Wednesday 24 October 2018

Corbyn channels Allende

To understand a man's politics, someone said, think about what the word was like when he was twenty. 

When I was twenty England had been in decline for two decades, music, fashion, art, architecture and almost everything were ghastly (though short hair had come back and things were getting much better), unemployment in England was horribly high, industrial towns were suffering job losses like in the 1930s and almost all economists agreed that free market economics, as adopted by newcomers Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan, were what George H.W. Bush called voodoo economics. 

Although I was intensely conservative and not far from a libertarian I became committed to the need to be paternalistic and look after the working class. Like most people of my age, I thought the E.E.C. was a good idea and failed to see the significance of immigration. (In those days about 50,000 people from outside Europe permanently settled in the U.K. whereas now it is about 60,000, while the number of Europeans who come to live in the UK is about 150,000 each year, of whom many later leave, but they do not need permission to settle.)

To understand Theresa May realise that she was twenty in 1976, the year after Edward Heath was ousted for the Tory leadership and the same year that Harold Wilson resigned from the Labour leadership. 

To understand Jeremy Corbyn understand that he was twenty in 1969. His ideas are the ideas of a disappointed 1968-er. When he was 21 Allende became the Communist
president of Chile and led Chile on La vía chilena al socialismo ("the Chilean Path to Socialism"), nationalization, a state health care system and job creation. Allende's aims, Chileans have explained to me were noble but the way in which he ran the economy hurt everyone including the poor badly and made his aspirations impossible to achieve. Corbyn as an admirer of Allende, thinks of Pinochet as a brutal dictator installed with the help of the CIA and Dr Kissinger, which he was. Corbyn ignores the fact that by implementing free market economics Pinochet lifted his country from the Third to the First World.

I learnt about Corbyn's attachment to Allende from a very good article today by Lord Finkelstein in The Times today.

When Corbyn was a teenager he toured Latin America, an experience he recently claimed was “better than going to university”. The high point was his visit to Chile, where he became committed to the leader of the Chilean socialists, Salvador Allende. Indeed he has described Allende as the historical figure he most identifies with. “It was exciting, what was achieved,” he said. “The land reform, the bank nationalisations, the mineral stuff and all that, fantastic. But also the spirit of it.”
On September 11, 1973, Allende was deposed and died in a coup that brought the murderous Pinochet to power. The military tortured and killed its opponents in a manner that led Corbyn to claim 25 years later that Pinochet was “the second most evil man of the century, after Hitler.”
Corbyn went on to marry an exile from Pinochet’s dictatorship. It was a very political relationship (right to its end, which came when his wife insisted on sending their son to a grammar school). Claudia Bracchitta, Corbyn’s second wife and the mother of his children, was one of the literary set of the new left, and committed to the struggle against the Chilean junta. Corbyn joined in with enthusiasm.
Corbyn was as completely wrong at twenty as now. A nun told me there was dancing in the streets of Santiago on the day when Allende was overthrown.