GATHERING to debate, celebrate, criticise, fundraise for and show solidarity with progressive movements across the world has long been a feature of labour movement life in Britain.
But, as several speakers noted from the platform at the weekend’s fantastic Latin America Conference 2017, it’s a newer experience as we salute the achievements of international socialism to feel it may be within reach in our country as well.
To have in Britain “a government that will fight to uphold the principles of solidarity and justice around the world,” as Unite’s Andrew Murray put it on Saturday, would mean a serious upset to the US-led global order.
This is why the prospect of a Corbyn government gives so many in the British Establishment the collywobbles. This is why Corbyn has come under enormous pressure to drop his longstanding opposition to the warmongering Nato alliance and to renewing our nuclear weapons stockpiles despite their eye-watering cost at a time when our public services are starving to death.
It’s why some Labour MPs had kittens over his attendance at a Stop the War Coalition Christmas meal in 2015 and why politicians and the media alike lined up to condemn his unwillingness to unleash a nuclear apocalypse.
Britain’s “special relationship” with the US relegates us to a subordinate position, and while Theresa May is rightly condemned for her slavish pandering to a dangerous bigot in the White House she is hardly the first — Tony Blair did not earn the nickname “the poodle” for nothing.
But subordinate though it is, Britain remains an imperialist country with a particular role in propping up the Washington Consensus.
The City of London is a “global hub for illicit finance,” in the words of a Financial Times investigator, and acts as a gateway to European markets for US banks, speculators and asset-strippers.
Our diplomacy and foreign aid budget are tools for promoting the politics of privatisation and lining the pockets of unscrupulous firms like Adam Smith International.
Almost all the world’s tax havens are British crown dependencies, allowing a footloose global elite to stash their cash beyond the reach of law or justice, while the country maintains a worldwide network of military bases.
These facilitate our armed forces’ role as an extension of the long arm of the Pentagon, whether that is through direct participation in US wars or, as in the infamous case of the Chagos islanders, by allowing us to provide Washington with bases and territory for its own operations at the expense of local populations. Even our nuclear arsenal is not independent, but can only be launched with codes controlled by the United States.
When Tory or Blairite politicians say a Corbyn government would threaten our standing in the world, it is this sordid state of affairs they seek to maintain.
A truly independent foreign policy does not rest on nuclear weapons or military interventions, but on presenting a different face to the world as Cuba’s ambassador described her homeland doing 59 years ago: using the expertise and resources of our people to heal and to build.
That would be a nightmare for the US ruling class as well as our own — and a left-led Britain can expect to encounter all the dirty tricks we have seen played against progressive governments in Latin America, from fake news to economic sabotage and from constitutional coups like that seen in Brazil last year to the bloodier military kind, as one serving general threatened when Corbyn first became Labour leader without a whisper of protest from top brass or the government.
That’s why it is more important than ever that we show solidarity with peoples fighting for socialism abroad — their fight is most definitely ours.