by William Bowles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
September 28, 2015
So socialist Jeremy Corbyn, after pressure from the trade union boys who bankroll him, agreed not to make Trident an issue. After all, making nuclear missiles and the submarines that carry them, are jobs for the boys.
“Earlier Mr McCluskey said [the] Unite [trade union] was sympathetic to the argument that Trident nuclear weapons were expensive but added that not renewing the multi-billion pound system would cost some workers their jobs.
“He told a fringe meeting in Brighton: “We won’t be voting in favour of any anti-Trident resolution. The unions who were opposed to Trident are likely to carry the day and that is the way it is, that is the reality.”” – ‘Jeremy Corbyn loses the battle on Trident after trade unionists side with Labour MPs to block the move‘, the Independent, 27 September 2015
Corbyn has done the same ‘deal’ over bombing Syria. And note that it was his ‘fellow’ Labour MPs wot done it.
“A yet more significant concession is his promise of a free vote on whether to back air strikes against Syria if the Conservatives call one. Given his appointment of a shadow cabinet dominated by pro-war figures such as Hilary Benn, this would all but guarantee a “yes” vote.” – ‘UK Labour Party conference begins under leadership of Corbyn‘, WSWS, 28 September 2015
So, just how socialist is Jeremy Corbyn?
OK, he’s anti-austerity, he’s against the privatisation of the NHS, key issues that got him elected and importantly, especially on the NHS and renationalisng the railways, he knows he has widespread support and these are not issues that are likely to split the Labour Party (especially ironic as how it was a Labour government under Blair/Brown that began the gutting of the NHS in the first place).
Tellingly, well at least as far as I’m concerned, his capitulation over Trident and Syria, indicate that he is yet another imperialist-socialist, that is to say, some aspects of socialism for us but imperialism for the exploited and downtrodden of the world. For proof of this look to his resignation as chair of the Stop the War coalition and,
“…[h]e also announced that he will not be speaking at a conference fringe meeting alongside representatives of Sinn Fein, but will be speaking at a Labour Friends of Israel event.” (ibid)
Gulp! This, in spite of the fact that Constituency Labour Party members (as opposed to Corbyn’s useless fellow Labour MPS) are opposed to us bombing Syria,
“Jeremy Corbyn has a huge mandate from Labour members to oppose British bombing in the Middle East, a new poll showed yesterday.
“Results of a Labour List survey of 2,453 supporters found that 63 per cent support the party leader’s opposition to air strikes in Syria.” – ‘Labour Party Backs Jeremy Corbyn against British Air Strikes in the Middle East‘, The Morning Star, 26 September 2015.
I suppose it just shows how desperate we are for an alternative to the sociopaths in power that we pin our hope on a single individual who, on the surface at least, is closer to our progressive ideals than most. But just how close is he in reality and just how realistic is it to pin our hopes not so much on Corbyn per se but on a revitalized Labour Party as an alternative?
Already, on several of his key election promises, he has had to back down. Won’t the lefties here get real and accept the fact that more than 90% of the Parliamentary Labour Party are opposed to Corbyn’s policies? He leads but by and large, in name only.
By the time he has finished negotiating his way through the minefield that is Labour Party politics, he’s going to look like that cat in the MGM cartoons after the Road Runner has finished with him, with very little of his campaign promises, or his hide, left.
On reading those lefty/liberal commentators who have jumped to Corbyn’s defence, or rather defence of their misty-eyed view of the Labour Party as a vehicle for change, it strikes me that there is an awful lot of wishful thinking going on judging by the central issue that crops up again and again, namely returning the Labour Party to its allegedly socialist roots by one means or another.
Here’s an example of this kind of thinking from the progressive journalist Anthony Barnett,
If Labour is to challenge the individualism, corporatism and privatisation of society overseen by today’s monstrous elite it has to do so with a different political culture: with intelligent, deliberative democracy, not collectivism; through voice, liberty and collaboration based on human rights, citizenship and self-determination. There can be no return to public values unless they are grounded in such active participation of the public. Now that the traditional establishment has abandoned conservative patriotism for global profiteering we need to see elite sovereignty replaced by popular sovereignty.” – ‘Open Labour: the only way for Corbyn to replace Blatcherism‘, By Anthony Barnett, Our Kingdom, 28 September 2015
Now no doubt Barnett is a decent individual as well as being an excellent journalist but does he really believe that the Labour Party can be redirected to “challenge the individualism, corporatism and privatisation of society overseen by today’s monstrous elite”? Is it any more likely to happen than it is to try and recreate the Labour Party of the 1940s?
