Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 17, 2019

Why Jeremy Corbyn lost

Filed under: Britain,Corbyn,Labour Party — louisproyect @ 9:45 pm

In reviewing articles about Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn over the past two days, I was struck by the similarities between British and American politics. With all proportions guarded, Corbyn and Boris Johnson are the counterparts of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Since I regard the Labour Party as qualitatively different from the Democratic Party in class terms, I was much more open to Corbyn’s electoral ambitions than I am to Sanders’s. This would be apparent from the reviews I wrote of two books: Richard Seymour’s “Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics” and Simon Hannah’s “A Party With Socialists in It: a History of the Labour Left”. Hannah’s book helped me understand that despite Lenin’s business about the Communists supporting Labour like a rope supports a hanging man, it is still a working-class party. Or at least it was until Tony Blair got a hold of it. If it was still in New Labour’s clutches, there would be not a dime’s worth of differences between the DP and Labour.

Starting with New Labour, you can say that—dialectically speaking—it was responsible  for the emergence of Corbynism in the same way that Clinton/Obama were responsible for the Sandernistas. By the same token, New Labour’s neglect of working-class interests helped fuel the Brexit campaign and Johnson’s election in the same way that the post-LBJ Democratic Party paved the way for Donald Trump.

Beneath all these political convulsions was the economic transformation of the UK and the USA. With Reagan and Thatcher’s neoliberal turn, the class compromise between the capitalist class and the labor unions came to an end. Reagan’s crushing of the airline controllers strike and Thatcher’s of the miners marked an open season against not only the trade unions but everybody below the ruling and middle classes. Even when the two arch-reactionaries were replaced by “liberals”, the war against the working-class and the poor continued. Through trade agreements like the WTO and NAFTA, it became easier for corporations to take grow wings and take flight. In the case of the EU, open borders allowed labor to escape the misery of post-Communist Eastern Europe and enjoy a higher standard of living in the West. That was the main impetus behind Euromaidan. Ukrainian workers understood that being a plumber or an electrician in England could provide a wage denied in their homeland.

In both the UK and the USA, a rust belt developed in the decades after Thatcher and Reagan. The Midlands of England and the American cities, where steel and auto factories once thrived, now bled jobs. When you combine this long-term tendency with the financial crisis of 2007, you end up with a population looking for radical solutions, sometimes on the right. In the UK, this meant working people lining up behind the nativist Brexit campaign that offered the same kind of demagogic appeal as Donald Trump’s MAGA election campaign. There’s a big difference between the UK and the USA, however. In the UK workers did vote for the rightwing while in the USA they mostly stayed at home, finding Hilary Clinton’s campaign so devoid of incentives that would make a difference to them—the kind that Sanders and Corbyn offered. Does Corbyn’s defeat mean that Sanders faces the same fate? I certainly can conceive of him defeating Trump in the general election but his hands will be tied once in the White House, I’m afraid.

Despite the fact that the Tories were happy with the EU and its predecessors like the European Economic Community, there has always been a nationalist element that ran contrary to any sort of continent-wide political and economic integration. Enoch Powell, a Tory member of Parliament from 1950 to 1974, was dead-set against joining the EEC. He made a “rivers of blood” speech in 1968 that warned against immigrants flooding England. It resembled a Donald Trump speech, if on a 300 percent higher reading level:

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood”. That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Eventually, Powell left the Conservative Party and moved to Northern Ireland where he became an Ulster Unionist party member and a bitter enemy of the Irish struggle. Unsurprisingly, the Ulster Unionists are major supporters of leaving the EU.

Nigel Farage considers Enoch Powell to be a major influence and even unsuccessfully requested his backing in 1994. Ukip later twice asked Powell to stand as a candidate for the party.. Farage was formerly a Tory but left in 1992 after the party signed the Maastricht Treaty that led to the formation of the EU. A year later he co-founded Ukip and remained one of its top leaders for well over a decade. As the leading voice of Euroskepticism, Ukip was responsible for placing the question of Brexit on a 2016 referendum. The same newspapers that told lies about Corbyn in last week’s election also helped to line up people for a “Leave” vote in 2016. Chief among them were two tabloids: the Daily Sun and the Daily Express. In March 2016, the Sun reported on Polish immigrants, who are to England as Mexicans are to the USA. The headline of an article was “How to Be a Pole on the Dole.” (The dole is a term for welfare benefits.) In enlightened London, someone surreptitiously posted leaflets with large letters: “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin”.

