The provisional wing of Corbynism is getting a bit tiresome

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Many of us invested heavily in Corbyn. Against my better judgment, I was one of them. The betrayals, disingenuous attack lines, and internal sabotage from within the Labour party robbed many people of reforms which could certainly have improved working class people’s lives. On top of that, it showed us that there is no route to power for working class people through Parliament.

Even as somebody about 400 miles to the left of Jeremy Corbyn – a man who I like very much, by the way – I banged on doors and argued the case and actively helped his comms team out with veterans-related matters.

I did this because because while I’m on the radical and anti-state end of the Left, I’m not a weird spiky separatist or poseur when it comes to getting things which might help people. I backed Corbs’ mild reformist agenda while also arguing that it wouldn’t resolve real human needs. I’d spent too much time broke, hungry and homeless myself to do anything else.

People were traumatised by the defeat. Though we should put it in context: the result for most of us wasn’t Stalin- or Franco-esque gulags (excepting migrants and so on). That’s real defeat. We just got more time being governed by Tory wankers. I note also that many people for whom that period was their first political experience were then duped by Keir Starmer. We all remember his explicitly left-wing election video right? Before he emerged as a conniving Tory.

This all grieves me as much as the next recovering Corbynista, no doubt. Surely though, it’s time to move the fuck on. Look no further than the tone of row about new film about that period, The Big Lie, being pulled from Glastonbury.

Endless re-litigation

I haven’t seen the film yet. Maybe it makes some good points. And it is certainly cowardly of Glasto not to show it. Though I note the excellent Reel News did stealth in a screening:

Read on...

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My issue is the tone of debate around the film. Or rather some of people attached to it

There’s a group of people who insist on reliving the Corbyn years and spend their energy mired in its memories. This credo can be slightly indistinct but is evidently quite real. I term this Provisional Corbynism. Of course, I do this to take the piss out of it because I think it is silly. But also because of its rudderless and cranky militancy.

The politics of these 2015-2019 nostalgists sometimes seem verge on the manically conspiracist. I’ve seen it up close on several occasions from a range of individuals. Ask anyone who worked at the pre-revolutionary Canary what it was like.

Ultimately, this is a politics of endless re-litigation, of ‘Jeremy should start his own party’, and of urging anyone remotely left-wing who gets a platform to do the same.

Yes, Corbyn was treated badly. But this band of Corbyn’s fandom are keeping themselves looking back at the heady days of 2018 to the detriment of building any meaningful resistance here in 2023. Instead, they’d rather lament the Corbyn days gone by, and urge anyone remotely left-wing to become Corbyn 2.0. Case in point – every time Mick Lynch appears on TV.

Moving on from Corbyn

But, Provisional Corbyn people miss the big points. First, that people like Lynch (and militant union members) are far better positioned to practically improve their own lives than any political party or politician ever could be. Parliament is where the ruling class goes to manage its affairs. It’s where radicalism goes to die. Formulating a progressive politics around elections is a failure of imagination and analysis.

Secondly, that this is a zombie politics. It shambles on long after the moment has passed with just an echo of the energy which animated the Corbyn movement.

The question needs to stop being how do we re-litigate that defeat. It needs to be how we build working class confidence and power in new ways, outside ruling class institutions like Parliament – or, indeed, the film tent at Glasto.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Raph_PH, cropped to 1910 x 1000, licenced under CC BY 2.0.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Fuck Glenton & all who sail with him. Fuck his elitist my life experiences are more worthy & 400 miles to the left of yours. You smug purist cunt. You are the worst of us & the embodiment of the congenital failure of the left to cohere & forge the changes that we are all pretty much aware are required before any meaningful progress may be made.

      The ‘provisional Corbynistas’ that you (& the mainstream Tory media, it must be said) so gleefully deride are on the whole (you correctly assess) relatively nascent activists. They (we) are not generally leaders ourselves, many are still struggling to find their feet in an unfamiliar environment & against the indoctrination that they have been force fed since day 1. They (we) do not deserve or require contempt from those we turn to for guidance & support.

      It is true that real, effective, radical change cannot be achieved until the capitalist system is ended & ritually slaughtered, but until that day we are forced to work with what we’ve got. Parliamentary reform while weak & inadequate is at least a marginal improvement & Corbyn’s manifesto & agenda did offer that while Stürmer’s does not. No wonder people are still grieving & desperate to cling on to the straws of solidarity that they have found.

      While many may indeed be hoping for a Corbyn 2.0, it is necessary & important to burnish & maintain the flame of radicalism & not piss on it. These are dreadful & desperate times for all of us & we need to come together & go forward in unity & determination. It serves no purpose & is counterproductive to snipe at each other from within when our real enemies are outside & as rapacious & ravenous as ever.

      The Canary, Skwawkbox & others are essential to keep our commitment & energy focused & on target. Do not make these spaces as discouraging & offensively repellent as the others, do not return our resolve to apathy again.

      Educate, agitate, organise Comrades.

