Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Pains and Populism


11/08/2015 by socialistfight

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Pains and Populism

Comment by Gerry Downing  11 August 2015


Flip-flop Andy Burnham says Labour “simply cannot abstain” on the Tories Welfare Bill and then abstains!

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn might yet prove to be the most important political event of the year in global terms. I mean for the raising of the class consciousness of the world working class and driving it in a revolutionary direction.

This rising of the working class, the poor and oppressed began in Tunisia with self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010 and moved on to Egypt, Both had a very significant organised militant working class. But the political leaders of the class were reformist and centrist. The CIA, via the AFL/CIO and their NGOs moved quickly to recruit and compromise the new independent TUs in Egypt in particular to isolate them from revolutionary influence. The political gyrations of the SWP s group, the Revolutionary Socialists with their ambulance chasing; vote for Morsi, support the army led ‘revolution’ to overthrow him etc. led only to absolute confusion.

The CIA, in open collaboration with Islamic fundamentalists, seized control of the Arab Spring in Libya from the beginning and Syria after a few weeks, they crushed the uprising in Bahrain with Saudi troops and are now seeking to crush the Yemen. Turkey are assisting ISIS, despite bombing them in Syria. Of course their real target is the PKK in northern Iraq and Syria, which they bombed at the same time.

But the problems for US and EU imperialism in Ukraine are deeper, their methods of supporting open fascist forces far more problematic and these fascists may yet overthrow the pro US Kiev regime, making support for them even more difficult. And reports from the Donbass clearly confirm that following the victory at Debaltseve Putin and the right oligarchs in control of NovoRússia are faced with an increasingly class confident working class. Hence the increasing desperate defence of the right nationalist Putin as some sort of a substitute for Joe Stalin in some of today’s Stalinist circles .

The crisis unleashed by the economic collapse of 2007-8 saw the rise in Europe and the USA of the short-lived Occupy movement, a reflection of the crisis facing huge sections of the middle class, whose methods and social attitudes were contemptuous of the organised working class under the guise of contempt for bureaucracy. In reality it was contempt for the class itself. And this movement parented the rise of left populism, a cross class anti austerity programme linked to nationalism.

Spain's Podemos (We can) Party secretary general Pablo Iglesias (C) speaks during a news conference evaluating Greece's election results, in Madrid January 26, 2015.

Pablo Iglesias (centre), the secretary general of Spain’s Podemos (We can) Party, A left populist, anti-working party

These left populist movements are the Scottish National Party, Sinn Fein in Ireland, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece. In France and Britain right populism have captured that ground and both the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and Left Unity in Britain have therefore been stymied by Marine le Pen and Nigel Farage. Marina Prentoulis, the British spokeswoman for Syriza, made this clear last February. These populist nationalist movements were “neither of the left nor the right”.

The article by Marina Prentoulis and Lasse Thomassen on 27 January 2015, acknowledges that they are in the same political category as the right populists Joerg Haider (Austria, died 2008), Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage projects:

“A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of populism. This time it is not the far right populism of Haider, Le Pen and Farage, but a new left populism challenging not just the parties of the right but also the social-democratic parties and the traditional parties on the left.” [1]

They have more in common with the Scottish National Party and Sinn Fein in Ireland – left petty bourgeois nationalist political formation with no connection with the organised working class and therefore no pressure from below apart from electoral considerations. Therefore having mobilised for elections and won as in Scotland and Greece the overwhelming pressure comes from finance capital and their Troika.

We acknowledge that all the above movements are a product of the crisis and an expression of the deep felt needs of the oppressed working-class and poor but also vast sections of the middle class (defined subjectively and politically not objectively) to fight austerity. That was the motivation for the rejection of Labour in Scotland, that is the reason for the election of Syriza and the rise of Sinn Fein in the south of Ireland and Podemos in Spain. But the contempt for the organised working class seen in the Occupy movement persisted, now politically expressed as populism.

Until those right Labour MPs like Frank Field and Margaret Beckett made the terrible error in nominating Jeremy Corbyn in what they though was a patronising gesture to the working class and its leftist champions before they were finally finished off by Liz Kendell, today’s Blair Mark2. Never was there a more spectacular miscalculation, the Geni is out of the bottle, the Frankenstein monster is loose and the organised working class is back.

How gratifying it was to see Andy Burnham make a complete fool out of himself by abstaining on the Welfare Bill that he said he opposed in order to unite the Labour party to defeat the Bill! Labour could have defeated the Bill then and there by the simple tactic of voting against it as some 30 Tories abstained. The impeccable logic of this nonsense has cost him the leadership election surely and may be seen as the single act that got Corbyn elected.