Alan Sked, who was once the top leader of Ukip, regards his replacement Nigel Farage as a racist. In a 2014 Guardian article, he recounts a conversation the two once had:

But even if Farage’s recent statements about not wanting to live next door to Romanians suggest he is xenophobic, is there any proof he was racist when he and Sked worked together in the mid-1990s? Sked laughs at the question and recalls an incident from 1997 when the two men were arguing over the kind of candidates that Ukip should have standing at the looming general election. “He wanted ex-National Front candidates to run and I said, ‘I’m not sure about that,’ and he said, ‘There’s no need to worry about the nigger vote. The nig-nogs will never vote for us.'”

Like Steve Bannon and others who have broken with the old-school John McCain type of Republicanism, you can find people moving in the same direction in England besides the Ukip. One of them is the European Research Group that despite its innocuous name is quite toxic. Unlike think-tanks in the USA that get funded by Koch, the Coors Foundation, et al, the ERG relies on tax-payer funding as a result of its ties to the Conservative Party. It was headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who despite the P.G. Wodehouse name and upper-class mannerisms, is pretty scary. In 2006, Rees-Mogg opposed David Cameron’s attempt to increase the number of ethnic minorities running as Tories. Rees-Mogg argued, “Ninety-five per cent of this country is White. The list can’t be totally different from the country at large.”

This year, Steve Baker took over as ERG head. Despite the fact that both he and Rees-Mogg have worked in finance, they strongly opposed the pro-EU stance of other bankers. They may be opposed to “globalization” but they certainly aren’t opposed to capitalist profits. In addition to being a hard-core Brexit advocate, Baker is also a born-again Christian, gay marriage opponent and climate change skeptic. He is also a member of the Cornerstone Group that operates as a Tory party club. It considers the Church of England, the unitary British state and the family as its “cornerstones”. Alan Duncan, a Tory MP, has called it a “Taliban Tendency” inside their party.

Like Bannon, Trump, Stephen Miller, Billy Graham Jr. and company, the Brexit wing of the party has taken over and reshaped the Conservative agenda along the lines of right-populist parties everywhere, from Hungary to Austria. Gone are the commitments to Anglo-American hegemony based on the dollar and NATO. The emerging program has much more to do with racial purity, family values, deregulation, and fossil fuel dependency.

So what would make a former coal miner in the Midlands decide to vote for anything they favor?

The main explanation is that the Labour Party no longer has organic ties to its former social base. Like Hilary Clinton, Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown, they focused on getting votes from people living in large cities and who had decent-paying jobs in the technical, financial and health industries. Like most DP presidential candidates, they assumed that the people living in the rust belt would continue to vote for them as a “lesser evil”. That was until Jeremy Corbyn came along.

Corbyn and his chief adviser John McDonnell were elderly members of the Labour Party who never bought into New Labour politics. They identified with Tony Benn who, like them, was a leftwing stalwart. It was only as a result of a procedural change that loosened up Labour Party membership that Corbyn came into prominence.

In 2015, Ed Miliband, the Labour MP with Tony Blair type politics, proposed that the party adopt new membership rules. Instead of trade union officials having the right to use bloc voting on behalf of its powerless rank-and-file, there would be “one member one vote” with the public allowed to take part for a £3 fee. In hoping to weaken the trade union officials, Miliband did not anticipate that this measure would open the door to millions of young people with non-union jobs and radical politics. In essence, it was the same kind of demographic that provided the backbone of support for Bernie Sanders.

For Corbyn, the hope was that by running on a program that would reverse the neoliberal policies of both Tory and New Labour he would be able to become the Prime Minister in last week’s election. Considering the dismal state of those parts of England where coal mines, steel mills and auto manufacturing had disappeared, his hopes seemed reasonable.

Considering the fact that the 2016 Brexit referendum favored the “leavers”, there had to be worries that this would not be a guaranteed victory especially when well over a third of Labour Party members voted to leave. Indeed, the line-up on Brexit did not coincide with predictable party affiliations. The most ardent supporters of “remain” were New Labour politicians who found themselves agreeing with Tory MP David Cameron, a financial industry insider. It was mainly Ukip that pushed for leaving with many rank-and-file Labour Party members lead astray by rightwing demagogy. A July 5, 2016 NY Times article titled “Wigan’s Road to ‘Brexit’: Anger, Loss and Class Resentments” captured the mood:

After jobs as a garbage man, a bakery worker and now a packer at a canned food factory, Colin Hewlett, like most people in Wigan, a gritty northern English town, takes great pride in his working-class credentials. He plays snooker and drinks pints at the Working Men’s Club across the road from his red brick rowhouse, and at every election that he can remember, he has voted, like his father before him, for the Labour Party.

