We have got this far by being radical, argues Chris Nineham, and now is not the time to moderate the message
This is no time for faint hearts. Jeremy Corbyn was on great form both at Wednesday evening's London rally and at Thursday's leadership campaign launch. He is right to be positive.
Labour's supporter surge marks a hardening and deepening of support for the whole project. It also puts the lie to all those who say Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable. The media are trying to say it's easy to inspire to a few hundred thousand followers - though puzzled commentators have been bemoaning political apathy for decades - but its another thing altogether to appeal to the millions.
This is a false distinction. You can't have that kind of historic sign-up without a wider politicisation in society. There isn't a division between political people and the rest, however much the elites might prefer it.
Huge numbers of people are now being drawn into political discussion for the first time in decades. This is partly because there is a political discussion for the first time in decades. It's also the result of a deep desire for real change because the status quo is simply unsustainable.
You would think it would be obvious to commentators too: that recruiting these kind of numbers is going to help create a formidable electoral machine, rooted in communities, unions and workplaces up and down the country, which will make it much easier to counter the lies of the media and to win a general election.
The surge is also a tribute to Jeremy's intransigence. It is clear now to huge numbers of people that this is a foundational battle over the direction of the Labour Party, a struggle between socialist principles and the opportunism that has poisoned politics for as long as anyone can remember. It is exactly this that is enthusing people.
If Jeremy hadn't stood firm when the right were trying to bully him to resign, if he had taken the advice even of some colleagues to soften his message, to abstain over Trident, to support a cap on immigration and so on, the enthusiasm would have started to wane. The virtuous circle of inspiration, involvement and popular politicisation would have gone into reverse.
We mustn't be complacent or cowed. Precisely because the stakes are so high, the right and the media are throwing everything at this election - using every trick in the book, including very dirty ones.
Far from being intimidated, the left needs to come out fighting. There should be a national campaign against the ban on party meetings and the suspension of branches - effectively an internal coup. Even now that Jeremy is pitching to wider society, this is a time to be radical, not to moderate the message.
To keep people engaged and to widen the base we need to convince people that we are really serious about the kind of society-wide change of direction Jeremy describes. That we are going to make it happen.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
More articles from this author
- Culture under capitalism: Why art is alienated – The Dialectics of Art review
- Britain's war machine: imperial fantasies and the tilt to China
- The crisis over Ukraine in dates
- Cameron, getting caught and the new corruption
- Who starts it? Violence, protest and what the police are really for
- Social movements can beat attacks on the right to protest - podcast
- 'America is back': Biden and the continuation of US imperialism