Saturday, 13 August 2016

Jeremy Corbyn for Leader!

Much of William Morris’s life in the 1880s was an experience of and meditation on political leadership.  With the formation of the Socialist League in December 1884, he was thrust into a much more prominent role in the British socialist movement than he had ever initially envisaged.  Looking back on his most vigorous activist years in November 1890, he wrote: ‘When I first joined the movement, I hoped that some working-man leader, or rather leaders, would turn up, who would push aside all middle-class help, and become great historical figures’.  And News from Nowhere, in its account of ‘How the Change Came’, vividly imagines how such leaders might emerge in a revolutionary situation: ‘now that the times called for immediate action, came forward the men capable of setting it on foot … though, as aforesaid, the abler men were not then the recognised leaders’.

Whether Jeremy Corbyn will turn out to be  a ‘great historical figure’, I do not know; but he certainly achieved something remarkable in his Labour leadership campaign of last summer, re-energising anti-austerity politics in this country among the young, reawakening old social-democratic traditions within the Party itself that we thought had been buried forever by the Blairite capitulation to neo-liberalism.  Ever since, the right-wing elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party have waged a determined and unscrupulous campaign against his leadership, culminating in the attempted coup which has triggered the latest contest.  So it now behoves all on the Left to defend Corbyn and the idea of a new politics that he represents to the best of their ability.  I’ve been slow off the mark in this, I realise, fettered I suppose by residual local Green Party loyalties, but, having been impressed by a Lancaster Momentum meeting the other night, I shall now apply to join the Labour Party and, if accepted, will get stuck in.  Labourite social-democracy may not be socialism in the full Morris sense, but it is certainly the best challenge to the neo-liberal consensus that we have going at the moment.


Tony Pinkney said...

The fact that I know Owen Smith's father, Professor Dai Smith, through shared Raymond Williams connections makes it somehow all the more disappointing to me that Smith junior is standing against Corbyn for the Lanbour leadership. And Owen Smith's current Leftism is certainly opportunistic and fake, as Michael Chessum argues in a good article in the 'New Statesman' for 12 August: "Smith’s claim to represent the soft left is driven, as much as anything, by the need to appear as left wing as possible. When you examine his earlier career, you could mistake him for pretty much any politician of the New Labour era. Go back to his unsuccessful run in the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election and you’ll find him supporting the use of PFI in the NHS, and saying he has no areas of difference with Tony Blair other than Iraq. As recently as last year, he supported a reduction in overall welfare spending. If the whole point of the soft left was its independence from either wing of the party, can a candidate like Smith, running with the backing of the whole of the Labour right, really have a claim to represent the tradition?"

Kotick said...

And Jeremy Corbyn has actually addressed the William Morris Society, Tony, speaking on 'Morris and the Environment' in the annual programme for 2000. So that should be a big plus for him with all members! See p.220 of Martin Crick's 2011 Society history.