No doubt the anti austerity sentiments of the class in Britain are no more heartfelt and sincere than those in the rest of Europe or the world. Maybe less so in many cases, certainly Greece is angrier and more oppressed. But in Britain Corbyn is backed by the majority of the trade unions and by 152 constituency parties, with Andy Burnham in second place with 111, then Yvette Cooper with 106 and Liz Kendall with 18. What a change from even a few months ago, who apart from Marxists would have suspected that this leftism still existed?

So this is the crucial difference in Britain. The battle is now to be waged within the organised working class. Crucially we are certain that the vote from the not-so-left Executive of Unite must be a result of the movement from below. But Len McCluskey wanted Andy Burnham, similarly with other unions. Even in the GMB a split in the leadership caused by the cheering for Corbyn in the Dublin Conference on 7-11 June and the booing and jeering for Kendall, Cooper and Burnham thwarted ‘Sir’ Paul Kenny and forced a no nomination position for fear of open warfare.

And this makes Jeremy Corbyn a working class leader, albeit a left reformist economic Keynesian one (see editorial) that seeks to reform unreformable capitalism. And therefore there is an obligation of all serious class fighters, all socialists, communists and Trotskyists to support him critically but unequivocally in this election.

We insist that even though the same crisis and desire to fight austerity that has motivated forces like Tsipras in Greece, Pablo Iglesias in Spain, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland and Ireland’s Gerry Adams, even though they may be leftists they are not of our class. They are left populist nationalists, like Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia and many others. Corbyn is of our class, his candidature draws the class lines, the others blur and confuse it. We can turn the whole class to the left and towards revolutionary politics internationally if we handle this struggle correctly politically.

Joint the Labour party to fight now, even if he doesn’t win the lines are drawn. This is the biggest opportunity in a generation to turn the neo-liberal tide. Political battles will, of course, be severe amongst those who want a radical reform and those who want a revolution and all the positions in between. But pitch in there in your thousands and let the battle begin; these are the inevitable labour pains of a new movement. This is vital, not only for the British working class but for the entire global class from Beijing and Tokyo to all of Africa, Europe and South America to the belly of the beast itself, the US of A. We cannot built socialism in a single country. Revolutionary internationalism, Trotskyism, is back.


[1] The winds are changing: a new left populism for Europe by Marina Prentoulis,

2 thoughts on “Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Pains and Populism

  1. Caupo says:

    I can hardly understand why french NPA is taken as a populist mouvement, as Siriza or Podemos. NPA is a sinking boat made of every kind of “trotskyst” tendancy and others which go from crise to crise and has been since the Lybian crisis, almost direct support of US imperialism. They are just marginals to the class fight in France, both electorally and in the working class fight where they are almost inexistant and going down.
    In France there is nothing similar, by far, as those greeck and spanish middle class mouvements as Siriza and Podemos.
    The nearest but not the same is “Front de Gauche” (Left Front) which is more of a “bougreois-working class front” than a populist one. The Communist party is their main component with one sort of populist leader (but somewhat diferent) leadinghis “Parti de Gauche” (left party) which has gathred every demoralised, old, tired “gauchistes” (leftists) and other socialdemocrats or “keynnesians”. Not a party but followers of Mélenchon.
    Mélenchon has made of his support of siriza and Podemos its “Horse of Battle” but, with the last treason of Sipras, he has taken distances with him…and shut his mouth for a time. Just the customary manouver of every politician: to make himself forgotten for a while and then come back more freshly.
    Every try, coming from people who are willing to mount a similar mouvement as Podemos has failed miserably. And is not from lack of petit-bourgeois in France beeing Le Monde Diplomatique one of their most influent newspapers between that milieu.
    This perhaps because the crisis in France is not as strong as in Spain or Greece, but also because the working class here in France won’t let her embark on Populism, not even the Marine LePen one, a sort of more radical right wing policies with some hopes to win election because the ones who vote Left (and are deeply desapointed) just do not go to cast a vote.
    In France there is nothing as Podemos or Siriza and NPA is whatever you want (rotten in my opinion) but not a populist mouvement, more likely the rotten remains of a Pabloite degenerescense.


  2. […] to channel the awoken British Lion, in fact the rise of Corbyn though understated, is the political event of the year.  A determining factor will be the young people who the campaign of JC has motivated, […]


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