I have just read this Polly Toynbee article which is a basic cow-tow to tactical voting.
Let me accept what she says, that she supports Corbyn’s policies. Then what she is saying is “I give up on my policies” for strategy. For years those with genuine left-wing beliefs have been forced to vote tactically, but is that the aim of socialists everywhere? To use their vote as a tactic. Definitely not.
I talked about where tactics within the NCP led me, I worked as a traitor to socialism supporting union leadership that exploited membership; nearly 30 years later it still rankles. The question is this, when do we work for the possible opportunity for a socialist government? And the answer is this, will there be a better opportunity than now with all the momentum that is with Corbyn?
There are two sets of people who do not want to get on the Corbyn bandwagon:-
1) Those who have been cowtowed
I place Polly Toynbee in the category of those who have been cowtowed – assuming the description of her politics is true; although the phrase is a bit rude it is not really my intention to be so. She has spent her life in a political setup that has given socialists little choice but to vote tactically for whatever leadership came along. In the end the last vote (for Blair) enabled exploitative wars in the Middle East, how can this be socialist in any way? Blair took us into Iraq, Tories took us into Libya and Syria; what is the difference? When is the time we stand up for principle and goodness? When I was politically compromised by the NCP could I have done anything better with my time? NO. But now there is a movement. The mainstream media including Polly Toynbee (and Mock the Week) unfortunately are militating against Corbyn even if it is with Polly’s temerity. But look at the streets, that is where the mass movement is; and the streets are growing with their support for Corbyn. Isn’t it time to make a stand on principle and goodness?
My erstwhile NCP comrades would have hated these words at the end of 80s, but that was a completely different time. That was a time in which supporting Corbyn or Socialist Conference would have been to create a split in the Labour or mass movement. Ever since then supporting such would have been support for a split. But is now the time ripe for principle and goodness?
And the big question is this. If now is not the time for principled voting when will there ever be such a chance? Now there is momentum and Momentum, these are both mass movement in nature. If we don’t use these momentums now will there be another chance? I remember the miners. The miners’ strike was the time when trade unions lost much of their power. Whether Scargill was tactically in error or not (I think he was), the fact that the mass movement failed to back the miners 100% enabled Maggie to have a victory, a victory that has led to lessening of union power and eventually Labour taking us into imperialist wars. The movement did not seize the chance to defend because of doubts about the “Trot” tactics. Are we going to make the same mistake now? Are we going to fail to back Corbyn over minor doubts? Over wish-fulfilling failure?
It is time for people like Polly Toynbee to stand up and say now is the time for principled behaviour – socialism and goodness.
Polly is also arguing against Corbyn’s tactical stances with the opportunists in Labour. Let us start with how this struggle is being phrased by herself and others in the mainstream (albeit left-wing MSM). She talks about leaders. Since when is mass movement politics about leaders? It is about the mobilisation of the mass movement. So why isn’t she asking whether representation within the Labour party is mass movement? Corbyn has proven mass movement credentials. He wants a greater accountability to these mass movement voters, is this not what the Labour party ought to be about?
Where is her historical perspective? Historically Blair opportunism manipulated that lack of mass movement support for Labour to install his flavour of opportunism not only amongst the parliamentary Labour party but also on the NEC. Now that his Machiavellianism does not have control, shouldn’t all socialists be calling for appropriate representation – democratic representation of the mass movement? I don’t know whether Corbyn has talked of deselecting or whether it is just many of his attackers; but people who have got into position whether in parliament or the NEC through manipulation do not deserve to be there. I do not support a purge but these people need to support the mass movement who have without doubt given socialism as represented by Corbyn’s policies their assent. These incumbents need to get behind the policies that mass movement membership has voted for. Even if they are unhappy with Corbyn as leader there is a clear mandate for policies.
Instead these “Progress”ive MP’s are still fighting Corbyn, and then Polly says Corbyn is not bending enough to them – is not being magnanimous in victory. What is wrong with saying to these “Progress”ives, get behind the policies and I will forget any personal animosity. “His calls for unity are only a call for capitulation and obedience” is a very negative way of putting forward the position that MP’s should unite behind policy that the membership wants. Labour has gradually moved so far to the right that taking the middle ground or even socialism and goodness is seen as a lurch leftwards. It will be interesting to see whether conference provides mass movement policies yet – or whether conference is still dominated by opportunism.
