Since 2015, Jeremy Corbyn has inspired so many people, giving hope where it had long since disappeared. And with him now stepping down as Labour leader, the party won’t be the same. Corbyn’s supporters must not just go their separate ways, though. Because yes, it’s the end of an era; but this was always about the principles he represented rather than the man himself. We, through our support, made socialism mainstream again. And if we stick together, we have immense power. Now is the time to shout #NotHimUs.
With or without Labour, let’s stick together
In a farewell message, Corbyn called for supporters to “focus our efforts” in our local communities. And he stressed:
I’ll be out there campaigning for socialism, peace and justice, and I feel sure we’ll be doing that together.
Corbyn sacrificed a lot for the cause. And we can honour that best by keeping the fight going and standing alongside him.
For his clear commitment to left-wing principles, Corbyn faced non-stop attacks from a toxic alliance of political, media and economic elites. Malcolm X once reportedly said media outlets “have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent”. And that’s what they did with Corbyn. From the Guardian to the right-wing billionaire mouthpieces, there was a vile campaign to turn the racist, fascist-lite Tory party into heroes and peace–prize winning, lifelong anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn into Hitler.
A big mistake Corbyn made as leader, as he recently said, was to “give faith in people that don’t necessarily return it too well”. As a committed democrat, he sought to work closely with his Labour Party opponents and make concessions to protect the alliance. But there were points where he failed to defend himself and his principles firmly enough, and many took advantage of that to undermine his leadership (often fuelling the brutal media propaganda). Now, those people will not be as kind. Indeed, many want a zero-tolerance policy towards the left. One supporter of the Labour right wrote in the Spectator this week, for example, about “decorbynising” Labour. Saying “the diseased roots must be hacked out”, Stephen Daisley argued:
Expel everyone who nominated him. Expel everyone who voted for him. … Failing that, whoever follows Corbyn must make Labour such a hostile environment for Corbynism that as many of his ideologues as possible tear up their membership cards.
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To take parliament, we must learn from the Corbyn era
Labour centrist Keir Starmer is the favourite to succeed Corbyn as Labour leader; and there’s already talk of a likely purge of left-wingers if he wins (which, judging by some of the people on his team, would be no surprise). Left-wing leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey, meanwhile, disappointed and alienated many Corbyn supporters. Her campaign wasn’t exciting; and she clearly hadn’t learned from Corbyn not being tough enough on his opponents. From very early on, left-wingers online were talking about leaving Labour because they couldn’t back any of the leadership candidates.
We need to be clear. We can’t defeat the establishment and be its friend. Being civil doesn’t mean sucking up to people who are propping up a putrid system. Nor does it mean failing to hold them to account properly. And this is a universal message we can learn from the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US, too. As independent reporter Saagar Enjeti recently stressed:
If it’s an existential war, act like it!
That means not talking about how you ‘like’ your opponents or how they are ‘decent people’. It also means not capitulating to the premises of your opponents’ smear campaigns. As Enjeti’s colleague Krystal Ball added:
They’re not gonna concede anything. Because you didn’t use your movement to… force their hand…
They’re not gonna listen to you just because… you were nice… You have to force their hand
Whatever you do, don’t give in. And don’t let them divide you.
The supporters of both Corbyn and Sanders, meanwhile, have been ‘fair game’ for the right. Strong, principled anti-fascists have faced vicious smear campaigns. And one big error of both leaders is that they’ve essentially sacrificed such people in the interest of the wider battle – winning elections and changing their countries. Meanwhile, fascists have literally been taking aim at them. This is a monumental battle; and we must stick by our friends if we’re going to beat our opponents.
The change in Labour leadership may mean pro-Corbyn comrades part ways for now. Some may stick around in Labour to try and protect the gains Corbyn made. Some may join other left-wing parties. Others may campaign hard outside party structures for necessary electoral reform. Others still may focus on union activism or dedicate their time to local mutual aid groups. And as part of the essential fight against establishment media lies, disinformation, and bias, many people will hopefully increase their support for independent media.
As trade unionist Michael McGahey once said, enemies “will stop chasing you… when you stop running”. And that’s something we all need to do. We must not allow our enemies to smear us and divide us. While we may travel on different paths, let’s stand together in defence of the truth and our principles. Let’s “occupy every single space with [our] politics”, as former MP Laura Pidcock has insisted. Let’s ensure that the rich and powerful never again succeed in silencing the voices of peace and social justice.
Featured image via Sophie Brown
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