jueves, 3 de diciembre de 2015

Is Seumas Milne a Stalinist? And if so, why did Corbyn hire him?

The Stalinist Past Of Corbyn’s Strategist


Is Seumas Milne, appointed in October by Jeremy Corbyn as executive director of strategy and communications for the Labour Party, a Stalinist? And if so, why did Corbyn hire him?

Milne was, until his new appointment, Associate Editor and previously Comment Editor of the Guardian. It is odd for a senior figure on a respected national newspaper to have the whiff of Stalinism about him, odder still for such a person to be at the heart of one of Britain’s two main political parties. He describes himself on Twitter as being “on leave” from the paper, implying that he may well go back once his foray into practical politics is over.

He is not your standard-issue Corbynista. While Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet was full of Oxbridge graduates, many with PPE degrees, Corbyn’s is noticeably different. Corbyn himself never graduated — he completed one year of a course on trade union studies at North London Polytechnic. More generally, the Corbyn shadow cabinet’s background is more working- and lower-middle-class than was that of Miliband’s team. By contrast, the former Guardian Editor Peter Preston says of Milne, “He is extremely clever in a Winchester and Oxbridge way.”

Seumas was born in 1958, the son of Alasdair Milne, then a BBC producer and later Director-General of the corporation. His father’s conflicts with the Thatcher government may well have played a part in radicalising Seumas. Alasdair Milne was forced out by the BBC board and its chairman Marmaduke Hussey in 1987 in large part, as Jean Seaton recounts in her authorised history Pinkoes and Traitors: The BBC and the Nation 1974-1987 (Profile, £30), for a perception of left-wing bias and more specifically his handling of “Maggie’s Militant Tendency”, an episode of Panorama made by Michael Cockerell alleging far-right involvement in the Conservative Party. The programme’s claims fell apart, specifically the notion that there was an attempt to infiltrate the party by far-right elements analogous to the organised infiltration of Labour by the Militant Tendency. The BBC was sued for libel over the programme by three MPs named in it — their action partly funded by the billionaire Jimmy Goldsmith — and the BBC eventually made an out-of-court settlement of nearly £1 million, according to Seaton.

Like his father before him, Seumas was sent to Winchester College, a far cry from Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, where Corbyn got his two grade Es at A level. According to the Guido Fawkes website, Milne bragged to a former colleague that he spent his gap year at a training camp in Lebanon run by the Leninist terrorist organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It seems likely that this was more leftist posturing than an accurate depiction of what he did in his gap year; there are rather more public schoolboys who are revolutionary poseurs than those who actually spend time training with guerrillas. Whatever happened in his gap year, Seumas then read PPE at Balliol College, Oxford.

At Oxford, Milne became involved with far-left politics, more specifically with the “opposition” within the Communist Party of Great Britain. The official party was, of course, a Leninist organisation and thus by definition espoused the principle of democratic centralism. This is, if you like, a version of cabinet collective responsibility writ large. There is meant to be debate within the party, but once a decision is taken it is binding not just on the inner leadership but on the membership as a whole. Failure to support the party line is an offence meriting expulsion. In practice, what Leninist organisations neglected in most instances was not the centralism but the democracy. Policies were imposed by the leadership and binding on all members.


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