Since the outcome of the EU Referendum was announced, it seems like everything has been turned on its head. Cameron has resigned, Boris has stepped away from being a successor. Even Farage has resigned (though he has form on this). More unexpectedly, the anti-Corbyn elements in the Parliamentary Labour Party have launched a huge hissy-fit operation. Despite its ineptitude, it has been taken up by the establishment as a means of neutralising the leftward shifting Labour Party.
Let’s face it, Corbyn’s election victory was unexpected. I suspected he’d put up a good fight but that the party machine would ensure that a safe candidate won. The subsequent victory was not just a victory for Corbyn but for the wider labour movement, an expression of grassroots will against the bulk of the PLP and therein lay the root of the current crisis.
The PLP seem to think that the party is theirs. Michael Dugher’s recent outburst, where he called the grassroots of the party a mob, is perhaps the crudest indication of this but the same sentiment abounds elsewhere too. This is typical of a centrist party, where politics is done by professional politicians and members are only there to pay their fees and be called on to do things.
There are now essentially two Labour Parties. One centres round the initiators of the coup against Corbyn while the other comprises Corbyn, his remaining supporters in the PLP and the bulk of the ever-growing membership. It’s not just that they take a fundamentally different view of what politics is about and how it should be conducted. As David Graber recently said,
For Corbyn’s opponents, the key word is always “leadership” and the ability of an effective leader to “deliver” certain key constituencies. For Corbyn’s supporters “leadership” in this sense is a profoundly anti-democratic concept. It assumes that the role of a representative is not to represent, not to listen, but to tell people what to do.
There is a strong possibility that Corbyn can see off this challenge. The challengers have wholly mistaken who and what they were taking on. Yet that won’t be the end of it. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, we have an emboldened right wing of the Tory party. We’ve seen what the Establishment has thrown at trying to remove Corbyn as the head of the Labour Party. Can you imagine they’ll sit back and see him become PM?
So there’s our challenge. We’ve seen how grass roots mobilisation has been essential in opposing the coup and this has been mobilisation inside and outside of the Labour Party. If you are on the left then this is your fight too. As someone who has not been a Labour member since the days of their failure to fight the Poll Tax, I’m not so much interested in what Labour is but what it might become as part of a reinvigorated, broad movement. It may not be called Labour and it may not have Corbyn as leader (for long), but this is no time to sit on the fence. If you consider yourself part of progressive politics, the struggle to resist this onslaught is yours. To paraphrase Joe Hill, What they forget to kill goes on to organise.