The Dissonance Of Things #4: Leftist Foreign Policy After Corbyn

The fourth of our monthly podcasts, turning our attention with ever greater political precision to Corbynmania, Jacorbynism, #JezWeCan, or however you prefer to characterise the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the UK Labour Party. Since before his victory, Corbyn has been stalked by, and occasionally celebrated for, his views on international politics, from the crisis in Ukraine and associated Great Power rivalries to his views on Hamas and from the (non-)renewal of Trident to the UK’s future role in NATO. David Cameron, for one, has attempted to securitise Corbyn, repeatedly arguing that “the Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security”.

And so we ask: what is a leftist foreign policy? Is such a thing even possible? Should the left, in whatever form, be seeking to capture, remake or resist foreign policy? What do the wishlist strands of a left foreign policy look like? Lee, Meera and I are herded into some kind of order by Kerem, and joined by Chris Emery of the University of Plymouth. author of US Policy in Iran: The Cold War Dynamics of Engagement and Strategic Alliance 1978-81 and this post on the history of covert action in Iran.

As ever, consume, cogitate, argue, and share, share, share. Past and future casts are available on soundcloud.

Further resources, including articles discussed in the podcast:

4 thoughts on “The Dissonance Of Things #4: Leftist Foreign Policy After Corbyn

  1. I really enjoyed listening to your conversation, but I must admit, I was also quite unsatisfied. While a few times your conversation actually got to the heart of the question (what should a Corbyn FP look like?), I felt like too often the discussion was so meta as to dodge a few knotty issues (sorry field of IR, you aren’t actually THAT interesting, even in your critical registers). To my mind, here are some questions that a leftist FP must take up:
    1) what responsibilities do we have towards others who have made choices based on our nations’ assumed commitments to their well-being? Here I’m thinking of Kurds, host-nation translators, and a variety of others around the world. As a USA kind of person, I also think about Vietnam, Taiwan, and others who count on that whole ‘pivot’ thing to balance against the growing (and frightening) power to their West. So if we imagine radical alternatives to the nation-state system (as the podcast consensus seemed to indicate), how shall we manage imperial disentanglement in an ethical fashion? To whom do our ethical obligations extend, even if we reject the policies that formed those commitments?
    2) How might the rules of international order be re-written to facilitate workers’ struggles and more extensive accountability for human rights? Here using the incredible power of the EU, WTO, NAFTA, and similar institutions based on neo-liberal principles to enshrine unionization rights, environmental standards, safe working conditions, parental leave, and free speech seems like an essential task that any holder of state-power would need to tackle. What coalitions might allow such re-writings? How might a Corbyn/Sanders/Trudeau triumvirate use the power and wealth and clout of the English speaking powers to reconfigure some of the damaging Washington-consensus policies they’ve foisted on the worlds poor? (sorry Canadians, I know Trudeau is not that awesome, but upgrade, nonetheless!).
    It seems to me that the question deserved an answer in the same register it was asked, meaning, actually on Foreign Policy. But maybe I’m too center-left for my honorable colleagues across the pond? 🙂


    • Fair. We make some gesture towards actual policy at the end, but I guess are all too cynical to suppose that the machinery as it stands can be repurposed in the way you describe. Small changes advanced in the cracks between pillars of national interest, sure, perhaps a single big policy shift (e.g. on climate change), but not an ethical foreign policy as such.

      What, on your account, would such a policy platform look like for Sanders? After all, whatever happens, we’ll only be able to travel in the Yankee wake.


  2. Found your discussion very interesting ….agree that Corbynism IS about bottom up politics and collaboration as opposed to state power both domestic and foreign …yep ….I am one who is swept up in Corbynmania … refreshing to have a true alternative ….although I feel folks are struggling to get their head around it and the Right are determined to discredit Corbyn in any way they can….I am not particularly educated ….just a single working mum living in a post industrial town in the north of england ….if your interested in a very simple, slightly humerous ‘grassroots view of recent events feel free to check out my (pretty amateurish) blog


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