In 2015, just three months after assuming the leadership of the Labour Party, Corbyn was reprimanded for attending a Stop the War coalition fundraising event by his colleagues, calling the organisation “disreputable”. He hit back with remarks stating that opposition to war should not be “denigrated or condemned”. After five years of being labelled “unpatriotic” and “terrorist-sympathising”, Corbyn holds firm with anti-war rhetoric under new party leadership, energising the leftists once again.
Corbyn, notorious for defying the party whip under New Labour, rallied 17 other Labour MPs this week to oppose the new overseas operations bill being touted by the government. With orders from Keir Starmer to abstain from voting, a comradely Corbyn remained committed to his principles and his controversial foreign policy agenda by saying no. With a new intake of Corbynista MPs in 2019 and a mobilised Socialist Campaign Group, the Labour left are not shying away.
The new controversial law, already repudiated by leading human rights organisations, will allow a statute of limitations on prosecuting war crimes or other injustices perpetrated by the Ministry of Defence. The illegal wars of Afghanistan and Iraq have yet to hold military officials to account for their involvement in brutality in the Middle East. A six-year limit is an affront to veterans and civilians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after deadly operations enacted by the armed forces.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy, a Corbyn acolyte opposing the bill, has called the legislation one that “decriminalises torture”. She has joined influential left-wing figures in her party, from John McDonnell to Rebecca Long-Bailey, by siding with Corbyn and ignoring Starmer’s calls for abstention on the issue. Their outrage is joined by the likes of Amnesty International who called the planned law a “presumption against prosecution for torture and other grave crimes”. Since the bill’s reading, three junior shadow frontbench ministers affiliated with the socialist left have been stood down from their positions, prompting factional outcry from the labour movement.
After the 18 MPs confirmed their opposition, the government went into attack mode and called Labour’s “rediscover of patriotism” futile. Their posturing to the socially-conservative Red Wall becomes more overt as the administration goes on. This may prove successful, but Boris Johnson and his cronies forget that the overwhelmingly large number of Labour members who twice elected Corbyn as their leader were inspired by his world peace stance. The anti-war movement has received widespread support from the general public since the invasions under Tony Blair proved inconclusive, calamitous and distressing.
Corbyn’s last year as leader of the opposition was disheartening to the many who backed him throughout his tenure. His principled and impassioned approach to his decades-long political viewpoints inspired many to believe in an alternative vision. Now he’s reverted to the backbenches, he has shown that the Corbyn project will not sit back whilst the Tories are ruthless and the new Labour leader dithers.
Starmer has called for a promotion of “peace and human rights” through “no more illegal wars” in his key pledges to the membership. He has faced increasing criticism for his failure to quell in-fighting and instead purging the left from senior positions. If his background in prosecutions and forensic analysis is anything to go by, Starmer should vehemently oppose the severing of international obligations under Johnsonism. Ignoring Corbyn and striving to appeal to a disillusioned electorate does not sway public opinion in favour of Labour.
Corbyn will forever stand up for what is right. His time on the backbenches are infamous for his rebellious streak. Now he’s returned, a spirited Corbyn in campaign mode will prosper when rebuking such brutality.