(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
In an interview has Labours former party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I would like to see a world where we eventually begin to dissolve all military alliances." Is this naive considering today's wars in Ukraine and Gaza? MODERN TIMES asks this former leader of the British Labor Party about such conflicts when I, as editor, had an hour alone with him during a visit to Oslo this summer:
“Well, one is needed peace process in all conflicts, otherwise you can end up with the only peace being the graveyard peace. So there must be a way forward. There must be cease-fires. A process is needed which initially looks at the underlying causes of the conflicts. This applies in Ukraine, but also in Yemen and many other places in the world. But we have an 'imperative' at the moment, which presupposes increasing arms consumption and militarism around the world – a fast-growing new cold war between the Anglo-American sphere and Russia and China. We also have a growing division in the world, where Africa, Latin America and certain countries in South Asia are more interested in developing relations between themselves than what Europe or North America wants.
Sometimes people in Europe – because of the way our media writes about these topics – ignore the opinions of the rest of the world when it comes to Ukraine. It is quite clear that Russia made a mistake. The country should neither have invaded Ukraine nor occupied Ukrainian territories. But there must be a way out. Otherwise, the war and destruction will get worse. The number of refugees, the number of dead civilians and soldiers from both sides in Ukraine will increase. War could break out between Russia and NATO – this is almost like the prelude to the First World War.
The UN should have intervened to try to bring about a ceasefire and a peace process – but they either couldn't or didn't want to."
"I probably think that he seems to have a little too much to say about Ukraine when the country is not a member of NATO – and he seems to be trying to push NATO to become more and more involved in this conflict. Do we really just have to watch NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other build up their military forces without thinking that this could lead to something very, very dangerous in the future? I want a Europe of peace. This means that both parties must have a relationship with each other."
Ukraine and weapons
I ask Corbyn how he could have contributed to stopping the war escalation in Ukraine if he had been elected Prime Minister of Great Britain (see article below). He was very close to moving into 1 Downing Street in 2017 – and also based on the critical It’s Time for Real Change. The Labour Party Manifesto 2019. So instead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson went to Zelenskyj to urge him to continue by giving him all the support he wanted – what would he have done?
“It would have been different. But remember that at the time of the 2019 election, the Ukraine conflict had not begun in the sense that Russia had invaded the country. But the conflict in Donbas had been going on for quite some time; around 14 people had already lost their lives. My view would have been to engage in dialogue with Russia in 000-2021. I have previously criticized Russia for the country's violations of human rights, the treatment of lesbians and gays, the treatment of Chechens and other things. Also when Tony Blair and other Western leaders wanted Putin Welcome, I was critical. So the idea that I should be one of Putin's henchmen is just nonsense. But there must be an alternative to the war.”
But would Corbyn have refused to send arms until Ukraine?
“I would clearly be opposed to sending aggressive weapons that can and will be used to extend the conflict to Russia. But unfortunately I'm not prime minister. My strategy from the very beginning has been to try to build a relationship with Russia in order to prevent a future conflict. Now it is important to go back to that stage.”
In the aforementioned Labor manifesto, there is a chapter on internationalism. Here, Corbyn's party promises to introduce one war power act – against the 'bomb first, talk later' mentality: "We have worked a lot on preparing a War Powers Bill to be presented to Parliament. The British Parliament should be able to vote on whether or not to get involved in an international conflict.”
"I supported a total ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia."
Another point i manifestone from 2019 concerned arms sales to countries in conflict: "We had a decision all the way back to parliament in 1997, where a parliamentary committee could process export licenses for arms. But it is obviously difficult to find out what happens to the end use of the weapons. Guns you sell to someone who is apparently responsible end up with someone who is obviously totally irresponsible. I supported a total ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of their war in Yemen. This was strongly challenged by arms trading interests in the UK, since sales to Saudi Arabia – mainly of British Aerospace systems – have sold for billions over the years.
I wanted us to move in the direction of an economy that produces advanced technological equipment for peaceful purposes, not war. The UK is now one of the largest arms manufacturerene, and the current government increases defense spending to 2,5 percent of gross national product (GDP), which makes us one of the countries that spends the largest proportion of its GDP on defense in Europe.
I would also make sure that Forsvarits vast expertise was used for peaceful purposes, for they have unique technology and expertise in dealing with emergency situations – civil disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods and safeguarding people's safety. For example, the Italian Navy once converted its ships directly into hospital ships.
Defense spending does not always have to go to weapons, nor does it have to be a factor of aggression. I supported the British medical militarys involvement in Sierra Leone in connection with the Ebola crisis. It was very successful and effective. They told me how proud they were of what they had achieved. I also met many in the navy who for a time helped save lives off the coast of Libya – they said it was the most useful thing they had ever done. So armed forces don't always have to be negative.”
