Corbyn on “Islamic opposition” to capitalism

“Free market capitalism cannot provide for everyone, or sustain the natural world. Its very imperative is of ever hastening exploitation of all resources including people, and it needs armies and weapons to secure those supplies. The political appeal, unchallenged in the 1990s, of this concept is fast fading by a combination of Islamic opposition and the radical popular movements of landless and poor peoples in many poor countries. Increasingly, these movements also have a resonance in the cities of the industrial countries as well.”

– Jeremy Corbyn, published March 2011

This is an excerpt from the foreword to a 2011 reproduction of a 1902 book, Imperialism by J. A. Hobson.  Credit goes to Robert Colvile for bringing it to people’s attention.

 

Context

Corbyn’s foreword starts with 2 pages giving his opinion on Hobson’s 1902 book.  It then has 3½ pages mostly presenting Corbyn’s views on imperialism over the subsequent years. You probably won’t be surprised to read Corbyn’s line that, since the Second World War, “the big imperial force has been the United States on behalf of global capitalism“.  But his writing is quite disjointed, and the above paragraph is all he has to say on the nature of Islamic opposition to capitalism.

So I am not sure exactly what he believes is happening “in the cities of the industrial countries“.  In the preceding sentence he also mentions “the radical popular movements of landless and poor peoples in many poor countries“.  If I had to guess one of the popular movements he might be referring to, I’d go for Venezuelan socialism – a movement he much admires.  But when it comes to the cities of Western-style democracies, I’m not sure how much “resonance” there is with those kinds of politics.  If he was referring to the rise of Islam in such cities, that would make far more sense.  For example, census listings show there are already more children classed as Muslim than as Christian in Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester, as well as in three boroughs of London.[1]

But regardless of what he was referring to in his “resonance in the cities” comment, I am confident that Corbyn sees Islam as an ally in the fight against capitalism.  On this issue I think there is a clear distinction between Corbyn’s faction[2] within the Far Left, and the more traditional Far Left anti-clericalism exemplified by Charlie Hebdo.[3]

 

Analysis

As an environmentalist and someone who doesn’t like war, it is tempting for me to see a man worried about “the natural world … exploitation of all resources … armies and weapons to secure those supplies …“, and give him a ‘free pass’ for whatever he says next.  But of course, Corbyn’s alternative world-view should not be assumed to be superior on those measures just because he says it is.  I’ll write a bit more about that in another post.

To me the most interesting thing in his foreword is the assertion that one of the two main factors reducing the appeal of free market capitalism since the 1990s, is “Islamic opposition”.  I am not qualified to judge how much truth there is in this assertion.[4]  What I’m more interested in is the mindset of someone who writes about this in a positive tone.

To me, when I was growing up, a “community” was just the totality of all the people in a certain area.  The word now seems more likely to be used for a collection of people categorized in one particular identity politics grouping, such as the “Muslim community”.  Messages from local government seem less likely to talk about “the community” in the singular than to talk about “communities” in the plural.  And politicians like Corbyn seem to like being able to interact with the public via these communities.[5]

I suppose the language here is just reflecting the truth.  A new reality has been created in Britain.  There really is a distinct Muslim community, with significantly different views on average from the rest of society, on topics like:

  • freedom of expression (esp. blasphemy)
  • freedom of religion (esp. apostasy)
  • homosexuality
  • women’s rights
  • polygamy (presumably only a man having multiple wives, not vice versa, nor LGBT)
  • Jews

What I find unsettling is not just the opinions themselves.  It’s also the fact that there is such a difference.  Even if we were discussing issues on which I thought both Muslims and non-Muslims were equally wrong, and issues about which I wasn’t sure who was right, the existence of a consistent difference between the two groups would still strike me as unhealthy.

So the idea of “Islamic opposition” also being at the vanguard of Corbyn’s desired revolution in our socio-economic system, when Muslims are on average already so separate from mainstream society on so many other issues, seems like a recipe for disaster.

Now, I doubt Corbyn would have let slip his thinking on Islam and capitalism if he’d thought he had any realistic chance of becoming Labour leader.[6]  But too late; it’s there in black & white.  If challenged about it now, my guess is that he would try to claim that Islamic “resonance” will somehow convince non-Muslims to come round to a position of opposition to free market capitalism, so that there would be no longer be division between “communities”.  But I’m afraid that Muslims don’t have much influence over non-Muslims on this kind of topic, and a more likely outcome would be a widening of the schism that already strains our society.

 

Immigration

Would a Corbyn-led government use immigration to gradually change British society so that in the long term it is more receptive to his kind of politics?

Well, for a political faction that believes diversity is an inherent good, it must surely be tempting to adopt immigration policies that will tend to maximize diversity, bringing in “communities” that are as different as possible from the current mainstream in Britain.  And if that just so happens to increase the Labour Party’s electoral base, and strengthen the Corbynite position within the broader Left movement, it would merely be a happy side effect, right?

