ONE YEAR LATER: CORBYN’S LEGACY, COMPASSIONATE POLITICS & THE FUTURE OF THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT

corbyn legacy graffiti
by Sunetra Senior

~Rally, Inspire, Reform~

This time, last year, after the 2019 snap-election, Corbyn had announced his resignation in the wake of a Tory landslide the likes of which had not been seen since the 1980s. Recently, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) further concluded that there were a “significant number of complaints relating to antisemitism that were not investigated at all” over the last three years under the former Labour leader, which also led to his suspension from the party. However, while these events are serious and the ramifications apt, they do not also justify the complete assassination of his character as is still the ongoing trend. In fact, as well as being hypocritical in nature, causing unnecessary political stagnation, this regressively rejects what Corbyn represented as compassionate in essence, ultimately even dragging progressive politics back. As opposed to attempting to officially eradicate the controversial leader as if a malignant blot then, newly appointed Keir Starmer must now aim to consolidate his ailing party and fully deliver what past predecessors could not.

The Guardian recently published a piece in which they rightly identified the grave matter of antisemitism being overshadowed by contentious conversation around Corbyn. However, it is more accurate to say that focus on minority rights has been hijacked by the exploitatively distractive issue of leadership in general. Indeed, the confusing suspension and reinstatement of Corbyn from the Labour Party seemed opportunistic and likely a publicity stunt. Additionally, an internal report by Labour has confirmed potential interference into the investigation of the complaints of antisemitism which were the responsibility of Labour’s HQ and not Corbyn himself, showing a slowing down of the process in favour of a climate of factional subterfuge, which has been a common occurrence in much of the party’s handling of individual affairs. Indeed, shockingly, the EHRC were not forwarded this information as they concluded their statement. This has not only agitated but also driven Labour’s in-fighting amid the wider concern of the political Left that the party might be reverting to the cut-throat neo-liberal politics that lost it trust from the public back in 2010. It has historically resisted the materialistic status-quo as opposed to emptily mirroring it. Here, I hark back to my former piece, Dodgy But Stable, in which I emphasise the importance of having an honest progressive identity that truly prioritised social democracy in the face of an increasingly deceptive despotic right-wing e.g. lying to and manipulating the public during the Leave campaign, as well as exploding the zeitgeist of neo-nationalism for the sake of elitist gain.     

it is more accurate to say that focus on minority rights has been hijacked by the exploitatively distractive issue of leadership in general.

The psycho-political antidote to this is the sincere dedication to achieving a durable universal equality that directly challenges Johnson’s establishment of a dark and divisive hierarchy. This includes encouraging tax-dodging internationally, calling on militaristic powers to control the nation, and rewriting our human rights to diminish worker’s protections, following our separation from the EU. As is evident in the hung parliament of 2017 then, Corbyn did powerfully embody the oppositional concept, gaining an unprecedented number of seats, focussing on social care, easier access to education and social mobility, and celebrating multiculturalism alongside creating the most robust of working rights. As opposed to simplistically capitalising on right-wing chaos, he addressed what was significant, even regeneratively forming bridges between different groups of underrepresented people, and attempting to make humanitarianism part of the permanent economic order. 

More recently, Corbyn had supported holding a second referendum to rectify the corruptive circumstances around the first, and also spoke up vocally against the socially detrimental privatisation of the NHS and Islamophobia during Trump’s visits. Corbyn’s unifying ethos was true to the public’s sentiment too. As reported by The Independent, many initial supporters of the Leave campaign, based predominantly in the North, supported a second referendum in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, organically in line with many young people and pro-EU and egalitarian groups across the country, in 2019. Indeed, even after Corbyn’s defeat, it came to light that “52%” of votes still went to Pro-Final Say parties such as “Labour.” This means that Corbyn’s timely support for national closure on the subject of Brexit actually helped his party to gain – as opposed to losing – the votes, whereby his genuine focus on wider social issues naturally reconciled two factions of Labour’s votership that had been typically difficult to do. Thus, this shows an approach of pure investment triumphing over obsessively manicured strategy. 

rallying in middlesborough
CC BY 2.0 Jeremy Corbyn

At a personal level, hearing an influential authority speak so brazenly in favour of truth was astounding.  Of course, it was heart-breaking to hear of Corbyn’s lack of action against antisemitism and his own fault in losing the extensive net of liberal support e.g., not thoroughly condemning the prejudice. However, this did not change the fact that he had continued to face intense and unfair media scrutiny. Running ideologically against the odds, the mainstream papers, bar The Indy, notoriously tore him apart precisely because, at his heart, he put the people before the image; the virtue of community over the flattery of big business. In short, Corbyn may have been flawed as an individual, but he was not power-hungry as a politician. This was unique. It had great social value. His intentions were just; failings even human. 