As Labor wrote about human rights in its 2019 manifesto, I remind Corbyn in our conversation of the blockade and attacks on Gaza, earlier bombings of hospitals in Syria and rape in war – as committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Does he think that FN can prevent such abuses in the future?
"What has happened in Syria is terrible. What is happening in Ukraine is terrible. What happens in Palestine, is terrible. The same applies to Yemen, West Papua and Congo. There must be processes that create fred. Because if the only agenda is to use weapons and war, it seems to me that those who are now so horrified by what Russia is doing in Ukraine were the same people who supported the American and British coalition's invasion and occupation of Iraq."
And Corbyn adds: “We had the invasion and the occupation of Afghanistan. . 21 years later, the last troops left the country – British, American, NATO forces and the others. But what has been left behind? In the world's poorest country, most people starve, hungry girls get no education, human rights are non-existent, and poverty is widespread. Afghan refugees appear in Europe, and some end up in small, leaky, dangerous boats and try to cross the English Channel... We need to wise up and wake up. Refugees do not come from nowhere. The fact that they are leaving their homeland is partly due to the wars created by European powers that invaded these countries."
Climate justice, workers and Norway
The 2019 manifesto has also pointed to climatefairness. Corbyn is therefore in Norway, a country with oljeproduction and an advanced welfare system that one might say is paid for by this money – a fifth of the state's income of around NOK 1500 billion comes from 'polluting' gas and oil in the North Sea. Is there any contradiction between keeping these workers employed as before and maintaining climate justice?
"I believe that in the long term you have to move away from an economy that is based on fossil fuels. I fully understand that you cannot do it overnight. That is why I spent a lot of time preparing the document on the green industrial revolution that we presented. It was also to protect the jobs of people in industry and other industries – and to convert them into something more sustainable, such as new jobs in green energy and green industries.
We cannot keep pumping carbon dioxide into the air. But it is also bad to pollute rivers and seas and destroy our biodiversity. A restructuring process will take a long time. I was at COP25 and COP26 and participated in many discussions. But if the next generation is to be able to breathe clean air and not experience the catastrophic climate changes, changes must take place."
I tell Corbyn that the Labor leader and Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store has approved new drilling projects for oil and gas:
"– and leave behind unemployment, poverty, misery and a mental health crisis."
"Really? Well, there are many views on this. Today, there is another minority who support new drilling in the English and Scottish part of the North Sea. The debate about the North Sea is interesting in Scotland, where many people in Dundee and Aberdeen depend on oil and gas extraction in the North Sea. There is also a serious and lively debate going on in Labor at the moment. At the same time, a green industrial revolution cannot be a middle-classretreatism, which involves buying environmentally friendly products at a higher price and feeling good about it. It must also protect the living standards of the working class. You have to intervene and implement public investment programs.”
At the same time, those in power, the fossil giants, the billionaires and the Norwegian government do not stop the drilling – and destroy Europe's environmental future. As a Norwegian, I am ashamed of the greed in this country, I say to Corbyn. But 200 Norwegians Jobis with oil drilling:
"Listen up, kullthe industry was shut down in Britain mainly for political reasons by the Tory government of Margaret Mark Thatcher. And I think she hitchhiked in the environment. She dismantled the coal industry primarily because of the strong union she wanted to destroy. The closure was done in the crudest and most brutal way. In the same way, the coal industry in Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of Germany and other heavy industries were shut down – leaving behind unemployment, poverty, misery and mental crisis. And in many cases the politics of these societies were destroyed, leading to the rise of the far right in France, Belgium and Germany.
Here we have questions about the role of society as a whole – with change and investment in local communities with productive, more peaceful and useful programs.”
Human rights and Assange
Corbyn's British Movement, Project for Peace and Justice, says that movements can be an engine to change history. In Norway, a movement called FOR (Peace and Justice) with ambitions to become a party built on the same ideas as Corbyn's project. Corbyn met with the new FOR to advise them on various matters from their British movement. I ask Corbyn what they are active in:
"Through the project for peace and justice, we work a lot alternative media. We have done a lot of work to support the progressive movements in Latin America, in Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Mexico. And we are also working on a book about arms deal, written by people all over the world who have been victims of it. We also work with artistic freedom via a book about poesi – because poets often tell truths that others cannot."
When Corbyn visited the Litteraturhuset in Oslo, the prisoners at Guantánamo were a topic. So was Julian Assange:
"Saw also works in the project to support Julian Assange, and that is one of the reasons why I am here in Oslo these days. Julian has spent his life trying to expose uncomfortable truths on an international level, truths about the way great powers behave, truths about the behavior of big business and corporations. The documents he has produced are quite embarrassing for many governments and companies around the world.
