Post-Leninism: Two thought experiments
If you have a bit of time to spare, have a read of Paul Anderson & Kevin Davey’s piece on the trajectory of British Leninism after 1989? If you haven’t, let me give you a short version of the thing that has sometimes allowed this fractious bunch to work together over the past 25 years:
Their uniting belief is this: The world is getting worse. More brutal and exploitative. This is all the fault of The West, a place that is hypnotised by the US where “democracy” (complete with Pilger scare-quotes) is only a manufactured form of consent. If something bad happens in the world, neoliberalism is to blame.
Consequently, there are a number of bourgeois delusions that us reformists are labouring under.
You may think that the ongoing catastrophe in the Middle East is down to the murderous, fascistic strongmen and their allies, dancing on the strings pulled by Saudi and Iranian theocrats?
You may imagine that, maybe, Islamist nutcases have their own reasons for their murderous rampage?
You may suppose that when some idiot walks into a Parisian concert call and tries to slaughter everyone in it, that pulling the trigger places a fair bit of responsibility on their shoulders?
If you think these things, you would be wrong Comrade.
In both cases, liberal democracies are the real culprits! Foreigners can’t have any agency of their own, can they? And the only way to STOP THE CUTS is have a clear message that neoliberalism is evil, innit?
This ahistorical, and slightly racist worldview also finds some echoes outside the left. Humanity is prone to a bit of solipsism now and then, and the ‘it’s all about us’ line lets us all to be part of an exciting Orientalist parlour game. Its appeal can also be seen in the narcissistic ‘martyrdom’ selfie videos left behind by British Islamists such as Mohammed Siddique Khan or Shehzad Tanweer.
What has this to do with the Labour Party?
This is a position that also treats the centre-left as part of the problem, not as an objective ally. It was Pat McFadden’s forensic pinning of Corbyn to this worldview (and this is Corbyn’s worldview) that meant that he had to go.
McFadden, almost alone in the Parliamentary Labour Party, had hit the nail. Most of them still think he’s some kind of beardie pacifist. A latterday George Lansbury. At the risk of sounding like one of the #jezwecan internet army, “wake up, sheeple!”
Labour is turning into a party that is focussed on only one priority: the need to establish a hard-left micro-party. The public interest is not a factor here. As such, being part of ‘the Labour project’ is, in some ways, less respectable than being part of the Tory one. As James, Martyn and Alan put it…
“We do not just ‘disagree’ with the Corbyn-Milne-Stop the War-Livingstone tendency. We think of these people as our ‘enemies’ in the same sense that union-busting and environment-despoiling bosses are.”
Two Big Red Buttons
Here are two short thought experiments that will help rouse us from our slumbers. I’ll call them the ‘Two Big Red Buttons’
Red Button #1: Imagine it’s May 2015. You are Jeremy Corbyn sitting in a room with your mates. A genie appears and a big red button materialises on the table in front of you. The Genie says (in that big voice that Genies have):
“Jezza! You can have a post-Leninist party in the UK. A few dozen councillors and two or three MPs, including yourself. You won’t ever be in government, but you get the UK Placard Waggling Convenor franchise for the next fifteen years, and you get to dream of being there to provide the leadership needed ‘when the crisis comes’. All you have to do is press that red button in front of you.”
Personally, I think that the genie wouldn’t get to finish the sentence before that button would be punched. What do you think?
Red Button #2: The Genie then has a second gift and a brand new red button.
“Jezza, as leader of your new, small, sustainable post-Leninist party, if you press that button, you will get to wreck the reformist Labour Party — a distraction and rival.”
Again, if you ask me, I think that button would be hammered into small bits within seconds. All of the people who are now around The Office of the Leader of the Opposition would be stamping on it.
And what conclusions can you draw from all of this? Are you still in the “it’ll all blow over with a few crappy election results” school? Corbyn won’t stand down when electoral results turn sour. That’s the point. He won’t stand down at all, no matter how bad things get. To do so would be to throw away the greatest opportunity a bunch of obsessive misfits have ever had.
Labour MPs have to either drive him out now, or get out now and take the risk. The post-Leninist project has already advanced further than it should have been allowed to and it isn’t going to end well.