Should I Vote For Corbyn? I Mean Labour? By William Bowles + Tariq Ali: Election Time in Britain + Tasting the Bitter Pill of History by William Bowles

Jeremy Corbyn graffiti, Camden

Image by duncan c via Flickr

Updated: June 8, 2017

by William Bowles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Investigating Imperialism
London, England
June 7, 2017

And after all the bad things I’ve said about Corbyn (here, here and here) you would think asking the question was redundant, but is it? Should I vote for Corbyn/Labour Party or perhaps abstain? What is at stake here, aside from Corbyn’s political future (and perhaps the future of the Labour Party itself)? He is after all, almost at retirement age and thrust into a position that he never asked for in the first place. Had he been ten or twenty years younger I seriously doubt whether he would have accepted the position.

Be that as it may, there are so many contradictions surrounding Corbyn’s bid for prime minister, not the least of which is the fact that a vote cast for Corbyn actually is for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), not Corbyn. If I vote, I’ll be voting for my local Constituency Labour Party candidate, the vast majority of whom want Corbyn gone (but hopefully, not mine)! What this means for a potential Labour victory should Labour actually win, is anybody’s guess.

Anti-Corbyn MPs are also more likely to lose their seats, possessing on average smaller majorities than his supporters in the PLP. – ‘What Will Be Left‘ By Tom Crewe, London Review of Books, 18 May, 20017

So at least one Corbyn pundit thinks that Corbyn supporters hope they’ll not get reelected. But think about it: that’s over 90% of Labour MPs. If that does happen it would wipe out the Parliamentary Labour Party, so I don’t think this particular pundit thought this one through.

Ideally of course, when Corbyn took over the leadership of the party, his first act should have been to make sure that constituency Labour Parties should have been given the power to select candidates that represented their views rather than have them thrust upon them by the Blairite-controlled central command.

Which leads me to the next question; is the Labour Party worth saving given its history? The last time it remotely resembled a socialist party was in 1945 and once more, that only occurred, as with Corbyn, because of pressure from below and of course, the fact that capitalism was bankrupt in 1945! There was going to be no return to the 1930s and the ruling class knew this. Labour’s version of socialism was preferable to actual revolution even for the ruling class. And in any case, the Labour Party was a fully paid up member of the Empire.

It, the Labour Party, since its beginnings in 1910 as a pressure group turned political party, seeking Parliamentary seats, it has been an integral component of the ruling political class and supported the UK’s colonial and imperialist policies (socialism at home, imperialism abroad?) throughout the entire period. In fact, up until now. Can Corbyn turn this around?

I have to ask this: Is Corbyn more interested in saving the Labour Party (from itself?) than winning the election?

The kinds of contradictions in the situation are revealed by the Labour candidate I have in my constituency, who is decidedly weird and all things being equal (which they ain’t) I wouldn’t vote for (her) if she was the last candidate on Earth.

So you see the dilemma and why in voting Labour you are not voting for Corbyn. So it’s essentially an act of faith to vote Labour in the hope (some might say vain hope) that the PLP won’t stab Corbyn in the back once they gain power. Alternately, as most don’t even think that Corbyn can win, that in losing that would be the end of him. And clearly, some, like Chukka Umunna, who was Labour MP for Streatham, I think are quite prepared to throw the election in order to get rid of Corbyn.

But I did correctly sense the direction in which the election is moving, in that on May Day I put ten quid on Corbyn to win (it was then 8-1 against at Ladbrokes, currently Paddy Power are offering 14/1 against)) and the guy behind the counter agreed with me, he was most definitely voting for Corbyn! But did he realize that his vote was not actually for Corbyn but for the Parliamentary Labour Party? This is the dilemma we face. Should the Labour Party win will it trigger a civil or perhaps a very uncivil war within the Parliamentary Labour Party just as it assumes power?

