The Labour leader received a welcome ordinarily reserved for rock stars, writes Kara Bryan
“At last we have a leader to put in place all the issues we’ve been campaigning for, for over forty years” was the introduction Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis gave to Jeremy Corbyn as the audience cheered and erupted into the now well-established chant of ‘Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn!’ to the theme of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army,’ in a raucous welcome ordinarily reserved for rock stars not politicians.
But Jeremy Corbyn is no ordinary politician and this was no ordinary Glastonbury interlude, but rather a historic political moment where a British political leader spoke of the values of socialism to a 150,000 strong audience amid a sea of banners and flags bearing Corbyn’s name as millions watched worldwide.
And true to form, Jeremy did not disappoint. He began by thanking Eavis for lending the world his farm, telling him “You paved the way for all of us… You brought the spirit of music, you brought the spirit of love, you brought the spirit of ideas.” Before drawing the audience’s attention to a nearby wall and telling them, there was a message for Donald Trump, ‘Build bridges not walls’ to rapturous applause.
Corbyn’s inclusive message immediately enchanted revellers as he spoke of his source of inspiration, people re-engaging in politics and young people getting involved for the very first time because they were ‘fed up with being denigrated’ and being told their generation was going to ‘pay more to get less.’
The audience exploded into cheers as he told them, “That politics that got out of the box, is not going back in the box!”
“Is is right that so many people in our country have no home to live in and have only a street to sleep on?”
“Is it right that so many people are frightened of where they live at the moment, having seen the horrors of what happened in Grenfell Tower?”
“Is it right that so many people live in such poverty in a society surrounded by such riches?”
“Is it right that European nationals living in this country making their contribution to our society working in our hospitals, schools and universities don’t know if they are going to be allowed to remain here?”
He told the audience "peace is possible and must be achieved" and that the denigration of refugees must stop, that they were "just human beings looking for a safe place to make their contribution to society and called on the crowd to support them in their hour of need" and that it was the causes of war that had to be addressed.
As a lifelong peace campaigner and former chair of Stop the War Coalition, Corbyn continues to support the anti-war movement and champion environmental causes. He said there was only one habitable planet and that not even Donald Trump thinks there is another. Although one might be forgiven for suggesting that if there was, Donald Trump is certainly living on it! He called for technological advances to preserve the planet for future generations.
He spoke of the importance of challenging, racism, sexism and homophobia, “Racism in any form divides, weakens and denies us the skills and brilliance of people who are being discriminated against in just the same way as sexism.”
“I want to see a world where there is real opportunity for everybody within our society. That means sharing the wealth out in every part of our country and looking to global policies that actually share the wealth, not glory in the levels of injustice and inequality where the rich seem to get inexorably richer and the vast majority lose out and those that are desperately poor live on the margins of society.”
Corbyn’s message to Glastonbury and the world watching was principally the importance of unity, and the power of collective struggle. That fundamentally, nothing was ever given from above by the elites and the powerful. That it was only ever gained from below by the masses of people who demanded something better and their share of the wealth created.
He concluded quoting Shelley’s ‘The Mask of Anarchy’: ‘Rise like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number, shake your chains to Earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you - Ye are many - they are few’ as the audience spontaneously erupted into a chorus of ‘Ohh Jeremy Corbyn!’
Jeremy’s parting words to an enchanted audience were, ‘Let us recognise another world is possible if we come together!’ and undoubtedly our strengths lie in our numbers, unity and our ability to organise effectively. We are standing on the precipice of a pivotal moment in history, but it requires our active engagement not passive spectatorship.
For those who take the stage at Glastonbury, the relationship is one where the performer is active and the audience are passive, but if Jeremy Corbyn is to succeed, it will be the millions who watched who will be charged with changing history, not exclusively the man on the stage.
We can do things differently and do things better, if as the late John Lennon suggested, we dare to imagine.
Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War
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