In the last blog I described 2 right views of the socio-political arena:- the Guardian view and the Occupy view. I described it as “The first view I will call the Guardian view. This view is leftward leaning but does not require a major change in outlook. We live in a trading society in which a few extreme individuals are exploiting others and if we continue to promote good works society can change for the better. This view looks at our neo-liberal system with its Veiled electoral democracy, and works within that system.” I did not explain the use of the word Veiled. It arises from the film “Lifting the Veil” in which the delusion of electoral democracy is exposed. Our two-party system is a manipulated system in which there is a delusion that these parties are two poles of a political spectrum, and that we are voting for alternatives. In practise they are different shades of the same colour, specifically Labour does not offer a socialist alternative. Reflect on the policy towards Ireland when there was the war in the North. Policies were the same, some would argue that to call it a war and ask for its end was electoral suicide but that was a fait accompli of the system whose Veil did not offer an alternative.
That is until Corbyn (and Sanders, Syriza and the Occupy movement). I want to discuss the alternative that Corbyn offers. But first I want to look at the Guardian view. Any reading of most Guardian articles about Labour and Corbyn shows a clear bias towards the parliamentary Labour MP’s, first Angela Eagle and now Owen Smith. They accuse Corbyn of dividing the party. Previously I have discussed this but it is worth repeating:-
Corbyn is trying to unite the party with the mass movement, it was Blair playing opportunist politics who divided the parliamentary from the mass membership. Let me explain how that worked. The mass movement was alienated from its supposed political wing by right wing policies such as the war in Iraq. With low attendance at ward meetings it was easy for Blair supporters to be elected as candidates. At the same time Blair made a point of giving clones posts in his cabinet, so by the end of his tenure those that wanted political office were Blairite and the mass movement had been divided from the party. The Guardian clearly shows its support of the parliamentary process, and therefore being part of the media that supports the Veil.
This Blair manipulation was evidenced in the leadership election that Corbyn won. He was a late addition on the ballot primarily as offering an alternative to the clones (including Angela Eagle), and he offered the only alternative to the party’s mass movement and was at the time surprisingly voted in. This ignited hope amongst the left, and opposition (from Hilary Benn and others) right from the start. When the feeble Brexit excuse came along the Blair clones were quick to unite behind the no-confidence vote leading to the current vote on his leadership.
This article from the Guardian is more objective. Owen Jones says “But who can have predicted Labour’s re-emergence as a mass party? In 2014, Labour had only 190,000 members; it now boasts over half a million.” His view is that the leadership election is a foregone conclusion in Corbyn’s favour.
It would be very interesting to know what the discussions of my erstwhile comrades in the NCP have been having. As previously discussed Corbyn was around when I was politically active. He ran a community centre in Islington and was responsive to his ward – his electorate. At the same time he was one of the leading lights in socialist politics along with Tony Benn, Red Ken etc. I have never been a supporter of Red Ken, and even though he developed a personal popularity amongst the wider electorate he was always one of the leaders amongst those who “shot themselves in the foot” – his recent statements on Israel being typical. I associate my work on anti-racism with Red Ken’s time as leader of the GLC but I have no details but that time was Thatcher-time and such good work soon ended. In the late 80s the activity of these socialists focussed on Socialist Conference, and when you consider Labour’s new half million membership I have to ask “how many of this half million would be typical of such a socialist conference?” And also whether the old guard of the NCP supports Corbyn and Momentum?
This is an important question, and requires consideration. What is the working-class now? We have the Marxist terms – bourgeoisie and proletariat. Since my activism times I have always considered myself as a member of the proletariat, and consider the terms proletariat and working-class synonymous. And middle-class an academic red herring. Why? We are the 1% or not, it is as simple as that. The 1% needs us to be divided, and so the academic obfuscations of class suits the 1%. The NCP had a cloth cap approach to the working-class. It is from the cloth cap working-class that the revolution will come, and despite the academics who led revolutions in Russia and Latin America such academics as myself (a teacher) were almost second-class proletarians. I suspect the majority of Labour’s half million are second-class proletarians. In one respect it is important to be derogatory of academics, they hold to theory and idea sets and because of this divide the mass movement – the Trots. And Trots made up the Socialist Conference.
25 years on from this we have Corbyn, we have Momentum, and we have half a million Labour membership. But how many cloth caps are there? Maybe the cloth caps of the occasional Militant?
But a more important question is how many of the proletariat are now cloth cap members? Since Thatcher there has been an intended reduction of the manufacturing base, there has been a concerted attack on trade unionism and movement to service industry, and more recently an increase of cheap migrant labour (non-unionised). The proletariat has changed. Academics such as me are an increasing proportion of the proletariat, so allusions to Corbyn’s half million members as intellectuals as opposed to working-class is perhaps misleading (“One challenge is that the Labour party membership is simply unrepresentative of the population. That has always been the case: it’s the trade union link that grants Labour any right to self-describe as a workers’ party. According to ESRC-funded research by the academics Tim Bale, Monica Poletti and Paul Webb, around half of Labour party members belong to the social group AB: that is, middle-class professionals. Yet only 22% of Britain’s population belong to this group. Those deemed to be working-class represent 47% of the population, but they make up just 21% of the Labour party membership. Nearly half of members live in London or southern England, and a large majority have university degrees.” same Guardian artcile.)
I do not use the term “cloth cap” as derogatory, they are fellow comrades. However these cloth caps would see their proletarian credentials as more “Marxist” than mine. In terms of the nature of their labour this is probably true as few could say that they chose their career in the way that I chose teaching. Who would choose to bottle beetruit – a Summer job of mine? This battle for Corbyn leadership is also a battle for the claims of uniting the proletariat again, but uniting amidst a diversity in which intellectuals are also considered wage-slaves as well as the more obvious “cloth caps”.
What Corbyn is doing is battling against the Veil http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/lifting-the-veil-obama-and-the-failure-of-capitalist-democracy-2011/ , he is battling the neo-colonial system from within. I see it as forlorn in the same way as Harry Perkins never stood a chance but let us hope there is some substance to the Momentum. How can we have our representatives taking us into Wars for Profits?