Histories of the present: Paul Mason on the Corbyn Project as the Tories revisit 1992

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2016 by kmflett

Histories of the present: Paul Mason on the Corbyn Project as the Tories revisit 1992


Paul Mason has written an interesting piece on how Jeremy Corbyn should proceed with the Tories imploding.

His assumption is that there will be an early General Election and, very reasonably, Corbyn needs to make sure that Labour stands a good chance of winning it.

I’m not so sure about the early Election, based on recent British political history.

May 2015 is increasingly looking like an Election that not only were the Tories not expected to win but one they increasingly wish they had not won.

April 1992’s General Election victory for John Major was very similar. The difference was that the Tories imploded then after 4 months. Black Wednesday when Tory Chancellor Lamont had to withdraw from the ERM was on 16th September 1992. The Tories never recovered but they were not ejected from Office until 1997.

This was despite the fact that after the sad death of John Smith, the Labour leadership passed to Tony Blair. Even he, winner of three Elections, did not manage to eject Major from Office.

This time it has taken the Tories nine months to implode.

Mason suggests that Corbyn needs to do what he can to make peace with the centre and right of the Party by offering comprises in key areas and in doing to so offer a sort of left social democracy as a potential General Election platform.

There are I think some issues with this plan.

Its strength is that, given all the forces in play, if Corbyn was able to move Labour towards a left-ish social democracy and away from thoughts of austerity and neo-liberalism that would be a significant step forward for the labour movement.

It is of course not revolutionary or even all that left-wing but it could be achievable. Tariq Ali has made much the same point in the London Review of Books. I would however have thought it a five year project (at least) given the direction of travel of Labour in recent decades.

The second problem is of course whether at least some of the centre and right of Labour are actually interesting in making peace with Corbyn and the left. Since most are focused (reasonably enough) on winning Elections perhaps that would happen but given the vitriol of the last six months I’m far from sure.

Finally the key issue however is, leaving aside the general desirability of moving Labour back to a mainstream social democratic position, whether if Corbyn was successful in winning an early Election (let’s hope) that this would provide the political impetus and space to allow a move away from an anti-austerity politics.

That is to offer some real hope of something a bit better for the large numbers of the less well off in Britain who have been well and truly done over by the Tories and do something to start to rebuild the infrastructure of public and social services.

These points are modest (and obviously some distance from the far reaching changes I’d like to see, but Marxists do need to actually analyse where things are as well as dream of socialist advance).

However the example of Syriza in Greece and perhaps Podemos in Spain suggest Capital will not be at all happy about this and will actively seek to frustrate it.

Of course Britain is not exactly Greece or Spain..

In the meantime we can at least reflect that Corbyn’s real project- to increase hirsuteness on the left- is making good progress. Lord Falconer has grown a beard and is a serious contender for the Beard Liberation Front Beard of Spring Award this Saturday.

A final historical thought. The above and what Paul Mason suggests (link below) are only some possible scenarios. Something far more radical might happen, or at least the basis for it to happen might develop. As Alex Glasgow noted in the Socialist ABC, ‘X.Y and Z are written on the street barricades’



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