Monday, 10 July 2017

No Jeremy Corbyn

Few So Beloved By The Many: Jeremy Corbyn addresses the Glastonbury crowd. The British Labour Party looms so much larger now than it did just two months ago when the British commentariat was predicting electoral catastrophe on a scale not seen since the 1930s. Were an election to be held in Britain tomorrow a sweeping Labour victory is the most likely result.
 
"OH, JEREMY CORBYN! Oh Jeremy Corbyn!" The half-chant, half-song rose out of the Glastonbury crowd like the roaring of the sea borne on a rising wind. The slightly built 68-year-old received it all with the aplomb of a veteran rock-star. Microphone in one hand, a sheaf of speech notes in the other, he delivered an address that mixed soap-box oratory with the poetry of Shelly: "Rise like Lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number/Shake your chains to earth like dew/Which in sleep had fallen on you/Ye are many - they are few." How the young lions roared!
 
Now, delivering a speech is not the same as delivering a government, and Glastonbury is not Britain, but there there's no disputing that Jeremy Corbyn has redrawn his country's political map. Labour looms so much larger now than it did just two months ago when the British commentariat was predicting electoral catastrophe on a scale not seen since the 1930s. Were an election to be held in Britain tomorrow a sweeping Labour victory is the most likely result.
 
In New Zealand, however, it's a very different story. Here, with a general election less than three months away, Labour is languishing in the political doldrums. When Kiwis mutter "Oh, Andrew Little!", it is with a mixture of exasperation and despair. If we had a Glastonbury, it's hard to imagine our own Labour leader receiving the same rapturous reception as the Brits'. Hard because the voters' ability to imagine a better tomorrow is critically dependent on their political leaders' ability to describe a future worth living in.
 
That was Corbyn's most important achievement: to infuse the future with a sense of hope and promise; to re-cast the lives of ordinary Britons as something more than a grim struggle to pay the rent; to envision a world in which poetry had as valid a claim to their attention as the company's spreadsheets. As one young festival attendee at Glastonbury remarked when asked for an explanation for Corbyn's extraordinary popularity: "He's brought Labour back to its old self again."
 
And that, of course, is precisely what Labour in New Zealand hasn't done. Whether it be the party's pledge to uphold a self-imposed set of Budget Responsibility Guidelines, or, it's latest promise to excuse the farming community from its responsibility to protect the natural environment, the NZ Labour Party's key political strategy appears to involve anticipating how high the bosses will expect them to jump - and then training hard for the event. Corbyn's immensely popular election manifesto was entitled (with a nod to Shelly!) "For the Many - Not the Few". In fine antipodean style, Little has turned Corbyn's winning formula on its head!
 
The question that arises whenever three or more Kiwi leftists gather together in the name of social-democracy is: Why? What is it that holds Little back from making the same sort of unequivocal, old-fashioned Labour promises as Corbyn? What does he think he has to lose - apart from an election which nearly all the polls say he cannot possibly win? The American political writer, Thomas Frank, asked the same question of the US Democratic Party, and the answer he came up with was brutally simple. Today's social-democratic politicians are middle-class professionals who are, by-and-large, as disdainful of the electorate as they are uninterested in its inner emotional life. Not only have they forgotten how to dream dreams and see visions - they don't see the point.
 
Labour’s campaign to turn out the chimerical “missing million” courtesy of the unpaid efforts of several dozen young American interns is an embarrassing case in point. No one involved in this exercise seemed to understand that to replicate the outpouring of youthful energy that characterised the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Corbyn one first has to lay one’s hands on candidates capable of inspiring such unstinting effort.
 
Corbyn’s magic cannot be summoned-up out of a phone-bank staffed by well-meaning foreigners. Young volunteers will pour in to staff a Corbyn or Sanders-style political crusade – but only after they have themselves been mobilised by the fiery rhetoric of such political crusaders. There is no algorithm for passion, no playbook for inspiration.
 
