Today I surprised myself. So far I have been horribly and deeply ambivalent about the Corbyn Surge.
I loved the fact that the glass ceiling on austerity, public ownership and Trident have been shattered. The energy it has released has been a joy. But I worried deeply about a political project that might not be plural, carried at least traces of left elitism, didn’t understand our emerging network society and had little by way of an organisational or electoral strategy. I was going to abstain.
I still worry deeply about those things. But I voted for Jeremy Corbyn, with no illusions, although Compass, the organization I chair, has taken no formal position on the vote. For someone avowedly of the soft left to vote for the candidate of the hard left is a big step. But things change. There is no perfect wave, and Jeremy isn’t perfect. But this is not about the person but the moment and the wave the Corbyn candidacy has unleashed. I voted for the wave.
The question is one of political strategy and ambition. Should we largely stick to current orthodoxies, hope to fall over the line first at the next election and make a now rampant global capitalism slightly more humane, i.e. continue the New Labour project plus or minus a bit? Or do we need to radically re-frame the debate in the search for a good society? Do we stick or twist?
Both options represent a huge gamble. But this is why I shifted. The Corbyn Wave is a window into what is possible. Its energy is breaking up the permafrost soil that for 30 years has been too harsh for our dreams to grow in. Labour as a party and a movement cannot survive electorally or politically unless it holds out the hope of radically changing society. On this point time has caught up with New Labour. If the best it gets is to slow the pace at which the poor get poorer and the planet burns then its not enough to sustain us. A party needs high ideals and deep organic roots in society if it is to transform that society. This cannot be done from the top down, only when a party meets a ground swell from below.
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