Building Solidarity with Niki Ashton and Jeremy Corbyn
by Jacob Mitchell
Progressive International is an international coalition looking to unite people through worker solidarity, with a focus on peace, human rights, and an eco-friendly shift from status quo politics.
There was a lot of negative tension in the build up to the Progressive International event on Saturday, March 20th, with discussions led by New Democrat MP Canadian Niki Ashton and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn. Despite the overall excitement for the chat between two progressive politicians, particularly in Canada, the event faced criticism in Canadian mainstream media, and even from the NDP itself. “Jagmeet Singh and New Democrats are committed to fighting anti-Semitism and will continue to push the Liberals to take more concrete actions, like tackling online hate, to combat it,” said NDP spokesperson Nina Amrov in a statement.
The chat between Ashton and Corbyn was condemned despite support for Ashton joining Progressive International in 2018 and current NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s past support of Corbyn. A long-time advocate for peace and justice, Corbyn has been on the wrong end of a smear campaign regarding anti-Semitism. Among the many groups and individuals voicing their support, IJV (Independent Jewish Voices) praised the upcoming conversation which entailed discussions on inequality, imperialism, racism, climate justice and the failures of government exposed by the COVID-19 crisis.
When March 20th came around, the conversation with Progressive International was a success. With fielded questions screened beforehand from audience members, important topics were covered in the two-hour conversation.
With a poster of Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project as his backdrop, he emphasized the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, and how it had a tremendous reach globally in the summer of 2020. The BLM movement is a great example of international solidarity. After the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement, BLM showed people across the world from Argentina, to New Zealand that there is still severe inequality in America in the 21st century.
In addition to the importance of grassroots movements that have a global reach such as BLM, Ashton and Corbyn continued to emphasize the importance of international class and worker solidarity in an increasingly neoliberal government framework. As the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc, wealth disparities between the ultra-rich and the working class continue to grow at an alarming rate. These disparities show how extreme wealth transfer has harmed far too many people around the globe while enriching very few.
One of the loudest voices for a Canadian Green New Deal, Ashton, described how the oil and gas industry has had extreme consequences for vulnerable communities, particularly indigenous ones, in both the short and long term. Although advocating for proper responses from their respective governments, Ashton and Corbyn continue to push for an international overhaul and restructuring to add green infrastructure, while simultaneously not leaving workers behind.
When asked about the ongoing atrocities in Yemen, and arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Corbyn stood his ground as he did in the early 2000s, condemning the Iraq War and urging pro-peace policy and diplomacy instead of war “There has to be a comprehensive approach to a peace policy for the whole region. That means not encouraging war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, I’ve got human rights questions for every government in that region, every single one of them. And I would ask those questions and demand those questions, but none of them, those human rights abuses, are going to be dealt with by encouraging a war,” said Corbyn.
As the event wrapped up, figures such as Yanis Varoufakis, Cheri DiNovo, Dimitri Lascaris, Chris Ramsaroop and Naomi Klein shared pre-recorded messages endorsing the conversation and encouraging this extremely important international movement as it continues to navigate, and attempts to improve, a post-COVID world.
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