Corbynites Are Right: There’s More to Politics Than Getting Elected

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The Corbynites are right, there is more to politics than getting elected

By Adam Blanden Twitter: @Adam_Blanden previously  published here

Labour’s renegade membership – a majority of whom support the left-wing leadership candidate, Jeremy Corbyn – has certainly peeved the parliamentary party. To paraphrase Brecht, the party deems it increasingly urgent to dissolve the membership and elect another.

Those in parliament – and some of those recently booted out – are acting with an electoral machine logic which means nothing to most newer and many older members. The parliamentary party insists politics is all about winning elections. This is what political theorists call a “party logic.” However, many members of the party and many members of Labour-affiliated trade unions, working with a much more “movementist logic,” are quietly asking another question: What’s the point of taking power if you don’t know what to do with it?

Winning power is not, after all, the principal political goal of the mass of people. It is rather securing representation. Parliamentary representation acts as a means to foster political consciousness, build confidence, and fight battles against those in power. For a great many Labour simply does not represent them. The need for representation thus takes precedence over any question of power. So often marginalised by the concentrated state and media weaponry of the ruling class, the old left is well acquainted with opposition. The new left – young; un- or under-employed; without unions; without mortgages; increasingly cut out of state welfare – operates politically from a position of social marginalisation anyway. They are quite comfortable with the idea of not taking power immediately.

Only certain Labour supporters – mostly those who end up parliamentary candidates – feel affronted at the idea of losing. The expectation of victory by the left cleaves all to closely to the barren land of genteel sports metaphors – as if the two “sides” are, in principle, evenly “matched”, with just performance variables dictating a “win” or a “loss.” The point is the rules of the game are stacked. Time and again, the left loses. Try, fail. Try again, fail better, as Samuel Beckett said. Victories are shortlived and never final. When you pit yourself against powers that are overwhelmingly dominant (in cash terms, in access to the media, in legal and property terms, and so on), losses are the norm.

The phrase “take power” is quite deceptive: as Greece’s Syriza understood (but did little to counter), election victories do not amount to “power.” The latter takes ideological hegemony – a thing built in real institutions through the slow build up of material force.

The membership of the Labour Party appears to understand this. Labour’s grasping desperation to be elected is proof that it is the leadership and the MPs who are clinging onto a bygone era of easy Blairite majorities wrung from a quiescent public. It is the Corbynites who are aware that many voters feel they can go elsewhere or not turn out at all (as over thirty percent of voters did in 2015). They understand that public opinion is not fixed – a point to which all political forces must move – but in a constant process of formation. Consensus breaks down. People change their minds. Events and ideas combine to create sudden changes in direction. Politics is about articulating ideas and capitalising on the events that drive those changes.

This is the problem with those who say Labour needs to simply modify the Tory line to get elected. They will either be outpaced by events and lose or win and achieve nothing.

Better would be to lose – but have a party with a mass membership, steadily rebuilding itself, incorporating new ideas. The Corbynites understand Labour’s loss better than the innumerable sages of the centre-left press and the prime-time parliamentary hand-wringers. The latter believe victory is just a triangulation away. It is not.

Rebuilding a Labour Party worthy of the name will take a generation, not an election victory. Ultimately it will take a purge – not of the young radicals now signing up, but of the neoliberals and Blairites who want nothing but the “eternal return” of the same 1997-2005 coalition. Well, that means of victory is dead. Can a Labour Party which has systematically avoided a movementist strategy for most of its existence get there? It is doubtful; but it would be churlish not to support them.

Are “Realistic” Labour Leaders Best Placed to Win An Election? :Bryan Gould

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Are “Realistic” Labour Leaders Best Placed to Win An Election?

BryanGould

By Bryan Gould  previously published on bryangould.com

Conventional wisdom has it that the outcome of the Labour leadership contest most feared by the Tories would be the election of the candidate perceived to be nearest to the middle ground. Conversely, it is suggested that a candidate who espouses policies seen to be further to the left, (which seems to mean simply offering something different from the Tory programme), would gravely prejudice Labour’s chances of winning the next election.

