An argument for hope — an open letter to the post-Corbyn left

My son Rory at TWT 2019 in Brighton. Literally the poster child for hope.

JVL Introduction

In a thought-provoking article, Christine Berry engages head-on with the disappointment and disillusion felt by so many of us on the left.

She engages critically with, and tries to understand the limitations of, the Corbynite movement – how much remained to be done and the enormous obstacles to delivering radical change had Labour won.

And she looks at the Starmer leadership, finding grounds for hope in the fact that Starmer doesn’t have a clear political project; political strategies can change in response to pressure and we need to be contributing to that pressure on him.

We need to be asking what we can do, whether in the Party and/or on the ground, not fixating on what the leadership is or isn’t doing.

 

Thanks to Christine Berry for permission to reproduce this article

This article was originally published by Medium on Thu 13 Aug 2020. Read the original here.

An argument for hope — an open letter to the post-Corbyn left

If you’re on the left — at least, if you’re anything like me — you’re probably feeling a lot of feelings at the moment. These may include the usual ones that have come to define 2020 — anxiety about the virus, financial worries, exhaustion with lockdown, many varieties of bereavement and loss — but perhaps also some that are particular to this political moment.

If we do not trust the government to manage the pandemic, we may be living with a heightened sense of fear and vulnerability. This is exacerbated at moments when we don’t feel that anyone in public life is voicing these fears (as when Starmer “welcomed” the easing of lockdown). Over the last six months many Labour activists will also have experienced burn-out and grief following the 2019 election result; bitterness and resentment at the revelations in the ‘Labour Leaks’ report; disappointment and despair at the turn taken by the Starmer leadership.

On top of all this, we may have internalised the narrative that crisis equals opportunity for change, that we must not screw this one up like we did in 2008. Having just been spat out of a gruelling ‘once-in-a-generation’ election campaign, we have been flung straight into a ‘once-in-a-generation’ crisis. Friends working in think tanks and organising roles have told me of intense feelings of pressure, guilt and overwhelm attached to this.

None of this is to imply that people on the left are somehow uniquely suffering or uniquely to be pitied: the pandemic is taking a huge toll on mental health for almost everyone, most of all for those who face destitution or are engaged in risky frontline work. The point of acknowledging these emotions is to recognise that they colour our reactions to politics — in ways that might be distorting or counter-productive — and to work out how we can process them better.

One of the cruel twists of lockdown has been to make it almost impossible to collectively process our feelings. It’s been hard to see people we love and trust, to chat about politics or our personal lives with them down the pub. It’s been impossible to gather, reflect and organise in large groups. Instead, we sit at home stewing in a pool of our own anxiety and depression, or getting lost in a Twitter bubble that endlessly reflects it back at us like some gruesome hall of mirrors. People we follow lash out increasingly wildly at the government, the Labour Party, each other and the world in general. Maybe we’ve been doing the same. Stuck in a digital echo chamber of other angry, depressed people, we can start to feel paralysed, increasingly convinced that everything is hopeless.

I know it’s not just me who’s been through this wringer repeatedly in the last six months. I’ve heard the same stories from friends and colleagues — and I’ve seen the frequent degeneration of left Twitter into cries of rage and recrimination. But we need to find a way past this. It’s not helping us and it’s certainly not helping the world.

The point is not that we should bury these feelings, or that it’s wrong to feel them. The point is that acting out of unprocessed rage, grief or anxiety is rarely a good idea. As psychologist and Buddhist teacher Tara Brach puts it, we can get stuck in a “limbic hijack” that stops us from seeing and thinking clearly or acting wisely and effectively. We need to listen to our feelings, not be submerged by them — and find space to ask the question that really matters: where do we go from here?

To answer this question, we need to reflect more deeply both on the lessons of the Corbyn era and on possible routes to change in the post-Corbyn era. We also need to distinguish between the things we can control and the things we can’t — and refocus our energies on the former.

Losing the rose tinted glasses: an honest assessment of the Corbyn years

It’s easy to fixate on the actions of saboteurs in Labour HQ, on the few thousand votes that lost Labour the 2017 election. It’s tempting to dwell on the alternate universe where we could have had a radical Labour government, where the pandemic wasn’t being murderously mismanaged by Johnson and Cummings. But here’s the thing: this alternate universe never really existed.