But let’s be optimistic and assume that Corbyn/Labour Party win and apparently, what was an unassailable double-digit majority for Theresa May a couple of weeks ago, has been whittled down to a couple of points difference, and this in spite of the vicious campaign the corporate/state media have mounted against Corbyn, and continue to do so, either ignoring him completely or even censoring his comments:

It was noteworthy that Corbyn’s considered response to the most recent terrorist attack in London was selectively reported, arguably censored, by BBC News. Corbyn said:

‘We need to have some difficult conversations, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology.

‘It is no good Theresa May suppressing a report into the foreign funding of terrorist groups. We have to get serious about cutting off the funding to these terror networks, including Isis here and in the Middle East.’

Sky News broadcast Corbyn’s comments, but they do not appear to have been covered by BBC News. – Media Lens, ‘The BBC Has Betrayed Its Own Rules Of Impartiality’: Yemen, Saudi Arabia And The General Election, 3 June 2017

And I think Corbyn’s campaign has been incredibly successful in reaching the unreachable, at least unreachable by ‘traditional’ political parties and their machinery. A process, that again, the mainstream state/corporate media has almost entirely ignored, to their cost, as now they’re faced with the dilemma of explaining where his popularity came from if he’s such a doddering old-fashioned loser? But I forgot, they don’t bother.

Whatever Corbyn’s faults, and he has many, he has clearly touched a nerve within the population. Indeed, he is virtually the only ‘mainstream’ politician to reach out to those millions of effectively disenfranchised voters, and an increasing number of the so-called middle class are drawn to him, perhaps for entirely different but connected, reasons. Things like climate change, food, ethical production and perhaps chiefly, his honesty and integrity.

Clearly, if it were just a straight choice between Corbyn and May there would be no contest. Corbyn’s programme, at least as laid out in the election manifesto, is infinitely preferable to the Tory Party’s samo-samo, tired old rightwing xenophobia and poor-bashing but assuming that Labour win, is the Manifesto’s ‘for a better, fairer Britain’ doable in the present climate? (This needs another essay.)

Corbyn will have to take on his own political class, the ruling political elite and the corporate/state media.

Corbyn’s outreach to grassroots (constituency) Labour Party members appears to have been quite effective in mobilising those most adversely affected by the draconian Austerity measures, (done largely by lefties of various colours and persuasions, who no doubt, in that ‘grand old English tradition’, have their own motives for working with the Labour Party).

I read somewhere that if 2 million young people eligible to vote (out of 7 million under 25 in total), actually voted and voted Labour, the election would be a pushover, at least for the Labour Party, but again, not necessarily for Corbyn.

By the way, for those of you who are not familiar with the workings of Labour Party ‘democracy’, there are in fact two Labour Parties, the first, the Parliamentary Labour Party is composed solely of Labour Party MPs.

A constituency Labour Party (CLP) is an organisation of members of the British Labour Party who live in a particular UK parliamentary constituency in England and Wales. In Scotland, CLP boundaries align with constituencies of the Scottish Parliament. The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has, since February 2009, been organised as a province-wide constituency Labour Party which is yet to contest elections. – Wikipedia

Moreover, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in reality, no longer makes Labour Party policy, this is now carried out by the National Policy Forum which was created by Tony Blair to effectively bypass the National Executive Committee which he considered too left-wing would you believe.

The National Policy Forum (NPF) of the British Labour Party is part of the policy-making system of the Party, set up by Leader Tony Blair as part of the Partnership in Power process.

The NPF is made up of 186 members representing government, European and devolved assemblies, local government, affiliated trade unions, socialist societies and others, and individual members of the Labour Party, who elect representatives through an all member ballot.

The body is responsible for overseeing policy development. It meets two or three weekends a year to discuss in detail documents produced by the policy commissions, of which there are six, jointly set up by the NPF, the Party’s National Executive Committee and the Government. It submits three types of documents to Labour Party Conference: pre-decision consultative, final policy documents and an annual report on the work of the policy commissions. – Wikipedia

Thus Corbyn is depending almost solely on his grassroots support and mobilisation, pretty much for the entire campaign. And this is borne out by the degree to which the political pundits have gotten things so wrong about Corbyn’s popularity which can be seen from this YouGov poll (though polls these days are in disrepute):

Replacing Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader would not improve Labour’s chances in the general election, according to a new poll which shows Labour’s support surging in the final weeks of the campaign.

