Sunday 8 September 2019

If You’re Branding Corbyn a White Mugabe, You’ve Lost the Plot

A guest post from David Osland

Last weekend, The Sunday Times opinion pages carried an article arguing that comparisons between Boris Johnson and Hitler constituted ‘hysteria, hyperbole and mass bed-wetting’.

This weekend, the Sunday Times opinion pages carried an article arguing in all apparent seriousness that Jeremy Corbyn in office would seek to channel Robert Mugabe.

Double standards from the Murdoch press will hardly surprise anyone on the left. Some of us remember the routine attacks on the Labour Party from the very same publications back in the 1980s, known in the slang of the day as ‘monsterings’.

But at a time when an unelected Tory prime minister has just suspended parliament, and the salami-slice erosion of democracy in Britain is self-evidently emanating from the right, the gravity of the charges demands more than tenuous linkage on the back of a couple of anecdotes from any given journo’s student days.

The recently-deceased Zimbabwean dictator may not have been in the same league as his German predecessor, of course. But the brutality of Mugabe’s crimes are beyond dispute.

Thousands of men, women and children — perhaps tens of thousands of them, because nobody knows for sure — were slaughtered in the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, a bloody purge of political opponents who largely belonged to Ndebele ethnic group.

Operation Murambatsvina, in the following decade meant that around 700,000 shanty town dwellers and informal workers were bulldozed out of the country’s cities, often in the literal sense.

To the best of my knowledge — and I’ve known him for nearly three decades — Corbyn really is the mild-mannered bloke of widespread caricature, guilty of no offence more heinous than occasionally overrunning his allotted speaking time at Stop the War Coalition meetings.

Everyone will have their own opinion of his politics, and nobody is forced to agree with them. I’m a supporter; you might not be.

But it would surely take an unusually credulous undergraduate to fail to distinguish between a democratic socialist and an African nationalist whose bloodthirsty propensities were well known even when he took the helm of newly-independent Rhodesia.

Mr Murdoch’s stable of publications is not the power in the land it once was. But even so, it is sad to see The Sunday Times descend to the level of a slightly-more middlebrow Sunday Sport.

When newspapers that pretend to credibility come up with content that reads like a mirror image of some of the less intellectually-challenging alt-left websites, the boundaries of robust polemic or even reasoned debate are surely overstepped.

This is dumbed-down right wing propaganda, aimed at telling whoever is listening that a Labour government is the road to serfdom, and possibly far, far worse. The contention is every bit as fallacious as when first advanced, a damn sight more intelligently, after World War Two.

Since he became leader in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn has routinely been compared to every major dictator of the twentieth and twenty-first century, with Robespierre occasionally thrown in for good measure.

Unsurprisingly, those tiresome souls levelling accusations of elective affinity with Pol Pot or Enver Hoxha have never once shown where his policies have ever overstepped the ideological boundaries of traditional Labour left parliamentary socialism.

Indeed, in his defence of civil liberties — which includes opposition to such draconian New Labour bêtises such as ID cards, stop and search without suspicion and 90-day detention without trial — Corbyn can fairly be upheld as one of the few inheritors of the radical liberal mantle.

The Sunday Times knows all of this, of course. But once commentators have lost sight of the difference between the Labour Party and the ZANU-PF, they’ve lost the plot.

Image Credit


Dipper said...

politics is simple when viewed from afar, labyrinthine when close up.

My naive understanding of Zimbabwe is that there is a history of tribal conflict between the Ndebele and the Shona. When Rhodes was setting up what later became Rhodesia, he exploited a period of conflict to sign an agreement that gave whites ownership over much of the farmland as it was largely vacant following a period of conflict. The indigenous population believed they had lent the land for a period and then wanted it back. When the whites refused there were some killings of white farmers, such attacks were unusual in the history of empire.

When Mugabe came to power, one of the first things that happened was the massacre of 20,000 Ndebele by Mugabe's Shona. Subsequently, many of the soldiers asked what the point in winning the war if independence was if the land stayed in the hands of people who had stolen it from them 100 years previously. There were attacks on white farmers and eventually the land was taken back from white farmers.

All this is to point out that there is a historical context with local logic to events. This isn't to excuse Mugabe, but his behaviour wasn't mad. It had a clear historical agenda.

I don't like Corbyn at all. I think he is dreadful. But comparisons with Mugabe are just meaningless in so many ways. Their contexts are completely different.

Anonymous said...

Hang on, weren't these the same people that kept tediously banging on about 'ZaNuLiebore' or whatever?

BCFG said...

I have to agree with Dipper here, at least up to a point. Some in the West just can't help but look at other parts of the world through the prism of Western values and Western privilege.

To illustrate but from the other way round, the protesters in Hong Kong are saying why can't the police be more like they are in the West. Well here is a wake up call to the Hong Kong protesters, if the British state were met with the level of violence and unrest you guys were meting out they would cave the protesters heads in and lock them up for years. (see recent riots as an example)

This s the point, the Western states are every bit as authoritarian and potentially violent as Mugabes regime, the thing is because Britain controls shipping lanes etc, it doesn't have to use those tactics. But if it did it would without any problem whatsoever.

Now Boris Johnson is no Hitler, but he comes from the same political family, hostility to immigrants and constant prattle about 'hard working' families and the 'work-shy'.

It is often forgotten that one of the main preoccupations of the Nazi's, one way they fermented their ideology in Eastern Europe was to continually talk about Jews being work shy and lazy. Very much how the Tory press use that today, minus the Jews. Hitler took this to its extreme logical conclusion.

Another thing after the Reichstag fire spying on its own citizens became enshrined in line. I was watching a doc the other day which suggested this was proof of Hitlers authoritarian evil. This doc was produced well before the USA and the UK took surveillance to levels Hitler could only dream about!

Of course as Marx said, the Western bourgeois show their barbarity in their imperialist actions, not against their own citizens. But the violence meted out to the people of the world by the US empire and its lackeys stands alongside any historical crimes and any measures carried out by tinpot dictators ruling over nations that don't control shipping lanes!

Blissex said...

«To illustrate but from the other way round, the protesters in Hong Kong are saying why can't the police be more like they are in the West. Well here is a wake up call to the Hong Kong protesters, if the British state were met with the level of violence and unrest you guys were meting out they would cave the protesters heads in and lock them up for years. (see recent riots as an example)»

In the 1960s the Hong Kong people did protest and the english colonial government repressed those protests with far greater police brutality than that currently used by the Hong Kong government. The Hong Kongers kept quiet for many years after that.