FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Losing Their Grip: the Meaning of Corbyn’s Win

Last Friday was notable for a dog which didn’t bark: the comparative absence of what Doug Henwood once referred to as the “toxic cocktail of grandiosity and self-pity” now for almost a decade and a half the dreaded accompaniment to the beginning of the fall. Even better, radical historian Greg Grandin, with typical aplomb and brilliance, used the occasion to revisit what has turned out to be the far more historically consequential 9/11, namely, 9/11/73, the overthrow of the constitutionally elected Allende government, commemorating the role of its driving force, Henry Kissinger, the subject of Grandin’s latest book.

And if 9/11 was good, 9/12 was even better with Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory providing the chance to revel in Schadenfreude of the best sort: the spectacle of the Blairites (Doppelgängern to our neolib Clintonites but even more cynically opportunistic) trying to deal with what was a complete and total electoral humiliation.

More interesting, and maybe more significant, are the divisions Corbyn’s win exposes on the left. These turn out to be not so much about horizontalists vs. verticalists, Trots (Lennists or Maoists) vs. anarchists, anti-electoralists vs. Greens or other third partyists. It’s much simpler than that: the two sides are those who care about achieving political objectives versus those who don’t. Put differently, it’s about dogmatists wedded to an inflexible ideology and strategists who recognize that seriously engaging in politics (virtually by definition) requires a diversity of tactics. The left over there showed themselves to be overwhelmingly in the latter category with even David Graeber, about as anti-electoralist as they come, celebrating Corbyn’s victory. When I asked David about it on twitter, his response was to define his “job (as) to stand further to the left and move the overton window over to where Corbyn is a centrist.” Like Chomsky over here, David has a principled commitment to horizontalism, but not to the point of dogma: he recognizes that the necessary first step to breaking down the walls is to “expand the floor of the cage” as the saying goes. In practice that means participating in what they regard as the necessary evil of electoral politics-and doing so to win.

It was also significant to see the remnants of the now essentially defunct Socialist Workers Party (SWP) become unanimously supportive of Corbyn. That raises the question of whether, were it still functioning, they would have taken Corbyn’s success as a threat to their brand identity and attacked it on that (purely opportunistic) basis. That’s the strategy adopted by the Trotskyist left over here in relation to the Sanders campaign including, most notably, the International International Socialist Organization (ISO) among others, though the comparison requires understanding that the SWP was a much more significant force on the British left than the Trots are here. While it was not recognized as such at the time, the demise of the SWP was the best thing that could have happened to the British left and may have had a lot to do with the breadth of the alliance Corbyn was able to develop. In contrast, on this side the Trots are so marginal in their influence that their attempts to undermine the Sanders coalition are likely almost insignificant and they only succeed in digging their own hole deeper.

It’s important to keep in mind that while neoliberals have definitely lost this skirmish, the war continues and a counter-attack is certain. For example, though I haven’t yet heard any indications of their planning to do so, they have a weapon to deploy, namely the threat of bolting the LP to form a “moderate” third way party, as they did in the early 80s to form the now forgotten Social Democratic Party. Wikipedia describes this collection of unsavory characters who would later form the core of Blairite “New Labor” as “opposed what they saw as a leftward shift in Labour policy, the increasing prominence within the party of Tony Benn, and the involvement of trade unions in choosing the leader of the Labour Party.”

Replace Benn by Corbyn and you may have a prediction of what could occur over the next couple of years in Britain. And, pressing the analogy once more, there’s the possibility of a centrist third party dark horse such as Al Gore to spoil Sanders chances in November 2016, if it comes to that. In any case, no one should put these sorts of tactics past “them.”

The 1% percent will use any means necessary to maintain their boots on our necks and their hands in our pockets.

If there’s any lesson which living history should have taught us, it’s that.

But the Corbyn victory is now one of many indications that we can fight back and win.

More articles by:

John Halle blogs at Outrages and Interludes. He tweets at: jghalle.

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail