JEREMY CORBYN: THE MOST LEFT-WING LEADER LABOUR HAS EVER HAD

September 23, 2015 – 2:07 pm


On September 12, 2015, dark horse candidate Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the British Labour Party with 59.5 per cent of the votes in a stunning first-round victory. Tariq Ali looks at what’s in store for the Labour Party and for British politics.

The ironies of history never fail to surprise. Measured by any criteria, Jeremy Corbyn is the most left-wing leader in the history of the Labour Party. He understands that those who do evil abroad are unlikely to do much good at home. He is the staunchest anti-imperialist Member of Parliament. A contrast with his political forebears proves this assertion. Keir Hardie’s socialism floundered on the battlefields of the First World War, with Arthur Henderson serving in Lloyd George’s war cabinet.

Labour’s first Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald, worshipped the Dukes and Duchesses of high society and ended up taking the Labour into a National Government and splitting the party. Benefit cuts was the issue. George Lansbury, who led the remnants, was a decent enough man and highly respected but too busy nursing the amputated  party to have much of an impact.

Clement Attlee was a great reformer domestically, but abroad his government approved the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, appeased the new masters of the world in Washington, rejected any notion of an independent foreign policy and his ministers were photographed with the decapitated heads of   Malaysian communist guerrillas that Britain helped to crush and defeat. The record on the civil war in Greece was not a great improvement on what had been started by the old man in Downing Street.

Harold Wilson redistributed wealth but supported US foreign policy in Vietnam; Michael Foot as Leader of the Opposition was a rabid supporter of Margaret Thatcher’s war to retrieve the Malvinas/Falkland. Neil Kinnock’s triumph was the expulsion of the Militant tendency but he failed to defeat the Tories. John Smith died before he could be tested.

The Thatcherite twins followed Smith. Tony Blair/Gordon Brown had agreed to share power thus creating two power-hungry factions with no political differences except that Blair hungered for both power and money. He gave us the wars in Yugoslavia and Iraq, the second was blissfully oblivious to the vulnerabilities of financialised capitalism and spent billions of tax-payers money to bail out a number of banks that might have (after paying the depositors) been best left to croak.

No one who knows or sees and hears Jeremy Corbyn can doubt his authenticity… On the key issues he has remained steadfast. What appealed to the young, who transformed the campaign into a social movement, was precisely what alienated the traditional political and media cliques.

Both bureacratised the Labour Party by neutering the power of the party conference, reducing it to the level of a tacky version of the US Democrats. All show, no substance. They denuded Constituency Labour Party members (CLPs) of the right to select their own prospective parliamentary candidates. This was the only way they could transform a large chunk of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) into a collection of  over-promoted office boys and girls together with bandwagon careerists.

Three of them were on regular display in the recent campaign to succeed another one of their number, Ed Miliband. What is ironic is that Miliband’s reform of the party’s electoral system was designed to appease the Blairites and their media chums by eliminating what was left of trade union power in the party and opening it up to outsiders in the lame hope that more congenial voters would ensure the domination of extreme centre politics. So confident were they that a few Blairites gave Corbyn the necessary parliamentary votes to stand as a token lefty and reveal the party’s generosity and attachment to diversity.

Who would have thought that it would backfire so sensationally? Certainly not Corbyn. Nor anyone else. The Guardian came out for Cooper, its Blairite columnists trembling with rage and denouncing the dinosaur from Islington, forgetting that for younger folk dinosaurs are a much loved and missed species. The Daily Mirror backed Burnham.

No one who knows or sees and hears Corbyn can doubt his authenticity. I have shared numerous platforms with him for the last 40 years. On the key issues he has remained steadfast. What appealed to the young, who transformed the campaign into a social movement, was precisely what alienated the traditional political and media cliques.

Corbyn was untutored, discursive, too left-wing, wanted to reverse the privatizations of the railways and the utilities, etc. Many who registered to vote for him did so because of this and to break from the bland, colourless, unimaginative and visionless New Labour confections on permanent display.

