Don’t give up on Corbyn

Jeremy Borbyn liverpool rally

The onslaught against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership continues, although sadly the main culprits have come from within the Labour Party itself. Corbyn looks likely to win, but even then, the Labour right are unlikely to stop their attacks. But as he fights back, you get the feeling that even amongst his own support some are wavering.

Not the hardcore Corbynistas within Momentum, Corbyn’s group within the Labour Party. There is no doubt they are committed to the very end. It’s more those who either joined, or at least turned hopefully towards the Labour party, when he originally stood as leader. They agree with all that he stands for, but now fear he may be genuinely unelectable.

I feel that part of the reason for this opinion is that many approach such issues with their own individual outlook, without any understanding of what working collectively means. They sit at home reading through social media, and revel in the echo chamber it creates.

Platforms such as Facebook are straightforward, but even now many do not understand how it works. Its algorithm picks up on what topics you click ‘like’ on, or choose to share. It works out from this what you like, so filters out everything that doesn’t fit in to the category, including the bulk of what your entire ‘friends’ group is sharing. Therefore you end up mostly only seeing things you already agree with, and it can feel like the whole world is on your side. If only.

But it can also feel like you are in complete control of where you get your news from, the sources you choose to let influence your point of view. Your politics. It’s not as simple as that.

The influences on the mainstream media come from pressure from the world of mainstream politics, and millionaire media barons and shareholders. The establishment, if you will.

You might not read ‘The Sun’, but it is in practically every workplace in the country. Even I will casually flick through its pages (mostly starting at the back, in my case), when at work. That onslaught cannot be ignored, and we cannot pretend that it doesn’t affect us in any way.

More to the point, we cannot ignore that it affects the commentators we trust, or our friends and their opinions. Simply, when the vast bulk of the mainstream media is either directly attacking Jeremy Corbyn, or at least supporting those attacks, we cannot simply think that it does not affect how we see the world.

If you agreed with everything Jeremy Corbyn stood for when he originally stood for leader of the Labour Party, then at your core you should still believe in that now. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are reasons to be worried as well.

You always require a sense of pragmatism and realism when looking at politics. I support Jeremy Corbyn completely, but can he win a general election? At the very least, this could be problematic.

Not only are the Tories press against him, but so is the press of the centre ground, such as the Guardian. And, as pointed out at the beginning of this blog, so is the Labour right (and part of the centre) as well. How can you win a general election when even your own party doesn’t completely support you?

Owen Smith
Owen Smith being natural and charismatic

It would certainly be difficult, but there are plus points for Corbyn. For a start, you cannot ignore the vast numbers who have joined Labour since he has been leader. There are over 500,000 members now. This number was boosted significantly by, first, the result of the EU referendum and, secondly, in response to the attacks on Corbyn.

When Blair won a massive majority in 1997, he did so for a number of reasons. The Tories were in complete disarray for a start. Tony Blair purposefully aimed to win the votes of swing voters, assuming the core Labour vote was already secured, so aimed to woo the so called ‘middle ground’. However, the Tories were so unpopular at that point that John Smith, the leader before Blair who died in 1994, would certainly have won the election, but not with such a large majority.

John Smith was not a left winger by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, Blair and Brown were protégés of his. But, while he was part of what paved the way for ‘New’ Labour, he was still very much ‘Old’ Labour. We can only wonder what kind of Labour government that might have been like. Would we have joined the invasion of Iraq in 2003 for a start?

But aside from that was that Blair had also pushed to build the membership of the Party. John Prescott’s role was to liaise with the old party for which Socialism was not a dirty word, and to get them out campaigning. When Ed Milliband failed in his general election bid that was the one aspect he did not have – a large membership out canvassing and campaigning.

Some have claimed that the numbers joining the Labour Party has not translated in to numbers campaigning on the ground. I can understand that.

As I said before, many approach politics now from an individualistic point of view, not a collective one. That’s not to say these people are inherently selfish, they are just not used to working in the ways required.

They joined as individuals, not through discussions with work colleagues, or necessarily even family members or influenced by others in their community. They did so sat at home, on their computers and tablets. They filled in an online form and set up a standing order payment, thus becoming a Labour Party member. They then got to share a picture on Facebook and Twitter proclaiming their membership.

But what did they do then? Many went to the rallies to hear Corbyn speak, and many did not. Those who went to see him, did they go to their local branch meetings?

This is not simply to criticise people for their lack of activity. We all have complex, busy lives. You can’t do everything. But are you engaging, at a real level, with people? Challenging and being challenged, making bonds, and building something collectively? I think it’s still possible, but it’s harder now than in the past.

People similar to Owen Jones, a very fluent speaker and writer, but has no idea how to work collectively with people. Yes, he joins rallies and speaks at events, but he places his own ego over that of the political party he is a member of.

He should be fighting back against the attacks on Corbyn first and foremost, recognising them for what they are, and labelling himself as a committed supporter of the man. He can still do so critically, but instead he is just a talking head. If he agrees with you, he stands by you, if he doesn’t completely, then he does not.

He should do so because the man and his ideas are under attack. He agrees with the majority of those ideas, and the only way to put them in to practice is to have him as leader of the Labour party (because no one else comes close). Instead he vacillates, and his open criticisms only strengthen those who wish to attack Corbyn.

I can see Corbyn’s leadership has issues with communication, both within the party (particularly in the PLP), and with the wider media. These are aspects that need addressing. But this can only be done by his side, not by sneering behind his back.

The right can do very well to unite when they need to, and yet the left demand everything be perfect in order to agree to go forward collectively with a plan. This will not do.
Trade union demonstration
What I will say though is that while I have spoken a lot about the Labour party internally, the real answer for change of course lies outside the Labour party.

Of course, we want a Labour party with Jeremy Corbyn as leader to take government, but 2020 is a long way away. If your priority is winning that election, then you are not seeing the bigger picture.

If you want to make real change, it is through building the mass movements we need. Movements against war, against racism. Movements to support our rights and strengthen our ability to fight united in the workplace. If that is happening in society, then party politics can respond.

Jeremy Corbyn has got our back, but he isn’t a super hero who will fix everything for us. We have to do that ourselves. Real change does not happen in Parliament, it happens on the streets and in our workplaces. But it doesn’t hurt to have the right guy in there.