Thursday, April 21, 2016

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

This is going to be awesome. You can buy it here or here.

How could an inveterate Bennite like Corbyn win the Labour leadership election, when Bennism is deader than Hulkamania? How did he get the nominations he needed from MPs, constituency branches and unions, none of whom have a recent record of radicalism? How did he more-than-double the size of the Labour Party's membership, when the party-form was supposedly undergoing a prolonged decline? How did the media get it so badly wrong, when they never get anything wrong? How did the wonks end up floating sideways in their think-tanks? Was it all because of Trot infiltrators, party-constitutional changes, Blairite meltdown, austerity, or the hoi polloi getting ideas above their station? 

And now that he holds a leadership post - permanently encircled by resentfully plotting backbenchers, foes in the cabinet, a virulent media, and a centre-seeking Tory party - what chance does Corbyn have of success? And what might success mean in this context? If it means winning elections, is his chance of success greater than sub-zero? What else might it mean? What about the heteroclite constituencies that have been unified around Corbyn's distinctly self-effacing leadership? Can they change the Labour Party, and what can they realistically expect to change it into? What else might they be doing if they weren't doing that? And who is a greater threat to the Corbyn leadership - the noisy back bench belligerati, or those who have gone eerily quiet?

This is not run-of-the-mill journalism. Of course I spent a lot of time talking to Labour activists, organisers, advisors and intellectuals, and mining the punditry, think-pieces, panicked post-mortems, jubilant post-festums, bilious biographies, and potted histories. The only stone left unturned was the 'Edstone,' which should indeed be left where it is to mark the terminus of a preposterous campaign. But I didn't want to just 'tell a story', however cheerfully vitriolic. You can get 'stories' in abundance, and most of them are trite or misleading. What we need is a deeper level of explanation, one which I propose should be rooted in the history of the Labour Party, its decline, and the crisis of British parliamentary democracy. What we need is strategic thinking about the future, which isn't obsessed with one or two cliches - be it 'swing voters' or 'social movements'.

Let's be clear: no one will be entirely comfortable with this book. It's about Corbyn and in a way, it's for Corbyn, but this is not cheerleading. It is written about Labour, but by someone with no particular loyalty to Labour. It is a serious book, not just polemic, but it seeks no plaudits from the usual arbiters of political seriousness (who, after all, haven't bedazzled with their acumen of late). Yet precisely because it contains something to discomfit everyone, everyone can get something from it. And, merely by virtue of not being written by a couple of unimaginative Tory hacks, it's way funnier than 'Corbyn: the Musical' when it chooses to be. Buy it. Not tomorrow, not when your pay comes in, not when you've finished writing a story for Literotica - now

And if you don't buy it. If you don't buy it. By Christ. I hate you, I hate your haircut, I hate your compromising parents, I hate your filthy, stinking family, I hate your socially repellent sexual partners, I hate anyone who associates with you or looks like you. And I will hunt you down and beat you mercilessly until your insides look like apple sauce. I'll leave you bloodier than a Blairite in a leadership election.