By Daniel Margrain
After Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory by one of the biggest majorities in Labour party history, the feeling of optimism among the grass roots membership was palpable. Here was a leader who was said to have genuinely held socialist principles who was about to smash the iron-clad neoliberal consensus that had come to dominate the PLP machine. However, as great as his victory was, for me personally, the optimism was offset by the knowledge that from the outset the corporate media and political class had it in for him. Many of us suspected, therefore, that some of the biggest struggles were yet to come.
These suspicions were confirmed after it emerged that not only were some of Corbyn’s most critical enemies to be found within his own party, but that the media en mass began acting, not as a dispassionate observer but as the delegitimizing arm of the British state. That Corbyn not only defeated the campaign by the plotters to undermine him, but that he also managed to shrug off the media hate-fest that accompanied it with consummate ease, is a testament to the strength of his character.
But it’s more than that. It’s also a testament to his supposed deeply-held and longstanding political convictions and, arguably most importantly of all, his unswerving democratic commitment to the mass membership who elected him into power, not just once, but twice. Unlike the period preceding the 1997 General Election when the media depicted Blair being swept-up in an apparent rising tide of jingoistic sentiment, Corbyn’s success was marked by their overriding intention to demonize him.
Given that both Blair and Corbyn were elected on an almost identical Left mandate, how can this apparent dichotomy be rationally explained other than the notion the former, as opposed to the latter, was willing to serve elite interests? The rise of Blair was accompanied by flattering noises from the Murdoch press that underlined a palpable sense of intellectual curiosity totally absent from their coverage of Corbyn. This was because unlike the former, such curiosity wasn’t deemed a requirement. Demonization requires neither intellectualism nor curiosity, merely blind bigotry and hate which is precisely what the media-political establishment thrive on.
The most effective way to deal with this kind of bigotry and hate, is to challenge head-on the injustices, misinformation and false propaganda that give rise to them. To a large extent, whatever Corbyn does or says, the media will be unduly critical and biased against him. And so on their terms, he will never be seen to have done the right thing despite that his unequivocal stated commitment to social justice issues, Trident, the re-nationalization of the railways and the NHS are all highly commendable and universally popular.
Talking the talk
So what’s the problem? As effective as he has been in saying the right things at the right time, it’s nevertheless been the case that Corbyn’s leadership has largely been marked by his inability to act on is pronouncements. In terms of the NHS, for example, he appears to be reluctant to publicly denounce the dubious record of NHS England’s Simon Stevens, or to address the highly controversial statements made by his shadow health minister, Heidi Alexander regarding her alleged lack of commitment to its underlying principles. In view of the contentions made by activist Dr Bob Gill, it’s difficult to conclude anything other than the notion Corbyn is not as committed to the ethos of a universally free at the point of delivery HHS as perhaps he has led many people to believe.
In opposition and on the back benches, Corbyn’s stated long-term commitment and principled opposition to social injustice has been exemplary. However, even his most ardent of supporters will surely concede that as Labour leader he has often fallen short in fulfilling some of those principles. Another illustration of this has been his lack of public support for comrades like Ken Livingston and Jackie Walker who have had a series of unjustified and defamatory McCarthyite antisemitic attacks levelled at them.
Corbyn’s opposition to the illegalities of the Israeli Zionist state is long-standing and well known, and yet his failure as leader to break the links between the Labour party and the Labour Friends of Israel is unforgivable. It underscores a weakness in his leadership that cannot simply be brushed aside. Equally, as serious an issue, has been Corbyn’s virtual silence over the corrupt practices of NECs Iain McNicol as well as an apparent inability to tackle the systemic failings of the organisation he leads. More broadly, and arguably most worrying of all, has been Corbyn’s reluctance to set in motion a process by which the MPs who attempted to depose him could be deselected.
It should be recalled that it was McNicol who not only tried to fix the vote to the detriment of Corbyn, but had gone out of his way to prevent him even standing. For a Labour leader not to have supported the Left in the party has meant that the Right, although a minority, has managed to keep control of the Conference and the NEC.
Latest error of judgement
Corbyn’s latest error of judgement – and arguably his biggest – relates to his disastrous Brexit strategy. His entire approach to the issue seems to me to be not only his agreeing to the triggering of Article 50, but his acceptance that Brexit is inevitable when there is no inevitability about it. Corbyn has admitted that his support for EU membership was only 70 to 75% despite the fact that a similar proportion of his constituents voted to remain.
