Last week, something significant happened in the world of politics: Britain’s once moderate and reformist Labour Party elected an anti-monarchist, Trade Union backed socialist as their leader, who aims bring key industries back into state control, leave NATO, and create a socialist United Kingdom (/Republic). Given that this was the party which, only eighteen years previously was advocating a kind of social capitalism, it’s possible that they’ve never had a leader this radical.
Can you imagine the kind of fuss this will cause if he wins the General Election? The western left has become so moderate in recent years, with even capitalistic centrists like Barrack Obama having been accused of ‘socialism’, that it’s as though there’s no longer a place for the Corbynites of this world. The USA (a country not only less-to-the-left, but more-to-the-right as well), is an even better example. If J.C. rose to President in America, there’d probably be a second Civil War!
However, in the midst of all this, it’s important that Marxist left remember something: Corbyn is not as radical as you may be inclined to believe. OK, maybe in a country like the United Kingdom, where former party leader Ed Milliband qualifies as a ‘f***ing communist’ (courtesy Noel Gallagher), his views could be seen as extreme, but this is only in comparison to what we’re used to; not socialism, but watered-down capitalism.
Corbyn lies between the two, and this, I think, presents a problem. He’s no Milliband, but nor he is he Marx. In the words of his deputy, Tom Watson, ‘Jeremy Corbyn is not a Trotskyist’ and ‘Liz Kendall is not a Tory’, and in the same sense that the reluctance of his former opposition is certainly noted and perhaps exaggerated, so are his ideas, perhaps to the point where the radical left could mistake him for ‘one of them’. In reality, I’d say he’s more of an in-the-middle leftist, a political island between social-democracy and communism; a radical moderate. And as a result, I believe he’ll do more harm than good. Here’s why:
There is a certain side to the British left which is largely destructive. The trade-unionist movement is an example, for, unlike those of genuinely radical socialists, their ideas aren’t scientific, they don’t stand on concrete principles, aren’t guided by a clear motive of socialism, and are, in a way, directionless. Devoid of a clear plan, these movements criticise, attack, threaten and whine about the way things are, and they do so marvellously, but what do they contribute? As far as I’m concerned, not a great deal. OK, minor alterations have been made to the economy as a result of their existance, yet, as these movements are still intertwined within the capitalist system, I’d still see their role as a counterproductive.
Corbyn falls in this camp, as do those who elected him, for they attack capitalism yet won’t commit to a communist alternative. It’s a bit like igniting a revolution but refusing to build a solution to the society you destroyed, which begs the question ‘why revolt?’ True, Labour will likely plan to transform the economy in certain ways, such as the re-nationalisation of industry, yet firstly, simply because an institution exists under state control doesn’t necessarily make it any less exploitive, and secondly, any attempts they does make could easily be undone by whoever replaces them.
If that day comes around (if he’s voted in in the first place, which he won’t be), Corbyn, the ‘extremist’, the ‘Trotskyite’, the ‘revolutionary’ etc., will leave office in a country just as capitalistic as it was before, yet with an economy in shambles and a reinforced hatred for socialism.
It doesn’t need saying that, irrespective of whatever views you may have, neither will do us any good.