The party is in the doldrums. But, in a world of injustice, it can renew its purpose if it can only find a fair fight to pick. That is also the means to taking on populismby Jonathan Rutherford / March 31, 2017 / Leave a comment
In a companion piece, Ryan Shorthouse explains how populism can be taken on from the right
The Labour party is in deep trouble. The days of faith in Jeremy Corbyn have passed. The intellectual outriders of the new honest politics have deserted him, leaving nothing of originality behind. Bereft of ideas, incapable of change, and blinded by its own vanity, the leadership behaves like a passive bystander in the party’s decline. Hovering at a disastrous 25 per cent in the polls, it has become a gift to the Tories. As former Labour pollster James Morris notes, even after seven years of Tory austerity, Labour is now 15 points behind the Tories among working-class voters.
The party is estranged from the country and the Brexit referendum exposed the splits in its own coalition. Its socially liberal supporters in the cities are divided from its socially conservative supporters in towns. In Labour constituencies, Remain voters are divided from Leave voters. Labour no longer knows who it speaks for nor what it stands for.
In such moments of crisis, it is necessary for a political movement to return to its origins. The Labour Party grew out of the Industrial Revolution. The economic historian Karl Polanyi describes a double movement of capitalism in the early 19th century. Capital sought to establish self-regulating markets through free trade and laissez-faire principles. Its logic was to commodify land, money and human labour.
In reaction, a counter movement grew up to defend individuals, society and nature against commodification. This mov…