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THE columnist David Aaronovitch — who misses no opportunity to remind us of his apostasy — flaunts his (now rather remote) communist student past as a signifier of his authority as an anti-communist. This is a rewarding occupation in the lucrative milieu of Times journalism.
Thus we find him this week discussing the paradox that, although many of the Labour Party’s newer members don’t share Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of antipathy to the European Union, he retains their loyalty, affection and their confidence in his leadership.
Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on Aaronovitch that, although they wouldn’t habitually look for it in a Murdoch journalist, the maintenance for decades of a set of unshakeable principles is precisely what people find admirable in a politician.
Aaronovitch parades the usual arguments to argue that Corbyn should ditch Labour Party Conference policy and follow opinion polls which suggest that Labour sentiment tends towards supporting a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
This is not an original argument and forms the foundation of much comment in the bourgeois media. Aaronovitch makes no extravagant claims to consistency himself and therefore we can overlook that, although he notes Corbyn’s longstanding views, he attributes their persistence to the fact that “a veritable Cerberus” of ideologues guard the Labour leader’s door rather than any personal attributes.
For the enlightenment of readers who, like me, were not accorded the advantages of a classical education, Cerberus was the three-headed “Hound of Hades” that guarded the gates of the Underworld tasked with preventing the dead from making their escape from eternal damnation.
But Corbyn is a famously fit and healthy figure very far from precipitate entry to either Heaven or Hades and his guardians, if that is what they are, number four.
Aaronovitch names them as “Corbyn’s strategy and communications director Seumas Milne, his chief of staff Karie Murphy, her friend Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, and Andrew Murray, adviser to Mr Corbyn and chief of staff to Mr McCluskey.”
Aaronovitch claims to know that all of them have argued recently against a second referendum. His objection is, in particular, to Milne and Murray, of whom he says: “For both men the struggle against ‘imperialism,’ ie the American form of capitalism, is the most consistent part of their ideology. When I was a young communist, I knew quite a few people like this.”
Indeed he did. “The position of British imperialism was shaken by the first world war but most of all by the second world war. It has been confronted by the growing strength of the socialist world, the rising tide of colonial struggle, the more dominating position of US imperialism,” argued his father Sam Aaronovitch in a text included in Essays on Socialist Realism and the British Cultural Tradition and dedicated to the British and Soviet peoples.
Another of their beliefs “widely held in the labour movement” was hostility to the common market and its successors.
Aaronovitch usefully reminds us that Margaret Thatcher and the Tory Party were happy Europeans while 1983 Labour manifesto included a pledge to leave, “despite Britain having voted to remain in a referendum eight years earlier.”
He seems to think it was illegitimate in 1984 for Labour to take a position contrary to the 1975 referendum result but OK to campaign to reverse in 2019 a referendum result from two years earlier.
Aaronovitch is even more upset that both Murray and Milne have posted on the Stop the War Coalition website articles that criticise the role of the EU and the US in the Ukraine crisis.
Readers can judge for themselves whether the terrible twins are right on this. For further discussion of the issue consult Andrew Murray’s The Empire and Ukraine (£11.95 +£1.50 p&p, 138 pp illustrated ISBN 978-1907464133 obtainable from www.manifestopress.org.uk).
In a demonstration of the truth that an error uncorrected leads to further error, Aaronovitch reminds us that pundit Paul Mason had, the week previously, criticised the Morning Star for an article by US blogger Greg Godels (Zoltan Zigedy) “that had opposed a second referendum.”
This perhaps demonstrates an even more important truth that articles criticising the work of other journalists are best written before lunch. The article (morningstaronline.co.uk/article/wisdom-lenin’s-what-be-done) went nowhere near the Brexit issue.
Where the befuddled Times journo was half right was in suggesting that it was not the Star article that Mason was blasting.
For Aaronovitch the aim is, as he states without equivocation, to win over Corbyn or “to neutralise” Corbyn.
So again the target is not the praetorian guard but Corbyn himself.
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