In June 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn was cajoled into announcing his candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party I was pleased.
I said here; ”Jeremy Corbyn has been as consistent as he has been persistent in thirty two years in Parliament as a socialist advocate for working people.
There are a thousand positive things I want to say about his decision to seek nominations in the election for Labour Leader, but for now I shall say just one.
It is the salvation of the Labour Party membership of thousands that we should be able, as Party members to express our support for a candidate for Leader who opposed the Iraq War.
That brutal, criminal act of Tony Blair, opposed by none of the other declared candidates for Leader, epitomised all that was wrong with the "New Labour" regime whose adherents now seek to recapture the Party on the back of electoral disaster.
And at every wrong turn New Labour took (foundation hospitals? Tuition fees?) Jeremy Corbyn was among the fine few who put Labour values ahead of career and currying favour.
Jeremy Corbyn offers a socialist voice to the thousands of socialist Labour Party members whose views have been denigrated and ignored in what has thus far passed for the leadership "debate".
More than that, Corbyn's candidature throws down the gauntlet to the leaders of the trade unions - will you come out in support of an MP who has supported all your members over many years (or do you prefer the illusion of influence over those who are contemptuous of you)?
Every socialist, every trade unionist, should put pressure on every Labour MP to nominate Corbyn so that socialists in the wider Party can express our views in the Leadership election.”
Having, at that point, thirty-five years membership, as a committed socialist, of our Party, I did not expect that someone sharing my views would win the leadership but I hoped that a decent showing would demonstrate that socialist views were still held by an appreciable number of Party members.
The unanticipated victory of a socialist Leader led to a surge in Party membership, a partial transformation at the grassroots, outrage across much of the Parliamentary Party and seemingly endless controversy. Those of us who were inspired and enthused by Corbyn’s leadership look back with regret to the “near miss” of 2017, whilst those who “always knew” Corbyn was wrong reflect angrily on the catastrophe of 2019.
Those navel-gazing at our Party in Britain and hoping that a new Leader will now bring a “new start” would do well to gaze across the channel. As I pointed out after last December’s election defeat, the social democratic sister parties of our Labour Party, which generally failed to follow our move to the left, have been smashed over recent years. A return to the “centre ground” would be a deliberate relocation to a political graveyard.
The global economic circumstances which created space for social democracy within Western capitalism during the long boom after the second world war are long gone. The opportunity to “partner” with private capital to deliver modest reform, which existed in the glory days of “New Labour” is absent. The “centre” and right of our Party would have us chase illusions.
There is political space for democratic socialism (as the example of Portugal demonstrates) – but if we try to occupy this space we can anticipate (as we know to our cost) venomous attacks from the media and the establishment.
It is too early to say whether the current coronavirus crisis will lend force to arguments for socialist intervention in the economy when the virus abates (although it is clear that the private market cannot protect people in such difficult times).
It is not too early for socialists to organise together to seek to hold our Party to the socialist policies supported by Party members (and to push further).
The choice facing humanity, for years now, has been between socialism and barbarism. Barbarism has definitely been making most of the running recently, and the prospect of reaching socialism through Labour Party activity feels now as fanciful as it almost always has – but it is our best and only hope for a decent future.
Post a Comment