You know what this letter will say, but before we turn our attention to the central matter of how to be nice to your Mum this Christmas, I thought it would be good to continue with the tradition of the Christmas Message. Last month I gave a talk in Najaf to Shia Muslim clerics on Catholic Social Thought so it is becoming a distinctive Blue Labour practice.
Last April I visited Syria as the guest of the Democratic Confederation of Northern Syria. I describe some of my trip in this piece in the Nation.
It was an astonishing visit and I witnessed the reality of building a local democracy, in which all could participate and which had a central role for women. I met women’s units who had fought the rapists of ISIS and hunted them down to Raqqa. I bore witness to the courage it takes to champion our shared belief in democracy, community and equality. I also saw the menace of Turkey as it invaded one of the three regions of democratic Syria, Afrin. I met the refugees who had fled and heard how Turkey was filling Afrin with Islamists. As the year ends we are witnessing the end-game as Donald Trump abandons the allies who fought the Islamists by withdrawing American troops and Putin agrees to divide Syria with President Erdogan of Turkey. The threat of mass expulsion and the elimination of the Kurdish presence in Syria, which goes back four thousand years, as well as those of the Christians and the Yezidis, is real. My first thoughts (and prayers) this Christmas are for the minority peoples of that place, who having fought and defeated the Fascist menace of ISIS and are now confronted with their resurrection by Easter. I promise to do all I can in the New Year to ensure that their story is heard and that a constructive alternative is articulated.
The distinction between internationalism and globalisation is one of the most fundamental in my politics and it is an ethical imperative to live that out this year.
I also went on Pilgrimage last October to the City of Karbala as a guest of the Shia Community of Iraq. I joined 20 million other Shia Muslim pilgrims in walking through the desert from Najaf. For an entire week I saw no money change hands. Everyone was fed, housed and watered as a collective act of solidarity and hospitality. It was a moral economy that I witnessed based on reciprocity and mutuality. It brought home to me that Blue Labour values are international. People walked from Iran and Azerbaijan but above all they walked from all the corners of Iraq, from Basra and Baghdad and each stranger was welcomed as a guest. I gave the Boutwood Lecture this year at Corpus Christi College and give an account of it here. It was the most impressive act of sustained community energy that I have ever seen. I am intent on deepening the relationship with the Iraqi Shia in the year ahead as this was a source of wonder and inspiration in the development of my own politics.
And then, of course, there is Brexit. I set out my views in this piece published in the Morning Star last Saturday.
I do not think that the politics I believe in can be legally attained within the framework of the Lisbon and Maastricht Treaties and have come to the conclusion that no deal is the real deal. I will be ‘standing up for democracy’ in the months ahead.
It is vital to thank Anna, Rowenna, Jonathan, Jack Paul and Adrian for all they have done for Blue Labour this year and to all who wish to build up our shared politics. Congratulations also to John Clarke on the birth of his daughter. I hope that this year brings a full time organiser so that we can meet more often and develop that politics of the common good together in the hope that the mighty power of globalisation can be resisted on the basis of the Labour Tradition in which democracy, liberty and the idea of a home in the world can be retrieved.
Home is where we are headed for the next few days and I wish you and your families much love, especially your Mum, and I am sure that the ethical meaning of the year ahead will be defined by how gracious your heart is to her this Christmas.