The governing Conservative Party, which last won a parliamentary election in Wigan in 1910, is “for rich sods and second raters on the make,” he explained.

On June 23, however, Mr. Hewlett broke with the habits of a lifetime and bucked the Labour Party line. Ignoring its stand that the European Union is good for Britain, he voted to bolt from the European bloc, along with 64 percent of the population in a town that, according to Will Patterson, a local Green Party activist, would normally “vote for a cow if Labour put one up for election.”

The overwhelming vote here in favor of “Brexit” — much higher than the 52 percent who voted to leave nationwide — delivered a stinging rebuke not only to the Labour Party leadership in London but also to the party’s local politicians. They hold 65 of the 75 seats on the Borough Council and campaigned, albeit with little zeal, for the Remain camp.

The Conservative Party, whose leader, Prime Minister David Cameron, also campaigned for Britain to stay in Europe, got kicked in the teeth, too, as did President Obama and legions of other prominent figures in Britain and abroad who urged voters like Mr. Hewlett not to rock the boat.

But rocking the boat, no matter what the risks, was precisely what he and millions of other Britons — who, regardless of their real economic situation, see themselves as members of a downtrodden “working class” — wanted to do. To them, it was a last, desperate effort to restore a lost world of secure jobs and communities that was far harsher in reality than it is in recollection.

Their votes were stark evidence of how working-class resentments, driven by feelings of being ignored and left unmoored in a rapidly changing world, are feeding nationalism and other efforts to reclaim a sense of identity, upending ideological assumptions and straining ties to political parties and other institutions.

With such sentiments lingering on, Corbyn had an uphill battle that was made even steeper by a concentrated attack from the Tories, the tabloids, the nominally-independent BBC, the rightwing Zionists obviously tied in to the Israeli state, and his own failure to respond effectively.

Even before the election, there were signs that Corbyn was not up to the task. In the July-August 2019 New Left Review, Daniel Finn alluded to some worries in an article titled “Crosscurrents: Corbyn, Labour and the Brexit Crisis” that is both critically important and not behind a paywall:

The Labour Party itself is far from being a reliable instrument in Corbyn’s hands: while the leader and his allies have strengthened their position since the electoral breakthrough of 2017, they still face unremitting hostility from the party’s right wing, to supplement that of their Tory opponents and the mainstream media. Labour’s programme of social-democratic reform may be modest in historical perspective, but it represents enough of a departure from established orthodoxy to provoke fierce resistance from business and the state machine—especially if Corbyn also tries to recalibrate British foreign policy after taking office. Before it can reach that point, Labour has to navigate an issue—Britain’s departure from the eu—that cuts through the heart of its electoral coalition and has no precedent in post-war British experience. Brexit has thrown the whole political field into confusion, and Labour will struggle to achieve a majority in parliament after the next election, even if it emerges as the largest party. The conditions of its likely coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, could include the extinction of any distinctive Corbyn project.

Just as crucial a read but behind a paywall (contact me for a copy), Colin Leys’s article in the 2019 Socialist Register titled “Corbyn And Brexit Britain: Is There A Way Forward For The Left?” has the same mixture of enthusiasm for Corbyn’s uphill battle and wariness about its success. Leys, like fellow SR editorial board members Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, is skeptical about social democracy’s viability. However, he at least sees Corbynism as a current worth supporting, if for no other reasons that it can galvanize a leftwing opposition movement into a force capable of resisting a deepening of inequality—either from Boris Johnson or from a resurgent New Labour.

Leys describes the tensions between the two wings of the Labour Party, one traditional and trade union-based; the other, urban, young and often either student or professional:

A final problem is Brexit. In opposition Corbyn was able to avoid taking a very clear position, but Labour was no less divided on the issue than the Conservatives. Any eventual agreement with the EU that permitted continued unlimited immigration of EU workers to the UK would likely cost seats in Labour’s old heartlands, which had voted massively ‘leave’, while the young voters whose support had been so important in 2017, and educated middle-class Labour voters in general, were predominantly ‘remainers’. Fashioning a policy on Brexit, above all on immigration, that would not cost votes with both groups of supporters looked extremely difficult. The prospects for socialist advance through the post-EU thicket were, to say the least, hard to envisage.

