The World | Patrick O’Donoghue
Shifts in the balance of power within political parties are common, but few can be considered as remarkable as the recent pendulum swing to the left we have seen take place within the UK Labour party. In September 2015, the jam-making, allotment-tending, manhole-admiring, war-opposing Socialist, Jeremy Corbyn was resoundingly elected leader of UK Labour – and it was electrifying. For once, the popular will of ordinary party members had prevailed over the party’s bureaucratic structures designed for the reproduction of bloodless, Blairite leaders. His, and the party members’, victory marked a relieving departure from the market-appeasing gutlessness of successive leaderships under Kinnock, Brown, Blair, and Miliband. However, following that heady, euphoric blip, a war of attrition has been waged within Labour by those on the right of the party who are determined to undermine and ultimately topple Corbyn’s leadership. Yet, despite their subterfuge, treacherous media manoeuvrings and smears; the embattled Corbyn remains. This fact must be welcomed by anybody with hopes of one day seeing one of the richest and most powerful countries on Earth become a beacon of economic equality, social justice and peace.
It’s true that the passing of time fades the significance we attribute to our memories of momentous events, but the importance of the consolidation of left-wing executive rule within UK Labour by Jeremy Corbyn, and a minority of others, must never be understated. His ascendancy now means that for the first time in decades, the British electorate has an authentic alternative to the Conservative status quo. Striking policy differences now exist between Labour and the Tories and the dividing lines are unmistakeably drawn. The only question now facing the British public whenever they next go to the ballot box on general election day is a deeply moral one, namely: whose side are you on? Will the British electorate stand on the side of the free-market fundamentalists who preside over a wasteland of foodbanks, poverty and zero-hour contracts? Or will their conscience lead them to join Labour’s ranks as it fights for national investment in meeting people’s basic human needs, progressive taxation and democratic control of key industries? Only time will tell, but at least now it cannot be said that there is no genuine opportunity for the British electorate to make a choice that could dramatically move the country in an entirely new social and economic direction.
Margaret Thatcher once famously opined that her greatest achievement was Tony Blair and New Labour. Given this fact, and New Labour’s close adherence to her neoliberal ideology in government, it is no wonder that Labour’s party membership went into steep decline throughout the tenure of the right-wing of the Labour party under Blair and beyond. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s unabashed Socialism has since reversed this trend and resurrected the party’s spirit. Trade unionists, radicals and the disillusioned have now returned home to the Labour Party and given it one of the largest party memberships of any political party in Western Europe and the biggest share of the public vote at the last general election since Labour’s landslide win in 2001 under Blair himself. All of this accomplished by a man supposedly representing a fossilised, anachronistic view of the world and a set of policies that would return Britain to the dark ages. Well, if this is the case, then never has looking backward provided such a compelling vision for moving forward in the modern age. The great surge in popularity that is now being enjoyed by the Labour Party is a consequence of having a leadership that stays true to itself and its principles. For too long Labour has been perceived to be too willing to spinelessly surrender its core values in order to gain power. This attitude has now been irrevocably changed. Corbyn understands that power without principles is meaningless and this is a trait that even his staunchest critics have come to admire.
The domino effect that the election of a Corbyn government could have on all Western, market-based “democracies” is something that should arouse a hint of passion in even the most cynical and defeated of souls. In fact, this is a phenomenon that is already manifesting itself in other Western countries with the examples of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France and Bernie Sanders in the United States. The election of Corbyn could inspire these other Capitalist countries to finally make the great leap forward just like Britain, once they realise that the introduction of Socialism will not herald the appearance of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but rather create a fairer society for all.
Let us not kid ourselves, the media onslaughts, establishment stitch-ups and in-fighting will continue so long as Corbyn is Labour’s leader, but if his ideas are worth putting into action in government, then this short-term suffering is a price worth paying. Corbyn is one of the few members of the political class who is in touch with ordinary, working-class people’s concerns and who understands how crucial the state is as an instrument for social and economic development. Mass construction of social, affordable housing, regional investment banks, a living wage, nationalisation and much more are only possible under a Corbyn-led Labour government. That UK Labour would be running on such a policy platform even five years ago would have seemed inconceivable. Under Corbyn’s stewardship, we are now seeing the re-emergence of a credible party of the masses in Britain and Labour’s red rose is ready to bloom once more.
Originally published 22.11.18 in Vol. 2 No. 1.