Labour in New Zealand - like the Democrats in America and the New Labour Party of Tony Blair - are locked into the politics of subtraction. All their energy is devoted to shifting voters from the Government's column to the Opposition's. They have forgotten that the parties of the Left have always and only been about the politics of addition: of bringing new social classes and forces into the electoral equation; of adding new and exciting possibilities to the lives of ordinary citizens.
 
Politics isn't a profession - it's a calling. And when a political leader answers that call with sincerity and love - oh how the people respond!
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 4 July 2017.

20 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well, Corbyn has at least put the lie to several Conservative canards. Firstly that he is "unelectable" though to be fair, he didn't win the election – but given the first past the post set up and the absence of Scottish labour MPs it might be a bit much to expect him to do that. And secondly that you can't get the young and/or the disillusioned out to vote. What I find most frustrating is that Labour of all parties, seem to have abandoned the disillusioned voters. Obviously National doesn't care, as they tend to think with some justification I suppose, that these people wouldn't vote for them anyway. But as far as Labour goes, it really is unconscionable.

Tiger Mountain said...

well, the NZ Labour party was decades ago, gutted like a fish of its “Corbynist” type leftists, with the formation of the New Labour Party and subsequent Alliance, in the face of Rogernomics and the backbone club

will people still vote for their property prices, or their kids and grandkids futures this year?–and yes they are ultimately different matters–I imagine a narrow preponderance of the former

2020 will be the time for the new generations to assert themselves, and the politics that dare not speak its name–s-s-s-socialism! to make a solid comeback

street singer said...

Chris, have you come across CAJ Williams - a New Zealand poet with strong leftist credentials?

Another one from the 'Otago School'

His latest book includes reference to Corbyn et al

Demand his latest work at a quality bookshop near you: ISBN 978 0473 380724

Jens Meder said...

What vision is there left for the many to dream about ?
Socialism has been tried and abandoned entirely or partly everywhere, apart from a few countries where it is kept alive by totalitarian dictatorship.

The exclusive capitalism of feudalistic plutocracy has also been abandoned just about everywhere, and opened up for democratic participation under Social Democracy -

and seems to flourish under a higher and wider capital investment and ownership rate per citizen, than in the ("Third Way") Social Democratic Welfare States, where the growth of productivity or capital savings and investments per citizen
have not kept pace with the demand for increasing welfare consumption.

So - what vision is there left for the many to dream about, if the history as above is the truth ?

jh said...

"He's brought Labour back to its old self again."
........
I don't think a Labour that espouses multiculturalism and porous borders will ever be "it's old self".
Wasn't Corbyn promising lollies?

Polly said...

I do not believe that multiculturalism works when we import peoples who do not want to accept our values of Parliamentary rule and equal rights for females.
Jeremy Corbyn succeeded because he garnered the Muslim vote to add to the non-working / or working mans vote to a left agenda.
The success was a surprise to many political pundits.
He is a canny politician, but the open and porous borders he so openly supports is giving massive weight to an Islamic controlled Britain.
My prediction, if labour succeeds to the government benches with Corbyn and company in Prime Ministership and cabinet control then Christianity will fail and fall.

Jens Meder said...

Tiger Mountain - Old time state capitalist Socialist deprivation of personal capital wealth ownership is highly unlikely to become a free majority choice in the predominantly rational and secular "middle class" Western civilization.

Perhaps our younger generation by 2020 will wake up to the reality that there is more sense in systematically building up national and personal wealth than in aiming for higher marginal welfare benefits as a priority over wealth and jobs creation ?

peter petterson said...

