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Is Corbyn Britain’s next Labour Party Leader?

In the late 19th century, the German Marxist August Bebel observed that anti-Jewish prejudice was “the socialism of fools.” Is Jeremy Corbyn demonstrating the accuracy of this phrase yet again?

A far-left Labour Party member of parliament in Britain since 1983, Corbyn is in the running for the leadership of the party following the resignation of Ed Miliband in the wake of last May’s general election. The new leader will be announced Sept. 12.

Opinion surveys suggest Corbyn will beat his more moderate or centrist rivals: fellow MPs Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

Corbyn is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International, and the Stop the war Coalition. He writes a weekly column in the Morning Star, the newspaper founded as the Daily Worker by the British Communist Party in 1930.

He represents the constituency of Islington North, the less posh part of Islington, a gentrified area of London known for its trendy restaurants and fashionable inhabitants.

Corbyn began the race as a dark horse but has gained ground on the back of a social media campaign and backing from a number of large unions. This has put more mainstream Labourites in a panic.

Corbyn has also been attacked by the Jewish Chronicle, Britain’s oldest Jewish newspaper, which claims that he has associated with “Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites.”

The newspaper said it was certain it spoke for the vast majority of British Jews in “expressing deep foreboding at the prospect of Mr. Corbyn’s election as Labour leader.”

A Jewish politician Labour Party, Ivan Lewis, a former chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation, said the views are cause for “serious concern.”

Should this surprise us? Not really.

In the 1920s and 1930s, many European socialists, including Benito Mussolini himself, started their political careers on the left. They were attracted to fascism because, like the ideologies of the left, it wanted to do away with a corrupt “bourgeois democracy” and usher in a new age.

In Britain, Sir Oswald Mosley, a rising star in the Labour Party in the 1920s, founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 and became an acolyte of Hitler and Mussolini. So this is nothing new.

Corbyn has been alleged, by its founder, to have donated money to Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a group that publishes open anti-Semitism, run by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, and Corbyn has regularly attended its annual conferences.

Corbyn’s team has previously rejected claims of any links between Corbyn and Eisen. He has also failed to condemn the anti-Semitic posters and banners that dominate the annual Al-Quds Day rally in London, sponsored by the Stop the War Coalition, which he chairs.

And he has referred to supporters of both Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends” when he hosted them in Parliament. He explained that he extended his invitation to the aforementioned groups, and spoke of them glowingly, because, he contended, all sides need to be involved in the peace process.

Corbyn also wrote to the Church of England authorities to defend Rev. Stephen Sizer, a vicar banned from social media because of his habit of posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, telling them that Reverend Sizer was “under attack” because he had “dared to speak out over Zionism.” Sizer is a proponent of the theory that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks.

In response to the Jewish Chronicle editorial, Corbyn released a statement saying he was “proud to represent a multicultural constituency of people from all over the world and to speak at every opportunity of understanding between Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths.”

But Tony Blair, the Labour prime minister between 1997 and 2007, in a newspaper article published Aug. 13, wrote that “the Labour party is in danger more mortal today than at any point in the over 100 years of its existence.” If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader, “It will mean rout, possibly annihilation.”

Corbyn has promised a “new kind of politics” if he wins the contest, but maybe it’s just the return of a discredited older politics. Is this really going to be the face of British Labour?


Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

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