Former leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in an interview with Efsyn, talked about his time in office, social democracy and the growing global inequality. “The gap between the richest and the poorest has widened during the Covid crisis quite considerably and is widening all the time,“ Corbyn affirmed. When asked to comment on the recent electoral victories of progressive parties in Latin America, Corbyn stated that ‘’we need to look to the alliance of progressive forces between Mexico, Honduras, and all the other countries in Central America to promote anti-corruption and stability in the region.’’
Corbyn also shared his reflections on the situation in Britain and the current leader of the Labour Party. “Sadly, there seems to be an attempt by the party leadership to move away from the 2019 manifesto although last year's Labour Party Conference reasserted those issues on public ownership,’’ he argued.
Jeremy Corbyn also expressed his full support for the Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and raised his concern about the UK High Court’s decision allowing for Assange’s extradition to the US. Finally, when asked to comment on Greece, he stressed that our country was treated badly by the European Central Bank in 2015. ‘’The Greek parliament has a right-wing government that essentially carries out all the wishes of the European Central Bank,’’ Corbyn told Efsyn.
● Global inequality is getting profoundly worse and global corporations are becoming more powerful. Yet, on the question of what should replace capitalism, the progressives have failed to table a compelling response. What would you say about that?
Well, free market capitalism has led to the most grotesque inequalities in the world. A quarter of the world's population are poor, 20% of the world's population are food insecure, and some of those are literally starving. The gap between the richest and the poorest has widened during the Covid crisis quite considerably and is widening all the time. The answer has to be obviously a question of sharing resources; it has to be an issue of fair trade and has to be an issue of sustainable development. The direction in which the World Bank and IMF are taking us is of actually continuing the status quo, which flies in the face of everything that was agreed at COP26. In that context, it was admitted that the sustainability of our planet is at risk because of global warming and global pollution. You can only deal with those issues if you actually have some degree of planning into economic development rather than a free market answer. So, I think now it’s the time more than ever, for socialist ideas to come to the fore, on sustainability, on sharing of resources, and of genuinely fair trade between the industrial countries and the non-industrialized countries.
● It appears that social democratic parties are gaining ground in some European countries. Do you think that social democrats have learnt from their mistakes?
Τhe far-right is dangerous; It’s being mobilized to oppose refugees, migration and multicultural society. They are being defeated in some places; they are being beaten back in other places. Yet, it is an ongoing and very serious conflict. We have the opportunity of promoting social solidarity across Europe through the strength of trade unions and from left parties, but it means that the left parties, social democrats and others should be cooperating together rather than joining up with the centrist and right forces in order to gain majorities in Parliaments. For example, the government in Portugal, which encompasses the Socialist Party, but also various elements of the left and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party in Spain have managed to construct a majority through cooperation with left parties. In the case of Germany, it appears that the Social Democrats have done an agreement with the Free Democrats, which is a heavily business oriented party. They have a majority from that, but I suspect they are going to be held hostage to the business interests that the Free Democrats represent. I hope I am wrong on that. But that looks to me to be the case.
● In the last few months, left-wing forces have regained ground in Chile, Peru and Honduras. Is something changing in Latin America?
Yes, it is. I was in Mexico for two weeks, partly for family reasons, but also to meet the president and the mayor of Mexico City, and quite a lot of people who are active on the left. Our conversations also turned into the global picture across Latin America. I think the standout achievement is the election of Gabriel Βoric, as President of Chile, which was a positive result. In the first round of the presidential election, the left forces were disappointed to not be the largest grouping, but they did an amazing amount of organizing between the first and second round and got a higher turnout and mobilization of young people. Gabriel Βoric was elected with a very substantial majority, more than 10% in the end. This is a great achievement. Also, the victory of the left in Peru was very close, not really expected by many people across Latin America, but I think is a pointer to the growth of anti-capitalist forces and to the growth of those that want to see socialist economic development. That gives the opportunity of an alliance of the more progressive governments. All eyes now turn to the election in Brazil, where, as of the moment, Lula is in a very strong position to win that election. The other interesting result in America has been the election of the president in Honduras, who fought very hard in the campaign. I don't envy her one little bit on the problems she faces - unbelievable levels of inequality, injustice, poverty, corruption, very high murder rate, and the deportation of some Hondurans from the United States back to Honduras, and huge pressure of migration from Central America to the USA, driven by poverty and economic inequality. So, I think we need to look to the alliance of progressive forces between Mexico, Honduras, and all the other countries in Central America to promote anti-corruption and stability in the region. Otherwise, her government is going to have great difficulty in achieving the social justice demands that it quite rightly put into their election programme.
● Why do you think the Conservatives won such a large majority in the last General Election whilst the Labour Party was under your leadership?
I think it was a combination of a sustained media campaign against the left and against me in particular. Also, it was the problems that we faced over the Brexit position in which we were trying to ensure that those people that voted remain, and those that voted leave could come together around the progressive programme that I put forward on behalf of the Labour Party. Johnson was able to put forward with the assistance of the media a very simple message of get Brexit done. Even though he was totally dishonest in the way he put it forward. On the other hand, the media simply refused to report in any substantial or respectful way. So, I think that they won the election through the simplicity of the message; they won the election because of the division within the Labour movement about our attitudes towards Europe. I tried to unite people around a message of social justice and having a responsible trading relationship with Europe in the future. It sadly wasn't enough. However, all of the policies that we put forward on green industrial revolution, public ownership of mail, rail, water and energy companies are now more relevant than they have ever been. So, I am not downhearted on the policies we put forward and we continue to campaign on them.
