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11 Jun, 2017 13:07

Jeremy Corbyn and his half-finished political revolution

Jeremy Corbyn and his half-finished political revolution

Labour’s stunning performance in last week’s UK general election, which saw the party deny the Tories a majority and gain its largest increase in vote share since 1945, has left the country’s Elite Punditocracy in a state of deep shock.

The neocon/neoliberal Establishment thought their non-stop smearing of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a “terrorist sympathizing/IRA-supporting/anti-Semitism condoning/crimes-of-Milosevic denying/North Korea-admiring/Putin-appeasing/Hamas-befriending/beardie-weirdie sandal-wearing/Stalinist/Trotskyist/hard-left Marxist/enemy of Britain” (take your pick), would ensure that voters would vote the ‘right’ way on June 8, i.e. not for the party led by beyond-the-pale Corbyn. There was great confidence that Labour, having been attacked so relentlessly in the media, would lose heavily.

Jason Cowley, the Blairite political editor of the once radical but now very Establishment-friendly organ the New Statesman, claimed Labour could lose 100 seats. Another pundit predicted Labour’s vote could slip below 20 percent.

But as soon as the results of the BBC’s exit poll were revealed at 10pm on election night, blind panic took over. It was reported that when Rupert Murdoch saw the exit poll showing that the Tories would lose their majority and that Labour would actually gain seats, he stormed out of the room.

It was a joy to see the bewildered, and then indignant ‘they haven’t listened to us!’ reactions of the gatekeepers on social media – people who just a few minutes earlier were assuring us that the “unelectable” Corbyn was leading his party towards an electoral disaster.

It’s not that these smug, self-satisfied stenographers to power were wrong: they never wanted Corbyn to do well in the first place. But they were supremely confident that their relentless attacks on the “extremist” Labour leader would achieve the result their paymasters desired.

The great ‘crime’ Corbyn committed in the eyes of the Establishment was not to have once met Martin McGuinness, but to have broken away from the “phoney center” ground of endless war and privatization and offer voters a genuine alternative to neocon/neoliberal policies. He criticized the UK’s ‘interventionist’ foreign policy, so beloved by those who never go near a war zone, and dared to suggest that Britain’s involvement in regime-change wars has increased the terrorist threat, which of course it has. He vowed to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He pledged to re-nationalize the rip-off railways and public utilities. He promised to scrap student tuition fees, zero-hour contracts, and to end austerity. His program wasn’t ‘hard-left’ or ‘extreme,’ but actually very moderate, fully in tune with mainstream public opinion.

But of course, any deviation from the “Extreme Center” is regarded as heresy which must be punished by those who see themselves as the modern-day successors of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General.

If last Thursday’s UK general election can be compared to a football match, then it’s now half-time and against all the odds, the team the ‘experts’ told us would get thrashed by their wealthier rivals is leading by two goals to nil. Yes, the Conservatives won the most seats, but it’s Labour who has the wind in their sails, and all the momentum, in more ways than one. Which begs the question – what’s going to happen in the second half?

The Establishment had a big setback on Thursday – one that they most certainly did not expect – but don’t worry, they’ll regroup. The first priority will be to make sure that one way or another the Conservatives remain in government and the “hard-left extremists” Corbyn and John McDonnell and the “sinister Stalinist” Seumas Milne (who’s actually one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet), don‘t get their hands on the levers of power.

We were told it was terribly, terribly wrong for a prospective Corbyn-led minority government to be propped up “by the Scots” (boo, hiss), but it seems it’s not so wrong or ‘outrageous’ for a minority Conservative government to be propped up by a party from Northern Ireland. If Corbyn needs the support of others, we’re talking about a “Coalition of Chaos,” if May needs it – it is all about putting the country first.

The double standards of the “Keep Corbyn Out” campaign are there for all to see: the hypocrisy is of Olympic Gold Medal standard. And it’s not just Tories that Corbyn needs to worry about. Blairite grandee Lord Peter Mandelson, writing in the Mail on Sunday, has urged “mainstream Labour MPs,” worried about the “continuing Corbyn revolution” to “stand by” Theresa May in Parliament in “the national interest.” 

The second part of the Establishment’s plan will be to try and pressurize/cajole/bribe/threaten Labour, from without and within, to ditch policies which threaten elite interests and move back towards what the “Extreme Centre.”

If only Labour could ‘moderate’ its policies, (i.e. make them acceptable to the “people who really matter”), they’d be set fair to win the next election – a line we can expect to see repeated in the next few weeks and months in ‘mainstream’ publications. Everything will be done to make Labour “conform.”

It’s important to understand that ‘democracy’ for the neocon/neoliberal Establishment means the two main parties offering essentially the same fare to voters a pro-war pro-neoliberal Conservative party led by David Cameron and a pro-war pro-neoliberal Labour party led by David Miliband was their ideal scenario. With a choice of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the elite simply can’t lose. And that’s how they like it.

But it all started to go wrong for them when Ed, and not the Establishment-favored David Miliband, became Labour leader in 2010 and changed the rules about the election of party leaders. This put power (horror of horrors!) into the hands of ordinary members and made possible the victory of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015, and again in 2016, when he was challenged by technocrat Owen Smith.

Inevitably, as Labour has democratized, so its program has begun to reflect the views of ordinary citizens. By offering popular ‘For the Many and not the Few’ policies that had, for many years, been deemed “off limits” by gatekeepers, such as re-nationalization and a change in foreign policy, Corbyn managed to motivate millions of Britons, myself included, to head off to our local polling stations last Thursday. In doing so, he helped increase Labour’s share of the vote from 30 percent in 2015 to 40 percent, a quite remarkable achievement, especially considering the hostile media coverage and the attacks from within his own party that he has faced since first becoming leader.

It would be absolutely fatal now for Corbyn to change a strategy that has brought him to the brink of victory. That means there can be no way back for Blairism or Blairites. Former Channel 4 journalist Paul Mason has done great work for Labour in 2017, but I was alarmed to hear him say on television on election night that Corbyn should now bring into his Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet “big hitters” from the Blair and Brown era. It’s because Corbyn has made a break with the political orthodoxy of that time that he has done so well and managed in particular to get so many young voters and previous abstainers to rally to the Labour cause. Dragging back discredited figures from the past, whose policies were roundly rejected by voters, would be a backwards step. Instead, Corbyn should be bringing into his team new faces who are fully in tune with the anti-Establishment mood of 2017.

If there is to be another election this year, which seems likely, then the Labour leader must also be prepared for a battle with a more accomplished performer than the far from “Strong and Stable” Theresa May. Whether May stays days, weeks, or months in Downing Street, the people hiding behind the curtain won’t let her fight another election as Tory leader, as her limitations have been fully exposed. But even if the Tory leader is more personable than the current prime minister, which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be hard, the trump card Corbyn has is his manifesto. Because they are the party of the financial elite and receive around half their money from hedge funds, the Tories would never be able to offer voters populist policies like re-nationalization and higher taxes on the rich to help save the NHS, which Labour can.

What Corbyn has done is to get to the half-way point in a peaceful political revolution. Far from being a “threat” or a “danger” to democracy, he is actually trying to return Britain to being a proper functioning democracy, a place where people do have a genuine choice at general elections. We shouldn’t underestimate the scale of his task, but equally we shouldn’t underestimate what this indefatigable 68-year-old has already achieved. He’s halfway there and the next 45 minutes will be absolutely crucial.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.