LONDON — If the left-wing leader of the Labour Party is genuinely trying to convince mainstream British voters that they can trust him—he has a bafflingly obtuse way to show it.
Jeremy Corbyn has just appointed a communist to help lead his election campaign, telling stunned reporters on Monday that the Stalin apologist and defender of North Korea is a “member of the Labour Party like me.”
Andrew Murray hasn’t been a member of Labour for very long, however.
For more than 40 years, he was a member of either the Communist Party of Britain or the Communist Party of Great Britain (naturally they split over doctrinal differences in the late 1980s).
Even when Jeremy Corbyn won a shock vote to become Labour’s new leader in 2015, Murray wasn’t won over by the most radically leftist leader in the party’s 100-year history.
In an interview at the time, he said he would resist joining the hard-left’s rush into the party, because even Corbyn’s Labour would stop short of full-blown communism.
“No: I’m a member of the Communist Party. That’s where I am,” he said. “Communism still represents, in my view, a society worth working towards—albeit not by the methods of the 20th century, which failed.”
He changed his mind about Labour in December, handed in his Communist Party credentials and joined what used to be the center-left party of Tony Blair.
Five months later, he has been invited right into Corbyn’s inner circle.
A Labour spokesman denied a report that Murray would be “heading up the campaign” but it has been confirmed that he will be seconded from his job at a union to work full time on the leader’s campaign.
Corbyn certainly made no effort to disassociate himself from his old Stop the War comrade on the campaign trail. A reporter from the Guardian asked why he had hired a “Stalinist.” Corbyn replied: “I don’t believe that Andrew is anything other than a democratic socialist and a member of the Labour party like me.”
He also lavished praise on his old friend’s organizational chops. “He is a person of enormous abilities and professionalism and is the head of staff of Unite the union. To manage a very large union and a large number of staff takes special skills and Andrew has them,” Corbyn said Monday.
As well as decades of promoting communism, Murray has been chairman of Stop the War, a forthright anti-violence organization which has been criticized for its links to Trotskyist factions and virulent anti-Israeli campaigns that some believe invoke anti-Semitism.
In a 2012 speech, given soon after Murray had been replaced as chairman of Stop the War by Corbyn, Murray said: "We have a message for the Israeli embassy, the Israeli government … every time you kill a Palestinian child, you are digging your own graves."
Murray would return to the job at Stop the War when Corbyn was elected Labour leader. The Stop the War vice-chair has since admitted that the organization exists “to oppose the West” rather than protest against war—they have refused to stage protests against the attacks of the Assad regime and Russian forces against women and children in Syria.
In 2015, he made controversial remarks in the days after two terrorists attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris killing 17 people. “The barbarism we condemn in Paris is minute compared to the barbarism wrought by imperialism across the planet in the last 13 years and we must condemn that,” he said. “It is a sad lesson we have to re-learn from the attacks in Paris, it needs bringing home again and again.”
Labour party moderates, who have vowed not to attack Corbyn for the duration of the general election campaign, are aghast at the appointment. “Corbyn’s Labour has gone full Trump. Andrew Murray is the hard-left’s Steve Bannon,” one insider told the Huffington Post.
The appointment was made in the full knowledge that Murray’s highly unusual views are on the record.
In 2003, he told the executive committee of the Communist Party that it was necessary to side with the North Korean regime against American interference. “The clear desire of the USA to effect regime change in its second axis of evil target could well provoke an armed clash there, too. Our Party has already made its basic position of solidarity with People’s Korea clear.”
In 1999, he wrote an appreciation of Stalin for the left-wing British newspaper, the Morning Star.
None of this will come as a surprise to Jeremy Corbyn.
Murray told the Guardian himself in 2015, that he couldn’t follow his comrade into the Labour Party because the media would have a field-day. “You can be sure of one thing. If I joined the Labour party, what do you think would appear in the Mail or the Telegraph or the Times … or even the Guardian?”
After two years of claims that Corbyn’s supporters are Trotskyist trying to re-shape the Labour Party in their own radical image, the leader has apparently made infiltration official party policy.