Here are two links via which you can purchase Liverpool Labour movement activist Alan Gibbons’ new novel, Winds of October, set against the background of the Russian Revolution.
Letters from an encouraged Corbynite #11:
A sign of the difficulties Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents have dealing with his rise and, much more importantly, the emergence of the movement around him, is the way they constantly shift their line of attack. The initial allegation was that he was unelectable. Unfortunately for those who put forward this view, Corbyn won two leadership elections and came close to winning Theresa May’s snap General Election, adding ten per cent to Labour’s vote share. Opponent Jess Phillips today admits in the Times that she nearly drove off the road when she heard the exit poll. Jeremy had, after all, saved her seat. There is a strong and plausible argument that Labour would have won had some of his internal critics not opposed him so vociferously.
They say he is too dogmatic then, in the same breath, too pragmatic. He is said to be too firmly attached to the principles of socialism, but too flexible about Europe. Here, there is an argument that his very pragmatism has been positive. People who say Labour should have been an insistently pro-EU, pro-second referendum party would do well to look at the performances of the Liberals and SNP in the election.
Then there is the pressure point approach. You choose an issue and employ the mass media and internal opponents to make it the latest moment of shame: Venezuela, Hamas, Ireland, allegations of anti-semitism, Traingate. The latest wheeze, a regurgitation of a theme that has run and run, is that ‘Corbynism’ is a cult, his supporters unthinking drones wailing ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ This view is pressed today in Murdoch’s Times. Columnist Nigel Farndale, a thinker of quite monstrous inadequacy, bemoans the fact that he was once virtually kidnapped to go on a Young Communist League trip to Russia. Yes, you guessed it, he sees parallels with today’s Corbynistas. Mr Corbyn’s support is made up of nineteen-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears Komsomol Pioneers who will one day grow out of their infantile obsession.
Poet, actor, novelist and performer extraordinaire Benjamin Zephaniah answers this nonsense well in today’s Guardian: ““It’s not about being a Corbyn fan. It’s not about the cult of personality. Corbyn is not even, in my view, a very charismatic speaker. People laugh at him sometimes, and say he sounds like a teacher, and he does, but what he says makes sense. It’s not about worshipping him; it’s about being desperate for something different. In terms of mainstream politics, he’s the best thing that’s happened here for a long time.”
This article, patient, considered and sensible, is the answer to the frothy nonsense of the anti-Corbynistas. Yesterday, these intellectual inadequates were opining in endless column inches that May would win the General Election by between sixty and one hundred and ten seats. She would annihilate the Labour Party for a generation. Instead, Labour became more electable than it has for years and in a manner continental left parties envy, leaving May dead in the water and the psephologists and armchair experts in Highgate, Hampstead and Hampshire looking rather silly.
Like many others, I joined the Labour Party because of Corbyn’s leadership bid. I have attended three of his mass rallies. The chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ are fun, often self-deprecating. His speeches are policy-driven. His appeal is based on a revolt against austerity. Few of the people I know who flooded into the Labour Party are starry-eyed or prone to cult worship. They are people who want an honest, policy-driven and consciously socialist politics. They were delighted with the Manifesto which, with some refinements, could see the party in office quite soon. Many criticise this or that aspect of the Corbyn project, but defend the movement fiercely because it is a break from caution, compromise and neoliberalism.
One final myth. During the last leadership campaign, Corbyn’s opponent Owen Smith said Jeremy was a campaigner, not a man whose attention was fixed on winning a General Election. That view looks pretty silly now.
This is what the mother of Heather Heyer said
About her daughter.
She said: somehow I almost feel that this is what she was born to be,
a focal point for change.
Nobody is born to hate
So Heather took a stand against hatred.
Nobody is born to see their fellow human beings
As other just because
Of the colour of their skin.
So Heather was in that street
With people as diverse
As the flowers in the field
To take a stand against racism,
We will remember Heather Heyer
The best way we can, by taking our own stand
By taking our own stand against racism,
Because we are as diverse
As the flowers in the field.
We will remember what the mother
Of Heather Heyer said
About her daughter
Because this is what we were born to be,
Focal points of change.
Vince Cable says Corbyn must ‘end his infatuation with the government of Venezuela.’
Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.
Vince Cable was a minister for four of those years.
Sometimes, in one frothing paragraph, the chatterati of the better-off suburbs of London Town demonstrate their gob-smacking ignorance of the politics of the people across the UK.
Today, in the Observer, the home stable of getting the last General Election absolutely wrong, Nick Cohen fulminates: “Last week, the British Election Study concluded voters fled to Labour because they thought Jeremy Corbyn was offering a soft Brexit. A day of judgement will come when gullible Labour supporters realise the far left is more concerned with defending the power of tyrants in Venezuela than the jobs of British workers in the single market.”
This is a net of inchoate Guardianista prejudices held together by a frustration that Labour failed to succumb to the electoral annihilation every sub-Macronian curmudgeon wanted. If Cohen were to examine some of the polling evidence, he would have discovered the balancing evidence that a tiny sliver of Labour voters actually thought Brexit the most important issue. It was austerity. He might have examined the polling evidence from a slew of council by-elections this week that showed Labour on the march in Kent and West-Sussex, extending their influence in Tory and UKIP areas.
I think I am on pretty safe ground in saying that I knocked on rather more doors than Cohen during the election campaign. I was out every day for three weeks in three different constituencies, my own Liverpool Walton, the safest Labour seat in the UK with 85.7% of the vote, Wirral West which we transformed from a marginal to a 5,000 Labour win and Crewe, which we won by a whisker. How often did Brexit come up unsolicited? Four times. That’s right. Four. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It does. But for most working people, Brexit was the prism that refracted poverty, poor pay, exclusion and frustration at seven years of ideologically-fired Tory austerity. You can see that in the poor performance of the very pro-remain Lib Dems and SNP.
I was once in a ‘far left’ organisation, leaving in 1996, so I am the kind of guy who would know lots of the people Cohen attacks here. (Good to see Nick prioritises attacking the Left during a summer when the Tories are in meltdown, by the way).
Are my Labour friends and non-Labour socialist friends transfixed by all things Venezuela? Actually, the commonest attitudes are firstly, that it is a distraction tactic by the Tories, trying to divert attention from their infighting and their press-ignored U-turn on energy pricing, and secondly, that the situation in Venezuela is sobering, but highly complex and much more to do with the historic fault-lines of politics in the United States’ backyard of Latin America than Labour CLPs jumping on the ship to form a new International Brigade. Venezuela needs patient, nuanced analysis, not sloganeering.
Finally, of course, Cohen lets the cat out of the ideological bag, squealing that Labour doesn’t care about the jobs of British workers when jobs are actually the prime focus of the party in its flexible approach to Brexit. Cohen is not trying to shift Labour policy. It is not his concern. He doesn’t have a practical, principled and flexible approach to the concerns of the working class because he doesn’t live among it or campaign on behalf of its interests. That is the job of people like you and me. I spent my Friday night with Labour friends discussing how to prepare our organisation for an election victory and collecting supplies for our local food bank. I will be on the ISS picket line in Liverpool next week. What will you be doing, Nick? Maybe you will be insulting ordinary Labour voters, all intelligent and discerning people, as ‘gullible’ in you column.
Winds of October is my next novel. It will be published in October, of course, by Circaidy Gregory. Winds of October is the first volume of a trilogy following the lives of a group of Petrograders during the critical years 1917-1921, from the February revolution to the Kronstadt rebellion. On this page, I will be keeping potential readers up to date with developments.