4 August 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: a glimmer of light in the Labour Party

The promising levels of support for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race indicate that the Labour Party should not be written off too quickly.

I remember watching TV reports of the cliffhanger Labour Conference in 1981 when Denis Healey beat Tony Benn for the deputy leadership of the Party by a fraction of one percent. The cameras flashed briefly onto the conference floor highlighting a young bearded left-wing activist sporting a badge “Benn for Number 10.” It was Jeremy Corbyn.

In the years that followed the Labour Left was defeated and marginalised. The Labour Party swung to the right, and under the label of New Labour became a mere adjunct of capitalist power, while jettisoning any meaningful attempt to reform capitalism or the British state in a progressive direction. By the end of the 1990s, even before the Iraq War, I ceased to identify with Labour, and saw the way forward - if there were one - as outside the Labour Party. Thus in recent years I have welcomed the birth of Left Unity and the growing number of votes for the Greens and the SNP.

Jeremy Corbyn became an MP in 1983, and during the next thirty-two years, ignored by the corporate media, he was one of the isolated few who never abandoned socialist politics. I admit that I thought his cause inside Labour was hopeless. Yet in 2015 for whatever miscalculated Machiavellian reasons, he secured sufficient nominations from MPs to enter the race for the Labour leadership. Initially cast a joke outsider, his appeal to end austerity, militarism and to promote the cause of ordinary working people has won him widespread support. Aided by a new electoral system where party members plus any Tom, Dick or Harry who coughs up three quid can vote, he now, according to opinion polls, leads the pack in the race for Labour Leader.

I still fear that the Labour establishment in alliance with the security services and the corporate media will stymie his election. And even if elected he will head a parliamentary party in which the vast majority oppose him. Nonetheless something is happening here - and I might have been to too quick to write the Labour Party off.

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