I thought I would leave it for a few days before writing something about the recent defeat of Labour UK at the most recent election. There is a process of post mortem about what went wrong and during this time I am reminded of a saying my boss used to say about ‘controlling the controllables’. The meaning of that is the idea that there are things that we cannot control and we shouldn’t fixate on those but instead focus our energies on the things that we can control. In the case of working at the restaurant I was employed at – we couldn’t control the hours of operation, the location or a host of other issues but we could control the freshness of the cooked ingredients, speed of service and the regular maintenance of equipment to ensure that customers can buy the products when they want it.
When it comes to politics the left wing will always be at a disadvantage when compared to the right wing – we don’t control capital or the means of information dissemination so any time we are given an opportunity to spread our ideas we need to ensure that peripheral issues aren’t taking away the focus. In the political world there is a limited supply of ‘oxygen’ and we need to use that ‘oxygen’ in the most effective way possible. If we are spending our time defending ourselves because we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who have a questionable past or associate with questionable people then that valuable ‘oxygen’ will be wasted trying to defend a decision that could have been avoided had that appointment not take place. The net ‘being on the defensive’ results in the focus moving away from being spent on policy and instead it is focused on being in defensive mode. The most recent example of that would be the article by Tina Lowe (granddaughter of NAZI collaborator) entitled ‘Bernie Sanders has an anti-Semitism problem’ (link) by virtue of Linda Sarsour being a surrogate for the Sanders campaign for president. Why focus in on Linda Sarsour? because of her relationship with Louis Farrakhan. I made some tweets on Twitter pointing this article out, not because I think that the accusation holds any water (the accusation by dismissing Bernie Sanders as ‘merely culturally Jewish’ which lays the foundation for the reader to draw the inference rather than the author coming straight out with it) but rather the fact that the right wing in the United States are already starting their dirty tricks campaign against Bernie Sanders early.
Then there is the man himself, Jeremy Corbyn, who had a low approval rating even before the media got a hold of ‘Jeremy’s dumbest quotes’ that the media repeated on regular basis. After the 2017 election he should have stepped aside and allowed a fresh face to carry the ideas forward without the person advocating them being a distraction. A position I’ve always stuck to is this, if you go for the top job and you fail then one should at least have the humility to admit that maybe you’re not the right person for the job and allow someone else to take over leadership. It is something that Hillary Clinton should have done the first time around when running in the primaries against Obama, when she lost she should have stepped aside and let a new generation of leaders come through. Not all people are destined to be leaders – some are better suited to being technocrats who work behind the scenes to get things working and others have that charisma about them which can unite people from within the party and outside a party towards a set of objectives. There is also the matter of antisemitism within the party, there are many videos talking about it but this one is pretty succinct:
Then pair that up with Corbyn referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’ and a ‘force for peace and justice in that region of the world’ then I think it is fair to ask some pretty serious questions as to whether he is antisemitic or at the very least tolerates it. Then there is an astute observation by Howard Jacobson regarding how conformable Jeremy Corbyn appears when surrounded by antisemitic people (Ken Livingstone and George Galloway to name a few). Then to compound the situation further is the denial by supporters online (and in real life) who attack anyone who bought up the issue of antisemitism within Labour as if it were some sort of ‘vast right wing conspiracy’. As @JewishWorker noted in a recent tweet:
So when allegations were raised regarding antisemitism within the Labour Party it should have been taken seriously rather than having the usual noise makers on social media and the the real world smearing any who dares to bring up the issue by labelling them as ‘angry Blairites’. The net result of that defensive posturing? it re-enforced the conclusion that Labour has an antisemitism problem and that they’re in denial.
Regarding the attempts to try to draw parallels between Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, I would be cautious about drawing such parallels simply because Corbyn was never a popular person outside the legion of supporters who signed up as members. When it came to polling, Labour never had a chance of ever winning which is why I keep reminding people that Twitter (and social media in general) doesn’t equal the real world. Yes there was a lot of momentum and excitement but these were pockets of echo chambers that never represented the real world. Compare that to Bernie Sanders and when they have done polls in terms of a ‘Trump vs. Sanders’ the end result is Sanders comes out on top where as where as with Corbyn he was unpopular and remained unpopular even after the electorate had a better look at what he stood for.
