This is NOT 1982. Corbyn is NOT Michael Foot and Momentum are NOT Militant


So it has started already. David Blunket in the Daily Mail two days after the result (note that’s the Daily Mail!). Polly Toynbee in the Guardian today. Defiant speeches at Progress and Labour First fringe meetings.

The leadership is now established.  What purpose can be served by continued criticism of Corbyn as Party leader so soon after the election? Launching such attacks in the name of electability is incoherent and profoundly anti-democratic.

Over and over again the same assertion, “The Labour Party under Corbyn is not electable.” How they hope to overcome that problem while relentlessly criticising him in public is a mystery.

Toynbee even claims that on McDonnell’s economic policy for example, there is, “much I would support, and little in principle I would disagree with.” But then she goes on to assert, “Corbyn and McDonnell, burdened by their history, will never ever earn the trust of enough voters to make any plans happen.”

This is pretty disingenuous because it tries to suggest that she (and by extension the rest of the Blairites), would have liked such left wing policies all along, but couldn’t say so because they feared they wouldn’t get elected. And getting elected was their job – regardless of the policies they had to support in order to get that job done. It is also trying to imply that if Corbyn stepped aside tomorrow the Party would immediately adopt his policies, or some version of them as for example suggested by Owen Smith.

However, there is literally no historical evidence to support this thesis and a huge amount of evidence to suggest that if Corbyn did indeed step aside, or was voted out of the office, the current PLP would seek to impose a version of Blairite centre-right policies to put to the electorate in the mis-guided belief that it would secure their employment for another 5 years.

But this is all based on a 30 year old, New Labour logic. Now I would challenge if this logic ever truly explained Blaire’s electoral success, but accepting for the sake of argument that it did, it is no longer relevant as since 2008 the political world has been turned upside down all across the Western world. The right wing of the PLP and the Labour Party bureaucratic machine, are sitting in a corner wearing shoulder pads and combing their mullets, with their fingers in their ears singing Parklife, and refusing to acknowledge what is going on around them.

This is NOT 1982. Corbyn is NOT Michael Foot and Momentum are NOT Militant, and the strategies of that period are no longer relevant or useful. New Labour is over, its finished, the world has moved on, get your mullet cut off, discard your shoulder pads and your Blur albums and drag yourself into the 21st Century. FFS!

We are now in the post-financial crash world of Occupy, Tahrir Sq, the Arab Spring, Syrizia and Podemos; of horizontal organising and bottom up democracy; of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Instagram, Baidu Tieba, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Gab, Google+, YouTube, Viber and Snapchat.

‘The electorate’ as it was constituted in the 1980’s and 90’s no longer exists. UKIP has formalised a split in the working-class, core Labour vote on the issue of immigration. Neoliberalism, happy that it has destroyed the power of ‘the workers’, has now turned its fire onto the ‘professional’ middle-class ‘interest groups’, i.e. the junior doctors, lawyers, teachers, University lecturers etc, etc.

This is a time of great flux and transition across the capitalist world and it is potentially a great opportunity for those who believe there IS an alternative to neoliberal capitalism and that a fairer world is possible.

Personally, I think we need to do everything in our power to try and keep the Party together and I have no desire to expel or exclude anyone, but the PLP and some in the Party machine have behaved disgracefully, and some still are doing so, and I don’t know how it will be possible to unite the party if they continue to refuse to accept the result of the leadership election and refuse to work with Corbyn.

 They keep saying ‘the ball is in Jeremy’s court’, he has to demonstrate he can compromise etc. This is the reverse of the reality; it is they who now have to demonstrate their willingness to accept the authority of the membership, accept the direction the Party is moving in, work with the democratically elected leadership to win local and national elections on a reformist, democratic socialist, anti-austerity platform.
And the question here isn’t about eradicating dissent. For me no ‘dissent equals no democracy’. But the right wing and the PLP haven’t simply been expressing dissent democratically within Party meetings. Instead the PLP and the Party machine have launched a war on their own membership, suspending and expelling over 50,000 members for trivial ‘offences’ and excluding 130,000 full members from voting in the leadership election. Some in the PLP have been purposefully collaborating with each other and with the right wing media, to publicly undermine the legitimately elected leader of the Party and they have done so relentlessly for over a year and long before the second leadership election. This is unprecedented in Labour history and if it goes on it has to be addressed.

The question of the right wing of the party is that they manifestly do not accept the result of the leadership election and are already starting to collaborate with the MSM in the same undermining strategy of last year . Therefore we have to address how to deal with that.

We also have to address how to engage the new members in door knocking and electioneering after they have been insulted, defamed, vilified, ignored, expelled and suspended by the very people they will now be asked to work for?

To to do this we need to stop talking about ‘electability’ and talk about specifics. Firstly, we need to discuss how the Party itself works. What is the relationship between the PLP and the membership? What is conference for? Who ultimately decides Party policy?

Then we need to concentrate on discussing policy and if there are disagreements keep them at the level of policy – policies before personalities. If we talk about the specifics of policy we can start to discover what exactly it is we as a party are actually divided on. If it is simply Trident for example, then it would be ridiculous to tear the Party to pieces over it! We can simply agree to disagree… as the Tories do on Europe for example.

But if there are more serious and consistent differences on the specifics of Party Democracy and policies like a National Education Service, Keynsian investment in infrastructure, a fully public NHS, renationalisation of the railways, etc, then we will have to thrash these issues out through democratic debate… and both sides must respect the result of such democratic processes.

But the first thing is that the right wing of the PLP and the Party machine have to accept the legitimacy of the leadership and work with it. If they cannot or will not do so then the Party must use its disciplinary and democratic processes to apply sanctions to them, not for dissent, but for publicly plotting against the Party.

 

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4 responses to “This is NOT 1982. Corbyn is NOT Michael Foot and Momentum are NOT Militant

  1. moelarrythecheese

    indeed

  2. Come on – you have to see the similarity between Labour now and Labour in 82. Both became pressure groups who had little chance of gaining power leaving us in a one party state where the Tories can do whatever they want.

    • There are similarities but they are trivial compared to the differences. The political world in which Kinnock and Blair operated has gone. Indeed, I would suggest we could be going through a change as profound as that symbolised by the election of Thatcher in’79. Rampant free-market, free-trade capitalism has led us to a crisis of capitalism as great as 1929. The old ‘certainties’ of Blairism no longer apply. Look at the USA! The centrist, managerialism of Blaire was learnt from Clinton and it has now spectacularly failed. The centrism of the social democratic, reformist left is failing all over the Western world because it accepted the ‘trickle down’ logic of neoliberalism and abandoned the interests of the reformist left’s core voters.

  3. Interesting read and it is confusing to think of what Labour will do with itself with Corbyn as leader for any real length of time if they were in power as there are seemingly incompatible political ideals running through it all – The conservatives seem to be happier to agree with eachother more for victory’s sake.
    I dont think UKIP took much form the labour numbers – hasn’t it been shown that it was Tory voters they were taking? So i dont think describing them as taking the working class votes is accurate – I’d say they took some right-wing little-britain votes from all classes.

    (for own publicity’s sake – here’s my main corbyn comment in illustration form
    https://osiangrifford.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/corbyn-and-media-owned-by-big-money-bias/

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