Democracia y PolíticaElecciones

The hard Left wants to seize power on the streets, not at Westminster



Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are not interested in the compromises required to win an election

It is now the common wisdom that if the Labour Party elects Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, it will have given up the possibility of power. This is a serious misunderstanding.

Of course, when Liz Kendall says that if the party chooses Corbyn, it will “cease to be a serious party of government”, she is quite right. But being in government is not the only way – not even the most effective way, for a Left-wing activist – of seizing power.

Another constant refrain is that the apparent tide of support for Corbyn among Labour members (or affiliates, or supporters who have bought a right to vote for the leader at a knock-down price) indicates that the party has “learnt nothing” from its defeat at the last election. That’s wrong, too.

In fact, the Corbyn army is composed of two elements: the cynical, hard-nosed, experienced Left, who have a very clear idea of what kind of political strength they could wield if they gave up on the goal of electoral victory; and the grotesquely naïve, who believe that this movement actually represents a kind of idealism.

The first category is the one to which we must pay most attention, because it has a clear plan – and that plan is extremely dangerous for the country and for the Conservatives, who seem finally to have stopped smirking long enough to see that something really bad might be about to happen.

It is crucial to understand that the trade union movement that became the effective power base of the Labour Party when it succeeded in making Ed Miliband leader did learn something from the last election. The lesson was that there is scarcely any point in competing with the Tories to be in government.

The only way that Labour can win that contest is to become (as they see it) a Tory-lite party: Conservatism with a human face. And that is not, absolutely not, what they are interested in. If, in order to be electable, you must relinquish all your socialist precepts and learn to love the free-market economy, then there is nothing perverse in turning your back on electoral victory.

What the hard Left is now aiming for is a different sort of power altogether: the kind that is achieved by revolutionary activism through industrial disruption. By seizing the means of production and distribution directly through strikes and organised demands, the Left can take control of the levers of national life without any of the tedious hassle of legislation and parliamentary argy‑bargy.

This is the doctrine of direct action that has always been accepted by activists as a legitimate alternative to governmental power. It is what used to be known, when these things were debated openly at every Marxist salon, as anarcho-syndicalism.

You can see why this approach might be coming into its own: the Left has given up on the mass of the population ever escaping from the trap of false consciousness. There is no longer any hope of persuading them that life under socialism is worth voting for. They have been too successfully seduced by the false gods of private prosperity and consumerism. So why bother trying to bring them to their senses through the democratic process, if that means jumping through the humiliating hoops, and making the repugnant compromises, of a general election campaign?

Instead, you can turn this outfit called the Labour Party into an effective, on-the-ground fighting machine that will seize the levers of economic and social activity at the levels that directly affect daily life. In that way, public consciousness can be engaged in a concrete, urgent form that cuts right through the establishment chatter of the governing class: stop the trains, turn the electricity off, disrupt essential services. That will make them listen to you.

Who cares how Jeremy Corbyn performs at PMQs apart from a few journalists? Parliament will become an irrelevance. What will matter to most real people is whether they can get to work or turn the lights on. Bring chaos to public infrastructure and the country will soon see who is really in charge. What will follow from that enlightenment – so the theory goes – will be the understanding that it is workers, not governments, that make society run. And so the loyalty and sympathy of the people will be transformed.

If you remember what life was like in Britain during the Left’s heyday then you will appreciate precisely what it would mean for a Corbynista Labour Party to revive the politics of that time.

This is not about the democratic process or governmental institutions at all. Forget the Michael Foot electoral debacle; forget the absurdity of Labour’s performance in the House of Commons.

Remember, instead, the life-or-death struggle with Arthur Scargill and how close the country came to having its economy undermined and the daily life of its population made unendurable. This is about making class war an everyday reality: taking the political struggle out of Westminster and into the street. That is what the Tory government – not to mention you and I – will be facing in the form of an “unelectable” Labour Party.

Now if you are up for the fight, you may be thinking: “Well, this is what we dealt with in the Eighties. Margaret Thatcher went eyeball-to-eyeball with Scargill and the rest of them. Not only did she prove that an elected government could win the day, but she educated the populace in the dangers of sectarian militancy. If we have to teach another generation that basic lesson, so be it.”

Which is all perfectly admirable. But – may I speak frankly? I’m not at all sure that I want to live through that again.

As I recall, the ending did not seem like such a sure thing when we were in the midst of it. For much of the time, it was really touch and go. And there were moments – when I was trying to feed children or change nappies by candlelight, or wondering if the trains I needed to get to work would ever run again – when it almost broke my nerve.

It was only the sense – and I am absolutely serious about this – that there was a governing party that would not flinch in the face of massive intimidation, and a national leader who managed to find precisely the right words with which to galvanise public resistance, that kept a lot of us going.

Is the current leadership of the Tory party completely confident that it will be able to stand up to another such war of attrition, however rough it gets? Or that they have the personalities – being so notoriously posh and privileged – to bond with the ordinary people of the country in the way that Mrs Thatcher (the grocer’s daughter) could do so convincingly? Certainly, at the outset, it will be Labour – which will by then be seen as simply a front for the union interest – that will reap all the ignominy. But eventually, if it goes on for too long, the country will get fed up and it will demand that the government gets a grip.

If David Cameron and George Osborne seem merely stubborn and stymied, instead of effectual and undaunted, they will be blamed for the slide into chaos. And might it not be plausible at that point – say around the year 2020 – for the leaders of that “unelectable” Labour Party to make the case that they are the only ones who could negotiate peace with the activists?

Maybe all this sounds far-fetched. But on the Left in the Eighties, lots of people said it explicitly: to be in government is inherently corrupting. The only purity lies in direct action. And, to paraphrase a friend of Mr Corbyn’s, those people haven’t gone away, you know.




Jeremy Corbyn

The left-winger

MP for:Islington North
MP since:1983

Believes that spending cuts should be slowed down. The uncompromising left-winger is strongly opposed to privatisation, academy schools, the increase in tuition fees and the Trident nuclear deterrent. He was also opposed to the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War.

Key backers at the start of the campaign:

  • Diane Abbott
  • Frank Field
  • John McDonnell
  • Dennis Skinner
Chance of winning:Highly likely. He has strong left-wing grassroots appeal and the backing of six unions including Unite and Unison. He is polling well above other candidates making him the frontrunner.


descarga (1)

Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto

  • A new national investment bank to encourage growth and reduce the deficit
  • Public ownership of the railway and energy sector
  • Replace Trident with jobs that retain the skills of the workers
  • Reduce the welfare bill through growth and investment
  • Housebuilding programme and rent controls
  • Integrate social care with the NHS
  • A new national education service providing universal childcare, abolishing student fees, restoring grants and funding adult skills
  • Scrap zero hours contracts and a national living wage for
Botón volver arriba