IF Labour loses this election, there will be a new political entity created.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
It would be good to think you went to the event in Glastonbury while you were there, and heard him speak. The Guardian reckoned he got a more enthusiastic reception than any of other act. Pretty astonishing!
The criticism of social democrats of his style is always "who pays the bill for all the promises ?"
I happened to watch a yr old video yesterday of a meeting titled "A Hitchhiker's Guide to Economics: Yanis Varoufakis, Ann Pettifor, Mufti Abdur Rahman Mangera " on U Tube. It's long but Ann Pettifor speaks first and she only spends 15 minutes to make it clear that as she is part of Corbyn's advisory team they have the answers available to respond to that question. It's worth a look .But if they dare to implement her remedies to the banking and finance system there will be hell to pay . Those remedies are necessary though to make good Corbyn's promises and they entail taking back control from the banks of unlimited money(debt) creation, and the flow of money in and out of the country, any country. It means taking away most of the facilities that have been allowing the world banks to make the astronomical profits through speculation that they have become accustomed to . They won't like it and they are in a position to make life extremely difficult for any country to embark on a correction by itself. See Syria and Libya . They won't take quite this approach to the UK, but the western world wide opposition in every other way will be intense. That is also what Little would have to take on here if he were to promise the social repairs that Corbyn is promising ,and I very much doubt that he either understands how it all works or has the courage or nous to make the changes. All he can do without totally antagonising the worlds financial system is to slightly alter the distribute the crumbs that are left for society.
D J S

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Socialism has been tried and abandoned entirely or partly everywhere, apart from a few countries where it is kept alive by totalitarian dictatorship."
Please explain – with examples – were anyone on this site has ever advocated for Korean style socialism. Of course it has been abandoned, and in very many successful countries replaced with social democracy, which is what we are talking about. Even Corbyn. Stop putting forward the idea that only type of socialism is Communist dictatorship. Just stop.

bob said...

>> voters' ability to imagine a better tomorrow is critically dependent on their political leaders' ability to describe a future worth living in.

Seriously? LOL. Are you telling me that you personally cannot immagine a better tomorrow without input for from "political leaders", or does this just apply to the proles?

Jens Meder said...

Guerilla Surgeon - where has Socialism - defined as monopolistic public ownership of the means of production (capital) - survived without totalitarian dictatorship ?
Even China has become economically more democratic than e.g.(humanely) Socialist Cuba.

However, if you drop the private capitalism ban from Socialism, and explicitly redefine socialism as "socially concerned" - then are not all the liberal parties "socialistic", as socially concerned - apart perhaps from the exclusively sectional interest based ones, that aspire to govern primarily not in the interest universal, but in the interest of sectional interest benefits ?

Now, the latter is highly debatable, but is not at least a minimally meaningful level of personal (retirement) wealth (capital) ownership by all citizens eventually a goal for the benefit of all personally and collectively, and therefore a potential vision to dream about, and worthy of discussion on the pros, cons and actions needed to achieve it ?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Dammit, I shouldn't have said replaced. Because in most places it was never there in the first place. I just get so angry when people crap on about "socialism" as if the only socialist alternative is a communist dictatorship. As if we want that. It's just so much bullshit.

jh said...

Blogger Guerilla Surgeon said...
"Socialism has been tried and abandoned entirely or partly everywhere, apart from a few countries where it is kept alive by totalitarian dictatorship."
........
One (semi-socialist) system I like the look of is state ownership of land with private ownership of buildings: as 80% of Singapore. No NIMBY problems due to co-ordination (scale) and no ill-gotten capital gains on land.

N said...

Jans, I love that you come over and engage on the "Left". Without some alternate contention it becomes an echo chamber, there's nothing to measure opinion against. Having said that I wonder if you really examine in any depth your own contentions?

Lets get started with "national" and "personal wealth".....national is collective, personal singular. Does personal wealth exist outside of collective wealth? I would suggest not because unless the collective recognises that the individual is allowed to operate and own wealth within the collective then the wealth wont happen. If allowed there is a cost and a benefit to the collective, the real question most right wingers get wrong is that they fail to recognise collective costs. Like infrastructure, available labour, available resources etc. They put this down as a non cost...but there is one. Try doing things in the absence of these. Right wingers next mistake is to pretend it is all down to their personal effort, that prior input by the collective population for an inordinate time does not count. That is the capital we work within.

So to "higher marginal welfare benefits"...lets look at it this way. There is a limit to any resource, I capture or own more than my share by dint of working harder etc, good. But it comes at a cost because I have taken more which means another has less. The question is do we compensate others for their share and at what rate? Fail to compensate and you might find the recognition of wealth gets rescinded by the collective e.g a Red revolution. Or more likely the markets you rely upon, the infrastructure, the shared capital is diminished, taking with it your wealth. The Right regularly fail to recognise collective ownership and try to privatise it: therein lies a path to perdition and slavery. The same path applies to total collectivisation as communism proved. Its not simple, balance is the trick, so what is the level of a "higher marginal welfare benefit?"

