My posting of a version of my last blog here on the LRB blogsite ruffled some feathers. Immediately a couple of anti-Corbynists leapt in with comments which didn’t begin to address my argument, but simply bad-mouthed JC. He is a ‘coward’, an ‘opportunist’, ‘wishing the worst for the UK’. ‘I’m not even sure why we are debating this,’ wrote one dyspeptic correspondent; ‘in better times under Churchill etc, the bearded wonder and his sinister henchman McDonnell would be residing in the Tower on a diet of bread and water. Traitors will always be traitors.’ – I thought that kind of talk had gone out with the Goon Show.
All these comments were offered over pseudonyms; a practice I deplore, and have railed against in earlier blogs (here’s one: https://bernardjporter.com/2016/02/22/btl/). I sometimes wonder about the depth of the hostility shown towards this apparently pretty good man. In some ways it resembles the animus against Obama in America, another good man, however much you might disagree with him. I also, these days, wonder whether the pseudonyms might be concealing something else: the Israeli government agencies, for example, which we know for sure are trying to undermine Corbyn subvertly – because of his defence of the Palestinians. I doubt it, in these cases; but those who write over (or under) pseudonyms must be aware that the practice could arouse this kind of suspicion. It’s better to be open and upfront, willing to own your opinions, never to cower behind aliases. (Unless of course openness puts you in danger; for example of losing your job.)
There were some more reasoned and reasonable objections to my argument. But it also occurs to me, as I suggested in the course of that rather dispiriting exchange on the LRB Blog, that the nub of the matter may be simply the importance one attaches to the Brexit issue. To me, and to most of those who read the LRB, it must seem pretty vital; affecting as it does our very feeling of identity and the character of our country. In a nutshell, it’s existential. (My application for Swedish citizenship is in order to escape from it. That’s how strongly I feel.) But for the mass of people, and in the long term, it really matters very little. They didn’t really vote, in that notorious referendum, on the issue of Europe, about which they had shown little sign of caring before then. That was an ‘elite’ thing, on both sides. The fundamental problems with Britain, which fuelled the ‘out’ vote, ran much deeper: to do with austerity, late-stage capitalism, inequality, the democratic deficit, the north-south divide, and much more. The European issue didn’t directly affect these, though there can be arguments on both sides over which position – in or out – will marginally help to cure these basic woes. It seems more likely, however, that the main significance of the European issue in this broader context was, and is, to act as a distraction from these profounder problems; in which case Corbyn’s ambivalent stance towards the Brexit issue makes sense, and the higher priority Labour is putting on securing a General Election could be wise.