I didn’t join Labour. I won’t, not in its current form and even if Corbyn kicks in the door and the radicals in the wilderness re-enter, I doubt I would.
My political position is quite simple. I used to be a social democrat who cleaved the political dynamics within Britain from the foreign policy of the state. I celebrated SureStart centres and new hospital wings and pushed the atrocities of Basra and Helmand to the back of my mind. Like I celebrated Atlee’s ‘New Jerusalem,’ and said nothing of chemical agents he was responsible for dropping on Malaya and the concentration camps set up in Kenya (the atrocities committed in which are sickening and belie any conception of an essential moral fortitude of the social democratic position). I stopped that division, realising it was founded on racism. I then began to see the inherent racism that operates in European social democracy, which – to put in a nutshell – shackles and beats the periphery for the good of the metropole.
Now Corbyn is undeniably different. His political stance on Iraq, Palestine, Mexico, Diego Garcia, Venezuela, etc. notable exceptions to the political mainstream which has kept the structures of colonialism in place, by hook or by crook.
Yet, despite the huge areas of positivity, let’s not get carried away. In his interview with Pink News Corbyn picked out Uganda as an area that requires more punitive foreign policy from Britain based on its treatment of LGBTQI communities (noting nothing of the colonial legacies that shaped said policy and the neo-colonialism of the Bush years). In a more revealing understanding of Corbyn’s international policy, he advocates in his BLINK interview with Middle East Eye that Britain become an ‘irritant’ in the global scene, pushing for human rights whenever and wherever and, in so doing, making the UK a bastion of human rights.
As lovely as this sounds, what does it mean? How does such a global outlook address the issues of colonialism and coloniality that structurally determine the humanitarian present?
I ask these questions because addressing the legacies of empire in Britain is fundamental to meaningful political progress. A racist division between us and them cannot re-emerge, nor can Britain acting as a global policeman before it has addressed its depraved inner-workings and the bestial legacies of its colonial past.
I’m all for this optimism, if we can lock it in the right direction. But the laziness in conceiving of the battle to be fought is irksome. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are world’s apart, with Corbyn by far the more progressive voice. Nonetheless, comparisons can be made. If a reparations campaigner in Britain interrupted one of the mass rallies of Corbyn, how many white faces in that crowd would scowl and shout incensed by the very suggestion that Corbyn isn’t doing enough to address the legacies of empire?
Maximum unity and all that, but let’s not make such simple errors. For too long, social justice achieved in Britain came at the expense of those outside of it. A Corbyn led Britain still flies the butcher’s apron above its head, so let’s be humble, be critical and make sure that the needs of the liberal-left for hope do not drown out the need for fundamental, global change. If Corbyn’s Labour isn’t the end point in that struggle, keep thinking.
Labour are now on the verge of utter irrelevance and the thread by which they hang is Jeremy Corbyn – a man they nominated for leadership as a kind of art exhibit. That he has broke out of the confines is energizing for the left, but irrelevant – as even if he were to win the leadership – Labour is dead.
We know now due to the rumblings of the week that if Corbyn were to win, it would split Labour. The career politicians of Labour who think that by running the market-state they somehow determine its trajectory and therefore can do something for the destitute, are at a loss. Why have we not got it yet?
The problem for the political leadership of Labour is that the electorate hasn’t given up on the idea of a welfare state. Britain’s restructuring into the global economy may have rendered the boundaries of the nation-state progressively more meaningless, but within the body politic a spirit for strong public services, accessible to all at the point of need, still runs deep. So does care for those unable to work. But the conditions of Labour have changed and no matter how much moral or political sense it makes, it’s not politically achievable due to the economics that structure modern Britain.
The press use euphemism with this nonsense term to describe the right-wing of Labour – “modernisers” – hardly a derogatory term. What they mean by this is that the likes of Kendall – and as we’ve seen with the welfare bill Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham – are willing to accept and implement the diktats of the markets. This is neo-liberal polity and Britain is a paradigmatic example of it.
Corbyn rails against neo-liberal orthodoxy in almost all areas, but does so on the basis of bringing back the Labour of the post-WWII economic and political consensus. That time is over. Britain’s economy is now reliant upon financial services and speculation, to reorganise it takes a radicality that requires a party he does not have the support of who will likely never be convinced. All of that, assuming of course, that he is up to the task.
The long and short of the history of Labour and the labour movement more generally is that it was a product of industrial economies. As industrialism has globalised and the world economy has financialised, Britain’s political class have responded. The reality on the ground is that the condition of the working class is of less political importance. In an age of global workforces, it’s the assets that matter, not the material conditions of the workers.
Very radical steps are needed to organise society back in the interests of the majority. Labour is no longer the vessel of the worker pushing for higher wages and better working conditions. Labour is no longer the party that is willing to stand strong on welfare. In order to avoid “Osborne’s trap,” Labour have victimized the welfare dependent.
The saddest thing about all of this is that the poison of the neo-economy is being sold to us on the basis of our own wants. Apparently, it is the average worker who demands action to slice the welfare state to bits. It’s got nothing to do with the global economy and got everything to do about the shift-worker coming home from his night to see the scrounger sleeping!
The Labour leadership’s understanding of the working class comes from a mimicry of Channel 4 depictions. These patronizing wankers are not only lying, like true snakes, they are saying what they are doing is for the interests of the average Brit and not to bankers and financiers they are beholden to.
The greatest sell a Labour politican can make – and this includes Corbyn – is that they’d be a more humane technocrat of neo-liberal malevolence. They’d wince as the cut the support for homeless youths and cry when benefit sanctions led to the suicide of a parent. We only have to look to Greece to understand that you can be a true leftie, with the track record of a radical and still become the harbinger of doom. To escape from the pits of this stage of capitalism requires far more than one man, but good people are needed. What is of greater importance is the development of political project that is globally connected, but locally effective. That is not Labour, we all know this, it’s far better we accept its demise and organise.