In addition to this thorny dilemma, Leys pointed out other deficits in Corbyn’s program. Despite his personal opposition to nuclear arms and power, Corbyn could not include any anti-nuclear planks in his otherwise commendable program. This was a result of the UK’s largest trade union, Unite, hoping to maintain its members’ jobs in the nuclear industry. Also missing was any kind of deep engagement with ecological issues. As Jeremy Gilbert has pointed out, his manifesto does not recognize that “what is required to avoid ecological catastrophe is a radical reorientation of economic priorities away from the industrial capitalist obsession with economic growth”. In many ways, fudging the nuclear and ecology questions is a sign that this updated version of the Labour Party still had ties to its productivist past.

But the biggest problem in Leys’s eyes was the failure of the Corbyn’s socialist project to deal with the most pressing issue facing British society, namely how to democratize the state.

There was no suggestion that there should be a written constitution, to make the electoral system more democratic, or to end the exercise of unaccountable executive power through the ‘royal prerogative’ and other archaic institutions. There was nothing on ending the corporate capture of the state – the downsizing of the civil service, the rampant influence of unregulated corporate lobbying, the ‘revolving door’ between the senior civil service and private corporations, or the corporate-style ‘executive boards’ that had been set up for each government department, largely filled with private sector personnel. There was no proposal to end government reliance on management consultancies whose main clients are corporations, or on the undemocratic nature of the BBC, nominally a politically neutral public service but in practice a key component of the capitalist state system. There was no suggestion of ending subsidies to private schools through which the rich constantly renew their dominant positions in the state and corporate elites.

Unlike the self-assured leader of the SWP sect in England Alex Callinicos who took advantage of Corbyn’s defeat to remind his readers of the dead-end of social democratic politics, Finn and Leys (and I) saw value in a Corbyn victory. That being said, the left is caught on the horns of a dilemma that goes back to the 1920s.

Looking at the record of Labour and Social Democratic Parties, there is not much hope that socialism can develop out of their electoral methods. Either they will be thwarted from being elected by dirty tricks as is now the case with Corbyn or once in power thwarted from moving ahead with a redistributionist program, as was the case with Mitterand in France.

So what are we left with? Join Alex Callinicos and sell copies of Socialist Worker to college students? Because of the sectarian character of “Leninist” groups, they will never be afforded the opportunity to make good on their goals. Standing aside from the mass movement, they act as its pedagogues. This might be useful in peeling off some activists into the ranks of the sect but it will never reach the critical mass necessary to overthrow the capitalist system. What’s needed is a party that can reach people on the basis of changing the world but not on the basis of when the USSR became capitalist. Come to think of it, if the Bolsheviks had made taking a position on the Girondist/Jacobin differences an ideological litmus test, there never would have been a revolution in Russia.

 

17 Comments »

  1. Most days, it is hard for me to see a way forward in countries marked by the interconnected diseases of imperialism, nationalism, racism, and patriarchy. Not to mention a commitment to the unending commodification of nature.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — December 17, 2019 @ 11:55 pm

  2. “Looking at the record of Labour and Social Democratic Parties, there is not much hope that socialism can develop out of their electoral methods. Either they will be thwarted from being elected by dirty tricks as is now the case with Corbyn or once in power thwarted from moving ahead with a redistributionist program, as was the case with Mitterand in France.”

    I agree. I will try to post more later, but, for now, I repeat what I said earlier, this could be as historically significant as the 1973 coup in Chile.

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 18, 2019 @ 4:19 am

  3. Just for the record, the British SWP, whatever its other faults may be, called upon its members and all those who read their press to vote Labour. For this “opportunism,” they were attacked by the real sectarians who either abstained or ran their own candidates. At the same time they correctly criticized Corbyn for the same things that others to his left did…including those you cite here. Capitulating to the Blairites and their middle class mileau over Brexit went hand in hand with all the other capitulations to them in the name of unity, including disowning many of his supporters who he allowed to be expelled on the flimsiest of trumped up charges.

    Comment by Roy rollin — December 18, 2019 @ 4:57 am

  4. I totally accept that the SWP called for a Corbyn vote. I should have been clearer in saying that despite this call it views social democracy as being incapable of leading to socialism. This I certainly agree with. The real challenge, however, is developing an instrument that can. We can all say that a vanguard party is necessary but how to get there?