This is wishful thinking on a grand scale and hinges on the central issue; can the kind of society Barnett, Corbyn, that many of us want to see, be achieved through our Parliament and specifically, through a Labour government?
Our current Tory government is more accurately described as a regime as it governs with only 24% of the vote, less than a quarter of the electorate due to our rigged voting system. What is the likelihood of Parliament restructuring itself, by itself? Look at how it handled the exposure of the many MPs’ criminal activities in defrauding the public by fiddling their expenses. Yes, some reforms were enacted, a couple of MPs even did some time but the whole farce is still overseen by Parliament. The fox is still in charge of the henhouse. The British state has been around so long, even if most of its history is fake eg, being the ‘first democracy’, that genuine reform is impossible, and more importantly, irrelevant.
‘Changing the conversation’?
Barnett talks about ‘digital democracy’ and embracing all those single issue, grassroots activities and in some way, changing the conversation and folding it all into a revitalized and reconstructed Labour Party or Open Labour Party (‘we’re all invited’). He talks of ‘forks’ or choices we need to make in order to achieve this,
“The first fork points towards a classic attempt to capture the British state by electoral means and use it to carry through his programme, with him and his team as a kind of elitist anti-elite boosted into orbit by the enlarged Labour membership. This is what the mainstream media expects, as it is a form of politics which however extreme they can understand, it being full of splits and purges. The other fork points to building and encouraging the British public to democratize the state and take it away from elite control as we have known it; a form of politics beyond the ken of mediacrats whose idea of ‘the people’ is a focus group not a force.” (my emph. WB) (ibid)
So, what he seems to be saying here that the way to ‘democratize the state’ is through extra-Parliamentary means which if true, means that the Labour Party is pretty much surplus to requirement anyway. What Barnett and many like him refuse to accept is that the Labour Party is part of the state and essentially, has been so since it accepted the Parliamentary road to- well whatever, socialism if you like, back in 1910 or whenever it was. But why spend all that energy on trying to ‘reform’ the Labour Party when such vital energies would be better spent creating this new ‘Open Party’ that he talks of. Let Corbyn resign and head up this new party, he has such overwhelming support. Or does he?
Thus there’s a fundamental contradiction at the heart of Barnett’s argument, namely that it sees the state, in the guise of a Labour Party or indeed a Labour government, reforming itself in order to abolish capitalism? It’s a fantasy. Any future Labour government, just like Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, will have to contend with an all powerful international capitalist elite, that thinks nothing of destroying entire economies let alone entire countries. How many, do you think, of Corbyn’s ‘reforms’ can survive into this mythical future?
At best, it’s just a rehash of the old ‘lesser of two evils’ position that many on the left have been conned into supporting, including myself. At worst, and this I think is crucial, it could well lead to an even more cynical public when they see that this new Emperor too has no clothes.
from the archives:
Could A Reborn Labour Party Lead To A New Call For An End To The Madness Of Capitalism? by William Bowles
Corbyn’s Dilemma by William Bowles
Chris Hedges on Corbyn VS Sanders: Two Different Political Animals + Hedges: US’ Ongoing Assault on Iraq Coughed Up Groups Like ISIS
Congratulations Jeremy Corbyn, a Real Peace Activist to Lead the Labour Party by David Swanson
Bernie Sanders Has a Foreign Policy Now by David Swanson + Ralph Nader on Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
Pingback: Should I Vote For Corbyn? I Mean Labour? By William Bowles – Dandelion Salad
David Llewellyn Foster:
Oh, so spending £20 billion on Trident is a red herring? And I suppose having a ‘free vote’ on bombing Assad is also a red herring with a gang of warmongers in his shadow cabinet?
Debate at Brighton? How long are people going to keep on deluding themselves that somehow, the Labour Party can be reformed? How many of these young people you talk of, were at Brighton? How many taking part in formulating Labour Party policy?
You may be right William, as I am also deeply opposed to Trident, always have been, but my point was not about salvaging Labour, but the opening up of a space for debate, discussion and inclusion. Red herring carries manifold allusions, including marine conservation and biosphere politics generally; while the flag was an oblique reference to the Old Boys Lodge ~ the rolled up trouser-leg brigade.
