Labour’s surge confirms what the Left has long argued: People like a straightforward, honest defense of public goods. Labour’s manifesto was sweeping—its most socialist in decades. It’s a straightforward document, calling for nationalization of key utilities, access to education, housing, and health services for all, and measures to redistribute income from corporations and the rich to ordinary people.
£6.3 billion into primary schools, the protection of pensions, free tuition, public housing construction — it was clear what Labour would do for British workers. The plan was attacked in the press for its old-fashioned simplicity—“for the many, not the few”—but it resonated with popular desires, with a view of fairness that seemed elementary to millions.
The Labour left remembered that you don’t win by tacking to an imaginary center—you win by letting people know you feel their anger and by giving them a constructive end to channel that anger towards. The party’s election video said it all: “We demand the full fruits of our labor.”
If the immediate economic program of Labour was inspiring, the leadership also revived a vision of social-democratic politics that looks beyond capitalism. The most striking thing about Corbynism isn’t some run-of-the-mill welfare capitalism in an era where neoliberalism rules supreme, but rather that its protagonists see the inherent limits of reforms under capitalism and discuss ideas that aim to expand the scope of democracy while challenging capital’s ownership and control, not just its wealth.
What other post-Golden Age, center-left party has drafted plans to expand the cooperative sector, create community-owned enterprises, and restore the state’s control of key sectors of the economy?
The plans were far from exhaustive, but they would put Britain on a course for deeper socialist transformations in the future. That’s a lofty dream, one that will take decades to come to fruition, but it goes far beyond traditional Labourism.
. In the wake of the horrific Manchester and London attacks, the Labour leader was unafraid to connect British imperialism overseas and the proliferation of Islamist terror. Corbyn expanded his criticism into other aspects of British foreign policy: a deep-rooted set of alliances with Gulf States at the center of Middle East reaction.
Corbyn has taken some flak from the far left for his call for a proportional police response to terror. But he outlined a broad alternative, one that spoke of the social causes behind the path to terrorism, and he used it to attack the violent xenophobia and scaremongering pushed by the Tories. In doing so, he changed the debate about terrorism in fundamental ways. There will always be alienated, angry people engaging in anti-social activity, but Corbyn offered a way to view such acts as security matters to be dealt with at their roots, rather than a clash of civilizations.
Let’s not underestimate voters. After years of endless wars and violence, most of them are ready for peace. Corbyn offered them what they wanted, and he wasn’t punished for it.
Corbyn’s party is better positioned than any recent Labour regime to be a credible opposition rooted in an unapologetic left vision; to offer hopes and dreams to people, not just fear and diminished expectations. Also, Bernie would have won.
This story is also posted at Jacobin.
By Kate Aronoff, In These Times, 8 June 2017
Here is a brief and wholly incomplete list of things included in the manifesto that Britain’s Labour Party ran on to rip the Tories’ overall Parliamentary majority out from under them:
- Nationalize the British rail system;
- Bring electric utilities under public ownership;
- Make corporations and the rich pay more in taxes;
- Ban fracking;
- Abolish tuition fees;
- Transition to using 60 percent low-carbon fuels by 2030.
This list goes on, and includes several more proposals that have long been considered third rail issues for American politicians afraid of offending both their donors and some fictional constituency of small business owners and people who eat at Panera Bread. Socialist ideas propelled the Labour Party from a beleaguered force that just months ago was losing safe Labour seats in a by-election to one that pulled off what might be the British left’s biggest political upset in a generation or more. As a statement from a party spokesman put it, “It looks like the Tories have been punished for taking the British people for granted.”
Democrats can either take that message to heart—and stop taking the American people for granted—or wither into irrelevancy.
Crucially, these hordes of organizers and volunteers were helping run a campaign premised on a vision for a fairer and more democratic Britain: Where everyone is entitled to healthcare and education, where utility CEOs don’t get to determine whether you have heat for the month, where water isn’t poisoned to line the pockets of a handful of executives, where the world the next generation inherits isn’t defined by climate catastrophe. For better and for worse, politics is based primarily on giving people things—chief among them, hope. Labour delivered.