Yes, you can tell this version of history, and it has some truth to it. But it’s also true that there were deep weaknesses in the Corbynite movement which contributed to its inability to take power, and which meant that had it done so, it would still have faced an uphill struggle to deliver radical change. Joe Guinan and I documented many of these issues in our book People Get Ready!

The Corbyn project was an attempt to build the car whilst driving it. It was trying to back-fill a generational deficit in left thinking and left organising. These efforts focused largely — perhaps too much — on the need to flesh out a policy agenda; there was not time to lay the deep roots in communities that would have been needed for these ideas to flourish. This generational deficit extended to leadership, too: this is why the movement ended up being represented by an unlikely septuagenarian survivor of the Blair years, carrying a lifetime’s political baggage — someone who had never expected or aspired to high office. Last but not least, it extended to basic institutional knowledge of how to run stuff effectively: the internal operation was frequently shambolic. When we take a sober look at the last five years, it’s hardly surprising that Labour didn’t make it into government: what’s surprising, astonishing even, is that it got as close as it did.

What’s more, even if Labour had taken power, we wouldn’t have been in the sunlit uplands. Resistance from many powerful quarters would have made the ship very difficult to steer. We are deluding ourselves if we think that the advent of a global pandemic would have made this easier rather than harder, or that a Corbyn government could have avoided the mass suffering we are now witnessing. For one thing, many of the reasons covid-19 has hit the UK so hard — austerity, precarious work, a trashed social safety net — stretch back decades. There is no universe in which a radical Labour government could have resolved these problems overnight — especially one so underprepared to govern. But it would sure as hell have been blamed for the fallout — by a hostile media and a Conservative Party that would not have pulled its punches in the name of ‘responsible opposition’. This could easily have been the iceberg which sank progressive hopes for another generation.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that Corbyn was given a free pass by activists on many of the things that Starmer is now berated for — simply because they trusted the former and do not trust the latter. Starmer’s interview on Black Lives Matter was awful, but Corbyn promised more police on the beat — using anti-austerity politics to appeal to socially conservative attitudes rather than challenging them. Starmer was roundly abused for not committing to the party’s 2030 decarbonisation target, but neither did Corbyn: the policy was pushed and passed by members and did not make it into the 2019 manifesto (reportedly because of union opposition). Yes, of course the left must hold Starmer to account. But we can only do this effectively if we’re honest about what really marks him out from Corbyn — not by holding him up against a mythical and increasingly idealised version of the latter.

I’ve spent a bit of time on this counterfactual because I think we all need to let go of the fantasy version in our heads, the endless dwelling on ‘what might have been’, the idea that we could have had the best of all possible worlds — and face up to the reality. Only then can we move forward, clear-eyed about the strengths and weaknesses of our movement and the lessons to be learned from the last five years. For me, a key one is that we need to recognise the limits of party politics and do much more to be present on the ground in communities, making our politics relevant to people’s everyday lives and struggles, making it something we build together — and counteracting the messages pushed by a hostile media.

Labour’s future: grounds for despair and grounds for hope

Of course, the fact that the movement lost is not the only grounds for despair. What has really hit people hard is how quickly the waters appeared to close over this political moment: how soon Starmer’s promises to unify and to keep Labour’s ‘popular socialist platform’ seemed to go under the bus; how willing he has been to alienate Labour’s base and how plainly galvanising a mass movement is not part of his strategy. Beyond Labour itself, the political establishment has eagerly embraced a new consensus that everything about Corbynism was a dead end and we can go back to politics as usual — even as Rishi Sunak raids the 2019 manifesto and the pandemic turns politics upside down. If Corbynism could now be seen as a transitional phenomenon that had palpably shifted the dial and left a lasting legacy, that might be easier to swallow. Instead, many are left feeling that it was all for nothing.

