A letter to anti-Corbyn Labour members

10.07.2016 - Pressenza London

A letter to anti-Corbyn Labour members
(Image by Global Justice Now)

We share a letter written by a young Labour member that is widely circulating on Facebook today, explaining why he supports Jeremy Corbyn in the present crisis.

 

Dear anti-Corbyn Labour supporters,

I get it. I really do. He has not led Labour to brilliant election results. He has not inspired confidence in enough of his MPs. His personal polling is not good. Some of his supporters are utter dicks. Momentum is way more centralist than I’d like (though I think “Trotskyist” is a bit of a push). He’s older and he’s tired. He doesn’t always speak brilliantly. We really really want to get rid of the Tories. I completely understand why you might not support Corbyn.

The problem is, you have given us nothing else to support. I am a politics geek, and I have been completely obsessed by the newsfeeds for the last fortnight, and I have not seen one single new policy idea come from the anti-Corbyn MPs. Maybe you have them, but if so they haven’t made it out beyond your thinktanks and fancy ill-attended seminars. I have not seen one single new compelling narrative, one single new ideological possibility. Maybe you have them, but you’ve been even worse at getting them in the papers than Corbyn. Lines about Corbyn’s electability mean nothing unless you can offer another idea to elect.

Because we are desperate. Speaking personally, I have had every economic advantage afforded to the middle class, and I still have never had a full-time job, a living wage income, or income security for more than a few months ahead. I managed to get out of debt but I’ve been stuck in the private rental sector and getting out seems to be getting harder and harder. I’m 29. My mental health and sexuality haven’t helped with all this, especially not with austerity screwing things up on those fronts as well. But I am pretty privileged, all things told, and I’m physically desperate for political change, so I cannot fully imagine how desperate things must be for folk who started out with fewer advantages than me.

You think Corbyn’s re-enacting the politics of the 80s, and maybe to a certain extent he is. Some of his ideas definitely are old, and are just about protecting what little is left of the welfare state and getting back some of what we’ve lost. But to someone to whom no other political alternatives are offered, that’s pretty appealing. And he is offering us just enough new ideas — grasroots-led political parties and people’s quantitative easing, for example — to think that he could take us somewhere new. He’s also offering us a really compelling story — solidarity — that we actually believe him about, because, unlike most anti-Corbyn MPs, he actually marched with us when we needed him to. The reason there’s a huge movement behind him is because he actually knows how to build a social movement, and you haven’t even tried. How do you think you can win an election, in these times, if you can’t do that?

Centrist social democracy has failed. Your project is over. Your parties are collapsing across Europe. You have widened inequality across the continent, and the horrible results are now coming back to tear things apart. You need to offer something new. Not just say “we’re new” or “we’re change”, because people aren’t stupid, have seen it before, and tend to actually vote for what they perceive to be their economic interests. If you think those interests lie in centrist social democracy, you’ve been proven wrong, and if you think centrist social democracy is the future, it is you who’s re-enacting the politics of the 80s.

Most of us know it’s a long shot with Corbyn. Most of us know it’s an uphill struggle and it’ll be hard to win the next election. But faced with the choice between that and more of the same, we’d rather take the chance.

I’m glad that Angela Eagle has finally announced her leadership challenge, partly because maybe it will put this miserable news cycle to bed, partly because we can have these discussions more clearly and move Labour forward, but mostly because she (and you) now have a chance to tell us what you actually stand for. The reason the “Blairite” line has come out so often, even though you’re no more all Blairites than we’re all Trots, is because most of us have no idea what you actually stand for if not for more of the same. So tell us. Here’s a few policy ideas for free:

(1) Federalism. Corbyn’s been crap on Scotland. He’s shown no understanding of the situation. Things are moving fast. You need to take a position on Scottish independence soon or you’ll continue to fall apart up here. Most people actually want some sort of super-devo-max, and offering that is now the only way to hold the UK together, if that’s what you want. Say you’ll campaign to give Scotland and Northern Ireland the regional autonomy to stay in the EU, and that would genuinely be inspiring.

(2) Electoral Reform. McDonnell wants proportional representation but Corbyn (or Labour) hasn’t taken the plunge. Take it. The left is screwed without it anyway. Two-party politics is over. Election turnout has plummeted. People don’t believe they have any influence. Find a way to make us think our say might mean something again.

(3) Universal Basic Income / Land Value Taxation. Two dramatic economic proposals that would restructure the way our economy works. Curiously, they’re often supported by both the green left and by libertarians and tech capitalists, so they might even be coalition-building. Shake things up a bit.

I would love to vote for a woman. I would love to vote for an LGB candidate. (I pointedly leave off the T because I don’t think any party has any trans MPs, shame on you, on us.) I would love to vote for a younger candidate. I would love to vote for a candidate of colour. I would love to vote for a disabled candidate. I would love to vote for anyone other than an older white man. I really, really want these things. But I won’t do it unless there’s a candidate who will actually make things better for women, for LGBT people, for young people, for migrants and people of colour, for disabled people.

So unless Eagle (or Smith?) offers something dramatically new, she doesn’t stand a chance. To be honest, you’ve left it so late that she probably doesn’t stand a chance anyway, and you’ll have given us a Corbyn with a newly inspiring mandate, as long as you actually join in and don’t try and pull the same shit all over again. But if you lose and don’t bring new ideas, we’re all fucked; if you win and don’t bring new ideas, we’re all fucked; if you split, we’re all fucked whether you have any new ideas or not. So for fuck sake stop talking about electability when you’ve offered nothing to elect, stop talking about MPs’ sacred duty to represent the interests of their voters when you’ve shown no ability to win their votes, stop pretending it’s all about personality when you have no personalities most people can actually recognize, and actually offer some actual policy we could all actually get behind.

In solidarity,

Harry Giles

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