Saturday, 12 September 2015
I For One Welcome Our New Marxist Overlord
Well not really, obviously. With Corbyn to my right, and Marx to my left, we can safely dispense with the idea that Corbyn's chief aim will be the inevitable overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
But it's precisely this inability of many in the country to accurately pin down Corbyn's leftist positions (either through ignorance or mendacity) that gives me hope for the following five years. I'm not talking about hope that Labour will win the election. Absent a major scandal and/or another financial crisis, Corbyn isn't going to take Number 10. But then neither were any of the other candidates. A second pure Tory term is close to inevitable at this point; with Cameron and Osborne having been re-elected despite years of teetering on the brink of further collapse, they should have no trouble winning another election in waters that are comparatively calm . So no, Corbyn has not cost Labour the next election, any more than King Canute cost his people what the ocean reclaimed. Indeed, he may even increase Labour's share of MPs come the next election, if only because he's the last best hope of Scottish voters returning to the party they abandoned in droves four months ago.
Once we accept - as we should - that Corbyn's leadership will not make the difference between winning and losing in 2020, then, the question becomes how good Corbyn will be for the organised left. Here, I am cautiously optimistic. There are many people currently predicting a half decade of giggling and guffawing at each of Corbyn's "Loony Left" pronouncements. I'm quite sure that will happen, though right now there seems to be some confusion as to whether the narrative will be that Corbyn is a bumbling out-of-touch idiot or the greatest threat to British democracy since Operation Sea Lion . But crucially, in order for your ideas to be laughed at they have to actually reach people. The attempts to brand Corbyn as some kind of proto-Marxist are only possible when no-one knows what being left of centre actually involves in practice, and that knowledge can be disseminated only when the Labour Party actually start espousing leftist views, rather than hoping they can win elections by being just a little bit less of an appalling bunch of self-interested money-grubbing shits. To make use of the classic Gandhi quote, we've been ignored for long enough; being laughed at is a step in the right direction.
That's my hope for the next five years. Not that it will end with Cameron being toppled - not that I don't live in hope, of course - but that genuine alternative ideas to austerity politics and neoliberal sneering are forcibly injected into public discourse. Yes, many will laugh. Yes, we can't even trust The Guardian any more to be happy talking about the value of being to the left of Ronald Reagan. But if this leadership contest has shown us anything, it's that all the hysterical hand-waving and boys crying "killer flaming Marxist wolf !" won't necessarily stop people from seeing what's really going on.
Whether Corbyn can be as successful planting ideas in the general electorate as he looks like he'll be in his own party remains to be seen. It's barren ground out there right now for those who would sew the seeds of economic justice. To my great shame, vast swathes of England seem to have totally abandoned the idea that we the less fortunate should receive anything but our scorn and judgment. But that has to stop sometime. And contra Burnham, Kendall, Cooper, you do not change anyone's mind by agreeing with them.
The counter to all the above (as Jack Graham has already pointed out on Twitter) is that when Corbyn loses the election, it will be taken as a sign that a Leftist approach was always a bad fit for the modern Labour Party, and the only remaining credible threat to the Conservatives will once more promise to be just as cruel as the Tories, only whilst enjoying it less. Thus the party will have a Cameron Lite in charge just in time for Cameron Classic to finally run out of steam, leading to the second consecutive ousting of a Tory government corresponding to a right wing shift by Labour. This is a real concern, and I don't want to suggest otherwise. Crucially, though, it seems clear to me that had Burnham or Kendall or Cooper challenged Cameron in 2020 and lost (as they each would have), we'd still be hearing that the next stage for Labour would be to move further right. That's simply the narrative of the times; each time the right wins, it's taken as proof that the right can move more right, and that everyone else has to follow them into the valley of the shadow of endless sneering viciousness. It's a vicious circle building to a hurricane of evil as it moves eastward. consuming everything. Which means right now, our choice was between being told we  were being rejected after our views got an airing, and being told we were being rejected after another half decade of being utterly ignored.
I am certainly inclined to take the trade.
 Yes, that's an economical mixed metaphor. But then economics is all about mixtures anyway, specifically the mixture between obvious common sense and the reading of chicken entrails.
 In fairness, it's possible for someone to both be hilariously inept and a truly terrifying prospect for command; just look at Donald Trump.
 I'm using an exceptionally broad definition of "we" here, obviously. Corbyn isn't my desired mouthpiece for Leftist politics, he's just the least wrong politician with access to a decent-sized bullhorn.