The Dim-Post

September 14, 2015

Master of the drifting stream

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:58 am

My glib take on the Corbyn victory is here, along with thousands of other glib takes. Subsequent to writing that someone on twitter linked to this, a UK Labour member (a sociologist, natch) who voted for one of Corbyn’s rivals but is withering about the incompetence of their leadership campaigns, especially compared to Corbyn’s, about which he had this to say:

Putting aside Corbynmania, putting aside the tens of thousands who’ve listened to him speak at almost 100 rallies, and putting aside his utter dominance of both the leadership contest and the media, his campaign’s been fine and dandy. No, in fact, his campaign has been brilliant. Considering that his opponents arrogate to themselves the title of election-winning specialists, Jeremy’s leadership campaign has been the best organised I’ve ever seen. When you think about it, what it has accomplished is something of a miracle. The pitch has been very policy heavy and, actually, quite technocratic. There is a lot to like here, and what it did was give the anti-austerity message some proper substance and heft. Married to this was a hopeful message and a vision of a better life that activated large numbers of people outside the purview of established politics.

Organisationally, the Corbyn campaign was spot on. Jon Lansman and Simon Fletcher have taken a machine that didn’t exist four months ago and broke the mould of British politics. Everything was properly gridded. Jeremy got his main policy statements out near the beginning of the campaign, and has not been pushed into any panicky announcements to try and match the changing mood. The organisation of the volunteer base, facilitated by supportive trade unions, has been professional – none of the slapdash nonsense usually characteristic of the Labour left. Team Jez were, after all, the only ones who put the link to sign up three quid supporters on their website. And there were even proper scripts and prompts as the campaign wore on.

Being good at politics counts for a lot in politics. Eventually. Left-wing political parties have transformed themselves into institutions in which it is possible to rise, through patronage and factional scheming into an MP and eventually a senior member of caucus without ever displaying any aptitude for democratic politics, even though campaigning and winning votes for the party is supposed to be a core function of an MP. This relentlessly internal focus is why it didn’t seem to occur to Corbyn’s opponents to recruit new members to vote for them, or, even if they attempted this, what they could say to actual members of the public to try and win their votes. New Zealand’s left-wing parties have the same flaw.

54 Comments »

  1. Will probably take from the Greens and gain some new voters, but bleed votes to UKIP.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 14, 2015 @ 9:17 am

  2. Ann open invitation to those most invested in the current state of affairs to evaluate their own flaws. Good luck with that.

    Comment by Lee Clark — September 14, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  3. @unaha: I will concede it’s not the most solid hope, but there is speculation Corbyn might be able to win back votes from UKIP, not least due to his euroscepticism. He is consistently the most popular Labour politician among UKIP voters (not a coveted prize, I know). It’s far from a sure thing, not least because we can’t be certain that Corbyn will be as effective a campaigner on a national level as he was at a party level. But it’s just as likely that votes will flow from UKIP to Labour as vice versa.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 14, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  4. Pagani’s comment is the standard fare of banal, Blairite lesser-evilism.
    Classic that the same stellar minds who can’t win elections or galvanise people, expect in all seriousness others to take their advice on how to win elections.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 14, 2015 @ 10:24 am

  5. Has Corbyn’s focus and appeal been external or internal? Any external focus was just to draw in others so he could win the internal battle, helped greatly by his union backing. If you look at the four candidates for the UK Labour leadership they were all depressingly political creatures who have done nothing else in their lives except scheme and work towards becoming an MP. Corbyn may have been a dissenter while an MP but he has far more in common with the other three than not. They are all people who think politics is the most important thing in the world for them and for everyone else. It isn’t. This, not ideology, is the single biggest difference between them and the people they have to convince to vote for them or their allies in a general election.

    Comment by Tinakori — September 14, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  6. I don’t think Corbyn will succeed (whether as culprit or victim is an open question, probably depends on your media/political preferences). I wouldn’t have picked him.

    But on a per capita basis, a local version would have attracted around 20,000 new members to the NZ Labour party. Whereas our “left” teams up with Kim Dotcom. So one gloomy conclusion is that there is either no desire to storm the citadel, or nobody who knows how to do it. I can’t think of a single left-wing NZ politician with any “oomph” at all. Actually, I can’t think of a single left-wing politician.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — September 14, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  7. Corbyn *might* be unelectable – but his competition were *definitely* unelectable so seems like it’s worth a shot.