Even more emotionally challenging, having had a place in mainstream politics for the first time ever, many feel unceremoniously cast back into the wilderness. As one friend said to me, “There’s a palpable sense of relief that they don’t have to listen to us any more.” It’s now clear that, for Corbyn’s most vociferous opponents, it’s not enough that the left is no longer in charge: they must be hounded out of public life altogether. Socialism must become a dirty word once again. Never very interested in understanding the roots of the Corbyn surge, in their haste to consign him to the dustbin of history the Labour right are treating an entire generation as collateral damage — including some of the most exciting social movements and most intelligent thinkers I’ve ever encountered.

There are a few ways of responding to all this. One is to lapse back into despair and oppositionism. We can retreat into the comfort of moral superiority combined with political impotence, that — as Rebecca Solnit points out — asks less of us and is less emotionally demanding than hope. This has been the left’s default setting for most of my life. Indeed, for many of us, it was not until after the 2017 election — in retrospect, the high water mark of Corbynism — that we genuinely allowed ourselves to believe that it might be possible to win, and to think seriously about strategy in this light. It’s this taste of hope that makes the crash back down to earth so hard for people to take. But it’s that spirit we must try and hold on to.

There’s no doubt about it — despair is tempting. But it’s not helpful. Despair risks turning us all into angry armchair Twitter warriors. If there’s no longer anything at stake, why not vent your rage at Starmer and his shadow cabinet, denouncing them as a shower of ‘red Tories’? The problem is that this produces a vicious cycle: in the nature of social media, the main audience for this is actually other people on our own side, who in turn feel increasingly powerless and despairing. The left shrinks down to an embittered and isolated sect that nobody else listens to. It begins to turn inward and eat itself: left splits and in-fighting have escalated since the election, as the uneasy coalitions held together by Corbyn begin to break apart again. Much of the energy that a year ago was being used to chart a new future is now being sunk into angry, backward-looking factional battles with the Labour right. I understand the logic of this: the left is under existential attack and feels it must defend itself. But I worry that it is backing us into a corner.

As Solnit argues, though, there’s another way to respond: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” We can recognise that we’re still in the eye of the storm: we don’t have a vantage point from which to judge the ultimate impact of Corbynism. We can say, as Zhou En-Lai famously did in relation to the French revolution, “too soon to tell”. We can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and do our best to identify the opportunities to make change in the here and now. The amazing things happening around the world as a result of Black Lives Matter prove that those opportunities are still there.

This is not to deny that the turn in Labour’s strategy over recent months has been frustrating and demoralising. I’m not here to try and defend it — in fact, defending a particular take on Starmerism isn’t really the main point of this piece. My real point is that we just don’t know yet. Of course, it’s clear that Starmerism will have serious political limits. But I don’t think those limits have really been tested yet, let alone reached. To dismiss the potential for pressure and engagement to push Labour to the left seems to me a self-fulfilling prophecy. I worry that many on the left — influenced by the gloomy picture we’re absorbing from social media — are prematurely giving up on the new conjuncture as entirely without possibility, and thus giving up on our own power to influence it.

Some are inclined to characterise the Starmer leadership as a return to unreconstructed Blairism. I don’t think this is particularly helpful. It simply isn’t yet clear what Starmer stands for. Perhaps he doesn’t even know himself. To be sure, the Labour right are doing their level best to step into the vacuum — but their victory is not a foregone conclusion. The internal debate is still raging — there are those pushing from inside for the party to be bolder and to engage more seriously with the left. Even the Labour Together report concluded that the party must retain its economic radicalism in order to win. But this debate cannot be contested if its left pole becomes fragmented, bitter and demoralised — still less if merely engaging in that debate is enough to get you loudly denounced as a shill who’s probably angling for a job in HQ.

For me, the big issue with the Starmer leadership is not policy but politics. The problem isn’t that they are right-wing ideologues. It’s that they are committed to trying to game the UK’s increasingly decaying political system, rather than finding ways to change it. They don’t believe it is possible to win by challenging powerful interests, so they try to get them on side: hence their weakness over tenants’ rights during lockdown. They don’t believe it is possible to win by changing the national discourse on race and migration, so they try to avoid it: hence their cowardice over refugees and Black Lives Matter. They don’t believe it is possible to win by neutralising the hostile media that destroyed Corbyn’s reputation, so they try to appease it: hence the reluctance to say anything remotely controversial.

