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JUST how much communism will Jeremy Corbyn cram into Britain when he becomes prime minister?
I think many readers of this newspaper, which was founded by the Communist Party, would answer “not much.”
I’m happy enough to be called “hard left” and to me, Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is a significant, serious step to the left.
But a Corbyn-led Labour Party winning an election is a very long way from October 1917. Corbyn’s victory has pulled Labour back from two decades of the unending “moving right show,” but Labour is still Labour, not some kind of Red Guard.
That might be one view from the communist-ish camp. But many Establishment folk are looking down a very different telescope.
Noel Gallagher recently said: “Fuck Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a communist.” Well, that’s what a mouthy rich rock star would say.
He’s going a bit Rod Stewart, who started out the rebel and ended up the embarrassment. Noel hasn’t recorded anything as bad as Sailing or Do Ya Think I’m Sexy yet but probably soon will.
You can expect ageing rockers to be crass. However, more “serious” people have sounded just as daft.
Tim Shipman is the Sunday Times political editor. He has good access to Tory insider gossip and can have perceptive views, which he shares under his Twitter profile, Shippers Unbound.
But, when it came to Labour, he went more Shippers Unhinged, with a tweet earlier this year claiming Corbyn “is a terrorist loving commie. Never seen anyone else less suited to high office.”
“Shippers” deleted the tweet in embarrassment, because the Sunday Times top political journalist can’t be seen to hold these crude views without damaging the brand. The Times papers can’t let themselves be seen to be as propagandistic as, say, the Mail, but it’s clearly his heartfelt, if stupid, view.
“Shippers” is far from alone. Terry Scuoler, outgoing head of the Engineering Employers Federation, recently announced that a Corbyn government would be a “nightmare” because “there are a number of policy initiatives which are likely to be the thin end of a hard-line socialist wedge.”
Frankly, I would very much like there to be a hard-line socialist wedge and volunteer for the hammering thereof, but I don’t think it is being built.
In a similar vein, David Gauke, who is the minister in charge of benefits and pensions, warns us about “the Marxist agenda that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have pursued for decades.”
Priti Patel is trying to rouse young Tories by saying we are close to having a “hard Marxist” Corbyn government.
I don’t think this is just red-baiting rhetoric, although there is an element of that. It’s more serious. A lot of top Tories, bosses and journalists really believe this “reds under the beds” stuff.
A number of Tories are seriously suggesting young people are voting Corbyn because they don’t know about the “horrors” of communism and so Britain needs to set up a “museum of communism” to win back the youth vote.
It’s a bit like seeing a lot of the Establishment have some kind of nervous breakdown. Labour is likely to stand in the next election on a similar manifesto to 2017.
It’s a good manifesto, but it is not a Communist Manifesto. Corbyn and McDonnell certainly come from Labour’s left, but they have been Labour members for decades. They’ve been keen to work with protest groups and social movements. They take Marx seriously. None of that puts them outside the Labour Party tradition. You could say much the same about leading Labour figures like Aneurin Bevan or Stafford Cripps.
Labour politics is always the politics of compromise. The only question is, where is the compromise drawn?
The 2017 manifesto itself represents a compromise between the left and the centre of the party. Labour members have rightly put Corbyn, McDonnell and Diane Abbott in the leadership, but the bulk of MPs are still “soft left,” so this kind of compromise is inevitable.
I’d like Labour to be more firmly socialist, but only building the grassroots left and creating more solidly socialist MPs will shift the party beyond that compromise.
If Momentum had 100,000 members, not 30,000. If there were a dozen more deep-red MPs. If the social movements are willing to mobilise, then we can move beyond the 2017 compromise.
That seems to me to be where we are, but lots of Tory (and right-wing Labour) panicky people think that Labour is in a much more radical state.
I think they feel like this because they are caught in an “end-of-history” blind spot. They think that the New Labour way was the only Labour way, even though over Labour’s 100-year history, privatisation-happy New Labour was often the anomaly.
They felt that New Labour represented the new permanent state of the party, just as Francis Fukuyama theorised we were at the end of history, with (neo)liberal politics representing the final state.
The Iraq war and 2008 crash should have ended both these self-delusions, as they showed history was far from frozen, but middle-aged journalists and politicos who got their careers going under Blair can’t seem to let go.
It’s almost like this would mean admitting they got old and hidebound and that’s too big a psychological step.
The Blairite years convinced Tories, pundits, think-tankers and many MPs that any solution, even from the “left,” has to be a market solution. So seeing fairly straightforward social democrat reforms that aren’t is freaking them out.
The belief that Blair is the norm and Jeremy is actually going to be Commissar Corbyn when he is elected has three main effects.
First, it makes some people talk nonsense, as in “museums of communism” to win the youth vote.
Second, it makes the Tories hang together a bit more tightly, as Corbyn gives them the heebie-jeebies. So Nadine Dorries told fellow Tory MPs not to rebel because “we have a Marxist government knocking on the door.”
Third, I think the hyperbolic hyper-bollocks about Communist Corbyn will send a signal to some of the more hysterical members of the business elite and the “deep state” that they can and should be a bit more free with their attempts to hem in and undermine an incoming Labour government.
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