There are, of course, many criteria that might be relevant in deciding which candidate to support – age, gender, personal accomplishments, and so on – and a candidate’s electoral appeal, based on such criteria, might well be important in determining which candidate would be most helpful to Labour’s election chances. But the suggestion, constantly made even by Labour’s friends, that the willingness to offer a clear alternative to Tory austerity, Tory attacks on the public services and Tory victimisation of the vulnerable is somehow a disqualification is surely to be resisted.

The advice to Labour members that they should eschew potential leaders who do not “move forward” (or, to put it more starkly, do not acknowledge the inevitability if not actual desirability of Tory policy) is based surely on a damaging failure of political analysis. It can be justified only on the unstated but mistaken premise that the Tories always occupy the centre ground and that any departure from that centre ground is quite literally eccentric and a mistake, and is doomed to fail.

Yet it is the acceptance of this premise that leads most of the candidates for the Labour leadership to vie with each other in demonstrating how “realistic” they are, how thoroughly they accept that resistance to each new Tory initiative is pointless, how little interest they have in the supposedly hopeless task of developing a credible alternative to Tory orthodoxy.

The paradox is that opinion in the world beyond the Labour leadership contest has moved on – not backwards or leftwards, as the conventional wisdom has it, but forwards to a growing recognition that Tory neo-liberal orthodoxy has had its day. There is now a substantial body of opinion that understands that austerity is not the correct response to recession, that markets are not self-correcting, that running the country is not the same as running a business, that growing inequality is the mark of a failed society and a failing economy.

Among the many who share these understandings, we can now count hard-headed bodies like the IMF and the OECD – hardly raging revolutionaries. What the Labour Party now needs is a leader who can articulate these understandings persuasively. It would not be too difficult. All that is needed is an awareness of how the debate on these issues has progressed and a modicum of competence and courage in putting that to the voters.

It is, in other words, not the left but the Tories, with their determination to press on with a discredited orthodoxy, who now occupy the far reaches of ideology. It is a complete misapprehension to position them in the centre ground, when their policies so clearly represent a distorted and prejudicial view of how real societies and economies work.

It is not just in the context of the leadership contest that this error of analysis is likely to cost Labour dear. If the advice tendered to Labour is followed, and a “realist” is elected to the leadership, the Tories – contrary to the conventional wisdom – will heave a sigh of relief. They will enjoy discrediting a rival who complains about outcomes but is at a loss to explain how things could be done differently. They will know that their task has been made easier, because they will face an opponent who has already conceded the greater part of their policy stance.

They will not have to defend the fundamental assumptions on which that stance is based. Their principal rivals for power will, by failing to engage them in a real debate, provide in effect the most persuasive evidence that there really is “no alternative”.

By positioning the Labour party as a sort of cordon sanitaire around an incumbent Tory government, a so-called “realistic” Labour leadership would insulate their opponents from any truly effective critique of their policies and actions. The contention that it need not be like this would easily be dismissed by pointing to Labour silence and timidity as proof that the Tories had got it right.

The “realism” urged on Labour and the advice that they should not “fight the electorate” would not, in other words, improve Labour’s chances at the next election. On the contrary, a Labour leadership that – inadvertently perhaps – acted as a sort of praetorian guard for Tory extremism so that they were protected from outside criticism could only increase the chances of that extremism doing yet more damage.

And, if by some chance the voters tired of the Tories and elected a Labour government, a “realistic” leader of that government could then no doubt be relied on not to veer too far away from Tory orthodoxy and would thereby disappoint its supporters all over again. Haven’t we been there before?

Bryan Gould

Corbyn’s Calling us Home

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Corbyn’s Calling us Home 

From Chelley Ryan

Contact Chelley here on Twitter: @chelleryn99

This was the tweet that broke the camel’s back. After reading it I was faced with two options – either write an article on why it wound me up, or scream long and hard into a cushion – I opted for the former. So here goes.

‘Jeremy Corbyn might represent our views, but if we want Labour to return to power he isn’t the right man.’    