Starmer does not have a clear political project in the service of which he is willing to expend political capital. Indeed, he appears convinced that Corbyn has destroyed Labour’s political capital and that his key task for the next few years is to rebuild it — not by re-rooting the party in communities and investing in participatory politics, but by making it acceptable to established opinion. What he will do after that is anyone’s guess. Of course, as I’ve argued before, there are path-dependencies in this strategy that will close down possibilities later. But the grounds for hope is that, unlike deeply-held ideological commitments, political strategies can change. Labour under Starmer is no longer interested in being the leading edge of change. But that does not mean they will not ultimately follow where others lead. If they sense the balance of power shifting, their strategy may shift too. And this is really where the possibility and the power of the left might lie.

Beyond Labourism: making the political weather

Realising this possibility requires us to reorient our political compasses beyond Labour. Again, it’s easy to forget, but many of those from my generation and younger who rallied behind Corbyn had previously never engaged much with party politics at all. The Corbyn years were a necessary corrective to a ‘movementist’ mode of organising that was not serious enough about the need to win institutional power — what Srnicek and Williams called ‘folk politics’. But we now need to recalibrate again. In People Get Ready!, Joe Guinan and I warned that “there is a danger that activists swing from an outright rejection of electoral politics and leadership figures to a wholesale and uncritical investment in them”. Many who never identified with the Labour Party before 2015 now identify with it so closely that, when the party no longer seems like a viable route to radical change, they begin to lose hope that such change is possible at all.

But here’s the thing: working within the Labour Party never was enough. In fact, having a Labour leadership so closely aligned with social movements tended to mask this fact in ways that ultimately contributed to its defeat. It blurred the distinction between the role of political parties and the role of social movements. It encouraged the illusion that our job was simply to get Corbyn into Downing Street, and the rest would take care of itself. That illusion was, ironically, one of the reasons that Corbyn’s Labour was ultimately unable to get into government in the first place. We had not done enough of the deeper groundwork needed to achieve truly transformative shifts in wealth and power, or to change the ‘common sense’ of a nation’s politics.

Of course, the leadership did successfully shift the window of political possibility on many issues, from austerity to public ownership of utilities. But it became its own vanguard — and this was part of its downfall. The starkest example of this was the policy of free public broadband — which came out of the blue in the 2019 manifesto, which nobody had been calling for and which did not sit within a clear story about the kind of change the country needed. Manifestos are not the place for flying kites. A thriving left ecosystem requires strong social movements to act as the restless leading edge of change, constantly pushing politics to the left, and creating space that political parties step into — whether enthusiastically or reluctantly. Labour’s drift back towards the centre should focus minds on the need to build these sources of social power — but this would have been our key task anyway. It changes everything, but it also changes nothing.

The Corbyn project was trying to bring about a fundamental paradigm shift in UK politics. The core argument of People Get Ready! was that history shows these shifts are always deeper than one political party’s platform. Their roots lie in new sources of power that begin to displace old interests; new economic realities that begin to displace old structures; new ideas spreading through academia and the public discourse that begin to displace old assumptions. As Solnit argues, sometimes legal and political changes are really just “ratifying” these deeper shifts going on beneath the surface. We also argued that Corbynism was at its best a project of radical democracy — and by definition, radical democracy cannot simply be bestowed from the top down. It needs to be built and demanded from the bottom up.

The grounds for hope is that the left has improved its capacity to do these things during the last five years. The ecosystem of left think tanks is much stronger and more radical than it was even a few years ago. Meanwhile, other wings of the Labour Party have invested little time or energy in developing new ideas: they were far too busy waging war on Corbyn. The climate movement, the private renters’ movement, the anti-racist movement — all have helped make the political weather and continue to do so. One of the lessons of 2019’s defeat is that we need to double down on organising and participatory policy — building a politics that is genuinely by and with those it is supposed to be for — whilst also contesting the debate within powerful institutions.

