Is Corbyn Allowing Yesterday’s Enemies To Win Again?

By   /   February 24, 2019  /   11 Comments

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What the world is currently witnessing in the UK, is the “pre-emptive split” that simply has to happen if the looming, uncontrolled, disintegration of the British Right, and the left-wing victory such an unmediated break-up would permit, is to be circumvented.

JEREMY CORBYN’S fatal political error has been to look over his shoulder rather than over the horizon. As is so often the case with politicians who have had their party’s agenda wrenched from their hands by ideological rivals pursuing radically different goals, the temptation to start again from where they were forced to leave off is very strong. The 1980s Labour Party of Michael Foot and Tony Benn – the lodestars of Corbynism – was taken over and completely reshaped by Tony Blair in the 1990s. Rolling back Blairism and resuming Labour’s march towards democratic socialism has always been Corbyn’s mission. It was not, however, the mission imposed upon Labour by the relentless march of events. That, it turns out, is Brexit.

Corbyn has always been deeply conflicted by the evolution of the European project. Originally conceived as a means of preventing the powerful nations of Western Europe from ever again going to war with one another, the European Economic Community (EEC) had much to commend it. Its transformation, from the EEC into the European Union (EU), changed perceptions considerably. What began as an essentially social-democratic dream has morphed into what more and more leftists have come to regard as a neoliberal nightmare.

This trajectory (from social-democracy to neoliberalism) was, of course, mirrored in the domestic histories of practically all of the EU’s member states. Corbyn’s assessment, that a rejection of neoliberalism in the UK would be next-to-impossible if it remained an EU member, made him a very tepid advocate of his party’s official policy of encouraging Labour supporters to vote “Remain” in the 2016 Referendum. That so many of Labour’s heartland constituencies favoured the “Leave” option didn’t make things any easier.

Theresa May’s doomed attempt to increase the Conservative Party’s majority in the House of Commons by calling a snap-election in 2017, poured almost as much acid on the Leader of the Opposition as it did on the Prime Minister. Labour’s astonishing electoral performance was partly fuelled by its immensely popular “For the Many, Not the Few” manifesto, which, like Bernie Sander’s “democratic socialist” platform of the previous year, inspired and enthused tens-of-thousands of young, well-educated, but economically marginalised, voters. Mostly, however, Labour’s success was built on these younger voters’ conviction that Labour represented a forward-thinking alternative to the Tories’ reactionary “Little Englander” Brexiteers.

In the minds of the only voters that truly mattered – the ones who would spend most, if not all, of their lives in the Twenty-First Century – Labour stood for an open-hearted, multicultural and European future. If Labour wanted to endure as a viable political force (rather than a declining legacy party of Britain’s industrial past) then it had no choice but to make those young voters’ perceptions reality. Tragically, Corbyn was too mired in the politics of the Twentieth Century to rise to the challenge. Rather than lead the debate against Brexit; rather than mobilise his young supporters behind the call for a second referendum; Corbyn equivocated – and thereby surrendered the initiative.

What is currently unfolding in the UK is the direct consequence of Corbyn’s error.

Any politician who can count has worked out that for the Prime Minister to secure her “Brexit Deal” all she has to do is run down the clock to the point where the Labour Party – absolutely opposed to the UK “crashing-out” of the EU with no deal – is left with no alternative except to give May what she wants.

If Labour swings-in behind May’s deal, the Tory Brexiteers’ leverage instantly disappears. Would the humiliation of being outmanoeuvred by May and Corbyn cause the Brexit hardliners in the European Research Group to split the Tories? Of course! But the sheer intractability of the Brexit crisis has for some time indicated that some sort of break-up of the Conservative Party is unavoidable. It seems pretty clear that May accepts this. Willing to settle for the historical legacy of being the PM who fulfilled her “sacred duty” to take the UK out of the EU, May seems ready to ‘retire hurt’: limping, but with her head held high.

With the Conservative Government hopelessly divided, and May’s parliamentary majority in tatters, a new election will become inevitable. Nothing could better please Jeremy Corbyn and his followers. With the Tories torn and bleeding, Labour would be swept to victory. Safely removed from the EU’s clutches, the battle against British neoliberalism can then begin in earnest.

This is the terrifying prospect that caused first the Labour Right, and then the Tory Left, to step forward as the vanguard of a new electoral force, conceived to achieve two, brutally simple, strategic objectives. The first: To prevent, by any means necessary, Corbyn’s democratic-socialist Labour Party from taking power. The second: To secure, with all possible speed, the UK’s membership of, or re-admission to, the EU.

