the symbolic importance of recognition cannot be overstated.

The basis for statehood is no longer the partition agreement of 1947, but the pre-1967 borders. This represents a huge concession to the state of Israel that speaks volumes of the Palestinian will for peace. Israel refuse to return to their borders under international law and continue to seize further land, with 988 acres of land taken to global disapproval in August.

Britain is a minority within the global community in not recognising Palestine, with 134 out of 193 UN member states already conferring recognition. Britain have many times affirmed the inalienable right of Palestinians to self-determination, the time to back our words with deeds is now.

Recognition is the first step to ending the cycle of violence and the first rung of the ladder to end the occupation, militarisation and oppression of Palestine by Israeli forces. A failure to use your free vote towards peace will be interpreted as a violent act. The sun has now set on the British Empire, but the blood has yet to dry. I trust that you will take the necessary action to redress the grave historical wrongs of the past.