Along came Jeremy

For a generation a cartel of career politicians has been engaged in transforming Britain into a corporate state and its citizens into serfs. They’ve launched wars of austerity and imperialism from Westminster, asset-stripped the nation and embedded economic insecurity. They’ve been merciless, smugly kicking-ass for unfettered capitalism.Then, even as they mounted a final assault on the welfare state, along came Jeremy.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North since 1983 will almost certainly become the leader of the Labour Party on September 12. He is a socialist who has promised to:
* end austerity and provide quantitative easing for people rather than banks
* create a National Investment Bank to support sensible and genuine economic growth
* withdraw tax relief and subsidies to private corporations
* nationalise the railways and post office, renationalise the big six energy companies and renew the party’s commitment to the public ownership of industry
* scrap university tuition fees and restore student maintenance grants
* provide decent homes for all through a significant house building program and rent controls in the private sector
* secure a fully-funded NHS, integrated with social care, with an end to privatisation in health
* halt the Trident nuclear deterrent program, push for disarmament and exit NATO
* end illegal wars and pursue a foreign policy prioritising justice and assistance instead

More than 40 economists – including former advisor to the Bank of England, Danny Blanchflower – have backed Mr Corbyn’s economic policies in an open letter.

The accusation is widely made that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have moved to the extreme left on economic policy. But this is not supported by the candidate’s statements or policies. His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF. He aims to boost growth and prosperity. He voted against the shameful £12bn in cuts in the welfare bill. Despite the barrage of media coverage to the contrary, it is the current government’s policy and its objectives which are extreme. The attempt to produce a balanced public sector budget primarily through cuts to spending failed in the previous parliament. Increasing child poverty and cutting support for the most vulnerable is unjustifiable. Cutting government investment in the name of prudence is wrong because it prevents growth, innovation and productivity increases, which are all much needed by our economy, and so over time increases the debt due to lower tax receipts. We the undersigned are not all supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. But we hope to clarify just where the “extremism” lies in the current economic debate.

The extremism of the neoliberal consensus has been exposed, and punctured, giving millions of voters a choice for the first time. Counterfire activist Alex Snowdon describes the rise of the accidental leader and the hysterical reaction

The fact that Corbyn got on the ballot paper was unexpected because only a tiny minority of the Parliamentary Labour Party support him – a graphic illustration of how utterly the left has been marginalised in the PLP. A further batch of MP nominations was required to get on the ballot.The nominations came (following grassroots pressure) from right-wing or centrist MPs who agreed to ‘widen the debate’ in the leadership contest. They were undoubtedly conscious of how bad it would look if the leadership contest was unremittingly right wing, with nobody offering a different viewpoint. What they didn’t expect was for Corbyn’s arguments to find any great resonance – a revealing sign of the disconnect between Labour MPs and the wider Party, never mind the many people beyond its ranks…Political figures from the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – those former prime ministers themselves and Jack Straw, Alan Johnson and Alastair Campbell – have shrieked their disapproval of Jeremy Corbyn. Alongside numerous centre-left commentators and columnists, these political grandees have warned that his victory in the Labour leadership contest would be a disaster, a lurch to the unelectable left and a throwback to the 1980s. But all the evidence is that their pleas are going unanswered, as Labour Party members and registered supporters look set to elect an uncompromisingly left wing candidate as leader.

Corbyn’s election has wider implications says Graham MacPhee, professor of English at West Chester University.

There is a profound shift going on in British politics that mirrors the wider collapse of legitimacy suffered by political elites in the West. But whereas Occupy fizzled out without an organizational structure and the political revolt in Greece has been ruthlessly suppressed by the EU, the economic size of Britain and the strength of its social democratic tradition means this insurgency may have greater potential…The rise of Corbyn’s campaign has been both unexpected and meteoric because it draws support from those excluded from the political calculus of the elites. Some of that support hails from traditional constituencies that have been taken for granted by “New Labour”: trade unionists and public sector workers, those opposed to war and neo-imperialism, and those concerned with the moral decay of British society and the neoliberal evacuation of any social and collective ethos beyond xenophobia and the new culturalist racism. But Corbyn’s campaign also speaks to young people excluded from housing and job opportunities, students saddled with unsupportable debt, and the “precariat” more widely: those working on short-term or zero-hour contracts often in the newly privatized social services, the former local government sector, or in low paid and insecure jobs in the service industries…Just as in Greece, the prospect of a return to a workable and broadly beneficial social democratic program is not simply a local issue but has global implications.

The British social democratic tradition that Professor MacPhee highlights, a tradition that has been brutally suppressed and ideologically divided, is clearly resurgent. More to the point Jeremy Corbyn is not a Syriza ‘player’ or a Labour MP who trots out ‘electability’ as a euphemism for graft. Here’s author and columnist John Wight.

Over the past month this man has come to symbolise everything we’ve been missing in our politics, a candidate for leadership who is as unassuming as he is humble, who lacks vanity, ego, and who refuses to be anything other than himself. This, as much as the message he is delivering to packed audiences up and down the country, is why he has shone so brightly and why despite the welter of column inches to the contrary, they fear him…Those, particularly within the Labour Party, who’ve issued warnings over the dangers of ‘lurching to the left’ behind Corbyn are standing on the shoulders of the siren voices who warned Clement Attlee and the men and women who helped transform British society after the Second World War that the creation of a national health service was a utopian pipe dream – unaffordable, unworkable, and delusional…The ideas and vision that Jeremy Corbyn represents, for so long buried beneath a ton weight of Thatcherite ideology, have risen from their slumber and are now part of the mainstream political discourse again, breathed new life by thousands of young people who demand a real and humane alternative to the thin gruel that passes for reality today. It is why when they those same siren voices continually shriek that Jeremy cannot possibly win, what they don’t realise is that he already has.

Jeremy has certainly inspired hope, a remarkable and precious resource. Last summer after a five year battle I lost my case (Maistry v BBC) in the Court of Appeal. The crucial point was whether BBC managers could have been aware that I believed in the sacrosanct BBC Values which as an employee I was bound to follow. Without such knowledge they could not have discriminated.

Lord Justice Underhill reasoned:

But I am afraid to say that I do not believe that it is arguable that a generalised assumption that senior management employees will subscribe to BBC values can be equated with the knowledge that a particular employee has a philosophical belief in those values. That is not the same thing. The fact that to the applicant those values constituted a belief with similar status and cogency to a religious belief does not mean that will be so in every case. To others it might indeed be no more than their employer’s mission statement about the values that they were expected to observe at work.

So although it can be generally assumed that the Management Board of the BBC believes in the Corporation’s elevated values, the same cannot be said for its staff. The elite are simply nobler. I’m glad Jeremy came along.

Such superior class virtue will of course not exclude the most vicious campaign to reassert the cult of the market, the rule of corporations, banks and the 0.1 percent. Technology has made an art form of repression; black ops and false flags are now a routine part of the repertoire. Jeremy Corbyn is well aware that parliament is an opportunity, not the answer.

Our opposition cannot be limited to the parliamentary chambers and TV studios of Westminster. Labour is best when it is a movement, and that movement has swelled to an enthusiastic 600,000 who will decide this leadership election. Once that is over, we face a bigger task: to force this government to abandon its free-market dogma and become the strategic state our society needs. That challenge begins on 12 September.
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