Readers of this blog will know that I am a long-time critic of Jeremy Corbyn. I concur with the assessment of Nick Cohen; Corbyn’s links with several unsavoury regimes/groups render his aims immoral ones. There is little point repeating all of these arguments.
Today I want to write about the recent trend of Labour moderates reconciling themselves to the Corbyn Labour party. This has gone on since June, but was particularly conspicuous at the Labour party conference this week. Cases vary, but the phenomenon involves people who once argued against Corbynism on political and moral grounds endorsing Corbyn/at least going a fair way towards reconciling themselves to the man. Though I do not approve of the MPs who are doing this, I can appreciate their predicament. Such people have to consider i) the fact that they ran as Labour candidates in June, ii) various obligations in constituencies and iii) more prosaic matters related to their careers.
I am less sympathetic to journalists and academics. In the last few months, I have seen a number of examples of this tendency in these groups. Such people were once very critical of Corbyn, on both political and moral grounds, but now appear to have reconciled themselves to the Corbyn project. Political objections to Corbyn have admittedly now receded, yet this cannot be said for the moral objections. If the links of Corbyn with Venezuela/the IRA etc. were unsavoury a year ago, I do not see how they are any more wholesome today. Given the looser constraints faced by the journalists and academics who are doing this, one is tempted to arrive at uncharitable conclusions about their commitment to principles they once articulated. As Jamie Palmer said on Twitter in June, if the rise of Corbynism provoked moral alarm two years, it should give rise to more concern now that the man is closer to power.
A further reflection concerns the modest price of such support. The June Labour manifesto is notorious for the extent to which it gave resources to the middle-classes, yet failed to reverse benefit cuts to the poorest. There was even talk about the Labour manifesto being less redistributive than the Tory manifesto; I have also written about why, if one analyses the socio-economics of the Labour and Tory bases, this is unsurprising. Then there is the issue of Corbyn’s supine attitude to the most important challenge of our times: Brexit. If someone has objected morally to Corbynism, it surprises me that such a package could prompt a rethink.
For once, I suspect that this an argument of mine with which some Corbynites will be sympathetic. The ‘moderates’ who are now reconciling themselves to Corbyn don’t fool Momentum; they don’t fool me either.
The German election has inspired some thoughts.
1/ One of the saddest things for me is the decline of the SPD; 20% of the vote makes them a somewhat marginal force in the Bundestag. Critically, such a result also cannot be dismissed as a one-off. SPD has not led a Government since the early 2000s and, even more critically, social-democrats are doing very poorly in most other European countries. For those of us who think that social-democracy is the best way to reconcile individual liberties and socio-economic justice, this is a bleak time indeed.
2/ It goes without saying that it is devastating that AfD are now a serious force in the Bundestag. If you add the votes of the very dodgy far-left Die Linke party to those obtained by AfD, you get a figure of almost 22%. It is terrifying that such parties, who are sympathetic to Putin’s Russia, have more members of parliament than SPD.
3/ I of course think that Merkel/the CDU are totally different to AfD and Die Linke, but I don’t really understand why (in the Anglosphere) at least Merkel is something of a hero on the liberal-left/at least someone who it is not so fashionable to criticize. Even if you approve of the 2015 opening of the borders, which I think could have been done in a more ordered manner, there is the issue of the Eurozone. Let’s not forget that Merkel/CDU gutted southern Europe and almost brought about the collapse of the Euro/whole EU. It is odd that (in the Anglosphere at least) it is more fashionable to criticize the Spanish Conservative Government, who faced a far more constraining set of circumstances than their German counterparts. You can also argue that the European policy of Merkel/CDU was more reckless than that of David Cameron, but that the former were merely luckier than the latter.
4/ On that note, it is also difficult to see a significant change in the Eurozone policy of the new Government. Little changed when SPD were in coalition with CDU; it is therefore pretty unlikely that a coalition which involves the neoliberal FDP will do things differently. This is why I will continue to have reservations about Merkel/the German Government. I deeply admire the commitment of Merkel to liberal-democracy; it is just that her Governments, especially when managing the Eurozone, often take actions which undermine it!