Yes, he should have done more, but he did much fundamentally right. In fact, it’s precisely why the ruling commercialist papers so relentlessly attacked him. I would even go so far as to say that Corbyn made the Tory government feel insecure to the point where they had to announce an impromptu election that would exploit the height of fractiousness within the Labour Party as the allegations of antisemitism intensified. It was also an especially merciless moment of frenzy from the media. As well as continuing to cheat and feed on the diversionary narcissism he has been peddling, Johnson took brutal advantage of a time when Labour was losing voters, and ultimately, utterly imploding; the overall lack of internal reformist support being key. Again, this does not excuse Corbyn’s faults. Rather illustrates the “over-exaggerated” anger that the establishment has focussed on him. In my previous piece I thus also stated that a leader can only be as strong as the total belief in them. To this end, Starmer ought to build on rather than desecrate Corbyn’s legacy for the latter is not only to completely self-destruct as a party, but also frightfully ally with and become the very dictatorial government that Labour has a duty to contest.

To preserve a proudly spirited doctrine is especially important at a time when our very human rights are threatened and multiple lives and the economy are being recklessly lost.  The current Labour leader would do well to remember the grass-roots and local livelihood as well as the big gestures such as international and public diplomacy, never overshadowing social compassion and the everyday for the sake of status or short-term votes. To put it simply, an escalating climate of anxiety must continue to be met with sheer emotion. 

already Starmer plays into the wishy-washy game of populist reputation, repeating past mistakes

However, already Starmer plays into the wishy-washy game of populist reputation, repeating past mistakes: taking a platform of non-involvement in thorny foreign politics, excusing the xenophobic sentiment around Brexit, and undermining a definitive relationship with trade unions. This is to depart from the authentic drive for larger endemic change that came before. Yet, with at least four more years of a damaging Tory state left, there is time to brace. 

As Corbyn showed, the appeal of the hard-left is its solidly oppositional, determined force: it does not simply talk of, but further defiantly pushes for far-reaching modern well-being: physically, emotionally, and sustainably. Here, Biden’s recent narrow win in the US is a further cautionary yet ultimately hopeful tale. Interestingly, there has been far less open conflict within their Democratic Party, who experienced a similar liberal dilemma of whether to take a radical or traditional stance. Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden after the latter won the presidential primaries , while Biden has, so far, worked in conjunction with passionate, grass-roots politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or AOC who explicitly promotes a socially supportive, economically regulated state.  Furthermore, the Democrats’ winning over of traditional Republican states such as Georgia were helped by previously voiceless, even disenfranchised, Black and Indigenous voters, decided very much by the two Parties’ differing positions on the killing of George Floyd and scope of police brutality in the summer. Trump had perversely undermined it, contrarily calling it “a symbol of hate”. 

Stacey Abrams CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 TED Conference

Indeed, a nationwide investment in the #blacklivesmatter movement widely galvanised the 2020 Democratic victory. This emphasises the heart of meaningful success lying in the spirit of fierce inclusion: otherwise known as the veracious grit of the Left. Indeed, although ostensibly moderate, Biden must materialise the intimate, empowering pledges he has given to ensure another far-reverberating win. As Stacey Abrams, who led the Democratic campaign in Georgia, summarised “Democracy is not a permanent state: it has to be maintained; it has to be defended.” Indeed, in a committed effort, she helped register more people to “create new voters” so that those minority experiences would be appreciated and effectively acted upon in the future.  Similarly, Keir Starmer of the UK’s Labour Party must take a holistically impactful stand. There should be a clear incorporation of defiant energy into his formal Centrist approach. The product would be a moving, remedially collaborative form of the left-wing. One that was not, arguably, the extreme of socialism or enablement of injustice in the name of neutrality. As the current right-wing become toxically divisive in the UK, censoring teaching materials with which they do not agree and alarmingly suppressing protest, this centralised yet dynamic progressiveness is the superior way.

Finally, Corbyn was not perfect, but his renegade caring politics had relevant revolutionary clout. As opposed to immaturely rejecting this, attacking his supporters, and edging apprehensively around him, Starmer should eventually accept this, backing substance over superficiality and leading by appropriate example. In due course, such cohesion within the party would surely do the same for a frustrated, broken nation. Instead of repressing difficulty as is the conformist bourgeois norm, it is better to bravely negotiate it and show the strength of who one inimitably is. Indeed, a nuanced idea of progress overrides the crude and indifferent politics of the existing culture to inspire a healthier society. It is possible to be watchful and constructive, sorry yet dignified. Through this evolved social paradigm, the progressive movement can not only rise, but furthermore, via the necessary vector of truth, have lasting hold as the inherent harmonious result. People would be salubriously in sync with power, the government properly invested in their public. This is to create the enriched world that individuals help craft. This is modern democracy and not merely its illusion. 

Featured image CC BY-NC 2.0 duncan c


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