The likely election of Jeremy Corbyn is an exciting prospect. The thought of a break with the years of dull mental acquiescence to the dominant ideology cannot but give immense pleasure to all us lefties. But when the wave of nice thoughts has subsided I am left with a more sombre thought: are we up to it?
We all know that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would face unprecedented levels of media hostility and that factional moves within the Party would be almost inevitable at some point. The challenge for Corbyn himself would be immense. He well understands the task has to be tackled democratically through a team approach. As he says, he is standing as party leader not party dictator. But where is that team to come from and what will it look like? Corbyn rightly says that he would be inclusive and try to incorporate all the talents but that is, in itself, a massive problem. There are issues on which differences can be accommodated and compromises found (e.g. Housing, NHS). But there are others on which left and right take mutually incompatible stances (e.g. austerity, Trident, education). Handling that will be no picnic. Continue reading
There’s a glorious and comforting myth doing the rounds on the left. It’s like warm milk and honey to those who like their politics black and white, with little or no space for any grey. It goes a bit like this: the Labour left offered no opposition to Blairism north and south of the Border. In fact, those laughable people who dare call themselves socialists in the Labour Party have simply been apologists for the anti-working class politics of New Labour and its continuation as “austerity lite” under Ed Miliband. It’s only by the widespread spreading of this muck that is been possible to lump Labour members and supporters under the headline grabber ‘Red Tories’, with no distinction between socialists in the party and New Labour. It’s a comforting thought for many of those making the break with Labour, because it draws a clear party line between those on the right side of the fence and those on the wrong side. Evil must be punished and good will prevail. But it’s simplistic bullshit, actually. Continue reading
He’s MEP of the European Left in the GUE-NGL grouping “that defends the dignity of the people and democracy”. He’s also leader of Spain’s Podemos movement, which to general surprise won 8% in the Continent-wide elections in May and is accredited in opinion polls today as the leading political force in the country with a 27% share of the vote. In short, the thirty-something Pablo Iglesias is becoming for the Spanish what Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras is for the Greeks: a public danger for austerity Europe, for Barroso and now Juncker. Interview with Italy’s Il Manifesto newspaper. Continue reading
A confirmed ex-Trot your writer undoubtedly is, I have kept a soft spot for jolly old left populism. Which is funny considering Britain’s Trots have only episodically had mass audiences for their wares. That is before slipping back unremarked and little-remembered into obscurity. But populism is easy enough to grasp. It’s us-vs-themism, the innocent, much burdened and suffering Great British public against the crooked arch-manipulators of the political class. Such simplistic appeals have readily found audiences. UKIP, for example, have been very good at portraying equal marriage and the European Union as the sinister hobbyhorses of an out-of-touch elite. Though they wouldn’t have done it without a little help from their friends in the gutter press. Continue reading
I was recently pondering how, from the rule of Thatcher, the centre of British politics has been dragged rightwards as all political parties have accepted neoliberalism. One Nation Toryism lies all but dead; the LibDems seem to have succumbed almost totally to the “Orange Book” tendency; and then of course there was the rise of New Labour. But nowadays even the Trotskyites seem to have shifted rightwards!
For instance in 1973 the Labour National Executive proposed to bring twenty-five of the country’s monopolies under public ownership. These days you would not even get Trotskyite leaflets calling for such a radical programme. A Trade Union and Socialist Coalition manifesto would rather simply call for policies such as the renationalisation of the utilities, a reversal of cuts to public services and the defence of unemployment benefits. This political timidity of even the Trotskyites exemplifies just how far the left has been set back by Thatcher. Continue reading