The Prospective Foreign Policy of a Corbyn Government and its U.S. National Security Implications.

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The Prospective Foreign Policy of a Corbyn Government and its U.S. National Security Implications. By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim (Hudstone Institute,Sept 2019)

[ Posted by Lara Keller 2/11/19 Updated 14/4/2020 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents  ]
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Sec 1. Author.
Sec 2. Foreword by Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind.
Sec 3. Acronyms and Names.
Sec 4. Political Movements and Groups.
Sec 5. Executive Summary.
Sec 6. Introduction.
Sec 7. Models and Practice of International Relations.
Sec 8. Corbyn’s International Relations Framework and Its Pro-Soviet Influences.
Sec 9. Traditional Models and Universal Human Rights.
Sec 10. Intellectual Strands behind Corbyn’s Model.
Sec 10.1 From the Labour Left.
Sec 10.2 From the Communist Party of Great Britain.
Sec 10.3 From the “New Left”.
Sec 10.4 From Eurocommunism.
Sec 11. Corbyn’s Political Actions across Various Regions.
Sec 11.1 Bosnia.
Sec 11.2 Kosovo.
Sec 11.3 Syria.
Sec 11.4. Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Sec 11.5. Russia.
Sec 11.6. Venezuela.
Sec 11.7. Scotland & Northern Ireland.
Sec 12. Nuclear Weapons.
Sec 13. Multinational Institutions: The European Union and NATO.
Sec 14. Implications for the U.S.
Sec 14.1 Relations with the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Sec 14.2 NATO.
Sec 14.3 Security.
Sec 14.4 Israel and Anti-Semitism.
Sec 15. Summary.
Sec 16. References.
Sec 17. Endnotes.

Sec 1. AUTHOR.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and member of the Board of Directors at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at the Department of War Studies at Kings College London University. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge after which he completed fellowships at the universities of Oxford, Harvard and Yale.

Dr. Ibrahim has published hundreds of articles in the likes of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, Foreign Policy, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and Newsweek. He is also the author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide” (Hurst 2016) and “Radical Origins: Why We Are Losing the War Against Islamic Extremism” (Pegasus 2017).

Outside academia, Dr. Ibrahim has been a reservist in the IV Battalion Parachute Regiment and an award-winning entrepreneur. He was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.


Dr. Azeem Ibrahim has developed a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful analyst of the threats and challenges facing modern society.

His study of Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy beliefs and prejudices will add to that reputation and deserves to be read by all those interested in, and concerned by, contemporary political developments in the United Kingdom. Dr. Ibrahim not only offers his own views and conclusions but backs them up with copious factual extracts from Corbyn’s own statements, speeches, and actions over many years, during a time when he must have had little expectation of taking leadership of the Labour Party and being seen as a potential prime minister.

Dr. Ibrahim demonstrates how Corbyn’s worldview is warped and lacks any ethical foundation. He provides numerous illustrations indicating that Corbyn has no belief in universal human rights and is prepared to excuse atrocities and persecution if they are carried out by governments he approves of, such as Maduro’s Venezuela or Putin’s Russia.

He concludes that Corbyn, if he were to obtain power, would do grave damage not only to the United Kingdom and the West but to the cause of democracy and liberal values throughout the world.

Dr. Ibrahim acknowledges that if Corbyn became the UK’s prime minister there would be serious limits on his power to deliver the kind of foreign policy he believes in. A substantial majority of Labour members of Parliament would disagree with any attempt to take Britain out of NATO and would not share any enthusiasm for tolerating the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.

It is also highly unlikely that any Corbyn-led government would have a majority in the House of Commons, and it would thus need the support of at least some opposition MPs to win votes in Parliament.

However, President Trump has shown how much can be done simply by a combination of tweets, speeches, and executive orders. That is how he has pursued much of his policy on international trade, on climate change, on China, and on Russia.

Corbyn as prime minister would have little of the global power of a US president, but serious damage he could do. His speeches and statements would be reported throughout the world and bring comfort to unpleasant regimes in Moscow, Caracas, Tehran, and Beijing. He could also weaken the UK’s impressive intelligence agencies by depriving them of funds and ordering them to change their investigative priorities.

Azeem Ibrahim has a distinguished academic background. His report should be read in the White House and the State Department and in other capitals. Hopefully, it will be read in the United Kingdom as well and help ensure that Corbyn is never entrusted with power.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind was a Minister at the UK Foreign Office from 1982-86. He then served as Defense Secretary from 1992-95 and as Foreign Secretary from 1995-97. From 2010-15 he served as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, with oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies.

He is a Visiting Professor at the Department of War Studies, Kings College, London.
[LK= He was also a leading cabinet minister in the Conservative Thatcher and Major governments of the 1980s and the 1990s. Politically diametrically opposed to Corbynism.]


The information below provides a short list of individuals and groups mentioned in the paper who may not be immediately recognizable to readers.

AAM = Anti-Apartheid Movement.
CND = Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
CPB = Communist Party of Britain (successor to the CPGB).
CPGB = Communist Party of Great Britain.
EC = European Community.
EEC = European Economic Community.
EU = European Union.
IRA = Irish Republican Army.
KLA = Kosovo Liberation Army.
NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
OPCW = Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
PCE = Communist Party of Spain.
PCI = Italian Communist Party.
SDLP = Social Democratic and Labour Party.
SNP = Scottish National Party.
StWC = Stop the War Coalition.
SWP = Socialist Workers Party.

Robin Cook:
Labour foreign secretary from 1997 to 2001 and leader of the House of Commons until 2003. Tried to introduce the concept of an “ethical” foreign policy with an emphasis on human rights. Resigned over opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Tony Benn:
A leading left-wing politician in the British Labour Party in the 1970s and 1980s. His supporters were often called Bennites.
Seumas Milne:
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman and influential advisor. Previously a member of the hardline, pro-Soviet elements in the CPGB and has a long record of supporting Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions, both within the former Soviet Union and more widely.
Len McCluskey:
Leader of the British trade union Unite. Very influential over Corbyn, not least as Unite provides most of the funding for Corbyn’s private office and has provided him with a number of policy advisors who previously worked for the union.
John Pilger:
Australian journalist who made his reputation exposing the crimes of the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia. Now writes predictably antiWestern, anti-“imperialist” articles, often cited by Corbyn in support of his positions.


The Tribune Group:
A left-wing grouping in the British Labour Party, important from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, which lost influence after that.
New Left:
An umbrella term for a wide spread of left-wing groups that emerged in the 1960s. Most had concerns about the USSR and tended to make anti-imperialism their core policy. Some were openly Trotskyist in their politics, others more eclectic.
The policy developed in the 1970s by the Italian and Spanish Communist Parties, which became very critical of the USSR and adopted a focus on universal human rights. Both parties backed opposition movements within the Warsaw Pact states.
Scottish National Party:
Now a broadly left-of-center party that argues for Scotland to be independent of the UK. On other electoral issues it has similar policies to the Labour Party, so the two are effectively competing for the same segment of the Scottish electorate, leading to strained relations between them.
Social Democratic and Labour Party:
The Northern Irish sister party of the Labour Party. Notionally supports the nonviolent unification of Ireland, and its MPs used to sit with (and vote for) the Labour Party in the UK House of Commons. It competes with Sinn Féin for the vote of the Catholic nationalist communities in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Féin:
The political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). In the period from 1968 to 1991, its senior membership overlapped with that of the IRA. It contests UK parliamentary elections but refuses to send MPs to the House of Commons, as it believes the 1922 partition of Ireland to be illegal. In practical terms, it has come to supplant completely the SDLP in the voting preferences of the nationalist segment of Northern Ireland.
Communist Party of Great Britain:
Founded in 1920 and formally dissolved in 1991. By the 1970s, it was largely irrelevant in UK politics but remained important in some trade unions and in the type of organizations and campaigns set up by the wider British left at various times.


Given the current state of UK politics, with the Conservative government focused almost exclusively on Brexit and the resulting electoral uncertainty, the likelihood of a government headed by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has increased substantially. The last UK -wide elections— in 2019, for the European Parliament— suggested that in England and Wales, the vote was spread relatively evenly across four political parties (in Scotland, the nationalist SNP dominated, meaning that each seat was contested by five main parties). In addition, with the “first past the post” electoral system, predictions of who might win a general election are problematic. The UK electoral system means the party with the largest number of votes in each constituency gains the seat in the House of Commons and it is feasible for a party with an overall lower share of the vote to win more seats than this would indicate depending on how evenly their votes are spread across the country. With two major parties, this is rarely a problem, with four (or five) more or less evenly sharing the vote, there is a real risk of an outcome (number of MPs) that is very different to the actual share of the votes.

[LK: In the December 2019 General Election, first past the post benefited the Conservatives who won 365 seats, as opposed to the projected 283 under a basic proportional system.The Liberal Democrats won just 11 rather than 75. In a different election clearly other parties could benefit disproportionately, as the author argues.]

On this basis, it is essential to consider what might be the foreign policy choices of a Corbyn government and how this might affect the United Kingdom’s allies, especially the United States. Corbyn seeks to present his foreign policy as one of support for the oppressed, of opposition to wars and invasions, and as an extension of former Labour foreign secretary Robin Cook’s “ethical” foreign policy. As this paper makes clear, this framing is deceptive—and consciously so. Corbyn has a long record of supporting human rights abusers, as long as they are, in his terms, on the right side, and opposed to U.S. or Western imperialism. Even his vaunted support for the Palestinians falls away when they are attacked by the Bashar al-Assad’s regime rather than Israel. Equally, while it is true that he would seek to end the UK’s current support for Saudi Arabia, he would simply replace it with support for Iran.

If a Corbyn foreign policy will not be an attempt to promote human rights and international cooperation over issues such as climate change, then what will it be? This paper argues that in Corbyn’s worldview, a small number of anti-imperialist states (Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and China) and a larger number of anti-imperialist movements (such as Hamas and Hezbollah) are threatened by the United States and the “West”. The latter is a rather amorphous concept but appears to include the major states and shared institutions of the post–World War II international order (including military alliances such as NATO and diplomatic and economic alliances such as the European Union). As shown below, Corbyn has tended to assume an automatically pro-Russian stance over a range of issues, including tensions within the former Soviet Union, Syria, and how the Vladimir Putin regime in Russia describes bodies such as NATO and the EU.

If Corbyn’s foreign policy is enacted, this suggests the Corbyn government will play a disruptive role. Some of this will be defended as a correction away from Saudi Arabia and Israel (but toward Iran instead). In other ways, his models of international politics and international trade mean he sees little value in multilateral organizations, so there will be another force pulling apart these longstanding alliances. This is not to argue that such bodies should be beyond criticism, or that they would not benefit from reform, but the key is that Corbyn has no interest in such nuances. These organizations support imperialism and capitalism and must, to use his own words, be defeated.

To explore these issues, this paper takes two approaches. First there is a consideration of the underpinnings and logic behind Corbyn’s view of international relations. That this largely focuses on the debates and disputes between relatively small sections of the British left in the late 1970s may be a surprise to some. However, the views held by Corbyn and his close advisors were all formed in this milieu, and to understand their likely future choices it is essential to explore the intellectual underpinnings. This is followed by brief discussions of Corbyn’s actual response to a number of international issues. These provide evidence for what his views actually mean in practice, and a number of themes recur:

1. He has a binary worldview, with imperialism and capitalism on one side and opposition to them on the other.

2. He condemns human rights abuses by those he sees as supporting imperialism but is dismissive of the abuses carried out by regimes he himself supports. He tends to see any domestic opponents of such regimes not as legitimate protesters but as agents of Western imperialism.

3. He identifies a number of states (such as Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and, sometimes, China) as the core anti-imperialist states and seems to believe they are constantly being threatened by the U.S. and the wider West.

4. There is never any nuance in his positions, so the messy, brutal civil war in Syria is reduced to an anti-imperialist Assad government struggling against jihadi and Western-sponsored opposition groups. Missing is any reflection of the peaceful initial revolt against Assad or why over 11 million people have been forced from their homes and many have fled the country.

5. The views of his advisors are very important and there are important issues where it is clear they have led him to change his position as a result of their influence. With Putin, Corbyn was initially critical but has increasingly come to support the regime and repeat its arguments. Over nuclear disarmament, he has moved from lifelong opposition to the UK possessing nuclear weapons to support for renewal of the UK’s Trident missile system. If we are to understand how Corbyn will frame a given issue, we need to understand the likely views of his close associates.

In turn, this offers insights into the likely foreign policy of a Corbynled government:

1. In economic terms, he will support a degree of autarky and the UK’s removal from the world economy so he can carry out his desired economic reforms.

2. In terms of international organizations, we can assume the UK will withdraw from the EU (despite opposition from most of the Labour Party) and will play a negative role in organizations such as NATO, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Outright withdrawal from all these bodies is unlikely due to opposition both within the Labour Party and elsewhere in the British political system.

3. We will see a clear break with the traditional Western preferences for Israel and Saudi Arabia in Middle Eastern policymaking. This may be a much-needed rebalancing, but, in reality, it will be replaced by close support for Iran.

4. We can expect a greater tolerance for the Putin regime’s actions and worldview, and presumably, backing for Russian actions in Ukraine and possibly other former Soviet republics.

How far any of this can be converted from rhetoric to practical action is debatable. There are constraints within the British political system and, in reality, these positions lack majority support among Labour Party members of Parliament. But even if it remains rhetorical, it will represent a major shift in UK foreign policy. And even if the change is limited to the words used, the U.S. will find a Corbyn-led government’s choices and attitudes a major departure from the UK’s traditional views.

The implications for security and possible military cooperation are substantial. Some of Corbyn’s close advisors were long-term supporters of the USSR and seem to have decided that Putin’s Russia is an acceptable successor. Here, they may not be able to implement an active policy change (toward open support for Russia or Iran), but they can be expected to act to stop any attempts to challenge Russian expansionism. In addition, in the sharing of security information, the UK government will cease to be a reliable partner. Again, the practical issue is less that a Corbyn-led government would actively side with Russia (or its allies) and more that it might block or undermine any actions it sees as inimical to Putin’s interests.

In light of the above, it would be prudent for the U.S. national security establishment to give serious consideration to downgrading or even suspending a Corbyn-led government from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and temporarily demoting its NATO membership. There is a serious risk that any information passed to either Corbyn or his close allies could be compromised, especially if it involves Russia or Iran.


This paper considers what a Labour government in the UK led by Jeremy Corbyn might mean in terms of international relations and U.S. national security. It starts from a consideration of the ideas that have informed his worldview and then looks at how he has responded to events over the last two decades. The final section looks at how his responses reflect his theoretical underpinnings and what might be the practical implications for UK foreign policy and, by extension, U.S. national security.

Corbyn’s view of international relations closely follows the debates and disagreements of a very small section of British politics from the late 1970s—within the Labour Party the ideas of the Tribune Group and those MPs closely associated with Tony Benn; the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB); and what can be clustered together as the New Left (a spread of views developed by various Trotskyist groups and those who had no formal party identification). As we will see, there are important differences among these groups, but some themes emerge consistently. All had a preference for a model of economic relations that tended toward isolationism and autarky (for some this was seen as a needed response to weaknesses in the UK economy, to others it was a desirable outcome in its own right). This made them hostile to the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner of the current European Union (EU), both on economic grounds and because they believed it was a political project designed to support wider U.S. imperialism. In turn, all these groups tended to view specifically the U.S. (and, more generally, the “West”) as the root cause of all international problems and to align themselves with what were seen as anti-imperialist movements (even if they disagreed as to which movements met this criterion).

This had implications not just in orientation but in their approach toward human rights abuses. As we will see, they were willing, rightly, to expose and condemn such abuses by the U.S. or its client states, but this did not indicate any commitment to universal human rights. When a movement or state they supported carried out abuses, they either ignored them or carefully placed them into context—usually stating that the abuses were a response to some form of provocation or imperialist action. [1]

As this paper shows, in the main Corbyn closely reflects this mindset. There are states and movements he supports, and he is usually blind to their human rights abuses, even while he is prepared to criticize such actions by states he does not support. In effect, if your abuser is one of his supported regimes, then you have no rights and should have no expectations. So Corbyn, often rightly, has condemned this or that action by Israel toward the Palestinians but remains silent when Palestinians are massacred by the Assad regime. [2]

Thus, to understand Corbyn’s approach to foreign policy, we have to revisit the debates and ideas of what was a very small spectrum of the British political process from the late 1970s and early 1980s. In no other modern setting do the divisions and analyses of groups that mostly no longer exist and that mostly had no mass appeal even at that stage, matter. This alone should be a warning about what his ideas will mean in practice and the extent to which they try to fit the global changes in the last forty years into a very narrow model.

Consequently, Corbyn’s model and practice for international relations are not particularly based on a theoretical development.[3] They more directly reflect whether regimes and movements are considered anti-imperialist. The group of anti-imperialists (states such as Iran, Syria, Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela) is deemed to be under threat by the “West,” which wants to overthrow them for all kinds of nefarious reasons. This is not a policy framework but more akin to the type of conspiracy theory that so often takes root within populist political movements. Supporters of this view tend not to want to deal with any facts but rather to obfuscate them. In particular, any crimes that are carried out by “anti-Western” states in their own geopolitical interests are to be supported, regardless of whether their own population, or those who live in the countries they have invaded or meddled in, might actually be opposed to these actions. In a number of instances—such as the wars in Syria and the former Yugoslavia and the current chaos in Venezuela—Corbyn seems uninterested in the messy details, preferring to deal in broad generalities. [4] [LK= It is not credible to ignore long term cynical immoral monomania in the Western elite’s distortion of foreign policy, that very often can be termed “nefarious”. Author partially makes this point below.]

The core of his beliefs is that if you are oppressed by an anti-imperialist state that he supports, then you have no rights. As a result, he has a consistent record of support for Serbia in the Balkan Wars (it was seen as socialist[5]) and for Assad in Syria (anti-imperialist), and supports the actions and interests of what are seen as the primary anti-imperialist states: Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. [6] In practice, this makes him every bit as cynical in his formulation of international relations as those he claims to see as callous, self-interested supporters of regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

This is not the ethical foreign policy of the Labour foreign secretary in the late 1990s, Robin Cook, redesigned and updated. It [Corbyn’s] is a foreign policy that accommodates dictators, aligns with human rights abusers, and denies human rights to those who oppose these regimes. This is the key concern; it is not a nuanced critique of, say, liberal interventionism or other models of Western foreign policy—it takes the most cynical aspects of the latter but picks a different group of friendly states.

In addition to a deep suspicion of U.S. motives in Corbyn’s longtime policy circles—again not always incorrect—there is also an enduring suspicion of most post-1945 multilateral bodies. Thus, opposition to NATO was standard and shared even in those sections of the left that had concerns about the motives and actions of the USSR. Equally, the EEC was seen as a capitalist club and something to “defeat.” [7] There has usually been limited support for the UN, but this is selective, generally in an obstructive rather than affirmative way. When it comes to Syria, this has meant denying Russian involvement in some attacks, [8] and Corbyn did not accept Assad’s and Russia’s responsibility for an attack on a UN convoy until the UN had conducted an investigation. He also did not want to accept Russian responsibility for the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018 until the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had conducted its investigation. [9] However, since it was completed (and supported the view of the UK government), Corbyn has been silent. Running through many of his speeches is an insistence on a state’s right to act as it sees fit domestically [10] —if it is a state he supports. In many ways this is a return to a nation-state model of international relations, but his list of favored and rejected states is different from the list promoted by those on the right who tend to share this view of the international order. [11]

In turn, U.S. officials can expect a very different response from the UK in respect of Russian actions, Middle East policy and more generally within various multinational bodies such as the UN and NATO. Some of these changes may reflect the mindset of the Trump administration and its greater tolerance for Putin’s regime and suspicion of international bodies. On the other hand, Corbyn’s pro-Iran, pro-Venezuela attitudes will provoke significant differences. Equally—though this is outside the scope of this paper—his domestic economic policy will be the total opposite of that promoted by the Trump administration. Even a Democratic administration, if it wins the 2020 elections, will find the UK has become a less predictable ally.

The final section of this paper considers what all this means. It clearly does not set the UK on a road toward an ethical foreign policy; instead it reshuffles the diplomatic pack. We could expect the UK under Corbyn to be less tolerant toward Saudi Arabia but instead turn a blind eye to the actions of Iran (both domestically and internationally). We can probably expect less engagement with the international bodies that regulate the world economy (admittedly not always very well). We can also probably predict what Corbyn will say on most issues, as he has a clear list of those he supports and those he opposes. How this can be turned into practical diplomacy or international economic relations is more opaque.


The use of a model or frame of reference to inform foreign policy is not unusual. Nor, unfortunately, is it rare for such a frame to lead to poorly judged decisions. The British state managed to create the disaster of Suez in 1956 using a model of its self-adopted imperial role and importance in the world. New Labour in the UK and the George W. Bush presidency in the U.S. used the model of liberal interventionism to justify the invasion and post-conflict management of Iraq. [12] More recently, the belief that there is no formal international legal framework, so states must act in their perceived self-interest, has made a return—with predictable consequences.

Thus it is not, in the abstract, a problem that Corbyn and his advisors have a model of international affairs and use this to inform their decisions. The consequences can be severe, however, if such a model sometimes fails to generate an appropriate policy in a particular environment. The sensible question is, does it vary based on the circumstances? There is a case to argue that the Bill Clinton/New Labour foreign policy model worked in ending the conflicts in Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone even if it also informed the heavily criticized decision-making in Iraq. [13] [LK= Iraq intervention was an invasion that willfully failed to respectfully or progressively engage with the Iraqi population or the established threats Iraq-Iran and Sunni-Shia conflict. Difficult not to see this aspect as nefarious.]


Corbyn’s understanding of international relations can be best described as a combination of the New Left’s framing of international politics and a Bennite framing of international economic relations. Thus, opposition to Western “imperialism” tends to be his dominant approach, and this also tends to see him offering support to any regime or group that can be characterized as anti-imperialist. [14] However, there is evidence that he has taken on a more pro-Soviet (in the sense of pro-Kremlin) stance in recent years. As noted below, while still a backbencher (in other words a Member of the UK Parliament who has no formal role in the Government or the Opposition), he was happy to sponsor “early day motions” criticizing Putin’s wars in the Caucasus. [15] Such motions are often used in the House of Commons by backbench MPs as a means to raise issues relevant to their own constituencies, to signal their opposition to an aspect of current political policy, or to raise an issue they feel is particularly important but is being overlooked. They almost never influence government policy, meaning that they are popular with those MPs who are on the fringes of their particular political group.

The contrast between this criticism and Corbyn’s current approach to the wars in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, and use of chemical weapons in the UK is stark. This shift reflects the background of some of those around Corbyn who came from a pro-Soviet, Stalinist political tradition, and this has had a direct impact on his current set of international policies. It also reflects the deliberate choices by the Putin regime to stress the importance of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany as a means to create a link back to the USSR and the extent that current regime generally presents a favorable view of Stalin in popular media.

Corbyn has managed to unite disparate strands of the UK left around him, in part because he offers them a route to influence but also because their old debates about the nature of the USSR, and about reform or revolution, have largely been rendered obsolete by events. Thus, the political and economic strategy of the CPGB (now the Communist Party of Britain, CPB) and the traditional interest of some of the Trotskyist movements in gaining a foothold in the mainstream Labour Party find renewed relevance with Corbyn in charge. Usefully, Corbyn leads a major political party and, at least for a while, seems to have support from people focused on pragmatic concerns such as austerity or tuition fees, allowing them to draw on a much wider electoral base than would ever be attracted to their own policies.

These varying elements came together in a British political campaign, the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), which emerged shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. It was founded by individuals with links to the CPB and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and supported by left-wing Labour MPs such as Corbyn. As such, it was a typical example of the type of organization set up by parts of the British far left to campaign on a specific issue. However, the substantial public opposition in the UK to the planned Iraq War briefly gave the group wider support and, by early 2003, it was able to mobilize over 1 million people to march in London and Glasgow.
[LK= STWC is one of a series of front organizations for the UK far-left.]

Since then, the StWC has shed most of this wider support and returned to the type of arguments typical of the New Left’s interpretation of anti-imperialism. Contentiously, some senior members have indicated support for groups in Iraq (like al-Qaeda) attacking U.S. and UK forces, and backing for the Muammar al-Qaddafi regime in Libya from 2011 to 2012. Since 2012, the StWC has offered support for Assad in Syria. Corbyn remained a committed member even as the StWC reverted to the simplistic anti-imperialism of the New Left. In many ways, the intellectual strands in the StWC leadership encapsulate the core of Corbyn’s approach to international relations. Equally important, the ability to claim that he was right in opposing the war in Iraq allows Corbyn to claim that taking a similar anti-Western approach in every other situation is equally correct.

Thus, Corbyn’s model of international relations is one of anti-imperialism and support for states such as Russia, Iran, and Syria, combined with visceral dislike of Israel as the classic imperialist state. This “Zio-centric” worldview is one reason for the anti-Semitism that Corbyn’s Labour is riddled with, as anyone who is Jewish and fails to sufficiently renounce any support for Israel is by definition a supporter of imperialism. Yes, there is support for Palestine and the rights of Palestinians, but only when these are threatened by Israel. Massacres of Palestinians by Assad (both the current Syrian dictator and his father [16]), when they are allied with the opposition in the Syrian civil war, are not condemned, [17] and indeed, not even mentioned. [LK= Simultaneously opportunistic pro-zionism is also being forced into definitions of anti-Semitism by Zionist PR groups. Corbynism effectively excluding Jews has to be seen partly as a reaction to hard line Zionist triumphalism.]


This framing by Corbyn is at variance with the more usual models of international relations. Very broadly, the main academic debates in traditional models of international relations have tended to be between how state-centric the international order really should be and the dispute over whether there are meaningful extra-national legal systems, [18] the human rights/liberal interventionist model, [19] and its more useful critics. [20] The human rights model, in turn, has tended to cause a divide between those who believe it should sit at the center of any international order and those who believe it should replace the traditional interests of nation-states. [21] The latter tend to argue that issues such as climate change and the growing international refugee crises need to be dealt with because these are now the real threats to the established states and their existing elites. The former draw on post–World War II decisions to enshrine the idea of universal human rights in the UN charter and related documents. [22]

This was a response to the crimes of Nazi Germany (and its allies), Stalin’s Soviet Union, and the deliberate targeting of the wider civilian population by all the powers involved in the war. [23] At its core, it sought to keep states from declaring that rights were possessed only by particular sections of their population (whether this distinction was made on the basis of ethnicity, religion, social class, political allegiance, or gender). However, the concept was rejected by the USSR (and in practice ignored by many states) on the grounds that such a framing of rights was based on liberal capitalist norms and not on the realities of social class and society. [LK= United States also ignored this during monomania on anti-communism, notably in Vietnam. Author partially says this below again.]

