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Ex Leader of the UK LabourParty

DavidGraeber analyses the reaction to Corbyn's leadership.


Unrolled with all the pictures of headlines here:

Quora Answer : Should Jeremy Corbyn step down as leader of the Labour party after the Brexit vote?

Jul 3, 2016


For one simple reason.

Nobody is offering any kind of coherent or plausible alternative.

Corbyn isn't a great leader in practice. He's not a spectacular debater or orator or negotiator or thinker. He doesn't come up with new ideas. He doesn't manage to get the media (even The Guardian) on his side. He certainly doesn't resonate with the Tories and undecideds etc.

In fact, his only virtue as leader is that he embodies the ideals of decency and care about the plight of the disadvantaged that the Labour Party is meant to stand for. In this sense, he's (ironically) rather like the Queen : a "ceremonial figure-head" for Labour.

That clearly isn't enough for a fighting left-wing party. But it is something. And right now, it's the only something that Labour has.

And until Labour can actually come up with something more ... by which I mean some politicians who are great debaters and orators and negotiators and thinkers, generating new and appealing ideas, winning over the media and resonating with leftish Tories and middle-England, then there's no point tearing down the representative of the only positive quality that Labour is recognized for.

It can't be stressed enough. This is an age where every politician has a Twitter account and can write on the web. Where outsider insurgents, from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to Nigel Farage and Beppe Grillo can surf to popular support on a wave of public dissatisfaction with "the establishment" and the elites. Farage changed the course of UK history with one MP, who doesn't even like him very much.

In this world, Corbyn is NOT a gate-keeper, is not stopping any Labour MP or activist with the talent and drive to reinvent the Labour Party and its purpose. Anyone in Labour could create a movement and win hearts and minds to their cause. Anyone in Labour who is worried about Labour's "electability" can simply bypass Corbyn and speak to the public and do their own bit to improve Labour's chances.

Arguably Sadiq Khan and other winning mayoral candidates are doing that, But apart from them, the dire state of Labour's fortune in the UK is a collective failure, and a collective responsibility.

Until the Labour Party recognizes that, and moves on from trying to scape-goat Corbyn as the root of its problems, it's going nowhere.

Further, you can't really expect the public to accept Labour as a viable government-in-waiting when so many MPs spend so much of their time and energy publicly denouncing themselves as "unelectable". Read all those resignation letters again. Ask yourself what you think the people who wrote those letters "stand for". What they believe.

You soon realize that the uprising to overthrow Corbyn is nothing more than a perverse echo ("second time as comedy") of the Brexit campaign itself. A wave of despair (tinged with ambition) without any coherent strategy or planning for what happens next.

It's mind-boggling that dozens of Labour MPs have resigned from the shadow cabinet, overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Corbyn, and shared their grumpy letters with the media for maximum public damage ... and yet don't have a replacement lined up. One who actually has this magical "leadership" ingredient that they say Corbyn lacks. Angela Eagle is now dithering like Boris Johnson.

It's almost as if they didn't think any of this through at all. And were just caught up in the spirit of the moment. Like Brexiters, not worrying about the messy details of the aftermath, they assume the act generates the miracle. Vote leave! to magically restore "sovereignty". Depose Corbyn! to magically restore "electability".

What "electability"? I don't see any theory of electability at all. No recognition that Blair's success was a product of his times : of vicious (and unattractive) infighting within the Tory Party, of a booming economy (since revealed to be based on cheap credit and unsustainably rising house-prices), of support from Rupert Murdoch (initially a way for Murdoch to punish John Major, and later bought at the very high price of total acquiescence to the neoliberal economic consensus, and the neoconservative "war on terror" agenda)

(Aside : How would those who seek to repeat Blair's success reproduce these conditions? Tory infighting and economic boom are out of their control. How much is "making us electable" a code-word for courting the Murdoch empire? And at what price? What can Labour actually offer Murdoch that he can't get from the post-Brexit, post-Cameron Tories?)