Corbyn’s half-hearted approach has almost certainly played into the hands of the Right. Rather than sending out an ambivalent message, it would arguably have been far more effective had Corbyn demonstrated an unequivocal commitment to defending the right of elected Labour MPs to vote in a way that accurately reflects the interests of their constituents. Instead, we were left with a situation in which a democratically elected Labour leader, albeit inadvertently, ended up being pulled to the Right.
Corbyn’s problematic situation is compounded by evidence which shows that withdrawal from the Single Market will likely result in a decline in working class living standards. Moreover, as Tony Greenstein puts it:
“If May chooses to make Britain a tax haven then this will mean that with far less tax revenue not only will there not be enough resources to fund an expansion of the welfare state but a Labour government would be a rerun of previous austerity governments. Access to the Single Market, both for manufacturing and the financial services is crucial. London faces the prospect of losing its role as the world’s leading financial sector to New York, Frankfurt and Paris. Companies which are located in Britain because of tariff free access to Europe will simply move. The fact that a narrow majority of people were fooled into voting against their own interests, for good reasons, by nationalist bile is not a reason to accept the decision. Parties exist to change peoples’ minds not to pander to their prejudices.”
It is the job of the Labour opposition to oppose not to compete for the racist vote which is what Corbyn’s apparent avatism implies. It’s one thing to yearn for a nostalgic concept of nationalist-based socialism, but another to do so when, firstly, there is clearly no current demonstrable appetite for socialism among the body politic of British society, and secondly, when the implications of the isolationist neoliberal alternative approach is shown to impact negatively on the poorest and most vulnerable.
Island of socialism
What Corbyn effectively envisages is a concept in which the UK exists extraneously from the rest of Europe. This ‘island of socialism’ mentality is the very antithesis of an internationalist concept of a kind he appears to have abandoned. The idea that internationalism can exist without international institutions is farcical. Furthermore, as Craig Murray argues, “to write off those institutions because they are currently controlled by right wing governments is short-sighted to the point of being stupid.”
The reason why the EU as an institution adopts right wing policies, is because it is currently dominated by right-wing governments. That fact is not a justifiable reason to want to abandon the project altogether, but to continue arguing for the reinstatement of the kind of federalist and internationalist concept of the EU envisaged by Jacques Delors in which the appropriation and destruction of national sovereignty is to be encouraged rather than belittled.
More wiser heads than Corbyn’s on the left, such as Diane Abbot, are able to see how out of touch Corbyn’s retrograde form of feudal socialism is. His ambivalence on the Brexit issue clearly put the likes of Abbot in a difficult political position. The dilemma she, and other Labour MPs faced, was whether to vote with their conscience and in the interests of their constituents who voted to remain, or go against their principles by voting for the Article 50 Bill on the basis of maintaining a sense of loyalty to both their leader and to the Shadow Cabinet?
Abbot’s statement below published on twitter, indicates that her preferred option was to go for the latter approach:
Jeremy Corbyn comes across as a sincere and honourable man whose motivations are not self-enrichment but to make society a better place for everybody. Morally and intellectually, he is head and shoulders above his political opponents and would make a far better prime minister than the hapless autocrat, Theresa May.
However, he is not perfect (who is?). His overly accommodating approach towards his enemies, the lack of support he has shown to his longstanding friends and his attempt to effectively coerce Labour MPs into taking the pro-Brexit line, are all major strategic miscalculations that have the potential to back-fire on him.
Nevertheless, despite these flaws, I am of the opinion that if Corbyn and his team can motivate enough young people to come out and vote, Labour can beat the Tories at the next General Election. Very few people are likely to detest the Tories more than me. I have direct experience of the negative consequences resulting from their welfare retrenchment policies.
I want to make the Labour party the most effective opposition to the Tories as possible. It’s for this reason I feel it’s my duty to provide constructive criticisms as, and when, required. I am not motivated by an intention to undermine Corbyn, but to help ensure the party he leads replaces the Tories at the next election.
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12 thoughts on “Disillusionment setting in?”
Reblogged this on Declaration Of Opinion .