Even if only the closest adherents of the USSR in the UK fully accepted this interpretation, the view that rights were inalienable was not widely accepted on the far left. A classic defense of the universalist tradition in human rights was written by Leszek Kolakowski in response to the British communist historian E. P. Thompson. Kolakowski noted that Thompson always had an explanation for any crime by the Soviet Union, seeing it as a product of excessive zeal or an unfortunate overreaction to Western pressure. On the other hand, similar acts by the U.S. and its allies were readily condemned, with no equivocation. Kolakowski wrote that:

“When I say ‘double standards’ I do not mean indulgence for the justifiable inexperience of the ‘new society’ in coping with new problems. I mean the use, alternatively, of political or moral standards to similar situations and this I find unjustifiable. We must not be fervent moralists in some cases and Real-politikers or philosophers of world history in others, depending on political circumstances. [24] ”

[LK= Does philosophical integrity have importance to extremists beyond a means of obscuring unreflective group identity fetish? (See Orwell “Notes on Nationalism” 1945)]

Models of international relations are useful; they can provide a tool for understanding and action, but they can always be flawed in application. [25] Both the traditional “realist” models and those based around liberal interventionism have been criticized for their assumptions and their practical implications. However, simply saying you reject these models is not enough; what matters is what you intend to replace them with. This means we need to understand Corbyn’s model and consider the sort of actions and approaches to which it leads.


Corbyn’s model of international relations (and, critically, that of his advisors) can be traced to three strands that were relatively common on the British left from the 1960s to the 1980s. These have overlapping elements but also some key differences, and the strand that dominates may have significant implications in its practical policy application. The strands can be roughly grouped into the views of the Labour Party left, the CPGB, and the more fragmented “New Left.”


One strand is drawn from the concepts of the Labour Party’s own left from the 1970s and 1980s. Practically, this is often associated with the leading politician Tony Benn. However, it can be more validly seen as the basic framework of a number of Labour politicians who were also part of the then-powerful Tribune Group. In international relations, this strand tended to support calls for nuclear disarmament (unilateral, if needed, by the UK). It called into question the motives and role of the U.S. but also criticized the Soviet Union, especially for human rights abuses and military adventurism. Of particular relevance, there were Labour MPs who supported some multilateral institutions, like the UN, but were often critical of bodies like NATO or the EEC, [26] while some others were in favor of both. It should be noted that Corbyn personally had few links to this tradition at its height, having only been elected to Parliament several years after Tony Benn failed to become deputy leader of the Labour Party in 1981. [27]

This strand also had an economic model that tended to be suspicious of close engagement with wider trading blocs (again, such as the EEC). This had various intellectual strands behind it, including that of the New Cambridge economics group, [28] which argued that the UK economy was so weak that only a degree of protectionism could safeguard jobs and the standard of living. This analysis was subsequently reflected in the Alternative Economic Strategy jointly developed in the early 1980s by Labour politicians and individuals associated with the CPGB. [29]


The next strand relevant to understanding Corbyn’s worldview is the legacy from the CPGB itself. A number of former members are now his close advisors, and all have a background in the CPGB factions that were most vocally pro-Soviet. This group tended to see the world as a clash between the U.S. (which was always wrong) and the USSR (which they did sometimes criticize but saw as basically correct and, at worst, responding badly to U.S. pressure). They also opposed multilateral groups such as the EEC and NATO, which they believed were effectively fully aligned with the U.S. Clearly, their support for the USSR meant some affinity for states both inside and outside the Warsaw Pact that were broadly pro-Soviet, and for any anti-imperialist struggle, as long as the opponent was the U.S. or one of its allies. Many members of this group came to support the Putin regime from the end of the 1990s, seeing it as some form of legacy regime of the Soviet state.

By the late 1970s, the CPGB no longer had any practical influence over UK politics. Electorally it was completely marginalized, but it retained a role in some British trade unions, and organizationally it played a leading role in some of the wider groups that drew together the British left. The relative importance of these groups changed over time, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s two of them, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), were supported by a substantial minority of the UK population and drew support from most UK political parties. In each, the CPGB provided a significant degree of organizational support. Equally, and typically for many on the British left at the time, Corbyn was heavily involved in both movements. [LK= See far-left “front” organization strategy.]

The CPGB itself was dissolved in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. It produced several contending successor movements, and one, the CPB, secured ownership of the CPGB’s buildings and its newspaper, the Morning Star. CPB membership was made up of those who regretted the fall of the USSR, often describing it is a major tragedy.

As we discuss below, former CPGB members have come to have disproportionate control over how Corbyn frames foreign affairs, and he has become notably more supportive of the Putin regime’s actions as a result. A long-standing aim, set out in the CPGB’s British Road to Socialism, [30] was to realign British foreign policy to one of “co-operation with socialist states and progressive forces in the capitalist world, and support for the national liberation movements. It should … withdraw from NATO.” More pertinently, the CPGB was committed to influencing the Labour Party to move to the left, so it adopted an “Alternative Economic and Political Strategy” that would remove the UK from NATO and the EEC, creating the basis for a more profound shift to what was often described as “Actually Existing Socialism” (the form of economic, social, and political order in the Warsaw Pact countries). [31]


A more disparate strand comes from the ideas and groups that emerged from the 1960s New Left. [32] This incorporated individuals who were members of various Trotskyist groups and those who remained outside the formal structures of the British far left. The legacy is complex, but it can be summarized as a greater or lesser degree of opposition to the Soviet Union (and to the CPGB), along with a focus on the importance of anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism. If the CPGB saw the world as split into two camps, the Soviet bloc and the bloc dominated by the U.S., the New Left tended to split the world into imperialist and anti-imperialist nations (or movements). In this, one side was good (anti-imperialism) and the other bad (imperialism); the U.S. was the primary actor, and the other side was responding to its aggressions. Thus, any anti-imperialist movement was seen as desirable and worthy of support simply due to this designation.

The ready conflation of Zionism with imperialism and the resultant blurring of the lines between criticism of the Israeli state and anti-Semitism flows from this binary understanding. This has led to the anti-Semitism that is prevalent among a number of Corbyn’s supporters, as, by their definition, anyone who is Jewish and does not fully reject Israel or Zionism falls outside the “community of the good.” [33] This binary belief is important and is shared by many around Corbyn. In this view, a criticism of this or that act of the Israeli state is not enough—any hint of tolerance for it is sufficient to invalidate any other views held by that individual or group. As we will discuss below, this has serious implications for the framing of international policy and the retention of a commitment to universal human rights. [LK= Orwell’s far-left or far-right politics of group definition again. also Israel’s connection to Middle East Western imperialism is an historical reality of survival and convenience.]

Of less importance in terms of international relations is that some of those around Corbyn have also been influenced by the arguments of Italian theorists such as Antonio Negri, whose non-Marxist strand of left-wing thinking draws heavily on the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism that were important in the early years of the twentieth century. [34] As such, it has more of an impact on the economic ideas of these Corbyn associates (in particular, the role of automation). [35] In terms of international relations, Negri’s views are mostly a indistinguishable from the standard New Left approach.
[LK= Unsure if “autonomism” is referred to here, which is a sort of leaderless disruptive tactic (in recent times Occupy). How the far-left love opaque jargon to apparently lend significance.]


In the UK left in the 1970s and 1980s, there was little reflection of some wider trends in the thinking (and practice) of the European left, as befits an essentially Anglocentric, insular, political project. [36] Given their absence, there is no need to say much, but we can draw out one important issue. When the Italian (PCI) and Spanish (PCE) communist parties were developing their ideas of what became known as Eurocommunism, [37] this had little impact on the CPGB (apart from a small group of writers around the magazine Marxism Today) or on the Bennite left. This is problematic for two reasons. First, the PCI, in particular, returned to the concept of universal human rights (as opposed to the class-based approach that underpinned the Soviet legal system) as they steadily dropped any remnants of orthodox Marxism-Leninism. The practical effect was that the PCI and the PCE supported the Helsinki Accords and the Czech dissident group Charter 77. [38] This support actually was more important than it seems, as it stressed the idea that all have rights, not just those deemed to be suitable by a ruling regime (with this subject to change at any time). Second, the PCI (and even more the PCE) came to the view that the Soviet Union was a greater threat to stability and peace in Europe than the U.S. or NATO. To them, the division of Europe into two competing blocs was a major issue that had to be resolved, in part by the Soviet Union reducing its military threat to Western Europe. [39] This position varied over time, but it saw the PCI offer practical and moral support to dissident movements such as Solidarity in Poland [40] and condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.


It is useful to explore the practical meaning of an intellectual model that prizes support for anti-imperialist states (or movements) above all else and has no commitment to universal human rights. This section covers Corbyn’s approach to a range of international issues and related themes, such as the UK’s retention of nuclear weapons. It also discusses his differing approaches to nationalist movements in Northern Ireland and Scotland. It ends with a discussion of his approach to the European Union, as that seems to draw together both his economic and political framing of how the UK should interact with the wider world.

Sec 11.1 BOSNIA.

Corbyn himself has said little directly about the wars in Croatia and Bosnia that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia after 1990. To most observers, [41] the main driver of the ethnic cleansing was Serbian president’s, Slobodan Milošević, willingness to adopt a narrow Serb nationalist perspective, [42] created the dynamics which led to massacres in eastern Croatia and across Bosnia to buttress his rule in Serbia and that of his allies in eastern Bosnia. However, to some of Corbyn’s supporters, the wars in Yugoslavia were an attempt to destroy a socialist state [43] and, according to Katie Hudson, then chair of CND, “the truth is that Milošević was no hardcore Serb nationalist but a lifelong socialist, whose commitment was always to a multiracial, multi-ethnic Yugoslavia.” [44]

Corbyn expressed support [45] in a parliamentary early day motion for Hudson’s book, “Breaking the South Slav Dream”. [46] Hudson’s thesis was that Milošević was acting reasonably to keep Yugoslavia together and was not guilty of any war crimes. Equally, the breakup of the Yugoslav state after 1990 was due to Western intervention, not the actions of regional leaders. U.S. pressure for economic liberalization in the decade after Marshal Tito’s death had encouraged Croatia and Slovenia to weaken their ties with the Yugoslav state. In turn, this led to their secession and to Milošević’s efforts to hold the old state together.

Corbyn has since met individuals such as Marcus Papadopoulos, [47] who claimed that “there was no siege of Sarajevo, there was no genocide at Srebrenica,” and who uses Islamophobic language to describe the Muslim communities in Bosnia. The denial of Serb war crimes was a major element of this discourse, and later, Seumas Milne, now Corbyn’s press secretary, asserted that the post-Milošević Serbian regime dug up bodies unrelated to the war in Bosnia to provide the evidence needed for Milošević’s conviction at The Hague. [48]

Sec 11.2 KOSOVO.

Concerning the conflict in Kosovo, Corbyn was much more vocal. This conflict had started as a low-level process (compared to events in Bosnia) of resistance to remaining in Yugoslavia on the part of the Muslim majority and of some ethnic cleansing by the Serb authorities. By the late 1990s, it had escalated to something approaching full-scale civil war. One problem was that the main resistance group to Serb control, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was widely seen as also engaged in substantial criminality and this, combined with the region’s relative isolation, limited outside support as intervention was geographically much harder than it had been in Bosnia. [49]  Nonetheless, as part of the wider peacemaking process in the former Yugoslavia, a cease-fire was agreed upon in October 1998, and this was formalized in the 1999 Rambouillet Accords. [50] The standard response on the far left was to denounce this as another attack on the “socialist” state of Serbia designed to do little but provide a pretext for a subsequent NATO-led assault. [51] Instead, Serb-led ethnic cleansing carried on (to be fair, there were plenty of attacks on ethnic Serbs, too), and some 300,000 Kosovars were displaced from their homes and about 2,000 killed before the NATO military intervention started. [52] During the military operations, many more Kosovars were displaced from their homes by Serb forces, and 13,517 were killed or went missing.

Corbyn called for the NATO intervention to be stopped because of the risk of civilian casualties, because it violated state sovereignty, and because it was not endorsed by the UN Security Council. [53] Subsequently, left wing journalist John Pilger published an article claiming that the death toll was just 2,788, an assertion he has maintained since then, arguing that this includes those killed by NATO bombs and by the KLA. [54] Russia Today (RT), in effect the Kremlin’s main international propaganda channel, continues to repeat this claim. [55] Corbyn then signed an early day motion supporting Pilger’s contention that there were no mass murders in Kosovo in the period up to 1999 and noted the ongoing pollution caused by NATO’s use of depleted uranium. [56] That Pilger’s views about the death toll have been comprehensively rebutted was of no apparent concern to Corbyn.[57]

In combination, Corbyn’s responses to the events in Bosnia and Kosovo point to several core themes in his foreign policy model. Fundamentally, he sees the Milošević regime as some form of socialist, anti-imperialist state, and the various conflicts that arose after 1991 as products of Western attempts to undermine it. This is the view promoted by Katie Hudson, which rejects any argument that the root causes of the war include Milošević’s use of Serb nationalism to create a basis for his own regime. [58] In contrast, yes it is true there was a residual attachment to the ideals of a multi-ethnic united Yugoslavia, but it was found among those trying to sustain the idea of a multi-ethnic Bosnia and not among the Bosnian Serb nationalists engaged in ethnic cleansing. In neither Bosnia nor Kosovo has Corbyn shown identification with the Muslim population, and his associates downplay or deny that Serb war crimes took place in Srebrenica or in Kosovo.

This is not to say that criticizing either the wartime resistance by forces supporting both the Bosnian state and the KLA is invalid. [59] Elements of both have been found guilty of war crimes since the conflict ended. Equally, it is valid to criticize Western diplomacy, especially the appeasement of Milošević in the early stages of the wars with Croatia and Bosnia. [60] But this nuance is not the point of Corbyn’s critique, which views Serbia as a socialist state and believes that its opponents, the West and the Muslim communities, became the enemy and were wrong. In this view, once you are wrong, you have no rights.

Sec 11.3 SYRIA.

Corbyn’s opposition to the U.S.-UK invasion of Iraq is well documented and was shared by a substantial segment of the UK electorate at the time. The long-running “Chilcot Inquiry” definitively refuted the Tony Blair government’s arguments for the war and the conduct of postwar restructuring. Corbyn’s policy toward Syria draws heavily from this experience: He was right then, so he must be right now. But there is a subtle twist to his position. In the run-up to the Iraq War there were very few in the UK who actually supported Saddam Hussein; the debate was on the wisdom of the George W. Bush administration’s chosen course of action, which was backed by the UK. On Syria, it is less that Corbyn is opposed to Western actions and more that he is supportive of the Assad regime and its backers in Russia and Iran.

This has meant demonizing the Syrian opposition as stooges of the U.S., allies to the Saudis, and jihadis. His close policy advisor, Seumas Milne, managed to extend this to an argument that the United States was responsible for ISIS: “A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of ‘Islamic state’ — despite the ‘grave danger’ to Iraq’s unity— as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.” [61] In a similar manner, Corbyn intervened in a debate in May 2013 on the EU arms embargo on Syria to warn against “supplying arms to people [the Syrian rebels] we do not know” and made a link to “the way the USA raced to supply … arms to [the] opposition in Afghanistan in 1979, which gave birth to the Taliban and, ultimately, al-Qaeda.”

Since then, senior members of the StWC [LK=UK Stop The War Coalition] have followed the arguments of people like notionally pro-Palestinian polemicist, Max Blumenthal and linked the Syrian White Helmets to al-Qaeda or ISIS rather than treating them as an unofficial humanitarian group doing its best to offset the impact of regime (and Russian) bombing. [62] The White Helmets openly acknowledge they have received U.S. funding for their work and, predictably, that is enough for them to be described by the far left as a tool of U.S. imperialism laying the groundwork for a U.S. invasion. [63] The Russian state-sponsored news agency Sputnik has since described them as “Soros sponsored.” [64] But acceptance of U.S. funding was not unusual for many humanitarian groups, at least before the Trump presidency; even the Palestinian Red Crescent has taken such support and used it to treat Palestinians wounded in Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After the Assad regime used chemical weapons on a suburb of Damascus in 2013, Corbyn appeared on the Russian state TV channel RT to express openness to the theory that the Syrian opposition had actually dropped the chemical weapons. [65] At the same time, his now-key advisor Seumas Milne was writing that:

“the trigger for the buildup to a new intervention — what appears to have been a chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta — certainly has the hallmarks of a horrific atrocity. Hundreds, mostly civilians, are reported killed and many more wounded, their suffering caught on stomach-churning videos.
But so far no reliable evidence whatever has been produced to confirm even what chemical might have been used, let alone who delivered it. The western powers and their allies, including the Syrian rebels.rebels, insist the Syrian army was responsible. The Damascus government and its international backers, Russia and Iran, blame the rebels.” [66]

The reality, of course, is that the Assad regime had been using chemical weapons before the August attacks and continued to do so afterward. [67]

Corbyn’s approach to Syria repeats some of the themes noted earlier. Once a regime is deemed anti-imperialist, its victims retain no rights to dissent or resist. The reality—of a messy, nasty civil war that was spawned from a peaceful revolt against the Assad regime but saw war crimes by every faction and became an international arena for the wider Iranian-Saudi conflict—is missing. [68] Equally, the almost 6 million refugees who have fled the country, [69] and the further 6 million internally displaced, [70] go missing from Corbyn’s narrative. Instead, we are given a narrative of imperialism and anti-imperialism, one that glosses over the role played by Russia and Iran, with the Russian presence deemed acceptable as long as it is for peacekeeping purposes. [71] After an attack by Russian planes on a UN aid convoy in September 2016, Corbyn could not actually bring himself to blame the Russians for the attack directly, instead presenting it as some awful, random accident. [72]

As noted above, in the context of Syria, StWC ceased to claim that its concern was the impact of wars on other countries and, in the context of Syria, became apologists for the Assad regime. In its view, Western intervention in Syria was not questionable because it was ill thought out or badly implemented but because it was an attack on a regime the StWC supported. Attempts by Syrian refugees living in the UK to challenge this narrative or alignment have been silenced by the StWC and its supporters. [73]


The binary, non-reflective model can also be seen in Corbyn’s response to the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two powers whose relationship has formed the major dynamic in the Middle East since 1979. [74] Western policy has tended to share the Saudi antagonism toward Iran, going as far as to offer fairly open support to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during his long war with Iran from 1980 to 1988. [75] [LK= US gave extensive military support to Saddam Hussein to attack the Iranian Revolutionary Islamic Regime. The Iranian Regime’s vigorous undermining of post Saddam Iraq was thus absolutely predictable.] Equally, there has been a willingness among Western leaders to overlook domestic repression in Saudi Arabia while condemning the brutality of the Iranian regime. Furthermore, it is true that both Western States, and bodies such as the IMF, have overemphasized the recent reform agenda of the Saudis while enforcing sanctions against Iran that have caused domestic reforms there to falter. [LK= Iranian Regime clerical-military elite have absolute control of the regime and are embedded in extensive corruption, that makes sustained internally driven reform improbable.]

This strongly suggests that a human rights–based foreign policy by a Western power should aim for some degree of equivalence, holding both Iran and Saudi Arabia responsible for their actions domestically and internationally, offering support for democratic reform movements in both, and equally accepting that both regimes do have their own dynamics, concerns, and worldview.

This is not what Corbyn does. Yes, he has been very critical of Saudi Arabia, but this is not matched by a similarly critical approach to Iran, for which he has expressed support. [76] In effect, for Corbyn, Iran has joined Russia and Venezuela as a key state resisting Western imperialism and has become worthy of support regardless of its actions. The Scottish writer Sam Hamad has suggested that:

“Corbyn could easily be described as a lobbyist for the Iranian regime. In the same sleazy manner as the Tory politicians, so hated by Corbyn and his supporters, who claim to support ‘human rights’ in Saudi Arabia before selling them weapons and the means to maintain their domestic tyranny, Corbyn has strongly advocated that such relations be transferred from Saudi’s brutal theocracy to that of the Iranian regime.” [77]

Hamad’s 2016 article was written several years after the Iranian regime had crushed internal dissent (the Green Revolution), and its own Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and proxy militias were involved in sectarian violence in Iraq and Syria. [78] Corbyn’s criticism of the Saudis may represent a needed balance against the foreign policy of Conservative and Labour governments, but his interest in human rights does not extend to the victims of the Iranian regime or its proxy states. [79] Thus, as above, the crimes of a state he supports go unchallenged, certainly downplayed, while the crimes of a state he opposes are clearly labelled as such. Again, we come back to the same argument: He is not making a case for a different approach to UK foreign policy—unlike, say, Robin Cook —but is simply replacing near- unconditional support for one authoritarian regime that engages in domestic and international repression with support for another. [80]

This repeats the contradiction noted by Leszek Kolakowski in the mid 1970s. Fundamentally, one either accepts the logic of universal human rights or replaces it with a framework of rights only for those who meet particular criteria. In the first framing, one cannot selectively apply principles of opposition to oppression in one area while supporting or ignoring it in another. But this is what Corbyn has done: While he wants a British government to end the oppression of Palestinians and end Saudi Arabia’s vicious war in Yemen, he has also been one of the most consistent voices in advocating that nothing be done to aid Syrians fighting for democracy (and their lives) against Assad and in backing Iran’s domestic and international policy.

Sec 11.5 RUSSIA.

One common criticism of Corbyn is that he rarely changes his mind and that his entire intellectual framework remains stuck in the 1970s. However, there is evidence that he has changed his views toward Putin’s Russia. In the late 1990s, he signed a number of early day motions condemning Putin’s war in Chechnya and the resulting human rights abuses, but over time this has shifted. [81] Now, with Syria and with the use of chemical weapons in the UK against the Skripals, he is happy to match the rhetoric of RT [LK= “Russia Today”]. In the latter case, he was prepared to call into doubt Russia’s involvement in the poisoning, and Milne told the UK press:

“I think obviously the government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don’t; however, also there’s a history in relation to WMD and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly. … So I think the right approach is to seek the evidence; to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibited chemical weapons, because this was a chemical weapons attack, carried out on British soil. There are procedures that need to be followed in relation to that.” [82]

Critically, Milne quite deliberately linked the failures of British intelligence in the run up to the invasion of Iraq (where their findings had been used to support claims that Hussain had weapons of mass destruction) to the verity of their findings after the attack in Salisbury.

Even after the OPCW had indicated that the likely source of the nerve agents used was Russia, Milne and others continued to demand further proof while supporting the arguments advanced by RT and other pro-Kremlin news outlets. At the same time, Corbyn demanded that any intelligence that implicated Russia be shared with them. In his view, since the Western intelligence agencies had been wrong about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, they must be wrong now. However, even if the intelligence information had been partly redacted, providing it to Corbyn would have made it easy for the Russian security forces to understand the processes used to gather the information and the likely sources.

As leader of the opposition, he could make such demands but not do much more. He was, no doubt, briefed on confidential terms as to what the UK government knew, but the government could have presented this information in a manner that would have been hard to pass on (and of limited use if it was). If he were prime minister, then in a similar situation, he would determine what should happen, and the risk is that such intelligence would indeed be shared with the Russians. This calls into serious question the extent to which routine intelligence-sharing with the UK could be sustained during a Corbyn led government.

This shift toward Russia is important. As noted earlier, a key group around Corbyn has a background in the hard-line, pro-Soviet factions of the old CPGB. One of these, Seumas Milne, has written extensively — and invariably supportively — about Putin’s actions in Crimea, Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. In isolation, some of his claims may have some validity, but taken together they present a very consistent view, and one that Corbyn has embraced. For example, about the annexation of Crimea, Milne wrote that Russia’s actions were “clearly defensive” [83] and that “western aggression and lawless killing is on another scale entirely from anything Russia appears to have contemplated, let alone carried out — removing any credible basis for the US and its allies to rail against Russian transgressions.” [84] In effect, Putin was right, and even if he was not, then at least he is not as bad as the Western leaders.

Milne framed the earlier attack on Georgia as a legitimate response to U.S. expansion: “By any sensible reckoning, this is not a story of Russian aggression, but of US imperial expansion and ever tighter encirclement of Russia by a potentially hostile power. That a stronger Russia has now used the South Ossetian imbroglio to put a check on that expansion should hardly come as a surprise.” [85] By 2015, he wrote about the war in eastern Ukraine:

“Russia has now challenged that, and the consequences have been played out in Ukraine for the past year: starting with the western-backed ousting of the elected government, through the installation of a Ukrainian nationalist regime, the Russian takeover of Crimea and Moscow-backed uprising in the Donbass. On the ground, it has meant thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands of refugees, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas and the rise of Ukrainian fascist militias.” [86]

Again NATO (and/or the EU) is held to be clearly to blame, as “NATO’s eastward expansion was halted by the Georgian war of 2008 and Yanukovych’s later election on a platform of non-alignment,” he wrote. “But any doubt that the EU’s effort to woo Ukraine is closely connected with western military strategy was dispelled today by NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who declared that the abortive pact with Ukraine would have been ‘a major boost to Euro-Atlantic security.’” [87]

In a way, this is different from Corbyn’s original mindset of imperialism against anti-imperialism. As with Assad’s Syria, this has morphed into open support for a state, and one that has engaged in aggressive actions against the other independent republics that emerged from the fall of the Soviet Union. What is similar, though, is the lack of concern for the human rights of those who are deemed to be on the wrong side. Members of the Muslim Tatar ethnic community in Crimea reported that their citizenship had been revoked and their rights denied shortly after the Russian takeover, but this has not been challenged by Corbyn or his advisors.