Nor is there much sensible discussion of the situation that Labour finds itself in in 2016. It was losing its traditional base and votes from the left and working-class all the way through Blair's three terms. It's now run out of that slack and needs every vote it can get. It has lost Scottish social democrats to the SNP. It's losing English and Welsh working-class votes to UKIP and Plaid Cymru. The idea that Labour is just a comfortable shift towards the centre from having a majority in parliament is simplistic if not dangerously naive. (One more time. If the centre was where the votes were, the LibDems would be in power permanently. )

2016 is the year of mass public anger and rejection of the status quo and against technocratic elites who claimed to have been wise while sleepwalking the world into increasing economic and political turmoil. Why, in 2016, would Labour launch a civil war in an attempt to reassert the primacy of the goal of becoming that technocratic elite? It's a strategy that's at least five years out of date. It died with (the technocratically competent) Gordon Brown's election failure in 2010.

A Labour strategy for the next election probably has to look something like this :

Accept that a return to government in the next election means a formal coalition with the SNP. Start figuring out how to make a deal with the SNP that doesn't give them full independence. Ideally it needs fresh thinking on significant regional autonomy in the UK.

Labour needs a big push to convince the working class to come back to it. If it isn't going to follow UKIP into all-out xenophobic racism, then it needs to have something else. A better theory of why regions in the UK are economically stagnating, and the working class is suffering. It needs to have both a strong, coherent story and a strategy for explaining and selling that story. And it needs actions that follow from that story, that people can be persuaded to vote for. While Brexit wasn't a useful action ... it was an action. The referendum gave the sense of control back to people. If Labour is to win back its heartlands it also needs to offer something that people can DO.

Labour needs to fight back hard against the Tories and UKIP. It mustn't lose sight of or let up for a moment speaking out about the Tory / UKIP role in the inevitable post-Brexit traumas Britain will face. (Amazingly, only John McDonnell seems to be doing this vital bit of Labour work right now. )

Above all, Labour needs to learn to play the hand that its been dealt. Not spend its time wishing it had been somewhere, somewhen else. Focusing on Corbyn when the problems are much wider doesn't signal insightfulness. Having a mass hissy-fit without a plan doesn't signal competence. Until Labour MPs show they can manage themselves, in the actual situation they find themselves, no-one will think they can manage the country.

Corbyn has many weaknesses and two strengths : he's popular with, and enthuses, the membership; and he's widely seen as a man of principle and decency. If the PLP decide to trash those virtues - the enthusiasm of the membership, and the decency of the man - then they'll end up with nothing at all. All the structural weakness that Labour is struggling with PLUS mass disengagement from the membership, and a perception that Labour has no place for principle. That would be suicide.

This is why Corbyn has to stay. Or rather, Corbyn has to stay as a result of the PLP recovering its collective sanity and reorienting its attention on the things that Labour really has to do to be electable. If Labour does those things, puts its energy in the right places, then it's in with a chance, even with Corbyn as its figurehead. If it doesn't do those things, then none of Angela Eagle, Tom Watson, Owen Smith nor anyone else can save it. Whoever leads Labour into the next election will still face a hostile right-wing press, will still have to manage Labour's divergent constituencies and internal contradictions, will still face a chaotic economy and voters whose main desire is to protect themselves from everyone else. And it will have to do that without the energy of the Corbyn recruits and the perception of principle. (Corbyn is going to make a great martyr.)

tl;dr : the justification for overthrowing Corbyn is that the plotters are more competent to lead the Labour Party and lead the country than he is. The botchedness of the plot, suggests that they aren't.

Quora Answer : Who is more patriotic, Nigel Farage or Jeremy Corbyn?

Nov 22, 2019

I don't suppose that Corbyn worries much about whether he is "patriotic". As he probably thinks that's a bogus label.

But he's certainly putting far more of his effort into trying to help the country than Farage is.

Farage spends half his time cultivating a media career with the far-right in America. Is deeply allied with Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and that network of global ultra-capitalists and Christian white-supremacists. He hopes to cut Britain off from allies in Europe to leave it at the mercy of American trade-negotiators. Some of his friends are even betting on the collapse of the pound.

Corbyn stays in Britain, campaigns in Britain, for taxing global corporations to redistribute the money in the form of new council houses for young people in Britain, and broadband for disconnected people in Britain. And to pay for protecting and maintaining the NHS.

That strikes me as pretty focused on working for the interests of the country.

Quora Answer : In your opinion, is Jeremy Corbyn the main barrier to Labour being elected at the next General Election?

