Friday, 19 August 2016

The World Transformed, Indeed

There is no evidence that Jeremy Corbyn is in any sense a Marxist, and that is rather the point. There are not 10,000 people in every British Marxist organisation put together.

Corbyn’s mentor, Tony Benn, found inspiration in seventeenth century Radical readings of the Bible, and in his own Radical readings of the Bible.

Michael Foot looked to the literature of the eighteenth century, when numerous subcultures remained unconvinced of the legitimacy of the new Whig State, and of that State’s capitalism and imperialism. At every point of challenge to that State and ideology, those subcultures have recurred.

Benn’s stock speech contained a potted history of the Peasants’ Revolt, the Levellers, the Diggers, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, and so on. It attracted considerable ridicule, but it made an important point.

The Radical traditions of these Islands, and not least of England, traditions to which upper and upper-middle-class figures such as Benn and Foot have always been integral, provided and provide the context in which the tiny Marxist minority can participate.

Fear of being overwhelmed is altogether misplaced. Both the Radical and the conservative traditions, closer than is often realised or admitted and each present in all of the main parties, are more than capable of standing their ground.

Gramsci called for a broad social movement towards institutional hegemony, for a celebration of the “national-popular”, and for an organic and self-organising working-class culture that included worker-intellectuals.

We, on the other hand, already had those things, most obviously in and as the Labour Movement, including, but not restricted to, the extraparliamentary origins and the federal structure of the Labour Party.

Thus, and thus alone, was the Communist Party of Great Britain, which in fact started life as a secession from the Independent Labour Party, able to contribute to the General Strike, to the Hunger Marches, to the Battle of Cable Street, to the formation of the International Brigades (although see below on that one), to the occupation of the London Underground during the Blitz, to the Forces Parliaments, to the Dock Strikes after the War, to the Squatters’ Movement of 1946, to the creation of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1947, to the Clydeside Apprentices’ Strike of 1952, to the foundation of the Notting Hill Carnival, to the work-in at United Clyde Shipbuilders, to the Grunwick dispute, to the three Miners’ Strikes, to the People’s March for Jobs, to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, to the Movement for Colonial Freedom, to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and to the Solidarity Campaigns with Vietnam and Chile.

Thus, and thus alone, was the successor Communist Party of Britain’s Andrew Murray able to preside over the largest demonstration in British history.

Does anyone seriously suggest that the CPB, as such, could have brought two million people onto the streets of London, even against the Iraq War, for a rally addressed by the Mayor of London and by several Members of Parliament, including the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and a future Leader of the Official Opposition?

Thus, and thus alone, were British Trotskyists able to find an audience for their guru’s equal opposition to Fascism and to Stalinism (although it was the ILP Contingent that went to fight the former only to be killed by the latter), and then to participate in the movement against the Vietnam War, in the student movement of 1968, in the industrial disputes of the 1970s, in the Anti-Nazi League, in the fully successful campaign against the Poll Tax, in the Stop the War Coalition, and in the anti-austerity movement.

Margaret Thatcher bitterly regarded the abandonment of the Poll Tax as the British State’s greatest ever concession to the Far Left. Yes, that was organised by Militant. But does anyone seriously believe that Militant could have done it on its own?

Thus, and thus alone, did Ken Livingstone become Mayor of London in 2000.

Thus, and thus alone, did George Galloway become MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, and for Bradford West in 2012; the first candidate to the left of Labour to win an English seat since 1945 is not a Marxist, and his profound religious faith informs the full range of his political positions.

Thus, and thus alone, did Corbyn become Leader of the Labour Party in 2015.

By participating in The World Transformed, everyone doing so is acknowledging the point: thus, and thus alone, will Corbyn become Prime Minister in 2020.

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