JC, superstar? What a Corbyn win could mean for the British left

Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. © Peter Nicholls
Britain’s far left had largely written off the Labour Party after its lurch to the right under Tony Blair. But if Jeremy Corbyn seizes the leadership on Saturday, can he unite the left around a shared vision? RT sought the verdict of the wider left.

From former Prime Minister Tony Blair to commentators across the political spectrum, Corbyn’s meteoric rise over the last three months from obscure backbencher to leadership favorite has caused no end of hair-pulling and sleepless nights.

While many of the Corbyn critiques has come from the political right, left-leaning activists have also aired their views on what Labour under Corbyn could mean for their cause.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was founded in 2010 by the militant Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union boss Bob Crow, who passed away in 2014.

RT asked TUSC’s national election agent, Clive Heemskerk, what a Corbyn-led Labour Party would mean for the fledgling left-wing coalition. He said Corbyn’s advance had been a shock to TUSC as much as anyone.

We always thought the way to a new party would be through the unions. We didn’t expect a 66-year-old, bearded man,” Heemskerk said, with more than a touch of irony. He said the surge of support for Corbyn reflected “an anti-austerity mood.

While TUSC is keen to work with Corbyn wherever possible, Heemskerk said a lot needs to be done to redeem the Labour Party.

In effect, if Corbyn wins it is a first step towards a socialist party. But what does he do about the 90 percent of MPs, the 90 percent of councilors who do not support him?

Corbyn has to go over the heads of the ossified Labour bureaucracy, the apparatus,” and invite socialist organizations into the party’s ranks, Heemskerk said.

Such a move is not without precedent, he added. “Remember, the Labour Party was set up as a coalition of unions, cooperatives, suffragettes, a number of parties, groups like the Fabian Society. These are the founding traditions of the party.

“We must push for working-class representation. We must build a working-class Labour out of New Labour.” TUSC plans to discuss its response to the Labour leadership election at its annual conference later this month.

One party seen to have capitalized on the left vote in recent years is the Green Party. A Corbyn-led Labour, however, could claw back this support base.

But author and Green Party international officer Derek Wall said a Corbyn victory would be “a big win for everyone on the left” in the sense that it would offer a challenge to neo-liberalism.

As far as the challenge Corbyn may pose for the Greens, Wall told RT: “On almost all policy issues from opposition to NATO to ending nuclear power, Corbyn’s policies are closer to the Green Party than to Labour.

It’s an ironic situation, Corbyn polling suggests he is more popular with Green Party members than his own party. So while he will lead Labour in a green left direction, no one is sure how far he will get in doing so.

Asked if Corbyn is a rival or a potential ally to the Greens, Wall admitted the Labour frontrunner is both.

Greens know Jeremy. Caroline Lucas, our MP, already has worked with him. Many of us have been on platforms with him, demonstrated with him, he even spoke at the launch of one of my books, ‘The Rise of the Green Left’ in 2010.

We recognize that he will be a powerful voice for our demands. Certainly some of our members will join Labour if he transforms the party, so yes he is a rival, but we believe in a politics of diversity and common work,” Wall said.

Responding to recent comments by UKIP leader Nigel Farage that a Corbyn-led Labour would smite the Greens for good, Wall said the Eurosceptic MEP was plain wrong.

The Green Party was first established in 1973, we have 100s of councilors, an MP, members of the European Parliament, 50,000 members – we are part of the British political landscape.

He added: “While Corbyn speaks much of our language, we still need a distinctive green voice.

Author, activist and regular RT commentator John Wight, one of the “Labour supporters” who was excluded by the party HQ from the election contest, said Corbyn had given the left a “massive lift.

For many, it has confirmed the relevancy of socialist ideas, especially when it comes to the economy,” he told RT.

For the first time in years, free-market orthodoxy/Thatcherite nostrums are being seriously challenged at the level of ideas in the mainstream.

Parties that have capitalized on Labour’s ceding of the left, including the Scottish National Party (SNP), could struggle if Corbyn gets his way, Wight said.

I think the Greens and the SNP will particularly suffer, given they have enjoyed a lot of support from people who would describe themselves as Clause IV socialists.

Asked how Corbyn would address the resistance of the Blairite Old Guard, Wight said he believes Corbyn could triumph “by utilizing the huge mandate he’s been given and ensuring that he keeps the membership fully engaged.

Unlike in the past, policy forums and debate must become the fulcrum of the party, moving it away from the personality politics that turned it into a US-style cozy private members club for the chosen few, with the membership reduced to campaign fodder.

“With the preponderance of younger people becoming engaged in Corbyn’s campaign, a priority will be in allowing new talent to rise within the party to become councilors and future MPs,” Wight said.