Jeremy Corbyn was recently attacked by Tory MP, Ben Bradley, who claimed that Corbyn had in the past been selling state secrets to communist-run Czechoslovakia. This spurious allegation was naturally was picked up by various right-wing newspapers, including The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Express. Unsurprisingly, all ran wild with the claim.
Such behaviour marks a return to the old smear tactics of the British press from the 1960s and 70s. Ironically, it later turned out that the Iron Curtain spies were at the time actually targeting Tory MPs and establishment figures, who it seems were more open to bribery and pressure.
Corbyn was not deterred by this vicious smear campaign. He hit back with a bold statement against the press owned by “billionaire tax exiles”, which he blamed for “a succession of false and absurd stories”.
The ridiculous claims against Corbyn were soon proved to be libellous. As a result, Bradley was forced to make a grovelling apology and, at Corbyn’s request, provide a large donation to a food bank in the Tory MP’s constituency. Bradley’s apology on Twitter went viral, becoming the most widely shared tweet of 2018 (with over 55,000 re-tweets at the time of writing).
As part of the attacks on the Labour leader, the Tories also demanded that Corbyn “authorise” the release of his Stasi file - only to be told by the German authorities that there was no such file on record.
Rather satisfyingly, this whole smear campaign has ended up backfiring on the Tories, who came out looking utterly desperate. So absurd were the claims that Andrew Neil ripped into Tory MP Steve Baker on the BBC’s Daily Politics.
“The real scandal, Mr Baker,” the show’s host asserted, “isn’t what Mr Corbyn has supposedly done or not done. It’s the outright lies and disinformation that your fellow Tories are spreading.”
In effect Neil was warning the ruling class: don’t be so stupid! Be smarter with your attacks, otherwise they’ll backfire! Indeed, Momentum reported a spike in recruitment during this period.
These events signal that people are not willing to take such claims at face value any more. Ordinary people have been lied to by the establishment and the Tory press for too long now, and have long ago ceased to believe their hysteria and allegations.
The popularity of Corbyn’s policies with the masses represents a significant swing to the left and a rise in class consciousness, something the ruling class cannot tolerate.
What we have been witness to over the recent period is just a sample of what will come if a Corbyn-led Labour government comes into power. Attacks from the media and the capitalists will be vicious. They will stop at nothing to protect their interests, the rest of us be damned.
But this episode illustrates that the billionaire media is losing its power to control public opinion. An endless series of scandals have undermined the authority of all the main pillars of the establishment. Grassroots organisation and campaigning, meanwhile, has allowed the Corbyn movement to circumvent the mainstream media and their lies.
As the French author Victor Hugo once wrote: there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Armed with a bold socialist message, no amount of attacks and smears will be able to derail the mass movement of workers and youth that is growing ever-stronger by the day.