Wednesday, 30 January 2019

From Covington To Corbyn

"And so ends the war in Afghanistan. Or will do, soon enough. It has been waged for as long as the Covington Boys have been alive. Or many supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, which is how, while in many cases they have quite a lot in common with the Covington Boys, they have come to be supporters of Jeremy Corbyn."

So I wrote on Monday. Leading one of this site's longest-standing readers to email me and point out that, very much for the reasons stated, the Covington Boys might well have been Corbyn supporters if they had been British. 

An entire generation, and especially the male half of it, has had its politics defined by the wars of the last 20 and more years, of which by far the longest-lasting has been the complete failure, even in its own terms, in Afghanistan. Donald Trump is bringing the troops home from Afghanistan, and from Syria. A shame about Venezuela, but that has only really kicked off in the public eye after the Covington Boys incident.

Online and offline, I know quite a few of the young male supporters of Corbyn. They are liberal-minded in the way that Nick Sandmann was when he denied to Nathan Phillips that there was any such biological category as race. They are liberal-minded in the way that one of Sandmann's classmates was when he shouted back "Who cares?" after a Black Hebrew Israelite had called Trump "a faggot".

But they are no liberals. Quite a lot of them are the kind who have actively chosen to be practising Catholics, or Evangelical Protestants, in the second decade of the twenty-first century. And yes, those ones are totally pro-life.

At least Corbyn has never been against abortion. When she stood here at North West Durham in 1992, then Theresa May put out a leaflet in its largest town, which is still quite heavily Irish Catholic and which was staunchly so in those days, saying that she was pro-life. Of course she knew that she was never going to win here, anyway.

But even so, she now talks about "the right to a safe abortion", and she makes public money available for women from Northern Ireland to have abortions in England. This delights the Labour supporters of austerity in other cases, the Labour supporters of the Saudi war in Yemen, the Labour enemies of Jeremy Corbyn.

Even more of the many young male supporters of Corbyn are no friends of Gramscian identity politics, of assaults on free speech, of assaults on due process and the presumption of innocence, of anti-industrial zeal, and so forth.

They fit in well with the Old Left types who joined or re-joined the Labour Party, or who became registered supporters, in order to support Corbyn, not because he was entirely opposed to such things, but because he was at least more concerned with economic equality and with international peace, and prepared to respect a range of views on other issues among people who shared that twin focus. You can be Ronnie Campbell, so long as you really are Ronnie Campbell. Although highly imperfect, Corbyn was not only the best on offer, but the best to have been on offer in a very long time.

To the younger comrades, as to anyone born after 1990, the all-women shortlist system is self-evidently illegal. Moreover, they can be made to see that it has done more than anything else to turn the Parliamentary Labour Party from 50 per cent Broad Left 25 years ago to 85 per cent Hard Right today. They are motivated by rage against the effects of deindustrialisation and against the harvesting of young men in endless, pointless wars. That righteous rage was also the motivating force behind the election of Trump.

But the economic changes of the last 40 years have turned into the ruling class the public sector middle-class women who dominate the PLP, while the wars of the last 20 years have barely affected them, having largely been waged for explicitly feminist reasons, albeit to no good effect for the women of Afghanistan, and to catastrophic effect for the women of Iraq and Libya.

Those MPs are Thatcher's Daughters, to whom the anger of the young men who are accruing to Corbyn is incomprehensible. As is those young men's closely connected discovery for themselves of the various schools of heterodox economics, and of the traditional Great Books that, for ostensibly if questionably feminist reasons, have been excluded from school and university curricula.

No one seems to have bothered to ask about the wider politics of the Covington Boys. If their MAGA hats had any meaning, then they are probably pro-industrial and anti-war for reasons that Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris can simply never begin to understand. Trump has been, and he is being, a tad disappointing on those counts. But then, Corbyn has been a tad disappointing on a number of counts, too.

Even so, though, the best arguments against the Clinton-Pelosi-Harris Democrats and the Never Trump Republicans are also the best arguments against the Blairite rump in and around the Parliamentary Labour Party, and against the Conservative Party in almost every way. The present British Government would strike any American as Clinton Democrat, and that is what it is.

All in all, then, I suspect that the Covington Boys and a number of similarly aged, critical but committed, committed but critical Corbyn supporters of my acquaintance could have a very good night out. They rarely ask for ID over here, Nick. And the girls would love your accent.

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