The big question is whether the left in the United States learn from the mistakes made in the United Kingdom or whether the left in the United States waste that valuable ‘oxygen’ justifying who they appointed to various positions or whether they defuse the situation by having a top to bottom audit of everyone involved in the campaign and remove anyone who has the slightest hint of possible associations with undesirable characters such as Louis Farrakhan. The right wing are testing out the waters so even though The Washington Examiner is a right wing tabloid the reality is that the right wing media is very much the human centipede of news – eventually it’ll make its way to Fox which in turn will eventually make its way into the mainstream whether you like it or not:
Policies also need to be realistic – politics aren’t about making giant leaps forward that cause disruption and instability but a gradual progression forward which involves ensuring that you bring not only along your ‘hard core’ supporters but also the wider society into your vision for the country – this is the reason why I talk about the need to focus on the general trend (are we moving the overton window to the left and shaping the discourse to our advantage) rather than whether we get everything done in a single election cycle. There is no use in sitting around boasting about being the most pure of the pure in adherence to one’s ideology if the net result is that you lose every election but you have the smug satisfaction that “well, I kept to my principles and never compromised”. Congratulations, rather than getting into power and being able to make incremental changes to improve the lives of millions of voters you have instead engage in purity boasting only to lose the election and now millions are going to find that their conditions will keep getting worse. Here is a good interview outlining just that:
When came to the issue of Brexit, although there was a graph (circulated on Twitter) which showed it was the second most important factor for why people did not vote Labour (behind Jeremy Corbyn being the leader sitting at the top of that list) the survey was based on people who turned out to vote. The question I ask is how many didn’t turn out to vote because they would normally vote Labour but saw a second referendum as a betrayal but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for one of the other parties. Ash Sarkar posted on her Twitter feed a graph with voter turnout, over the last 40 years the voter turnout has been going down with the parties fighting over a smaller and smaller number of voters. How many of those who saw the promise of a second referendum as a betrayal of the first referendum would have turned out had Labour steadfastly said that the British public voted Brexit and we should work to get the best possible deal for Britain? if the remainers within the party accepted the result rather than trying to relitigate the past and throwing a temper tantrum of “I’m going to vote for lib-dems if I don’t get my own way” then one has to ask whether the defeat wouldn’t have been as bad.
Regarding the what one could call ‘the liberal establishment’ (sometimes known as the ‘liberal census’) or what the journalists who describe centrism as in the following video:
The class of people that the journalist refers to don’t make up the majority of the electorate and they never have – 40 years of capitulating to the Islington/London liberal cosmopolitan set has resulted in 40 years of declining voter turn out for the Labour Party with the culmination being 15 years of wandering around in the wilderness where neither Blairism and Corbynism have addressed why people stayed home and not vote who in past elections would have voted for Labour. Corbynism went to far in the crazy direction (see comment in video about foreign policy, views regarding IRA, Hezbollah, Hamas etc) direction and Corbyn was the wrong person to advance it but if there is a drift back closer to the centre left in terms of of retaining scaled down versions of those populist centre left policies then there is a good chance of winning back those voters who held their nose and voted Tory at this recent election.
Activists also need to take a good hard look in the mirror – the woke brigade of self appointed upper middle class white folks, who embrace on a superficial basis language of social justice but lack a coherent class analysis because they’re addicted to virtue signalling, made it easy to portray the left as out of touch elitists who have a vanguardist condescension about themselves which amounted to talking at the working class rather than listening to the working class. When you tell an already down trodden people without power or influence that they’re horrible humans for voting for Brexit and that they’re racist, xenophobic for ‘not making the correct decision’ then is it surprising that will be a backlash? Same can be said for what happened in the US with Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deporables’ which the media and Donald Trump campaign run with then compounded it further where Hillary Clinton pretty much said, “I won in the states that matter”. There is no use talking about having a working class movement when you can’t even lead the working class out of a paper bag.