CORBYN’S CALLING US HOME

The argument against the selection of Jeremy Corbyn as labour leader can often be summed up in three words, ‘Remember Michael Foot.’ So let us remember Foot.

After Michael Foot’s election as leader in November 1980, Labour enjoyed significat poll leads of between 9 and 15%. Understandably, the departure of Roy Jenkins et. al. in March 1981, knocked public confidence in the party, and poll leads dropped to a four or five point average – but labour kept a steady lead, under Foots leadership, until the Falklands war in the spring of 1982.

The patriotic fervour unleashed by the Falkands’ conflict gave a huge boost to both Thatcher and her party. Riding on the crest of a nationalist wave, Thatcher won a landslide in June 1983.

So what does all this mean for the comparison between Corbyn and Foot? It means there were factors afoot – pardon the pun – in 1983, unique to that time, that meant whether on the right, left or centre of the party, 1983 was not Foot’s year.

FOOTjeremy house of commons BLAIR

 What the establishment have cleverly done, is blame Foot’s defeat on his left wing manifesto, in the same way they have falsely but cleverly blamed the financial crash on Labour’s profligacy. With the help of their friends in the media, Tory lies quickly embed themselves in the public consciousness, rather like a splinter that is never removed, and as a result, the public have brought into the myth that left wing equals electoral defeat. What an ingenious Tory strategy this is. What better way to keep socialists out of power than to convince the socialists to ditch socialism. That way whether Labour or Tories are at the helm, the good ship Brittania always roughly heads in the same direction. Any minor detours along the way can be quickly corrected when the ship is safely returned to Tory hands. No wonder Thatcher claimed new labour was her greatest achievement, an unusual moment of candidacy.

The Tories are well aware what might happen if a real socialist, like Corbyn, wins power. They only have to look back at ’45 and their blood must run cold. And no doubt they’ve had a long hard look at Foot’s 1983 manifesto and breathed a sigh of relief they’d had such a lucky escape. They know full well, had Foot won in 1983, progressive tax policies would have reversed, and staunched, the growth in inequality. Homelessness, and housing bubbles, would have been avoided. Utilities and railways would have stayed in state hands, and North Sea oil revenues wouldn’t have been squandered on tax cuts for the rich. The so called ‘longest suicide note in History’ was in fact a prescription that would have spared ‘the many’ a lot of pain.

Should I ever meet the tweeter behind the tweet, he or she would likely warn me against voting Corbyn, not just because Foot lost, but because Blair won. Like many other Corbyn supporters, I’ve heard this argument time and time again. Blair won three elections, is the general gist of this argument, so that’s the model we need to adopt to win. Well I don’t agree, and here’s why.

Blair was of his time – just as Foot was of his – a unique time when Britain was bouncing along happily inside a credit and housing bubble, a bubble none of us could imagine would burst in the spectacular way that it did a decade later, a bubble that made people feel falsely well off. As a result aspiration was the buzz word of the time. Then there was the relatively recent demise of the Soviet Union, which had damaged the confidence of the left, and the fact Labour was opposing a stale tory government, 18 years long. And there you have it, the perfect recipe for Blair’s stunning electoral success in 97. What Blairites/centrists are less keen to explore is the aftermath of that victory.

Between 1997 and 2010 Labour lost five million core voters, and general election turn-outs fell off a cliff. People didn’t just stop voting Labour, they stopped voting full stop – a collapse in support that ultimately lost us Scotland, and put a rocket booster under UKIP, the new political home for so many ex labour voters.

one for allUnder Blair the flame of socialism was all but snuffed out, but with Jeremy Corbyn in the race, the flame is burning brightly again, and like moths to a flame, it is calling us home.

Opening Pandora’s Box, Austerity and Jeremy Corbyn

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Opening Pandora’s Box. Austerity and Jeremy Corbyn

1. The Challenge

As a child I learned of honestly, fairness and justice, and I learned about socialism. These philosophies go hand-in-hand. But in my lifetime, The Labour Party I loved has become fearful of the truth, and has lost the trust of the electorate. Now, we are facing a leadership election, when for the first time in decades there is a real opportunity to change.