The success, or otherwise, of Venezuela’s social reforms during the Hugo Chávez era is probably one of the most contentious issues in both international politics and the assessment of social policy. To the George W. Bush presidency (and its supporters), Chávez was clearly wrong; the U.S. government made various attempts to end his presidency, seeing his regime not just as a close ally of Cuba, but also an attempt at a conventional Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. [88] On the other hand, the regime set itself the goal of gaining control over oil revenues (which had previously been taken out of the country and held by a small group of families) to fund a cluster of policies designed to alleviate poverty. [89] Drawing a balanced view of the outcomes of Chávez’s presidency is not easy, as the economy remained oil dependent, and there was high inflation. [90] However, education was expanded, [91] and the poverty rates dropped from 61 percent of the population in 1997 to 33 percent in 2007. [92]

Whether or not Chávez was redefining socialism away from the old Soviet model is debatable, but his failure to reform the economy in time undermined his other reforms when the price of oil started to collapse after 2010. Nonetheless, aspects of his approach attracted widespread support—and an interest in how to apply them elsewhere. Not surprisingly, his regime also attracted the support of those from the New Left tradition, since Chávez presented himself as anti-imperialist and as someone who rejects the Washington Consensus (that the only acceptable route for a developing economy was to open itself up to international competition and privatize key services) on development policies. [93] His successor, Nicolás Maduro, lacks his deftness at balancing these issues, and Venezuela’s state revenues, like those of other oil-based economies, have declined substantially. The result has been a shift to open authoritarianism, alliances with Russia and Iran, and an economic crisis that has seen over 3 million Venezuelans flee the country since 2014 and many more displaced from their homes. [94]

Chávez also consistently managed to obtain democratic mandates for his actions, whether by elections or referendums. While there have been doubts about the validity of some of these results, on balance he clearly had substantial domestic support and was prepared to abide by the outcomes. In contrast, Maduro first arrested the main opposition leaders in 2013 and then set up a “Constituent Assembly” in 2017 to bypass parliament after he had suffered an electoral defeat. [95] He then called a presidential election that was boycotted by the opposition due to fears of fraud and ongoing state-sponsored violence. The result was rejected by almost every other Latin American government, and Maduro has since called for fresh elections to his Constituent Assembly (currently only including members of the ruling party) in an attempt to legitimize his victory and further sideline parliament. [96]

By any reasonable definition, this is a coup and a destruction of conventional democracy, and it has been challenged as such by most external powers, though China, Russia, and Iran have stood with Maduro. Corbyn (and his supporters [97]) have ignored this assault on democracy and the domestic political violence by the regime, continuing to support it on the grounds that Venezuela is an anti-imperialist state. [98] As with the Balkans and Syria, Corbyn believes that if you are being oppressed by a regime he supports, then you have no rights and are most likely a tool of U.S. imperialism. That the Trump presidency has challenged Maduro seems to be sufficient reason to dismiss all the other states (and international bodies, such as the EU) that have not recognized the results of the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election.


Corbyn’s approach to international relations can also be readily explored in his different responses to Irish and Scottish nationalism and their calls for either unity within Ireland or independence from the remainder of the UK. The issue here is not whether either goal is correct, but how Corbyn has responded.

In the context of Northern Ireland, he has a long history of sympathy for Irish republicanism, expressed politically by Sinn Féin, but also through the terrorism of the IRA and its various spinoffs. Corbyn has repeatedly argued that his contacts with hard-line Irish republicans were necessary, as to end a war one must talk to the other side. What is clear is that he made no effort to contact any of the loyalist groups that also were making a slow move from paramilitarism to democratic politics. In general, his record suggests that he was supportive of Sinn Féin’s policies but had no direct contact with the IRA—as such (but this is not a clear distinction given the cross-over of individuals between the two organizations). [99] However, there is equally no record of close involvement with the democratic nationalist party in this era, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), which sent MPs to Westminster and generally supported the UK Labour Party. In effect, he has been sympathetic toward Irish republicanism and seems well aware of the internal debates it has had about ending its terrorist campaign, but he has simply reflected the shifting position of Sinn Féin toward the peace processes in Northern Ireland. Thus, he opposed the mid-1980s agreements between the British and Irish governments, but enthusiastically accepted the Good Friday Agreement (which was negotiated with close attention to the wishes of Irish republicans, among others). [100]

In contrast, his approach to Scottish independence can be characterized as tone deaf. He has made no effort to engage with the Scottish National Party (SNP) and seems unaware of why that party holds the views it does. This cannot be simply because the SNP is an electoral competitor to the Labour Party, as Sinn Féin has also taken seats off the SDLP and thus reduced the wider non-Conservative bloc in the House of Commons (Sinn Féin does not sit in the UK Parliament, as it believes the 1922 partition of Ireland was illegal). On the peace processes in Northern Ireland, he has simply followed the shifting line adopted by Sinn Féin. There is now some evidence that his opposition to EU membership has caused problems with Sinn Féin, as it wishes the UK to retain membership in the EU and opposes anything that threatens the current all-Ireland arrangements. [101]

One explanation is that when Corbyn formed his political views, the issue of Scottish independence had little interest outside Scotland, while the IRA’s bombing campaigns made the issue of Northern Ireland very much relevant. More generally, the wider UK far left all supported some form or other of Irish republicanism, and it is likely he simply absorbed this. At the same time, most of the organized UK left was opposed to Scottish independence on the grounds it would fragment the British working class. Thus, Corbyn’s current worldview again reflects the norms of the 1970s British left, and he has a closer understanding of the dynamics of a political party with past involvement in terrorism than one with a long-standing commitment to democratic change.

[LK= The failure of the Northern Ireland Civil rights Movement of the 60’s and 70’s exposed a long established fanatical apartheid dynamic exploiting conflict between protestant and catholic working classes. Protestants saw the UK government as an ally, especially under conservative governments. A purely democratic solution was unlikely. In Scotland there is more cohesion due to the relative neglect from distant London based governments. The North Sea oil issue has declined. Independence would lead to a vitalized national dynamic, balanced against an even less accountable elite and insular arguments contrasting egalitarianism with growth.]


Corbyn has been a lifelong member of CND, and several of his officials were previously senior members. Thus, one would expect that his first manifesto for a general election would at least challenge renewal of the UK’s nuclear missile deterrent, known as the Trident, even if it did not call for immediate abolition of the UK’s nuclear weapons. Instead, the manifesto actually, in contrast to the position of the SNP, supported renewal of the Trident. The SNP’s views are relevant here, in part because Britain’s submarines are based in Scotland, and in part because the 2017 general election included a contest between the SNP and Labour for votes in Scotland.

As with Russia, where Corbyn has changed his mind, one can trace the reason to his close associates. In this case, Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union — Corbyn’s principal financial backer — is pro-Trident, as the renewal would benefit Unite members by creating some jobs. [102] In this respect, the issue is not whether unilateral nuclear disarmament or shifting defense spending from the Trident to conventional weapons is a good idea; it is how the change came about. A lifetime’s commitment was overturned due to the views of a powerful member of Corbyn’s inner circle. And, at least in Scotland, the policy probably cost him votes, as the SNP was able to stress that it was consistent in arguing for the Trident’s removal.


Corbyn has been a long-standing critic of the EEC/EU, forming part of a very small group of Labour MPs who have found common cause with the larger group of British Conservatives who have been obsessed with this issue for many years. [103] In reality, he goes beyond the Eurosceptic tradition in British politics; in a speech in 2010, he called for the EU to be defeated. [104] Here, the EU was grouped with bankers and the IMF as a threat to living standards, and he declared that “we will not be silenced by these people. We will win through. We will defeat them, and we will win that decency that we want in this world.” This moves Corbyn’s attitude from traditional British Euro-scepticism to the type of view found more commonly on the extreme right of British politics.

As discussed above, this opposition to the EU (and in its earlier forms, the EC and the EEC) is based on both economics and politics.

By the late 1970s, there was sustained concern over the state of the UK economy. Underinvestment meant it was not competitive globally and, in particular, imports far outstripped exports. [105] This weakness led to a number of divergent proposals. To the right, the solution was to reduce workers’ rights, end the influence of trade unions, and diminish the role of the state. [106] To some on the left, the solution was partially to remove the UK economy from the international trade networks while it rebalanced itself and dealt with these structural issues. Those in the latter camp, organized as the New Cambridge Economics group, took a mostly left-Keynesian view of the economy and saw protectionism as a temporary move to be implemented while major reforms were enacted. [107] Once the Thatcher government started to carry out its economic policies, some on the left (especially the Tribune Group and the CPGB) created an Alternative Economic Policy, which tended to support converting the economic isolation proposed by the New Cambridge Group into a permanent state for the economy. [108] In effect, the only way to ensure the economy could work for most people was by having a degree of separation from the world economy. Since even at the time, this was the opposite of the EEC’s approach, this inevitably meant calling for the UK to withdraw from membership.

The other historical strand to Labour Euroscepticism was political. Some of this was a framing, shared with the Conservative right, about loss of “sovereignty” and having to accept decisions made outside the UK, but it went deeper. In effect, in their view, the EEC/ EU is, and has been, a capitalist institution that acts as one of the agents of Western imperialism. In addition, there is a (flawed) belief that EU membership is incompatible with a broadly social-democratic domestic economic policy.

Thus, whether Corbyn personally voted Leave or Remain in the Brexit referendum of 2016 is irrelevant; what matters is that his view of both international politics and international economics means he can see no reason why the UK should remain a member of the EU. [109] While in the 1970s, there were those who saw a shift to some form of trade barriers as a sensible short-term response to deep-seated problems, that is not Corbyn’s understanding: He actually wants a degree of permanent economic isolation from the wider world economy.

Fundamental opposition to NATO has also been a consistent strand in Corbyn’s approach. In part this simply reflects the traditional Soviet description of NATO as a tool of imperialism. More recently, as discussed in connection with Russia, a typical argument of those around Corbyn is that NATO is responsible for the various wars in Georgia, Crimea, and Ukraine. This is said to be due to its expansion, which first entailed incorporating the former Warsaw Pact states (such as Poland), and subsequently involved offering cooperation agreements with former constituent parts of the USSR. Underlying this idea is a view that Russia (as the legal successor to the USSR) has a sphere of interest that still includes the former Soviet republics and members of the Warsaw Pact. [110] In turn, this approach opposes these states’ developing their own foreign policy and trading links. [111] Of note, not only are these arguments stock in trade for those around Corbyn, but they also form part of the views of the newly emboldened nationalist right in Europe and are staples for RT and other pro-Kremlin news agencies. [112]


As stressed in this paper, Corbyn’s model of international relations is not one of international cooperation, universal human rights, and cooperation on issues such as climate change or the growing global refugee crises. He is suspicious of existing multilateral institutions, he has no commitment to the human rights of those oppressed by regimes he supports, and his ability to broker international cooperation on anything is doubtful.

If Corbyn becomes prime minister, the U.S. will be faced with a former ally that sees Iran, Russia, and Venezuela as close allies and is supportive of the Assad regime in Syria. This goes well beyond seeking to correct the problems that have been caused by too-close ties with the Saudis, Israel, or right-wing governments in regions such as Latin America.

There is a core theme to this re-framing of the UK’s foreign policy. It is supportive of the Putin regime, and thus a Corbyn-led government is likely, at the very least, not to support wider efforts to respond to Putin’s aggressive acts. Furthermore, there are clear security implications. A number of Corbyn’s close officials are former CPGB members who are quite open about their nostalgia for the USSR and make clear their belief that the Putin regime is some form of successor to the Soviet Union. There can be no guarantee that intelligence shared with a Corbyn government will not simply be transferred to Russia.

This was particularly clear in the immediate aftermath of the Skripals’ poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok by Russian security forces. Corbyn called for all the intelligence to be shared with Russia, despite the strong risk of revealing sources and methods, even if the information was partly redacted. In addition, because of the misuse of intelligence to support the attack on Iraq, he clearly placed more trust in the assertions of the Russians than in those of Western intelligence agencies even, presumably, after he had been briefed confidentially on what the UK government knew. If he was prime minister, he could choose to share such information.


If Corbyn becomes prime minister and President Trump is still in power, the two will likely disagree fundamentally about a transfer of UK support from Saudi Arabia and Israel to Iran and about other issues, such as Venezuela. However, there are points of agreement—perhaps surprising, given their notionally separate political backgrounds. Both are suspicious of multilateral bodies, in particular the European Union, and both are sympathetic to Putin’s Russia. It is unlikely these shared elements will offset their major ideological differences, but it may mean the UK will play a disruptive role in multilateral organizations similar to that adopted by the Trump administration, even if there is little practical cooperation.

A Democratic administration may also find it hard to work closely with Corbyn. It might be more accepting of a policy of distancing the UK from the Saudis (possibly even from Israel, though this would cut across a consistent strand in U.S. foreign policy). However, it is unlikely that any shift to support Iran will be welcomed. Equally, it is unlikely that a Democratic president will share President Trump’s ambiguity toward Putin’s regime, making this a potentially major breach in traditional UK-U.S. cooperation.

The extent to which these issues become major disputes or minor disagreements will probably depend on how far a new Democratic president personally disagrees with the policies followed by the Clinton and Obama administrations. Presumably someone who was part of those administrations, and shares their wider worldview, will find it hard to work with Corbyn. Someone who has some reservations about the foreign policy choices in those years might find it easier to work with him at a policy level, but concerns over the sharing of confidential information will remain.

Sec 14.2 NATO.

As noted, Corbyn comes from that section of the British left where opposition to NATO membership is common. It is unlikely that a Corbyn-led government would actually withdraw from NATO, at least in the first five years after an election before a new round of voting, but it could change how the UK interacts with the organization. Such a government would be unlikely to allocate additional funding to conventional defense spending, although some in the Labour Party would be prepared to use resources that would be freed up if the Trident is not renewed. In international cooperation, a Corbyn government will limit the availability of British forces, perhaps to instances where there is a clear humanitarian need.

However, the main change will be at the level of policy formulation and how the UK interacts with the US and its traditional allies. A Corbyn-led government would be, at the very least, far more understanding of the demands of Putin and the Kremlin regime. Thus, in any instance where there was a need for speedy decision-making, or a robust defense of one of NATO’s eastern members, this would not be forthcoming. As noted previously, even when Corbyn and his advisors have criticized Russian actions, this always comes with a caveat, the presentation of a context that explains what happened. No such subtlety is used when critiquing Western actions or responses.

Sec 14.3 SECURITY.

As noted in the section on Russia, there would be serious security implications to dealing with a Corbyn-led government In response to the poisoning of the Skripals, his initial demand was to share the intelligence reports with the Russians, as they had the right, in his view, to verify the claims. This is troubling on two levels. First, again, there is the automatic distrust of the West and the willingness to find a legitimate explanation for Russian actions. Second, such material, even if redacted, would have allowed the Russians to work out both the sources and the analytic methods used to gather the material.

In the circumstances, he could do nothing but demand this transfer of material. At worst, he (or his advisors) could have passed on the summary material they were given. As prime minister, he would have far more freedom in this regard. The U.S. intelligence agencies would have to operate on the basis that any material provided to a Corbyn government could be passed to the Russians (or Iranians). This is a radical departure from the practice that has been maintained for the last sixty years, regardless of the notional political differences between the UK and U.S. administrations.


A final major shift will be in the UK’s actions toward Israel. In the main the British, reflecting wider EU foreign policy, have been less pro-Israeli than is the norm in U.S. politics. The extent of this divergence has varied over different UK administrations, but acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, even if linked to strong reservations about its actual policies, has not even been a matter of debate.

As noted, Corbyn will not just alter this policy bias, but there are deeper concerns. To many around him, Israel is the key imperialist state, and anti-Semitism has become common among his supporters. In domestic political terms, there is now substantial evidence of just how widespread this has become with concerns about growing antisemitism widespread in the UK’s Jewish community. In international terms, it means that any revision of UK policy toward the Middle East will not just be a reversion to a more skeptical position about Israeli policies, but a change to fundamental opposition to the state of Israel.

When this is linked to a shift in support from Saudi Arabia to Iran, the result for the U.S. will be a traditional ally whose foreign policy now fundamentally diverges.

[LK= As noted above Israel and hard line Zionists have the opportunity to respond to less support by being more realisitic and less trimphalist. Although Corbyn’s divisive politics will make this harder as the auhtor describes.]

Sec 15. SUMMARY.

The basic framework of Corbyn’s model of international relations is fairly clear. States and/or movements that contest the power of “imperialism” are worthy of support. Thus, a movement such as Hamas is not to be criticized or treated as a terrorist organization, as it is also “an organization that is dedicated toward the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region,” as Corbyn said in 2009. [113] His policy choice is to support Hamas, not Fatah, as in Northern Ireland he identifies with Sinn Féin but not the SDLP.

This model of international relations, in the form of StWC, opposed not only the U.S.-UK intervention in Iraq, but also a range of international actions before and since. The underlying framework is that such intervention is a priori bad, and there is no distinction drawn between disastrous interventions such as Iraq and those that did stop something far worse from happening, such as Kosovo or Sierra Leone. [114] Such a model allows no nuance: The actions and institutions of the “West” are wrong, but no such outright barrier is offered to aggression by the Putin regime: Its actions in Crimea or Ukraine need to be carefully studied and caveats offered to avoid outright condemnation so, as with the old CPGB’s response to Soviet actions, there is some criticism, but also a pedantic use of context to justify the actions. If this fails to be sufficient, then the old claim that the ‘West’ was worse can be used.

More worryingly, this mindset fails to make a distinction between a favored state and its inhabitants. If people under a regime deemed to be anti-imperialist revolt, they are quickly dismissed as pawns of imperialists (or, as discussed above, as terrorists) and readily demonized. [115] Equally, Corbyn’s criticism about the intervention in Libya is not that it was mishandled, and that the post-conflict situation predictably slipped out of control, but that it was, in his words, “regime change”—and this is the core of the complaint. [116] If a regime can in some way be considered progressive or antiimperialist, [117] then it should be supported, regardless of what it does to its own people.

As discussed above, this is a consistent theme. Milošević’s Serbia was deemed a socialist state struggling to hold together the popularly supported concept of Yugoslavia. Thus, first the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and later the conflict in Kosovo were framed as foreign-inspired revolts against a just state. More recently, the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime is dismissed and their suffering ignored, since the regime is seen as anti-imperialist. The same pattern is developing in Corbyn’s response to the civil unrest in Venezuela.

Thus, Corbyn relies on his specific opposition to the Iraq War and his long support for some anti-imperialist movements to claim his approach to international relations is far more decent than that inspired by the traditional models. In practice, it results at best in a different set of acceptable and unacceptable regimes, and in little or no sympathy for those unlucky enough to be the victims of a regime viewed as acceptable. As noted above, none of the leftist strands that inform Corbyn’s model of foreign policy had a concept of universal human rights —and this shows in their practical application.

Working from these findings, we can start to make some judgments as to the likely foreign policy preferences of a Corbyn-led government.

However, first it is useful to acknowledge that many who support him have expectations that this will be a focus on human rights, climate change, and international cooperation over the refugee crisis. As with elements of his domestic policy (where an end to economic austerity is widely supported), many will vote for a Labour government in the hope that it will rebalance the UK’s foreign policy away from too close links to U.S. interests —a dogmatic position that can be as misleading as the automatic anti-Americanism of much of the far left —reduce UK support for regimes such as Saudi Arabia, and challenge Israel’s policies in the Middle East.

The reality is they will largely be disappointed. If we take just one issue, yes, a Corbyn-led government will be more willing to challenge Saudi Arabia over its domestic and international human rights abuses, but this will come at the cost of a closer relationship with Iran. Whether Iran or Saudi Arabia is actually worse is a moot point, but the UK will not challenge both —instead, it will simply switch partners. In Latin America, again, it is debatable whether the Maduro regime is worse than some of the right-wing authoritarian states that the U.S. and its allies have propped up over the years. This really doesn’t matter; it is failing its own people. Under Corbyn, the UK will take a position where the injustices inflicted by Maduro on the Venezuelan people will not be its concern. This is realpolitik, admittedly with a different list of favored states than at the moment, but it is every bit as uninterested in the abuses committed by British allies as the current UK government. The British people will no doubt be assured of the benefits of quiet diplomacy in influencing Iranian policy, in the same way that such tactics are currently held to affect the behavior of Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Corbyn’s distaste for established international bodies does not bode well for the UK’s ability to cooperate on key international issues. That many of these bodies need reform and reflect vested interests is true, but they exist and can be used. Equally, they often reflect the dominant norms of their constituent parts. Many leftwing supporters of Brexit point to how the EU handled Greece by imposing economic reforms and massive cuts in social spending as a reason to leave the EU. This does reflect the economic orthodoxy of the current EU. However, electorally the EU (both as a parliament and in terms of its member states’ politics) is currently dominated by the center-right. In the past, the center-left has dominated, leading to very different policies, but a Corbyn-led UK government will do little or nothing to restore that situation.

Corbyn’s attitude toward the EU reflects his views on both international politics and economics. In terms of international politics, he sees the EU as just another tool by which imperialism can enforce its desires. In terms of economics, it is the antithesis of the protectionist, managed trade model that was the core of Bennite economics in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Thus, his strong preference for the UK to leave the EU is not just a feeling that the 2016 referendum should be respected —it happens to fit both his political and economic models of international relations. He has no interest in retaining EU membership, regardless of all the warnings about the economic consequences.

So the UK’s foreign policy under Corbyn will be different: more suspicious of international coordination, more suspicious of established international structures, and with a new list of regimes that the UK will seek as likely allies. And it will be much the same. The UK will have as little interest in the human rights abuses of Russia or Iran as it currently has in those committed by Saudi Arabia. This will be framed as progressive but, in reality, it is a turn toward insularity —at a time when the world needs global solutions.

At this stage, it is not clear how much this rhetoric will influence practical actions. Corbyn’s views are a minority in the parliamentary Labour Party and, given the fragmented nature of British politics, it is most likely he will be in charge of a government lacking an overall majority or will be in a formal coalition with smaller parties. In either case, his partners are unlikely to support some of his policies, not least because the other non-conservative parties in the UK tend to be pro-EU and mostly supportive of the current international order. Lacking a majority of his own MPs and dependent on the votes of parties such as the Liberal Democrats or the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, Corbyn may find his scope to reshape British foreign policy limited. However, while there may be barriers to what he can do in practice, his stated views and opinions will suddenly carry far more weight outside the UK than they do at the moment.


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[80] BBC. 1997. Cook Sets Out Foreign Policy Vision [Online]. London: BBC News. Available: [Accessed 22 May 2019].

[81] UK Parliament. 2000. Human Rights Situation in Chechnya [Online]. House of Commons. Available: [Accessed 2 May 2019].

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[83] Milne, S. 2014c. It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war [Online]. London: The Guardian. Available: [Accessed 20 June 2019].

[84] Milne, S. 2014a. The clash in Crimea is the fruit of western expansion [Online]. The Guardian. Available: [Accessed 20 April 2019].

[85] Milne, S. 2008. This is a tale of US expansion not Russian aggression [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 April 2019].

[86] Milne, S. 2015a. The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war [Online]. The Guardian. Available: [Accessed 22 April 2019].

[87] Milne, S. 2014b. In Ukraine, fascists, oligarchs and western expansion are at the heart of the crisis [Online]. The Guardian. Available: [Accessed 20 April 2019].

[88] Raby, D. L. 2006. Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today, London, Pluto Press.

[89] Penfold-Becerra, M. 2006. Social Funds, Clientelism and Redistribution: Chavez’s “Misones” Programs in Comparative Perspective. World Bank Conference on Inequality, 2006.

[90] Raby, D. L. 2006. Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today, London, Pluto Press.

[91] UNICEF 2005. Progress for Children. UNICEF. 2010. “At a Glance: Venezuela.” UNICEF. [Accessed 14 August 2010] [ LK= UNICEF site being updated. Alternative link: ].

[92] Weisbrot, M. 2008. Poverty Reduction in Venezuela: A Reality Based View. ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, 11-8. VIII, no. 1 (Fall 2008): 1–8.

[93] Rodrik, D. 2006. Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion? A Review of the World Bank’s “Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform. Journal of Economic Literature, 44:4, 973-987, Saad-Filho, A. 2007. Life beyond the Washington Consensus: An Introduction to Pro-poor Macroeconomic Policies. Review of Political Economy, 19:4, 513537, Williamson, J. 2005. The Washington consensus as policy prescription for development. In: Besley, T. & Zagha, R. (eds.) Development challenges in the 1990s: leading policymakers speak from expertise. World Bank Publications.

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[96] BBC. 2019. Venezuela’s Maduro proposes early National Assembly vote [Online]. London: BBC News. Available: https://www. [Accessed 11 June 2019].

[97] Press Association. 2019. Chakrabarti defends Jeremy Corbyn’s Venezuela remarks [Online]. London: The Guardian. Available: [Accessed 5 June 2019].

[98] Stephens, P. 2019. Ideology blinds Jeremy Corbyn to Venezuela’s plight [Online]. London: Financial Times. Available: [Accessed 5 June 2019].

[99] Worrall, P. 2017. FactCheck: Corbyn on Northern Ireland [Online]. London: Channel 4 News. Available: [Accessed 20 May 2019].

[100] Ibid.

[101] McCormack, J. 2019. European elections: Sinn Féin says vote chance to reject Brexit [Online]. London: BBC. Available: [Accessed 24 May 2019].

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[103] Pack, M. 18 June 2018. Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Brexit: a long held stance on Europe. Available from: [Accessed 24 May 2019].

[104] Kempsell, R. 2019. Jeremy Corbyn called for European Union to be ‘defeated’ in explosive rally speech [Online]. Available: [Accessed 29 May 2019].

[105] Cuthbertson, K. 1979. Macroeconomic Policy: The New Cambridge, Keynesian and Monetarist Controversies, London, MacMillan.

[106] Hutton, W. 1996. The State We’re In, London, Vintage.

[107] Sassoon, D. 1997. One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, London, Fontana.

[108] Aaronovitch, S. 1981. The Road from Thatcherism – The Alternative Economic Strategy, London, Lawrence & Wishart.

[109] Shipman, T. 2016. All Out War: The Full Story of Brexit, London, William Collins.

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Published By: Hudson Institute 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Fourth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20004 202.974.2400

Reactionary European Politics Collection.

extremeEuropeanPolitics - CopyReactionary European Politics Collection.

[ Posted by Lara Keller 21/9/18 Updated 15/6/19 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

Collection of articles on dangerous rise of reactionary populism and separatism in the Western European democracies. [or see whole category Reactionary European Politics Collection].

Articles 2018:      (5)

Future of Europe: Can the EU resist a far-Right, nationalist takeover?

Fascist racism in Czech regional elections shows the path to dictatorship.

The far-right influence in pro-Kremlin media and political networks. Author Alexander Reid Ross.

The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections. Author Alexander Reid Ross.