    Comment by xy — September 14, 2015 @ 11:09 am

  8. No one knows where the UK electorate will be in five years time, therefore no one knows how successful Corbyn will be. A lot can happen in five years: another global financial crisis, a major war, the collapse of China, (or the collapse of the US if Trump wins in 2016). Who knows?

    All anyone can say for certain is: 1) that Corbyn has clearly energised the base of a dispirited party, and 2) that Corbyn is unlikely to be supported in key constituencies that Labour needs to win to form a government.

    Having just returned to London I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out over the next couple of years. I’m sure the media here will try to destroy him.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — September 14, 2015 @ 11:19 am

  9. Sammy – So one gloomy conclusion is that there is either no desire to storm the citadel, or nobody who knows how to do it.

    The politics of ideology and manifesto are dead. All that exists now is governing by degrees and winning elections by bringing together a better group of technocrats than your opponent can muster.
    National (at least, Key) gets this. Cameron gets this. Even Obama and Clinton get this. People like Abbott and Corbyn are ultimately going to be seen as failures because they still erroneously believe that their ideology can adapt in times of rapid change. Hint: they can’t.

    Comment by Phil — September 14, 2015 @ 11:50 am

  10. These days in the UK party leaders get photographed being limousined to high powered black tie functions, not catching cabs to local electorate events in the park. But Corbyn emerged from his home the day after his elevation to leadership, ignored the media, hailed a cab and went to a small local fair for mental health being held in his electorate. As the anti-politician that was a pitch perfect thing to do – only Corbyn didn’t do it because he had PR people grooming his image. He did it because that is what he does. Given a chance and he may just be a lot more dangerous than the Tories think.

    I suspect though the Blairites won’t take their rout lying down. Their arrogance knows no bounds, and they’ve reacted like their inheritance has been stolen by the servants. They, and the rest of the Eton/Oxbridge establishment (which includes all the mainstream media – the Guardian’s flat-out Blairism has been a revelation) have got it in for Corbyn. Their attitude towards a genuine change agent is summed up by Cameron – a threat to national security, to be dealt with by the organs of state security. I have no doubt that Britain’s spies have been given the green light to bring Corbyn down.

    I don’t actually know if Corbyn can win. Conventional wisdom says he can’t, that the non-voters stay non voting and they battle is for an increasing frightened and reactionary ‘centre” and the establishment is against him. But then again, the odds were 200/1 against him winning the Labbour party leadership. What are the odds from the bookies against him winning the next election?

    PS does it do anyone else’s head in that the go-to person for comment on matters pertaining to the labour political parties in the Herald is that bloody Blairite Josie Pagani?

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 14, 2015 @ 12:43 pm

  11. Conventional wisdom says he can’t, that the non-voters stay non voting and they battle is for an increasing frightened and reactionary ‘centre” and the establishment is against him

    Tariq Ali has written about this recently. Even though he unfortunately comes across as an epic dick, his take on extreme centrism is pretty much spot on.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 14, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

  12. >his take on extreme centrism is pretty much spot on.

    Do you have a link for that Gregor? Sounds interesting.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 14, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

  13. >PS does it do anyone else’s head in that the go-to person for comment on matters pertaining to the labour political parties in the Herald is that bloody Blairite Josie Pagani?

    It was hardly unexpected.

    >I don’t actually know if Corbyn can win. Conventional wisdom says he can’t, that the non-voters stay non voting and they battle is for an increasing frightened and reactionary ‘centre” and the establishment is against him.

    I don’t either, but it does seem like it would at least be a battle worth fighting. If he then doesn’t win, would the internal tide swing even more toward the centrist path? Or would he have dragged the party and the discourse and the nation a little to the left? These are all impossible to know in advance. I’m pretty glad this is happening in Britain so we can watch and learn. That said, even in NZ it could work out differently. Well, it will work out differently, because we don’t have a Corbyn anyway. But if the next election here puts the Nats back in, then we’ll have a pretty good idea how the Corbyn path *might* work out here.

