While a new Conservative Prime Minister sets Britain on the long path to Brexit and increased austerity, the British left drifts off into cloud-cuckoo-land.
The Brexit vote in on the 23rd of June has rattled the political establishment across Europe. In geopolitical terms, one of the two great military powers of the European Union is leaving. In real terms, what feeble protection the EU offers for workers’ rights is probably gone. And make no mistake – the move towards leaving is now unstoppable, and the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said so in as many words. With a Conservative government, there will be no second referendum, no Brexit minus, just pure Brexit.
And with no left-wing opposition to speak of, there will be no safeguards for workers’ rights, equality and everything against the raging tide of neoliberal destruction in the UK. This piece is explicitly directed to our European friends as a warning against the dangers of Corbynism and its fatal threat to the left.
There is no Opposition in the UK. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, leads a movement that has enrolled Greens, Trotskyists, SWP (an organisation famous for misogyny) members and downright vile thugs who roam the dark expanses of the internet, hurling sexist insults at any female MP who dares speak out against them. Alongside these, a huge surge of idealistic young Labour voters, who would have previously found a home on the “soft” left of the party, has been taken for a ride towards oblivion.
Together, these have been enrolled in a movement called Momentum, which has the express purpose of taking over the Labour Party. Momentum members have vandalised the offices and houses of MPs who stand against them, and the chair of Momentum has said they have no interest in winning elections. Their only wish is to create a protest movement. Democratic socialism is dead. Long live marching band socialism!
Meanwhile, electoral signs are dire. Two weeks before the referendum, after lacklustre campaigning by the leadership (even I had to scratch my head when seeing Corbyn speak whether he was Remain or Leave), almost half of Labour voters did not know the Party’s position on the referendum. The Northern safe seats face a challenge from UKIP. Traditionally Labour Wales voted Leave.
The Labour Party struggled to make any gains in local elections, which a Party heading for
victory in the general election has to achieve, and easily. We are in dire straits, and the answer to the question posed by the threat is, according to the current leadership, unswerving loyalty to core ideals: protesting for the abolition of the British nuclear deterrent, pacifism, and street marches against austerity, with a large dollop of invective against whosever opposes them.
These achieve absolutely nothing if you do not win an election. Which the Labour Party, under its dogmatic leadership, cannot.
The shadow cabinet, a British institution meant to demonstrate the Opposition is ready to take the reins of power, is no more, as dozens of Labour MPs refused to any longer take part in an abominably incompetent hard-line project that does nothing to help the most vulnerable in society take back control of their own lives. Corbyn has lost a confidence vote amongst his MPs, in which less than 20% voted to express their trust in the leadership. His title of Leader of the Opposition begins, at this point, to sound like a joke.
The new appointees, straight from Corbyn’s inner circle, have no clue about their briefs. Diane Abbott, the new shadow international development secretary, asked in parliament about the famine in the province of Davao del Norte in Indonesia. The government minister responded, quite simply: “there is no province of Davao del Norte in Indonesia.” The head of communications is a Soviet Union and Kremlin apologist. Jeremy Corbyn, when Theresa May was announced as David Cameron’s successor, did not bother to respond. He was giving a speech at pro-Cuban rally.
In Europe, the left is in danger of falling into the bubble it itself creates. Let me be crystal clear, to end the punishing austerity we live in, to create jobs for the young, to champion progressive causes across the continent, we must win elections, not just in one country, but all across Europe. We need not fear to be radical. We can create a progressive, socialist, left-wing alternative to the challenges of the 21st century. We can create a better European Union, one that works for the many, not the few. We can work towards a genuine meritocratic society and become world leaders for liberation causes.
But then we need to take it to the public. And we need to accept the messy compromises, the legislative process, the watering down of some ideals so that others can be prioritised and driven through in all their radical glory.
Corbynism, a step back towards old certainties, is not the answer to the twenty-first century. It was hardly an answer to the twentieth. It is the politics of Twitter’s 140 characters. We would be fools to fall for its trap.
Kuba Stawiski (23) is 2016 Graduate of Democracy, Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Poland, Vice-Chair of the Young Fabian Communication Network and a UK Labour activist in London. He tweets at @kayes67