    Comment by louisproyect — December 18, 2019 @ 1:48 pm

  5. There are a number of alarming features to Corbyn’s defeat, and I probably more pessimistic than you..

    Most importantly, it closes the book on the mass mobilizations that emerged during the economic collapse of 2008-2009, such as ongoing protests in Greece, which admittedly predated it, Occupy, the emergence of Momentum within the Labour Party and the Sanders insurgency with the US Democratic Party. None of them have moved the politics of the US and Europe leftwards, if anything, the move is farther and farther to the right.

    In the US, we have Trump, in the UK, Johnson, in India, Modi, in Brazil, Bolsonaro, Turkey, Erdogan. Rightist populists, with an willingness to exploit xenophobia and racism and suppress dissent, are in the ascendancy. Economic turbulence and increased precarity has not weaken capitalists and the right, it has empowered them.

    Corbyn’s defeat is instructive in regards to the headwinds for any electoral left movement. The impediments are obvious, but it is worth the time to go over them.

    First, mainstream media is now concentrated within a smaller and smaller group of people. In the UK, this meant that Corbyn was subjected to an concentrated, unrelenting assault. He was incompetent, he was too radical, he was anti-semitic. While he may have not been the most politically effective leader, such criticism obscures the fact that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone who could have effectively resisted it.

    Corbyn was thoughtful, sincere and motivated in his attempts to create a more communal, socially supportive UK through the government, and communicated this frequently. He was innocuous in his temperment and expression. Yet UK voters selected Johnson, a nasty, mean spirited sleaze bag instead. While I find it hard to understand why, UK voters considered Corbyn more objectionable than Johnson, even with awareness of what Johnson plans to do as Prime Minister.

    Grassroots organizing through groups like Momentum was supposed to overcome this, but failed. If Momentum couldn’t succeed, the chances of such organizing succeeding anywhere else is slight.

    Second, moderates within purported progressive and social democrats will never accept a more left leadership, and will undermine it at every opportunity. Moderates within Labour slandered Corbyn again and again, thus legitimizing right wing attacks upon him. I understand that Warren and Sanders are no Corbyn, but the same will happen here in the US if either of them gets the Democratic Party nomination. Unlike you, I don’t think either would win a general election against Trump.

    Third, as you discuss, Corbyn’s efforts to directly challenge neoliberal austerity was not able to sufficiently mobilize the working class and a significantly large enough portion of the middle class to win the election. Brexit was certainly a problem, but I don’t think this fully explains it. Instead, many people have internalized neoliberal market values, and they either reject social welfare alternatives or respond to them fearfully. Neoliberalism has effectively transformed the way many people see the world around them as they now related to it with a market oriented perspective. Of course, some of this is necessity, but I believe it goes deeper than that. Trying to persuade people to “democratize the state” as mentioned by Levys would have been a daunting task, as laudable as it may be and would have run the risk of being incorporated within the market based neoliberal assault upon the social welfare state.

    The terrifying consequence is that when there is a rebellion, it empowers the right. Trump and Brexit are examples. I fear that we are only in the early stages of the dismantlement of the social welfare states of 20th Century, and that much worse is to come, as the right, with its fascist and white supremacist vanguard, grows more and more powerful. For the short term, anarchism is likely to experience a resurgence, as direct action will be considered by many of the only plausible means of resistance.

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 18, 2019 @ 2:43 pm

  6. The SWP did indeed call for a Labour vote and actively campaigned for Corbyn, as did most of the larger Marxist groups with a regular press and any sort of influence. This included the CP-B, the SWP split Counterfire,the Socialist Party and its splits in Socialist Appeal & Socialist Alternative, the Mandelite Socialist Resistance, ,Red Flag (the 5th International!) & the Shachtmanite AWL. (the latter latter 3 were all strongly for “Remain”

    The rapid expansion of the LP to half a million members showed that making propaganda from the outside was no subsitute for being on the inside of its debates and decision-making processes.

    However some groups (like the SWP and SP) have had a long term perspective of counterposing themselves to the LP.
    (The SP continued this until very recently with its TUSC electoral alliance – the SWP largely dropped this when TUSC failed to get significant votes – as have all leftist splits from Labour since the 1920’s. The SWP then reverted to its traditional line of a critical vote for Labour and the SP followed suit.