Democrats, conversely, have spent the last several decades filing egalitarian policies down to means and focus group-tested shells of themselves: Free education—but only to those within certain income brackets. Free healthcare—but only for the elderly, disabled and very poor. Relatedly, the same party has spent the last several decades shedding poor and working class voters while taking voters of color for granted, directing its policies and proposals toward an imaginary center.
It’s been nearly a year since Clinton stalwarts like Carol Browner positioned themselves as the Democrats’ voice of reason when striking down Sanders surrogates’ proposals to ban fracking and embrace single-payer healthcare at the Democratic Party platform drafting committee last summer. In a statement on the meetings, which came on the heels of Brexit, Sanders wrote that, “It is imperative that this platform be not only the most progressive in the history of the Democratic Party, but includes a set of policies that will be fought for and implemented by Democratic elected officials.”
Hillary Clinton’s historic defeat should have been a wake-up call that Sanders was right. Hyper-focusing on smaller and smaller chunks of the electorate, apportioning public goods out to smaller and smaller groups of people, is a losing strategy. If November 8th couldn’t make that case to the Democratic establishment then June 8th should.
Socialist ideas are popular and can win. Policies long considered radical are now popular, and may well be the only chance we have to beat back the Trumpian right. Sixty-six percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to above $10 an hour. Sixty-one believe the rich pay too little come tax season. Fifty-eight percent believe in universal healthcare. Seventy-two percent agree that the United States should take “aggressive” action to curb climate change. That’s why Sanders managed to stir up 13 million votes for democratic socialism and why he—arguably—would have won—and did among the same demographics (millennials, mainly) that helped carry Labour up from expected defeat yesterday.
In 2017, it’s socialism or barbarism and the British people just made their choice. Now the Democrats have to make theirs.
People “all over the world” are fighting the same battle, Sanders added, concluding:
People in the U.K., the U.S. and elsewhere want governments that represent all the people, not just the 1%. I congratulate Jeremy Corbyn for running a very positive and effective campaign.
Corbyn’s strong run—which culminated in an additional 31 seats for Labour and a hung parliament—was, in many ways, reminiscent of the Sanders “revolution” in the United States, which posed a stark challenge to “the billionaire class” and a political establishment flush with corporate money. Sanders himself drew the comparison between his campaign and Corbyn’s recently on a three-day U.K. speaking tour, during which he praised the Labour leader’s “willingness to talk about class issues.”
“These problems are not unique to the U.S.,” Sanders noted. “Globalization has left far too many people behind. Workers all over the world are seeing a decline in their standard of living. Unfettered free trade has allowed multinational corporations to enjoy huge profits and make the very rich even richer while workers are sucked into a race for the bottom.”
Corbyn utilized similar messaging. Under his leadership, the Labour Party this year published one of the most left-wing manifestos in its history, adopting a slogan Sanders backers surely recognized: “For the many, not the few.”
It is unsurprising, then, that British voters were seen donning Sanders apparel as they cast their ballots for Labour.
Peter Bloom, writing for Common Dreams, argued the campaigns of Sanders and Corbyn both successfully harnessed similar forces, and thus “exposed the beginnings of a potentially new political mainstream.”
Corbyn’s strong campaign is no small political achievement. Historically, he has altered the public discussion on major issues of the economy and foreign policy. He has also shown that a full throttled progressive agenda is not only not suicidal but potentially downright popular.
For many, Corbyn’s remarkable surge in recent weeks and his performance in an election that was prematurely viewed as a landslide opportunity for the Conservatives is a strong indicator of the electoral viability of left populism and of the strong desire for systemic change.
Pollsters and analysts—even those who had for weeks closely documented Corbyn’s rapid rise in the polls—were openly startled by the results.
“No major left-wing politician had been so often accused of being unelectable—not even Sanders,” wrote the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel. “All through election night, the BBC and other organs of an infamously Corbyn-skeptical media marveled at how Labour had gained ground.”
In a triumphant rally on Thursday, Corbyn argued that his party’s gains portend a seismic shift in the landscape of British politics.
“Politics has changed,” Corbyn declared as the results rolled in. “Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.”