The multipolar spin how fascists operationalize left wing resentment.

Articles 2017:    (4)

Why a history of democracy is no reason for complacency.

Incoherent Moral Hypocrisy of Separatism from Catalonia, Scotland to Singapore.

Mad Logic Of UK Brexit.

Extremist Politics New and Old.

Articles 2016:    (5)

What is wrong with West progressive politics, a 3D approach.

West’s Darkening Hour, Stop The Rout.

West’s Darkening Hour.

Stopping Rise Of Authoritarianism In The West.

The Non-Interveners, Spain & Syria, Geoffrey Grigson.

Articles 2015:    (3)

Le Pen ~ Never Again , Le Pen Plus Jamais.

The Real Nature Of Charlie Hebdo …..

The Dark Side Of “Charlie Hebdo”, Oriana Fallaci and Islamophobia.


Battle of Concrete Balloons, Hiding the Arab Spring, Barbican, London, 2012

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Battle of Concrete Balloons, Hiding the Arab Spring, Barbican, London, 2012

[ Posted by Lara Keller 15/3/19 Updated 17/6/19] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents


1. Introduction.
2. Doctored Debate.
3. Selected Panel.
4. Structure Of The Debate.
    4.1. Debate Audio And Video Sources.
5. Chairperson’s Introductory Summary.
6. First Question.
7. Answers To First Question.
8. Second Question.
9. Answers To Second Question.
10. Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.
11. Answers To First Audience Questions.
12. Second Part Of Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.
13. Answers To Second Audience Questions.
14. Conclusion.

1. Introduction.

This document is an analysis of a panel debate held in 2012 in London, called “What happened to the Arab Spring?” A summary of the questions from the chairperson and audience, with the panel’s replies is given. It is intended to be read with the audio or video of the debate as a reference (see 4.1. Debate Audio and Video Sources). The timings given in this document is based on the first of these links, although others seem to be identical. Links are given  and will be updated when necessary to ensure a copy is always available. A commentary on the debate under the title the “Missing Voice” is also given to fill an intentional void in the composition of the panel. The debate was pro-authoritarian PR supplied by a part of the “LM Network”. Apart from warning of the activities of this network, this is also an illustration of the subtle PR of the “debate”. The voices chosen were all antagonistic to effective intervention to support the “Arab Spring”, understood as practical actions in solidarity with a regional movement to create real representative governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), that exploded into a wave of uprisings from 2011 onwards. This “Missing Voice” is based on the work of activists and academics, much of the material was published after 2012. The professional “main stream media” has also been negligent in representing this “missing voice”, because different standards of balance apply to domestic and foreign news. Clearly analysis of this debate is very useful because the debate contains some useful criticisms and views, and a large number of popular misrepresentations which need to be opposed. The notion of concrete balloons comes from the sterile architecture of the venue, and the judgement that the none of the “ideas” expressed in this debate would lift ordinary people from the anchor of repressive elites.

2. Doctored Debate.

A small room in the brutalist concrete monolith of the Barbican Arts Centre in London in the summer of 2012 held a mostly complacently good natured debate on “What happened to the Arab Spring?” The architecture and rather than the words echoed the real world of little over 2000 miles away where breathing people were being tortured to death for demanding a dignity Londoners would unthinkingly expect from their government.

This festival of redbrick university style debates was called grandly “The Battle of Ideas”, effectively organized by the “Academy of Ideas”. A front organization for people from the LM (Living Marxism) network. A group of political extremists from the UK that started as a nasty fringe Trotskyist sect in the 1970s called the Revolutionary Communist Party, and morphed in the mid 1990s into the LM Network. They seemed to have gone a step beyond the recognized merging of communism and fascism (“red-brown” politics) to include libertarianism.

In effect they “apologise for any power, the more corrupt the better”, whether this comes from dictatorships or neo-liberal multi-nationals. The proto-fascist Italian “Futurismo” movement of the early twentieth century would have recognized their core philosophy. Surprisingly the network and its off-shoot front organizations have been successful in attracting attention and money. The “Institute of Ideas” that organized the “Battle of Ideas” festival has even bizarrely attracted corporate funding. (See: 1. Guardian(2000), 2.Standpoint(2012), 3.Useful Summary from critics GMWatch, 4.Left Foot Forward on LM’s star Brendan O’Neill(2013), 5.Powerbase summary from far-left critics , if you are interested in the “LM Network”.)

The debate did not do justice to the struggle for dignity and representative government of the people of the Middle East and North Africa(MENA). A diverse range of opinions were expressed, apart from those of ordinary protesters. This central omission made the debate hollow. I have reintroduced a “missing voice” to the panel to make good this omission.  The debate certainly reinforced the non-intervention line towards these uprisings, which was no doubt the subtle PR intent. This festival had little direct impact on public opinion, but it was attended by journalists looking for ideas for provocative articles.

3. Selected Panel.

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The panel of five was chaired by Dr Tara McCormack, a middle ranking academic in the field of International Relations at the rising “redbrick” Leicester University. She is linked to the “LM Network” and writes regularly for Spiked Magazine and Sputnik News. Since 2012 she has become a notable academic apologist for the Assad genocide in Syria. She has a history of apologizing for war criminals, starting with the Srebrenica massacre in the 1990s and defending Milosevic in the 2000s. In her academic works she argues against the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” and against “Humanitarian Intervention”. (See 1. Wikipedia, 2.London Times(2018), 3. Copies of Times Articles on Assadist Academics(2018) , 4. Leicester Socialist(2018) , 5.Summary of her Assadist and Putin Propaganda(2018) , if you are interested in the reality of Dr Tara McCormack.)

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Two ex-pat Lebanese professionals from privileged backgrounds represented most of the Arab component of the panel. Dr Rania Hafez is a senior lecturer in education from Greenwich University in London. She describes herself as the daughter of a successful building contractor, who eventually left Beirut for good during the Civil War. She self identifies as a “citizen of the world”.

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Nadim Shehadi is a relatively well known academic who specializes in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. He is an associate fellow of Chatam House (Royal Institute of International Affairs). The most qualified to speak on the subject of the debate, but also as he later revealed a perfect fit for the neo-liberal bogey man of the far-left activists.

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There was the panelist Mark Seddon, a journalist and left-wing UK Labour party activist. He was a vigorous opponent of the previous UK Labour government’s enthusiastic involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He studied international relations at university, and adopted an “anti-war except when endorsed by the international community in the form of the UN” position. When editor of the Old Labour Left “Tribune” magazine in the 1990s, he did support the successful Nato bombing in response to Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, although this was done without UN authorization (typically blocked by Russia and China). He joined with right-wingers in the UK to call for a Brexit referendum. The EU (unlike the UN) is evidently the wrong type of international cooperation. His stance on Iraq led to a job as UN correspondent for Al-Jazeera, which he had left before the Arab Spring.

In the years following this debate, from 2014 to 2106 Mark Seddon became a speech writer for the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, and has since disappeared into a communications job with a UN commission. He has written in passing about reform of the notorious “veto-all-action-on-human-right-abuse” UN Security Council. The method he champions appears to be waiting for the permanent members of the Security Council to respond to being asked nicely. A progressive socialist who is moderate in most senses, but with an extremist’s believe in the potential of “diplomacy by reason” with authoritarian regimes, that have little fear of appearing irrational to their suppressed and mislead populations.

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The most interesting panelist was Karl Sharro, a talented Lebanese ex-pat architect based in London, who is also a popular satirist. He was at least the most sympathetic panelist, and probably included for his humour. Karl Sharro made by far the most engaging and informed comments. He was very critical of the quality of leadership in the Arab Spring uprisings. I do not know much about his background, except that reading between the lines, he does not appear to have come from a privileged background. He has a strong believe in self-help, but I doubt his commitment to economic justice.

He strongly dislikes sectarian labels and appears to advocate secularism. He is reported to have come from an Iraqi Christian background, although born in Lebanon. Secularism is not necessarily more progressive than moderate Islamic beliefs. The Assad regime for example poses as secularist although it is highly oppressive, and divides Syrians by provoking sectarian fears. Secularism can also denote an elite wealthy background, which looks down and is often over suspicious of religious groups, especially those of Sunni Muslims.

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The panel was not chosen for its knowledge of the subject of the debate, but as sources of criticism of the Arab Spring and to articulate opposition to Western Intervention. Nadim Shehadi was the obvious exception although his neo-liberalism had the effect of increasing opposition to his comments supporting the “uprisings”.

4. Structure Of The Debate.

The debate lasted an hour. The chairperson introduced a summary of the recent events of the Arab Spring. She proposed a series of questions, followed by questions from the audience. Dr Tara McCormack is listed as chairperson and producer of this event. The panel’s answers are listed chronologically, using times in this recording of the debate, so the text can be compared to the audio or video source.

4.1. Debate Audio and Video Sources:

Source 1 (Battle of Ideas):

Source 2 (Youtube):

Source 3 (

5. Chairperson’s Introductory Summary.

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Summary: Time=0:00_to_3:26 Dr Tara McCormack set the tone immediately by pejoratively adding the epithet “so called” before the “Arab Spring”. She described the events of 2011 in flat tones as the clichéd “1989 moment for the Middle East” and the “spread of democracy”. Then she asked if the “Arab Spring had lived up to its promises”, followed by a description of a string of failures. She described these as, the military in effective power in Egypt, Libya in chaos, oppression in Bahrain and Syria descending into “civil war”.

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[Missing Voice: This shallow introductory summary contrasts the people’s uprisings of the Arab Spring with the lack of short term success in creating democratic governments. This is typical of much of Western media output. The underlying assumption is that this outcome is principally due to flaws in the uprisings themselves. Totally ignoring the active cooperation between the region’s dictatorships to oppose and subvert the Arab Spring. Ignoring the gulf between the advanced military technology available to the dictatorships and those available to the relatively defenseless protesters. Westerners think of democratic revolutions as uprisings involving muskets not jet aircraft and tanks. The use of the term “civil war” to describe the brutal repression of peaceful protests by the Assad regime is clearly partisan. ]

6. First Question.

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Question1 (How understand Arab Spring): Time=3:27_to_4:07 She asked how each panelist understood the events of the Arab Spring. She presented the possible “competing narratives” as “people power”, “decay of old authoritarian regimes” or “imposition of US neoliberal hegemony in the Middle East”?

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[ Missing Voice: The reality of the Arab Spring is ordinary people being sick of an endless future vista of corrupt authoritarian regimes that steal their future, and so have consequently demanded their replacement by good representative governance. This reality is given the shortest throw-away title of “people power” (clearly there are no PR rewards for representing the powerless which is a deep problem). In reality this option should have been phrased by the chairperson as “people power losing ground to military technology”. The correct answer to Question 1 as any former student of bombastic humanities academics would grasp is the longest, the third one (“imposition of US neoliberal hegemony in the Middle East”). ]

7. Answers To First Question.

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=4:08_to_5:27 Mark used the hackneyed Zhou Enlai quote from 1972 on the French Revolution, “It is too early to say.” He said he believed that the Arab Spring has no comparison in terms of significance with the Prague Spring of 1968, or the eventual break up of the Soviet Union in 1989. He claimed there was exaggeration by the Western media about the “Arab Spring”, and this is only the beginning of a long “awakening” process.

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[Missing Voice: Seddon did not acknowledge that the Western media have under reported discontent in the past, and he hinted at the chauvinistic trope that Arabs are not ready for democracy. He took the lack of interest by the Western media in the evidence of discontent, as proof of a lack of evidence. Not well informed opinion. ]

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Nadim Shedadi’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=5:28_to_7:55 Dr McCormack’s tone betrayed hostility when she asked Shedadi this question, that he countered with a joke about being seated on the far-right of the panel. He said he understands the Arab Spring as part of a global movement of discontent and the collapse of “twentieth century politics”. He put himself in the neo-liberal category by saying that the twentieth century was the first time in history when the “state controlled our lives”, and took away our “income, inheritance and freedom”. The state promised life long care that it “cannot now deliver”. He bizarrely included  authoritarian regimes and democracies in this sweeping criticism, and said he believes this idea of state control came from Bismarck and later Keynes.

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[Missing Voice: Shedadi failed completely to recognise the growth of the related ideas of democracy and economic redistribution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His position on the panel as the strongest supporter of the Arab Spring strengthened the illusion of Western far-left extremists, that it is about neo-liberal hegemony (Dr McCormack’s favoured third choice). This avoids the real problem for the far-left with the Arab Spring, which like the 1989 collapse of Soviet Union, involved ordinary people rejecting the unrepresentative authoritarian state (the primrose path to the paradise of these extremists’ egos).

Shedadi’s idea that these dictatorships “cannot now deliver” services to its suppressed peoples, completely ignored the reality that these regimes are involved in mass extortion. They also cannot deliver development for the same set of reasons.

Systematic state corruption is an important factor together with interrelated economic, demographic and climate change factors in creating the state of despair in the region. The recognition that democracy is one of the supporting pillars of good governance, that respects people’s welfare and dignity, is the driver of the Arab Spring. ]

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Rania Hafez’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=7:56_to_10:31

She disagreed with Mark Seddon, and said Arabs have been “awakening culturally” since the beginning twentieth century as colonialism receded. This has ebbed and flowed, recently effected by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and loss of vague “powerful factors” in the region. She criticized the Western media for “projecting fantasies” on to the Middle East about the “Arab Spring”. She said the Arab world is complex and each Middle Eastern country is very different. Dr McCormack then prompted her to say that, she believes the West is looking to the Middle East to live out the revolutions it has not had; motivated by a kind of fashionable substitute for its own anxieties.

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[Missing Voice: Rania Hafez used the embarrassment of Western progressives about their lack of knowledge of the Arab world, to safely display a privileged contempt for ordinary Arabs outside her class. ]

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Karl Sharro’s Answer to Question1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=10:32_to_13:48 Of all the panel Karl Sharro comes across as the most human and involved. He said “sovereignty” and “self-determination” are “very crucial” to the Arab Spring. The old regimes started to die after 1990 when they sold out their legitimacy. He said that generally we are all lacking a “healthy understanding of political agency” (political freedom). People go out on demonstrations but then want the “world to sort it out”. The Arab Spring protesters want the old order to go, but refuse to take responsibility for this change, which results in a “stalemate”. There is a lack of “ideological clarity” and “self confidence”. They should be saying “we do not want the world to come and help us … but here is our vision and this is how we transform our societies”.

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[Missing Voice: Unsure when Karl Sharro is talking about politics in general or specifically about the Arab Spring. His criticisms could be directed at both Western and Arab protesters demanding change in the worldwide protests of 2011. Terrible events after 2012 in the Middle East – particularly Assad’s political genocide in Syria – have shown the limits of “people power” regardless of “ideological clarity”. The only conclusion I can see now (in 2018-2019) about the “Arab Spring” is that twenty first century revolutions need a clear ideology and sufficient principled practical foreign support (which bodies like the UN are intrinsically unable to provide).

The break up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was (apart from major exceptions of Afghanistan and Yugoslavia) a relatively peaceful process. It could have been different due to the same lack of accountability of these dictatorships. No one expected the more personal dynastic regimes in the Middle East to resort to mass violence. In retrospect they had the same lack of accountability combined with personal fiefdoms to protect. ]

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Second Part of Mark Seddon’s Answer to Question 1 (How understand Arab Spring) Time=13:49_to_15:31 He is asked by Dr McCormack to make a clearly positive statement about the “Arab Spring”, after the negative previous answers from the panel. He said the Arab Spring is far more complex than the Prague Spring, or the fall of the Soviet Union. He made a vague comment that different pressures where acting in different Middle East countries. He mentioned failure of the uprising in Algeria in the 1990s. The Arab Spring had some success in Tunisia, Yemen and “to a degree” in Libya. He said the “Arab Spring” is about the “collapse of the old order” and a collapse of “Arab secular nationalism” (like Ba’athism in Iraq and Syria). He said the Arab Spring revolutions have a more “religious element” than those centred around Nasser in the 1950s. He said  these recent revolutions have more potential.

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[Missing Voice: The less successful revolutions, that Mark Seddon described, all had more violent opposition. The so called “Algerian Civil War” in the 1990s involved the previously dictatorial FLN regime losing an election to a moderate Islamic party. The regime then resorted to mass murder and torture to stay in power. The regime got the support of the West by selling the lie they were fighting, rather than encouraging Islamic extremism.

In Libya the West helped to remove Gaddafi in 2011, but gave minimal support in helping the new government supply security to its citizens. This left the field open to extremists funded by Saudi Arabia, UAE and the Egyptian military to wreck the country. This was similar to the chaos produced by the US after the invasion of Iraq. Since this debate in 2012, Yemen has slipped into chaos and mass malnutrition after the Iranian regime started a proxy war, that neighbouring Saudi Arabia joined in with a siege and airstrikes that have absolutely no regard for civilian deaths. Syria has been the victim of a brutal political genocide by the Assad regime backed by Russia (and China).

Tunisia is now battling against acts of terrorism funded by Saudi Arabia, with little economic support from the West. Iraq is in a state of permanent decay under the strains of opposing groups supported by the Saudi and Iranian regimes. Added to this the separatist Iraqi Kurds are being supported by everyone, in particular Israel.

The success of the Arab Spring revolutions has less to do with their intrinsic properties, than the brutality and strength of the reactionary forces (and their backers) who oppose them. Mark Seddon is extremely detached from the reality of anti-dictatorship struggle. ]

8. Second Question.

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Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): Time= 15:32_to_16:18 Dr Tara McCormack wanted to discuss “How people in Arab Countries are always asking for intervention”, and more broadly the role of the West. She also wanted to go back to the problem of “Islamist victories”. She asked “What is the role of the West in the Arab Spring, too much or [even] too little?” She then said that Karl Sharro was suggesting [the danger of going] “back to the old days of serious imperialism, we [West] knew what we were doing, [leading to] no democracy or change.”

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[Missing Voice: Mark Seddon had just used the phrase “religious element” while McCormack uses the more pejorative “Islamist”. McCormack is suggesting that intervention by the West must lead to “serious imperialism”. It is impossible for her to imagine a Western public opinion that favoured the practical and when necessary forceful support for democratic struggles abroad. Western intervention foreign policy has usually been controlled and created by Western elites, and only modified to fit the propaganda given to placate public opinion. A resurgence in believe in the centrality of democratic values will change this. ]

9. Answers To Second Question.

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Nadim Shedadi’s Answer to  Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): time=16:19_to_19:11 He used a small metal spring to illustrate that highly repressive Arab regimes have created a strong opposing reaction. The more you push down on the spring the higher it jumps. Then bizarrely he said Britain was “very repressive” in the 1970s. He said the share of the economy controlled by governments was less than 10% at beginning of the twentieth century, and was 50-60% by the middle of it. “So our lives were taken away from us by the state.”

Sheddi is in favour of intervention in countries like Syria. He said the hang-up about imperialism is outdated, and only exists in radical university departments like the “Madrassa [School] of Oriental African Studies” (SOAS part of London University)”. People in the Middle East want freedom, and “do not want to pass a test to get it”. He said freedom is a human right. People do not have to “deserve it” by having a well organized political program.

People of the Middle East need help from the West and the longer they wait “the worse the transition will be”. Iraqi Ba’ath party should have collapsed as it was nationalist, centralist, socialist and authoritarian. They took everything and gave back nothing. At prompting from McCormack he said [jokingly?] that what is needed is “good old fashioned American Imperialism”.

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[Missing Voice: Nadem Sheddi sounded like a rabid “neo-liberal Western imperialist”. This is exactly the class of people that the Western far-left apologists for brutal dictatorships accuse of “manufacturing” the Arab Spring. He was the panel’s well chosen bogey man.

Both Nadim Sheddi and Karl Sharro slightly missed the point. The people of the Middle East need well organised political programs, not to deserve freedom, but to practically achieve it against a determined well resourced authoritarian opposition. They need Western support, but not of the type that would naturally come from the cynical manipulative Western elites, who traditionally dominate foreign policy. It will have to come from an alliance of Middle Eastern activists, genuine Western progressives and powerful visionary democratic political leaders.

Nadim Sheddi’s vision of a good democratic society was miserably myopic. The freedom to control personal wealth is only one element of many. Equally important is reducing inequality to reasonable levels and providing security. Personal opportunity is important, and therefore so is access to education and a sound national infrastructure. Sheddi describes a type of society that existed in the very limited democracies of the eighteenth century. His views on this are absurd.

McCormack clearly loves his statement. She sarcastically describes Sheddi comment as “old fashioned intervention to help those weak Arabs.” Any unarmed people facing tanks, jets, helicopters, high explosives, chemical weapons and mass torture is weak. This is an attribute of all human flesh. Her attitude is both absurd and deeply inhumane. ]

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Karl Sharro’s Answer to Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): Time=19:12_to_22:34 Dr McCormack sarcastically rephrased the question as “do you want some good old fashioned intervention to help these weak Arabs?” Karl Sharro’s reply dismissed this option with “yeah right”. He saw this kind of intervention as an “abdication of responsibility”. He compared the “Arab Spring” to the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon in 2005. He said the “Cedar Revolution” was an example of “putting all your eggs in the basket of Western oversight and protection” that then lead to failure and capitulation. This revolution was against Syrian dominance, and the corrupt system of traditional sectarian leadership in Lebanon. These leaders got protection from the West and then failed to reform. The West did not have (or want to have) any real clear idea of how Lebanese politics could be reformed, beyond token actions (in a similar vein to their token responses to the “Arab Spring”).

He stated intensely that “ideas like self-determination and sovereignty” are important because they mean “taking responsibility for your own society and future” because no one else will. He said the old empty rhetoric of “ba’athist” nationalism should be rejected, but “cannot abandon idea of self-determination, that is what is so crucial for re-injecting energy into the Arab Spring.”

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[Missing Voice: Karl Sharro said strongly that the West’s problem is failing to respond adequately to uprisings for reform in the Middle East. This contrasts to the far-left in the West who claim that these uprisings are planned by the West, at least when against notionally anti-Western dictatorships. Sharro importantly promoted the reality, importance and value of “political agency” by the peoples of the Middle East demanding reform in their own countries.

Sharro blamed the relative failure of the Cedar Revolution on the passivity and naivety of Lebanese activists . The Lebanese Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990. A fragile balance was then established, with local sectarian leaders and their powerful foreign authoritarian regional backers. Challenging this corrupt system of leadership would mean beating the best efforts of these backers to undermine reform. The Lebanese National Army is weaker than the sectarian militias, in particular Hezbollah.

The Bush administration was in power at the time of the Cedar Revolution, and never had any interest in supporting democracy. The Iraq invasion made this obvious. Like the “Arab Spring” the “Cedar Revolution” itself also needed strong foreign backers committed to democracy. Sharro’s self determination has to realistically be combined with a forceful resourceful back-up from foreign democracies. Not because Arabs are weak, but because the ordinary people of the region are caught in a vice of brutal elitist regimes armed with advanced weapons. Clearly exactly the same applies to the “Arab Spring”. ]

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Rania Hafez’s Answer to Question 2 (Role West in Arab Spring) Time=22:34_to_24:58 In response to Sharro’s previous comment on the Cedar Revolution, she said she had seen the West interfering in Lebanon for decades with no benefit to the people. Also she is British and needed to consider the interests of her “adopted nation”. She said the US approved of Syrian domination of Lebanon, in return for promised support by Syria of the US lead invasion of Iraq in 2003. She said she is Lebanese but also has family in Syria. At this point she got a bit vague and waffles. She said she was disagreeing with Karl Sharro’s previous comment on Western intervention, but was actually saying many of the same things on this issue. She advocated the “pragmatic” approach of balancing interests of the West and the people of the region.

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[Missing Voice: Rania Hafez said very little. I wonder what she meant by the “people of the region”? Does this only include the wealthy, powerful or extremely talented? She appeared to be advocating more of the same in the Middle East, with a more equal partnership between the existing local and foreign elites. She said nothing on Karl Sharro’s strong emphasis on “political reform” in his previous comment. ]

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to Question 2: (Role West in Arab Spring): Time=24:59_to_27:38 Dr McCormack summed up the options as too much, too little or muddled Western intervention. Mark Seddon said he hates the “lazy Western journalism” that keeps saying “we must do something”. He asked who “we” is meant to mean. He said there is international law and the United Nations. There are a “multitude of [international] organizations who have responsibility to doing certain things when the situation demands of it”.

He went over the history of British intervention in the Middle East from 1918 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He said he also thinks US intervention is bad. He said there is a lot of public goodwill in the West towards the people of the Middle East. There are also many contradictions in the West’s attitude to the Middle East. The contradiction between intervening in Libya, but not intervening in Bahrain. The condemnation by many activists of Palestinians being attacked by Israel, by not also of people being attacked by Assad in Syria. He said to solve these contradictions we need an “international morality and humanity” to protect people “when it is possible”, which is a very “big thing” to attempt to do. This is why “we” have the United Nations and the concept of  “Responsibility to Protect”.

He waffled a bit about history not coming in neat periods of time (confused Karl Sahrro’s with Nadim Shedadi’s comments). Then he said that young people in Middle East have more access to world media than previous generations, and want secular democracies. He said people outside the region “must campaign” for this.

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[Missing Voice: Mark Seddon overstated the cohesion and power of the United Nations again. The problem is that the United Nations are not united, and most of them have little interest in “Responsibility to Protect”, especially the many powerful dictatorships who want to have absolute sovereignty over their subjects. There are a lot of disconnected statements in Mark Seddon’s reply. He is right about ordinary people in the Middle East wanting democracy, and needing support outside the region. The rest added up to nothing more than hot air. ]

10. Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.

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Opening up the Debate: Time=27:39_to_32:56 Dr Tara MacCormack, said she would take 3 or 4 questions, comments or points. Then give the panel the chance to give  their reaction.This procedure would then be repeated until the end of the debate.

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Audience Question (“man in black shirt”)= He said there is a lack organization in the “Arab Spring”. This is strange as there is a model they could take up, which is to become an industrialized country, and get rid of militaristic exploitation. He said this has not happened.

Audience Question (“lady in green jacket”)= She asked whether high food prices were related to “Arab Spring?” She had seen an interesting paper by scientists showing a link between food price spikes and social unrest.

Audience Question (“man in glasses”)= He claimed that in the “Arab Spring” there is a “disavowal of analysis and theory”, which he found “really problematic”. He said instead there is a “normative stance”, which just involves saying “this is what I would like to happen”. He was interested in the “Arab Spring” of 2011 being like the end of the Soviet Union in 1989. He asked if the “Arab Spring” had failed too much to be comparable.

