While the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party has injected some novelty into the utterly stale state of affairs that is British party-politics, he leaves much to be desired for those seeking radical change.
My fellow traveller, Pete James put it rather well:
It took me most of the week to decide what to think about Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. Quite a discrepancy from the 2 minutes flat in which I made my mind up about the previous leader of the UK Labour party. As the days wore on that discrepancy was telling me something in itself. What was so different about Jeremy ‘hard-left’ Corbyn?
First of all he seems to have some principles. That puts him way out in from of almost everyone else in Parliament in one jump, especially most of the rest of his slimy traitorous party. His anti-war credentials are solid, he’s against the monarchy and he’s pro-trade union. These are all good things. The right wing media have him placed a little to the left of Lenin but in reality if he’s a socialist at all he’s clearly a fairly mild one and I have to say, he’s definitely too authoritarian for my taste.
Nevertheless he belongs in the small and varied little handful of British politicians who have been known to stand their ground and have even been known to risk venturing some interesting opinions (should I say wasting some interesting opinions?).
Steve Baker (Con) has come out in favour of mutualising public services and is big on money reform. Quote: “It is bitterly disappointing that so many Labour members can see nothing but either charity or the state, forgetting that the old, old Left believed in the dignity of voluntary association for mutual benefit.”
Caroline Lucas (Green) has a left-libertarian attitude to most things (of sorts) and the Greens have been particularly good on open borders and redistributing power, considering both to be an important matter of justice.
Frank Field (Lab) has some interesting ideas about mutualist style welfare provision that on second glance don’t really need the state to remain in the picture:
I propose establishing four mutuals covering pensions, a new care pension, unemployment cover and increasing over time the funding of the NHS. Each mutual would have a membership board elected by each contributor, each of the four boards would have the power to set contribution rates and entitlement so that a clear link was established between the two. Each board would also have the power to set the general strategy of the mutual and to dismiss the management board if members were so disaffected with their governance.
In fact the more I think about it the more I realise that I probably wouldn’t really have spared much of a thought for an old school, big government lefty like Jezza, but since he’s a player now he’s obviously worth talking about.
Unfortunately despite his good points I’m almost certain that he will turn out to be a disappointment, especially if he gets power. Just look at what happened with Syriza in Greece. We were all excited, then they went back on their promises, then we were all disappointed for a bit, now we’ve just forgotten about them and moved on. This pattern will repeat itself over and over again until we stop looking for a saviour and start making the changes happen ourselves.
Why the cynicism? The state is a tool for managing capitalism, the modern state developed for that purpose. Just as you wouldn’t try to do the ironing with a hammer there is no sense at all in trying to use the state to achieve socialism. Its internal logic does not allow change to come from within or from the top down. It just makes a bloody mess.
Change begins with us building the new world within the shell of the old, not as an integral part of it, or as a dependent of it but as an alternative. It is probably possible to make the state less destructive and harmful for the time being and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I believe some people are trying to do that but that is not the real task at hand. The big job, the one that the vast majority of us need to be urgently getting on with is making all that good stuff happen ourselves. As a big, subversive, society.