● You have claimed that the current Labour leadership props up the wealthy. Could you elaborate on that?
Kier Starmer was elected leader in competition with Rebecca Long Bailey. He won a majority of votes on the basis of a 10-point policy pledge, which included adherence to the values and policies in the 2019 manifesto. Sadly, there seems to be an attempt by the party leadership to move away from this although last year's Labour Party Conference reasserted those issues on public ownership. That is to me a major debate. For example, take the water industry. Last year, there were 400,000 discharges of raw sewage into our rivers in Britain, completely illegal within European law; that European law, most of which has been imported into British law, is completely against any public health requirements. At the same time, all of those water companies that are responsible for this made enormous profits are owned by hedge funds that are not even based in Britain or Europe. They are often based in Singapore or Hong Kong, or somewhere else around the world. The current position of the Labour leadership is that we can deal with issues of excess profits in energy, in water, rail, and telecommunications by regulation. Margaret Thatcher's government and John Major's government privatized all of these utilities and monopolies. They have been under regulation for 30 years. During that time, billions of pounds been taken out in profits from them. That's why I am absolutely resolute that we should be demanding the return to those monopolies of public ownership.
● Do you think Keir Starmer has managed to reunite the party so far?
Well, the party is not particularly united. Ιf Labour is to win a general election can only do so on the basis of enthusing and uniting particularly young people across the country. Υoung people are given a raw deal, low wages, high housing costs, huge university debts and college debts. If Labour and the left across Europe are to win elections, they have to unite and enthuse young people who are actually open to socialist ideals. Look at the progress the left has made in the United States, as well as the progress the young left have made across Europe. My view is that we should have that socialist radical appeal.
● Do you think you have been demonised by the British tabloids?
They tried to. But as you can see, I am not a demon, I don't wear horns. I am a normal human being who has socialist views to my core. Have I been demonized? Yes, of course. But then I would have expected nothing less of the Murdoch media. To me, we have to challenge monopoly media power and the ownership of social media, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. I think the issue of communications and media are crucial. The left has to communicate in a much more user-friendly way, since a majority of people under the age of 40, never buy a newspaper; they get the information from Twitter and Facebook.
● You have recently founded the Peace and Justice Project. What is it about?
Peace and Justice Project was founded in order to give a political space to people both inside and outside the labour party, to build solidarity movements, to campaign alongside trade unions and to look at particular areas of developing environmental politics and media, as well as to promote international solidarity. This year, our priority is on media ownership and media control. We have already set up news clubs in about twenty places around England, Wales and Scotland, where people come together within those communities to challenge the media ownership as a way of building up a whole campaign for a very big event, probably in March. I think the way forward to the left is one of openness discussion debate, but above all, it's about community organizing. Part of my agenda as leader of the party was to turn the labour party into a community organizing function where we would employ community organizers to work with people in their communities. The left can no longer just chase the core social democratic socialist left vote across Western Europe. We also need to oppose racism in all its forms and express solidarity with refugees. Nobody ever willingly put themselves at risk of going into the Mediterranean in the winter to try and get some leaky boat across the Lampedusa or Lesbos. They do it out of desperation and we should recognize the humanity of it.
● You have repetitively praised the WikiLeaks’s founder, Julian Assange. According to the High Court's decision, he can be extradited to the US and face espionage charges. Do you think that this decision poses a threat to press freedom?
Yes, I do. It's a very bad decision to grant President Biden's appeal and it is extremely regrettable. The first court hearing in Britain decided that Mr. Assange would be at risk of suicide if he was taken to the United States and put into the max security prison. In addition, the US administration appealed against that first under Trump administration and then under Biden. There are still legal processes on offer in Britain and they going to be pursued avidly by Julian Assange's lawyers. I know that the priority his legal team is to win the case in Britain. Julian Assange has not actually been convicted of anything other than telling and exposing the truth around the world. If he had been in a different place at a different time, just suppose he been in Russia or in China, he'd be hailed as a hero in the west. But because he had exposed the truth about the atrocities of the United States in Iraq, he is seen as a threat. My support is for Julian, I have been to the court, I have visited him in prison, and we are continuing our campaign in his support. The conditions he is under at the present time are absolutely appalling. He is in a maximum-security prison in Southeast by London, known as Belmarsh. He is being held on his own in a very small and cold cell. What is happening to him is just inhuman.
● What’s your opinion on the political situation in Greece? What’s your relationship with Greece’s left-wing parties?
I think Greece has had an appalling treatment by the European Central Bank. Ιt seemed to me there was almost a vindictiveness about Greece as a warning to the rest of Europe. This is resulted in the loss of a lot of public services and a huge amount of privatization. The poorest people have been hit the hardest, particularly the pensioners, and the Greek Parliament now has a right-wing government that essentially carries out all the wishes of the European Central Bank. This is a warning of what happens when you allow a quasi-independent bank to run economies on the basis of price stability, rather than social need. That was the fundamental disagreement I had with the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Central Bank. I hope that the left forces in Greece are able to be united in trying to defend people against the worst changes that are happening, but above all, about the redistribution of power and wealth in Greece, because it has all been going in the wrong direction.