Winston Churchill once warned Europe that, by choosing the dishonor of Hitlerism in a bid to avoid war, they would, in the end, reap both Hitlerism and war.
It now behooves Europeans to say to their British partners that by cutting corners, playing with fire, lying to voters and allies, avoiding history, and shrinking from their own greatness, they, too, risk winding up with both—this time both Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn.
About the catastrophe that Brexit portends, nearly everything has been said, and now all that remains is for the United Kingdom either to lurch toward the abyss or, as Jean-Paul Sartre said, to “take back its move.”
But I am not sure things are quite so clear about the dishonor that would attend Jeremy Corbyn coming to power in the country of Disraeli and Churchill, about the looming disaster of general elections in which he might, if the polls are right, cash in on the wear and tear suffered by his Conservative opponent, Theresa May, and on what may appear, in contrast, to be his “ideological consistency.”
Jeremy Corbyn, it can not be repeated enough, is that familiar face on Iranian television who, in 2012, welcomed the release of hundreds of Palestinian Hamas militants, many of whom had blood on their hands but whom he nevertheless described as “brothers.”
He is that member of parliament who never misses an occasion to say what a source of pride it is, for a militant grown gray representing constituents who may seem bland and monotonous, to receive in Westminster’s gilded halls his Hezbollah “comrades” or to share a cup of tea with an individual, Raed Saleh, whose contribution to the “Palestinian cause” is to have described Jews as “bacteria,” “monkeys,” and criminals who use the blood of “non-Jewish children” to make their unleavened bread.
He is that “pilgrim of peace” shown in shocking videos, dug up by the British press this summer, meditating at gravesites in Tunis, at least one of which being that of an organizer of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
He is that easy-going politician who has welcomed as a major donor to his campaign the same Ibrahim Hamami who, after years as a columnist for Hamas’ official newspaper, became an advocate for the knifing of Jews in Israel.
He is that sensitive defender of the arts whose first reflex, when Londoners objected in 2012 to the appearance on Hanbury Street of a mural by American “artist” Kalen Ockerman depicting a circle of hooked-nose bankers hunched around a world map in the shape of a Monopoly board posed on the backs of the wretched of the earth, was to decry the threat to the freedom of speech.
He is that fan of conspiracy theories who has not hesitated—again in interviews with the Iranian press—to find Israel’s hand behind destabilization operations carried out in Egypt by Islamic militants.
And he is that unalloyed anti-Semite who, in 2013, during a conference that featured calls for a boycott of Holocaust Remembrance Day and crazy remarks about the possibility that Jews were responsible for 9/11, was capable of declaring that “Zionists,” even if they have lived in Great Britain for “a very long time” or even “all their lives,” have an atavistic inability to understand “English irony.”
Add to that his crass ignorance of the functioning of a modern economy and the impression he gives, when speaking about renationalization, tax policy, anti-austerity measures, the health system, or public services, of being stuck in the paleo-Marxism of the 1950s.
Add his untethered loathing for an America he blames for all ills and against which, according to one of his lieutenants, Seumas Milne, the good old Soviet Union, at its splendid apex and notwithstanding its tens of millions of political dead, was a useful “counterweight.”
Not to mention the tropism that aligns him unfailingly with the Russian position: on Syria, of course, but also in his refusal to see the hand of the Kremlin behind the poisonings in Salisbury of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and, several weeks before assuming the leadership of the Labour Party, in his affirmation that a fake news machine like Russia Today was at least as credible as the venerable BBC.
We have today in the West a handful of anti-liberal leaders who delight in the oncoming twilight of democracy and humanistic values.
Their names are Viktor Orban in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France–and, alas, Donald Trump in the United States.
It makes little difference whether they stand on the left or the right, because they are in accord on the idea that the Enlightenment is over and that Vladimir Putin is a great man.
Jeremy Corbyn is one of them.
And the prospect of seeing him in a position to support this dark Internationale seems to me as terrifying as the prospect of Brexit itself.
Translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy