Revolutionary change is not built by people, but by communities. As many oppressed communities will tell you, basing movements largely upon one leader will simply result in states destroying said leader. Martin Luther King and Fred Hampton could attest to that if they hadn’t been killed for their advocation for Black rights.
Waiting on a saviour
There are other movements we can turn to in order to see great leaders suppressed and overpowered by a seemingly irrepressible state. The crushing weight of the status quo often appears to stamp out any glowing embers that possible resistance might have conjured up.
There is a particular tendency amongst left-wing white folks in the UK to rally around figures on the left as saviours. These figures are supposed to be the ones who come along and do the work. They’ll finally get rid of the Tories, save the NHS, and be good for a soundbite that does numbers on Twitter.
But be they Jeremy Corbyn or Mick Lynch, that’s simply not going to happen.
This is nothing to do with the proven talents of the likes of Corbyn or Lynch. Instead, it’s because unduly investing in one leader is no path to liberation. No one person can do it alone – nor should they have to.
Ruminating and re-litigating
My colleague Joe Glenton caused quite a stir when he asked Jeremy Corbyn supporters to accept what has come to pass over the Corbyn years and move on. Here at the Canary we’re hardly strangers to how Corbyn has been lied about and his supporters ridiculed. The man himself has been smeared, targeted, and subject to infuriating aspersions on both his politics and character. None of this is to criticise him, and I’d wager, he may well agree with what we’re saying.
Given the Canary’s history of being a staunch supporter of Corbyn, it’s fair to say that our social media pages and comment sections are a reasonably accurate picture of the mood amongst supporters of Corbyn. One thing that hasn’t changed since 2019 is how much fans of Corbyn – and I would note, not necessarily Corbyn himself – insist on ruminating over how Corbyn was shoved out of mainstream politics.
Now, you may well counter that it’s possible for people to care about more than one thing at once. However, our mentions demonstrate a huge amount of energy being sunk into re-litigating the Corbyn years.
Parliamentary politics won’t save us
It’s tempting to rally around political camps and leaders, but to do so is – as we should have learnt by now – a distraction that keeps us from finding connection and community with the people who suffer the most. Rallying around a memory of Corbyn is dangerous because it positions parliamentary politics as a legitimate source of change.
Parliamentary politics will not save us. Voting cannot get us out of this mess. As many of us have asked so often since 2019, who on earth would you happily vote for anymore?
Any kind of radical politics that actually helps the most vulnerable people in our society, that doesn’t operate through racism, classism, and transphobia, but through dismantling those very oppressions, is a politics that cannot – and will not – be found in Westminster.
Our welfare system is operated by cruel and morally depraved people who are so determined to stamp out non-existent abuse of universal credit that they don’t mind stripping the meagre benefits of people struggling to feed themselves.
Our government and media are throwing everything they have into demonising trans people whilst stripping back their basic healthcare.
The Home Office has spent several administrations pouring money into the Prevent duty in the name of counter-terror. All this, to make sure Black and Brown Muslims are surveilled and abused as a matter of course.
Our police forces operate with impunity and stifle dissent wherever they can. Those same police forces target and kill Black people with very little consequence. All conceivable levels of institutional power are engaged in anti-Blackness. Reports are then commissioned to confirm or deny such a thing, all whilst the anti-Blackness continues.
Our country is paying to facilitate bombing Yemen. We’re raining down an apocalypse across regions Britain has already destabilised with decades of colonial and neocolonial violence. British companies are the ones making vast profits and causing the climate crisis, and are congratulated by the government and media for doing so.
Consider all this. Consider the actual communities that are being crushed under this weight. Then, realise that it’s more than a little fucking annoying to see people rallying around the Corbyn years as though nothing else matters.
A familiar blow
For some of us, Corbyn’s demise as Labour leader was a blow. The man himself appears to have a proven track record politically and an admirable doggedness. He even has a rare ability amongst his skin folk to treat Black and Brown people as his equals. But, it wasn’t a blow that was unfamiliar.
Poor Black and Brown people know what it is to be lied about, ignored, and shoved out of the way. We know because it happens to us. Not on the same scale, and perhaps not with the same level of scrutiny but it happens nonetheless.
We know because our doctors don’t believe our pain. Our workplaces require us to not make too much of a fuss about racism. The people teaching our children are guided to report them to Prevent before they are to treat them as children. Whenever a famous Black or Brown person is caught in a racist storm, the rest of us get it in the neck.
Our class identity is erased. We’re implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, shut out of queer spaces. Our disabilities are less often diagnosed, and are even questioned by the people who are supposed to treat us. Teachers look at us not with care, but with suspicion. Our fellow comrades fail to see us and our struggles, all while we’re supposed to be fighting for the same thing. These same comrades will often further marginalise and betray us.
Communities, not leaders
Corbyn was a breath of fresh air. There is more air to be taken in, fresh lungfuls, if we can lean on the communities some of us have had to build up in order to live.
Black and Brown people – and queer, disabled Black and Brown people in particular – live with the knowledge that the systems we live under want us dead. We know what it means to only be able to rely on people like us in order to be seen. And, we also know the strength, and the necessity, of that kind of community.
We shouldn’t be rallying around one person. Instead, we must rally around communities of people. After all, that’s what Corbyn himself has spent his political career doing.
Featured image via YouTube screenshot/PoliticsJOE