The far left’s Islamist blind spot

The far left’s Islamist blind spot, by Nick Cohen.

The alliance between the white far left and the Islamist right is a dirty secret in plain sight. Few can bear to look at it. None of the books and documentaries on Corbyn’s takeover of the Labour party asked, even in passing, how people who professed to be socialists and feminists, found themselves promoting theocrats and misogynists. I have no doubt that ‘serious’ scholars will be as negligent when they come to write their accounts. …

Without understanding [the far left’s] toleration of religious extremism, little about modern Labour politics makes sense.

If Labour wins the next election, Emily Thornberry talking up Assad’s popularity and Corbyn’s paid work for Iranian state TV will be mere appetisers. The British government will sympathise with, and on occasion ally with, Iran, Russia and whatever Assadist terror state rules over the remains of Syria. The Foreign Office will not just support a free Palestine, as any decent person should, but an unfree Hamas-controlled Palestine with all the Islamist restrictions on freedom of speech and conscience and the rights of women and gays. …

If you had bumped into Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway, Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray or John McDonnell in 2000, you in turn would have had material for mocking tales of weird no-hopers. The political far left at that time was tiny. … I doubt the hardline faction from the old Communist party, the various successor groups to Militant, and the Socialist Workers Party could muster 10,000 members and fellow travellers between them. With communism dead, and globalisation roaring ahead they were living fossils: the fluke survivors of the mass extinction of the rest of their socialist species.

In 2002, Jeremy Corbyn attended a rally for Palestine in Trafalgar Square. Nothing unusual in that: many on the centre-left had marched for Palestine for years. But 2002 was different. They were no longer marching for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation whose secular constitution connected it to the western left. In 2002, however, they marched alongside Islamists who believed apostasy from Islam is either “a religious offence punishable by death” or, at least, “an act of mutiny or treason, that is punishable”.

Even before the great protest against the Iraq war of 2003, the combination of the far left and the religious right could get 100,000 on to the streets. Imagine that: 100,000 people willing to listen to your speeches, wave your placards, vote for you in elections and give you an energy your moribund movement thought it had lost. Radical Islam was crack cocaine for the old left. All Islamists asked in return for the fix invigorating support was that the left ignored and excused religious fanaticism, however violently it manifested itself.

Today’s grotesque spectacles flow from the failure to take a principled stand by yesterday’s men and women. Corbyn, McDonnell, the Palestinian campaigners and all who went along with them would not draw lines. No one has the right to be surprised that anti-Semitism has exploded on the left, when its leaders did not protest against Hezbollah and Hamas quoting Nazi fantasies and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. No one has the right to be surprised by the left’s sexism, when its leaders went along with clerics who treated women as second class citizens.

That’s easily the best explanation I’ve heard, for something everyone notices but few can explain or wish to talk about.

hat-tip Stephen Neil