By Alex Cachinero-Gorman
This is part one of a two-part article. Part two can be found here. In part one, I talk about the campaign to oust Jeremy Corbyn from power. In the second part, I will speak about the various explanations of who is to “blame” for this crisis, and more directly to the problem of resurgent white supremacy and racism emerging from this power vacuum.
It seems everyone is resigning these days.
The announcement that Roy Hodgson has stepped down in the wake of a sorry Euro 2016 performance for England has already given way to memes poking fun at a country that has somehow managed to ‘leave Europe twice in one week‘.
The slightly more concerning resignation of upwards of 45 resignations of MPs from Jeremy Corbyn’s own party, and the subsequent vote of no confidence, has sent the press into a feeding frenzy of epic proportions, overshadowing the even more pressing—and horrifying—reports of racial harrassment of Poles, Muslims, and other perceived ‘undesirables‘ on the rise in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit announcement.
In short, British society is taking a turn for the ridiculous—and therefore, very soon, the tragic.
Dissent among the ranks?
First thing’s first. The Labour Party ‘coup’ (as it has been called) was long in the making, and by all accounts was planned regardless of the referendum result. After the announcement that Corbyn had sacked Hilary Benn (war-mongering son of the famous peace activist-MP, Tony Benn) British media went into a kind of overdrive. A seeming who’s-who of internal party machinations set about the preparations for a swift self-cannibalisation. The news, quite frankly, is outpacing our keyboards. But let’s try and go over this together…
It seems that Benn, perhaps fancying himself something of a leader after receiving heaps of unearned praise for an unimpressive militaristic ramble, was gathering forces to propose an alternative shadow cabinet and push Corbyn out. After Benn’s departure, the non-stop news cycles and radio interviews then set off with a sprint, talking up the point of a “post-Corbyn” Labour Party, interviewing liberal professors and conservative MPs within Corbyn’s own party about the sheer horror they felt at the prospects of an election under his leadership. One almost gets the sense that they thrive on scandal more than performance, since they, just as much as the Tories, continue to evade naming a possible successor—but never mind that.
Corbyn, we are told, failed as a leader. Over and over again this refrain has been parroted—“we need leadership”. And yet, in a referendum that was so visibly centered around personalities in the Tory party (and some hangers-on), it is precisely Corbyn’s continued personal appeal—and pseudo-populist posturing, a la Sanders—that is being ignored. Twelve trade unions have openly declared their continued support in the wake of the crisis, and thousands turned out last night to Parliament Square (between three and ten thousand, depending on who you believe and how triumphant you’re feeling) under the moniker #KeepCorbyn. Interestingly, as Richard Seymour has again astutely noted, although these rebellious MPs “have often claimed to be worried about Corbyn’s electability, their behaviour demonstrates that their major worry is that Corbyn might win, rather than that he can’t.”
The question raised by the talking heads, then—how could Jeremy Corbyn “reach” the voting public when he is so “out of touch”—is hopelessly off the mark. However stymied his reputation may be, by his own actions or the claps of the media firing squad, he is particularly poised to bridge Leave and Remain votes in any upcoming general election. Having campaigned on a Remain platform that was nonetheless openly critical of the EU’s failings, he would certainly not come across as dishonest: and having, despite this, secured a Remain majority in his home constituency of Islington, neither would he seem over-eager for Brexit. In fact, far ahead of his bourgeois counterparts, Corbyn’s greatest strength is his relatability and his un-governmental demeanor, two things which I estimate would square up far better in the eyes of the public when juxtaposed with the world-wrestling style clownishness of his most vocal conservative opponents.
The real question to ask is—if anyone was to have a chance in a fast-approaching general election, would it be a center-right candidate with only superficial differences from the likes of Boris Johnson & Nigel Farage? Or would it be a polarising personality who takes the terrain under a semblance, at least, of an alternative way out of our current impasse? And if the Tories pull together around a milder, safer choice—which by all accounts they might—isn’t the answer the same? Who better to run than a candidate who represents a visible policy difference to treading water?
Speaking of water—why is it that liberals always seem to think that they can win the debate by being pulled to that Bermuda Triangle of political thought and action, “the center”? Hasn’t this strategy failed enough, and hasn’t it, as I indicated in my last post, merely allowed the terms of the debate to shift ever rightwards? Who has stepped forward to face off with the hard right? Not a one. For in the words of Lexiteer-cum-Remainer Aaron Bastani, “Hilary Benn, Margaret Hodge, and Jamie Reed know they’ll get their asses handed back to them on a plate.” The full video of Bastani’s rant is worth watching in full:
The point for me, as an observer and as a firm antagonist to the cult of personality around lepto-progressive leaders, is a question of forecast and strategy. The central calumny is that Jeremy Corbyn “caused” Brexit by not mobilising enough support for Remain; the central conceit, therefore, is that we ignore the past several decades of UK politics.
A generation of centralised state-building riding on the coat-tails of austerity has fundamentally altered the landscape of this country. Labour & Tory alike fostered the environment for this vote themselves, pulling the spectrum ever rightward with their mealy-mouthed appeasement of “concerns over immigration”, legitimating the idea that capitalism’s refugees, and not capitalism itself, was the source of Britain’s misery.
The scene was cynically set long ago for such an implosion to occur; and in the relay race to the bottom, the baton passed like a hot potato from camp to camp for years while nay-sayers pointlessly warned that this, too, would one day backfire. That the establishment miscalculated about the timing—and is now scrambling to turn this crisis back in its favor—is surprising, but could amount to a mere momentary setback in the days to come. The story is sadly familiar because in this day and age, it almost feels universal.
Ultimately, the outcome of this power struggle—in many way a prolonged paroxysm of the British ruling class and its European patrons—will affect what the social & political terrain looks like for the foreseeable future. More importantly, the discourse of responsibility and “blame” around the referendum is an important component of how each camp’s strategy. In this vein, it is simply inconceivable that the deep disaffection of masses of Labour voters—at their lowest point since the early 20th century—can be traced singularly to Mr. Corbyn, who is, after all, a recent afterthought on the political scene.
No, the traces go much farther, much deeper, and often far beyond my scope. So, lest I come off as electorally inclined, I would like to emphasise this is not about supporting this or that personality or even the Labour Party itself. I see it all rather in the same way I do rain: I hope dearly it does not pour, but weather patterns are unpredictable and even worse, unreliable—best be prepared.
There is much to do while they are showering piss on us. My advice is to grab an umbrella and get ready for the shit to fly.
Continue to part two.