Corbyn’s left: naive, or just ‘not arseholes’?

At the No More War event at Parliament Square in August. A Creative Commons stock photo.

At the No More War event at Parliament Square in August. A Creative Commons stock photo.

So Jezz Corbyn’s star continues to rise, and the debate rages on not between Labour and Tory but between three factions of Labour, described thus:

  1. the people who like Corbyn’s ideas and plan to vote for him as leader of the Labour Party
  2. the people who like Corbyn’s ideas but think he can’t become leader because he’s unelectable and because his relatively moderate policies can’t work despite broad public support ‘because The Market’, basically
  3. Tories who for some reason joined Labour

Let’s ignore Labour’s right-wing ‘Progressives’ since they need to just get in the sea, and talk about the first and second groups. I’m a member of the Scottish Greens and while I think the position of Greens wanting to vote for Corbyn is defensible for various reasons I won’t be doing it myself. However, we Greens get the accusations currently being aimed at Corbyn supporters by well-meaning ‘liberals’ – that we’re naive, too idealistic, that socialism is so last century and we need to stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen – all the time so I feel like I’m qualified to comment here.

So! I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Our current political situation in the UK is unsustainable insofar as I consider part of ‘sustainability’ to be ‘not causing the misery and death of untold numbers of the poor and sick’. Your definition may differ but for me a prerequisite for a sustainable society is that everyone has enough to eat and a roof over their heads. We do not currently live in that society.

What I’m seeing a lot of right now: “This incoherent lefty option probably isn’t sustainable.” On the face of it I’m inclined to agree. It’s pretty hard to run headlong leftward as a country (or as a recently seceded former part of a country for that matter, *cough*Scotland*cough*) while the rest of the world is driving right.

It’s also nigh-on impossible to call for compassion when compassion basically no longer exists at an institutional level, where the ideological narrative around a certain very specific type of fairness (where ‘fairness’ means the poor and vulnerable suffering for the sins of the rich and corrupt) is so strong that it trumps even pragmatism. Greece tried it and we saw what happened there.

So yeh, leftwing policies aren’t exactly an easy sell these days. But give me some other options. Give me an option for reducing the suffering of the many that isn’t higher top-rate taxation, rent capping, renationalisation, more money to public services, a living wage, land reform, more community ownership, higher corporation tax, a universal basic income. Tell me another way.

‘Cause I’ll tell you what, manufactured austerity and a blind adherence to trickle-down economics may be said to be ‘working’ only if you completely ignore the growing section of society who are stuck in a cesspool of poverty, homelessness, benefit sanctions, hunger, and systematic and deliberate victimisation by the state.

The routes to a genuine opportunity for real change? I see a few (in approximate order of likelihood):

  • global pandemic
  • world-spanning domino-effect natural disaster
  • disaster from space (collision etc)
  • violent revolution
  • nuclear war
  • zombie apocalypse
  • alien invasion
  • Biblical Armageddon

I’m not in a position to control those events. Some of them are inevitable. Others less likely. But I can’t make them happen. So given the world I’m apparently stuck in, I don’t see what’s so wrong with me voting with a clear conscience for some options that might work over options that demonstrably don’t.

Folk talk about this adherence to principles of non-violence and compassion for the unfortunate as naive, out-of-touch, unrealistic in today’s cutthroat, capitalist global market. If my stance on this makes me one of the ‘loony left’, so be it. I don’t think an ability to compromise your morals and dismiss cruelty for the sake of short term stability is something to be proud of.

If making these calls in the name of some highfalutin lefty principles (where ‘principles’ means feeling physically incapable of voting for policies that will actively hurt society’s most vulnerable people) dismantles the country completely and plunges us into some sort of ‘incoherent’ socialist nightmare, well, at least we tried. We were suffering anyway.

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