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Samizdata quote of the day

What is the intellectual origin of the foreign policy views of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle? It is Lenin’s theory of imperialism.

In the early 20th century, building on the work of liberals such as John Hobson, Lenin argued that capitalism was being sustained only by the profits from colonial exploitation. These excess profits allowed domestic workers to be paid enough to prevent them from rising up against their capitalist employers. Imperialism was made possible by the power of capitalists to make the state provide military and political protection for their foreign investments.

From this two things follow. All foreign policy by capitalist countries is about creating empires, conquering property and exploiting resources. Kosovo as much as Iraq, Sierra Leone as much as Afghanistan, troops in West Germany as much as in Vietnam. Hence Mr Corbyn’s jaundiced view of Nato and any institutions connected with it, such as the European Union.

So Mr Corbyn argues, as he did in 2011, that “since World War Two, the big imperial force has been the United States on behalf of global capitalism and the biggest, mostly US-based corporations. The propaganda for this has presented itself as a voice for ‘freedom’ and carefully and consciously conflated it with market economics.”

The second thing that follows is that the troops on the front line of the movement to overthrow capitalism are national resistance movements. These are the heroes of socialist advance, even if sometimes they aren’t purely socialist.

So Mr Corbyn has given encouragement and support to the Iranian government, the Irish republicans, Hamas and Hezbollah, and Fidel Castro. He saw Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela as lights to the world, developing a new economic model worth emulating….

The Labour leader ignores or dismisses the idea that any of these groups or countries, such as Iran, might be imperialist powers because all that matters is that they resist western capitalist imperialism. So their imperialism, like that of the Soviet Union, is, he put it, “different”. Where resistance movements have turned to violence or fundamentalism Mr Corbyn says he disapproves but that the root cause is not their behaviour but ours….

There will be some who read this and will think I’m being unfair because I mentioned Lenin and Hezbollah and there is an election coming. But this article is unfair only if it’s an inaccurate description of Mr Corbyn’s views, and given that it is based on things he and his close advisers have written and said, it can’t be. If Mr Corbyn becomes prime minister he and his advisers will control foreign policy. Given that he departs so far from the postwar consensus and the traditional Labour position, it’s as well to understand what he thinks.

– Daniel Finkelstein, in a piece behind the Times paywall, but quoted (all of the above and more) by Mick Hartley.

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Rich Rostrom

    During the American Civil War, there was a prominent French liberal or radical (which then meant bourgeois anti-clerical and republican), who championed the Confederacy. He did so because they were rebels fighting for independence – and therefore, in his mind, equivalent to the Polish, Hungarian, and Greek rebels of the period. That the CSA was fighting to maintain slavery was irrelevant.

    Similarly, the Spanish “middle class Republican” leader Manual Azaña viewed Spain’s right-wing parties an undemocratic and illegitimate (because they were monarchist and pro-Catholic). But the Leninists of the Socialist and Communist Parties were OK, because they were anti-clerical and anti-monarchist. (Azaña was PM of the “Popular Front” which brought the Reds into government, provoking the 1936 army rebellion.)

    When all you see is a nail, everything looks like a hammer or not-a-hammer.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Well, yes. Not a lot to disagree with there.

    Although I suppose the idea that enterprise with foreign interests -> lobbying of politicians -> armed forces being used in pursuit of enterprise’s foreign interests is plausible.

  • Stonyground

    If this kind of empire building was so profitable, why did the British stop doing it? My understanding was that the British Empire came about because the industrial revolution made Britain rich and, as a result, able to afford such foreign adventures. Later, it became too expensive to sustain and so the empire gradually shrank until we have a few countries with a little Union Jack in the corner of their flag.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    The German attempt at Empire failed, but the British Empire was weakened in fighting Germany, allowing the Americans to create a sphere-of-influence empire of their own. The impulse to control is certainly a plausible theory about empires- when Hungary became too strong to ignore, the Austrian Empire became the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hungary wasn’t against empires, if it was one of the top places.

  • Ben David

    Forget all the other animated Xmas stories – this is a real tale of redemption for our times:


  • Julie near Chicago

    Heh! Ben David, I loved it on Neo’s page and I don’t mind if I do watch it again. :>)))

    By the way, if you have an In with some version or other of Santa, I could use a puppy. But if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like a model with the more standard number of heads.

  • lucklucky

    Why to complicate?

    Corbyn is Marxist, and according to Marxists the world is unequal due to exploiters and exploited, oppressors and victims. So those that distinguish themselves and prosper are promoting inequality( Capitalists, Jews) and are guilty of oppressing and exploiting the others.

  • Paul Marks

    Good comments – especially Rich Rostrom and lucklucky.

    As for the post itself – the key point to remember is that both the radical “liberal” Hobson and “Lenin” were wrong – their basic economic theories were false (their basic doctrines were utter nonsense).

  • Stonyground

    The analogy that I like to use for Marxism is that someone with no knowledge of basic physics declares from the comfort of his armchair that all our problems would be solved if we ran all of our motor vehicles on tap water. The stuff is cheap, freely available and we would no longer have to worry about our relationship with the Middle East.

    He then gets the ear of government ministers who declare a law making everyone fill their cars, trucks, tractors etc, with tap water. Of course it doesn’t work and eventually the government admits that it doesn’t and we all go back to using petrol and diesel.

    The problem is that the next time someone comes up with the idea, just over half of the population vote for it because it sounds like a brilliant idea. This time they expect it to work, despite the fact that it is proven not to both in theory and in practice. Then, no matter how many times it proves to be a bad idea a significant number of people still think that it will work next time.

  • Flubber

    “The problem is that the next time someone comes up with the idea, just over half of the population vote for it because it sounds like a brilliant idea. This time they expect it to work, despite the fact that it is proven not to both in theory and in practice. Then, no matter how many times it proves to be a bad idea a significant number of people still think that it will work next time.”

    Avoiding the accompanying mass murder and mass starvation would also be a bonus.

  • Mr Ecks

    Very intellectual although we already know that Jizz and McNasty are the Marxist shite-scum of the Earth. All the fancy ideas are subordinate to the truth that they are both snivelling little twats still angry that Mummy and Daddy sent them away to public school.

  • John B

    The British Empire came about accidentally (starting in the 17th Century) because England/Britain was an agrarian economy and farmers/land workers wanted to go to newly discovered, sparsely populated or vacant territories to farm land not owned by Lord Grantham et al.

    Some left to establish communities following a particular religious sect, others were sent as indentured convicts, others escaping the Law or adventurers. Later harsh conditions, hunger despair drove many to the new colonies where they had heard and hoped, opportunities and a better life lay.

    Colonies were established by independent civilians and flourished, not part of any British Government design, nor military conquest. In fact the British East India Company had its own marines and armed ships and Americans looked after their own security until the French got involved.

    Later on the Royal Navy and British military protected sea lanes and colonial interests.

  • Paul Marks

    Those who wish to know about the British Empire should read the biographies of the men who created it – men such as Raffles (Singapore) and Lugard (East and West Africa) – old biographies what are actually about the men themselves (what they did and what they believed), rather than modern preachy P.C. efforts.

    These men should not be sugar coated – they were not perfect (far from it), but most (most – not all) of them did more good than harm to the local populations they found. Ending inter tribal war, despotism, human sacrifice and slavery.

    “But the British were slavers” – yes indeed, as was everyone else (all the local populations). But the British then turned against slavery – and fought a century long war against it (all over the world) a history that has been shoved-down-the-memory-hole.

  • David Moore

    I rather like the line that many supporters of Corbyn seems to use, and that is that the media ‘smear’ him by quoting his views.