I’ve been fascinated to watch the campaign for the British Labour Party leadership. It is both cheering and depressing. On the cheering side: politics in the UK are just as screwed up as they are here. On the depressing side: politics in the UK are just as screwed up as they are here. Last Friday, Simon Wren-Lewis wrote, Corbyn’s Popularity and Relativistic Politics. The big thing in this election is that the establishment types think that Labour should pick Liz Kendall. That’s because she’s a neoliberal. The establishment always wants the choice limited to: “privatize everything” and “privatize almost everything.”
The problem is that the actual people in the Labour Party prefer Jeremy Corbyn — an old school leftist. The fact that he is doing well should not come as a surprised. After all, if voters were conservative, they would join the Conservative Party. But what’s fascinating is the advice that if Labour wants to be competitive, it must run screaming to the right. Remember: this is a parliamentary system. Different smaller parties merge to form governing coalitions. So it isn’t necessary to go with the “lesser evil” the way it is in our system. Of course, the Conservative Party now has a single party majority in parliament — one they got despite winning only about a third of the vote. The UK system is far from perfect.
But it seems clear to me that the Labour Party’s constant movement to the right has not worked out too well for it. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise. What I’ve seen in this country is that as the Democratic Party moves further and further to the right on economic and military issues, it doesn’t actually get any creative for it. People in general still think that the Republicans are better on the budget and “security” than the Democrats — all evidence to the contrary. So are the voters of the UK really going to reward the Labour Party if it becomes Conservative Party Lite? I don’t think so.
The claim is that it is all about competitiveness. Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb recently wrote, Project Fear Versus Corbyn. He pointed out that there had long been this pretense among pundits that the Conservatives weren’t afraid of Corbyn; they were actually afraid of Kendall. It’s ridiculous, but it is the kind of thing that we see here all the time. Somehow the Republicans are never afraid of Democrats who might actually challenge them, but are instead afraid of some milquetoast centrist. Well, now that Corbyn is ahead in the polls, the establishment is freaking out, “Corbyn supporters are either simple-minded, tribal thugs from the paleolithic era, or hysterics who think with their emotions and hormones, or sun-stroked hippies who think of little but rainbows and fluffy wuffy clouds.”
It all reminds me of what Noam Chomsky said in The Common Good:
That’s what’s really going on. The establishment exists to limit debate. And there are good aspects to this. I’m certainly glad that we don’t constantly have to relitigate slavery. But the conventional wisdom is so often wrong on more mundane topics, that its very harmful. I can well see people a hundred years from now asking, “The evidence was overwhelming that they lived in an oligarchy where people were trapped at the economic level they were born; why didn’t they see that?” I think we know why: it is very helpful to certain powerful people who control the discussion. Don’t listen to them.