Much of the most urgent organising that will be done in the coming months has nothing to do with national politics at all, but will be focussed on directly mitigating the impacts of the crisis: eviction resistance, workplace organising, mutual aid. The growth of union membership during the pandemic is a key opportunity to reverse decades of decline in workers’ power. A burgeoning anti-racist movement could create space to change the conversation about national identity. There may also be opportunities to work with progressive local authorities who are willing to step into the leadership vacuum and spearhead imaginative economic recovery strategies. This is where the real action is likely to be over the next five years: building power, building alternatives and shaping the debate. Perhaps, if we nurture the roots of change, national politics will eventually catch up.

Where do we go from here?

Seeing this landscape for what it is, we can all make our choices about the role we want to try and play. Some will choose to stay in the Labour party and provide a counterweight to the right. This is a legitimate choice and an important job. Some will choose to leave and focus their energy on social movements or community organising. This is also a legitimate choice and an important job. There is very little point in wasting time arguing about which of these is ‘right’, why one is woefully naïve and the other is brilliantly strategic. It is surely obvious that any serious strategy for social change in the UK requires both. What matters is that we get on with the work.

This means we need to recognise and process the storm of emotions many of us are feeling about politics right now, so that we can stop acting them out. Before sending that angry tweet, we need to ask ourselves: is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? And, most importantly, could I be doing something more useful with this energy?

We need to spend less time fixating on what the Labour leadership is or isn’t doing, and more time working out what we are going to do. We need to spend less time adding to the pool of toxic emotions our political allies are already drowning in, and more time supporting each other to take care of ourselves and find a way through this grim time. We need to spend less time lashing out and more time building. We need to find projects and spaces, whatever they are, that nourish us rather than depleting us — that give us back our sense of hope and agency so that we can move forward. Things like The World Transformed and John McDonnell’s Claim the Future will hopefully help with this.

It might be hard to see it right now, but the UK left is still stronger than it was five years ago — and will remain so if we can find it in ourselves to act out of hope rather than rage. In decades to come, perhaps Corbynism will look like a transitional phenomenon on the way to the era-defining change we need. We have to hope so, and act as though it is true. What else is there to do?

Comments (25)

  • Doug says:

    Has the internal report taught us on the left nothing, there is no room for those who would rather see a Tory government
    Until we resolve this issue once and for all there is no future for the party

  • Michael Westcombe says:

    I am afraid that Christine is apparently subject to the same ailments she describes. I, for one, won’t be getting anywhere close to John McDonnell, now or in the future. The World Transformed is not doing the things that that she herself describes as necessary.

  • dave says:

    Is Christine Berry American? She writes ‘alternate’ instead of ‘alternative’.

    I don’t think many of us on the left would disagree with most of this. The two main ideas are that Corbyn and co were useless in key ways, and that Starmer may surprise us but that may partly be due to external factors – BLM, Extinction Rebellion etc are to large extent where politics that matter to many, particularly the young, has shifted.

    But there are also two counters. One, think how much better things would have been if not for the saboteurs – if the Labour right had pitched in that would have at least addressed much of the Corbyn failings with expertise and support, and a pro-Brexit strategy should have been worked out.

    Second, the witch hunt against the left continues and there is no mention of the weaponisation of antisemitism, which is one of the worst political smear campaigns I’ve ever seen. That cannot be ignored as people are getting letters now and tomorrow.

  • TM says:

    Such an interesting piece. Yes, there’s much to mull over here.

  • John Bowley says:

    I do not much like this piece. It is too jargonised. It is over lengthy for not enough substance. As already noted, the antisemitism slant campaign, which was by far the most influential in preventing a Labour government, is not in it. After the relentless nastiness of the ‘mainstream’ media towards Jeremy, I am not in any mood for more unfair criticism. The only part of this piece with which I agree is that Keir Starmer seems without political beliefs. Keir Starmer is an opportinist. I previously said this within my CLP. I also said that Keir Starmer hopes to be another Tony Blair. I partially have to take this back as Keir is fast proving to be far worse than the original Tony.

  • Margaret West says:

    There are a number of good points here – and I for one will not be giving up.

    There were many reasons why Labour lost the 2019 Election – not all of them Labours fault! Illegal manoeuvres such as the proroguing of Parliament and the opposition to these had the end effect of extending the discussions on Brexit. This has Cummings thumb print on it – and his like – stir things up sufficiently and the public just get fed up with “them”. They subsequently vote in the most incompetent government we’ve had in my life time .. under the impression that they are “different”.

