Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Corbyn-mania is too little and too late for this Green Lefty

The last time that I voted for Labour was in 1997. It was great to see the Tories routed so thoroughly, although I didn’t expect much from the new Labour government. Even these low expectations were confounded though by the timidity of Labour in government.

I think it must have been by about 1998 when the penny finally dropped for me, that is, Labour weren’t just getting away with as much as they thought they could get away with. The realisation dawned on me that new Labour didn’t actually believe in or want to implement anything like traditional social democrat policies. They believed in the neo-liberal consensus established by the preceding Thatcher/Major Tory government.

I had always voted Labour, my family did, this is what we did at elections, without even thinking about it. My dad was a union shop steward for the engineering union (AUEW as it was then) in the 1960s and 1970s. He was often on strike or lock out and left politics was constantly discussed at home.

Come the 2001 general election, I’d had enough of new Labour and decided to vote for the Socialist Alliance, who had a strong candidate running in my constituency, Louise Christian, the human rights lawyer. I reasoned that if enough people voted SA, Labour would take notice and move back to the left. Louise Christian got about 1100 votes, and the Labour government got even worse.

I did notice that the Green party candidate got twice as many votes as the SA in my constituency and looked into the Greens policies, and was pleasantly surprised to find them similar to old Labour ones. At the time I was beginning to get increasingly concerned by climate change as well, or global warming as it was known then. I decided to throw my lot in with the Greens, around my way at least. I didn’t join the Green party at this stage but resolved to vote for them.

Then the whole Iraq war debacle started which led eventually to me joining the Greens, but I also made the discovery around this time of ecosocialism after reading Joel Kovel’s ‘The Enemy of Nature’ subtitled ‘the end of capitalism or the end of the world?’ I started to work for ecosocialism within the Green party joining Green Left pretty much immediately it was formed and am here to this day.

And so to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership this year. It reminds me a bit of Ed Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership in 2010 although on steroids this time. Against expectations Ed beat his brother with a pitch that moved Labour to the left, but not as much as Corbyn is offering this time. People from the Green party flocked to join Labour thinking it was going back to social democracy, but ultimately what radicalism there was, was watered down and Labour fought the 2015 general election on policies that were only a millimetre or so to the left of the Tories.

I wonder whether Corbyn’s ideas will meet the same fate or whether he will be deposed entirely before 2020? His platform is actually not all that left wing despite the hysteria in the media and from the Labour party establishment. Take a look at the Liberal – SDP Alliance manifesto for the 1983 general election and you can see what I mean.

Jeremy Corbyn himself is a decent, principled man and has been a constant thorn in the side of new Labour over the years. I think the Green party should be supportive of his attempt to drag Labour to the left and hopefully he can be persuaded to support introducing a fairer, proportional voting system, for future elections that should keep the Tories out of power for good.

But my thinking has moved on from 1983, 2003 even, and I am now firmly an ecosocialist which is a word I have not heard Corbyn mention. The fact is, old Labour pro capitalist style politics is out dated and completely inappropriate for the contemporary problems that the country and indeed the world faces. And yes, the Green party is not ecosocialist either, but it is closer to it than even the best case scenario (which is unlikely) that a Corbyn Labour party will advocate. I'm staying put, for now at least.  

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