Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Labour, Noam Chomsky goes and endorses Jeremy Corbyn. ‘If I were a voter in Britain, I would vote for him…He’s quiet, reserved, serious, he’s not a performer,’ Chomsky told the Guardian. But the more you read of Chomsky’s endorsement, the more you wonder if he was put up to it for a bet. He says that: ‘The shift in the Labour party under Blair made it a pale image of the Conservatives.’ Tony Blair, that infamous electoral dud.
Chomsky is regularly cited as the world’s ‘top public intellectual’. It’s a slippery phrase. Friedrich Hayek called his ilk ‘the secondhand dealers in ideas’. I certainly wouldn’t buy a used ideology from Noam Chomsky. After all, Chomsky isn’t an intellectual – he’s a dogmatist, churning out catechisms on war, the mass media, and Middle Eastern politics for his faithful followers to memorise and repeat in tutorial rooms the world over. You can see why Corbyn appeals to Chomsky. They share much of the same politics, made up of anti-Westernism and an attitude that portrays liberalism and its supporters as innately corrupt.
Chomsky’s support of Corbyn is a reminder that those who are most enthusiastic about the Labour leader are also the ones least exposed to the political and economic consequences of his leadership. The irredeemable villains right now are the angry middle-aged men who are old enough to know better. The Paul Masons and the George Monbiots, who were around in the 1980s to witness what their fallacies did to Labour and the people who depend on it. Chomsky is an older version of those who have never forgiven history for not going their way.
It seems fitting that Chomsky’s endorsement should come as Labour’s manifesto is leaked to the press. Inevitably, parallels will be drawn with the party’s 1983 manifesto, memorably dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’ by Gerald Kaufman. But there really is no comparison. The draft is a mush of populist postures, 1970s dead-thought, and a few decent ideas here and there. There is nothing that could be described as a bold socialist programme.
That ‘stupid document’, as Kaufman dismissed the 1983 platform, was compiled by committee in the best Labour traditions, but it was possible to point to intellectual trends within the party which led to these conclusions. From what we have seen, Corbyn’s manifesto shows no signs of original thought or impassioned debate. The Left has been working to retake the Labour leadership for 35 years and in that time has arrived at nothing more innovative than higher taxes and nationalisation.
Echoing Kaufman is a mistake for another reason. What has been done to the Labour Party, what is being done to it day by day, will not touch men like Noam Chomsky or the left-wing commentariat. It is the people with the least who will lose the most from the demise of Labour. This is no suicide. This is murder.
Stephen Daisley is a columnist for the Scottish Daily Mail