As Jeremy Corbyn has come under sustained media fire for his refusal to commit to participation in nuclear warfare, the jibe has been made that he is extremely similar to an earlier Labour leader. When George Lansbury resigned in the middle of the 1930s, he was over 75. His pacifism was no longer viewed as an adequate solution to the extreme foreign policy dilemmas of the day.
However, it is worth remembering that these times are not the Hungry Thirties. Nor is Nazism on the march in Europe. Although there is tension between the United States and Russia, the Cold War is over. Contrary to some political thought, history does not repeat itself in a neat fashion. As a result, a politics of the present should not be defined by the past. It is worthwhile trying to learn from past problems, but we cannot appreciate the opportunities of the future by a simplistic reading of Labour history.
Corbyn is much younger than Lansbury was when the older statesman gave up the Labour leadership. It is crucial that Corbyn is not religious like Lansbury was. This gives him a flexible ideology from which to work his magic. The outcome is highly uncertain, but the Lansbury tag is unworthy of the creativity of professional commentators like Michael White.