[lbo-talk] The Corbyn Project

Marv Gandall marvgand2 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 4 09:29:14 PDT 2018

Robin Blackburn has a superbly detailed analysis in in the latest New Left Review of the Corbyn leadership’s reform plans and prospects should it form the next British government:


Blackburn's conclusion is sobering, both in terms of the internal impediments to change within the Labour Party and the economic challenges facing a Corbyn government, and is worth quoting at length:

“If the Labour Left now has a real chance of heading a government, it remains a slim one.

"Though—barring accidents—Corbyn’s position as leader seems secure for now, his hold over the party shouldn’t be taken for granted. Strengthened by the enormous influx of 350,000 new members, the Labour Left has advanced through the labyrinthine committee structures. But the organization of the party at national and regional level remains fundamentally undemocratic, with decisions stitched up by small cliques and ‘one member, one vote’ rarely applied. On many of the key committees the balance is held by representatives of the amorphous centre, whose arms can be twisted by regional or trade-union officials to de-rail democratizing initiatives. Corbyn’s present majority on the NEC may prove vulnerable to this sort of pressure.

"Momentum activists are pushing ahead with a modest programme of re-selection, hoping to get Labour Left candidates chosen in around a third of marginal constituencies. But regional party officials, mostly Blairite placemen—with the occasional Blairite placewoman—control much of the selection process, notoriously so in the West Midlands, and have a record of cancelling meetings or excluding members in order to get their way.

"Of the present PLP of 262 MPs, around sixty are hard-core Blairites, operating in tandem with the likes of Peter Mandelson in the House of Lords. Openly antagonistic, they lose no chance to slander Corbyn, but reserve their main efforts for media campaigns against him in the run-up to local and national elections.

“A smaller group, probably forty at most, are genuine Labour Left supporters, chief among them John McDonnell, Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor.

"But the mass of Labour MPs, the middle 160 or so, are simple opportunists. They have an eye on the main chance but few firm commitments. For the time being they have reconciled themselves to Corbyn, thanks to his electoral successes and the slow accumulation of power and patronage in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, as opposed to the party’s HQ at Southside, Victoria, still a right-wing stronghold. But they would desert him in a trice if they smelt a wind blowing in the other direction.

"In office, the Blairite rump will urge a return to austerity and privatization at the first opportunity. The political context for such a venture might be a National Government, as in the 1930s. The sorry fate of Ramsay MacDonald then, or of the Liberal Democrats after 2010, should warn against heeding any such siren song. In order to form a government, Labour may require an agreement with the Scottish National Party (SNP), which could allow for progressive outcomes, but there are no guarantees. The SNP government in Holyrood has been very cautious.

"The economic outlook remains bleak. Given high levels of household debt, a Corbyn government would pay a high political cost if it were forced to raise interest rates at the behest of ‘the markets’. Brexit remains uncharted territory; a perpetually extended ‘transition’, during which very little changes. But tariff wars, currency shocks, rising interest rates, the onset of recession or geo-political turbulence could bring a further buffeting, if not the lorry jams, bankruptcies and empty supermarkets foreseen by Remainers.

“The real danger may not be the ‘cliff edge’ but the status quo of continuing stagnation; already depressed, median British living standards are likely to deteriorate further."

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