Most people are aware that Jewish support for Labour has plummeted under Corbyn (not surprising given his track record.[7])  A survey published back in May 2010 showed Jewish support for Labour at a 31%, compared to 30% for the Tories.  Whereas a survey published in May 2016 (8 months after Corbyn became leader) had Labour at a 8.5%, compared to 66.5% for the Tories.[8]  But fewer people are aware of just how high support for Labour is amongst Muslims.  This 2014 study gave a figure of 73.0% (with the Tories on 14.9%).[9]  I couldn’t find any data gathered about this since Corbyn became leader.  But surely Corbyn must be more popular amongst Muslims than Ed Miliband was, bearing in mind the amount of praise Corbyn heaps on prominent Muslims who openly profess the kinds of views that we see in the anonymous surveys of British Muslims?[10][11]

So it does seem likely that it would be advantageous to Labour (and specifically the Corbynite position within the broader Left movement) to increase immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

But given that only 23% of the UK population[12] actively disagree with the statement “All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped“, with 47% actively agreeing and 30% on the fence, Corbyn obviously couldn’t be open about any plans he might have to do the opposite.

 

More About Corbyn’s 2011 Foreword

Here is the relevant paragraph on Google Books.  I was able to view the whole 5½ page foreword there.  As I’ve mentioned, the first 2 pages give Corbyn’s opinions on Hobson’s 1902 study of imperialism.  The remaining 3½ pages leave me suspecting that Corbyn has worked his way through some simplistic summary of (mostly) 20th Century history, selected bits & pieces that fit his world-view, and combined them all together, along with his analyses, to form a disjointed whole.

Or perhaps he cobbled it together from a selection of his old articles for the Morning Star.

I haven’t followed Corbyn’s career, but I doubt that anyone who has done so would be surprised by anything he wrote here.  As mentioned above, he believes that since the Second World War, “the big imperial force has been the United States on behalf of global capitalism“.

He obviously didn’t like the Congress for Cultural Freedom (an anti-communist CIA front), and he believes it “was the European opening to accompany the [US] military re-occupation under the guise of NATO.

Bringing us into the 21st Century, we are informed that the US military involvement in Afghanistan “is fuelled by notions of security and assertion of military power, but also of the huge unexploited mineral reserves“.

I’ll write a bit more about some of this stuff in another post.

 

Jeremy_Corbyn_2

Jeremy Corbyn

Conclusion

I already had very little confidence in Corbyn’s judgement.  Finding out about this quote reinforces my existing view of him.

I offer my sympathy to any Labour Party moderates reading this.  I hope you can reclaim your party, and wrestle it back into something I could consider voting for.

 

Footnotes

  • [1] – Source.
    • N.B.  The census simply records the religion that was listed on the census form, which is usually filled in by the ‘head of the household’.  I actually don’t accept that a young child can possibly have a religion.  And older children may have religious views that differ from what their parents put on the form.  But the reality is that these statistics will be a good indication of the future of these cities.  If anything, given how much more successful British Muslims may be at passing on their religion to their children, these statistics probably understate how much more significant Islamic ideology will be than Christian ideology in those cities (and others) in a few decades.
  • [2] – I’ll refer to them as Corbynites.
  • [3] – The violent reaction to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons started in early 2006.  The response of Charlie Hebdo (the French satirical magazine) to the riots & embassy attacks was to republish the cartoons, along with its own cartoon of Mohammed saying “it’s hard to be loved by imbeciles”.  By contrast, the response of Jeremy Corbyn, four days later, was to speak at a protest against the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, saying “we demand that people show respect for each other’s community, each other’s faith and each other’s religion.
    • I don’t know what (if any) consequences Corbyn would want for people (like me) who might refuse to acquiesce to his “demand” for respect for religion.  And I didn’t find any examples of him condemning specific examples of disrespect towards other religions (such as the episode of Family Guy whose plot is based on Jesus obtaining sex by deception, or the Simpsons episode with a scene mocking Hinduism).  But if you are aware of any examples, please comment below and I may update this post.
  • [4] – The first relevant issue that comes to mind is the ban on interest being charged on loans.  But I’d always just assumed that Sharia finance was merely a ‘workaround’ to allow Muslims to take part in this disgraceful capitalist practice whilst staying technically within God’s rules.
  • [5] – An exacerbated example
  • [6] – Even though the ‘tradition’ of Labour MPs proposing one far left candidate in each leadership election had already been established
  • [7] – Examples: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06,
  • [8] – The surveys probably had different methodologies, but there is no way this alone could account for such a huge difference in results.
  • [9] – Again, probably a different methodology from the other surveys.
  • [10] – People like Ibrahim Hewitt, Anas Altikriti, Raed Salah
  • [11] – It’s worth noting that the 2011 census showed 10 times more Muslims than Jews in England & Wales, and also that Muslims have a substantially more favourable age profile.  Given current survey results regarding British Muslim opinions of Jews, sadly it seems that to some extent politicians may have to choose between the two communities.  So when it comes to electoral tactics (in the short term and even more so in the long term) Corbyn has chosen wisely.
  • [12] – Including me, for what it’s worth.