A radical Labour government would be pressured to drop its left-wing agenda. A grassroots movement could help them resistby Richard Seymour / June 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
For now, Labour’s course is clear. With any Tory government likely to be as fragile as Theresa May’s fleeting popularity, Corbyn has declared a permanent offensive. Labour stands ready to govern and will be campaigning relentlessly to make that point. McDonnell has urged a million activists to hit the streets to help drive the Tories from office.
Labour needs only a small swing to win a majority if there were to be another election, and current polling suggests they would get it. On top of this, the government’s appalling handling of the Grenfell fire, in contrast to Corbyn’s widely welcomed intervention, has blown apart May’s already shaken personal authority. It has also exposed a wider crisis of legitimacy for the growth model that has dominated British society since the 1980s – neoliberalism, wherein markets and competition are sacrosanct. There is a moment of radicalisation taking place, such as we have not seen in years, and it could propel to office the most radical, reforming government since 1945. So, the ‘eyes on the prize’ mentality makes sense.
But proximity to government raises urgent strategic problems, unique in Labour’s history. The current Labour leadership is, for the first time, systematically trying to drive British politics to the Left. Its method of doing so has been to lever into political activity and electoral engagement large groups of people long abandoned by the political system, by making them a political offer they haven’t heard in years. It relies on people being excited enough by the alternative to fight for it. And it is how Labour turned Tory seats red, marginals into safe seats, and safe seats into towering majorities, with thousands of activists ignoring the defensive campaign run by Labour HQ and campaigning through Momentum.
The Blairites were consummate statists. Their mode of securing change was to cultivate an elite of electoral-professionals and state managers on the side of gradual progress. They had little interest in unions, or social movements, except as potential antagonists of a Labour government. And they were prepared to take for granted millions of people outside swing seats, who responded by withdrawing from the electoral system.
Corbyn, by contrast, has long argued that change comes from below, against the resistance…