Julian is obviously very guilty of revealing many of the very uncomfortable truths that many others have only later begun to understand. Also the treatment of him in prison and the treatment of Julian's situation by the world's media is something that must be seriously questioned. 'Liberal' media around the globe wanted to portray Julian as a hero of freedom of speech. But they were so embarrassed by the consequences that they then became relatively quiet. Yet, when I asked in Parliament, even Boris Johnson admitted to me that he found the treatment of Assange one-sided and unfair.”
Democracy, citizens' assemblies and hope
We move in this longer conversation to democracy. What happens when the majority is driven by fear, an 'enemy' out there, without an enlightened discussion? Or when most people care more about their own welfare than about international solidarity?
«Fear is a very powerful force. You can create frykt with many people in many ways if you wish. Traditionally, it is the fear of the 'busman', the fear of the person in the neighboring village or country. But hope is a far more powerful and sympathetic message, although it is more difficult to create.»
And what about new ones citizens' council (citizens’ assemblies) who decide on important issues, as they did with the abortion law in Ireland? A kind of citizens' council, selected by lottery, discusses for perhaps ten months with experts – and then conducts an informed vote:
«Your point, about how informed or not a population is before a decision is made, is very important. And you are absolutely right to draw another parallel Ireland. I first went to Ireland as a child with my mother and father in the 1950s. Ireland was very poor, very conservative and dominated by very conservative sections of the Catholic Church. And the country remained that way.
So how on earth could Ireland ever pass anything new on divorce laws, abortion, women's or gay rights? But yeah, they did. And Ireland is now one of the most liberal countries in Europe. This was not necessarily done by national politicians lecturing people. As you said, it was built up to a much greater extent by citizens, assemblies of community groups and organizations.
"The likes of the Murdoch media and Fox News don't want to inform us."
You develop the imagination by entering the human spirit. That way you get a better informed population. The likes of the Murdoch media and Fox News don't want to inform us. They want to entertain us with the idea that giving makes you rich. For me, the idea of giving is rather what you give to the rest of humanity.”
I suggest that a candy altruism may well be optimistic:
“But I am optimist. You must offer an alternative. You have to give people hope. The alternative is a society based on human needs, not on the greed and wealth of a few. The idea is a redistribution of power and wealth. And don't think that the Westerners intellektuell to actually have all the answers. They don't have that. No one has all the solutions. But they come from several sides: Imagine what it was like to be black in Soweto in 1964. They were oppressed by apartheid. They had the treason trial at Rivonia, which had imprisoned all the leaders of the African Congress, and the situation was seemingly hopeless. 26 years later, Mandela walks free. Apartheid is over, and South Africa have a different future.
We all expressed solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement, but the real work was done by the people who were shot and killed in Soweto and elsewhere – to fight back against apartheid. So there were people who actually lived through all of this."
I ask Corbyn to specify what a better system of governance entails:
"It is rooted in local belonging (localism), democracy and accountability. Democracy is not just about voting for who will rule the country every four or five years. Democracy is about what you say, what you do, and how much control you have over your own life. Unfortunately, people often have very little control over their own lives. That is why local communities and social development are so important."
What does 'security' mean?
Corbyn ends his visit to Oslo – which can be seen in the context of what subsequently happened in Gaza and Israel – by saying the following: "Well, what is really Safety? Israel's security, the ability to arm itself, to kill someone, or to kill a large number of people. Or is really security securityone that lies in having enough to eat, to have a home to live in? Having a school that your children can attend? Having a doctor in a hospital when you need it. Clean air, clean water and good quality food. That is what most people around the world want. But all this money that goes to weapons and wars is actually money that could have gone to health, education, housing and environmental issues."
He adds: "It is the spirit of hope that actually exists among millions of people around the world, who have neither power nor rights, who are abused and marginalized and impoverished, and young people in Europe who are increasingly growing up in a individualistic society where they are told that success is making a lot of money at the expense of the person sitting next to you in the classroom, whereas success should be improving life for all of us and recognizing that each and every human being has the right to live and the right to to contribute to the world. So it is to oppose racism, to oppose the terrible attacks on refugees. It is equally important to give hope, opportunities and inspiration to young people, so that we can leave them a better world than the one we ourselves inherited."
And at the very end: "We have to fight for social fairness, attacking poverty and all injustice around the world. When we win, in Julian's case, when we win with the closure of Guantánamo Bay, when we win with an end to the mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Europe and elsewhere – the world will be a significantly better place.”
See also the case https://www.nytid.no/mediene-og-corbyn/
and on Jeremy Corbyn and Keith Starmer
in MODERN TIMES spring 2023