    There is a definite overlap between these groups and the Labour left – with possibly hundreds of thousands having been through their doors since the 1970’s.
    In the wake of Corbyn’s defeat some of them may try to recruit disillusioned Labour supporters back into their ranks.
    But they remain organisationally weaker than they were and need to recognise that the real battle in the coming months will be inside the LP fighting the right.
    The mass movement which propelled Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership now needs to ensure he has a younger successor to carry on what he started and learn the lessons of this defeat.

    Due to bans and prescriptions, which weren’t lifted after Corbyn became leader, many Marxists can’t operate openly in the LP.
    Indeed, a mini-witchunt continued, mainly centred around allegations of “anti-semitism” because the disciplinary bodies were still in the hands of the Labour right.

    The Labour right was in retreat prior to the election and losing control of the NEC, the General Secretary and the Enforcement Unit which investigates disciplinary cases.

    Furthermore, the right has lost control of several major unions including UNITE the NEU & UCU teaching unions, the PCS Civil Servants, CWU Postal and Communications workers, the FBU firefighters & RMT rail workers. These are all either affiliated to, or support Labour and supported Corbyn’s leadership of the party. This left the GMB and Unison as the only major unions supporting MP’s who oppose Corbyn.

    So the right resorted to a campain sabotage against Corbyn, drip a series feeding of backstabbing accusations, resigning their positions and in some cases leaving the party.

    This campaign included the resignation of deputy Leader Tom Watson prior to the election, the defection of Chuka Umuna, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith and others to the Lib-Dems (only to lose their seats in the election), disruptive accusations of antisemitism mande by Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin (the latter ended up calling for a Tory vote), as well as John Mann – who was knighted by the Tories and made “Anti-Semitism Tsar” on oxymoronic title if ever there was one! The chief Rabbi and Archbishop of Canterbury both amplified this campaign prior to the election.

    When confronted on the doorstep, with hostility to Corbyn whipped up by the media, many centrist Labour councillors & MP’s privately conceded to it rather the fighting it, We know from the McCarth era what this sort of concilliation leads to.

    Although I agree with the points about the industrial decline of the Northern and Midlands constituencies which went Tory, there’s more to it than that.

    Labour won in these seats in 2017, despite Corbyn being leader.
    What changed was Labour’s position on Brexit – under pressure from the Peoples Vote campaign – a well-funded coaltion of Liberals and Blairites that influences many Labour centrists- John McDonnel agreed to a Second referendum.

    Although arguments against a No-Deal Tory Brexit are completely valid, in areas of industrial decline they don’t play out well, since traditional employment the pits, steel mills and factories has been replaced by precarious jobs in competion with workers from the EU.

    Nigel Farage’s party Brexit adopted a conscious stragey of only standing in seats where Labour supporters were pro-Brexit.
    Unfortunately the Corbyn-McDonnell leadership’s election campaign avoided talking about the issue, preferring to concentrate on Austerity.
    Their promises of big public spending funded by borrowing were accepted as credible.
    So the Tory-Brexit strategy worked, often aided by an increase in votes for the Liberals by Labour remainers.

    Analysis off the election data shows that of those seats gained by the Tories in such consituencies, only 5 of them (8.8%) had Corbyn supporters as Labour candiates.
    The rest voted for his challenger Owen Smith in 2016, then increased their majorities in the 2017 election due to the Corbyn effect.
    Many were “Remainers” in strongly “Leave” constituencies and had publicy criticise their party leader.
    There were also right wing “Leavers” like Mann and Austin, who stabbed Labour in the back
    A few honest left Leavers like Dennis Skinner and Ronnie Campbell, defended the old Bennite line, but were really to old and sick to have stood as MP’s again.

    In my opinion it was ducking the issue of Brexit, and failure to emphasise the key economic issues in its progamme that were the biggest
    weaknesses in Labour’s campaign.
    An analysis of the election results also shows that if it hadn’t opposed Brexit, the votes it would have retained in the North and Midlands would have exceeded those it lost in the South-East and Metropolitan areas, where its anti Austerity message would have got it through the line.

    This was a difficult tactical manouver to pull of and had significant opposition with the left, but in my opinion, it was essential.

    Whether we like it or not, we now face a showdown with the Labour right.

    Comment by prianikoff — December 18, 2019 @ 3:00 pm

  7. Should read
    Their promises of big public spending funded by borrowing weren’t accepted as credible.

    Other typos don’t affect meaning

    Comment by prianikoff — December 18, 2019 @ 3:05 pm

  8. Reblogged this on Splintered Eye.

    Comment by Amar Diwakar — December 18, 2019 @ 3:13 pm

  9. What a defeat. Capitalism is winning and winning.

    We can expect Death to be marketed directly soon in a rainbow of flavors that will make humanity embrace it like lifesavers.