Corbyn was untutored, discursive, too left-wing, wanted to reverse the privatizations of the railways and the utilities, etc. Many who registered to vote for him did so because of this and to break from the bland, colourless, unimaginative and visionless New Labour confections on permanent display.

As a Labourist, Corbyn had underestimated the changes in Scotland, but it was these that actually helped his campaign. An SNP (Scottish National Party) cohort in parliament that wanted to ditch the redundant and over-priced Trident; an electrifying maiden speech by 18-year-old Mhairi Black’s that took on the Tories, pleaded with Labour to join the opposition. Her honesty and integrity was unchallengeable. It became a global sensation, Tweeted and Facebooked all over the world. Was there anyone in the immeasurably inferior PLP who could match such a performance? All this helped the Corbyn campaign. If Scotland, why not England?

What does the future hold? As Labour members elect their most left-wing leader the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party is in the death grip of the Right. Anyone listening to Sadiq Khan’s acceptance speech after being nominated as Labour’s mayoral choice to run London would have noticed the difference with the Corbyn campaign. Khan’s clichés were a reminder of how isolated Corbyn will be inside the PLP.

What will he do? What will they do?

Corbyn will, unsurprisingly, call on the party to unite behind him. But there is no getting away from the fact that the PLP majority is opposed to his policies. I guess they will try and tire him out and force compromise after compromise to discredit him (remember Tsipras in Greece) but I doubt whether they’ll succeed.

Corbyn understands the key issues on which no compromise is possible. He’s been campaigning for them long enough. His closeness to the Green agenda is not a secret and and the single Green MP now has a solid supporter. Taking back public transport from the profiteers is another element; cheap public housing for the young and the old will help rebuild communities.

A robust tax regime that reverse the decades of privileges afforded the rich will unleash a fierce offensive by the City and its media and political acolytes, but it’s absolutely necessary. Since the late ’70s, the redistribution of wealth in favour of the rich and the very rich has risen faster in Britain than in any other OECD country.

Unlike the Blair cabinet, Corbyn is not interested in power for its own sake or to amass personal wealth. After all they happily supported austerity and Cameron is no different from Blair. We shall see. But whatever happens it will no longer be possible for the self-censoring BBC to keep the views espoused by the new Labour leader off the screen. The living dead have been vanquished, if temporarily. English politics has come to life again.

Note: Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso). The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

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  1. 5 Responses to “JEREMY CORBYN: THE MOST LEFT-WING LEADER LABOUR HAS EVER HAD”

  2. Same old, same old, Tariq. The little boy who never grew up

    By Thom Anderson on Sep 23, 2015

  3. it doesn’t much matter what he says he will do on austerity, nationalising the banks etc., if he allows continued unfettered migration to the UK, especially from countries of the middle east, he won’t get elected. Britain is a country built on a tradition of inward migration, but it has succeeded in the past ONLY when the migrant community integrates. More migration of people from cultures who wish to bend the British to their standard, instead of adopting British values and freedoms, leaves the door open for UKIP etc.,

    Oh and one last thing, apart from a rump of old CND lefties, most Brits actually appreciate that the nuclear deterrent of Trident has value, especially when some countries run by nutters have access to nuclear technology…

    By Liam on Sep 24, 2015

  4. “Unlike the Blair cabinet, Corbyn is not interested in power for its own sake”

    this part of the sentence sums up what is wrong with the left, they shouldn’t be interested in power AT ALL, they are elected to SERVE in OFFICE, not to hold power.. choice of words can be very telling, he wants power, not to do service to the country…

    By Liam on Sep 24, 2015

  5. He’s just another champagne socialist, ticks every box. Nice middle class background which shielded him from inner city/urban living, selective grammar school educated, never had a real job, knows zero about how real working class people feel, or the problems they face, spent his whole life on the public payroll…the only opinions he’s ever been interested in are ones from union bigwigs, fellow near communists and green/pacifist/anti-capitalist nutjobs. More fool any working class family if they think he will look after their interests - or any Briton at all come to think of it.

    By Shep on Sep 24, 2015

  6. Foreign policy aside, Corbyn is no ore ‘left’ than Eisenhower was.

    By Thom Anderson on Sep 24, 2015

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