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found that the Conservative lead has halved in the past week, with Labour rising to 35% and the Conservatives dropping to 44%.

When voters were asked how they would vote if Yvette Cooper were Labour leader, Labour’s support actually dropped to 33% with the Conservative support climbing to 45%.

When asked how they would vote if Chuka Umunna was leader instead, Labour’s support also dropped to 33% with Conservative support growing to 46% — a 13 point lead. – Business Insider, May 21, 2017 [my empty. WB]

Yet in spite of this, the Establishment of the Labour Party is still quite prepared to throw the election:

‘More embarrassment for Corbyn! Candidates airbrush Labour Leader Off Election Leaflets’ – The Daily Express, May 9, 2017

Look, I could go into the history of the Labour Party and show quite clearly its imperialist roots (and branches), indeed  just how reactionary it is.

But don’t you want to get shot of these backward-looking, imperialist gangsters called the Conservative and Unionist Party?

Yes, it clearly is, not only because it’s a special election, but in fact, just like the vote on Brexit, it gives us all the chance to give the ruling elite the finger once again.

And even assuming that Corbyn’s tenure be a fragile one given the circumstances, do we really have a choice at this critical juncture. The chance to dump these hateful imperialists and their humbug?

Yes, Corbyn runs counter to the prevailing ideology of unrestrained and rapacious capitalism, spearheaded by the imperialist states. Everywhere, working people are under attack and being made to pay the price for capitalism’s failures and contradictions and for the most part in retreat. But we do have Corbyn. The real battle then, right now, is about compromise, assuming of course that Corbyn wins. If so, will it be our ‘Sunset Clause‘ moment or our ‘Syriza‘ one?


[DS added the video.]

Global Empire: Election Time in Britain

teleSUR English on Jun 7, 2017

Two days before voters head to the polls, Tariq Ali provides an overview of the British elections. Will Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Manifesto for social and welfare changes be enough to beat the Tory manifesto of more austerity and a “dementia tax”? The outcome is not as “Strong and Stable” as Prime Minister Theresa May would like it to be, that’s for sure.


Updated: June 8, 2017

Tasting the Bitter Pill of History

by William Bowles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Investigating Imperialism
London, England
June 8, 2017

I have to admit I took my eye off the ball. My desire to see the back of this awful government overwhelmed my powers of reasoning but hopefully it’s only temporary.

That’s the problem: We want Corbyn to be real.

So it’s just wishful thinking on my part and on the part of others, (here and here for example) to put so much faith in Jeremy Corbyn. As I pointed out in my previous piece, you’re not voting for Corbyn, you’re voting for the Labour Party, the bulk of whose candidates were utterly opposed to most of Corbyn’s (draft) Manifesto (see below). So the question has to be asked, what chance does Corbyn have of enacting nothing at all but a small part of his manifesto, e.g., funding the NHS or perhaps tuition fees? But once on the slippery slope of compromise in order to save the Labour Party as an agent of capital, it’s game over.

But of course, nothing he does, within the straightjacket of existing Parliamentary politics, can address not only our immediate concerns but the already present combined global crisis of capitalism and climate change. The double whammy of the 21st century.

It’s nothing if not a novel situation. A friend (and comrade) has compared Corbyn to Bernie Sanders, Syriza, Podemos and even gone back to Allende’s Chile. And it’s true, all have failed, and mostly, if not all, for the same reasons.

He says:

“Now we have some experience, called history, to make that determination.  So can you point to any example in recent history; say in the last 100 years where supporting such a candidate of such a party that pledges its allegiance to the political institutions of capital has led to anything other than defeat?  I mean, Lula?  You vote for Rousseff and you get….Temer; you vote for Chavez and you get Maduro and the collapse of the economy;  you vote for Syriza and you get the Troika; you vote for Podemos and guess who they prop up in power?  And I surely don’t have to tell you about the path of the ANC.”


