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Why Labour should vote for Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn’s barnstorming campaign for the Labour leadership is intensifying the fear and panic at the top of a party that is displaying all the signs of fragmentation and a collective nervous breakdown.

The reappearance of former prime minister Tony Blair in order to attack Corbyn will surely add to the growing support for the Labour left-winger. He is already drawing on the latent anger in the party at the way it cosied up to the Tories only to crash in flames on May 7.

Jeremy CorbynSimply by rejecting the politics and economics of austerity, in particular the Tory assault on welfare, and the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons, Corbyn’s stand has highlighted divisions and factions that were sidelined under Ed Miliband’s leadership.

The assumption in all wings of the party, as well as outside in the trade unions,  was that Miliband would lead the party to victory and the battle for influence would then be waged around the cabinet table and within the parliamentary party.

Labour’s catastrophic election performance changed all that. The party could easily become irrelevant in terms of never again being able to form a majority government, especially if the Scottish National Party hold on to their gains and/or win a second independence referendum.
As a result, a profound identity crisis is overwhelming Labour and if it looks like a shambles, that’s because it is. Party discipline has all but disappeared, judging by the 48-strong rebellion against acting leader Harriet Harman’s unilateral decision to abstain when Tory welfare cuts legislation came before Parliament for the first time.

Taunted by Tory chancellor George Osborne, the other contenders for the leadership – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall – wavered but finally sided with Harman. They were immediately rounded on by social media activists and, of course, the SNP.

The SNP only half-jokingly has since suggested that the Speaker rearranges the seating in the Commons to show that they and not Labour are the official opposition party to the Tories.

Corbyn’s three rivals for the leadership are all, in one way or another, wedded to a post-New Labour outlook which, in practice, is a warmed over Toryism without the populism that Tony Blair brought to disguise it.

Burnham, Cooper and Kendall essentially accept the accusation that Labour was in some undefined way responsible for the financial crash of 2008. Unable, unwilling and actually totally hostile to the view that it was the crisis of the capitalist system itself that led to the crash, Corbyn’s rivals have adapted to the Tory mantra.

Actually, New Labour did believe that capitalism had miraculously evolved to the point where it was beyond crisis and so pursuing the total deregulation of the banks seemed natural. Only that helped create a financial system where no one, least of all the Bank of England and the Treasury, knew what was going on or if they did, showed no concern.

A similar pattern took shape around the global economy and so the crash had a certain inevitably about it (as does the forthcoming one which will be the result of the rebuilt mountains of debt overhanging the system).

Labour accepted Osborne’s spending cuts and went into the election promising to erase the deficit in a manner that failed to distinguish them from the Tories. Their manifesto include welfare cuts, attacks on migrants and a public sector pay freeze.

Burnham, Cooper and Kendall supported this reactionary programme. Many Labour Party members have clearly had enough of this and see in Corbyn an alternative approach that challenges neo-liberal orthodoxy.

The election was a watershed. Labour supporters deserted in Scotland, stayed at home or switched to Ukip in England while the Tories mobilised the middle-class and older generations, demonising the poor along the way. For Labour to win in 2020 would require a landslide on as great a scale as that of the 1945 election. Once unfavourable boundary changes are taken into account, the task facing Labour is Herculean.

If Corbyn were to win, Labour could set out to distinguish itself from the Tories. Undoubtedly, however, Corbyn’s opponents within the party hierarchy would immediately lead a revolt against him and could even leave and form their own organisation.

All the other candidates will undoubtedly continue along the path that Labour began taking in the mid-1990s – the embracing of market-driven, corporate-led globalisation and its emphasis on privatisation, contracting out, public-private partnerships, attacks on welfare, flexible labour markets and a reactionary foreign policy that includes nuclear weapons.

That was the Blair-Brown response to the fundamental changes in the nature of the global economy that left no room for social-democratic, reformist politics. Labour became New Labour and a party that became the management team for global capital as it operated in the UK.

It proved relatively successful until the 2008 crash, since when governments of this type have enforced austerity or given way to those who will. Once you embrace the system unreservedly, the system demands its price when crisis calls.

While we urge Labour Party members to vote for Corbyn when the ballot opens on August 14, his campaign has a golden opportunity to broaden the debate and discussion beyond the parliamentary sphere into the nature of our society, politics, democracy, constitution and state.

That is given added urgency by what has just happened in Greece. There the anti-austerity Syriza government was driven into the ground by the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund despite fighting until the bitter end against new austerity measures.

The despised Troika acted as the representatives of capital, financial and corporate. A democratic referendum vote against austerity was simply ignored. Now Syriza is effectively in coalition with right-wing parties and is making new cuts in exchange for a bail-out that is merely a stop gap. 

Were there to be a Corbyn-led government, it too would face similar challenges as the corporations and the financial markets moved against it.

Is the lesson from Greece that the Troika somehow has to be made more democratic and accountable to the people? Is that at all possible, even in our wildest dreams? Or is another Europe necessary that works for the people rather than banks and global corporations? How then can we begin to create a democratic Europe that operates for the public good rather than private profit?  

Corbyn’s campaign could, for example, ask the following questions:

Labour’s crisis is as a consequence of the hollowing out of our democracy to the point where the Tories can govern with fewer than 25% of registered voters. Cameron’s party is on the offensive against the rights of workers to organise and take effective strike action; against human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law.

The UK constitution through which the state governs us is broken and the slide is inexorably towards authoritarian, one-party rule that enforces market “solutions” on the rest of society. Corbyn’s campaign could do everyone a great service by raising these and many other questions about the way the state rules over us.

Meanwhile, the media smear campaign against Corbyn fuelled by his opponents is bound to intensify and he will need all the support and solidarity we can muster.

A World to Win editors
22 July 2015

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Your Say

Mick Blakey says:

An excellent article and appraisal of Corbyn"s situation and the end of New Labour.

Joe Taylor says:

Serious people think he can win.

Damien Quigg says:

The labour party has fundamentally lost both it's way & it's very purpose for being. I think it's demise into insignificance is all but inevitable. There is only one candidate in the labour leadership elections that may be able to turn the party around and that is Jeremy Corbyn, but ultimately I think the task is too big even for him and assuming he does get elected. There is certainly growing support for Corbyn politics and if anyone can turn things around for the labour party it's Jeremy Corbyn.

The initial EU project was a brilliant idea, but has been hijacked by a few neoliberal elitists and ultimately it has failed. Whenever the EU referendum takes place, I will be voting NO. As with our own political system, the EU is now wholly undemocratic and unrepresentative of those it supposes to represent.

I think that it is somewhat over ambitious to try and address the state of democracy in the EU, when our own democracy is in crisis. I'd suggest exiting the EU & focus on how we repair our own system of politics and issues within the wider UK society. This in itself will be a mammoth task, with much opposition from the political elite and only when we achieved real democracy at home, can we consider the wider question of democracy in the EU.

I do believe that representative democracy has had it's day and we need to move towards a more direct democratic society, where the people hold ultimate power and make the big decisions that effect us all. There could still be a role for a form of "government" whose remit might be to debate and draw up both new legislation and amendments to existing legislation, none of which could be passed into law without the agreement of the people.

The vile and sometimes personal attacks portrayed by our so called "free press" is another issue of major concern that will need addressing, as will the current practice of not declaring your intentions if elected during election campaigns and the people only finding out what they have voted for, after the election.

I am backing Jeremy Corbyn for leader of the labour party and hope that he proves me wrong in my belief that even he can't reform the labour party & our system of politics. Meanwhile, I will continue working on a plan b, incase Jeremy either isn't elected, or doesn't manage to reform politics.

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