    The slurs and lies about Corbyn undoubtedly contributed and to my disgust still persist. The object appears to be to tippex out the last five years as if they did not happen – as in photographs taken during Soviet rule to those who disappeared in real life too.

    I think that building up from the grass roots is an excellent idea. The pity of it is that anti-Union legislation during the 1980s might make this more difficult in the work place. However attending to local “issues” as good citizens is a way forward.

    I for one hope that lies and smears associated with the Corbyn years (eg anti semitism) will be rebutted and justice is done where possible to loyal party members who have given many years to the Labour Party. Ignoring these “for the sake of unity” is a false premiss.

  • Keith Venables says:

    May I concur with the view that we do – and always did – need to do the deeper ground work, getting Jeremy elected was never enough. Getting branches and constituencies facing outwards, being proud to be Labour fighting for Our NHS locally and nationally, supporting the climate emergency locally and nationally, offering good advice, alongside the unions, to people being forced back to work or being sacked: Labour needs to be seen as the Leadership in workplaces, communities, welfare struggles. While we may be despondent about Starmer, that shouldn’t distract us from being politically active locally and in national campaigns.

  • Philip JONES says:

    Hope without Optimism. Heard it all before. Look how they throttled Benn.

  • John howley says:

    As mentioned before there is no hint in the article of the deadly smear campaigns operated by the mainstream media against the left-wing of the Labour party.

  • David Townsend says:

    As Doig says, until the issues raised by the leaked report are resolved, there is no future for Labour.

    Labour is no longer a safe home for democratic socialists. I am no longer convinced that Labour is even left of centre. Here in Scotland, Labour is all but dead and next year’s Holyrood election is likely to be the final nail in the coffin.

  • The Labour Party under Starmer is finished. The party under Jeremy was not strong enough they knew what was going on behind the senses and did nothing about it. The thing that showed me that Jeremy had know chance against the liars and accusers was when he allowed Hodge to swear and chastise him in front of all sorts in westminster and do nothing about it. When that happened the knew they had him.

  • Alan Deadman says:

    As ever from Christine a deep and thoughtful analysis that looks ahead rather than stewing in a recent defeats. My one query concerns Starmer. I think he has a firm agenda. Evidenced by many choices such as his choic of Gen Sec, his close to relationship with NHS privatisers, his close dealings with the Security establishment,to name a few. However whether he is malleable or more sinister does not detract from Christine’s case:

  • Clare Palmer says:

    I read this with relief. I have been distressed and concerned at the descent into enraged insults that have characterised much of the discourse on the Left. I think Corbyn, if he chose to, could prevent much of that, as he is still seen as the “Leader”.Apart from anything else they give an appalling image of socialism to people who know little about it and understand less. Most people in this country have a warped view of what Socialism means, but could support Labour policies that we would think of as socialist.

  • Greg Douglas says:

    This is a thought provoking piece,but suffers badly from not considering the fabricated Antisemitism campaign. It is true that the Corbyn movement in many localities was not backed by solidly developed grass roots organisation and there is a need for serious discussion of what we mean by ‘Socialism’. The dilemma for people like myself,especially at age 81, is whether I can usefully contribute to developing the Left in the Labour Party.

  • RH says:

    The phrase ‘La La Land’ kept coming to mind.

    No – I’m not blind to the fact that Corbyn was not the ideal leader, much as I admire him as an individual politician with integrity.

    But to see much hope in *any* of Starmer’s actions (and I was willing to give it time) is wishing upon a star, when he is clearly the safe establishment fall-back candidate, installed after the most vicious, lying propaganda campaign that many of us can ever remember.

    And then we have this example of the gullibility of the left, who have been absent without leave during this unprecedented assault on civil liberties that I have ever seen :

    ” Having just been spat out of a gruelling ‘once-in-a-generation’ election campaign, we have been flung straight into a ‘once-in-a-generation’ crisis.”

    If you haven’t grasped that this is not a ‘once-in-a-generation crisis’ in any meaningful objective sense – then you haven’t been paying attention.