Recently, Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas said Jeremy Corbyn, standing as a candidate for Labour leadership was “exactly what Britain could do with” and he could inject common sense and values into the Labour Party.  So it was reported in the Telegraph, where Syriza is referred to as “hard-left”, when in fact it is a moderate, democratic party, and rose to power by democratic means because the Greek electorate have been damaged by austerity.

Recent elections have not achieved the great change as in 1945 because of the establishment’s stranglehold. There are immense riches for some and yet the state’s responsibility to its ordinary citizens has been eroded, and today the welfare state, rather than an  insurance against destitution is now being sold as a means of scrounging from others.

Solidarity, socialism, and neighbourliness,  are words from the past which we are told was some far-left extremism and  has no place in the future.  That fear of being destitute, of being alone and helpless is a direct result of neoliberalism.  Austerity, created by the IMF and described in the Zombie Economy was hatched seventy years ago in New Hampshire, has been pursued around the world ever since.

They have overseen the transfer of power from the State to the private institutions and corporations.

Ordinary people in the UK, as around the world know that austerity has failed,  yet increasingly they feel that their votes will achieve nothing. What do they say to politicians who ask for their votes on the doorstep?

“There is no point in voting; they’re all the same.”

“They’re all in it for themselves.”

“They are all liars!”

“They only want to know at election time.”

“I like Labour, but we can’t trust you with the Economy.

“Too many immigrants taking our jobs.”

“Labour overspent.”

“I’m not interested in Politics.”

That may be a fair assessment of the situation from their view but I am filled with despair. The Labour Party’s recent abstentions on the Welfare Bill resulted in it being carried. Harriet Harman made a grave mistake, and the Labour Party let down the people, itself, and all those party members and voters who thought they were voting against the Tories in May.  Why is this happening? Nothing will change until Austerity is challenged and the truth is out. No one is challenging it because of fear and disinformation.

2. 1983 Manifesto was too left wing

Labour’s 1983 Manifesto was not extremely Left Wing. Some examples include:

  •  In 1983 Labour promised to invest in homes, transport, new technologies and industry.
  • It promised to work for equality, for women – equal pay, maternity pay and assistance for child care
  • Planned for Investment in Education, and Provision for under-fives
  • It proposed to improve the environment, to tackle pollution and to conserve energy.
  • It planned initiatives to promote peace and development around the world, and to cancel Trident and not to co-operate with Cruise Missile deployment,
  • Labour would have expanded services for social care and to reverse Tory cuts in the maternity grant.
  • Begin a Strategy to Eliminate Low Pay.
  • Open immediate negotiations with our EEC partners, and introduce the necessary legislation, to prepare for Britain’s withdrawal from the EEC, to be completed well within the lifetime of the Labour government.
  • Rebuild British industry , and up these steps with a new National Investment Bank, new industrial powers, and a new Department for Economic and Industrial Planning.

Expanding on the details here show refreshing, positive policies describing a world I wished we could have seen.  It was not this manifesto that led to Labour’s defeat in 1983. They called it the greatest suicide note in political history. It looks more like a survival note for a thriving society. Neil Clark in the Guardian, describes how that defeat determined how the resistance to neoliberalism crumbled.

“That moment in 1983 was the last great opportunity to derail the neoliberal bandwagon before it did lasting damage to the UK’s economic and social fabric. Labour’s emergency programme of action would have halted the de-industrialisation of Britain and removed the spectre of mass unemployment from the land. The re-imposition of exchange controls would have put a brake on the growing power of international finance; thanks to Thatcher’s deregulatory measures – money power was soon to rule the roost.”


The yawning wealth gap, already starting to develop in 1983, would have been reversed by Labour’s staunchly progressive tax policies.

3. Popularity of Tory Government in 1982

In 1981 and 1982, the Tory cuts were very unpopular, and Michael Foot’s Labour Party was well ahead of the Tories in 1982. But Margaret Thatcher’s gamble to send a task force to the Falklands ignited a false patriotism where flag-waving citizens cheered the task force on its way. Thatcher’s gamble paid off. In times of austerity, it was like some kind of hysterical party.  It was a close thing, but without victory in the Falklands it is unlikely she would have remained in power.