    What I feel most keenly is the complete dearth of alternative options – this Leftism vs Centrism thing is so played out and tedious, so controversial without benchmarks or evidence, that it’s just boring and pointless. It seems to me that the more promising analysis simply has to put Left vs Right to bed and acknowledge how many other directions the parties could strike.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 14, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  14. “…What I feel most keenly is the complete dearth of alternative options…”

    There is only one struggle – against the boss class, landlordism and against their lackeys and enablers. Anything else is distraction. It is thrilling, to me, to see a Labour leader who actually knows the words to “The People’s Flag”. A Labour leader who didn’t cringe and issue flustered press releases because Billy Bragg sang it out loud on the same platform. For years, the left has been led by people “…Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place, who cringe before the rich man’s frown, And haul the sacred emblem down…”

    Corbyn, to me, represents in some ways the left finally accepting the reality of it’s great defeat at the hands of neoliberalism. The Red Flag is a revolutionary song, sung by those who hope for revolution. The age of the managerial left, for whom singing the “Red Flag” was a bit naff, supervising the welfare state victories of the 1930s and 1940s is passing. A new age for the left – as revolutionaries again – is being born. Richard Seymour says “…Corbyn has said that his campaign is about turning the Labour Party into a social movement. That, it seems to me, is the only chance he and his supporters have. It’s the only possible counterweight to the entrenched, institutional power of the right…” But such a social movement will also be a direct challenge to the establishment and the entrenched, institutional power of the right in the UK. Expect a lot more violence if Corbyn succeeds in animating a powerful movement that is outside, and independent of, the ruling classes.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 14, 2015 @ 1:47 pm

  15. Surely the way the Green Party in New Zealand chooses MPs, and the way it chooses co-leaders, means they climb up through the ranks based on their ability to campaign and win votes, just the same as Jeremy Corbyn has done? It’s a purely internal campaigning to the party faithful rather than trying to reach out to people outside the party’s support base, but that’s the same as what Jeremy Corbyn has just excelled at.

    Then again, I also thought that Danyl was involved in James Shaw’s successful campaign to win the Green Party co-leadership, so he must have thought of this, and concluded that it’s not the same.

    Comment by Can of Worms, Opened — September 14, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

  16. >There is only one struggle – against the boss class, landlordism and against their lackeys and enablers. Anything else is distraction.

    That’s where we’re bound to disagree, right there. Political representation is about so much more than that. That’s a righteous struggle, but it’s not the only struggle, not the only front. Not even close.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 14, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

  17. I notice an interesting change in your writing recently, Danyl, with a lot of criticism that you used to direct only at Labour now also being directed at “the Left” in general.

    Comment by RHT — September 14, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

  18. @Ben – Ali’s recent book The Extreme Centre: a Warning.

    Some commentary he made recently when interviewed about Greece:

    “… the extreme centre is the political expression of the neoliberal state. That economics and politics are so intertwined and interlinked that politics now, mainstream politics, extreme centre politics, are little else but a version of concentrated economics. And this means that any alternative—alternative capitalism, left Keynesianism, intervention by the state to help the poor, rolling back the privatizations—becomes a huge issue. The entire weight of the extreme centre and its media is turned against it, which in reality now is beginning to harm democracy.”

    Comment by Gregor W — September 14, 2015 @ 2:54 pm

  19. But such a social movement will also be a direct challenge to the establishment and the entrenched, institutional power of the right in the UK.

    And the institutional power of the establishment left within the managerial class of the UK health, education and social services?

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 14, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

  20. “…the extreme centre is the political expression of the neoliberal state.”

    For the purposes of Tariq Ali’s writing it must be clarified that he means a centrist state that is in no way neo-liberal in the traditional non-interventionist sense, rather Tariq uses the term to describe the massive socialised intervention in bailing out bankers. He does this so as to avoid conflating his call for massive social intervention with the massive social intervention which he opposes.

    Neo-liberal policies in the traditional sense would have let the bankers go bust, like Lehmann Brothers. It was only through a massive socialisation of debt that the banks were able to survive.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 14, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  21. @unaha-closp: “he means a centrist state that is in no way neo-liberal in the traditional non-interventionist sense…”
    This is a very convoluted statement. What are you trying to say?

    Traditional (whatever that means) Neo-lib regimes are entirely interventionist.
    They intervene regularly to shift wealth from those that have little to those that want more.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 14, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

  22. Corbyn’s triumph is fascinating, but in a UK (possibly European) context. And too much NZ punditry is just “I can’t be arsed to read up on how that happened, I’ll just reheat my pre-cooked NZ perspective”.

    For one thing, the population density difference leads to very different ‘anecdata’. You could spend weeks going to packed meetings (as Corbyn has) and believe there’s seismic change going on, even if it doesn’t reflect the population at large. The last time that happened here was probably Winston in the 1990’s.

    For another, he was a backbencher for 30 years. Population difference again – with 600+ MPs in Britain you can be both in Parliament and an outsider. Here we have a suffocating caucus structure and so nobody has anything interesting or rebellious to say. Any long-term Labour/National backbencher is never going to be a rebel, they’re basically just thick.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — September 14, 2015 @ 3:37 pm

  23. ” If he then doesn’t win, would the internal tide swing even more toward the centrist path? Or would he have dragged the party and the discourse and the nation a little to the left?”

