Speaking of Corbyn… September 19, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Anyone read Barbara Ellen’s column in the Observer this weekend? Can’t find a link but anyhow, to paraphrase, she’s decided that the LP is on the road to nowhere. What’s odd is that her reasons for deciding this, and indeed her complaints seem very unfocused. It can hardly be because of Corbyn’s programme – because that is rather mild. And he himself is, as almost all his detractors admit, a man of personal charm and kindness. Moreover, and the Gary Younge piece noted this, the BLP on his watch prior to the convulsions of the last few months was doing actually rather well.
So what precisely is the problem? That the LP hasn’t been cruising to victory at the next election? Always a big ask, some of us would have said. Not impossible, but not easy, particularly – and this is key, with the departure of most of Scotland to the SNP.
To be honest there seems to me to be a sort of entitlement attitude, that somehow the LP because it isn’t exactly as Ellen wants it it must be thrown aside (as the long-time LP member quoted in the Younge interview linked to earlier today noted, the courtesy she and others like her extended during the Blair years is not being reciprocated). Some will find her view rather naive as regards alternatives and such like. A splinter, any splinter, from the LP, even if it has most MPs, will merely underline the disastrous events of these months (UKPolling Report was particularly good on how that works to no-ones advantage).
There’s also a weird sense of panic.This I would understand if the LP was suddenly preaching red revolution. But it isn’t. Truth to tell it will in five and ten years have largely the same membership as today I suspect and policies there or thereabouts. Changes will come but they will be of a lesser magnitude than either their proponents or opponents will expect. What the Corbyn period can and should do, and it is to his enormous credit that he seems to have recognised this from the off, is stabilise matters and rebuild for the future. It seems to me unlikely that an LP much further to the left than that which he proposes is likely to win power, but that’s not what he appears to be about. He is, at least, positioning it as a mildly left social democrat party. When that is too much for some one has to wonder.
For a more measured approach consider this overview of Momentum and so on. Owen Jones makes some sensible points about holding the Labour party and movement together while still clearly positioned as a Corbyn supporter. Others interviewed are pleasant and enthusiastic. Yet even this goes down the ‘sinister’ route at the end despite all the evidence being that those involved are a mild-mannered lot. Paul Mason it is who triggers the slide into panic.
“We, on the left of the party, didn’t want this fight. But it’s like what General Sherman said in the American civil war: ‘You’ve chosen war. We’re going to give you all the war you can take.’”
It’s a slightly chilling answer. I have drunk the infectious excitement and hope of Todd and Josette and Hoskin, and been impressed by the dynamism of Gichinga and Klug and Rees. But Mason’s vision – “I want to lay waste to the whole neoliberal hierarchical tradition that Blairism and Brownism represented” – feels like something else entirely. Blitzkrieg. Total warfare. Shock and awe. I walk through Soho wondering, what about the rest of us? The civilians who didn’t choose this fight either. And what will be left standing when the shock and awe is over?
But what on earth do these questions and rhetoric at the end actually mean? Who is a ‘civilian’ in this? Are party members not allowed to pressure their parties? Isn’t that in fact a token of democracy in action? And why is it that one comment ‘lay waste’ is then repackaged into ‘Blitzkrieg…total warfare… shock and awe’? Note that something that is clearly about ideology and policy is reapplied implicitly to well beyond those areas. Why, indeed is it wrong that Mason should articulate as staunchly negative a view point as regards neoliberalism as Blair and others articulated as regards the tropes of traditional Labourism? He may be wrong himself. Or may not. But this sense that the only discourse and action allowed is within a very narrow band is depressing in the extreme.