    “Don’t die without Gasp-Ur-Last! Gasp-Ur-Last makes hypoxia fun!! Now with new MintGreen Super-Clogging EndStage(R) sputum … Only $999.98 at participating hospices ….”

    IMO, a “party that could reach out” would have to somehow counter the terrible isolation of citizens in the “advanced” world by breaking through the meme cocoon in which the capitalist Internet has wrapped us in a very simple way–by recruiting some sort of cadre of trustworthy volunteers and organizers who will be actually, physically present in people’s lives and will organize mutual and and help out with thing. You could call someone …

    But I’ve said all this before. Shut up, Farans–ok boomer?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — December 18, 2019 @ 3:47 pm

  10. […] Source: Why Jeremy Corbyn lost | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist […]

    Pingback by Why Jeremy Corbyn lost  – Last Man There — December 18, 2019 @ 6:43 pm

  11. The Brexit vote was a racist vote, not a leftist or anti-imperialist vote. It was from people who don’t want dark-skinned immigrants who wear different kinds of clothes, and speak a different language, living around them.

    Comment by walterlx — December 19, 2019 @ 3:36 am

  12. Would you be so kind as to send me a copy of Leys article?

    On Tue, Dec 17, 2019, 4:46 PM Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist wrote:

    > louisproyect posted: ” In reviewing articles about Brexit and Jeremy > Corbyn, I was struck by the similarities between British and American > politics with Corbyn and Boris Johnson being the counterparts of Bernie > Sanders and Donald Trump, with all proportions guarded. Since I” >

    Comment by Robert Svorinich — December 19, 2019 @ 8:37 am

  13. “The terrifying consequence is that when there is a rebellion, it empowers the right. Trump and Brexit are examples. I fear that we are only in the early stages of the dismantlement of the social welfare states of 20th Century, and that much worse is to come, as the right, with its fascist and white supremacist vanguard, grows more and more powerful. For the short term, anarchism is likely to experience a resurgence, as direct action will be considered by many of the only plausible means of resistance.

    I wish this were not so, however “dismantlement of the social welfare states” alas seems right.

    Nonetheless, I’m not sure that it’s quite right to say the right is growing “more & more powerful” altogether. The reality may be that in a way there is less actual power to share as capitalism declines and the ruling classes head for their bunkers. In that sense, the Trump-Johnson state may be less powerful than its “democratic” predecessors.

    Take Britain for example–that clown Johnson appears to be headed for effectively undisputed, possibly dictatorial, sway, in the predictable future, but over what? Basically over England, Wales, and maybe Northern Ireland, but minus Scotland, with an increasingly malnourished population subject not so far in the future to unchecked disease because health care has been withdrawn.

    Likewise Trump in the U.S.–taking his triumphant re-election for the certainty I believe it is—will represent the triumph of a dictatorial power that is weak in ways no successful dictatorship in history has been. This dictatorship will be radically incompetent in defining its own objectives, something that could never be said about e.g. the Bourbon state–or historical fascism for all the chaos of its alleged ideas.

    If this goes far enough–and it has happened before in history–we will see famine and plague in the former “advanced” countries who are now stumbling over capitalism’s finish line like the contestants in Monty Python’s “Ruling Class Twit of the Year.”

    This would not constitute the ruling classes growing more and more powerful in the way in which they did during the growth of the modern state and the developmental phases of capitalism. Rather, it would constitute the monopolization by a fugitive elite of an actually dwindling state power and a failing economic system tied to environmental disaster– In short an anarchy in the bad sense of the word.

    Ronald Rump’s war against the FBI and CIA is real in the sense of seeking to create a sort of legal and economic kessel in which the billionnaire class may do as they please without any potentially supervening power. Anarchy for the rich–but this will be hard to reconcile with the need to control those safely sequestered behind the walls protecting the spiritual Mar a Lagos in which these angels move and have their being.

    This suggests that the task of the Left might be not so much to seize existing power as to create a new power of its own. The Johnsonian/Trumpian state, despite its technical powers of surveillance, will IMO in the long run lack both the coherence and powers of concentration that would be needed to actually control the masses that are being fenced out and left to their own devices. For that they will have to rely on starvation and disease or the threat of s&d.

