It will take a socialist candidate to save Labour from a Chinese-style election

13 Jun 2015

It didn’t take long for the insults to begin and more will come. For now, supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are going to have settle for being called delusional idiots, with views equivalent to those of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Indeed, if Dan Hodges is to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn, the Left Labour leadership candidate of peace, Palestine and anti-austerity, should be shut out. He must be denied the 35 MP nominations required to qualify as a Labour leadership candidate. Dan Hodges and his, no doubt smirking, supporters are wrong on this. Corbyn, for the sake of the whole Labour Party, needs to be on the ballot. A house divided will not stand and voices on the left need to be heard.


I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it, but this is not a call for socialism. Since most of us on the left consider socialism and democracy the same thing (a debate for another time) I am not going to describe it as a call for democracy either. It would be arrogant so presume that anti-austerity ideas are so important that they morally deserve representation in every debate. But what rightward leaning Labour Party members need to understand is that a lot of active Labour members hold views similar to those of Corbyn. Many of us proudly call ourselves socialists, believe in trade unions and in various forms of collective ownership. Many others campaign for candidates whose views could not be further from this. This is not an evil in itself. You can not expect everyone in politics to be a far left democratic socialist. If they were, we would be in utopia by now. The point is that the Labour Party is a broad church of opinion, but we should all stick together and work towards common goals.


But there is flip side to this. The left’s support for the Labour Party is not unconditional. We are not soldiers to be moved on a chess board, but rather we campaign expecting to be represented – part of the debate. At times we want our ideas heard and the Labour leadership contest is one of these times. If anything, ideas are what we care about the most. Left Labour members spend evenings hunched over books reading existential eccentricities written by Slavoj Zizek and dead Frenchmen. We debate over pints of bitter the meaning of class in a globalized society. This is seen by many as a quality which isolates us from ordinary people. But, who are they to dismiss so called "ordinary people" as being incapable of philosophical thought, in a time when politics is considered vacuous and generally a bit rubbish.


The point I am trying to make is that although a lot of people seem to think that us lot on the left of the Labour party are irrelevant, outdated and in need of shutting up; we deserve to make our case. We have put in the work, the hours delivering leaflets and knocking doors. We will continue to put in the work, but not if we feel as though we are being dismissed. The left of Labour has a case to be made.


It is time to time for the Labour Party to prove it is not Communist. We risk a Chinese-style election where all candidates are pre-vetted for ‘threatening’ ideas. If centrists are truly confident of their case, they will let us on the anti-austerity left have our say, if only to demonstrate how wrong we are. Their preparedness to be challenged by radical ideas may even change a few minds. But if Corbyn is not on the ballot box, disillusionment will follow. The steam won’t get a chance to exit the kettle and Labour will loose the support of some of its most dedicated activists. I believe in anti-austerity, but I will go along with the approach the Labour Party democratically decides. However, my faith in the Labour Party is based on the belief that I can influence and change it. Don’t turn me into cynic. 


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