So many, perhaps all, of the human icons who are praised or even worshiped are flawed, which is hardly surprising since none of us are perfect.
Thinking of political figures there’s Nye Bevan, darling of the Labour Left, who seriously blotted his copybook by stating that we could not let ‘a British Foreign Secretary walk naked into the conference chamber’, a very perverse and convoluted argument for keeping the British Bomb so we had something to give up at multilateral disarmament talks. It was, in fact, a betrayal of the Left and unilateralism; Britain giving up its nuclear weapons as an example to other states.
Clem Attlee, who did so much in the post-war Labour government to build a better Britain. He took coal, steel, the railways and the public utility companies into public ownership, established the Welfare State, the National Health Service and gave independence to many countries, ending the British Empire. However he was the Prime Minister who made sure Britain got the atomic bomb, so again the Leftwing credentials of a Labour politician was very seriously undermined.
You would have expected Sir Bertrand Russell, the humanist philosopher who led first the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as its only President, and then the break-away direct action Committee of 100, both totally opposed to nuclear weapons, to have had a clean slate. Not so. He advocated the atomic bombing of the Soviet Union in the late 1940s, or at least threatening to do so to stop the USSR from obtaining the Bomb.
Going back further we have Lenin who promised ‘all power to the soviets’, but he and Leon Trotsky, that darling of the extreme Left, betrayed the revolution long before Stalin became General Secretary by crushing the Kronstadt rebellion which sought to preserve the original ideas and ethics of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The bureaucratic dictatorship in the Soviet Union and the crushing of even Socialist alternatives and opposition parties (leading later to Stalin’s purges) started under the leadership of Lenin, and Trotsky as head of the Red Army crushed the Kronstadt sailors’ rebellion against this fledgling bureaucratic dictatorship, thus laying the groundwork for Stalin and his rule of terror, and ultimately, the total collapse of the Marxist dream of a Communist utopia, or even of achieving the Socialist stage of Karl Marx’s future society.
Then we have Nelson Mandela, the man once labeled as a ‘terrorist’ who later became President of his country, ending apartheid. Surely he was untainted? I’m not so sure. The fact is all these years since the African National Congress achieved power in the Republic of South Africa, with Mandela as the first ANC President, there is still massive disparity between the rich whites and the many poor blacks, which is economic apartheid. Only a relatively few rich blacks, many part of the ruling clique, have really benefited economically. Then we have his ex-wife Winnie who was accused of being involved in the torture and murder of many people, including Stompie Moekets. It was Winnie who made a notorious speech about freeing the nation ‘with our necklaces’, which meant burning people alive by putting tires soaked in petrol around their necks. Although he divorced Winnie, I’m not convinced he made a clear denunciation of this appalling statement, nor am I convinced he made what would have been a very influential contribution to the HIV/AIDS controversy in South Africa when successor ANC administrations denied HIV was a cause of AIDS, which set back the fight against the virus.
John F. Kennedy may be regarded as a liberal by many, but he led the USA into the disastrous Vietnam War, which included the horrific napalming of Vietnamese citizens. He is also the President who brought the world close to nuclear war over the Cuba Missile crisis. Although USA had nuclear missiles just across the Soviet border in Turkey, he hypocritically created a huge crisis when U.S. satellites and spy planes spotted Soviet nuclear missile silos being constructed in Cuba. Far from Krushchev climbing down, the reality is Kennedy too had to back down and withdraw U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey before Krushchev agreed not to send the missiles to Cuba. Of course Kennedy, this great ‘liberal’, was also the President who ordered the disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs’ attempt to overthrow the Castro government in Cuba. Whatever he may have been in domestic politics, JFK was most certainly NOT a liberal in his foreign policies. He, more than anyone else in the world, almost brought the world to nuclear disaster. A recent report said only the action of a Soviet submarine officer prevented this, when this man refused to agree to pushing the nuclear button when his comrades had already agreed to do so.
Having worked in certain leftwing peace and human rights organizations, relying on donations from the general public, I know of the terrible waste of money and how some of the people in these organizations take huge handouts when they leave, and when they are on missions stay in top quality hotels, often demanding first-class travel to get there. A certain respected black civil rights leader in the USA stayed with his entourage in a top London hotel, I was quite shocked when I had to deliver something to him there.
The whole Communist movement was corrupted by opportunists and careerists who usurped the original aims of Marxism, setting back the cause of Socialism for decades at least.
It seems there are very few human icons who are free from serious flaws, and it also seems that power corrupts even if that power is limited to having a bit of money raised by donations to squander.
Is it any wonder I am disillusioned with politics as a whole? Nick Clegg going into coalition with the Tories and completely abandoning his pledge to find an alternative to ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident, not to mention jettisoning many other Liberal Democrat policies, is just the latest betrayal of the British electorate.
Oh, and let’s not forget the ‘Gang of Four’ who stabbed the Labour Party in the back when Michael Foot was leader by setting up the SDP, so splitting the leftwing vote and letting Thatcher in again. One of the greatest betrayals in British political history!
At least we know what the Tories stand for, but Liberal Democrats and Labour politicians just seem to be Tories in disguise, not least Tony Blair who adopted practically all of Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous policies. How on Earth did he ever get admitted to the Labour Party?
However there is hope. At long last an attempt is being made to unite the Left with a new Party, which just had its inaugral Conference. Ken Loach is one of the comrades who helped launch this new Party, and the first Conference decisions are very encouraging. I have joined the Party and hope to be able to vote for its candidates in future elections. I hope many on the Left of the Labour Party also see fit to join us as, sadly, Labour is no longer a Socialist party and no longer defends the working-class.