Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour and the Voice of Dissent

In the light of Jeremy Corbyn's remarkable lead in the Labour leadership polls, many commentators (mostly from the right) have gleefully pointed to Labour's disarray. Even Tony Blair is making an intervention to prevent what he and his New Labour colleagues fear is a 'lurch to the left' which they argue will render Labour unelectable. However, this is not the Labour party that elected Blair in hope of a revitalisation of the socialist spirit, to be dismally disappointed. Far more than was apparent in 1997, we are living in a one-party state. Would Ed Milliband's Labour party have really done that much differently from what the Tories are proposing now? Yes, there'd be different rhetoric, but there'd be lots of squirming around end-results which were pretty much the same. These are universally technocratic administrations, and they all look and feel the same. Politics feels as if it's become rather like deciding which software operating system we would like the country to be running: Microsoft or Apple??

Technocracy has been in the spotlight in the Greek crisis. The EU commission is technocratic and unelected: it's actions have been blatantly shown to be cruel, manipulative, inflexible, and downright stupid. It shows no passion for democracy and freedom; it only displays a rigid adherence to rules and regulations and the self-preservation of the technocrats whose comfortable lifestyles away from political scrutiny are at risk if they veer from procedure. All this has become obvious to the people of Europe. When Jeroen Dijsselbloem is the archetype of the modern politician we no longer have a functioning democracy. And New Labour and the Tories are full of Dijsselbloems. This is the problem, because Dijsselbloem, despite his protestations, is not on the side of social justice. He is on the side of the technocratic elite, with his eyes on his technocratic colleagues and their rule-books, and the dark world of the bankers and the markets.

The real question facing Labour is that if we are in a one-party state, if technocracy is dominant and practically unavoidable irrespective of which party wins, how best to oppose it? Most political parties want to win elections. But opposition has a crucial function in any democracy and what we need now is more powerful opposition that gives the people hope that a real alternative is thinkable. At a time of deep confusion about the world, where clear alternatives do not present themselves, Labour needs to take the lead in speaking plainly and demanding justice. They may not win elections just yet. But right now the social responsibility is to oppose clearly and without equivocation. Of the available candidates, only Corbyn does this. His lead in the polls is not a blip.

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