Audience Question (“man pointing at self”)= He said the “Arab Spring” did not work as “some of us would have hoped”. The same thing is happening in the West, with people unhappy with their governments, but a lack of vision meant their protests collapsed. 

Audience Question (“woman”)= She said Dr Rania Hafez was spot on about the Western media creating a fantasy of the “Arab Spring”. She wondered how this effected  people protesting in the Middle East. As an example, she had been “talking to people I know who know quite a bit about Syria, there is some sense, Syrian Opposition acted more quickly than they should have, and tried to do more than they were actually ever going to be able to, taking on the regime at an earlier time than they should have essentially”.

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[Missing Voice: Only one of these questions showed any understanding of the protesters of the “Arab Spring”. He (“man pointing at self”) found a parallel between protests in the Middle East and those in the West in 2011. He said both sets of protesters “lack vision”. This is not surprising as waves of political thought have failed in the Middle East and in the West. Communism, nationalism, neo-liberalism, religious fundamentalism and even anarchism have all failed. There is a global deficit in political vision.

The first question (“man in black shirt”) ignored the reality that they were protesting against exploitation and lack of development. There is something inhumane and patronizing (“lady in green jacket”), in finding “interesting” the assertion that hunger is linked to protest. An apparently far-left questioner (“man in glasses”) wanted the “Arab Spring” to show homage to some kind of Marxist theory. The last question (“woman”) showed the premium given to Western opinions about the Middle East over the views of the protesters. She appeared to give an exaggerated credence to the claims of her friends. I know people who still claim the Assad regime is legitimate based on having friends who have known wealthy ex-pat Syrians, or who have been on privileged visits to Syria before 2011. Essentially they do not know enough to know they do not know enough. ]

11. Answers To First Audience Questions.

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Nadim Shehadi’s Answer to First Audience Questions: Time=32:57_to_35:59 He joked that these are all interesting questions and so he will give one answer. He said there needed to be a “deprogramming program” for people from the “remaining ideas of the twentieth century”. All these questions came from “residuals” of these ideas. He said the “ladies and gentlemen to my left [on the panel]” and the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm see the twentieth century as lasting effectively from 1914 to 1990, because they are looking at “material developments”. When however looking at “ideas” they start many decades earlier, and finish decades later.

He said the world needed to changes its ideas, because attitudes towards the Middle East are based on “twentieth century prejudices”. It is a twentieth century idea that there must be “homogeneous nationalist strong states that control their populations, and nannies them with education and all that, it is based on the fact [that] if do not have that the place falls apart”. This is why “we have the wrong lesson” from Iraq, which was that when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party collapsed the place fell apart. In reality the country was already broken due to oppression and the resulting simmering sectarianism. The Iraqi Ba’ath party spent 30 years killing Kurds, Christians and Shia. We need to leave old ideas behind, and “find a totally different picture”.

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[Missing Voice: Importantly Nadem Shehadi is absolutely right that new ideas are needed. His radical notion on rejecting old “twentieth century” ideas, does not fit the reality that ideas evolve over time, and ideas being “new” does not imply “better”. It is also true, as one questioner stated, that there is a deficit of popular new good ideas in the West and the Middle East.

Nadim Shehadi criticized the “strong state” in an earlier answer, as “taking everything and giving nothing”.  The state providing education he criticized as “nannying” the people. In an earlier answer he seems to approve of a state that takes in taxes no more than 10% of GDP. This exposes his neo-liberal ideas, which belong to the eighteenth rather than the twenty first century.

Clearly citizens need a “strong state”  that has the power to move resources from wealthy elites to ordinary people. Only a “strong state” can guarantee the supply of essential services of food, housing, and medical security to all citizens. Only a “strong state” can ensure the development of adequate justice, infrastructure and education.

To keep the “strong state” from being corrupted there needs to be a balance between private freedom and public responsibility. There needs to an equally “strong democratic mechanism” that gives the citizens control over the country (both the state and private organizations), together with free access to the required information. He was right that narrow “homogeneous nationalism” is a bad idea. It should be replaced by an  “inclusive patriotism” that takes pride in the enactment of the constructive civilized values of a society.

Nadem Shehadi is right that Iraqi society was broken before the invasion of 2003 that ended the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The true nature of Saddam’s regime had largely been ignored by Western media before and after 2003. The same is true of the Assad regime in Syria. Before a “spectacular war” no one is interested, mere information cannot penetrate the iron wall of cultivated incomprehension that surrounds the West. After the war starts, the focus of interest shifts to the West’s involvement in the conflict. The great moral question is then whether this involvement did or could make things better or worse. Opinions differ widely, because they are not grounded in the nature of the embattled regime or the challenges and abilities of those struggling against the regime. When an uprising or intervention goes wrong, there is always a complacent establishment figure to tell us, that they know from experience that the people of this country are so different to us, and all is inevitable and the we are absolved. Plainly this horrific farce has to be ditched and a “totally different picture” of meaningful, and when necessary forceful solidarity created. ]

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Rania Hafez’s Answer to First Audience Questions: Time=36:00_to_38:50 Rania Hafez said that the Western media is presenting a “fantasy” of the “Arab Spring”. The Westernized people who protested in Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011 – after the dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power – created a political party that only got 2% in the Egyptian elections, that the Muslim Brotherhood won. She claimed that Western intervention had accelerated events in Libya, so “no wonder the Syrians thought well great we could start demonstrating and get that result”. So therefore the “Western media’s fantasy” did feed back to “a point” in the “Arab Spring”. She did not have any “empirical signs for that”, but this is “quite clear from the result of the [Egyptian] election”.

She responded to the food price question directly. She admitted that her initial response to the “Arab Spring” had been correct but simplistic. When protests started in Egypt and Tunisa in 2011, she remembered saying “what they really want, is cheaper goods, a bit more respect and to just to carry on with their lives without struggling so much”. She said the “Arab Spring” reminded her about the 1992 Egyptian comedy film “Terrorism and Kebab” (الإرهاب والكباب‎) about a man fighting bureaucracy, whose group of “misfits” holds part of the “ministry of interior” hostage by accident, and when asked for their demands he says “we want kebabs”. She then backtracked and said this comparison sounds odd. and she did not mean that the “people are not capable”. She explained that when people live under oppression there is no civic space to formulate coherent alternatives.

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[Missing Voice: It is unclear if her use of “fantasy” to describe the Western media representation of the “Arab Spring” refers to the strength of feeling behind the uprisings, the nature of the uprisings or both. I think she means both. Her privileged background means she discounts the degree to which ordinary people are humiliated by these dictatorships and yearn for governments that are truly representative.

The popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is based on the network of services it provides to poorer people abandoned by the state. It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood was slow to support the Tahrir Square demonstrations that led to Mubarak’s departure, although they were more influential in protests outside of Cairo. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is not an extremist Islamist organization. It is not  a monolith, and has both conservative and progressive wings. A correct assessment of its history depends on understanding the changing level of persecution it has suffered.

Dr Hafez insinuated that the election of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Mohamed Morsi in January 2012 showed that the “Arab Spring” in Egypt was really a reactionary movement. This interpretation depends on a Western phobia of all Islamic parties, which Dr Hafez as a practicing Muslim must know is wrong.

The  Morsi government tried to govern an Egypt, still under the economic control of the  Mubarak era elite, who engineered a severe economic crisis. Morsi’s authoritarian response led to protests, which the military used as an excuse to oust the government in June 2013.

Under the Mubarak dictatorship Egypt was ruled by two sometimes conflicting self serving elites, the president’s clique (centred on the absurdly misnamed “National Democratic Party”), and the upper level of the military. Mubarak was removed by the military after the 2011 protests. The military then rigged the writing of the new constitution under the transitional government. They and the rest of the Mubarak era elite, created economic chaos to undermine the Morsi government. The military ousted the Morsi government and then fixed the election of General Sisi in 2014. This is the reality of Egyptian politics.

Dr Hafez reference to kebabs was deeply insulting. She suggested that it was not the dictatorial systems of government that needed to be changed, but these dictatorships needed to be make minor concessions to their subjects. This idea conflicts with academic research on public opinion in Egypt, Lebanon and the rest of the Arab World (See Arabs and democracy: an analysis of the findings of the survey of Arab public opinion towards democracy, Youssef M Sawani, 2014, Contemporary Arab Affairs, Vol 7.3  )]

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to First Audience Questions:  Time=38:51_to_41:05 He stated that the difference between the “Arab” Spring and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was that there was no organized killing by the state. He said “this issue of state violence is very important”.

He said we should be looking forward to what this great ferment in Middle East (apart from the issue of its representation in the media) will “mean for the future”. He asked what does this mean for Israel, Iran and “the traditional Western response”. He stated we have moved away from a US dominated world to a multipolar world. He then posed the question what will new superpowers like China do?

In a direct response to the question about lack of analysis in the “Arab Spring” he said in a positive voice that he was in favour of “normative responses” (ie socially accepted moral responses).  At the time of the Spanish Civil War for example, they did not sit around analyzing what to do, but got out there and acted. There was then embarrassed laughter at Mark Seddon’s direct dismissive response to the apparently Marxist questioner.

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[Missing Voice: It is critically important to challenge those  living in the West who refuse to grasp what “organized killing and torture by the state” means in the era of modern military technology. The weapons developed by two world wars and a long Cold War have changed the fundamentals of revolution. A state that can acquire sufficient advanced weaponry can terrorize its own population into submission with a relatively small privileged core of loyalists. George Orwell expressed this incisively in his 1945 essay “You and the Atomic Bomb”:

“And though I have no doubt exceptions can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found generally true: that ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.”

The exception in the case of the Russian Revolution was the ability of the Bolsheviks to take control of an army demoralized by the chaos of the First World War. In the Spanish Civil War twenty years later, a section of the army under Franco were able to overthrow a progressive elected Republican government, because of substantial advanced arms supplies from fascist Germany and Italy. After this defeat there were Trotskyists outside Spain, who continued to claim that a perfect revolutionary movement, would have magically transformed the entire population of ordinary Spaniards into heroic suicidal unconquerable revolutionaries. This kind of unbalanced fantasy politics is always highly destructive and would if unchallenged be ultimately ruinous.

Mark Seddon is also right that it is critically important to consider how a post Cold War ideologically unrestrained Russia and China will impact on the Middle East. In combination they have immense military and economic power. They also do not have any meaningful domestic opposition to the brutality of their foreign policies. The political genocide by the Assad regime in Syria – that the regimes in Russia and China have extensively supported – have not led to any significant domestic “anti-war” protests in these countries. There appears to be no consequences for these regimes in giving unlimited support to genocidal dictatorships. This will change the calculations of existing and emerging dictatorships around the world.

Mark Seddon is right that undervaluing accepted moral responses (“normative”) to situations is a mistake, as they provide the emotional motivation required by all struggles. It is also true that these responses are limited to the “short term” and the “familiar”. This is a serious problem when your enemy is thinking in the long term and co-operating with international allies. ]

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Karl Shaddo’s Answer to First Audience Questions:  Time=41:06_to_44:51 He started with a good sardonic joke, saying Rania’s “demand for kebab” is part of the global protest movement, and reminds him of the streets of UK towns every Saturday Night, and this is “unifying our political visions”.

He said he prefers to call the “Arab Spring” the “Arab Uprisings”. He strongly condemned the lack of political analysis, vision, and organization in these uprisings. The protesters wrongly celebrated their leaderless uprisings in conjunction with the Western Media. These deep flaws meant that “they lost control of the process of transition”.

There were “great moments of heroism”, with 850 people dying and thousands injured in Egypt. He also remembered in the same way, those in Bahrain, Tunisia and Libya. There was an “immense amount of bravery”. These people risking their lives, were “let down by the lack of leadership and a vision [which should have stated] what would you like your life to be like, what would your like your society to be like”. These uprisings needed to be channeled towards a clear destination, and this was the failure of the “Arab Uprisings”.

The “Arab Uprisings” got complicated by “external pressure that distorted the narrative” and “nurtured the sense that someone else would carry the day”. Karl Shaddo said he is an internationalist, and “would love to get to a point where we act as a global community, but there is not a political constituency for that”. The World “cannot leap from the current situation we are in now, to some imaginary form of a global constituency, that does not exist, where we have to trust the US to make the right actions just because they have the biggest guns”.

He said he does approve of the World building up this global constituency for action, but while this is happening, “we have to be careful to maintain the boundaries of political actions within the [national] states. The distortion we have now that is feeding a cycle, is reducing that struggle to a caricature, go on the streets, carry a few slogans in English, and we [West] will come and sort it out, obviously that did not happen, so need to take control of your life. I salute the individual and collective struggle, but lament the lack of leadership.” Audience then enthusiastically clapped.

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[Missing Voice: As noted above there are good reasons for the lack of “political analysis, vision, and organization“. Throughout the world this is a time of recovery from a long era of  waves of failed political practice. The result is a global lack of clear, plausible and popular visions. Karl Sharro is right that a vision is essential to creating large organizations, especially those who are progressive and inclusive.

It was good to hear Karl Shaddo praising the “immense amount of bravery” as unarmed protesters faced the full might of well equipped armies and security organizations practicing systematic torture. He mentions Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and Libya.

He does not mention Syria. In June 2018 the death toll of the Syrian Uprising reached half a million. 85% of these casualties were civilians killed by the Assad Regime. The rest were deaths of combatants on both sides, and civilians killed by anti-Assad opposition (which includes Kurdish groups and the minority of Extremist Islamist groups like Islamic State (ISIL) and Al-Nusra (alias HTS) ). Tens of thousands of Syrians have been tortured to death by the Assad Regime since 2011. The 2014 “Caesar” photographs exposed this reality graphically to the world.  Systematic torture has been a feature of the Assad Regime since its foundation in 1970, after an illegal military coup led by Hafez Assad. Between March 2011 and the formation of the armed opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) in July 2011 the Assad Regime had killed and tortured thousands of peaceful protesters. Before the Cedar Revolution the Assad Regime attempted to control Lebanon by blackmailing the relatives of those it had kidnapped into submission, by threatening to torture their relatives.

Given that Syria is a closely linked neighbour of Lebanon, it is notable that Karl Shaddo who is Lebanese by birth, omitted Syrians in the list of citizenry showing exceptional bravery in this 2012 debate. He strongly dislikes sectarian labels, but they may still be very relevant to his expression of political thought in public. There is a strong Iraqi Christian community in Syria, who fled persecution by the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein. The Assad regime has consciously used minorities to stay in power, by demanding allegiance and fueling sectarian fears, even though its propaganda sells the regime as secularist to the world. Shaddo has an Iraqi Christian background, and so it is reasonable to wonder if he has has pro-Assad family members who might resent being linked to an open critic of the regime.

It is unclear what he means by “external pressure that distorted the narrative” of the Arab Uprisings. He seems to be saying that the attention of the world’s media and the global support from social media, gave the false impression that the “global community” would intervene to pressure regimes not to crackdown on protesters, and so advanced the pace of the protests. He could also be referencing Rania Hafez’s comment that the Arab Uprisings were not as liberal and progressive as they appeared, but were really an opportunity for reactionary Islamists.

Karl Shaddo appeared to assume that there is some plausible method (he termed it  “narrative”) by which people in the countries of the region, can replace oppressive regimes with decent ones by acting totally independently without outside help. He said “we have to be careful to maintain the boundaries of political actions within the [national] states”. In the real world, oppressive states in the region now have security services and militaries with access to advance weaponry, with privileged sections of their populations to operate them. In the real world dictatorships co-operate with foreign powers with imperialist foreign policies. This includes regional powers like the Saudi and Iranian dictatorships, and global powers like Unites States, Russia and China.

Karl Shaddo said he “would love to get to a point where we act as a global community, but there is not a political constituency for that”. This is myopic in the extreme. China is a dictatorship that is becoming an economic power to rival the United States. Russia is a dictatorship capable of producing advanced weaponry on a level with the United States. Foreign policy in the West is dominated by elites. This is possible because ordinary voters engage with domestic policy, but largely ignore foreign policy until a crisis arises. This even applies to the international economic system which has a  huge effect on the scope of domestic policies. Therefore there will never be a political constituency for acting as a global community, unless there is a fundamental reassessment of the importance of international relations by ordinary voters in democratic countries.

A large and growing proportion of the global community is composed of elites from dictatorships, with no link to the interests of the ordinary people they rule. The rest are representatives of democratic governments, with virtually no political pressure to oppose gross human rights abuses in foreign countries. They only have a need for empty short term responses when the media makes a situation the “story of  the day”.

There can only be an effective “global community” when its institutions actually represent the informed opinions of the ordinary citizens of the world. If the old institutions cannot be reformed, then there needs to be new progressive ones.  Representative governments and those who advocate for representative government around the world need to band together.

Karl Shaddo rhetoric confused the westernized components of the social and traditional media of the Arab Uprisings with larger local national campaigns. Western media obviously gives a higher exposure to messages accessible to a Western audience. This may be the reality of Arab Uprisings to this Western audience, but is only a fraction of the reality of the uprisings to local populations.

It is more realistic to acknowledge that activists recognized that Western solidarity was a necessary component of the success of the uprisings, rather than the only or principal component. I do not intend to sound churlish, but those dying and being tortured for demanding their dignity require more than a “salute”. Being human means that something vital is also tormented and dies in us. Solidarity is fundamental. ]

12. Second Part Of Opening Up The “Debate” To The Audience.

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Second Part of Opening up the Debate: Time=44:52_to_51:39 Dr Tara MacCormack, said she would take more questions, for the panel to consider.

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Audience Question (“Dennis (Hayes?)”): Time=45:22_to_46:35 In a confident avuncular tone he grandly wanted to describe the new depressing anti-human western morality. He claimed rhetorically that this was the morality of people in the West who are incapable of doing anything, incapable of democracy and incapable of organizing their own lives. He said this morality is articulated by John Gray at the London School Economics who says “guerillas do not try to organize their lives so why should we”. He continued that the new Twenty First century Western projection, is that Arabs are incapable of organization, they cannot cope with democracy or modern life. He stated that in the Twentieth Century people believed they could take control of their lives. Without this belief “you cannot have organization or leadership”. He was suspicious of “normative interventions” (based on accepted moral values) because this they are “destroying any possibility of a future for the Arab World”. There was some relatively  enthusiastic clapping.

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[Missing Voice: The audience member was Dennis Hayes, Professor of Education at Derby University in the UK (see Powerbase Biography from far-left critic). He is part of the “LM Network” and founder of “Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF)” (see Powerbase Summary from far-left critic). In true LM Network style he also works for the “The Free Society” campaign, which is run by “Forest” (the tobacco industry front organization, see The Free Society). At the 2012 Battle of Ideas Festival he was chairing a debate on “Genocide denial: should we defend the right to speak evil?” (see Genocide Denial?). The answer according to Dennis and invited panel is of course “yes”.

Professor Hayes statement was little more than academically flavoured rhetoric. It hid the reality that the failure of the unbalanced chauvinistic politics of the Twentieth Century has equally effected the West and the Middle East. People in the Twentieth Century became disillusioned that grand mutually exclusive political ideas could enable them to “take control of their lives” to use Hayes’ words. This is especially true of the so called Middle East (middle to whom?) in the Twentieth Century which has experienced intense waves of upheaval, all promising empowerment and progress: Traditional Monarchy, Nationalism, Communism, Neo-Liberal Economics and Fundamentalist Religion.

It is plainly silly to blame the subsequent suspicion of grand arrogant political schemes on the emergence of social media (Twitter etc). In the real world the lack of future in the Middle East is mainly due to repressive regimes being able to suppress mass decent with advanced weaponry, provided enthusiastically by regional and world superpowers. Hayes indulged in radical “negative chauvinism” towards the West, rather than identifying the real problem of parasitic elites around the globe. Western morality cannot be reduced to the extreme notions of a LSE academic like John Gray.

Professor Hayes was right that leadership and organization is essential, and this depends on a belief that there is a plausible plan by which people can gain their dignity. Hayes was suspicious of the normal morally accepted responses of the West. These involve a combination of the limitations of Western public opinion and the entitled self interest of Western elites who shape foreign policy. Hayes was right that Western public opinion does underestimate the “agency” of the people of the Middle East. It also exaggerates differences, especially around religion. Public opinion naturally demands action in reaction to gross human rights abuses, and thwarted struggles for representative government. It also has a short term attention span based on mass media output. At the same time Western intervention is designed to mollify public opinion, while ensuring narrowly defined Western commercial, diplomatic and security interests are given priority.

Professor Hayes was utterly wrong that Western “normative interventions” would directly destroy any future for the “Arab World” (by which he meant the Middle East). The future was and is being crushed by the advanced weaponry of regimes backed by regional powers and world superpowers. This includes the Iranian and Saudi regimes. This includes the United States, Russia and China. Seen from the vantage point of 2018-2019 it appears that after 2011 Western “non-intervention”  has more often than not been a greater problem than Western “intervention”. This is especially true in Syria where the Assad regime has committed Political Genocide without consequences. In Yemen an illegal siege by the Saudi regime, preventing humanitarian supplies reaching desperate people, could be broken by direct action from the West.

What was and is required are “constructive interventions”, that circumvent the blurred border between the West and the Middle East, that involve practical solidarity that is humanitarian and when necessary forceful. Hayes ignores the strong “normative” reactions of the radical far-left in the West, whose instinctively apologize for fake anti-Western or far-left regimes, and condemn any intervention by the West. A stance often mirrored by the far-right.

It is difficult to see what future Hayes foresaw for the Middle East that Western intervention might destroy. His fellow member of the “LM Network” and chairperson of this debate, Dr Tara McCormack clearly sees the future of the Middle East as dictatorship, mass torture and political genocide. This is evidenced by her subsequent apologia for the Assad Regime in Syria (See Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media , Summary of her Assadist and Putin Propaganda(2018) ). The only people “taking control of their lives” in Professor Hayes’ words, would then be the inflated puffed out, supermen and superwomen of these regimes’ elites. In other words “red-brown” fascists.

An axiom of sociology and its associated branches is that no ethical system
has a privileged position of veracity. However this axiom assumes that the concepts that sociology examines can exist in a vacuum. The very notion of the integrity of human life privileges ethics of dignity (see “Decent Society” by Avishai Margalit  and Archived ). There is a population of radical academics who accept this sociological axiom uncritically and target the values of their own societies for critical demolition. They are free to practice this “negative chauvinism” without contradiction, by just ignoring analysis of the social systems they effectively support by default. The “LM Network” is a self serving network, whose academic members fit this pattern well. ]

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[Back to the questions from the less privileged members of the audience]

Audience Question (“Man 1”):Time=46:39 He asked if the Arab Spring is a single united movement, or separate movements spurred on by each other?

Audience Question (“Man 2, behind Dennis”):Time=47:04 He asked why the “Arab Spring” had great resonance in the West, and what it says about the West? He suggested there seemed to be a restart of history after 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Arab Spring was the first time since 1989 that “people where back in the game”. He asked that if we are to dump the ideas of Twentieth Century, as a member of the panel suggested (Nadim Shehadi), then what are the ideas that will take their place? He stated that new Green ideas were not up to the economic challenge. He also dismissed “self organizing” change and “anti-ideology” ideology in general. The Arab Spring was inspiring and depressing, because it had “failed utterly”.

Audience Question (“Male Volunteer”):Time=48:36 He asked if the “Arab Spring” can be viewed as being due to the decline in secularism, and the increase in support for Islamic parties? He stated that the West would not want to intervene, if this led to an Islamic party being in power. Dr Tara McCormack said this was an important question.

Audience Question (“Posh Man at Front”):Time=49:12 He wanted to come back to the question of whether the Twentieth Century ended in 1989? He stated that the two governments who failed most spectacularly in “Arab Spring” were Egypt and Libya, and both were “detritus of the Cold War”. The Murbarak and Gaddafi regimes only made sense as byproducts of the Cold War struggle between the superpowers. He said the Twentieth Century did end in 1990, but no one told the Arabs until 2011. There was general laughter from the audience at this.

Audience Question (“Woman at Front”):Time=50:14 She stated that the West only  intervenes when there are natural resources like oil. This is why the West did intervene in Libya but not in Syria. She asked if this will be a big problem in the future?

Audience Question (“Woman 2”):Time=50:48 She wondered that if the “Arab Spring” had developed the coherent nature that Karl Sharro described, would the Western media have been so keen to jump on the bandwagon? McCormack dismissed this question casually, and appeared impatient to carry on.

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[Missing Voice= These questions after Professor Hayes’ statement, were all interesting except one (from “Male Volunteer”). The “Arab Spring” was about anger at oppressive unrepresentative governments. Secularism versus Islam is a distraction. The wave of secular authoritarian socialism (call it “communism”) has been in decline since the 1970s, and extreme “Islamism” reached it peak twenty years ago.

There is a whole body of Arab intellectual debate on representative government. Protest movements in different countries, are aware of the “octopus” like network of regional dictatorships (with their superpower backers) that support each other in maintaining oppression. Dictators whose very dominance is an insult to the dignity of those they control. Ordinary people in the West recognized the problem of powerful unresponsive elites, that the “Arab Spring” was challenging.

It is myopic to see the dictatorships of Mubarak in Egypt (that originated in Nasser’s coup of 1952) and Gaddafi in Libya (created by his 1969 coup) as just byproducts of the Cold War. Both Nasser and Gaddafi were charismatic so called “Free (Army) Officers” who were corrupted by power. Both used the Cold War to gain support from the Soviet Union to consolidate power. Nasser’s successors Sadat and Mubarak switched to the United States, while after the collapse of the Soviet Union Gaddafi switched to the West. Nasser was clearly a far more substantial political figure.

As stated earlier, the foreign policy of the West is formed by elites, who are  primarily concerned with resources, commercial advantage, so called “stability and security” and geopolitical containment. The corruption endemic in the so called “friendly regimes” that they support, fuses eventually with their own interests. This chauvinistic strategy – that has extended beyond the end of the Cold War – of Western democracies supporting dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere, has led to a false sense of victory. The West has only succeeded in creating stronger enemies of democracy both abroad and within its own centres of power. The Western radicals who revile their own elites are right. Perversely by also excusing the crimes of the elites of other powers, they neuter their own influence. This leads to the farce where one set of elites justify their actions in relation to the actions of other elites.