It’s true of course, all of it. I assisted the ANC in its ’94 election campaign, but should I not have done given the results of our collective efforts? Zuma and his gang of thieves. Easily said in hindsight of course.

Is it over before it’s over?

Of course it is, in the unlikely event of a Labour victory,  the deal has already been done and dusted:

“Tuesday saw the official launch of the Labour Party’s manifesto for the June 8 snap General Election. The manifesto contained a number of highly significant amendments from the draft version leaked just days earlier.

“The draft, produced by the team around Labour’s nominally left leader Jeremy Corbyn, was subject to ratification by the party’s top officials on May 11. It sought to marry a watery commitment to certain social reforms and a slight relaxation in the Conservatives’ austerity agenda with a raft of measures demanded by the Blairite right wing. In particular, it committed Labour to the £200 billion renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, and to supporting NATO, and included a declaration that Corbyn would be prepared to launch a nuclear attack—albeit while being “extremely cautious” about it.


“However, the concessions contained in Labour’s draft manifesto have since been revealed as only a staging post for Corbyn in what his shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, described as a “journey” towards accepting NATO and nuclear war.

“The qualification on the use of the armed forces contained in the draft version, “That’s why we will never send them into harm’s way unless all other options have been exhausted,” is removed in the final manifesto.” – ‘Labour’s manifesto amended to stress commitment to militarism and war‘ By Robert Stevens, WSWS, 19 May 2017.

It’s not looking good, is it? Further on we read in the same article:

“The draft manifesto said Labour would “end support for aggressive wars of intervention.” This also had to be amended so that the final version reads only that Labour will oppose “unilateral aggressive wars of intervention” (emphasis added) so as to reassure all concerned of the party’s support for future wars of aggression under the imprimatur of NATO and the United Nations.”

It gets just as worse and depressing the more I read, but at least its disabused me of any illusions I seemed to have acquired:

“Corbyn is often portrayed by his advocates as a man of principle—a good man fallen among thieves. His every action since being elected leader in September 2015 confirms that his only “principle” is unswerving loyalty to the Labour bureaucracy.

“Corbyn’s infinite malleability is not a personal characteristic, but is an essential feature of the Labour “left” in providing the necessary progressive window dressing to sell what is a capitalist party of big business, militarism and war to the working class.”

Heavy stuff but essentially true. I suppose the real question is whether or not the grassroots movement the various agencies have created for Corbyn (38 Degrees, Momentum, Peoples Assembly and so on), once they realize they’ve been conned will demand some answers? Can something be rescued from the wreckage?

Again, I’m probably fishing for some kind of face-saving feature from the rise of Corbyn and the reality that he is as I’ve long said, a professional politician and his primary objective is saving the Labour Party for the creation of some mythical, nay non-existent socialism at some distant point in the future, just as it did back in 1910.

I was also chided by my NY comrade on my exasperated cry to see the back of May and the Tories:

“That’s the point.  You’re not going to get rid of them by voting for Corbyn.  You’re not going to get rid of them without getting rid of the Labour Party.  You’re not going to build a thing that can withstand the bourgeoisie for ten minutes when you’re voting to collaborate with the bourgeoisie.”

He went on:

“Nobody is advocating “purity.”  But if the British working class is, in your view thoroughly “imperialized,” the main mechanism for accomplishing that has been the adherence of the Labour Party to the maintenance of imperialism.  That’s an institutional allegiance; not a personal one.  I have never argued for purity, or all or nothing.  I’m arguing simply for the first step, which is opposition to class collaboration.  Nobody’s advocating “not acting;”  I’m advocating not acting on behalf of the maintenance of British capitalism.”

