The ideological left typically rejects western religious concepts of individual guilt, sin, and a theistic morality unless they advance the cause of social justice. Why would you use any of those to appeal to their conscience?
While I’m not very familiar with the writings and other works of the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, I do know that his reputation precedes him as a lauded scholar and gifted writer and speaker. I have no objection to him voicing his opinion concerning the current issues concerning Jeremy Corbyn and the Jewish community, because Rabbi Sacks is likely unparalleled in notoriety both on an institutional and rhetorical level in his ability to represent the Jews of modern Britain. Unfortunately, none of that is valued for consideration when one is dealing with the left-wing revolutionary followers that constitute Momentum and other groups backing Jeremy Corbyn.
The objective of the modern left is to undermine social institutions that impose hierarchies that they consider oppressive, and this includes religion:
“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”
This was the statement of Karl Marx in his essay Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the Right. Some modern interpreters like historian Howard Zinn have claimed that this is merely Marx’s criticism of the negative delusional aspects of religion and that by the same token he gives due praise to some of the liberating ones of it. Whatever the case, as far as institutional organized religion Marx’s vision was clearly that it stood as one of many obstacles to the class struggle that he felt would inevitably overcome the established social orders and eventually lead to a workers’ utopia.
So what does that mean today? The world of reverent spiritual discussion that Sacks inhabits is not one that the average Labour voter values highly. Jeremy Corbyn seized the reins of the party as a result of his personal touch with voters and a left-wing populist socioeconomic agenda that made sense to voters alienated by the austerity measures of David Cameron’s Conservatives as well as Tony Blair’s “New Labour” of corporate-friendly neo-liberalism that embroiled the UK in the Iraq War. The insertion of a moralistic religious authority into this saga will fall on the deaf ears of many Britons anyway. Here are some reasons why:
- A Pew Research survey from 2015 found that only 21% of Britons found religion to be important in their lives, placing well below the global median of 55%.
- Jewish voters are not numerous enough to affect the balance at the polls going forward. In fact, in the 2017 general election they for the first time voted in the majority for the Conservative Party, and by more than 60% at that. Yet Labour under Corbyn still managed to gain seats in the House of Commons. So why would the Labour Party need to change anyway?
- By contrast in the same survey over 80% of Muslims voted for Labour. Islam is the religion of over 5% of the UK population as opposed to Judaism which is the religion of less than 0.5% of British citizens. In cold political calculation there is more to gain in courting Muslim voters than Jews. And as Corbyn himself would probably admit the Muslim community is more sympathetic to him due to his self-stated dedication to the cause of Palestine.
According to multiple media accounts Rabbi Sacks called upon Corbyn to “repent and recant” this weekend for his comments claiming that British Zionists could not understand English irony despite having lived in Britain their entire lives. According to a widespread interpretation Corbyn’s inference was towards Jews as a whole and not only political Zionists. The debate over Corbyn’s real intent can be fought elsewhere, but the very fact that Sacks used this approach indicates that he doesn’t understand the motivations of Corbyn supporters, be they anti-Semites, anti-Zionists, or neither.
Jeremy Corbyn has an ill-conceived economic agenda built on the foundations of failed precedents. He has a career of known associations with terror groups including Islamist ones as well as the IRA that bombed his own country and its citizens. He has lived his entire life as a backseat driver in a party that had many years seemed eager to be rid of his faction. And whether it is in spite of those things, or because of those things, Corbyn is one of the most admired politicians in the United Kingdom while at the same time being one of the most loathed. In February he refused to condemn several followers that disrupted a speech by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, an icon of the ideological wing of the Conservatives as well as the son of an aristocratic family. This type of reaction reassures those voters and they must say to themselves: “We support him, because even in the face of public scorn he supports us.”
Rabbi Sacks must digest the fact that these Corbyn supporters, many of them middle class youth raised during the moral vacuum of the Blair and Gordon Brown eras and then the hard times of austerity under David Cameron, have found in old Uncle Jezza Corbyn an object of almost childlike adulation. Starting with Blair working class and middle class voters were taught to embrace a corporate-dominated secular technocratic vision for British society that was devoid of a native proud culture. Some of the elements of multicultural self-loathing are also embraced by Corbyn’s followers that seek the elimination of the old order, but in other ways they are actually nostalgic. Mr. Corbyn claimed in his keynote speech upon entering the party leadership that “I want a kinder politics, a more caring society“. Whether or not he followed up on that desire is irrelevant to the people that embraced the message behind it.
By calling upon Jeremy Corbyn to repent, Rabbi Sacks is implying that the Labour leader suffers from moral flaws as opposed to having a philosophy that is in and of itself incompatible with his own worldview and antagonistic to his goals. This is not what the British public will find convincing. Unfortunately, the wrong person stood forward to speak with the wrong message. And not only is Lord Sacks the wrong person, but the long line of talking heads and Guardian columnists talking about the harm Corbyn causes have also worn out their effect.
The people that should step up if they feel so aggravated about the relationship between Labour’s current leadership and the Jewish community are the Labour MP’s that have voiced their objection. And by stepping up, I don’t mean issuing more declarations, but rather literally standing up and heading to the door to quit the Labour Party and become independents. Thankfully one such person, MP Frank Field from the London constituency of Birkenhead, had the intestinal fortitude to do it. Unfortunately, Field is already 76 years old, and clearly represents a vanishing older generation of the party.
Once they’re out the door, that’s not the end of their job. There cannot be Labour Party and a “Not-Corbyn” Party, because voters support causes that are about something not ones that are not-about-that. The Ex-Labour members need to decide on an agenda that reflects the needs of their constituents and being a voice for the common citizen. They need to restore the integrity lost under Blair that motivated the rise of Corbyn. Otherwise, they doom not just the British Jewish community but British society at large to a miserable existence under a very sociable but incredibly incompetent and deluded Jeremy Corbyn.