    If nothing else, his three opponents in the leadership race will never again be considered leadership hopefuls. But the Labour centrists have a deep bench so that probably has little significance for the party’s overall ideological compass.

    “a lot of criticism that you used to direct only at Labour now also being directed at “the Left” in general.”

    I seriously doubt he means to include the Greens when he talks about ‘the Left’.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 14, 2015 @ 3:44 pm

  24. @GregorW : Neo-lib policies were to reduce social spending, this was traditionally used in antipathy to the socialists who wanted to increase social spending.

    In the aftermath of the GFC the centrist governments conducted a program of truly epic social spending, bailing out the bankers. It was many things, but hardly neo-liberal.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 14, 2015 @ 3:56 pm

  25. Neo-lib policies were to reduce social spending, this was traditionally used in antipathy to the socialists who wanted to increase social spending.

    True. But bailing out banks isn’t “social spending”, no more than increasing defence budgets are.

    Which goes back to your earlier premise that “traditional” neo-libs policies aren’t interventionist, which doesn’t really hold water. They’re just non-interventionist in a socially progressive sense – even then they aren’t really, as they take money and taxes away from social programmes and negate social rights in favour of individual rights which is, in of itself, deeply and ideologically interventionist.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 14, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

  26. >I seriously doubt he means to include the Greens when he talks about ‘the Left’.

    I disagree. I think he’d say Labour if he meant Labour. I’m pretty sure Danyl in general, like most people, considers the Greens to be a party of the Left. But nailing down exactly what that means is not easy, because not everyone agrees what Left means, nor whether the Greens are that.

    Nor is it clear, even if we agreed that Greens are of the Left, what that then means should be done about it, either by the Greens, or by Labour.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 14, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

  27. bailing out banks isn’t “social spending”, no more than increasing defence budgets are.

    Tell that to the people of Guam, or Waiouru.😛

    Comment by Phil — September 14, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

  28. I can’t find an official reference but according to a graphic on a Guardian story, turnout was only 76.30%. For those who know more, is this surprising in the context?

    I wouldn’t have found it surprising for a general election (and it’d probably be very high for an average UK election), but this vote was specifically for people who already have a declared interest in both politics and the Labour Party, plus it seemed like a very polarised contest in which members and supporters would have had a high stake in the result. Why did almost a quarter of them, about 130,000 people, not vote?

    Comment by izogi — September 14, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

  29. But bailing out banks isn’t “social spending”,

    When the centrists (Obama/Brown) acted they couched it in terms of stimulating the economy, generating jobs and growth. Zero interest rates and quantitative easing were employed to provide a Keynesian boost.

    The centrists have adopted the worst of both neo-liberal capitalism and social democracy to “solve” the GFC. They adopted neo-liberal austerity measures to cut social spending on poor people, but socialised the bad debts of the rich within a Keynesian spending spree.

    Neo-liberal Keynesianism?

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 14, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

  30. I disagree. I think he’d say Labour if he meant Labour. I’m pretty sure Danyl in general, like most people, considers the Greens to be a party of the Left. But nailing down exactly what that means is not easy, because not everyone agrees what Left means, nor whether the Greens are that.

    His term probably includes people in the Greens who he doesn’t like, and who he thinks are unable to win over voters.

    Comment by Moses — September 14, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

  31. @izogi: Turnout of 76% for anything other than a national election is incredibly good. In contrast, the 2010 Labour leadership election had a turnout of something like 11%.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 14, 2015 @ 6:41 pm

  32. This is why I vote Green and haven’t voted Labour in many years. The Greens have the potential to be the ‘Corbyns’ in the NZ context….but then so does Winston Peters.

    Comment by Steve W — September 14, 2015 @ 11:58 pm

  33. unaha: “The centrists have adopted the worst of both neo-liberal capitalism and social democracy to “solve” the GFC. They adopted neo-liberal austerity measures to cut social spending on poor people, but socialised the bad debts of the rich within a Keynesian spending spree.

    Neo-liberal Keynesianism?”