Is saying the “vast majority won’t be deselected” a threat? Or is it just a recognition of history and a recognition of mass movement forces? Do incumbents have the right to stay there if they cannot be selected by their constituents? Is a vote for 5 years sufficient democracy or if there is a democratic change should the incumbent not reflect that change in their approaches – genuine democracy? Democracy has been relegated by neo-liberalism to a 5-year mandate. If Polly is a genuine socialist why isn’t she demanding that democracy reflect the membership’s views? Surely leadership of a democratic party would want its representatives to represent the views of membership. I am not sure what the “deselection” means. Does it mean that Corbyn has the right to ask for a sitting MP to be revoted? I doubt it. What is this so-called deselection? If there is an election then candidates will be chosen again, is this deselection or democracy? When you place these fears for deselection into the context of the Machiavellianism of Blair in putting these people in as MP’s in the first place, this deselection fear-mongering just sounds like support for “jobs for the boys” – or more correctly “jobs for the incumbents”.
As for MP’s voting for the shadow cabinet posts Corbyn must resist this in a constructive way. MP’s have gained office through manipulations of apathy. For those MP’s to then vote for Shadow posts would mean that manipulation would be creating Shadow policy when the mass movement has clearly supported different policies. If the Shadow cabinet can be “whipped” into support for the policies of the movement, then that should be the way of “voting”. Was there calls for shadow cabinet voting when Blair was creating his clone-olony? It will be interesting to see whether these opportunists can be whipped into line? “All this Machiavellian back-room manoeuvring is out of keeping with his benign …. image”. Where has the Machiavellianism come from? Being in politics forces him to work behind-the-scenes, ask Harry Perkins.
I find this very biassed:-
“The key rule change he wants from the NEC is to reduce the votes of MPs and MEPs needed to put a candidate on the ballot in future leadership elections from 15% to 5%: that ensures one of his own on the list, and the present party membership would then be able to select a successor in Corbyn’s image.” This might be something Corbyn wants but to describe it as key is very emotive. For me the democratisation and accountability of representation is the key issue of Corbyn’s policy within the Labour party, I don’t know whether he actually calls this “key” – I expect he would but I have no desire to put words in his mouth. Does 5% or 15% matter? It matters now because of the reason he was first nominated. In that first election it is my understanding that he was nominated by the MP’s to offer a different position – maybe some would not now want to have given him that opportunity? But if there were not 15% of Labour MP’s who represented the broad platform that Corbyn now stands for then it shows a weakness in the voting process that created that situation. 5% would mitigate against such happening again, but hopefully under the 2 momentums Labour will never be hijacked again by the likes of Blair.
“In one fraught conversation after another, I try all this on Corbyn believers but to no avail. No compromise, blocked ears, total denial of electoral facts, a post-truth conviction.” Throughout the article Polly describes Corbyn supporters as good people, yet she then criticises in this way. These are words I would use to describe Trots. Her conversations are fraught because she is being intractable. Let’s be clear the 2 momentums are people standing on principle – not being closed-minded but standing on principle. As described above, unlike the Trot situations of the past this is a movement that is based on principle and not on electability. But that does not mean that such a movement cannot enable Corbyn and Labour to be elected. Look at the Brexit vote – crazy. People were prepared to vote to leave because they were disillusioned. What if that disillusioned vote could be turned into a vote for principle and goodness – as opposed to anger and racism.
Across the pond there is support for ignorance and racism, because the opportunists in congress have exploited the allegiances of the people. Hopey-changey’s support for Wall Street severely disillusioned the black vote, and Sanders had great difficulty mobilising them. But Sanders offered an alternative that almost upset the Wall Street establishment of Clinton. Sanders “Our Revolution” continues unabated, but sadly it does not continue in the neo-liberal electoral forum of the Veil. Momentum would continue in the same way – working on community issues, if Corbyn were not elected. But let’s go 100% behind Corbyn and see if left-wing votes can mean more than strategy but actually be a vote for what we believe in.
It is time for the armchair socialist to get off the strategic-voting fence and begin to support the momentums for genuine change – principled, good and democratic. I suspect another chance like this will not come along in my lifetime. Corbyn’s speech at conference backed up by the membership vote gives a sufficient platform for the party to unite behind to present a credible government. Polly get behind this ….
unless you are 2) above “Those who support the veil”.