by Nick Wright
It is beginning to look as if our hero, Jeremy Corbyn, will be elected the leader of the Labour Party.
The latest YouGov poll, conducted for the Tory-minded Evening Standard, shows JC has more support among the London public than nearest rivals, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, put together.
More generally, it seem the bearded one not only appeals to working class people but to the more affluent social groups ABC1; older people as well as young and both those who voted Lib Dem and UKIP. He also seems to be going down a storm in Scotland.
It seems clear. Jeremy Corbyn has an appeal wider than any of the other candidates, not just among those voting in the leadership election but in the wider public.
Interestingly the thinking elements on the traditional right wing of the Labour Party are among the first to think through what a Corbyn victory means.
“Some have asked whether those in the centre-ground of the Labour party should split, and start a new party, if Corbyn wins. That is not a sensible question, because forming a new party would just split the left-wing vote, thereby guaranteeing a Tory win at the next election. Also, most members would stay with the Corbyn-led Labour party, as would the unions, so the new party would have few members or activists, and very little funding, as well as a very short life-span.
Others have asked whether the centre-ground MPs should stage a coup and force another election contest. This is not sensible either, as disunity and conflict are the biggest problems we face; problems which, if not dealt with, always spell electoral disaster, and a coup would only make things much worse. Furthermore, the next contest would probably be won by Corbyn again, but with a bigger majority, as Labour members react with fury against MPs who are seen to ignore members’ wishes.”
These people – whose defining characteristic is that they place gaining office above all other considerations – thus calculate that a ‘coup’ on the model proposed by the increasingly bizarre Labour MP by the name of Danczuk would fail and delegitimise the right for a generation or more.
The more far-sighted assume that maintaining the formal appearance of unity and making the best of a bad job is their best chance.
The way in which the previous right wing breakaway – David Owens SDP – was marginalised, swallowed by the Liberals and in turn cannibalised by the Tories, has a special significance for those sections of the Labour right who understand the class realities that condition the continued existence and political viability of the Labour Party.
However, they face big problems in turning the clock back to the failed practices of Labour’s past. It is precisely because Labour’s right wing lost its grip on the trade union leadership that it has been forced to rely so much on its domination of the party machine, top-down candidate selection processes and the political hegemony of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Traditionally, trade union representatives on Labour’s National Executive Committee acted more as the mechanism for securing union consent to right wing policies or for notional ‘compromise agreements’ (Warwick 1 and 2) that the PLP had no intention of implementing than advocates of their union’s policies in Labour’s counsels.
The new system of choosing a leader, which the centre right actively supported, was supposed to have further marginalised a demoralised and much reduced left. It was supposed to guarantee that decision-making would continue to be made at leadership level with a passive and much diminished cohort of individual members, bound by patronage, ambition and or/loyalty, to vote along lines endorsed by the bourgeois media.
They got their way over the largely ritual objections of some unions and elements of the left. That enigmatic smile of Len McCluskey will haunt Labour right wingers for as long as they exist.
Nevertheless, despite the small advances made under Ed Miliband’s leadership some on the left concluded that the game was up.
In his brutal demolition of Left Unity’s conceits Andrew Murray has argued, on this website, that in as far as a political space existed to the left of labour it was mostly filled by … Labour.
And so it has proved.
The massive reentry into Labour’s leadership election of the party’s many thousands who had fallen into passivity or dropped out – combined with a huge influx of new, mostly young, people energised by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign plus a phalanx of trade unionists, many mobilised directly by their unions – has created a real possibility of change.
For those of us – not just the Communist Party – but all who have argued that only a mass movement of working people, one engaging trade unionists above all, could reshape Labour as a vehicle to propel the working class to the centre of politics, there are some delicious moments of irony.
Film director Ken Loach, who launched Left Unity with the aim of replacing Labour had his bid to collect a vote in the election of Labour’s new leader rejected by the party’s central control commission as did a handful of Tory provocateurs, recycled trotskyites and grasshoppong Greens.
Professor Callinicoss – the guardian of the SWP’s sola scriptura – tossed his faux–Luxemburgist rank-and-filism into the air with the insight that Corbyn’s victory would be a democratic triumph and that this owes something to the trade union bureaucracy. Another triumph for dialectical thought.
Meanwhile the more orderly and orthodox trotskyites of the Socialist Party are in the grip of a schizophrenic episode in which the success of the Corbyn campaign to transform Labour is taken as yet further evidence that, in time, the formation of a new workers party will be needed.
Or Guardian hack Polly Toynbee, whose paper thin loyalty to the Labour Party led her to defect with the SDP breakaway (and thus guarantee a Tory election victory) – who then jumped back when Blair and Brown made the Labour Party safe again for big business and NATO’s wars but who now writes of the Blairites that: “It’s they who seem like the outsiders from yesteryear, still harping on about “reform” of public services that simply won’t be there by 2020”.
Thus, even those arguing for Yvette Cooper – the continuity candidate from the Blair and Brown governments – need to adorn their advocacy in criticism of New Labour.
And faced with the Jezwecan juggernaut Andy Burnham now desperately fans the tiny embers of radicalism wrapped in the fabric of his Catholic social theory. Opportunism in the search for second preference votes. Having repudiated much of the church’s teachings and flip-flopped on vital policy issues it seems his one remaining consistent principle is support for one or other of the Liverpool football clubs.
Enough fun for one blog, the votes are not yet cast and counted.
Jeremy Corbyn will face a parliamentary Labour Party packed with people who do not share his politics, are out of step with the refashioned Labour Party throughout the country and are as much at odds with trade union opinion as they are with the anti-austerity views of working people as a whole.
A minority will nurse their resentments more or less publicly. Most will accommodate to the new reality. A section will refashion their politics in the manner that erstwhile Bennites found preferment under Blair and Brown. Some will bide their time, carefully calibrating their options before the next general election, while cultivating alternative career options.
Among the minority of Labour MPs who actively support Jeremy Corbyn, or would be content with the choice made by the party, there is an abundance of talent. The conference season will be enlivened by many serious and not so serious disputes over which shadow portfolios should go to which personalities. Perhaps a few to the right, more to the centre and a full mobilisation of the left.
However, if the momentum is to be maintained, the Westminster bubble must be burst.
The entire weight of the extra parliamentary movement will be needed. Corbyn’s appeal arises from his long record of extra parliamentary activity, as chair of the Stop the War Coalition, in the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and in his quiet uncompromising support for a myriad of causes as revealed by a tentative trawl through his hundreds of weekly Morning Star columns.
This man has proved to be a stellar election winner, building an impregnable vote in his diverse Islington North constituency. This needs to be replicated in hundreds of working class communities. And here unity must be forged between trade unionists, anti austerity and peace campaigners, a mobilised Labour Party and every group – community, confessional or combative – that stands for working class interests.