    2. Where do you get off on insulting socialists and Jews purged from the party? Maybe you’re just bored or got out of the wrong side of the bed. You have added nothing but have already lost subscribers and put the backs up of would be allies. Well done for stroking your ego and adding to the greenhous gases. This isn’t truth telling, its pure vanity.

    3. From my perspective you seem to be missing the point. While some are just in backward looking nostalgia mode I see the Corbyn effect as the realisation that there is a huge number of voters in favour of the policies Corbyn figureheaded. Corbyn won’t be the leader of that new movement but someone will. If we want change then it has to be done through parliament with all its faults. If Starmer’s Labour Party will got on board with full PR voting the whole political landscape will change.

      1. There is little evidence to support your theory that PR of some kind would have a transformative effect. Germany has PR and its Left is in tatters, with a Green party that is more militaristic than our own Tories.

    4. I am a film maker and someone who has tried to organise a free viewing of this film which has been stopped because the venue received a Letter from the Campaign Against Antisemitism containing veiled threats should they not instantly cancel the screening, The same letter informing them that their discussions with Glastonbury had led to it ‘admirably’ being banned there.
      You haven’t seen the film yet accuse its makers in the language of the Daily Mail Screening this film is not about Fandom and not actually about Corbyn.
      It is about Censorship and the power of factions to decide what we can and can’t see. It’s about stopping people seeing another side of what went on in the Labour Party, the Forde report and antisemitism that the MSM and TV wilfully ignored or wilfully twisted.
      Airbrushing the Corbyn years from History and preventing a Socialist Prime Minister ever running this country I would say is bloody relevant to today .
      Our country, especially since Johnson, is now controlled by a repressive autocracy. Peaceful Protest is criminalised, the NHS is in its deliberately orchestrated death throes, Brexit and Covid a total disaster for everyone except Rees Mogg and co and their billionaire cronies.
      Censorship and shooting the messengers ((Assange, Just Stop Oil) the closing down of protest are exactly what is stopping a ‘meaningful resistance’.
      Had Corbyn’s mild agenda , as you call it, won in 2019 this country would undoubtably have been a decent place to live and not a cesspit it has become
      Knowledge is power. History matters.
      The hundred thousand young people who supported and cheered Corbyn at Glastonbury THAT generation has the right to know how they were robbed of their hope. That’s the last thing the Establishment wants. That’s why there is this concerted effort to stop them finding out?
      Censorship -coupled with propaganda – that’s what keeps people from uniting.
      I repeat Knowledge is power and that’s how you rally the people to action. Not sitting up there on your high horse mocking the messengers.

    5. Yes, Corbyn had flaws and perhaps now others have more to offer. However it’s very wrong to attempt to grade those who have given it a shot (in Corbyn’s case, life-long) and knock those who you argue are now represent ‘the past’. You are continuing the work of those who stop at nothing to bring down any perceived threat to Israel’s apartheid administration. Your argument is reminiscent of the way racism has been graded, putting antisemitism at the peak. All racism is to be fought against but only antisemitism has been singled out as requiring special treatment. Shame on you.

    6. The same special treatment is shown in the anti-boycott bill, now going through parliament, in which Israel is actually singled out by name i.e. above all others, as deserving a blanket ban on any sanctions on that country whatever it does to the Palestinians.

    7. I think I might have taken this a bit more seriously if the author had concentrated a little more on WHO is trying to write Corbyn out of history, and WHY.

      The same people, as it happens, who have decided that a socialist Labour candidate for the upcoming job of North East mayor – and also the most popular Labour candidate – should not be allowed to stand, on the grounds that he once shared a stage with Ken Loach.

    8. It’s time I moved the f… on from The Canary, I think.

      The man needs more respect than that wherever you are on the political Left/Right slider. Your article does nothing to persuade me otherwise.

    9. “we should put [Corbyn’s defeat] in context: the result for most of us wasn’t Stalin- or Franco-esque gulags (excepting migrants and so on). That’s real defeat. We just got more time being governed by Tory wankers.”

      Those “Tory Wankers” have used the four years since that defeat to drive millions more into poverty, accelerate their destruction of the NHS, delay life-saving measures in the pandemic, (let alone all their anti-democratic measures). How many thousands of people have died in the last four years as a result of those policies? Every single one of those deaths is a “real defeat” for that person and their loved ones.

      If you cannot comprehend the staggeringly different history we would have experienced if Corbyn’s Labour had won, please stop writing until you have read enough real history to understand it.

    10. Yeah, fair enough if you say so, I guess it’s time for the adults in the room to accept that Starmer is the best possible thing we can ever have and all those antisemitism allegations were probably true right?

      We’ve all had our fun with socialism but it’s time to accept that Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell have been right all along, is that what you’re saying?

    11. Well boohoo for you.
      Watch the fkin film before you pontificate.
      Why on earth would I let go of the best stick to beat the conniving underhanded labour RWers with?
      I want comeuppance for what they did to Dianne Abbot, for a start.
      And we really need to disarm this fake AS bullsht, dont think it wont come back.
      And I want everybody to know what the billionaire press did, because they will do it again.

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