I was just listening to this very amusing conversation between John Cleese & John Hodgman (….you may well already be familiar with this of course, but others may not have heard about it….) where he described this research that a friend of his at Cornell, David Dunning did a few years ago to establish the accuracy of our capacity for self-assessment; it’s worth hearing, starting here at 1:21:32 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL0dmBy5qTw
see also http://www.livescience.com/18678-incompetent-people-ignorant.html
So, what do we really know? Politicians are immensely hubristic, but I don’t think cynicism helps to cure this. As for “UK” self-delusion I’ve despaired for years. I wouldn’t even set foot here when Thatcher was in power, as I seriously thought I’d end up getting arrested for some egregious act….I was younger then!
Party politics generally sucks in my opinion, but we need to debate the issues openly and inclusively, and that is what Corbyn has initiated here. Is that so terrible? He’ll only ever be as strong as his strongest alliances are sustainable, but something has changed. I’d say it is wise not to judge too prematurely.
My point, simply is that the Labour Party is the last place on earth to have the ‘debate’ you talk of. Blair must be regretting the day he changed the voting/membership rules! It’s simply self-delusion to think that the Labour Party contains within it the seeds of progressive change.
Consider that over 90% of the Labour MPs are opposed to Corbyn’s platform. How many of them do you think are socialists? Do you think these people are all going to vanish? Do you think the militarists in his shadow cabinet are going to ‘see the light’?
It’s dangerous self-delusion to pin our hopes on one man who has sat in Parliament for 30 years basically as an onlooker, not a participant.
Sure, he’s voted nay against his own government many times on all the right issues, but pretty much on his own. Then what?
Again, I say let’s expend this energy you talk of in the right place, out here!
You paint a grim picture ~ maybe the outcome will be a splintered party, with steadily exponential coalitions of minority groups across the parliamentary board…testing times indeed, but then was it not always so? Labour may have to end up splitting four ways, to reinvent a level meeting place. I do not wish to be disrespectful to sincere Freemasons, but corruption is universally endemic these days.
D’you think the Greens, Plaid and the SNP are gaining gradual momentum, Sinn Féin even ? Maybe Mr corporate Cameron’s Bullingdon buddies should not be overly complacent.
You forget that the Labour Party has already split, that’s how the LibDems came to be, an amalgamation of the old Liberal Party and the so-called right wing of the Labour Party. I think the key is all those people excited by Corbyn, what is it, 20, 30 percent of the population? The Labour Party just sees them as votes and MPs in Parliament, NOT change!
I don’t agree with William Bowles. Trident is a red herring not a chequered flag. It is worth paying some heed to what is going on in Brighton at the conference.
What is emerging here is a new debate about how policy discussions can be conducted freely and openly, without intimidation, party prejudicee or sexist discrimination; and how such a public forum for change can revitalise and reform politics generally across the spectrum, by getting to grips with what it is all about and for whom. This quiet revolution has fired up alienated youth and opened a space for robust intellectual and pragmatic engagement.
Oh, and it is Podemos. It is also too soon to say, nay.
I corrected it, David, thanks for letting me know.
Sometimes it gets discouraging. What has to be done, and this is an historical project, is to change the political culture of the general population. An electoral candidate is inevitably restricted by the views of his supporters. And this is true of the mainstream truth professionals as well who are embedded in the mainstream truth institutions. They are sandwiched between authority that does not want them to tell the reality based truth, and an audience of the people who do not want to hear it. Changing authorized truth and policies can only be done by changing the political culture of the people.
I contend that this requires generalizing the economic world-view to a broader cultural world-view, which will allow new political strategies to be developed. Indeed, the brilliant Michael Hudson argues that the traditional exploitation of the workers is not the primary problem in current financial capitalism, but the struggle between the creditors and the debtors. This is a very different dynamic, and involves more groupings than traditional industrial workers.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, we live in a world with nuclear weapons. Washington is installing 30 tactical nuclear weapons in Germany, a very dangerous ploy, and Obama is going to authorize nearly a trillion dollars to upgrade the US nuclear arsenal. If the socialist candidates not only do not oppose it, but actually SUPPORT it operatively, we have to think again about the socialist movement.
With the spread of nuclear weapons, and the technical development of tactical weapons and delivery systems, we are entering the era of nuclear wary. I have suggested culturalism as an alternative to oppose it, but what this means concretely must be fashioned out over historical time by culturalists, just as marxism was largely produced by Marxists, not Marx. But Americans in a period of reaction and decay, are currently not interested in new ideas.