There may be no real “New Cold War”, because the old one was never actually won. There is now an “authoritarian fifth column” both in the heart of democratic governments and among their radical critics. This is very dangerous for democracy. ]

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Directing the Panel to Answer Second Audience Questions: Time=51:06_to_53:31  Dr Tara McCormack now invited the panel to answer the second set of questions from the audience. She emphasized the question about the rise of the Islamic parties (from the “Male Volunteer”) , and if this was related to the absence of united secular parties. She asked if the “Muslim Parties” were a kind of default.

13. Answers To Second Audience Questions.

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Mark Seddon’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time=51:40_to_53:22 He questioned putting history into convenient blocks. He implied that the emergence of Fundamentalist Islam goes back to before the Twentieth Century (he may be referring to Muhammad Wahhab’s severe reformed Islam of the Eighteenth Century in Arabia). He linked the collapse of support for “secular nationalist views” with the Cold War policies of the West, who supported the status quo of client states, without knowing who they were supporting. He said a classic example of this blundering was the West’s support for the Mujaheddin against the Soviet Union. He also included the West’s support for “certain forces in Libya (in 2012)” who are hostile to the West. The West has been “essentially blundering around”. He said the questioner (“Posh Man at Front”) was right that Mubarak and Gaddafi took advantage of the “great bipolarity” of the Cold War between the West and the Soviets. Now there was another great bipolarity emerging involving China. He asked what would China be doing over the next ten to twenty years?

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[Missing Voice= The Western elites who form foreign policy are not “blundering” but are more accurately “indifferent” to the dignity of the ordinary people of the countries in which they carelessly intervene. There is also a danger in thinking of an opposition to a regime as being formed of groups having of an immutable character. There is a dynamic which involves having a plausible strategy, and being able to attract powerful committed domestic and foreign backers. There is a relationship between an opposition and its backers, where the nature of the opposition groups and the future of the state can be influenced. The West should have a principled strategy of  promoting the interests and dignity of ordinary people in the countries in which they constructively intervene by forming real “partnerships” with opposition groups.

In Afghanistan the Soviets intervened to prop up a brutal unpopular communist regime. The United States with their Pakistani and Saudi allies were intervening to favour Sunni Afghan groups, in particular the Pashtuns in the South. The Iranians were intervening to support Shia Afghani groups in the West of the country. The traditional structure of the country was based around local neo-feudal elites. This was changed into a country dominated by war lords and religious extremists, and the Islamic mujaheddin groups they controlled. After the Soviets withdrew troops, and despite of continuing Soviet-Russian support, the Afghan Communist Government eventually collapsed in 1992.

The Soviets were effectively defeated in Afghanistan by the mujaheddin and their backers, with a decisive role for advanced weaponry (like “Stinger” anti-aircraft missile). Shallow revisionism by far-left journalists in the West is unconvincing (See Jonathan Steele, UK Guardian, “10 Myths about Afghanistan” for an example of this). The Pashtun dominated Taliban then disastrously seized control.  To remove this Taliban regime and so allow an effective invasion by the West as punishment for 9/11, Western support switched dramatically to the anti-Pashtun mainly Tajiki “Northern Alliance”.

The end result of this is that ordinary Afghanis are no nearer to power through representative government than they were before the beginning of the Civil War. This is not because intervention to support groups opposed to brutal repressive regimes is intrinsically bad, but because of indifferent intervention that encouraged the creation of armed opposition groups with no interest in the welfare of ordinary Afghans. Western foreign policy was narrowly focused on defeating the Soviets and then the Taliban, the future of the country and the interests of ordinary Afghans was effectively ignored. This is not “blundering” in Mark Sedddon’s words, but “gross myopic indifference”. Similar analyses can be applied to the Western interventions in Iraq and Libya. While strong opposition to this in the West is only limited to blinkered radicals – who oppose all intervention rather than condemning bad intervention and promoting good intervention – then this will continue endlessly.

Mark Seddon was right to consider what the end of the Cold War and the rise of China as a superpower, will mean for the future of brutal authoritarian regimes. The Cold War was a battle of geopolitical power tempered by ideology. After the Cold War the rival elites are free from ideological pretenses. Russia is now a country capable of producing advanced weaponry, while China rivals the United States economically.  Existing and emerging brutal authoritarian regimes of any type have a choice of backers. China and Russia in combination are free to back any regimes, whether radical or traditional, with no domestic opposition to genocidal foreign policies. This is the bleak future. It must be recognized that large numbers of radicals in the West have their own “normative” responses which need to be exposed as empty mirages.]

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Dr Rania Hafez’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time=53:23_to_55:51 She stated that clearly all Arab countries are different, gave examples of Libya and Egypt. In Egypt the old regime did not really collapse, the dictator President Mubarak went but the army was really in charge, and just carried on. She believed that the United States quietly intervened, to instruct the army not to commit mass killing of protesters, as Egypt was a client state and must behave within acceptable limits. She said that Gaddafi regime in Libya collapsed because of direct Western intervention. She questioned why the West intervened, and suggested this was due to oil.

She said that clearly “Islamists” have always been there, rather than having risen from nowhere. At beginning of the Egyptian Uprising in Tahrir Square she had a heated argument with a friend. She had said that the Muslim Brotherhood would do well, but her friend said she was stupid, as there was now a new social reality due to the uprising. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections in May 2012 did not surprise her. She was surprised by Tunisia electing an Islamic government, as this is the most secular country in the Middle East. She remembered the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which ignited the rise of the political force called Islamism. This even in secular Lebanon. She added vaguely that this is all complicated and historical.

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[Missing Voice= In Egypt before the uprising the bogusly misnamed “National Democratic Party” led by Presdeint Mubarak shared power with the Army. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) founded in 1928 by the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna was an established part of society, large, well-organized and successful in promoting Islam and providing welfare services to the poor.  The MB were viciously persecuted under Nasser and Sadat, although they were part of the revolution together with Nasser’s “Free Officers” that toppled King Farouk in 1952. This persecution drove MB theorist Sayyid Qutb to extremism, after he was imprisoned and tortured (and later executed in 1966).

Mubarak’s attitude to the MB  oscillated between tolerance and repression. After the 2011 uprising that deposed Mubarak, the army were happy to see the “Freedom and Justice Party” (FJP, political arm of MB) win the elections as they planned to remove it. The economy was dominated by a kleptocracy who were able to prevent the MB under President Morsi from running the country by ensuring economic chaos. In July 2013 (a year after this debate) the MB government was ousted by an army coup, following violent protests against it. MB President Morsi had attempted to govern by decree, suppress derogatory dissent and insert terms in the new constitution to favour Islamists. General Abdel Sisi was then elected in 2014 (and 2018) in an election where meaningful opposition was excluded. The economy then magically improved due to the end of subversion by Egypt’s economic elite, and generous loans from the Saudis-UAE and IMF.

There is a dimension here between upper and middle class secularism, and lower class moderately conservative Islamism. Fear of Islamist electoral victories in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco among wealthier more educated liberal activists was vastly exaggerated. Morsi’s government unnecessarily gave ammunition to its liberal  opponents by failing to adequately condemn incidents of discriminatory statements by some MB members (and even violence by Salifist extremists) against women and the Christian Coptic minority.

General Sisi and the army are now reported as having direct control of a majority of the Egyptian economy, together with an associated indirect network of patronage. Sisi’s regime is stronger than Mubarak’s and just as repressive. Fear of Morsi becoming an Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini, by Egypt’s more privileged educated liberals, has produced a regime dominated by the army’s elite under General Sisi that is far more dangerous and powerful than Mubarak’s. The conservative MB with it’s absence of internal democracy that produced Morsi, together with the Islamophobia of Egypt’s liberal activists have destroyed the Arab Spring in Egypt.

Dr Hafez is wrong to imply that the MB was the problem, as its liberal activist opponents are equally responsible for the wrecking of the Egyptian revolution. She also underestimates the disaster of the army’s ascendancy under General Sisi. This is essentially the old elite continuing in power but strengthened, unified and militarized.

The fear of a reactionary Islamist Ennahda government in Tunisia was hugely exaggerated.  In 1972 inspired by Egypt’s MB  Rachid Ghannouchi founded the “Islamic Group”, which later became the “The Movement of Islamic Tendency (MIT)” and then “Harakat Ennahda” (Renaissance). Ennahda (EH) has an effective internal democracy, with strong internal debates that ensure the cohesion of the party. In represents two important strands of Tunisian society, modernization and Islam. In the October 2011 elections following the overthrow of the dictator Ben-Ali, EH gained more votes than other parties, but still needed to partner with two other secular parties to govern as a Troika coalition. EH’s Hamadi Jebali became Prime Minister. An economic downturn, a huge refugee crisis from the neighbouring Libyan civil war, and growing strength of violent radical Salifists all created a crisis by 2013. Hamadi Jebali resigned and eventually a technocratic government of national unity was formed and the Troika ceded power.

EH did not attempt to remove women’s rights. They fielded an equal number of male and female candidates in their lists in elections from 2011 onwards as required, many EH women took majors roles in the government, in 2017 EH played a major part in pushing through a landmark law against violence to women. Some EH members however have opposed laws to liberalize marriage and inheritance laws.

Dr Hafez’s is wrong to imply that Ennahda(EH) or the Muslim Brotherhood(MB) are a threat to women’s rights on the scale of the Iranian Revolution. EH competed and governed in a multi party pluralistic political environment. MB had more notional power, but had to compete with a shadow government centered on a large powerful army. EH has internal democracy while MB does not. These factors influenced their approach to government.

The nature of Iranian revolution was very different. The “Black Islamist” faction led by Ayatollah Khomeini crushed other Islamist factions after the removal of the brutally repressive US backed dictator Mohammad Reza Shah in 1979. Khomeini was backed by wealthy Iranian land owners and merchants who had lost out under the Shah’s attempts to create a loyal middle class dependent on his patronage.

As to the idea that Iranian Revolution “ignited something”, this ignores a basic reality for ordinary people in the Middle East. Since the WW1 and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the region has experienced waves of upheaval, based on traditional monarchy, nationalism and authoritarian socialism. All these had failed which made space for an Islamist wave. In turn the (long neglected by the world’s media) democratic wave termed the “Arab Spring” that caught the world’s attention in 2011 with a wave of uprisings was decimated. It has been broken by militarized elites that are too powerful, elites that are backed by regional powers and subsequently international powers. Ordinary people who live in Western democracies have done virtually nothing to support this wave.

In Libya the people were unable to overthrow the hated repressive kleptomaniac Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi (“Free Officer”) took power in 1969 in an echo of Nasser over a decade before. This regime over subsequent decades acquired effective advanced weaponry and trained  security forces. After the uprising in 2011 the West enabled the balance to be tipped against Gaddafi, but did little to help the “Libyan National Transitional Council” to create a national security force, or provide basic services to citizens or rebuild the economy. This created a perfect arena for hostile anti-democratic Saudi-UAE backed salafist extremists to create chaos. This is the reality of trying to create democracy in the Twenty First century Middle East. Europeans would have done no better under the same circumstances. Shame not arrogance is the correct response.

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Nadim Shehadi’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time=55:52_to_58:49
Dr Tara McCormack asked Nadim Shehadi if the Islamist parties are part of the old political system, or like “Olivier Roy” [French Political Scientist, whose writings tends to discount hysterical Islamophobic ideas] said are they part of the current lacquered real political system? Nadim Shehadi said it depends when you read “Oliver Roy”. He said Lebanon skipped the Twentieth Century, and was so now ahead of game, because the rest of the region is now dismantling their Twentieth Century government systems. He celebrated the diversity and lack leadership of Arab Spring (including protests of a similar style in Israel and the West). This confusion happens when there are major changes in systems of ideas in the world. It is an atmosphere that changes. He gave the example of the “Renaissance”. He also said all revolutions are doomed to failure, because they never end up where revolutionaries intended (except Marxists who see a grand historical progression). He said there is no great conspiracy by the so called “evil” West. You could say the West intervened in Libya because it has oil, or you could say that as Gaddafi was collaborating with the West they should have protected him. There is a lot of unnecessary self-flagellation by the West.

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[Missing Voice= Nadim Shehadi was giving his thoughts on several of the second batch of audience questions. He evaded Dr Tara McCormack’s question on whether Islamism is part of the old political system or a component of the emerging political systems. This is a meaningless question as “Islamism” is a loose term, that is used to group mainstream Islamic ethics on one end of the scale with violent fundamentalist literalism on the other end. This confusion is used by Islamophobes to condemn all politics influenced by Islam.

Lebanon is stuck with a dysfunctional system that balances the interests of sectarian elites, who are backed by foreign regional powers. The Lebanese people deserve better.

Nadim Shehadi is right that a new system of political ideas is emerging in the world, as the old ones have become clearly ineffective. Nadim Shehadi spoke earlier in this debate of an end to the ideas of the Twentieth Century, an end to the powerful redistributive state, as if the future means returning to the political economy of Eighteenth Century Europe. Clearly a future dominated by neo-conservative ideas is unlikely. New ideas will come from cultures outside Europe, who have a less chauvinistic approach to competing interests, and an acceptance of the importance of  religion when approached rationally.

Revolutions and Wars have been essential to the emergence of democracy in Europe. The French Revolution caused other European autocracies to fear the unrepresented majority of ordinary people, and to reform their regimes to avoid the threat. The British government introduced a system of outdoor poor relief (Speenhamland System, 1795) and an expansion and reform of the franchise (1832 Reform Act) as a direct response to the French Revolution. The competition between European Great Powers meant societies had to be mobilized to create economic and military power, and to fight against competitors. In Britain again, at the close of the First World War in 1918, the franchise was expanded to all men over 21 and women over 30. This was as a result of the terrible carnage of millions ordinary men during the war, the essential work done by women for the war economy and the threat of an imitation of the 1917 Russian Revolution. During the Second World War the Beveridge Report of 1942 was used by Britain to mobilize its war effort, and made Clement Atlee’s 1945 Labour Government – that created a comprehensive welfare system – politically possible.

Globalized free trade appears to be ambivalent to the political rights of citizens of investee countries. On the one hand property rights are important, but on the other voters must be kept away from demanding taxes on profits. The neo-conservative idea that business rather than revolutions and wars will set countries free is bogus. International solidarity by democracies is the best way to defeat the tyranny of repressive governments and chronic underdevelopment. The problem is that it has rarely been applied, because democracy has become a word that feels empty to the ordinary citizens of democracies. This “democratic decline” is becoming an ever more acute problem, as advanced technology means elites in all countries no longer need so many citizens to be workers, soldiers or even enforcers (for their security).

Nadim Shehadi said that revolutions (and my extension wars) have unintended consequences. He should have added that this is because without democratic international solidarity they leave a vacuum in which ordinary people are sidelined and a different tyranny can establish itself. The 1948 Marshall Plan (“European Recovery Program”) was exactly this type of international solidarity, that a reluctant US was forced to give Europe after the Second World War to avoid a Stalinist Communist Europe. Democratic international solidarity that can be forceful when required is the best guarantor of peace. This is rarely applied as democractic leaders prefer myopia and complacency when this is apparently available. Much more self-flagellation by the West is necessary. Gaddafi was brutally repressive and an unreliable ally of the West. Western elites enabled his removal, and then put oil before people, and enabled the unnecessary chaos. ]

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Karl Sharro’s Answer to Second Audience Questions: Time= 58:50_to_60:08  He asked if the West was likely to support any uprising in the Middle East that led to an Islamic government? He said the West is antagonistic to an Islamic country with advanced technology, where the state pays for transgender operations and there is a huge involvement of women in education. He said this country is Iran. He contrasted this attitude to the West being very friendly to Saudi Arabia, which is quite reactionary and repressive.

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[Missing Voice = The regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran are both dictatorial and highly repressive. One promotes Sunni Fundamentalism and the other Shia Fundamentalism. Both are shameful insults to Islam, and both have achieved this distortion of Islam through the misapplied profits from oil.

Like an old fashioned right-wing South American dictatorship, there are elections in Iran but the elite gets to veto any candidates which may threaten their bloated position. In Iran the veto is held by the Supreme Leader (Shia Cleric, currently Ali Khamenei), and two councils “Assembly of Experts of the Leadership” and “Guardian Council”, all of whose members are ultimately appointed by the Supreme Leader. Just like an old South American dictatorship the Iranian regime also rests on the approval of the army, in particular the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who like the elite of the Egyptian Army control a large slice of the Iranian economy (estimate 30%).

Being gay is illegal in Iran. Punishments range from lashings, imprisonment to death. It is estimated that between 4000 and 6000 people have been executed for being gay since the Iranian Revolution, some in public by being strangled as they are drawn up by a crane. Many gay people are forced to change gender by sexual reassignment surgery they do not want. This is the surgery that the Iranian regime pays for, and which Karl Sharro sees as progressive.

Iran is producing ballistic missiles like the recent “Sejjil” that has a range over 2000 km and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Iran has a uranium enrichment program to support power and medical applications. The “Iran Nuclear Deal” finally agreed in 2015, is supposed to ensure that there is no attempt to produce sufficient weapons grade highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb, in return for removing sanctions (in May 2018 the US under Trump withdrew from it). Continued Iran-North Korea military cooperation, especially in the development of ballistic missiles, may mean that Iran does not need to develop its own nuclear warheads.

Iran has been heavily involved in supporting Assad’s political genocide in Syria. It has sent and supported around 70,000 pro-Assad militia fighters to Syria. It has also equipped and supported Lebanese Hezbollah’s reign of terror in Syria in support of the Assad regime. Iran is also involved in supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. This includes supplying them with missiles they have fired at Saudi Arabia. This civil war has already created mass malnutrition, and is pushing millions of ordinary Yemenis towards starvation.

Reducing inequality remains a key slogan of the Iranian Revolution. The regime succeeded in reducing poverty substantially from the high levels of the brutally corrupt era of the Shah (in 1960s and 1970s Iranians saw oil revenues soar while they became poorer). The regime also managed to drastically improve education opportunities for Iranians. As the regime has matured the slogan has moved from reality to rhetoric. In 2013 for example the official Iranian government statistics reported unemployment at 11% while the reality was closer to 35% (according to Iranian academics like Hossein Raghfar), in a similar way official statistics claimed absolute poverty in 2013 was 8 % when the reality was over 20%. This is a common problem with authoritarian regimes where official statistics can be easily fabricated but are hard to challenge. In 2018 inflation soared and absolute poverty now effects over a third of the population. Unsurprisingly there are now 4.5 million Iranian drug addicts.

Clearly the Iranian regime cannot be blamed for changes in oil prices which are a critical component of the economy. It cannot also be blamed for the exploitive foreign policy of Western elites, which reached a peak in the Iraq-Iran War (the West supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) that lasted 8 years, and by 1988 the war had killed a quarter of a million Iranians. Since then the regime has misspent Iran’s assets in military expenditure to preserve and extend its control across the region. The regime can be blamed for suppressing alternative voices from the beginning of the revolution. Red Islamists (inspired by Ali Shariati) who were an essential part of the revolution were liquidated by Ayatollah Khomeini. It can be blamed for spreading an extremist destructive fundamentalist version of Shia Islam. Unrestricted corruption has created a clique close to the government of multi-millionaires at the expense of ordinary Iranians. National income has declined, expensive destructive foreign adventures and national corruption has increased, while the share left for ordinary Iranians has declined.

This is the Iranian regime that Karl Shaddo praised in 2012. As mentioned before this is perhaps due to his Iraqi Christian heritage which sees Fundamentalist Shia Islam as more tolerant of established Christian communities than fundamentalist Sunni Islam.

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Dr Tara McCormack: Time= 60:09_to_60:36  McCormack wrapped up before going to a debate on Syria in 15 minutes. The audience clapped enthusiastically.

14. Conclusion.

This was a distorted debate that gave the illusion of a fair range of independent views, but was designed to devalue meaningful intervention by Western Democracies in partnership with the Arab Spring. These Battle Of Events “debates” have some influence in London’s journalists. This debate had PR value in prompting the interests of Middle East dictatorships. There was no panel member who promoted a realistic strategy to support the legitimate interests of ordinary people for representative government in the Middle East.

Dr Tara McCormack (and Dr Tara McCormack) was an academic who specialized in criticism of the West, and apologized for the policies of the Russian and Chinese regimes. Rania Hafez was a wealthy ex-pat Lebanese academic with no concern for the interests and dignity of ordinary people in the region. Mark Seddon was a UK socialist with an unrealistic belief in the ability of the United Nations to enable representative government in the Middle East and elsewhere. Karl Sharro was another ex-pat from Lebanon, who had created a career as a successful architect. He rejected international forceful intervention of any kind, and appeared entirely unrealistic about how dictatorships in the region work. He also bizarrely presented Iranian regime propaganda, while also rejecting sectarianism. Nadim Shehadi was another ex-pat Lebanese academic with strong neo-conservative political ideas. He endorsed Western intervention of the type which would not empower ordinary citizens. His political ideas were elitist.

I am not aware that any of the panelists have substantially changed their views since 2012 on the issue of the Arab Spring and the struggle for representative government in the Middle East. Dr Tara McCormack and Denis Hayes appear to have become more blatant anti-Western propagandists.

The Missing Voice from the panel was given in this document. It’s conclusion was that intervention in the form of partnership was necessary in the Middle East, especially form 2011 onwards. The adoption of the arguments that the panelists expressed, and the lack of constructive voices, has created a disaster in the middle East which will undermine democracy in the West.

The last words to think on go to Larbi Sadiki in a hopeful Al-Jazeera article in 2012:

“From Muhammad Ali [C19 Egyptian Pasha] through Nasser to Bourguiba – and from Tantawi to Khair Al-Din Pasha – modernisation has been cemented, if not reduced, to a template of relative Western mimicry. Al-Banna [founder of the Muslim Brotherhood] reopens the Islamic repertoire in search of a brand of modernity that never accepts separate realms for God and for Caesar. ‘Islam is the solution’ as advertised in the standard slogan of the 1970s and 1980s is not an itinerary for fanaticism – as Western academy and security apparatuses have tended to oversimplify.

Rather, the phrase was intended to be a roadmap for organising politics, in which ‘God is great’ levels the playing field among mortals. The sanctity of life is conferred by God and humans cannot deny them to each other.

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Questioning Corbynism Group.

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Questioning Corbynism Group.

[Posted By Lara Keller 15/10/18 Updated 15/4/20]   anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

Articles questioning the nature of the popular UK political movement centred on radical  UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (“corbynism”). There are concerns about his  connections to the far-left, the Putin regime and groups like “Stop The War UK” that appear to favour anti-Western dictatorships. The UK economy by GDP is according to the IMF the fifth largest economy in the world in 2017. Possible political and economic chaos looms with Brexit (UK leaving EU), high level of total debt in the UK and a reaction by world money markets to a possible radical Corbyn (or successor’s) government.  Therefore the nature of “corbynism” matters as it will exposed by crisis. [or see whole category Questioning Corbynism Group].

Articles 2019:      (1)

12. The Prospective Foreign Policy of a Corbyn Government and its U.S. National Security Implications. By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim (Hudstone Institute,Sept 2019)

Articles 2018:      (7)

11. Jeremy Corbyn [id=40-j13]. Assad Apologists

10. How the left enabled fascism

9. What is Corbynism? The author of a new book explains why even some left-wingers have problems with it

8. TWITTER SCANDAL: Moscow mules: the left’s long romance with Russia

7. Exposed: Russian Twitter bots tried to swing general election for Jeremy Corbyn

6. How Russian bots invaded Twitter to fight in Jeremy Corbyn’s army

5. While Russia bans books, the useful idiot Corbyn swallows its lies whole. By Anne Applebaum 2015

Articles 2017:    (4)

4. Blinkered Theresa May and Blinkered Western Extremist Islamists: Enough is Enough.
(as a contrast also provide criticism of the attitudes of PM Teresa May, of the right-wing UK Conservative Party)

3. Corbyn is not who he pretends to be judged by his dictator friendly foreign policy ideas.

2. James Bloodworth: A left-wing case against Comrade Jeremy Corbyn (2015)

1. Jeremy Corbyn’s silence over Aleppo shows how he has become a lobbyist for Iran (2016)


What is Corbynism? The author of a new book explains why even some left-wingers have problems with it.

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[ A new book traces Jeremy Corbyn’s ideology from its roots. Clockwise from top left: Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, a Stop the War protest against bombing in Syria and a steel factory in operation (Photo: Getty) ]

[ Source= By: Karl McDonald 27/9/18 ]

[Posted by Lara Keller 28/9/18]

What is Corbynism? The author of a new book explains why even some left-wingers have problems with it.

The ‘critical’ book traces the ideology that informs the Labour leader’s policies.

Everyone knows who Jeremy Corbyn is, and most of have an idea of “Corbynistas” too – but relatively little thought has been put into what Corbynism really means as a political ideology.

It’s forgivable for the casual follower of the news to be confused. In the right-wing press, we hear about Jeremy Corbyn the Soviet bloc spy.

On the left, Corbynism tends to be romanticised. And in the centre, we’ve lived through the great punditry crisis of 2015-17, as the unelectable dinosaur did better than anyone could have imagined.

But little of what we read day today deals with what he actually believes and why. One effort to get to grips with this comes in the form of Corbynism: A Critical Approach, a book by Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts.

“The origins of the book lay in our frustrations with the way that Corbyn is critiqued or examined across the spectrum,” Bolton told “iNews” [Newspaper]. His book is heavy on theory – it’s certainly not afraid of discussing the “substantialist strand of value theory” for example – but it’s also filled with criticisms that we don’t often hear, coming from left-wing academics.

Here are some of the conclusions they’ve drawn:

1. Corbynism is not just one thing.

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[ Frederick Harry Pitts and Matt Bolton, authors of Corbynism: A Critical Approach. ]

“You’ve got the traditional left strand, which is kind of a mixture of Bennism and bit of Trotskyism,” he says. “There’s a kind of residual Stalinism there as well, represented by Corbyn himself, (shadow Chancellor) John McDonnell, (former Guardian writer and now strategist) Seumas Milne, (special adviser and former Communist Party member) Andrew Murray and (adviser) Andrew Fisher.”

Next, you’ve got the Momentum strand – still a little Bennite in its older members, but driven mostly by the energy of younger people radicalised after the 2008 crash.

“Then you’ve got the (Derby MP) Chris Williamson, Squawkbox,Canary thread, who I’m increasingly interested in,” says Bolton. “They’re really coming from a much more conspiratorial point of view.”

On top of that, there are postcapitalists, cultural theorists and more.