    I’d call it neo-feudalism. Americans and Britons are rightly pissed off that the apparatus of social democracy that’s intended to keep health and education systems running smoothly, has instead been hijacked by Wall St and the London Square Mile. They’re also heartily sick of being told to pull up their bootstraps by those who inherit banking fortunes without having to work much for it. When tax dodging such as the Double Irish Dutch Sandwich are factored in, it further reinforces the notion of neo-feudalism. I can’t think of a more apt term for major companies that go out of their way to pay next to no tax, while also having the cheek to have their hands wide open for state largesse.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — September 15, 2015 @ 12:53 am

  34. @Kumara: I know “neo-feudalism” sounds like a great rallying cry but nobody could seriously complain there are any fundamental similarities between neolberalism and feudalism. And I don’t say that as a defense of neoliberalism, simply as a defense of non-hysterical discourse.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 15, 2015 @ 12:59 am

  35. kalvarnsen: ‘Neo-liberalism’ as an epithet has lost much of its sting in recent years, just as words like ‘redneck’ and ‘bigot’ have previously.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — September 15, 2015 @ 1:13 am

  36. Well you can always just compare them to Nazis if calling things what they are doesn’t get people sufficiently rarked.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 15, 2015 @ 1:27 am

  37. sounds like a great rallying cry…

    No-one tries anything resembling rallying cries around here except Redbaiter, and even he’s stopped yibbling about limpdicks.

    Comment by Joe W — September 15, 2015 @ 4:31 am

  38. @Joe W: There’s always Sanc

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 15, 2015 @ 4:40 am

  39. This was more about exorcising the ghost of Blair than getting into govt. A lot of energy spent on something few outside certain Labour factions care about.

    It seems odd to lurch on foreign policy from Blair to Corbyn – is there no middle ground for the Left which doesn’t include thinking Putin is anything less than a sociopath.

    Repeating Tsipras’ trajectory of nobody to Saint to Quisling and back to probably nobody is a possible scenario. Although Tsipras did have the pressure of running a country whereas Corbyn just had to manage the post score settling Labour Party.

    The common thread between them is the over-promosing. There’s no complex problems just bad neo-libs etc etc. Hollande also over promised but not quite so dramatically and is now facing an electoral backlash of his own.

    Comment by NeilM — September 15, 2015 @ 5:55 am

  40. There’s no complex problems just bad neo-libs etc etc

    I take it from this that you haven’t read any of Corbyn’s policy points then NeilM, and are alright with cribbing your opinion directly from the Economist and the Guardian?

    Comment by Gregor W — September 15, 2015 @ 8:48 am

  41. @Joe W: There’s always Sanc

    After the revelation about the lifestyle block I assumed it was all a form of satire, but with the passage of time, yes, I stand corrected.

    Comment by Joe W — September 15, 2015 @ 10:38 am

  42. Tariq Alion Corbyn.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 15, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

  43. A new age for the left – as revolutionaries again – is being born.
    This is just sad.

    Comment by tom hunter — September 15, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

  44. > I assumed it was all a form of satire

    Until someone here gets to know him/her personally, we’ll never be sure. Even that lifestyle block and cat-killing stuff could be satire. I doubt it, though. He seems for reals to me. An old socialist, who keeps identity secret because he probably has a job (or circle of friends and/or family) which makes that prudent. The lifestyle block thing could be self-satire – there’s a big difference between a huge hobby farm and a small plot where you retired from the rat-race. A man’s home is his castle, he can call it what he likes.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 15, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

  45. Sanc’s nom de guerre hasn’t really kept his ID secret though.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 15, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

  46. Who is he, then?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 15, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

  47. I couldn’t possibly comment.
    But the internet has many useful search tools.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 15, 2015 @ 9:55 pm

  48. Who is he, then?

    Much of Sanc’s down with the proles cred appears to be drawn from his practicing a form of unlicensed anthropology on his unsuspecting flatmates. If he ever harboured hopes that he might be the antichrist he appears to have dealt with his disappointment rather better than I have.

    Comment by Joe W — September 15, 2015 @ 10:09 pm

  49. I tried googling “Sanctuary NZ blog commenter” and lost interest when that didn’t work

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 15, 2015 @ 10:39 pm

  50. Well I applaud your dedication; you took three more words than I ever did to lose interest in him…

    Comment by Lee Clark — September 16, 2015 @ 7:30 am

  51. I am truly flattered.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 16, 2015 @ 7:32 am

  52. If you are in Auckland, a lifestyle block is affordable housing.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 16, 2015 @ 8:54 am

  53. “If you are in Auckland, a lifestyle block is affordable housing.”

    So long as one doesn’t mind 3-hour daily commutes.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — September 16, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

  54. Who is he then?
    Ronnie Pickering?

    Sorry, couldn’t help it.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 4, 2015 @ 4:15 pm


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