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH. Yes most of the land in Singapore is owned by the government. But that same government is trying to attract high net worth individuals for residency and investment. So they are writing roughshod over the rules and regulations to make this happen. These people are allowed to own land, and keep people off it. Private roads, private bays, private beaches. This fits in with the comment I made in the latest post about the government of New Zealand changing the laws to suit themselves.

Charles E said...

Yes Chris, Little is no Corbyn but NZ is no Britain so any parallels fail right away. We are very far away in many key ways here.

All that happened in the UK is Corby proved a way better campaigner & briber than the woeful May, who is a manager, a details person, a hard worker and an honest straight shooting person. All things Corbyn is not. Attracting the unwise young is not so hard as they are unwise and always keen on change.

And what did Corbyn achieve?
A more right wing Tory government. Some Remainers have gone & a really tough (& admirable) traditional right wing women in Ulster has saved the Tories, at a price. Well done Corby.

It actually was a great result for one reason: Ruth Davidson won 11 seats for the Tories from the Scottish Nationalists and if she had not, May would have fallen and there probably would have been another election.
So this daftly called election is actually the story of three very interesting women, not Corby at all. Together they rule and the most interesting one may be PM next I reckon. The first gay one in a same sex marriage. Go Tories!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Guerilla Surgeon - where has Socialism - defined as monopolistic public ownership of the means of production (capital) - survived without totalitarian dictatorship ?"

Nowhere! No one disputes that! But very few people commenting here are in favour of it – if any! And yet you, among others assume that everyone is! Which is the thing that pisses me off!

Jens Meder said...

N - on the traditional wealth ownership patterns based political spectrum between royalty based plutocracy on the extreme Right and exclusively communal property based communism on the extreme Left, the proportion and widening of private property ownership increases towards the absolute (not relative) logical centre of that spectrum, defined by at least a minimally meaningful level of personal capital wealth ownership by all citizens eventually.

Once we are there, essential progress is not in the direction of sectional interests of the Right or Left, but upwards for all, the "Third Way" as initiated by Social Democracy through income redistributive welfare principle - which operates most successfully through market supply/demand sensitive profits dependent democratic, mixed capitalism.

A nation consists of individuals, so all personal wealth is also national wealth - which includes also govt. owned wealth, on behalf of individual citizens.

I think even right wingers know that there is a collective cost born by all contributing citizens for needed infrastructure - and someone who pays no taxes/rates, contributes nothing.

Basically, wealth creation is physically impossible without someone's savings at the expense of hand-to-mouth consumption.

Thus, you create personal and collective wealth by building a house or repaying your mortgage debt to the bank, which delivered you a valuable service by enabling your house ownership well before you could have saved enough for it.

I think as long as there is poverty, wealth creation should be a priority over marginal welfare benefits, which would be economically more healthy and sustainable, if delivered through increasing investment (capital per worker) and is profitable enough to finance the additionally desired benefits.

If these explanations do not clarify all your points raised, please pick out just 1 or 2 at a time for further clarification.



Guerilla Surgeon said...

Teresa May honest?
Then what about her lies about the dementia tax?

She has also been accused by one of her own MPs, of lying about NHS funding.

She said there would be no election until 2020.

It's arguable that she lied by implication about the £350 million a year that was going to go to the NHS – yeah right.

She claimed that the below par cladding on various buildings in Britain was begun by Tony Blair, but it actually was begun under Margaret Thatcher.

She keeps claiming that the country has come together and supports brexit. That would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.
I could go on, but I think that's enough somehow.

And she's done U-turns on various things which lead me to believe that she is not a particularly good manager, or detail person, and she certainly a shit campaigner, because unlike in your predictions Corbyn walked all over her – unelectable much? Still, feel free to refute my arguments Charles.