The current crisis in the British establishment is an unprecedented one. The markets are in turmoil, the Tories are heading into a bitter leadership campaign and the Labour right have opportunistically moved to oust their leader. Anarchist responses to this have been varied with some, like Sabcat Publishing, calling to support Jeremy Corbyn. Others recognise the wave of popular support Corbyn has received but advocate other ways of harnessing this energy. Below, Freedom contributor Daniel Dawson explains why we need to support #keepcorbyn as a way of furthering transitional demands. Tomorrow we will be publishing a response to this position.
This past fortnight has been unprecedented in British politics. The UK (marginally) voted itself out of the EU, Labour MP Jo Cox was assassinated by the fascist Thomas Mair (declaring his name in court as ‘Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain’) and in the ensuing turmoil Cameron resigns leaving a void of national leadership.
Instead of capitalising on this void, in which the Conservative Party continues to churn out candidates, who lined up would look like the founding members of Hydra, the Parliamentary Labour Party chose to move forward with an opportunistic act of mutiny to rid the party of Jeremy Corbyn, a leader with over 60% of the membership’s support. This coup, apparently justified by Corbyn’s less than enthusiastic campaign to Remain in the EU as well as the success of Leave, has presented the Left with an opportunity, an opportunity which raises a difficult question of ideology.
Ideological dogmatism has decayed the Left and allowed it continue to function during the hardest period the working classes have experienced in recent times, allowing the right to co-opt them for political gains – be that the Leave campaign or Jo Cox’s murder. We no longer live in a period where the Left can argue amongst themselves feeding a superiority complex that pits ideological differences as weaknesses instead of strengths. Sectarianism, the particularly insidious middle class invasion of radical spaces as well as the continued dismissal of the (white) working classes as reckless, stupid and racist has allowed a creeping fascism to grow in this country without an appropriate challenge. Liberalism continues to allow fascism to propagate with its benign campaigns to show solidarity to migrants and refugees without action (see today’s Safety Pin campaign as an example).
This new contest for the Labour leadership, in which Corbyn has refused to resign against a vote of no-confidence amounting to 172 MPs, can help to pave the way for a project of Left unification. Of course this idea is not new, but all attempts in recent times to work towards that unity have not moved in the direction of class struggle, which right now is focused on the socialist (or ‘kinder politics’) Corbyn project. Anarchists are joining the Labour Party alongside previous Green Party members, Liberal Democrats and the undecided, and for good reason. This is not about Corbyn. This is not about Labour as we have always understood it to be. It is about class struggle, using the institution that we usually abhor to make transitional demands.
While the so called Corbyn Fever washed over the land nine months ago, it is true that he has shown a disappointing lack of leadership during that time. In fact, his strongest moments can be seen in these last three days in which he sacked Hillary Benn for insubordination and watched as thirty seven more MPs resigned (most of whom showed poor results in their constituency for Remain in the referendum, supported the bombing of Syria in November last year and the invasion of Iraq in 2003) replacing them with a diverse, more representative cabinet. After that he made clear efforts to make good on his pro-immigration platform by meeting with Polish citizens at POSK after the xenophobic graffiti now obnoxiously present nationwide post-Brexit was scrawled across their walls, before telling the nation that he was elected as leader to ‘redistribute wealth and power’ to a crowd of 10,000 24 hours after a rally was called.
Corbyn has been criticised for being the focus of a cult of personality, which the Left need to understand is a very legitimate issue.Yet Corbyn’s long-term commitment to socialism, and his support for the working classes since the beginning of his career should be enough for the extended Left’s commitment to him.
But it must be said that that commitment is not only to Corbyn (while he may need it right now), that commitment is to class struggle by using Corbyn as a catalyst to help normalise socialism in a country that has been infested by neoliberalism since the late 1970’s. He himself in a speech at SOAS made it clear that his election to leader was not about him, but about everybody in the party and the members who support his politics. It is through Corbyn, and through a reorganisation of the inner machinations of the Labour party (which has the infrastructure to call for the transitional demands that we seek) that we can start actualising the ideal that we proselytise in our meeting rooms, pubs, bedrooms or wherever it is the isolationist Left organises.
Beyond that, as an act of antifascism we should be working to protect those willing use their position, as Corbyn and Jo Cox did, to protect the rights of oppressed minorities (in particular muslims, migrants and refugees) in a time where fascism is an imminent threat.
To resign would be to ignore the demands of the working classes. To refuse to support Corbyn during this coup is to ignore the direction of class struggle. This is not a call to join the Labour party, while many might and should if they see fit, but merely to accept that class struggle right now has a clear invested interest within it.
The political landscape has changed and the sectarian Left no longer has legitimacy if it continues to refuse the need for transitional demands and successes over an immediate call for utopia.
The Left is failing and it is myopic.
In the words of the Hungarian poet George Szirtes this week, whose family migrated here during the subsequent state repression of the 1956 uprising:
The folly of the left is to be so cocksure of its own rightness that it inevitably hands power to the right. Would it worked the other way! Historically it hasn’t.
After this last fortnight, let the Left show strength during historic national weakness.