‘The nation drank deep of an experience it had not enjoyed since 1945: a clear military triumph. The victory dragged Thatcher’s leadership from the brink of collapse. She won global celebrity, in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and 10 points were added to her poll rating. She was at last in the lead over Labour. The emergent Social Democrats never recovered. Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag, denouncing all sceptics and crudely boasting the renaissance of the British people as a world power against dictatorship.’

4. The Social Democratic Party, and The Alliance WITH LIBERALS

In 1983, the British electoral system was very much a two-party affair, and as we have seen recently, in a first-past-the-post electoral system, a divided opposition inevitably leads to defeat. In 1981, four former Labour cabinet ministers Bill Rogers, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Roy Jenkins had crossed the floor and formed the SDP. In 1983, ten days before the General Election, an SDP-Liberal Alliance was formed. Their agreement not to oppose seats resulted in Thatcher’s biggest ever electoral landslide. The lesson of the need for Party  unity, I hope was learned. In this betrayal, we have all paid dearly.

The Falklands war and the SDP-Alliance splitting the vote,  swung it for Mrs Thatcher not the Labour manifesto whatever the press and Blairites say. I remember it as clear as it was day, what a shock it was. The press was wicked. That is what started fear of the truth.

As we know the victors write the history.  The massive privatisation policies of the Thatcher years, which continued under Blairism, is still continuing today, though we have little left to sell off, would have been averted.

Instead, what resulted was that Thatcher’s parasitic, out-of-control capitalism grew exponentially. Manufacturing declined further, unemployment soared, employment rights eroded, and what we have been left with is a growing inequality where fear of being trampled on has led to social divisions and isolationism.

5. Pandora’s Box – the Trap of Fear

Pandora’s Box of Fear needs to be wrenched open, and truth revealed, and spoken. To be fearful to expose the evils and injustice in the world is to perpetuate it. In the reality, it is the Tories who will fear the most. Their project fear is Corbyn. They do not fear his opponents, but make no mistake, they want to nip our claim to a more equal economy “in the bud“.

Listen to Jeremy Corbyn, and  you will hear he talks sensible, pragmatic, socially desirable policies which are supported by the electorate. His approach is courageous and honest, as shown in his decision to join 47 other Labour MPs, and the SNP and Liberal Democrats to oppose the Welfare Bill.  As the only candidate to oppose austerity, and the neoliberal Tory agenda, he shows he has real Labour values. He is not afraid to speak the truth. We have heard enough lies, and felt enough fear. We must be proud of our achievements in government, and recognise where we have made mistakes – and why.

The myth of the inevitability of  neoliberalism must be countered, and the politicians need to speak honestly. We need to be Straight Talking Labour. As Tony Benn said  “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

6. Exposing the Truth, the Emperor’s New Clothes

The fable of the Emperor’s new clothes is well-known. Everyone could see the emperor was naked , but too fearful to challenge so they admired his new clothes. Everyone knows that the very, very rich, are the real scroungers  – representing a hidden welfare state while millions depend on food banks in this country alone. If everyone knows this, then why is our Labour Party still supporting Tory cuts and austerity? It is time to call the Emperor’s bluff.

From our defeat was borne fear of telling the truth. But truth is always the way. Remember the lines of Tony Benn? “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” Wise words. Lies always get caught out – Blair – Cameron over Syria. If there is one thing which puts people of voting it is lies. Look how the non voting numbers rose. But Jeremy speaks honestly. He speaks the truth. The prospect of Jeremy Corbyn leading my party warms my heart at last. I cannot have that confidence in Burnham, Cooper or Kendall. I used to admire Harriet Harman. She has disgraced the party in not opposing the Welfare Bill, and I admire every MP who voted against the welfare cuts. She let the party and the other candidates down, but they let themselves down then by not having the courage to oppose and lead.

Jeremy Corbyn has my vote, and my best wishes and hopes.

REFERENCES and FURTHER READING: