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Divisions on the Left, and the election to the Labour Party leadership

14 August 2015


From Mr Jonathan Goll

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 7 August) considers the “Hard Left” — in which she includes Jeremy Corbyn — to be authoritarian, tending in the Church to be linked to an Anglo-Catholic rejection of democracy. As a left-wing Evangelical, formerly involved in trade-union politics, could I respond?

“Hard Left” is a “boo” phrase, used by the Centre and Right — especially New Labour — to make those on the Left sound doctrinaire and hard-line. But, in the 1990s, its so-called members were often simply worried by New Labour’s rejection of principle, and its following too much of the American line — evidenced later by our participation in the Second Iraq War. To discredit them they were given this label.

Canon Tilby also seems not to be aware of a major split in the Left during the past 50 or so years. The Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia led many to reject Stalinism. Those who did so — often very loosely called “Trots” — were very critical of Eastern Europe and too much centralised planning. In my union, I was in the “Broad Left”, from which the Stalinists had walked out. At its Conference once, I was rather sniffily told: “You do realise we don’t believe the end justifies the means?”

The Left is also not as critical of the market — except for infrastructure — as Canon Tilby suggests. Too many big corporations (artificial people — surely idols? ) use the concept of the market to cover up oligopolies and crony capitalism. Restricting their activities is essential for preserving a true market, and for turning back the horribly unequal world they have produced. (In Britain, the Gini coefficient was showing the least inequality of income in 1977.)

With so much financial power — and so many media outlets — in its control, the Right has successfully swung the public’s view of the political spectrum in its direction. Anglicans should beware of swallowing some artfully constructed propaganda.


25 Caynham Road, Bartley Green
Birmingham B32 4HA
From the Revd David Haslam


Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby concludes her column about the “Corbyn surge” by suggesting that the problem for socialism is that “it has no answer to the ancient question of who guards the guardians.”

The same problem arises, however, with market capitalism, whose logic is to amass capital so that the wealthy become ever richer and the poor get left behind, which is what is now happening in our society and our world. At least socialism is truly based on the principle that we are all in it together.

When I was secretary of the Churches Commission for Racial Justice, I worked with Jeremy Corbyn on issues of asylum and immigration, including the threatened deportation of families some of whose children had been born and schooled here. When I, with others, started the Dalit Solidarity Network, to expose and challenge the highly discriminatory caste system in India and other countries, Mr Corbyn was often our spokesperson in Parliament, and continues today as our Honorary Chair. He is outspoken on many issues of human rights.

Mr Corbyn is a highly principled humanitarian, who is happy to work with people of faith to bring about the kind of society I believe the teaching of Jesus points towards. That is one in which no one goes without, the resources of the earth are shared fairly, and, indeed, there is wealth creation (as there was then), but it does not mostly end up in the hands of the few (as it also did then).

Mr Corbyn’s economics are linked with the anti-austerity and progressive economics of people such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. I believe that Christians who take their faith seriously, and want to see it put into practice, should actively support a Corbyn leadership for the Labour Party, and eventually the country.


59 Burford Road
Worcestershire WR11 3AG

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