The Intercept, July 13, 2017 published an interview by Naomi Klein (NK) to Jeremy Corbyn (JC), the British Labour Party leader. We report some excerpts and the link to the source, because after years during which it seemed that only counterposed egoisms matter, it brings a fresh air, and collective interests are considered prevalent. This, we believe, is the essence of republican thinking, as distinguished from anarchical or dictatorial degenerations.
Jeremy Corbyn: …It’s not about me. It’s about a cause, it’s about people. And then we’ve just come out of a general election campaign in which we started in a very difficult political position and ended up gaining three million more votes than 2015, and the highest Labour vote in England for many, many decades…
Naomi Klein: I feel like what your campaign has done, and the boldness of the Labour Manifesto – and this election campaign has proved that when you put the ideas forward, when you put the bold vision of the world we actually want – not just the opposition to austerity, you know, not just the “no,” but also a picture of the world that could be so much better than we have, that’s when people get excited.
JC: The strongest message – indeed. I said this at many, many rallies and events we held: “Look around the crowd. Look at each other. You’re all different. You’re all unique. You’re all individuals. You have different backgrounds, languages. Different ethnic communities. But you’re all united. You’re united in what you actually want in the sense of a collective in society.”
And I think the election campaign was a turning point away from the supreme individualism of the right towards the idea that you’re a better society when you have a collective good about it.
NK: And what about that picture of the world after we win? How important is that?
JC: The picture of the world is a crucial one. It is about what we do to deal with issues of injustice and inequality and poverty, and above all, hope and opportunity for young people. Hope that they can get to college or university, opportunity they can get a decent job. And it’s also about the contribution we make to the rest of the world and the relationship we have with the rest of the world.
I want a foreign policy based on human rights, based on respect for international law, based for recognizing the causes of the refugee flows, the causes of the injustice around the world. And that is something we’re developing. And indeed, there were some awful events during the election campaign. Before the election started there was an attack on Westminster itself and on Parliament. There was then the dreadful bomb in Manchester. And then there was an attack in London on London Bridge.
NK: And you committed kind of political heresy because you talked about some of the root causes. Yet that resonated with people.
JC: I’m not in any way minimizing the horror of what happened or the awful things the individuals did, but I said you’ve got to look at the international context in which there’s been this growth. And I can hear myself like yesterday, on February 15, 2003, saying, “What could be the worst-case scenario if we went to war in Iraq?” I wasn’t defending Saddam Hussein. I was just saying, if you go to war in Iraq and you destabilize the whole country, there are consequences.
NK: You talk about changing the debate, and that’s clearly happened. One of the places we’ve seen this is in the Grenfell Tower catastrophe crime scene. And the way in which this horrific event has been interpreted, it seems, throughout British society, is as extreme evidence of a failed system that does not value human life, that puts kind of a hierarchy on life.
JC: What it exposed was something about modern urban living. This is the borough in London that is the richest in the whole country. Very, very rich borough. And its council gave a rebate to the top taxpayers last year. Gave them a little gift.
NK: Money back.
JC: That tower had several hundred people living in it, some of whom were tenants of the local council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Some flats had been bought independently, and they were sub-tenanted or sub-sub-tenanted. Nobody really knew who was in the block. The whole system collapsed. The reality was, it’s a product of insufficient regulation, of deregulation, and it was a towering inferno of the poor being burnt in the richest borough in the country.
And that’s a wakeup call about safety of buildings. It’s a wakeup call about the idea you go forward to this wonderful free market Valhalla of the future by tearing up every regulation like it’s a denial of the opportunities for the private sector. And so the debate has turned full circle on this. I went there the following day and spent quite a lot of time talking to those that escaped from the tower, and talking to traumatized firefighters and paramedics and ambulance workers and police officers who were getting ready to go into the building – to was then cooling from the fire – in order to bring out the bodies. They’re the real heroes in this. It’s a lesson for the whole country. But people are frightened.
NK: There’s a wall now – and I think you’ve probably seen it — where residents have put up questions that they have for the authorities. And you know, these questions are just completely heartbreaking. There’s kids asking, Is my school safe? There’s on question from a ten-year-old child who said, “Why does it take this to bring us together?”
JC: That’s a good question.
NK: I think we learn this lesson again and again during times of crisis, when we’re tested. We can either turn inward and against each other, and we saw a lot of that after 9/11 in the United States, where Muslims were scapegoated, and we lost a lot of liberties in this country and around the world with these draconian laws pushed through. Wars were started in the name of that attack.
And here we are in a time of overlapping crisis. Climate change is one of those crises, and inequality is another, and racial injustice is another. Do you think we can connect the dots and develop an agenda that solves multiple problems at once, multiple crises?
JC: Well, climate change and refugees are linked. Climate change and war is linked. Environmental disaster, not necessarily always associated with climate change, is also linked when you have deforestation and you end up destroying your local environment because of it.
And so, if you look at the war in Darfur, look at the refugee flows into Libya, partly from the war in Syria, also from human rights abuses across the whole region. Also from people who have been driven off their land in sub-Saharan Africa to make way for often very large corporations buying up land to grow various crops, often rice or fruit, to export somewhere else, leaving the local population unemployed and hungry. There is a connection about the need for supporting the living and development rights of everybody, not just yourself at their expense.
Here is the link to the full text of the interview: