Just when you thought the story of the Labour Party in the 21st century couldn’t get any more tragic, Jeremy Corbyn decided to issue a statement celebrating the life of a totalitarian leader who tortured and murdered his opponents. I wonder how many people will be ripping up their membership cards after Corbyn’s comments on Fidel Castro.
Perhaps not many, because Castro’s Cuba acted for so long as a lodestar for those who still see the United States as the greater evil in the region: a predatory colonial force holding the poor of Central and South America as hostages to neo-liberalism. A country without adverts, but with a functioning health service, 99 per cent literacy, the Buena Vista Social Club and Carlos Acosta: now that, they say, is surely something to admire. Castro’s zombie socialism has allowed his supporters in the west to dismiss the arbitrary arrest of human rights activists and journalists, the repression of dissent, the beatings, the public acts of shaming (source: Human Rights Watch) as mere details.
Over the years, the British Labour Party can be rightly proud to have positioned itself, for the most part, in opposition to communism and the authoritarian forms of government it produced. Corbyn’s statement is a significant break from this tradition. But we shouldn’t be shocked, as this is an entirely consistent position for him.
Sometimes I wonder if Jeremy Corbyn even knows what he’s saying half the time. So often, he appears to be operating on some kind of 1980s student-union auto-pilot. But this is no joke. The latest example of Corbyn’s arrested development is the most serious yet. We now have to recognise that a major political party in Britain is being led by a teenage romantic revolutionary who just happens to be in his sixties.
Martin Bright is a former political editor of the New Statesman.