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Everything up to the points on Corbyn’s EU stance I agree with you (as I usually do). I can’t however, bring myself to believe that any attempt to frustrate the Brexit process would be a wise move. Corbyn has stood with Tony Benn on this issue for most of his political life. The idea that we should be trapped in an anti democratic, collapsing capitalist system for the sake of protecting free trading rights doesn’t work for those who are struggling to feed themselves. Corbyn gets that. His mistake was to change his stance in the first place. I understand why he did. Giving a free reign to the most right wing Tory government since Thatcher is not the best move, I agree. But had he stuck to his conviction up to and beyond the referendum i.e. allowing Labour MPs a free vote, whilst campaigning for the leave side, he would have been much more aligned with the Labour heartlands and wider voters than most of the establishment. As it is now he is having to be a lot more strategic and I think his 3 line whip stance was absolutely right. The Lib Dems and the SNP can afford to be seen snubbing the Brexit vote, they haven’t much to lose. The Labour Party have an uphill battle to win and they absolutely must start listening to the British electorate. Corbyn’s mistake here is to waste the opportunity of firing those who make the most trouble for him. That would have been a bold move and I doubt there’ll be a better opportunity. This of course, ties in with your earlier points about him not being tough enough which I entirely agree with.
An independent Britain with a socialist government and booming industry could work well – a naive view some would say but change is needed and for a great number of us, things can’t get any worse.
I enjoy your articles and look forward to the next.
The Labour party is supposed to represent the working class who are tired of having to compete with the cheap labour Blair imported from Eastern Europe so the bosses could make more profit…If Labour lose the next election it will be because of people like you who dont know the difference between international capitalism and international socialism…
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but the evidence that immigration suppresses wages is at best, slim.
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The answer is “no”
Another superbly written article Daniel. As you perfectly demonstrated yourself, because of the intense media spotlight that scrutinises his every move, Corbyn often finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making decisions. If he tries to play the fence and appease all sides then he is too soft, if he stands up for himself all of a sudden he is manipulative and bullying. When you are put in this position, I think it puts an immense amount of pressure on the decision making process because the only true support he seems to have from the British printed press is in the pages of the Morning Star.
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The. Europeans. Page. Is. A good. Example. Of. Corbyn’s. Bashing. Using. Brexit Clear. Blair. Tactic. Don’t Join. Them. If. You. Are. True. To. Our. Cause. J.C. Is. Sound. ! No. Better. ! Lay. Off. ! Tory’s. To. Fight. !
So funny how Assadist tools cut and paste each other’s articles. I would bother to refute this steaming pile of dung if I hadn’t already a dozen times when it had been written on Global Research, Consortium News and all the other outlets of the Assad fascist death cult.
Ok, so that’ll be a “No”…Thank you, kindly.
Corbyn has said plenty about the NHS.He has said he does policy not personality.You seem to want another political’leader’ who does the personality thing.Too much of that,imo.
The NEC has the power and the planting of two people from Scotland and Wales on the executive moved power to the ‘aniti’Corbyn faction.The executive has the power.That’s the design.No doubt it has to change,root and branch.
His stance on the Friends of Israel will be very informed.Ime,he tends to be very informed.I have trust that his approach is useful.I think you will agree that he has had more than enough trouble from the msm/bbc/plp/NEC.John McDonnell has said it has been hugely consuming.Survival here is remarkable,and you find fault.
Your concept that you plank on Corbyn about feudal socialism is so negative and misinformed that it seems straight from the msm/bbc stable of negativity.Different models of business ownership are being looked at.A national investment bank.A national education service with life-long education.State intervention is a freedom that can be exploited out of the EU.
As you probably know,re brexit, according to Angela Eagle,Corbyn was up and down the country like a young man speaking on behalf of ‘Remain’,getting 63% of the labour vote to remain.Sturgeon&SNP got 64%.
If he has a more nuanced approach to Brexit,is that not more realistic and born out by the reality?Slogans really dont do it.
As a democrat in a democracy,how is it possible to ignore a democratically established,non-party political referendum?Up to now,majorities are respected.Like it or not.The consensus in parliament and the HoL was that this majority could not be ignored or disrespected.
Here’s a view on Labour’s position:https://medium.com/brexit-britain/for-your-information-labours-position-on-triggering-article-50-fa5337267834
Whether a referendum should take place,why it was called,the [abysmal]quality of debate,are major concerns.
Not identifying as a socialist,I see Corbyn’s politics as common sense and human,and a serious effort to democratise power and wealth.
This article has been contemptuous and is similar in negativity to stuff in the msm/bbc.I am confused about your proclamation of support.
You have a serious comprehension problem if you think I was being contemptuous.