Taking the illiberal side?

Submitted by AWL on 6 November, 2019 - 10:20 Author: Jim Denham

Andrew Murray, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s key advisers, gave a “rare interview” to the Guardian on 30 October in which he warned against Labour taking the “liberal side” of the “culture war” around Brexit and “warned that the campaign to stop Brexit has increasingly become a form of identity politics”.

Mr Murray, it should be noted, was until 2016 a senior member of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and has been one of the “four Ms” (together with fellow Stalinist Seumas Milne, plus Karie Murphy, and Len McCluskey) actively promoting pro-Brexit lines in tune with the CPB within the top bureaucracy of the Labour Party.

They have failed largely because of the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit sentiment of Labour’s rank and file, and because even these long-standing anti-EU manoeuvrers realised it might look a bit bad for Labour to simply follow the CPB into openly backing the Tories over Brexit.

According to the New Statesman in October 2018, in high-level Labour meetings Mr Murray advocated supporting May’s deal, but he quickly backed down.

What of this Brexit “culture war” and the “identity politics” warned against by Murray?

Well, first of all it’s clear that Mr Murray is accusing the remain side – and not leavers – of this. The claim that the remain case boils down to a “culture war” was promptly and effectively answered in a tweet from Another Europe Is Possible’s Michael Chessum:

People’s jobs are not a “culture war.”

Workers’ rights are not a “culture war.”

The future of the NHS is not a “culture war.”

Migrants’ rights are not a “culture war.”

Saving the planet is not a “culture war.”

One might further add that if Mr Murray is warning against taking the “liberal side” in this so-called “culture war”, then – presumably – he wants Labour to take the “illiberal” side, or at least to declare neutrality between the “liberal” and the “illiberal”.

In his words to the Guardian Mr Murray doesn’t spell out exactly what he means by “liberal”, but in his recently published book The Fall and Rise of the British Left, Mr Murray attacked “rancid identity politics, ‘othering’, on the basis of race, nationalist education, geography or a potpourri of assumed values.”

He has denounced what he calls then “Brexit Derangement Syndrome” that – allegedly – infects all those opposed to leaving the EU. In reality, of course, the most virulent form of “identity politics” around at the moment is the repeated bleatings from self-proclaimed “pro-working-class” leavers about loss of a “somewhere” identity (David Goodhart), about “rootless cosmopolitans” (the sinister phrase used by Paul Embery) and about how British workers are being ignored by a “well-funded” pro-remain “elite” (Morning Star).

In other words, white people who object to multi-cultural Britain and think being “working class” means having reactionary views on a swathe of issues from women’s rights to immigration.

These workerist poseurs conveniently ignore the fact that a clear majority of real-life UK workers (i.e.: people in full time or part time work) voted remain in 2016, as did all but one (Birmingham – by a tiny margin) of the overwhelmingly working-class cities of Britain: Bristol, Liverpool, London, Glasgow and Manchester.

The pseudo-”left” Brexiteers ignore all this: in their narrow, outmoded concept of who is – and isn’t – “working class” white, anti-immigrant reactionaries predominate.

Actually, Mr Murray, who is not a fool, knows at least some of this. He admits to the Guardian:
“I personally voted leave, but the leave campaign unfortunately gives no warrant for a Lexit position, because it was dominated by this alliance of xenophobic nationalists and Thatcherite utopians. And they set the tone.”

What Mr Murray can’t bring himself to admit is that “the tone” he abhors is an inherent part of the pro-Brexit cause – and of his own politics.

Compare the following two quotes:
• “… the preference for individual rights over the collective, which has come to preponderate on much of the Western left, a flowering of the more poisonous seeds of the politics of personal identity and human rights.”
• “Human rights universalism prevents us from defending ourselves in the name of a short-sighted individualism that does not see that it is not individuals who are in question but rather great masses of people…”

The first is Mr Murray in The Fall and Rise of the British Left; the second is the far-right French historian, Éric Zemmour, a favourite of the most extreme elements (around Marion Maréchal Le Pen) of the semi-fascist RN party (formerly the National Front).

But then, is it a surprise that someone who supports Putin on Ukraine and is on record (in 2003) expressing solidarity with “People’s North Korea”(sic) should hold “personal identity and human rights” in disdain? And why the hell would anyone in their right mind want to live under something calling itself “socialism” on that basis?

Culture wars, Mr Murray? No, it’s a class war: educated, class-conscious workers against overpaid Stalinist bureaucrats like you!

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