The UK’s Labour Party has an outstanding leader in Jeremy Corbyn, an excellent manifesto, and hardworking volunteers who canvassed for their candidates. These are important things to keep in mind, as the inevitable cacophony follows the Tory victory in national elections. That Brexit was the wish of a preponderance of voters is now clear, and it was probably the single most telling consideration. Call it “Little England” if you will, but national feeling is not confined to Scotland, and all politicians do well to take note of strongly felt sentiments about time and place where people live.
Universal dismissal or condemnation of the UK’s people must be directly resisted both as a departure from politics and as a simple form of self-indulgence. Characterizing all with whom one disagrees as “stupid,” or “racist” or other disagreeable terms achieves nothing other than momentary, subjective catharsis. Politics demands more, and indeed progressive politics cannot coexist with that sort of ersatz thinking.
Careerists–those for whom life has meaning only within Parliament–will likely be the first and most vociferous to demand the resignation of Mr. Corbyn and recite a litany of he-should-haves. This is no substitute for sober reflection and comradely discussion, neither of which have anything to do with mere career aspirations, and both of which will be crucially needed in months to come.
Labour needs to be more democratic, not less, with local party members always being the sole actors who decide their party’s candidates. No one should ever be appointed or foisted onto some locale from on high. The party did not “lurch to the left,” as Blairites and other denizens of the faux left will suggest. Labour was not defeated because it stood up for the NHS, for defense of climate, or aid to the poor; it lost because of nationalist sentiments and its defeat was facilitated as always by the relentless fabrications and bias of mass media–including the BBC.
This is not to say that nothing can be done–on the contrary, socialists and their politics are needed as never before. A central truth of this election is that the future was with Labour: young people overwhelmingly favored its platform and candidates, and this is a crucial factor in formulating Labour’s way forward. The young not only embody those with the most to lose in face of climate catastrophe, they also are the incoming work force and those with the energy needed to push for radical social change. Labour must not fail them as the failings of Tory governance continue producing predictable disaster and misery.
Mutualism is necessary in fostering and sustaining a culture of resistance, which is another way of saying socialists should be most active in encouraging informal infrastructures of survival and cooperation. Warming centers, food banks, social recreational get-togethers, and many other forms of solidifying actions must be initiated and sustained. Tory rule will bring cold times to many, including those who have unwisely given them their votes–if not exactly their trust. As the glow of national pride runs up against privatization of the NHS and the absence of social services and effective help become manifest, socialists will have an opportunity to articulate their case, the case that Labour made but which was not sufficiently heeded in this election.
Time is both on our side and against us: on our side in the sense that Tories have no solutions to any of the pressing problems of the UK, and against us in the form of climate degradation. Our voices must not fall silent, or be wasted in mutual acrimony. The politics of social transformation parallel and echo the transformations of global society that must take place for humanity to continue living on this planet. This is the challenge and responsibility of socialists, who always think across borders and arbitrary divisions.
Which leads to my personal note: I say all this as an American, a lifelong citizen of the US. What right have I to give you my opinion about your affairs? What do I know of your lives? The socialist response must be that we are internationalists, directly at variance with delusions of living within any regional or national bubble. We understand better than anyone else that our fate is twined, the outcome of humanity’s struggle requiring solidarity that makes more than a slogan of the old words “an injury to one is an injury to all.” As to how I know your situation, your reading of this provides the substance of the answer. For decades I’ve followed events and especially political developments in the UK, as who would not? Your struggle is my struggle, and the outcome is for us all, as we try to preserve our planet and bring a just society into being.
Look to what is best in socialist politics, and apply that to Labour’s efforts. You can’t do better than that. To lose an election is a setback; to lose your principles and the values that undergird them, is to lose your way.
There’s work to be done, help to be offered, obstacles ahead. Let’s to it, then. Solidarity from across the pond. Always.