Socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s victory to become the new leader of Britain’s Labour party doesn’t have an exact parallel in the United States.
But just imagine if the nominee of the Democratic party was selected by a vote of party members. Say that Bernie Sanders decided to run, but he needed the backing of 35 of his fellow Democrats in Congress to be considered. He was so extreme, though, that he didn’t have their support. Then 14 Democrats — either out of pity or a desire to broaden the debate — “lent” him their names so he could get on the ballot. Sanders then shocks everyone by riding — all the way to victory — the surge of new, left-wing members. A raft of moderate party officials then refuse to work with him, and the threat of civil war suddenly hangs over the party.
That’s what just happened in Britain. After Labour’s stunning defeat at the hands of the Conservatives last May, many Labour supporters came to the conclusion they hadn’t been left-wing enough. They pointed to Scotland, where Labour was wiped out by the Scottish National party, a group of nationalists even more left-wing than them. So why not go with Corbyn? After all, many of his Labour supporters actually make the argument that none of his opponents for the leadership could have won the next general election in 2020 anyway.
We are witnessing the mass suicide of a major Western political party, and that isn’t a good thing. The anti-free-market fervor and louche attitudes toward totalitarianism that Corbyn’s Labour party now expresses are a danger signal for all democracies. One of the jobs of an opposition party is to be responsible, and from Spain to France to Italy there are signs that the opposition is shirking this duty.
Many left-wingers are appalled at Corbyn’s victory. Under Corbyn, Labour will, in the words of one anti-Corbyn Labour member of parliament, become a “1980s Trotskyist tribute act.” Corbyn would nationalize Britain’s utilities and wants the Bank of England to print money to fund massive infrastructure projects regardless of the effect on inflation.
He wants to leave NATO, has provided frequent excuses for Vladimir Putin’s excesses, opposes Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and supports unlimited migration by refugees into Britain.
Then there is foreign policy. He wants to leave NATO, has provided frequent excuses for Vladimir Putin’s excesses, opposes Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and supports unlimited migration by refugees into Britain. “There are certain . . . issues with Corbyn and the company he keeps,” left-wing writer Taylor Parkes recently noted. “He doesn’t just have skeletons in his closet; he hangs up his shirts in an ossuary. . . . He’s courted and supported all kinds of anti-Semitic nutbags and babbling enthusiasts for jihad, then defended them in robust terms when asked what the hell he was doing.”
Indeed, Corbyn is easily flustered by questions about the kind of people he hangs out with. Last month, Channel 4 News asked him about having referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.” Corbyn said he had used the term in a “collective way” and then exploded at the interviewer, accusing him of “tabloid journalism.”
#share#It gets worse. Britain’s oldest Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, has accused Corbyn of associating with “Holocaust deniers, terrorists, and some outright anti-Semites.” The Chronicle claimed that Corbyn donated to a group run by the Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, who claimed in a blog post that Corbyn was a “long-standing associate” who attended his group’s commemorations. Corbyn’s advisers responded that Corbyn rejected anti-Semitism, and they dismissed Eisen by saying that “anyone can call themselves a ‘long-time associate’ when in fact that is not the case.”
There is no dispute that Corbyn has participated in events with Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Lebanese militant who rails against “Jew-worship” and calls gays “AIDS-spreading faggots.” Corbyn also argued against the expulsion from Britain of Raed Saleh, a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, who claims Jews were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Saleh “is far from a dangerous man,” Corbyn said in 2012 as he invited him to tea on the terrace of Parliament. “He’s a very honoured citizen; he represents his people extremely well.”
RELATED: Know Corbyn by the Company He Keeps
Howard Jacobsen, a columnist for Britain’s Independent newspaper, has noted Corbyn’s long history of being “in places where bombers and fanatics are bound to congregate.” Corbyn meets frequently with terrorists, while at the same time he demonstrates against the presence of Israel’s soccer team on British soil. Jacobson summed up this approach as “to terrorists we speak, to footballers we don’t.”
On even his worst days, Bernie Sanders has never engaged in the Loony Left behavior of Jeremy Corbyn, even though Sanders’s taking his 1988 honeymoon in the Soviet Union does raise eyebrows. Corbyn is highly unlikely to ever be trusted with power in Britain, but it is genuinely disturbing that a major Western political party has gone so far off the rails as to make him their Dear Leader.
— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review.