FOR THE third time this week, US President Donald Trump has cranked up the belligerent rhetoric. He’s like a character in a Quentin Tarantino film, a rogue cop who — facing a cartoon villain with a lighted match — threatens to douse the floor with kerosene.
Jeremy Corbyn’s call for face-to-face negotiations is, therefore, a welcome addition to the chorus of sanity that is urgently required. So, too, would be the proposals for talks from South Korean President Moon Jae In, were it not for his country’s continuing involvement in US-led war games around the borders of the North.
But there can be no doubt that in this case jaw-jaw is infinitely better than war-war. Should the cold war between the US and North Korea turn hot, the consequences would be calamitous for all the peoples of the Korean peninsula and surrounding region.
Might Trump see a military strike against the Pyongyang regime as a popular move, rallying the US people to a commander-in-chief who is failing so palpably to deliver on his rash promises to desperate working-class voters?
He has certainly demonstrated a capacity for bombastic, reckless and uncaring actions since taking office seven long months ago. Some of his gung-ho advisers appear to be characters straight out of the cast of Dr Strangelove.
Given this incipient madness, it is difficult to understand why the North Korean leadership has so far chosen to match the US, threat for threat and provocation for provocation. There would be no winners in a nuclear conflagration, but the people of Korea would undoubtedly be the biggest losers.
It is equally clear that efforts to resolve the Korean crisis by placing pressure on China, threatening military annihilation, imposing sanctions on North Korea or waiting for the latter’s economic collapse are all doomed to fail.
This makes it all the more necessary to heed China’s repeated calls for resumption of the six-party talks begun in 2003 but discontinued in 2009. Discussions between senior representatives from China, North and South Korea, Japan and Russia had produced a framework for progress in matters of security, demilitarisation, diplomatic relations, civil nuclear power, finance and trade.
Britain would do better to add its voice to such a call rather than merely parrot US condemnations of the North Korean regime.
Every so often, some politician, pundit or policy wonk pops up to tell us that “class” is no longer the central question in British politics.
The real divide, we are informed, is now between the local and the central, small government and big government, north and south, growth and the environment, the new and the old, etc.
It is not to deny the significance of such dimensions to say: “Tell that to the working-class residents of Grenfell Towers, Ledbury Towers and thousands of other housing blocks.”
It took the atrocity in Kensington to force the government and mass media to pay attention to the plight of people — all of them on low pay or benefits — who have no option but to live in accommodation that is not only severely inadequate but also murderously dangerous.
Now hundreds of people in four Peckham tower blocks have had their gas cut off and will have to be evacuated while safety work is carried out. As elsewhere, years of fears and complaints expressed by residents have been ignored, if not treated with contempt.
Like millions of workers and their families across Britain, their housing needs count for little or nothing to the wealthy, big business and their political champions. That’s why we need a Labour government with a working-class housing policy — and the revival of a militant tenants’ movement in working-class localities.