    In order to consolidate this new, decadent power, they may have to destroy or at least neutralize forces like the FBI that formerly served to guarantee the power of the old elites.

    Does this really mean anything? Can something good come out of the pending disaster?

    Who knows.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — December 19, 2019 @ 3:24 pm

  14. Very insightful, Farans. But, it could be BOTH what you say and what Richard Estes says.

    By depleting the sources of social safety net for the working classes while bagging all the wealth, the ruling classes of ‘advanced’ countries will, as you say, resort to a siege type of social ‘contract’. Rulers in the ‘advanced’/post-industrial countries will rule over broken societies, riddled with hunger (already 40 million Americans go hungry daily), mass unemployment and no healthcare or any social safety net, while the rulers will enjoy all the piles of wealth produced. In other words, it will look much like the Green Zone in Baghdad, or the country at large in Iran. (Or, as my favorite depiction of such a future in a movie, we will have Elysium.)

    At the same time, the relative strength of the people is far less than it would be under healthy conditions, so the bunkered elites can actually exercise their absolute control much more easily.

    But, then again, when you impoverish a super-majority of the population, you will also have, as we do in Iran, recurrent social upheavals. Not a stable system.

    Then again, capitalism has never been a stable system. The periods of ‘stability’ have been few and far in between. Until we figure out the riddle of how to get to socialism, as we all know, barbarity has the day.

    Comment by Reza — December 19, 2019 @ 4:29 pm

  15. Here is a good indicator of things to come around more frequently:

    “”The nation wasted the major economic recovery, according to a new report by Harvard Business School on U.S. competitiveness.

    “We had this wonderful recovery. It could have given us the chance to take some significant resources and devote them to some of our well-known challenges, like infrastructure or health care…none of that happened. Instead, we squandered a major economic recovery and didn’t use it to make things better,” said Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, a co-author of the study.”
    (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/we-squandered-major-economic-recovery-harvard-professor-142245851.html)

    The Harvard Business School report: https://www.hbs.edu/competitiveness/Documents/a-recovery-squandered.pdf

    And, mind you, this is Harvard BUSINESS School saying this!!

    Now, guess what will happen when the economy tanks: they’ll go after Social Security and Medicare, under the grand excuse of ‘balancing the budget’, and ‘future generations shouldn’t be punished’, blah blah blah.

    Comment by Reza — December 19, 2019 @ 4:58 pm

  16. This is true,Reza–and the “centrist” demicraps will be leading the charge as always (viz. that “good person” Obama). What a bunch of phonies and backstabbers.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — December 20, 2019 @ 3:08 pm

  17. “there never would have been a revolution in Russia” and most of these so called Leninists (I was one of them when I was young) still think that October revolution was something good , some kind of a victory for working class . They forget that Lenin revolution lead to civil war where most of working class perished ( predicted by Plekhanov :
    George Plekhanov, Open Letter to the Petrograd Workers (28th October, 1917)
    The reason the events of the last few days pain me so much is not because I do not wish to see the cause of the working class triumph, but, on the contrary, because with all the fibres of my being I wish for the triumph of the workers. The class-conscious elements of our proletariat must ask themselves the question: Is our proletariat ready to proclaim a dictatorship? Everyone who has even a partial understanding as to what economic conditions are necessary for the dictatorship of the proletariat will unhesitatingly answer no to this question.
    No, our working class is far from ready to grasp political power with any advantage to itself and the country at large. To foist such a power upon it means to push it towards a great historical calamity which will prove the greatest tragedy for all Russia.
    It is said that what the Russian worker will begin the German worker will finish. But it is a great mistake to think so. There is no doubt that in an economic sense Germany is much further developed than Russia. The social revolution is nearer in Germany than it is in Russia. But even among the Germans it is not yet a question of the day.
    That means that the Germans will not finish what the Russians have started, nor can it be done by the French, the British, or the Americans. By seizing power at this moment, the Russian proletariat will not achieve a social revolution. It will only bring on civil war, which will in the end force a retreat from the positions won in February and March of this year.”)

    And the suppression of any opposition during Lenin, working class soviets ( “all power to soviets”) lost power and influence under Lenin, the rise of Stalinism, the democratic socialism lost its way. All further so called socialist revolutions were lead by Leninist autocrat parties inspired by Stalinism total control of its members creating totalitarian societies where freedom of thought was replaced by fear.

    Comment by Yugoslav — December 23, 2019 @ 12:53 am


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