Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Peter Tatchell on why he supports Jeremy Corbyn for leader of the British Labor Party

I have been following the remarkable ascension of Jeremy Corbyn and his bid to be the next leader of the British Labor Party.

So I was interested to read this piece in Open Democracy by Peter Tatchell, the highly respected UK based Australian born campaigner.

Peter Tatchell is a legendary and highly respected figure on the left for his profound commitment to  social and economic justice and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Tatchell is a member of the Gay rights group OutRage and the left wing of the UK Greens. He is a Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Tatchell has spent nearly 50 years of his life campaigning for social and economic justice here in Australia and the UK and has suffered profoundly for his commitment to social change.  Tatchell campaigned in Australia against our involvement in the Vietnam War and moved to London in 1971 to avoid conscription. He has been arrested hundreds of times, received death threats, been the target of violent assaults and suffered brain injuries and eye injuries after being bashed by thugs supporting Robert Mugabe and neo-nazis in Moscow.

In an article expressing support for Corbyn, Peter Tatchell writes:

On a majority of UK and foreign policy issues he's spot on, with real vision and an inspiring alternative. On a small number of issues he has made lamentable misjudgements. Despite these shortcomings, I'm backing his bid for the Labour leadership. Here's why.

I look at the big picture and judge politicians on their overall record. What are their ideals, motives and aims? What kind of society are they striving for? How would their policies impact upon the average person? On all these assessment criteria, Jeremy is on the right side and is the most progressive candidate on nearly every issue.

He has strong, unique policies for social justice and equality – to secure a kinder, gentler, fairer and more inclusive, harmonious Britain. I am with him in opposing austerity.

Tatchell acknowledges Corbyn's questionable actions and policies on some foreign policy matters and assess allegations against him over his association with some unsavoury regimes and extremists. He says Corbyn has made misjudgements on Russia, Ukraine, Syria and Iran, however he concludes that some accusations against Corbyn are exaggerations and distortions and other involve smears of guilt by association.

Tatchell concludes:

Some of Jeremy's supporters may accuse me of betrayal and of aligning myself with his right-wing critics. Not so. My criticisms are rooted in a leftist, human rights politics that is democratic, secular and internationalist. Support for Jeremy does not require suspension of our critical faculties and a knee-jerk unthinking allegiance. As he himself has often said, it is a citizen's responsibility to hold politicians to account – including those we support. Nobody is entitled to a free pass – not Jeremy, me or anyone.

Tatchell notes that another reason to support Corbyn's bid is that he is directly challenging some of the most sacred tenants of neoliberal economic and social policy, particularly the assumed superiority of private and corporate provision over public provision and the supposed inefficiency of public ownership.

Corbyn is advocating for a renewed program of public ownership. His plan to fight back against the privatisation and marketization of public services involves the adoption of innovative new approaches to collective ownership:

“I believe in public ownership, but I have never favoured the remote nationalised model that prevailed in the post-war era. Like a majority of the population and a majority of even Tory voters, I want the railways back in public ownership. But public control should mean just that, not simply state control: so we should have passengers, rail workers and government too, co-operatively running the railways to ensure they are run in our interests and not for private profit. This model should replace both the old Labour model of top-down operation by central diktat and Tories favoured model of unaccountable privatised operators running our public services for their own ends.”

No comments: