Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle have invoked “Labour’s proud internationalism” to support their votes for bombing ISIL in Syria to keep Britain safe! As Michael Chessum points out in the LRB, this view of Labour’s internationalism is statist rather than socialist. We can be proud that Kirk, Lange and Clark have all shown a different version of left internationalism that is much more genuinely “labour’s answer to capital’s global power.”
As for Hilary Benn’s oratory applauded so effusively by the Conservatives, Orwell would have recognised the distorted language as he cloaked his rhetoric under the flag of the International Brigade. Christians would wonder why he used the parable of the Good Samaritan when Christ’s invocation to do good to those that hate you might be considered a more effective counter to what is clearly an ideological campaign waged by Isis.
Kirk sent a frigate to Mururoa, and while the French committed their own act of state terrorism in bombing the Rainbow Warrior we no longer have nuclear experimentation in the Pacific. Lange refused to allow the Americans to send us warships with nuclear weapons and that policy has now prevailed. Clark refused to join the “coalition of the willing” in invading ( and destroying) Iraq which means that Labour in New Zealand is not shamed and divided as is UK Labour, still reeling from the disastrous legacy of the lickspittle Blair.
Chessum’s article is worth quoting:
Benn and Eagle’s understanding of internationalism belies a deeply institutionalised understanding of Labour’s purpose. When Jeremy Corbyn and others on the Labour left oppose war, it is not just because they deem the case weak and the civilian casualties unjustified – it is also because they understand that ‘we’ will not be bombing Syria at all: the British state will be. For Benn, as for most other front bench Labour politicians over the past century, the Labour Party is part of the sensible establishment that runs the state. It is only under this assumption that it makes sense not only to maintain a nuclear deterrent and an interventionist foreign policy, but to establish it as a funding priority above schools and hospitals, even when the public oppose it.
Benn’s case for war is weak, which is why the focus has gone on to the oratory. Left internationalism has always been more about supporting the cause than the state, and sees more war as the last resort, not the first option.