“All these different groups with different traditions have fed into Corbynism – and there are tensions between them,” says Bolton. “They come out from time to time with Brexit and with the anti-Semitism row over the summer – McDonnell was intent on shutting that down, but the more extreme elements were keen on pushing it. ”

Corbyn’s major achievement, he says, is that the Labour leader keeps things vague.

“When he talks about socialism, he says it’s just natural, it’s people being nice to one another. And because he doesn’t express himself in clear political terms, it allows other groups to project what they want on him.”

2. We wouldn’t have Corbynism – or as much of a left resurgence – without Corbyn himself.

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[Jeremy Corbyn on stage at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool (Photo: Getty)]

The vagueness goes some way towards explaining why Corbyn’s rise happened when it would have seemed impossible to an observer wondering whether Corbyn, McDonnell or Diane Abbott would emerge for a leftwing tilt at the leadership in 2015.

“Would Corbynism have been possible without Corbyn? The ideas were there, and we had the upsurge starting in 2008, but we’re doubtful that any other figure from the left would have been able to do it,” says Bolton.

“Would John McDonnell have done it? He’s too clear, almost, on his positions.”

“George Galloway? In a lot of ways he’s similar to Corbyn, they share a lot of positions and Galloway is close friends with Seumas Milne. But it seems implausible to me that he could have done it.”

3. Corbyn sees the world as good vs evil.

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[A Stop the War protest near Downing Street demands bombing of Syria stops (Photo: Getty)]

When Bolton and his co-author Frederick Harry Pitts use the term “Stalinism” in relation to Corbynism, they’re not talking about gulags. They’re referring to a particular world view that splits countries into two camps: the American “imperialist” camp on one side, and those who resist American dominance on the
other, led in Stalin’s time by the Soviet Union.

“If you look at Seamus Milne and Andrew Murray, both of whom were very influential in the Corbyn circle, they have an explicitly Stalinist background,” says Bolton.

“Andrew Murray was a member of the Communist Party until 2016. And the way that that feeds in to the Corbyn movement is mainly influencing foreign policy through a particular form of anti-imperialism which we call ‘two-campism’.”

He adds: “Any group that opposes the states that are seen as the embodiment of capitalism through the lens of imperialism, is seen as anti-capitalist.

“You can see this in particular with Syria. Because they view Assad as anti-American, they see any opposition to Assad as a proxy for the Americans. So these Syrians fighting basically for liberal democracy gets dismissed either as a jihadi thing or as stooges of American democracy.

“That world view has its roots in Leninism and Stalinism.”

4. He’s a Bennite – and Bennism is economic nationalism.

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[Jeremy Corbyn is keen to subsidise industry – including steel – in the UK (Photo: Getty)]

When it comes to policy at home, however, it’s not Soviet policy that the Labour leader reaches for.

Bolton and Pitts links Corbyn to Tony Benn’s Alternative Economic Strategy which emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s – the last time the left was a serious force within the party.

“On the one hand you have the notion of workers’ control of production, which you can see in the stuff they were talking about at conference with workers on boards,” Bolton says. “Lots of that is good stuff, we don’t disagree with everything.”

But the other side of Bennism is the idea that the British economy and industry were “under attack” from finance – and that Britain needed to build a “siege economy” to throw off the shackles of the bankers, Bolton says.

“We think that’s a form of economic nationalism – protecting British jobs and British industry from foreign intruders,” he says. “That’s dangerous. It’s politically ambivalent.”

5. It’s a short jump from ‘rigged economy’ to antisemitic tropes.

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[Fire and fury: former Trump adviser Steve Bannon (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)]

Bennism’s sense of attack from the financiers leads Corbyn to describe the economy as “rigged” – something that might be intuitive to a lot of left-wingers. But left-wingers aren’t the only people who use it, Bolton points out – Donald Trump, Bannon and even Michael Gove have adopted it too.

“The political ambivalence of the ‘rigged economy’ term alongside the economic nationalism is quite dangerous,” he says.

It’s this sort of thinking that leads Corbyn into his anti-Semitism rows.

“If you see capitalism as something that’s imposed on workers rather than something more general, it’s not inevitable that you end up with anti-semitism, but the potential is there.

“The combination of that and the good vs bad world view, you can end up repeating or stumbling into antisemitic tropes.”

6. He had his chance to oppose Brexit and missed it – probably on purpose.

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Jeremy Corbyn during the Remain campaign (Getty) ]

There’s a reason Jeremy Corbyn is “anti-EU by instinct”, as it’s presented in the media. In the Bennite tradition, the EU stops Britain building a “siege economy” and growing its industrial base without restriction, according to Bolton.

“They don’t want to be in the single market because they think it restricts their ability to provide state aid for national industry,” he adds – meaning he wants to be able to put public money into nationalised businesses in a way that might be illegal under EU rules.

Of course, Corbyn campaigned to Remain, and even if he did want to change his post-referendum position on Brexit, he had a chance to do it when Theresa May lost seats in the election. “They could have said you’ve had your chance, you’ve lost the election, let’s have a re-think. But they want Brexit, I think,” says Bolton.

7. The Corbynite intellectuals are losing control of their own fringes.

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Labour MP Chris Williamson is a leftist – but has been combative since leaving the shadow cabinet ]

Corbynism is open to many different left-wing ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t clash.

One particularly difficult subgrouping is what Bolton calls the “conspiratorial wing” – or the “Chris Williamson- Labour Against The Witch Hunt-Canary strand”.

“You’re starting to see a split between them and the intellectual leadership,” he says. “They’re starting to turn against them.”

“You can see the tension between the radical-but-sensible thinkers at the core of the party and their zealous outriders on social media and elsewhere when the latter turn against the leader’s perceived enemies.”

“Jon Lansman has done more for Corbynism than almost anyone apart from John McDonnell, maybe,” says Bolton.

“But once he does one thing to contradict the leadership’s position, which is put himself forward as General Secretary against Jennie Formby, instantly the Chris Williamson wing started to turn against him.”

“Suddenly it become, oh he’s a Zionist, he’s power-mad, it’s a secret Israeli agenda.”


International Assadists Reference Directory.


International Assadists Reference Directory.

[ Posted by Lara Keller 21/9/18 Updated 16/4/19 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[Expanded from web page by Kester Ratcliff, Original Source =]

[Article on range of Assadist opinion see here.]

A references directory on 171 (?) public figures who have expressed support and/or whitewashed the Assad regime, with examples and references.

The purpose of this list is to facilitate finding the references to see and to show people who genuinely don’t know what is true and who to trust about Syria why the people on this list should not be trusted as sources. I am not expecting anyone to read the whole thing, at least not in one sitting. I suggest you use Ctrl+F on a Windows computer or ⌘+F on a Mac to easily find the name(s) you’re looking for. There may be an online database facility in future.

Each time there’s an incident in Syria which breaks through into international public attention (only nerve toxin gas attacks or >1000 civilians killed in a week seem to trigger 1–2 weeks of international attention now), we get a week or two’s rush of people who have not been paying attention to the daily reporting from Syria before then sharing articles, videos and memes from pro-regime propaganda sources, often without knowing that’s what they are, and we are busy re-finding and copy-pasting the links around to show them why they shouldn’t trust those sources. I hope this reference list will at least make that easier and more efficient next time, because unfortunately there will be a next time, as we have still not done anything to make “never again” a reality.

I decided to spend quite a lot of time in introduction articles defining terms, because otherwise what happens is the other side just call this “propaganda”, as if words have no objective meaning independent of partisanship anymore.

I cut into a separate article my attempt to understand how it happened that so many mostly good people came to believe so much evil bullshit, which I think is more due to authoritarian regimes exploiting the built-in vulnerabilities in the structure, as it has been designed so far, of the social media part of the Public Sphere than it is due to the inherent moral frailties of human nature.

How have so many people become so seriously misled about Syria?
It is tempting but probably untrue to attribute malice to most people who believe narratives about Syria which are…

[ LK: It is important to understand what is meant by Assadist, and anti-Assadist, appreciate the range of opinions these terms cover and how people develop these stances. The original author provides essential prerequisite material on this in four  parts. It is important to realize Assadist is not meant by the author as a term of abuse. This directory could be used to understand why the Assad Regime is so hated, journalists to research sources, provide information on the range of people willing to apologize for a very violent and oppressive dictatorship or to study the variety of pro Assad propaganda and its intended audiences. There is no intention to provide or encourage the access to or inappropriate use of personal information. Content is limited to public sources. ]

Prerequisite material:

I will now continue the rest of the list in alphabetical order by second name. Corporate entity names I’ve alphabetised by the first letter of the first word.


  • shortArrow - CopyDiane Abbott  [id=1-a1]
  • shortArrow - CopySarah Abdallah (also known as ‘Sahouraxo’, formerly aka ‘Jnoubiyeh’ and ‘Muqawamist’) [id=2-a2]
  • shortArrow - CopySarah Abed [id=3-a3]
  • Ali Abuminah [id=4-a4]
  • Mother Agnes [id=5-a5]
  • Nafeez Ahmed [id=6-a6]
  • Tariq Ali [id=7-a7]
  • Louis Allday [id=8-a8]
  • James Allsup [id=9-a9]
  • Kevork Almassian [id=10-a10]
  • Tim Anderson [id=11-a11]
  • Paul Antonopolous [id=12-a12]
  • Andrew Ashdown [id=13-a13]


  • Steve Bannon [id=14-b1]
  • Arron Banks [id=15-b2]
  • Gérard Bapt [id=16-b3]
  • Ajamu Baraka [id=17-b4]
  • Yahya Barakat [id=18-b5]
  • Eva Bartlett [id=19-b6]
  • Thierry Baudet [id=20-b7]
  • Vanessa Beeley [id=21-b8]
  • Jens Bernert [id=22-b9]
  • Richard Black  [id=23-b10]
  • Christian Blex [id=24-b11]
  • Max Blumenthal [id=25-b12]
  • David Bromwich [id=26-b13]
  • Aisling Byrne [id=27-b14]


  • Tucker Carlson [id=28-c1]
  • Mike Cernovich [id=29-c2]
  • Noam Chomsky [id=30-c3]
  • Neil Clark [id=31-c4]
  • Alexander Cockburn [id=32-c5]
  • Patrick Cockburn [id=33-c6]
  • Elizabeth Cocker ‘Lizzie Phelan’ [id=34-c7]
  • Stephen Cohen [id=35-c8]
  • Gerry Condon [id=36-c9]
  • Alistair Crooke [id=37-c10]
  • Jonathan Cook [id=38-c11]
  • shortArrow - CopySheila Coombes [id=39-c12]
  • shortArrow - CopyJeremy Corbyn [id=40-c13]
  • Pierre le Corf [id=41-c14]
  • Alain Corvez [id=42-c15]
  • Ann Coulter [id=43-c16]
  • Baroness Caroline Cox [id=44-c17]


  • Sevim Dagdelen (*1975) [id=45-d1]
  • Clare Daly [id=46-d2]
  • Golden Dawn [id=47-d3]
  • Zlatko Dizdarevic [id=48-d4]
  • Jimmy Dore [id=49-d5]
  • Bob Dreyfuss [id=50-d6]
  • Tom Duggan [id=51-d7]
  • Wierd Duk [id=52-d8]
  • David Duke [id=53-d9]


  • European Solidarity Front for Syria (ESFS) [id=54-e1]
  • Pepe Escobar [id=55-e2]


  • Leith Abou Fadel [id=56-f1]
  • Robert Fisk [id=57-f2]
  • Sara Flounders [id=58-f3]
  • Peter Ford [id=59-f4]
  • Benjamin Fulford [id=60-f5]


  • Tulsi Gabbard [id=61-g1]
  • Uli Gack [id=62-g2]
  • George Galloway [id=63-g3]
  • Tim Gionet ‘Baked Alaska’ [id=64-g4]
  • Marco Glowatzki [id=65-g5]
  • Glenn Greenwald [id=66-g6]
  • Joachim Guilliard [id=67-g7]


  • Declan Hayes [id=68-h1]
  • Tim Hayward [id=69-h2]
  • Patrick Henningsen [id=70-h3]
  • Seymour Hersh [id=71-h4]
  • Peter Hitchens [id=72-h5]
  • Katie Hopkins [id=73-h6]


  • David Icke [id=74-i1]
  • Laura Ingraham [id=75-i2]
  • Robert Inlarkesh [id=76-i3]


  • Ken Jebsen [id=77-j1]
  • Simon Jenkins [id=78-j2]
  • Adam Johnson [id=79-j3]
  • shortArrow - CopyBoris Johnson [id=80-j4]
  • Caitlin Johnston [id=81-j5]
  • Alex Jones [id=82-j6]
  • Owen Jones [id=83-j7]


  • Leila Khaled [id=84-k1]
  • Rania Khalek [id=85-k2]
  • Janice Kortkamp [id=86-k3]
  • Dennis Kucinich [id=87-k4]
  • Harald Kujat (*1942) [id=88-k5]


  • Tomi Lahren [id=89-l1]
  • Joshua Landis [id=90-l2]
  • Adam Larson [id=91-l3]
  • Paul Lauradee [id=92-l4]
  • Carlos Latuff [id=93-l5]
  • Gregory Lauder-Frost [id=94-l6]
  • Régis Le Sommier [id=95-l7]
  • Christian Lindgren [id=96-l8]
  • Joe Lombardo [id=97-l9]
  • Michael Lüders [id=98-l10]


  • Jeff Mackler [id=99-m1]
  • Abby Martin [id=100-m2]
  • Aaron Mate [id=101-m3]
  • shortArrow - CopyTara McCormack [id=102-m4]
  • Ray McGovern [id=103-m5]
  • Gavin McInnes [id=104-m6]
  • Paul McKeigue [id=105-m7]
  • Barbara McKenzie [id=106-m8]
  • Kerry-Anne Mendoza [id=107-m9]
  • Guy Mettan [id=108-m10]
  • Günter Meyer (*1946) [id=109-m11]
  • Thierry Meyssan [id=110-m12]
  • David Miller [id=111-m13]
  • Seumus Milne [id=112-m14]
  • Stefan Molyneux [id=113-m15]
  • Craig Murray [id=114-m16]


  • Sharmine Narwani [id=115-n1]
  • Donna Nassor [id=116-n2]
  • Ben Norton [id=117-n3]
  • Forza Nouva [id=118-n4]
  • Paul Nuttall [id=119-n5]


  • Eoin Ó Murchú [id=120-o1]
  • Ken O’Keefe [id=121-o2]
  • Carla Ortiz [id=122-o3]


  • Marcus Papadopolous [id=123-p1]
  • Robert Parry [id=124-p2]
  • Rand Paul [id=125-p3]
  • Ron Paul [id=126-p4]
  • John Pilger [id=127-p5]
  • Jaap Plaiser [id=128-p6]
  • Jurgen Pohl [id=129-p7]
  • Gareth Porter [id=130-p8]
  • Theodore Postol [id=131-p9]
  • Casa Pound [id=132-p10]
  • Vijay Prashad [id=133-p11]


[No Entries]


  • Michel Raimbaud [id=134-r1]
  • Sami Ramadani [id=135-r2]
  • John Rees [id=136-r3]
  • Paul Craig Roberts [id=137-r4]
  • Piers Robinson [id=138-r5]
  • Dana Rohrabacher [id=139-r6]
  • Kris Roman [id=140-r7]
  • Pierre-Yves Rougeyron [id=141-r8]


  • Susan Sarandon [id=142-s1]
  • MP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser [id=143-s2]
  • Elham Shaheen [id=144-s3]
  • Pearson Sharp [id=145-s4]
  • Fares Shehabi [id=146-s5]
  • Alain Soral [id=147-s6]
  • SOS Chrétiens d’Orient [id=148-s7]
  • Richard Spencer [id=149-s8]
  • Jonathan Steele [id=150-s9]
  • Jill Stein [id=151-s10]
  • Rick Sterling [id=152-s11]
  • Maram Sulsi ‘Partisan Girl’ [id=153-s12]
  • “Swedish Doctors for Human Rights” (SWEDHR)/Marcello Ferranda De Noli [id=154-s13]
  • Le Club Suisse / Swiss Press Club [id=155-s14]


  • Emily Thornberry [id=156-t1]
  • Hans-Thomas Tillschneider [id=157-t2]
  • Jürgen Todenhöfer [id=158-t3]


  • US Peace Council [id=159-u1]


  • Beatrix Von Storch [id=160-v1]
  • Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) [id=161-v2]


  • Sahra Wagenknecht[id=162-w1]
  • Roger Waters [id=163-w2]
  • Paul Joseph Watson [id=164-w3]
  • Ian Wilkie [id=165-w4]
  • Asa Winstanley [id=166-w5]
  • Ann Wright [id=167-w6]


[No Entries]


  • Milo Yiannopolous [id=168-y1]
  • Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Yonan [id=169-y2]


  • Slavoj Zizek [id=170-z1]
  • Zwart Front [id=171-z2]


Ten Point Scale and Common Features of Assadism (By Kester Ratcliff).

assadApologist - Copy

Ten Point Scale of Assadism (By Kester Ratcliff).

[Posted by Lara Keller 17/9/18] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[From web page by Kester Ratcliff, Original Source =]

What it means to identify someone as an ‘Assadist’.

This is a progressive list of relatively less committed gradually through to the most committed Assadist statements. People who only repeat points 1–4 are more likely to be recoverable than people who are assert 4–9. Point 10 is where they clearly cross a legal line from nonfactual and morally repugnant to a criminal act of incitement of a crime against humanity (explained below).

  1. ‘There are no good guys left- there was a civilian uprising in 2011, but there are only Islamist jihadis now.’ (this claim debunked here)
  2. ‘It’s Assad or the Islamist extremists. The Assad regime is secular and the protector of minorities.’ (debunking)
  3. ‘Assad is the legitimate President of Syria, and the Russian and Iranian forces were invited by him so their intervention is legitimate, but any other foreign intervention to limit mass atrocities is illegitimate.’
  4. ‘There was no genuine civilian uprising or revolution, it was a foreign regime change conspiracy. Assad is resisting imperialism.’ (videos)
  5. ‘The Assadi-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian regime’s atrocity crimes are not real but are exaggerated or fictitiously created by Western propaganda.’
  6. Victim blaming — ‘the Syrian revolutionaries and political opposition, civilians and combatants, are to blame for rebelling against legitimate authority and they are ‘terrorists’ for rejecting the government.’
  7. ‘The Assadi-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian regime has not used CWs’ / ‘if they did it was justified’ (the latter is almost exclusively found in Assadist domestic propaganda in Arabic, see examples).
  8. ‘Al Qaeda and ISIS are supported or controlled by the West / by Israel.’
  9. ‘The White Helmets are fake humanitarian aid workers and are associated with / are terrorists.’
  10. ‘The White Helmets are legitimate military targets and should be attacked.’

The distinction between points 9 and 10 is abetment vs. incitement of a crime against humanity. Most Assadists say point 9, very few go as far as 10, but almost all associate themselves with one who does say 10, Vanessa Beeley.

Recently, Bashar al-Assad has also publicly announced in RT that the regime targets the White Helmets as “terrorists” — I think this is military targeting following propaganda, rather than propaganda following military targeting.

In listing these 151(171?) people as Assadists, I am not saying that they are all equivalent. It is not a 0/1 binary, it is a scalar variable. Especially for the milder cases, who might otherwise legitimately complain about being lumped together, I have tried to specify where I think they are on my 1–10 scale. But I think people who only repeat the milder points on the scale of Assadism and frequently associate with the more overt or extreme Assadists play an important role in mainstreaming and legitimising the more extreme people.

Common features (roots?) of all varieties of Assadism.

In my opinion the following four features are common to all varieties of international Assadism, from the far right to far left (the meaning of the distinction ‘right’/ ‘left’ breaks down when it is applied to Assadists).

1. Objectification.

Objectification (Naussbaum, 1995, p.257) of an imagined ‘Other’ group of people, reduced to blocs, moved by the hands of imagined more powerful agents, which are typically more like the self. Such imagination of other people is both expressed and transmitted in linguistic framing metaphors such as ‘chess’ or ‘international players’, i.e. game metaphorical framing of counter-revolutionary and genocidal mass atrocities, in which people are imaginatively reduced to ‘remote-controlled pawns’ (Maher Arar’s term). The form and perhaps the origin of this objectification is the Western-centricism that even when it is anti-Western still renders the Oriental, Arabs and Muslims, as imaginary objects rather than as persons with agency. [LK: The denial of effective agency by powerful external countries is the principal reason for the survival of the illegitimate brutal Assad dictatorship.]

Extract on Western-Centrism (“The Syrian Cause and Anti-Imperialism”):

objectification - Copy

2. Islamophobia / Anti-Muslim prejudice.

International Assadists, as much as I have seen, all share the trait of negative stereotyping of Muslims, or even all brown skinned people, as “jihadis” or “Islamist terrorists”. This is the most prominent common feature of all varieties of international Assadism; in some cases it’s more subtle, but I think it’s always there at least implicitly. Some of the far right Assadists call all brown skinned refugees and other migrants ‘jihadis’ (even Eritrean Christians), yet they are willingly blind to the Shia regimes and militias allied with the Russian regime and international fascist groups. In my observations, hardly anyone who says ‘Islamist’ is clear what even they mean by it; in most uses, it’s a label projected onto people just to demonise them.

The function of such stereotyping, and why it occurs so commonly in populist nationalist groups, is to create an imagined, idealised enemy group to negatively identify themselves against, and to lay the guilt of the internal differences, rivalry and conflicts of their populist nationalist community, which they ideologically presume must be united, onto a scapegoat group to be sacrificed, to take away the guilt of their community’s differences (Girard, 2001).

Leftist Assadists also identify ‘jihadis’ by signs such as — exclaiming ‘God is greater!’ (“Allahu akbar”), showing the one finger gesture of tawhid — testifying to the one-ness of God, having a beard while brown, or having a sticker of the Shahada on a vehicle’s rear windscreen (this was one of Vanessa Beeley’s ‘proofs’ that ‘the White Helmets are Al-Qaeda’), which of course are just signs of being Muslim, not at all particular to extremists or terrorists. I have never seen anyone who was interested negatively in ‘Islamists’ ever even attempt to define exactly what they mean by ‘Islamism’, since the term is more useful to them kept vague. [LK: Secularism inconsistently applied is a feature of far-left mindset]

Example of Islamophobia on Twitter (DR+MW have 1000s of followers):

deplorableRocky - Copy

3. Phobia of “mainstream media” and “experts”.

Assadists as far as I have seen commonly share the Populist strategy of cultivating distrust of the home society’s specialists and institutions, and rejection of ‘mainstream media’ (some Assadists literally call the mainstream media ‘lügenpresse’, echoing Hitler), accompanied by a willing credulity about the sources which are delegitimising the institutions of the home society and an unwillingness to consider whether those criticising are really more trustworthy or are actually even worse.

apologistsGuardian - Copy.jpg

[LK: Interesting their target is the only serious mainstream left-wing newspaper in the UK.]

Attacking the credibility of democratic institutions and specialists also creates an echo chamber — a group who distrust all outsiders, who only believe what members of their own echo chamber tell them, and who collectively attack any source of information that threatens their group identity. The Populist strategy can almost be defined as the process of generating an echo chamber.

Populism and echo chamber generating tactics (including ‘audience segmentation’) and conspiracism are inherently inter-related, because conspiracy theories’ main effect is to persuade the audience to reallocate trust and political authority away from the home society’s institutional specialists and to the new populist leaders (and their geopolitical backers), so almost all populists frequently use conspiracy theories in their legitimation narratives.

As C Thi Nguyen says, it is as difficult to leave or to recover people from a political echo chamber as to leave or to recover people from a religious cult — Escape the echo chamber: First you don’t hear other views, then you can’t trust them, then your personal information network entraps you just like a cult.

4. Authoritarianism.

‘Solidarity’ in Assadist ideology is imagined to mean solidarity with States, not people. Far right and left Assadists (even those who self-identify as anarchists) share an authoritarian and Statist attitude to political relationships — politics is what States do, not the collective decisions and actions of people. When they say ‘Syria’ they invariably mean the Assad regime, not the Syrian people. The only Syrians represented personally in international Assadist narratives are regime spokespersons, or subjected to implicit threats by their Mukhabarat minders to say only what they know is expected. It would be suicidal to say anything unexpected to someone on one of the regime-minded tours without being completely certain that they would not reveal any identifying information which could lead the Mukhabarat to find out who said it. Leila al-Shami develops these points fully in this article — The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots.

The Anti-Israel theme is frequent but not fully common, as far as I have seen. There are some otherwise seemingly centre-right public figures who are, at least – as a stance they must perform for their own political gain – pro-Israel. [LK: All serious anti-Assadists also appear to be anti-Zionists, but not of the rabid anti-Israel sense]

How or why people become useful idiots for violent tyrannical regimes is an hard and intriguing question I’ve struggled with for years. I assume that the difference between a useful idiot and an agent is a slippery scale, not a dichotomy. I think James Bloodworth has done a good and concise job of trying to understand how different types of useful idiots develop, here — Six types of ‘useful idiot’: The Seeker, Uptopian, Power Worshipper, Relativist, Stability-Fetishist and Nostalgist.


The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections. Author Alexander Reid Ross.

Evgeny Prigozhin - Copy

The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections.Author Alexander Reid Ross (21/2/18)

[ Posted by Lara Keller 6/4/18 Updated 21/4/19 ] anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

[Source = ]
[Web Archive = ]

[Start Article]

Special counsel Robert Mueller, Jr., indicted 13 agents from the Saint Petersburg based Internet Research Agency last Friday, but the shadowy figures behind the organization remain obscure.

Tracing those involved leads to an intriguing web of far-right paramilitary groups, think tanks and institutes directed by a trans-national, far right network of oligarchs, politicians and media figures.

The Internet Research Agency was founded and led by Evgeny Prigozhin, a catering industry mogul known by some as “Putin’s chef.” Prigozhin met Putin as his financial success through the St. Petersburg gambling business brought increased influence and lucrative state contracts. Two years after conceiving of the Internet Research Agency during the protests of 2011, Prigozhin opened the “Kharkiv news agency” in opposition to the 2013 Euromaidan movement.

