You’ve heard the horror stories: Labour being consigned to the ‘wilderness’, decades of Tory rule, some vague insinuations about Stalinism. But what will really happen if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Labour leader? Here we outline a few scenarios.
1. The media throws everything it has at him.
If you think the media storm over Corbyn’s campaign has been vitriolic so far you, ain’t seen nothing yet. Even supposedly left wing papers have been supporting the idea that Corbyn – and by extension anything to the left of rampant neoliberalism – is ‘unelectable’. The Guardian even chose to print the words of the ever electable Neil Kinnock to support that position.
The right wing press have been even more tenacious in their campaign to paint a Corbyn victory as a death-knell for the Labour party; with the Telegraph attempting character assassination, and calling on their readers to help ‘destroy the Labour party’ by voting for Corbyn in the leadership election.
Let’s be clear: they know their readers won’t actually do this. The point is to further entrench the idea that left wing ideas are unpalatable to the British electorate. They’re hammering this point home for one reason: they know it isn’t true. The right are desperately afraid that a genuine left wing Labour party could start to rebuild the social provisions they’ve been systematically destroying for the past three decades, undermine the neoliberal consensus gripping British politics, and take billions from their pockets and those of their mates in the City.
These attacks will only increase in number and intensity if he’s elected leader, with the purpose of making a Corbyn-led Labour shift to the right.
2. He capitulates.
We don’t need to go back far to see the capitulation-prone nature of reformists like Corbyn. 2015 has given us a case study in the form of Syriza – which has gone from declaring its politics to be the end of TINA (There Is No Alternative) to using that argument as its primary defence.
Here are two reasons to stay alert closer to home:
3. The Labour right get their knives out.
Democracy is kryptonite to the Labour right, and they’ve not been coy about their plans in the event that the wrong leader is picked. Labour’s rich backers (Alan Sugar included) will walk. Good riddance.
The Blairites will seek to have the election result legally annulled. Simon Danczuk has promised a coup attempt “on day one, if not before.” The parliamentary Labour party (PLP) can force a reselection with the support of 47 MPs, which the right could achieve easily. Perhaps the PLP’s most dangerous weapon will be to simply withhold all support in the commons – refusing to fill the shadow cabinet, for example – unless Corbyn makes concessions.
4. The rich make their move.
In the words of Lucy Parsons: “never be deceived that the rich will let you vote their wealth away.” History throws up countless examples of left wing governments being undermined by the rich. From the Parti Socialiste in 1980s France, to Salvador Allende’s socialist government in 1970s Chile: investment strikes, capital flight, and outright military intervention are all routine recourse for the bosses trying to keep hold of their wealth.
As Aaron Bastani mentioned the recent NovaraTV interview with Corbyn, short of simultaneous international revolution there doesn’t seem to be much that can counter this. The best that can be hoped for is a mass movement to keep the pressure up if and when a left wing government is elected, which won’t happen if…
5. The left goes quiet.
Despite the Corbyn fearmongering being peddled in the media at the moment, there are genuine dangers to the left if he becomes leader. The worst case is a blinkered focus on electoralism.
Biased media coverage, the Labour right’s machinations and direct interventionism from the rich all have real potential to de-tooth Corbyn’s more left wing policies, especially in the absence of a mass movement to push him to the left. We’ve seen this before: most recently with Syriza’s capitulations to the Troika’s bailout conditions.
Left wing leaders can act as pressure valves for people’s anger, sucking the life out of grassroots activism where real, lasting change tends to come from. If a Corbyn victory is to have any positive effect on British politics the left have to keep the pressure up.
6. The left goes loud.
“Stop The War with bells on.” “The biggest pan-British progressive grassroots movement in many years.” Labour party membership in excess of 600k including registered supporters. A trade union movement united. Despite the dangers we have outlined, a huge potential exists. If the thousands of young people that have packed out Corbyn’s mass rallies across the country can be won to sustained grassroots activism, we’ll have the opportunity to smash the austerity consensus in Britain.
Polling data is complex and contradictory, but consistently suggests majorities in favour of tax justice, renationalisation of rail, a free and public NHS, and so on. It’s a mood that has seen partial reflection in the growth of the SNP and the Greens. If this majority becomes a cohesive movement, the whole political landscape could change.
For this to happen we need two things: ballots in the box and feet in the street. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of history; a Corbyn victory must be just the beginning.
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