John Rees looks back on the most read Counterfire articles of 2016
The fate of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has been a central concern of the whole left throughout the year, and Counterfire readers are no exception.
Two repeated lines of attack on Corbyn by the right wing of the Labour Party and the media have been on the issues of anti-Semitism and feminism. In both cases the ploy has been to take an issue on which the left is strong and try to portray it as hypocritically guilty of the very failures of which it accuses the right.
Counterfire readers found two articles especially useful in refuting these kind attacks. We reposted the Jewish Socialist Group’s answer to the charges of anti-Semitism and it was one of the top ten most read posts on the site.
Also popular was Lindsey German’s What is it with some feminist MPs? which took Jess ‘I’d-like-to-stab-Jeremy-Corbyn-in-the-front’ Philips and others to task for their attempt to smear the most pro-feminist Labour leader in the party’s history. The article concluded: ‘There is a reason those on the left rejected feminists such as Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in the leadership contest and voted so overwhelmingly for Jeremy Corbyn. They didn’t want a leader who said they were feminist but then ignored the real problems of women and the system change needed to deal with those problems. Feminism and socialism are not lifestyle choices, but ideas that can help in changing the world. On that, Philips doesn’t have too much to say’.
Here, and in all Counterfire’s coverage, we have stressed the importance of extra-parliamentary mobilization as the main effective means of defending Corbyn and the wider trade union, anti-war and anti-austerity movement. Internal Labour Party politics are often divisive and very hard to make result in real change, as the recent troubled history of Momentum shows.
As we move into 2017 there are only three possible futures for the Labour. One is another coup attempt, in which case Jeremy Corbyn will need all the help he can get to combat the media and the right wing, and that won’t just come from within the Labour Party. The second is that there is a general election and, much as we will all work to elect Labour, it loses. Then a wider movement will be all we with which to defend ourselves. Third and best: Labour wins a general election. Then a real battle with the establishment and the state will begin. That simply cannot be won by internal Labour Party politicking. It will need strong, confident and mobilized mass activity in the unions and social movements.
But if there was one issue that attracted more readers than the fate of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party it was the EU referendum. In a series of articles Counterfire analysed why a Leave vote was both possible and necessary. We had no truck with the racism of the Tory and populist right, but we did recognise that many millions of working people were so hacked off with the establishment that they would take this chance to kick them good and hard.
Alex Snowden’s Debunked: 12 left wing reasons to remain in the EU took on some popular leftish reasoning on the EU and Alastair Stephen’s 5 reasons to leave the EU put the socialist case for a No vote. But more widely read than either of these with nearly 20,000 readers was Kwesi Adabunu’s Why African-Caribbeans should vote for a Left Exit from the EU.
Also very popular was Kevin Ovenden’s report on the French labour revolt against both the government and the EU, an important counterpoint to the rise of the right in a country that has been under a state of emergency for the whole of 2016.
Of course the draconian powers of the French state are justified by the terror attacks over the last year. But as our popular A Graphic account of Terrorism showed Muslims are the main victims of terrorism and it is in countries outside the European or North American heartlands of capitalism where terrorism takes its greatest toll.
Finally, the year closed with the election of Donald Trump. While an alarmist hysteria seized parts of the left Counterfire produced a calm, serious analysis of the Trump victory which was widely shared in The Trump Disaster: the chickens come home to roost.
Better still, if you want to help us make sure that the left scores more victories and suffers fewer defeats in the coming 12 months do join Counterfire and become part of the resistance.
John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher) and ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German). He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.