Four days before the British general election of October 1924 the Daily Mail published a letter purporting to have been written by the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, Grigory Zinoviev. The paper claimed that the correspondence revealed a Bolshevik plot to plunge Britain into civil war, and that the Communist Party of Great Britain was manipulating the Labour government led by Ramsay MacDonald.
It was a forgery created by Conservative Party supporters in British intelligence; but their ploy worked. The political middle ground collapsed, the Tories won the election, and so ended any prospect of détente with the Soviet Union.
Not, of course, that this was the only act of political sabotage ever conducted by British spooks. From Pigott’s forged Parnell letter to Tony Blair’s infamous dossier alleging Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction,” England’s secret services have never allowed the truth to get in the way of a reactionary political agenda.
With this in mind we can consider more recent circumstances and events. The leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has defied right-wing expectations that he would self-destruct and has instead reinvigorated left-wing social democracy by challenging Blairite and Tory-manufactured austerity.
Though far from revolutionary, his proposals if implemented would challenge neo-liberalism, and not only in Britain. Moreover, if Corbyn’s party were to record a reasonable measure of success at the coming local government elections on 3 May his progress towards occupying No. 10 Downing Street might be unstoppable.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the right is doing all it can to prevent a Corbyn government, and will not feel restricted by legal niceties.
Earlier this year the tabloid Sun published an article insinuating that Corbyn had a questionable connection with a Cold War Czechoslovak spy. The claim was soon rubbished, but it was planted in the stratosphere all the same. Now we have the slanderous accusations of anti-semitism against him, something that is strongly contradicted by the man himself and the organisation Jewish Voice for Labour.¹ Nevertheless, this baseless accusation is gleefully repeated by embittered Blairites and given headline treatment by the BBC and other media.²
Surpassing even these tall tales is the sensational story of an attack on MI6’s Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. While it is impossible from our standpoint to know exactly what happened in Salisbury, there is still no convincing proof that the poisoning was either carried out or sanctioned by the Russian state.
Even a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is cautious about placing blame on Moscow. In a balanced observation he said, “There is no evidence it was Russia. I am not ruling out that it could be Russia . . . but I want to see where the evidence lies.”
We have to ask, therefore, why Varadkar so enthusiastically supported the call by Theresa May to blame and sanction Russia. Keep in mind that Varadkar is a qualified doctor, trained to make assessments based on evidence rather than “highly likely” assertions from dubious sources. It would be easy to suggest a servile adherence to West-Britonism from the leader of a party that has long suffered from that affliction; the reason, however, is likely to be more complex, though just as unacceptable. Fine Gael is fulfilling its basic function as the parliamentary protector of capital and the ruling class.
Two recent publications offer an insight. Last month the Financial Times conducted an analysis that revealed that, globally, large transnational corporations are now paying significantly lower taxes than before the 2008 financial crisis.³ This is a result of a decade when governments within the OECD adjusted corporate taxes to favour business, and have done so by cutting the social wage for working people—a practice better known here as “austerity.”
A few days before this article appeared, Fine Gael members of the EU Parliament published a report, called “Ireland and the EU: Defending our common European home,” calling for a review of this country’s position on neutrality.⁴ The document argued for (among other things) greater flexibility in how the Irish military might be deployed abroad, increasing spending on the Defence Forces to a damaging 2 per cent of GDP, and developing an Irish arms industry.
To get the full significance of this ominous report it is necessary to read the entire document, with its chilling references to central intelligence units and a national security council.
At first glance the issues of low corporate taxation and ending Ireland’s neutrality may not appear linked. Nevertheless there is a strong connection, in that the latter is used to distract attention from the former. The Financial Times report only confirms what is well known to people in Ireland: income inequality is growing, in spite of a so-called recovery and increasing levels of employment.
The Republic has one of the world’s highest relative numbers of billionaires, coupled with very profitable transnational corporations. But what do we see? Hospital waiting-lists at crisis levels, homelessness and widespread housing shortages, overcrowded classrooms, and downgraded public services.
Working people are understandably becoming increasingly disenchanted with this situation. They see an Irish government endeavouring not to collect $13 billion from Apple Inc. while indigenous and transnational companies are profiting greatly from a generous corporate tax regime.
And if this isn’t enough, we now have the banks that caused the economic crash of 2010 selling domestic mortgages to vulture funds that are preparing to evict working families from their homes.
In the face of growing discontent from within working-class communities throughout Ireland and the European Union (and the United States) we are now seeing the emergence of what can only be described as the politics of distraction. The plan is as simple as it is old-fashioned. Create a bogeyman in the East, generate hysteria against left social democrats and socialists, and sew all together behind a blind advocacy of militarism. Defence of our “common European home” might just as well read “the defence of small nations,” as all the powers of neo-liberal Europe have entered into an unholy alliance to protect their privilege.
So what should we do? Firstly, let’s recognise that this onslaught by the ruling elite is the result of fundamental flaws in their socio-economic system: briefly, an actual or impending crisis in capitalism coupled with concern by the powerful that they are vulnerable to working-class fight-back.
Then we should do all we can to defend what remains of Ireland’s neutrality. This is a crucial struggle, to prevent Fine Gael and fellow-travellers in Fianna Fáil chaining us to NATO’s warmongers.
Thereafter we must continue to build a movement among working people that is capable of resisting the savagery that is capitalism and moving forward towards constructing socialism.
- “Statement from Jews in the Labour Party,” at www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/jvl/a-jvl-statement-on-the-current-attacks-on-jeremy-corbyn/
- See Joseph de Burca, “The dark side of the media: Secret service penetration of British media (and attempts to infiltrate one Irish medium),” Village, 26 March 2018.
- “Multinationals pay lower taxes than a decade ago,” Financial Times, 11 March 2018.
- “Ireland and the EU: Defending our common European home,” at https://brianhayes.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Defense-Document.pdf