Johnny Gaunt looks at the recent media spat between Owen Jones and the Corbyn campaign, and notes wider tensions beneath the surface
There are some commonalities amongst the Labour members and supporters, who either deny, or simply fail to see the reality of what is occurring under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.
Owen Jones' recent blog, "Questions All Jeremy Corbyn Supporters Need to Ask Themselves” has formed a sort of catalyst around which many of these features cohere.
When Jones published his piece, it was posted to my local Labour Party CLP Facebook page. The CLP has grown by over 50% since the referendum, thanks mainly to the clownish attempt at a 'coup' by the PLP. The post was quickly jumped on by the handful of anti-Corbyn members within the group, chorusing agreement and singing happily of Jones' "impeccable leftist credentials".
There is no denying the intelligence and understanding of modern politics these members all possess, but they, and Jones, share a skewed perspective of what Corbyn represents. To hear and read their remarks and comments in meetings and on social media suggests there is a deeper, underlying fear within these individuals; an anxiety that I simply don't see in the people who understand the movement Corbyn is heading.
Jones and the anti-Corbyn Labour Party members are 'electoralists' first and foremost. They see winning the next general election as the be-all-and-end-all, even if it means a continuation of faux-left policies, of sucking up to the corporate media, and of bowing down to the present rotten establishment body. However, it is not simply about winning. There is a caveat: it is imperative that the win comes via the modern political practice of PR and media management.
Corbyn has correctly rejected this as a route that will ever lead to electoral success for him or socialism in general. The powerful media arm of the establishment will simply never allow for this outcome, and for any socialist party to attempt to employ its influence for their benefit will find this out the hard way. The only possible way for Corbyn to succeed, and for that success to be sustained, is by growing a major social movement - an expression of the disdain for all that is wrong in this country we call 'ours'. But this is the path sneered at and derided by Jones and the anti-Corbyn members of my PLC, and all success so far achieved by Corbyn's leadership is persistently undermined by them.
Social media, downplayed by Jones in his piece and again by some anti-Corbyn members (despite its well reported use in US elections), has and is playing a major part in the generation of this movement. Social media groups within the movement are often attacked for being "inside a bubble"; but this is a bad analogy. A better one would be to imagine a ring of people firmly holding hands, opening up to allow other rings to join from the cross-section of social struggle, forming an ever increasing and strengthening chain of purpose.
Here is where Jones and some of the anti-Corbyn Labour members part ways. Jones – unlike many in the PLP - understands this. But the question arises: what struggle has Jones actually known?
Again, I think this is a question that extends to the majority of the anti-Corbyn Labour members. Struggle broadens your vision in a way that is almost- indescribable to someone who hasn't been through it. Struggle is gritting your teeth and pushing on because you know the principles underpinning your determination are right. It means not allowing those principles to be undermined by so-called 'expert voices' - who in truth - have no understanding of what your principles mean to you. It means fighting without fear, even when the whole world is telling you to quit.
That's why reading about the miners’ strike can only get you so far towards understanding it. Empathic, caring people who are emotionally wedded to the struggle have joined the movement by joining – and in some cases, rejoining - Labour. War and its refugee overflow raging through Europe and the Middle East, along with corporate and government corruption and indifference to the plight of unpeople, has multiplied their numbers.
Their perspective of struggle comes from a different angle, and is important in strengthening the movement, but the intensity of their compassion varies, and for many it cannot overcome the deeply embedded fear that comes with significant change.
In the fight or flight response all human beings have to fear, Jones' reaction is to flee. His fear stems from a lack of experiencing the real difficulties of life, rendering him blind to what is happening, despite 'understanding' it in a theoretical sense. This is replicated within anti-Corbyn intellectual and academic circles, as it is by explaining the world to us that they make their living. Jones would rather retreat, stamping haphazardly over all the issues he has previously stood on platforms to support, in order to remain in a world he understands and is a so-called 'strong voice' within.
The true future for the left lies elsewhere.
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