Dec 8, 2019

In my opinion, no.

Look around at who else got elected in the last few years.

The people are not crying out for technocratic centrists. Macron tried that and his support has plummeted.

Sensible technocratic centrists still have no answers to the problems they created during the neoliberal / third way era. They have no answer to spiralling economic inequality, the shift of industry to Asia, or to jobs lost to automation; to climate change, and to the growing number of refugees and migrations caused by climate change and by the wars started by the West.

People in Britain want things to get better for them. And they know that for that to happen, something has got to change. Drastically. And if you can't give them a viable left-wing vision of change, they flock to right-wing alternatives like Brexit and ultra-nationalism.

That is where we are today.

But too many on the liberal centre-left have attacked Corbyn; partly, I believe, out of frustration, because they couldn't see or create a centre-left politician able to successfully articulate and champion their own beliefs. They failed to understand that Corbyn wasn't their problem. Corbyn was a symptom of their problem.

Put bluntly. You have Corbyn leading the Labour party because you couldn't come up with anyone "better".

Now let's get this straight. I believe that Corbyn is actually pretty good. Not perfect, but "acceptably" good as Labour leader, and he can be a great PM. I hope he will be, and will vote accordingly this week. What success he has had corroborates my view. Ending austerity, nationalizing "natural monopolies", investing in the country's infrastructure, restoring the welfare state so it still functions well, are all good policies and all popular with the British people.

And let us be honest. It was only Corbyn and his circle who had the courage to put these items on the agenda and produce a Labour manifesto around them. None of the other leadership candidates running against Corbyn in 2015 were willing (or perhaps able) to offer that agenda and remake Labour around it.

He has done exactly what he was voted into the Labour leadership to do : changed what Labour stands for, and given the country a choice of a real left-wing alternative to the trajectory to the right.

And the popularity of that agenda is undeniable.

But if Corbyn fails to win the election, the fault won't be with him. He tried his hardest to win with a very solid and very good and popular platform. If he fails, the problem will be that Labour couldn't come up with someone else capable of taking those ideas to the people.

The Corbyn critics imagine that if you just had a bland nobody who kept his or her nose clean, then suddenly the Tories' own self-evident badness would cause the election to fall into Labour's lap. They are woefully ignorant of history and misunderstanding our political moment. Every Labour leader is viciously attacked. The right-wing media are fervent supporters of Brexit. You think that if Yvette Cooper was leading a Labour Party with a few luke-warm commitments to the welfare state and a stronger Remain stance, the right-wing propaganda machine would leave her alone? That it wouldn't be trying to tear her to shreds and concocting dozens of smears against her just as it does with Corbyn?

Get real!

Corbyn isn't suffering the opprobrium and unpopularity he is because the universe is recognising how karmically unfit he is to be PM. Corbyn is suffering opprobrium and unpopularity because this is a vicious propaganda war, now fought 24/7 across a million channels of Twitter and YouTube, with shadowy think-tanks and troll-farms and finely targeted dark Facebook ads. The people telling traditional Labour voters that Corbyn is weak, ineffective, dithering, anti-Semitic etc. are the same people who told Britons that the EU was an oppressive controlling undemocratic bureaucracy, and that it was holding the UK back from potential greatness. The same people who are whispering in the ears of the Jewish community that Corbyn's alleged "anti-Semitism" is a threat to them, are the same people who whisper in the ears of the Hungarians that George Soros is using his millions to impose an alien ideology on them, and whisper into the ears of white-supremacists across the Anglosphere that Jews are conspiring to "replace" white people with dark-skinned Muslim migrants.

If you really think that Corbyn is "the problem" because he is "too incompetent to avoid being attacked by the right", or to avoid giving them material to attack him with, then I have, as the saying goes, a bridge to sell you.

Anna Soubry drinks too much. As did Charles Kennedy. John Bercow is a bully. Yvette Cooper cheated on her expenses to live in a luxurious second home (what a hypocrite!). Everyone has something, some flaw, which can be exploited. You think Corbyn is a problem because the news media pumps non-stop accusations and discussions of Labour's "anti-Semitism"? If it was someone else it would be non-stop accusations of some other impropriety. The common pattern is not Corbyn's behaviour. The common pattern is that Labour's enemies need something to attack it with.