What the world is currently witnessing in the UK, is the “pre-emptive split” that simply has to happen if the looming, uncontrolled, disintegration of the British Right, and the left-wing victory such an unmediated break-up would permit, is to be circumvented.

As always, to save the Right, the Left has first to be rendered electorally harmless. Look, then, for the rise of a British version of Emmanuel Macron’s “Le Republique En Marche” – a media-driven, City of London-financed, manifestation of the so-called “radical centre”.

It’s not as if such a re-alignment has never happened before. To get the UK through the Great Depression of the 1930s, without capitulating to the far-Right or the far-Left, required the formation of a “National Government” – led initially by the renegade Labour Leader, Ramsay MacDonald, but held in place by the votes of the shires. The Labour Party proper was reduced to an impotent parliamentary rump. It required the massive social and economic upheavals of the Second World War to restore Labour to electoral competitiveness.

Clearly, there is still a great deal to do before this unfolding political re-alignment can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. What its organisers need most is time.

And time, strangely enough, is precisely what the EU leader, Donald Tusk, appears to be offering Theresa May. The last thing the EU’s German and French masters want to see is a securely entrenched democratic-socialist government unsettling the people of Europe from the other side of the English Channel. The EU looks set to give the UK’s political class all the time it needs to prevent such a dangerous development.

Does Corbyn have the political ability to rise above his preoccupation with Labour’s past? Can he recast himself as the progressive champion of the UK’s European future? That would require him to align himself unequivocally with the Remainers by forcefully demanding a second referendum. It’s a big ask. But, surely, he understands that those who hesitate to climb on board History’s bus when it pulls up at their stop are, invariably, left behind?

If he doesn’t get that, then Corbyn’s obsession with fighting yesterday’s battles may end up making it easier for yesterday’s enemies to win again.

 

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11 Comments

  1. David Stone says:

    Corbyn’s appeal is overwhelmingly that he is uncompromisingly genuine and consistent to his beliefs. He is set apart from almost any other long standing politician in that he has never altered his stance for the sake of political expediency. If he were to do as you suggest and pretend like a normal political expedient , to have changed his belief on Brexit, it would be the end of that image. He doesn’t have huge charisma, his appeal is his honesty. Abandon that for expediency and he has nothing. He isn’t pushing his Brexit sentiments because he believes in a democratic process of policy formation and advocates for what the party has decided, even though it may not be his personal preference. So what if many know his heart isn’t in Remain. His actions are completely consistent with the honest performance of his role. Sudden overwhelming enthusiasm for it would not be believable.
    I do think that a second referendum has some justification though , and I think it is quite likely to be what happens. I hope it is not a farce. One suggestion has been made for a choice between May’s deal that gives up all control and retains the EU’s constraints possibly indefinitely( Probably indefinitely actually as the end is dependant on finding a solution for the Irish border question which is tantamount to a unicorn hunt), and remain which would be Hobson’s choice. Another has been a three way referendum including those two plus a hard Brexit as third choice which would neatly divide the brexit vote in half making remain a certainty and defeating an honest choice. Unless the have a runoff.
    I suspect that most leave voters assumed a complete withdrawal rather than a half pie mishmash deal that has been negotiated, and only a second referendum on the understanding that a partial deal could not be agreed so it is a choice of a hard Brexit or remain . The electorate has had time to think about it and I reckon the result would be accepted.
    Corbyn is right to let his party decide about that.
    D J S

  2. simonm says:

    You’ve missed a primary factor in the UK Labour split. All of the MPs who split are staunch supporters and members of UK Labour Friends of Israel. There has never been a UK Prime Minister who was prepared to be even-handed in dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict and the 8 “Blairite” MPs who quit the Labour Party are brutally determined that Corbyn will not become the first:

    https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2018-08-25/israel-hidden-hand-jeremy-corbyn/

    https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2018-08-08/labour-crisis-israel-anti-semitism/

  3. Tiger Mountain says:

    There are reports that shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is now supporting a second Brexit referendum, hopefully Mr Corbyn will not be able to resist any longer.

    Funny old times we live in–to paraphrase the old saying on the impossibility of “building socialism in one country”–is it possible to “defeat Neo Liberalism in one country”? We are about to find out.

