What the anti-Corbynistas are doing is unconscionable. In pursuing their cackhanded coup, they are abdicating from intervention in the process of negotiating Brexit. They wouldn’t admit it, likely not even to themselves, but this might even be one reason why they’re doing it, because of course they too have no plan for how to proceed, any more than the Tories (while Owen Smith even seems to think he can successfully challenge Corbyn by proposing a second referendum). They’re like animals caught in headlights, not knowing which way to turn, while now installed behind the wheel is Theresa May and her equally clueless crew, driving in the dark with no road map and their GPS out of range, sniffing their way to the unshackled neoliberal dreamland of neo-Thatcherism.
Clearly the NEC decision to allow Corbyn’s name on the ballot paper as of right was not taken on grounds of natural justice but based on fear of the consequences if they didn’t agree. They’ve been driven back on the defensive. Hence the arbitrary and pernicious ban, backdated six months, on new members being able to vote, and the banning of all local party meetings till after the election, which is scheduled to last two months! – measures designed to stifle debate and participation. The result? Reports of ‘grassroots labour activists in revolt’ around the country, meetings held unofficially, the party branch in Brighton and Hove (the largest in the country) suspended by the NEC for irregularities after electing Corbynistas to office.
But if there are now to be weeks of campaigning, then Corbyn has a great opportunity. He begins in pole position, and has a clear run to articulate the progressive anti-austerity policies which need to inform and follow Brexit. Trouble is, he has to do this in the face of a hostile media – as seen in this short video:
If the Labour Party splits, it will be in part because the mainstream media have driven a wedge into it. Maybe it’s gone too far and a split is now inevitable, but perhaps the resistence of the grassroots will prevail. My social media feeds carry a strong upswell against the plotters, while the mainstream hacks, with only a few exceptions, lose credibility. Nothing is guaranteed, but one thing seems clear. The new 21st century socialism we urgently need is not to be found in the ranks of the PLP rebels, who severed their links with the party ranks long ago. And if it’s true that the Corbynista movement is an expression of the same broad resistance to the social injustices of austerity that has grown up across Europe, then despite Brexit, and despite the differences in political cultures and economic circumstances, the same thing obtains: renewal comes only from below, like the re-invention of solidarity in countries like Greece and Spain, and the articulation of an alternative economics that instills great fear in the established political class and their groupies. Corbyn arrived on this scene like an uninvited guest, politely refusing to avoid tabooed ideas which disappeared from mainstream political discourse in the face of the inexorable rise of neoliberalism, until the comeuppance of financial capitalism in 2008 shook everything and everybody up, and threw actually existing liberal democracy into a new crisis from which it knows not how to escape. He is no saviour, has made mistakes and will doubtless make some more, but his unpretentious plain speaking inspires people to believe in the possibility of a new politics. And for now, no-one else does.