Prigozhin is also tied to the conception and funding of a semi-private military company called “Wagner” known to have operated both in Ukraine and Syria under Dmitry Utkin, a man notorious for his “adherence to the aesthetics and ideology of the Third Reich.” Wagner Private Military Company is said to be co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Defense and to have participated in the military occupation of Crimea. The U.S. sanctioned Prigozhin in 2014, stating, “a company with significant ties to him holds a contract to build a military base near the Russian Federation border with Ukraine.”

Analysis by U.S. Strategic Command from 2015, revealed that Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency was an important site in a larger network. Its $1.25 million per month budget and some 80 employees helped its “Translator Project” act as a force multiplier for a host of pro-Kremlin sites, articles, and people linked to syncretic think tanks and institutes bridging far-right interests from Russia to the U.S. as an extension of “hybrid warfare.”

Perhaps most interestingly, the Translator Project allegedly set up fake far-right and left-wing groups like “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist,” “United Muslims of America” and “Heart of Texas,” advertised them, and deceived hundreds of thousands of people into joining them. In one astonishing case, unwitting members of a Russian troll page were led to stage an armed, Islamophobic protest in Houston.

The strategy: managed nationalism and hybrid warfare

A clue as to the strategy of the Internet Research Agency can be found among the leading members under indictment. Around the time their employee Anna Bogacheva allegedly visited the U.S. in 2014 to gather intelligence, she registered a PR firm called IT Debugger with Mikhail Potepkin, a former leader of the violent, far-right youth brigade, Nashi.

Developed along with several other youth brigades linked to the Kremlin during a short period between 2004 and 2005, Nashi formed part of what then-First Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov called “managed nationalism.” Concerned about a possible “Color Revolution” in Russia, Surkov hoped to simulate an opposition movement and keep the public under the Kremlin’s control.

“Managed nationalism” and Surkov’s analysis of “network structures” paved the way for a strategy penned in 2013 by Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces of Russia. Now known as the Gerasimov Doctrine, The New York Times called it “RT, Sputnik, and Russia’s new theory of war.” In Gerasimov’s words, “The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures—applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.”

By the time Hillary Clinton received the official nomination of her party, strategy papers produced by the Kremlin-linked think tank Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) had specifically called on the Kremlin to dedicate such “applied methods” to “a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama,” according to Reuters.

An Elite Club”

Longtime political operator in the Russian far-right, Aleksander Dugin, has worked for most of the past three decades to develop syncretic, left-right cooperation among anti-liberal opposition groups throughout the world. His influence on, and involvement in, “managed nationalism” and the Gerasimov Doctrine is consistent with his agency in the network that influenced the 2016 elections.

Shortly after Gerasimov published his doctrine, Dugin’s efforts came to a head. He sent his associate Georgiy Gavrish a memo listing a number of pro-Russia political leaders on the European far right and left. Intent on making Moscow the “New Rome” of a spiritual empire of federated ethnostates from Dublin to Vladivastok and stretching south to the Indian Ocean, Dugin’s main aspiration lay in consolidating support networks for the Kremlin and developing ideological unity for his “Eurasianist” geopolitics.

Dugin’s efforts produced a “think tank” called Katehon with influential board members including a senior member of Putin’s Yedinaya Rossiya party and Leonid Reshetnikov, then the leader of the RISS. Reshetnikov is infamous for complaining in February 2016 that WWII was “orchestrated” by “the upper crust of the Anglo-Saxon elite” and is believed by officials to have sponsored a coup attempt that October to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

Another member of Katehon’s board, Lyndon LaRouche associate Sergei Glazyev, co-founded the far-right Rodina (Motherland) Party with Dugin, which in 2014 to 2015 led conferences and coordinating groups including members of the racist “alt-right”” and the U.S. left that helped prepare the networks Dugin sought.

At the helm of Katehon’s board sits Dugin’s associate Konstantin Malofeev. Known as the “Orthodox Oligarch” for his far-right political positions and proximity to the Russian Orthodox Church, Malofeev was sanctioned by the U.S. for allegedly bankrolling the pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea where Wagner Company operated. Aleksandr Borodai, the first prime minister of the Donetsk Republic, and Igor Strelkov, its first minister of defense, served as Malofeev’s former PR man and security chief, respectively.

The U.S. connection

Many of the crucial connections between the Katehon network and the Western far-right can be found through their mutual commitments to the anti-LGBQT hate group, World Congress of Families. When Stephen Bannon delivered a speech on the merits of Dugin and fascist occultist Julius Evola in June 2014 to high-level members of the World Congress of Families in the Vatican, he effectively endorsed the guiding “Eurasianist” spirit behind Katehon.

Bannon’s speech came in the middle of a four-year period during which Robert Mercer paid him to work for an anti-Clinton group. Also the primary funder of Breitbart News, Mercer was a member of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP), which supported Trump staunchly during the 2016 elections and is heavily involved in the World Congress of Families.

The CNP has a long history of bridging U.S. and Russian far-right interests, dating back to when its founder Paul Weyrich and executive committee member Robert Kriebel helped launch the career of pro-Russia lobbyist Edward Lozansky — a man who would take a leading role in feeding the troll armies of the far right nearly 30 years later.

Deeply connected to the U.S. far-right, Lozansky founded a dubious think tank eventually named the American University in Moscow “on the same floor as the Heritage Foundation.” Through his organizations, Lozansky has hosted conferences and an annual event known as the World Russia Forum. Featuring speakers like Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions and Dana Rohrabacher, the World Russia Forum and Lozansky’s Russia House enjoy a high profile inside the Beltway of Washington, DC. However, there is a more obscure side to the Russia Forum and its related American University in Moscow.

Lozansky’s syncretic fellows

Lozansky’s American University in Moscow has become a crucial hub for the cultivation of editors and journalists behind key “fake news” sites propagated by the “Translation Project.” The list of “Fellows” at his institution is a rogues gallery of syncretic pro-Kremlin spin doctors:

Other pro-Kremlin Fellows listed by Lozansky’s American University in Moscow, Darren Spinck, James Jatras and Anthony Salvia are partners in pro-Kremlin groups like the American Institute in Ukraine and the PR group, Global Strategic Communications Group, which sold its services to Rodina during a period when Rodina’s deputies signed a petition to ban Jews from Russia and the party was proscribed from the Duma elections for virulently racist campaign ads.

Aside from contributing to Global Independent Analytics with Armstrong, Jatras also served as a witness for the defense at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and is featured on a number of YouTube videos posted by Katehon.

The red-brown creep

Lozansky has a long and extensive relationship with Dugin, hosting him at influential conferences in 2004 and 2005, along with red-brown propagandist Aleksandr Prokhanov, Rodina leader Dmitri Rogozin, and other éminences grises of the U.S. and Russian far-right.

In September 2008, Lozansky joined Dugin for a conference with far-right figures such as fascist creator of the European New Right Alain de Benoist, Duginist Israeli far-right leader Avigdor Eskin and Israel Shamir, a holocaust denying antisemite who would later become the Russian emissary for Wikileaks. Within a few weeks, Dugin and Lozansky appeared together on the TV program “Three Corners” for a discussion on the merits of “soft power.”

“In our world (we are talking about the information space) ideas can also play a bigger role,” Lozansky cautioned, “even more important than guns and missiles.”

A week after the Crimea crisis touched off in April 2014, Lozansky’s heavy frame was hunched over a long conference table across from Dugin in a cramped, stuffy conference room. They were discussing the role of media in the “New Cold War.”

The next September, Lozansky moderated a roundtable discussion at the World Russia Forum to consider a “Proposal to Establish ‘Committee for East – West Accord.’” Co-moderated by American University in Moscow Fellow Gilbert Doctorow, the roundtable featured leading Duginist Andrew Korybko, as well as a number of professors from U.S. and Russian institutions. The U.S. side of the Committee would be spearheaded by professor and contributing editor of The Nation, Stephen F. Cohen, along with an influential board including former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former ambassadors William vanden Heuvel and Jack Matlock.

That month, Cohen’s associate Doctorow helped editor Charles Bausman create the antisemitic website Russia Insider. Soon after, Doctorow joined alternative journalism site Consortium News, which accepts tax-deductible donations for Russia Insider as a fiscal sponsor. Doctorow and Lozansky went on to write three articles together in the Washington Times. Russia Insider features a contact form to get in touch with Lozansky through their website. However, when Hatewatch wrote to Lozansky using Russia Insider’s contact form, we received no response. Within 24 hours, Lozansky’s website,, mysteriously went dark.

An information shell game

While the Kremlin’s propagandists disseminate half-truths, distortions and lies, they rely on sites like Consortium News, Russia Insider, Global Independent Analytics and The Duran to adopt their narratives and “launder” them so that “the original source… is either forgotten or impossible to determine,” according to expert on the far right Anton Shekhovtsov’s latest book, Russia and the Western Far Right. This project utilizes what national security site War on the Rocks calls “‘gray’ measures, which employ less overt outlets controlled by Russia, as well as so-called useful idiots that regurgitate Russian themes and ‘facts’ without necessarily taking direction from Russia or collaborating in a fully informed manner.”

By election season, the network of “less overt” sites had developed behavior patterns and positions spurred on by the troll factory: they supported the illegal Crimea referendum, denied the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and denigrated Syria’s humanitarian White Helmets. They also often operated as connectors to far-right sites like Breitbart News and conspiracy-theory site, Infowars, which crossposted more than 1,000 RT articles between 2014 and 2017 and published two interviews with Dugin last year.

Such apparent unity of action and intent may have also occurred because the “fake news” sites boosted by the Translation Project have significant audience overlap, as well as institutional crossover. For example, the syncretic site 21stCenturyWire crossposts stories from Consortium News and features interviews with its founder, the late Robert Parry. Created by former Infowars associate editor, Patrick Henningsen, 21stCenturyWire’s archived stories trade in antisemitic Soros and Rothschild conspiracy theories and a battery of Kremlin-supported stories maligning the White Helmets in Syria.

Regarding 21stCenturyWire’s stories, analytics engines found “evidence of coordination of timing and messaging around significant events in the news cycle” among “many known pro-Kremlin troll accounts, some of which were closed down as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the US election.” Given its Kremlin support, it is unsurprising that 21stCenturyWire hosts an alt-right podcast called Boiler Room, as well as an interview with Dugin, himself, while publishing Korybko as a “special contributor.”

There are many more similar sites on the web and, despite the indictments of 13 members of the Internet Research Agency, the echo chamber of cutouts, fake profiles, front groups and conspiracy sites that duped hundreds of thousands of people across the political spectrum shows no sign of relenting. In the 48 hours before time of writing, Russia Insider, 21stCenturyWire and Duginist site Fort-Russ were all trending domains and URLs on the Russian “botnet.” Only an informed public will be able to take down the crisis of “fake news” and its illiberal progenitors.

Alexander Reid Ross is a Lecturer in geography at Portland State University. His latest book Against the Fascist Creep was named one of the Portland Mercury’s best books of 2017.

Patrick Simpson and Grant Stern contributed research for this article.

[End Article]

The multipolar spin how fascists operationalize left wing resentment.

multipolar - Copy

The multipolar spin how fascists operationalize left wing resentment.

[ Source= The multipolar spin: how fascists operationalize left-wing resentment. By SPLC ]

[Posted By Lara Keller 17/3/18 Updated 22/4/19]  anchorTableSmall - Copy Blog Table Of Contents

(This article was originally posted on Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog but was taken down after threat of litigation by Max Blumenthal. It is reproduced here in full. Source= Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist, The multipolar spin: how fascists operationalize left-wing resentment, from removed SPLC post. March 15,  2018.)

[Start Article]

During his recent tour of Europe, disgraced former Trump strategist Steve Bannon declared “Italy is in the lead.”

Amid the historic resurgence of the Italian far right that returned right-wing populist Silvio Berlusconi to prominence, Bannon fantasized about “the ultimate dream” of unifying the anti-establishment Five Star Movement with the far-right League (formerly the Northern League) through a populist movement. Bannon’s international vision of nationalist populist movements is locked into the Kremlin’s geopolitical ideology of a “multipolar world.”

The League is tied through a cooperation pact to Putin’s Russia, and its deputy in charge of relations with foreign parties, Claudio D’Amico, explicitly called for a “multipolar world” in Katehon, a think tank created by fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin. Following the ideological line Dugin put forward in his text, Foundations of Geopolitics, Katehon calls for uniting a “Eurasian” bloc in constant struggle against “Atlanticist” countries. For Dugin, the “21st century gamble” is to create a “multipolar” confederation of “Traditionalist” regional empires united under Russian sovereignty that will overthrow the “unipolar” empire of “postmodern” democracies.

Shortly after Putin’s election in 2000, the Kremlin released a set of foreign policy guidelines calling for a “multipolar world order” against the “strengthening tendency towards the formation of a unipolar world under financial and military domination by the United States.” Escalating with the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in 2004, the Kremlin’s production of soft-power networks throughout Europe and the United States involves- think tanksloansforumspropaganda outlets and cooperation agreements with far-right parties like the Austrian Freedom Party and the League. From Russia to Iran to Western Europe and the U.S., this international movement uses conspiracy theories and “gray material” to warp the political spectrum into a populist referendum along “geopolitical” terms set by fascist engagées.

Red and brown polarities.

As a recent major report on syncretic networks exposed, the modern fascist movement’s obsession with geopolitics emerged in force amid the post-Cold War antiglobalization movement. In 2002, a front group formed out of the U.S.-based Workers’ World Party known as the International Action Center joined forces with the Assisi-based “Campo Antimperialista.” As Duginists infiltrated the Campo, opening a journal called Eurasia that garnered the influential involvement of Campo participant Costanza Preve, the International Action Center continued their cooperation.

Soon, a similar Russian group called the Anti-Globalist Resistance began to repost the Campo’s dispatches. Sharing support for Milosevic with the Campo and the International Action Center, the Anti-Globalist Resistance emerged simultaneously with the same tendency to fight globalization by linking far-right to hard-left. In 2008, they brought the Campo to Moscow for the third “All-Russia Anti-Globalist Forum,” introduced by long-time U.S. fascist Lyndon LaRouche [alt better link Lyndon LaRouche]. The next year’s conference included Duginist leaders like Leonid Savin and retired General Leonid Ivashov [alt better link Leonid Ivashov], along with LaRouche and Holocaust denier Israel Shamir.

As their work continued, the Campo and Anti-Globalist Resistance drew more anti-globalization activists into their syncretic orbit. In 2012, a group came together at a Campo Antimperialista event in Assisi and developed what would become the Syria Solidarity Movement. The movement’s steering committee came to include top figures from groups from the U.S. hard left, including the Workers World Party, its affiliate, ANSWER and a spinoff of the latter group called the Party of Socialism and Liberation.

After changing their name to the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, the group drew people from the Syria Solidarity Movement’s network to a conference called the “Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multipolar World” in 2014. A delegate from the International Action Center attended, along with delegates from another Workers World Party front group called United Anti-War Coalition, including an editor with the Black Agenda Report named Margaret Kimberly. Among the conference’s other attendees were Michael Hill of the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Texas Nationalist Movement, as well as the far-right Republika of Srpska and National Bolshevik Italian Communitarian Party.

The following year, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia met with a purported Cherokee Nation elder named “Mashu White Feather” and a representative of the Uhuru Movement, also connected to the Black Agenda Report. They then organized a state-funded conference that drew members of the fascist Italian group Millenium [alt better link Millenium], Mutti’s associate Antonio Grego, and a leading member of the far-right Rodina party, as well as representatives of separatist groups like the Texas Nationalist Movement and the Catalan Solidarity for Independence party. The now-notorious troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, would later invite the Texas Nationalist Movement to join an armed, Islamophobic protest launched by the fake “Heart of Texas,” while also inciting counter-protestors.

This network map shows the flow of movement building from parties to front groups to participation in and creation of syncretic coalitions.

The Syria connection.

The Syria Solidarity Movement lists on its steering committee a host of syncretic figures like DuginistNavid Nasr and an Australian representative of the fascist-modeled Syrian Social Nationalist Party affiliateMussalaha. Before a report revealed her associations with Global ResearchRon Paul and the right-wing British Constitution Party, conspiracy theorist Vanessa Beeley held a position on the steering committee as well.

As an editor at the alt-right-associated conspiracy theory site, 21stCenturyWire, Beeley’s repeated conspiracy articles attempting to link the White Helmets to al Qaeda and George Soros earned her a visit with Assad in Damascus and senior Russian officials in Moscow; however, they have been thoroughly debunked. A defender of right-wing Hungarian president Viktor Orban, Beeley promotes antisemites like Gilad Atzmon and Dieudonné, even speaking at a conference hosted by the latter in partnership with notorious Holocaust denier Laurent Louis. Regardless, the Syrian Solidarity Movement and the associated Hands Off Syria Coalition recommend Beeley’s work.

Along with members of the Syria Solidarity Movement, delegates who attended the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia’s “Multipolar World” conference sit on the Hands off Syria Coalition’s steering committee. Showing its commitments and affinities, in January 2016, the Hands Off Syria Coalition published a “Multipolar World Against War” statement signed by the leader of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, Alexander Ionov.

Similarly, the Hands Off Syria Coalition website publicizes self-described Marxist, Tim Anderson, who has an interesting record of attending far-right conferences. In 2015, Anderson attended the far-right Brandherd Syrien Congress, and the next year he was at Defend Our Heritage’s Leura Forum, chaired by a leader of far-right party Alternative for Germany. Following that, Anderson’s pet project, Center of Counter Hegemonic Studies, convened a conference that brought in Paul Antonopoulos, an editor for the Duginist website Fort Russ.

The Hands Off Syria Coalition advertises Anderson’s book, The Dirty War on Syria, which is published by syncretic conspiracist site Global Research. Multiple “Research Associates” of Global Research sit on the “scientific committee” of the Campo-linked Duginist journal Geopolitica, and the site lists as its “partner media group” the Voltaire Network. Publishing LaRouchite and Duginist articles, the Voltaire Network boasts the Syrian Social Nationalist Party’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs as its Vice President. One of the Voltaire Network’s leading contributors is Mikhail Leontyev, an associate of Dugin who has moved from prominent media personality to the role of spokesman for Russian state oil company, Rosneft. The Syria Solidarity Movement publishes Voltaire Network articles by founder Thierry Meyssan, a contributor to Campo-linked journal Eurasia who associates with Holocaust deniers and open fascists, among others.

Hands Off Syria Coalition steering committee member Issa Chaer joined Meyssan on a panel at the Second New Horizons conference in Iran in 2012. Conference speakers that year included World Workers Party member Caleb Maupin, Alt Right journalist Tim Pool, Holocaust denier Kevin Barrett, and Duginists like Voltaire Network associate Mateusz Piskorski, German editor Manuel Ochsenreiter, Leonid Savin, and Claudio Mutti the leading fascist infiltrator of the Campo Antimperialista. The banner image for last year’s New Horizon features Aleksandr Dugin.

Multipolar propaganda.

According to the metrics search engine BuzzSumo, most of the leading articles with the terms “multipolar world” and “multi-polar world” in the title come from an interconnected network of sites, including Global Research, The Duran and Sign of the Times. With an estimated six million unique daily views per month, the biggest and most influential in this network is the Russian state-run media site Sputnik News.

Billing itself as pointing “the way to a multipolar world that respects every country’s national interests, culture, history and traditions,” Sputnik frequently publishes PiskorskiOchsenreiter, Mutti’s fellow Campo infiltrator Tiberio Graziani, commentator Andrew Korybko and Fort Russ editor Joaquin Flores. Furthermore, Sputnik has joined RT in consistently using dubious sources affiliated with the Syria Solidarity Network to attack the White Helmets and throw doubt on the Assad regime’s war crimes, for instance its use of chemical weapons.

A syncretic hub on Sputnik, anti-imperialist John Wight’s podcast, “Hard Facts,” promotes the same figures associated with the pro-Assad network in the West, including Beeley, Anderson, and Nasr. Perhaps most interestingly, Wight also hosted trans-national far-right figure, Edward Lozansky during the 2016 election and again early the next year.

With more than 30 years of involvement in the U.S. and Russian far right, Lozansky is perhaps most known as the creator of the American University in Moscow. Boasting a number of Fellows involved in pro-Kremlin media outlets like The Duran, RT and Russia Insider, the American University in Moscow appears to be an ideological center in the concerted social media campaign associated with the Internet Research Agency to boost anti-Clinton, pro-Kremlin propaganda in the U.S. Lozansky also hosts conferences with known fascist ideologues and an annual “Russia Forum” featuring far-right politicians and left-wing media operators from Russia and the U.S.

During both of his pro-Putin, pro-Trump interviews with Lozansky on “Hard Facts,” Wight advocated “a multipolar alternative to the unipolar world,” insisting, “we’re talking about a struggle for a multipolar world to replace the unipolarity that has wreaked so much havoc since the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.”

The most important anti-imperialist hub on Sputnik, however, is hosted by Brian Becker, whose fellow party member and brother sits on the steering committee for the Syria Solidarity Movement. The leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Becker regularly hosts Fellows of the American University in Moscow on his Sputnik podcast, “Loud & Clear.”

“Loud & Clear”‘s Lozansky-affiliated guests include far-right PR man Jim Jatras, Mark Sleboda of the Dugin-founded Center for Conservative Studies, the Ron Paul Institute’s Daniel McAdams and Alexander Mercouris of the syncretic conspiracist site, The Duran. The program also provides a platform to a variety of explicitly far-right guests, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, antisemite Alberto Garcia Watson, alt-right figure Cassandra Fairbanks and militia movement leader Larry Pratt.

Aside from marginal guests, Loud & Clear can bring on some heavy hitters. During his two appearances on “Loud & Clear” in late 2017, bestselling author Max Blumenthal called the red-brown radio show “the finest public affairs programming” and declared, “I am increasingly turning to RT America for sanity.” No stranger to Sputnik, Blumenthal also went on “Hard Facts” that August, claiming that notorious ISIS militant Mohammed Emwazi was ushered into the Syria conflict by the CIA via a “rat line” from Saudi Arabia.

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This Venn diagram suggests that certain syncretic groups exist as containers for the intersection of right and left wing groups, ideologies.

Highway to the Grayzone.

Around the same time he went on “Loud & Clear,” Blumenthal appeared on Tucker Carlson‘s FOX News show to defend RT — his second time on the far-right show that year. Blumenthal’s RT appearances have been praised by white nationalists like Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., who murdered three people outside of a Jewish Community Center in 2014, so his courting of the right on FOX drew considerable backlash.

Two months later, Blumenthal offered up a staunch defense of “Russia’s position in the world” to author Robert Wright in an interview on bloggingheads. Admitting that Putin’s Russia remains far from left-wing, Blumenthal justified support for the country’s authoritarian conservative government as “part of the multipolar world.”

“If you believe in a multipolar world,” Blumenthal told Wright, “you believe in détente, you believe in diplomacy.” He specifically mentioned Becker’s Party for Socialism and Liberation and groups like it, arguing that they “tend to get all the major issues right regardless of their ideology or agenda.”

Blumenthal was not as clear of a spokesperson for Kremlin geopolitics before he appeared at the same RT gala as disgraced former National Security advisor Michael Flynn and the Green Party’s Jill Stein in December 2015. During that occasion, he joined a panel called “Infowar: Will there be a winner” alongside Alt Right anti-Semite Charles Bausman of Russia Insider. A month later, Blumenthal’s pro-Kremlin position crystalized with the founding of the Grayzone Project.

Grayzone is a collaborative project also featuring journalist Benjamin Norton, who cosigned the Hands Off Syria Coalition’s points of unity statement along with Beeley and others. After going on “Loud & Clear” with Duginist Mark Sleboda and Infowars regularRay McGovern, Norton plugged the Party for Socialism and Liberation on a podcast episode titled “Hands off Syria.” With other Grayzone contributors, Norton has been criticized for downplaying war crimes and helping publicize false theories about rebels contaminating Damascus’s water supply.

When reached for comment by email, Norton retorted, “I know your goal is to outlandishly smear anyone who opposes US imperialism and is to the left of the Clintons as a ‘crypto-fascist,’ while NATO supports actual fascists whom you care little about.”

Grayzone is perhaps best known for Blumenthal’s controversial two-part article attacking the White Helmets, which brought accusations of plagiarism from Beeley. Grayzone contributor Rania Khalek had, Beeley insisted, “pumped me for information on the [White Helmets] and then Max wrote the article.”

While Blumenthal may have repeated some of Beeley’s theories, Beeley cannot be seen as a credible source. Regardless, Khalek has since used a questionable interview sourced from Beeley as evidence that the White Helmets “were deeply embedded in al Qaeda.”

Grayzone recently announced their move from independent news site AlterNet to The Real News Network, a left-wing site with a penchant for 9/11 truther inquiries. Neither Blumenthal nor Khalek responded to efforts to reach them for comment.

Right uses left.

Through its amplification of an interlinked, multi-centered network organized around institutions like Lozansky’s American University in Moscow and the Voltaire Network and conferences like Moscow’s “Multi-Polar World” and Tehran’s “New Horizons,” syncretic networks associated with Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology have combined distortions and ambiguities into a geopolitical narrative meant to confuse audiences and promote authoritarian populist opposition to liberalism.

The “gray measures” used to deny the Kremlin’s influence operations may seem dubious when delivered through channels like Sputnik that are, themselves, political technologies of far-right political influence. When cycled through “narrative laundering” of secondary and tertiary networks enhanced by trolls and coordinated influence operations, however, propaganda is “graywashed” of its dubious sources and presented as cutting-edge journalism.

As shown with Figure 3, think tanks like Katehon and connected Russian Institute for Strategic Studies develop strategies for media spin and online promotion through influence groups and botnets. These think tanks engage in feedback loops with Russian state media channels and linked syncretic news sites, amplified through social media with the help of botnets, and eventually reaching more legitimate sources often freed of their dubious sourcing. The results are explored by a recent study from Data and Society called Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online: “Online communities are increasingly turning to conspiracy-driven news sources, whose sensationalist claims are then covered by the mainstream media, which exposes more of the public to these ideas, and so on.”

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A conceptual model made in Vensim intended to present the workings of “Graywashing.”

The problem with multipolarism, aside from assuming polarity as a useful prescription, may be that it supports not the emergence of Russia as a world power but the rise of the Kremlin’s authoritarian conservative political ideology. In this, multipolarists tend to support other authoritarian regimes and movements from Iran to Syria to Italy. Although anti-imperialists may believe that these measures land them on the right side of history, taking stock of the fascist movement suggests that the strategy of opposing a liberal order through red-brown populist collaboration makes the left a willing accomplice.

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