    People have been overly negative on Corbyn in my view, the splits among the populace over Brexit cross regions, age, party lines and socio economic status, so inertia has been a reasonable response, up until now. Yes, the Euro Neo Libs will render all assistance to retain their rotten economic system in the UK!

  4. Marc says:

    “Tragically, Corbyn was too mired in the politics of the Twentieth Century to rise to the challenge. Rather than lead the debate against Brexit; rather than mobilise his young supporters behind the call for a second referendum; Corbyn equivocated – and thereby surrendered the initiative.

    What is currently unfolding in the UK is the direct consequence of Corbyn’s error.

    Any politician who can count has worked out that for the Prime Minister to secure her “Brexit Deal” all she has to do is run down the clock to the point where the Labour Party – absolutely opposed to the UK “crashing-out” of the EU with no deal – is left with no alternative except to give May what she wants.”

    It is a true dilemma, what is unfolding in the UK.

    Corbyn seems to have been asleep at the wheel, and dithering also, not wanting to be seen as taking sides. He had a lot of opportunity, but has wasted it.

    Now a new ‘centre’ is being created by ‘independents’ of both parties, the disillusioned Conservatives and defecting former Labourites, and it will further divide the political landscape in the UK, but benefit mainly the City of London and those who want to force the UK into more or less sticking to the status quo as staying within the EU, with no or very little changes to occur as a consequence.

    It will lead to radicalisation though, the Brexiteers will want nothing of this, and a Marie Le Pen style party may be created that will split the party landscape into three, a separate new party holding as much support and power as Cons and Labour each.

    Interesting times lie ahead, but the EU will give May a few more months, so the signals from Brussels tell us.

    • David Stone says:

      “It will lead to radicalisation though, the Brexiteers will want nothing of this, and a Marie Le Pen style party may be created that will split the party landscape into three, a separate new party holding as much support and power as Cons and Labour each.”
      Until the next election when they all lose their seats.
      D J S

  5. Marc says:

    To be honest, only a gullible dreamer would think that a socialist UK could create a momentum across all EU countries, for the left in those member states to rise and take charge.

    We have trends in the other direction, there is more revival of nationalism, and anti EU sentiment, not just directed at ‘neoliberal’ politics, but also at the large Uber State the EU appears like to so many.

    Europe is still very tribal in many of its regions, it is no coincidence that there are strong separatist movements in Spain, Belgium, Italy and even some other countries, and ask the Greeks, how ‘warm’ they feel towards the EU Commission and some member states, few will pour praise on Germans, French and so forth.

    The EU is in danger of disintegrating, that is where the trend is going, and the left is fighting for survival, and is divided itself, in various fringe parties in so many states there.

    The UK has always been viewed as a bit odd and bizarre, wanting a special role, by so many on the continent. What is going on there is to most an entertaining or deeply worrying spectacle, not something that they would want to follow.

    Corbyn may get traction with some voters there in side the UK, maybe gets some support in NZ Inc., Canada and Australia, but he is fading while we view the spectacle to unfold over coming weeks and months, he is not getting younger either.

  6. esoteric pineapples says:

    It’s just one big mess with both parties split – the biggest loser will win

  7. Janio says:

    Excellent posts until Marc’s two. What CT means by ‘old C20’ politics is Corbyn’s appeal to the voters (and CT discarding it) – socialism.

    When Rosa Luxemburg posed the question ‘Reform or Revolution?’, reform meant tinkering around to improve capitalism/neo-liberalism. So you’re doomed to be a C19 reformist, CT.

    • Marc says:

      Yeah, waiting for revolution, also in Aotearoa NZ, are you?

      Keep waiting and keep dreaming, people are as far away from ‘revolution’ as the next galaxy out there is to ours.

      I wish it was different, but it is not.

  8. remorris says:

    ‘Panic drives the smear attack against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn whose background as a radical socialist, not his criticism of Israel and support for the Palestine, threatens the British establishment’s hold on power, argues Alexander Mercouris.’

    https://consortiumnews.com/2018/09/10/letter-from-britain-the-mendacity-of-the-anti-semite-campaign-against-jeremy-corbyn/

  9. Siobhan says:

    ‘Allowing??’…the man has been under so much outright attack from the so called msm and the Israeli lobby its a wonder he can still turn up at work each day.

    If you know some way he could override the narrative, what he needed to say to be given a chance to bring in policies in direct conflict with our media bosses and corporate masters I’d be thrilled to hear it.


 
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