    In fact, in epidemiological terms, this is, in fact only the *eighth* highest level of mortality in the last quarter of a century. In terms of my generation, (mid-70s), I have lived without pause through about two dozen worse epidemic surges.

    ‘Once-in-a-generation’? Go educate yourself with the facts – they are there; they are objective. This is a *politically* generated crisis (albeit a cross-national one), and the real epidemic is the calculated induction of panic and fear that has neutered democracy.

    A ‘left’ that can’t even see the enemy isn’t on the road to success.

  • Stephen Mitchell says:

    What has happened has happened before. History repeats itself, wrote Marx,in tragedy or in farce. If anyone wants an overview of how the Party has failed due to political cowardice they should Michael Foots biography of Nye Bevan. Several times Labour have been in a position to become the natural party of government. It has failed because it refused to adopt progressive policies. The Attlee Government changed our country by bringing in more radical policies than those put forward in the last two elections. Labour lost office when it elected an awful right-wing leader in Gaitskell and abandoned its radical programme which had done so much for the working class. Far too many elected Labour MPs have never been socialists of any stripe. My membership card says I am a member of a democratic socialist party. Many on the Right are members by false pretences. So many MPs have made a good living out of the Labour Party. So many have stabbed it in the back Desmond Donnelly, Richard March, Woodrow Wyatt, John Mann, Kate Hoey, Giselle Stewart to name but a few. The Blair Government is partly resonsible for the chaos in the Middle East and much responsible for the rise of the Murdoch dynasty. Anyone who believes a “moderate” Labour Government would bring about the changes we need in this country where every thing in in crisis should be very careful what they wish for. Power without real purpose is useless.

  • Stephen Moorby says:

    Of course the Corbyn leadership made mistakes. Of course we’d have faced an uphill task if we’d got into government. But I fail to see why it’s necessary to write at such length to state the obvious. The argument could have been made in 500 words or less.
    There’s a power struggle within the Party and this kind of soggy Left discourse isn’t going to get us anywhere. Nor vacuous messages of hope. The Left needs serious analysis of where we are and what options are open to us.
    But I’m fairly sure I’m not prepared to wait another 30 years for the Labour Party to give the Left another chance.

  • John Bernard says:

    Well what can you say. I agree with some of it – Corbyn’s failure for example, but in fact think the paradigm shift happened. Just ahead of the NEC elections, we are, like the last ones In the middle of an uptick in the witch-hunt which is targetting Labour Councillors, veterans of the miners strike, and doubtless in due course, left wing NEC candidates. In that respect it is very disappointing that JVL has participated in the CLGA stitch up and worth pointing out that not one of the slate candidates thinks it worth campaigning against the IHRA definition, or repudiating the Board of Deputies ten outrageous McCarthyite demands, I don’t agree that we don’t know what Starmer is about – he has subverted the party for Zionism much in the same way Lansman did with his TWT nonsense, which was busy organising yoga sessions ( nothing against yoga in its time and place), while the right were planning their take-over. The only reason to stay and fight in Labour is to conduct the same merciless purge of those now doing the same to the left, but if that was not achieved under Corbyn, how realistic is it to suppose it will be under Starmer. Perhaps what we need is another Tory government in 2024 to make the penny drop and bring it home to people that Labour is part of the problem, not the solution.

  • AV says:

    I would like to be hopeful but I can’t find my way to it. I don’t think Corbyn got everything right – but he did make his opposition to the destruction of public services stick. I wish he had stood up to the smear tactics, and I wish the centre and right of the Party had tried to work with him. As Christine says, somehow, between them, they lost touch with the communities that make up this country. Now, when the current Labour leadership chooses the allies it does, it’s too easy for people to say politicians are all the same, and to ignore the scale of corruption in Government. Also hard for those who voted Johnson in to say they got it wrong. We know, too, how hard it is for the abused, as I think our population has been, to face the reality of their abuse… Christine suggests that we do have to face reality. The trouble is, how do we face the reality of this Starmer opposition without calling him and his Shadow ministers out? That’s not rancour, and if we don’t speak out then we end up with politics in place of integrity, and the danger of compromise as a consequence of choosing the wrong allies. So I hope the voices in JVL continue to stand up for those wrongly accused, and continue to develop a way of thinking that Starmer et al find they have to listen to. That way unification lies.

