Corbyn Fever Brings Winds of Change to Britain
The Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon rolls on in Britain, but will there will be problems ahead?
There is a wind of change blowing in British politics. It is sweeping along with it a body of the population that has become bitterly disappointed with today’s politics and social realities. A few weeks ago, no one could have imagined that Member of Parliament (MP) Jeremy Corbyn would be the foremost candidate for Labour Party leader and opposition spokesman in the British Parliament. At his 42nd hustings in Birmingham on August 2, this author had the opportunity to listen to the man, appreciate his politics and observe the effects he had on an audience that was brimming to the rafters. The Corbyn momentum was very much in full flow.
Corbyn wants to create a “different and better world,” where “democratic representation” remains alive and well. He wants to fight against a dominant hegemonic discourse and against the acquiescence to the austerity measures that the current Labour Party adheres to unchallenged. He regards the current neoliberal paradigm as one that has “brutalized society” with its “economic orthodoxy.”
The raft of welfare reform currently in development is a throwback to the Thatcher era, but arguably far more severe and ideological than any grocer’s daughter could have achieved. The language of immigration and differences in relation to ethnic and religious minorities is far more extreme and, therefore, more disingenuous than ever before. The Conservatives of today have retained the neoliberal, deregulation and privatization agendas that were at the heart of monetarism during the 1980s. In contrast, Corbyn wants to stand with “social progress and human rights.”
Corbyn’s words are carrying along both disaffected Labour party voters of yesteryear and those who switched to the Greens because they felt the Labour Party was incapable of addressing their aspirations. Corbyn wants to engage in real politics with a collective aspiration. He wants to focus on communities and interdependence among the masses, rather than the self-interested politics of Westminster “political obsessives” whose modus operandi is inward-looking and self-aggrandizing. Corbyn wants to preserve the National Health Service (NHS) as free at the point of delivery. He also wants to protect the heart of the welfare system introduced by Labour after the Second World War, with its focus on welfare, social security, housing and employment. Corbyn hopes to create an economic development framework that encourages investment in technology and manufacturing that is relevant for the 21st century. Germany has managed to invest in its manufacturing sector to resounding success, while Britain has left its own to languish behind the rest of the world as neoliberal policies have supported the service sector economy and the financial services.
For Corbyn, it is individuals who come up from below that make real change. Real change is rarely delivered top-down.
Corbyn’s policy measures will change the distribution of wealth in Britain to make it more equal and fair. He seeks to raise corporation tax by 0.05% in order to eliminate the need for university tuition fees. He will also tackle the housing shortage by focusing on reducing the artificially high rents demanded by the private sector and subsidized by the state.
Change on the Horizon?
The people of Britain are “fed up.” They want change and they want it “now, not in 2020.” The current politics of the United Kingdom lack any sense of society or community. It is a one-upmanship driven by competition and individualism.
There is an illusion toward the kind of socialism that has not been heard of in Britain since the late 1970s. It is based on an analysis of society that sees social conflict as the dominant motif, which means keeping big business and excessive profits in check.
The current reality is an exploitation of resources and talents, which creates alienation and marginalization that is too costly for societies. Poverty is avoidable misery and a waste of capacity. Solidarity is beneficial not just for the individual, the neighborhood and the city, but also for society as a whole. The funds tipped for the new Trident program would be saved. NATO, Corbyn argued, should have been disbanded in 1989 after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In his questions and answers, Corbyn talked about the huge travesty of the Iraq War. He discussed the unrest in the Middle East that was caused in the conflict’s aftermath, along with its implications for Islamophobia and vilification in society today. It has led to cynicism, apathy and indifference. Corbyn’s model wants to enforce social justice and peace-building in the international context.
The Corbyn struggle is a collectivist one. It focuses on the needs of societies as a whole rather than that of individuals per se. For many, Corbyn is seen as a Marxist, communist, socialist and an extreme leftist, but for others, he is a self-effacing champion of the people. In this respect, he is a breath of fresh air compared to the slick PR-trained but inexperienced technocrats of Westminster.
Corbyn is at the forefront of a tremendous shift in mood. This is most noticeable among a segment of the population that seeks to retrieve significant lost ground at the behest of political parties that have moved to the right over the last few decades.
There is also a deep sense of disillusionment with the Labour Party, which has lost its credentials politically, ideologically and culturally.
On September 12, the results of the leadership election will be announced. If Corbyn becomes leader, which seems likely at present, he will face tremendous battles at many different levels, not least from within his own party. Some argue that a Corbyn victory is a defeat for the Labour Party and a win for the Conservatives for the foreseeable future.
Whether or not he makes it as Labour leader, the groundswell of left opinion—arguably curtailed and dissuaded by majority politics—has created a momentum. Politicians always talk about the changes they wish to realize. But the question with Corbyn is whether things will move beyond the loud applause in hustings to one of real political change. It is what many are waiting for.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.