The Guardian recently reported that the government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, if not more, on protecting Jack Straw (former home secretary under Tony Blair) and Mark Allen (former MI6 spy chief) from facing criminal charges over the abduction and rendition to Libya of anti-Gaddafi dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife. Belhaj was brutally tortured while in the custody of the former Libyan dictator, while his wife, Fatima Boudchar, has alleged that she was chained to the wall of a dungeon for five days shortly before giving birth to her son, who was born weighing just four pounds. Documents between MI6 and Gaddafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa reveal that Allen referred to Belhaj and Boudchar as “air cargo”.
This incident reveals a crucial insight into the way that power functions at the highest levels of the establishment; once you reach a position at which you wield near-unnacountable power, it is necessary not to view the people over whom you are exercising power as human beings. The establishment is necessarily psychopathic. The rendition of a man and his pregnant wife to Colonel Gaddafi’s torture chambers was a business deal, and nothing more. If Allen had allowed himself to view Belhaj and Boudchar as human beings, no different from himself, who were about to enter a hell on Earth on his command, it is likely that he would not have gone ahead and rendered them. But then an important strategic transaction would not have been completed, and he would no longer have been a useful cog in the system. The system does not function by prioritising people, but by prioritising profits. Rendering a man and his pregnant wife to a foreign dictator was perfectly understandable, given that it was in the interests of the British government at the time to be on good terms with the Gaddafi regime. Morality simply doesn’t enter the equation. The State is not a moral agent, and nor was Mark Allen when he authorised the abduction and rendition of Belhaj and Boudchar.
This may sound harsh, and I don’t mean to suggest that the government officials operating at the highest levels of the establishment are inhuman. Of course, they love their wives, they love their children, they are ordinary human beings in their personal lives who are capable of compassion and empathy just as every human being is. But the same can be said of Hitler. When they are functioning within the framework of the State, they no longer have moral agency, because in order for the State to function it is necessary for it to be operated with moral blindness. Any normal human being would be repulsed by the very suggestion of kidnapping and torturing a man and his pregnant wife, or by the idea of selling weaponry to a ruthless regime unleashing violence and terror on helpless civilians subject to its control. This is because we do not view other human beings in terms of how useful they are to maximising our own personal satisfaction; that is the very definition of psychopathy. But this is how the State functions; Belhaj and Boudchar were not ‘human beings’, they were ‘air cargo’ necessary for completing a transaction, just as civilians killed in airstrikes are not ‘human beings’, they are ‘collateral damage’, whose value is exactly zero. People are not people, they are a means-to-an-end, and that end is maximum power. Once the system is understood in these terms, it becomes perfectly comprehensible how someone could participate in torture, or invade and destroy a country in order to control its oil reserves, or sell arms to a brutal dictator. And this is how the State survives, which is a naturally and necessarily oppressive instrument of domination, whereby one group of human beings exercises power over another group of human beings.
This is why Jeremy Corbyn is so dangerous. He threatens to humanise a necessarily inhuman system. In order to reach the top, you need to be willing to see the people under your control as less than human, but Corbyn does not follow this maxim. He does not view the State as a mechanism for domination and control, or as a way of maximising power, but as a way of maximising happiness and wellbeing for all people. He regards power as a means-to-an-end, rather than as an end-in-itself. This is crucial because it fundamentally changes the nature of the system; it is no longer pathological, but humane, which in turn necessitates a more equal distribution of power and wealth. But that’s not how the game works. If you want to join the company of political elites, you need to play by the rules, and that means coveting more and more power and wealth for those at the top while abandoning those at the bottom to poverty and destitution. This is the very essence of state capitalism: economic tyranny. By refusing to play by these rules, Corbyn poses a threat to the very existence of the political establishment in its current form, whose interests overlap with those of corporations and banks, constituting a conglomerate of powerful and antidemocratic elites. By humanising the system, Corbyn would destroy the system.
This is why it is now crucial more than ever for people of conscience to support him. He is not without flaws, but a flawed and decent leader is better than a polished and amoral one. Blairites and right-wingers within the Labour Party are attempting to orchestrate a coup against his leadership in the wake of the fallout from Brexit, and this time it looks like they might succeed. We cannot allow that to happen. Of course, ultimately the overthrow of the system is the final goal. But in order for us to even contemplate that outcome, first it must be reformed and reformed until finally reform is no longer possible and revolution is the only alternative. Right now, we have many alternatives. And Corbyn is the best one.