Which is another way of saying don’t vote for Corbyn, I mean the Labour Party but work toward building an alternative to this awful madness before it’s far too late.

from the archives:

Britain’s Theresa May Plays Terror Card, But It Could Be a Joker by Finian Cunningham

Corbynize This Trumped Up World by David Swanson

John Pilger: The Smoking Gun

The Differences Between the Conservatives and Labour are Defined and Stark by Graham Peebles

Britain’s Corbyn Bravely Makes the Case for Socialism by Finian Cunningham + Corbyn on Labour’s Defence and Foreign Policy Priorities

John Pilger: The Manchester Concert Attack, Trump, Saudi Arabia and WikiLeaks

see also:

‘A matter of life or death’ by notsoloonyleft

11 thoughts on “Should I Vote For Corbyn? I Mean Labour? By William Bowles + Tariq Ali: Election Time in Britain + Tasting the Bitter Pill of History by William Bowles

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    • Thanks Lo. So the British Islands’ drama is over for now and we have a hung parliament. All the expected narratives are on overdrive this morning, but frankly ~ no big surprises.

      Political theatre is what it is. The facts of life are what they are. Our problem, our fundamental responsibility & pressing task ~ however we manage to spin or frame it ~ is, as William makes clear, the epochal clash of climate and capital. “It’s the ecology, stupid!”

      I see it as quite a simple and straightforward challenge really ~ insofar as unknowns can be elucidated at all in the mature language of adequate & deep philosophical understanding; any hypothetical ‘solutions’ need to be approached pragmatically, intelligently, heuristically, creatively and consensually, by adhering to the empirical protocols and method(s) of science ~ invoking the unrestricted capacities of human ingenuity, observation & resourcefulness.

      So….before we return to ‘business as usual,’ we need to remind ourselves of some big questions.

      What do we really know about life?

      What can we truly understand about humanity, its strengths and weaknesses in relationship to the fragile biosphere, our cosmopolitan and shared planetary habitat?

      Who is the mythical adversary; why do we need enemies when we already have a complete repertoire of moral options, hard evidence of a biological crisis and the universal principle of rule by law?

      And……what will it really mean to be indigenous, sovereign & conscious in a universe that is so vast, that the entire experience and achievements of humankind are no more than insignificant, barely emergent murmurings ~ childish whispers in the vastness of eternity….?

  6. Excellent essay from William Bowles. The irony of the dilemma is acute. This is just the beginning.

    Like so many others I want the ‘old school’ Blue Gang shaken down; but the situation is fraught with complexity. I decided to vote Lib Dem tactically, in order to support the parliamentary candidate with the best chance to oust our embedded Blue Mullah; locally I voted for our Council’s Green candidate whom I know, and support.

    I admire Jeremy Corbyn enormously, and wish him every success; he has changed the way politics is done, whatever the outcome.

    As a realist, I fully anticipate the likelihood May may get a slim margin; but I’d love to see her trumped at the ‘chequered’ flag. We must await the result, as it is only 3 hours before the polls close. Whatever the result, that flag needs to be redesigned.

    If May is elected without a majority and we have a ‘hung’ Parliament, it portends a catastrophic Brexit and likely a rough ride for the two leading parties, that are so fragmented and conflicted.

    Corbyn in opposition will be equally great, but he is by far the better negotiator for a reformed Europe.

    This unraveling may be exactly what we most desperately need ~ a complete reinvention of the political system, internationally ~ to challenge our ideas about life on a planetary scale and initiate radical change all around the poles….without prejudice in the light of real knowledge.

    While in the hyperbolic US, if Trump survives, his stupid ideas and bigoted attitudes will perish in the face of rational, enlightened opposition; no doubt about that. Time will tell.

    • Tariq Ali highlights the really crucial point about sovereignty. Good analysis. Whatever happens, it will be a Pyrrhic victory given the hegemonic reach of the US.

      This said, how great it would be dear President Trump, if you had to schmooze a real socialist! Ha.

      It may be far easier for him to grasp that little drama than struggle, with his deformed consciousness, to comprehend the more challenging reality ~ of an indigenous street poetess raging against the dying of the light…powerful ‘finale’ Tariq!

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