  • Have to agree with John Bowely. I find this post too vague and wordy. She feels Mr Starmer has no particular agenda? How odd! Mr Starmer has a rigid agenda which consists of expulsion on the slightest pretext of anyone who does not worship Zionism or Israel.
    I am really not sure what this person is trying to say. Are we to hope that Mr Starmer just might, by divine intervention perhaps, eventually become amenable to concepts of democracy and socialism? With indecent haste he has proven himself to have NO interest in Labour Party values. He has, with a ruthlessness that Corbyn should have used, committed what can only be described as atrocities. Yet have we still to hope that he might yet see the light? Let us dream!
    How much hope will we be left with when, if ever, the long awaited leaks inquiry reaches it`s inevitable conclusion, that no one really did anything wrong, that the plot was light hearted banter and when Mr Starmer awards the saboteurs with an apology and substantial payout.
    I might feel hope if more people would ask themselves what were some SENIOR Labour Party members doing and/or thinking on general election night 2017.

  • TM says:

    This is the time for the Labour Party to bravely embrace the politics of Zarah Sultana and other outspoken Socialists fighting for the working class; speaking out for Migrants; making very clear that the real enemy is the Ruling Class. And always has been. However much we do this in our communities that work is undermined by a Leadership either afraid of the MSM or simply drawn back to the politics of Blair’s New Labour. It isn’t just a case of a befuddled Johnson Government of Public School boys but a class that will embrace anything including Fascism to maintain its privileges. A Labour Party that disallows discussion and turns its back on democracy as well as socialism is simply inviting in a terrible future. We need to fight for every gain made over the past few years. Difficult in these times. But we have no real choice. And that starts with defending every comrade speaking out against Israel on behalf of Palestinians. That is what JVL means to me.

  • Ben says:

    I’m sorry but this article for , for all it’s good intentions? and constructive criticism? of a generic “Left”… reads in places, as others here have pointed out , as an appeasement to the abusive actions of Keir Starmer and his Allies, Labor Right and Others within and without the Party . Part of the naming alone addressed as it is to a “Post Corbyn Left” is quite disrespectful to Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
    The Strategies, “this new management” have been using over time … including weaponised provocations , Personal attacks, Denials and Lies of Omission and Commission are Designed to wear down, immobilise and silence those they see the Enemy , so they can “take back” what they believe to be “their” Party. Much of this is documented on this and other websites as we know
    It is not acceptable to compromise with abusive behaviour . There can be no sweeping under the carpet of this weaponised culture of abuse. To do so would be to further corrupt , an already highly corrupt political discourse in the UK. In short, to compromise with Bullies .
    Surely, its time for those who are choosing to remain in the Labor Party to consider working for the removal of this ” new management” from their positions and arguably from the Party itself ? That is, if The Labor Party is to move forward with any integrity as a force for sorely needed Social and Political Change!
    Yes, Personally and Collectively, we need Hope in the ongoing struggle for Greater Democracy and fairer distribution of Wealth in the UK and around the world . But that cannot be a hope separated from actions based on Personal and Collective Integrity , , and the Solidarity of the Many working toward those ends. None of this is easy , and all of it is ongoing .
    Don’t settle for despair and fatalism.
    Do respond to these Threats with Solidarity while looking after ourselves and each other in the Process .

  • Ivor Dembina says:

    Corbynism v Starmerism? Nothing to do with it. The Tories won because they are smarter than us. They saw that Labour members are pro-Remain and our voters are pro-Brexit. ‘Get Brexit Done’ was all Johnson ever said and the voters liked what they heard. Get used to it. Cummings made fools of us.

  • Doug says:

    Corbyn called it right, 2019 was no different to 2017, not honouring the brexit result was fatal
    Temporary Embarrassment is stuck in no man’s land

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    Don’t comrades use paragraphs any more? I suppose it doesn’t matter now the only real issue before us is stopping the witch-hunt in its tracks and, as for the rest of it, there is less to it than meets the eye.

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