The Biggest Elephant in the Room

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When he began campaigning for the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn would cut through the dull trivia that routinely characterises these contests and suddenly say that it was time to address the elephant in the room. In the breathless hush that would always follow those words he would continue that it was time to discuss the illegal Iraq War of 2003. The point he was making was valid – the fact that the Labour Party had supported a monstrous and unlawful military adventure, a fact that no one wanted to mention. But it wasn’t the real elephant in the room, it wasn’t even a baby-sized hippo – compared with the Labour Party’s real elephant – which is still seldom addressed – the fact that the founding values of the party were utterly trashed and trampled on by Tony Blair and his chancellor and subsequent successor Gordon Brown; and that their many supporters, the “Blairites”, still deeply infest the party. But even that subject, large as it is, pails to insignificance compared with the biggest elephant in the room which very few are prepared to notice.

Roy Medvedev, one of the first Russian communist writers to produce a critical history of the Stalin years, hit the nail on the head. Quoting Rosa Luxemburg’s words, “Self-criticism – ruthless, harsh self-criticism, which gets down to the root of things – that is the life-giving light and air of the proletarian movement”, he wrote, in the foreword to his book “Let…

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