Beware the Poisoned Chalice

Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn is walking around with a permanent grin on his face. He is rightly delighted with the achievement of the Labour Party in Britain’s recent general election. Given the two years of relentless abuse and ridicule that’s been heaped upon him by the mainstream media, together with the appalling treachery of most of his fellow Labour MPs who tried, but failed miserably, to oust him as leader, the result of the June 8 ballot was a ringing endorsement and validation of his remarkable accomplishment.

The victory of the Conservative Party over Labour was so marginal that they are compelled to make a deal with the devil, in the guise of the fanatical Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, in order to have any control at all of the British parliament. It’s a deal that is already looking precarious as it likely contravenes the Good Friday Peace Agreement, and therefore might be illegal. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose pompous hubris provoked the totally unnecessary general election is, to quote one of her own supposed colleagues, George Osborne, “a dead woman walking”. The only thing that might be keeping her in office is that no one in their right mind could possibly want the job.

It’s been widely reported that Jeremy Corbyn is already talking about another imminent general election, as a result of the Tories’ fragile condition, and appears to be relishing the chance of forming a Labour government, possibly within a year. But he should be very wary, and think very carefully about whether or not that’s actually a good idea.

The Poisoned Chalice

Britain is in a wretched condition. Four decades of unrelenting capitalistic economic policies by mainly Tory governments, but also the treacherous Blair/Brown Labour governments, have taken Britain to the brink of permanent destitution. Nearly all of the country’s manufacturing base has been either shut down or off-shored to various Third World sweatshops. All of the once publicly-owned utilities such as gas and electricity, water and communications, have been flogged at fire-sale prices to trans-national corporations. Public transport and postal services are now mostly owned by foreign corporations, and just about any public service than can be asset-stripped and looted already has been.

Add to that situation the recent catastrophic decision to split with Europe, Britain’s biggest trading partner. We’re talking about a country that has few natural resources, and almost no heavy industrial capability any more. It has nothing anyone wants, and can’t make anything that can’t be bought cheaper somewhere else, and quite possibly better made. About the only thing that provides some apparent respectability to its economy is a total reliance on its basically criminal financial services – and even these are now leaving the sinking ship, thanks to Brexit. Britain is supposed to be the fifth richest country on the planet, but homelessness is rife and some people are so dependent on charity food banks that they risk starving to death without them.

If all that were not enough, we can also add to the mix the fact that for at least two decades Britain has shamefully involved itself as willing stooge to the US’ illegal military adventures throughout the Arab world. This resulted in the unnecessary deaths of at least a million people (most of whom were defenceless civilians), and ruin and destitution for tens of millions more, causing the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two. Unsurprisingly these despicable actions have resulted in terrorist outrages in the streets of Britain, inspiring the government to introduce ever more restrictions on our rapidly disappearing freedom. Secret courts and press censorship have been routine in Britain for some years, and now there are calls from senior police and military officials to open “internment camps” where literally thousands of people could be locked up without charge or trial.

This is Britain today. Who in their right mind would want to be Prime Minister of such a place?

Corbyn’s Choices

The fact of this largely Tory-made catastrophe will not be lost on the very people who created it. Many Tories chose the “Remain” camp in the recent referendum to split from Europe, including the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne. These people knew what a disaster it would be for Britain to quite the EEC. Now the disaster is imminent they must surely be thinking this is a pretty good time not to be in government.

Given the current extreme vulnerability of the Tory party, it might, in normal circumstances, be a perfect time for political opponents to strike. But these are not normal circumstances, and Jeremy Corbyn would be far better advised to wait, keep his powder dry, bide his time and concentrate on far more important priorities than prematurely rushing to take charge of a government that is almost beyond salvation. He would be better advised to take the view that because this is a wholly Tory-made catastrophe, let Tories take responsibility for fixing it. The next five years of British government will almost certainly produce one calamity after another – no matter who’s in charge. Much better, surely, to be in opposition where you can throw stones, rather than be responsible for the calamities and have stones thrown at you. The next five years could possibly destroy whichever political party is at the helm, so Labour should be very wary about being that party.

So what exactly should Labour’s leadership do?

Fixing the PLP

The first and most urgent problem that needs fixing is for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to unite. It has been terribly divided for the last two years, with a tiny group of Corbyn supporters fighting off the often vitriolic attacks of their own supposed-colleagues who, for the most part, are Blairites – right-wingers scarcely distinguishable from the Tories they’re supposed to be opposing. However, a week can be a long time in politics, and when Jeremy Corbyn entered parliament for the first time since the general election he was greeted with a standing ovation from most of the Labour MPs.

So although perhaps the PLP is finally healing its wounds, more work needs to be done to ensure more widespread unity within the Labour Party. The PLP needs to be re-educated to the fact that it is supposed to be a left-wing organisation. Corbyn is not getting any younger, so more youthful Labour MPs with natural left-wing leanings need to be groomed to take over the helm when Corbyn and the equally important Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell decide to take up well-earned retirements.

Re-education

With immediate effect the Labour Party needs to begin to re-educate the wider population. British people have endured whole lifetimes of right-wing capitalist propaganda. Most are now well and truly indoctrinated capitalists, conditioned to think greed is good, look after number one, and fear and distrust socialism. This vast population of natural conservatives needs to be turned around, to understand how they’ve been tricked to think and act against their own best interests.

Alternative news

To this end, the Labour Party should create an alternative media platform. This should be designed with the long-term aim of replacing the BBC, which has, since its very beginnings, been a tool of the 1%. Initially the Labour Party obviously couldn’t create such an organisation, but it could make a start, design websites and social media platforms whose purpose is keep the population properly informed about the events that shape their lives; something which one day, when properly resourced, could deliver accurate information – from a humane position rather than the monstrous self-serving capitalist media of today, of whom the BBC is the leading representative.

From the very first days of his leadership of the Labour Party Corbyn did a very clever thing. Knowing full well that Britain’s right-wing media cannot be trusted to give him any help, he simply by-passed them and reached out directly to the people. Appealing initially to ordinary Labour Party members – his natural power base – via the party website, he invited questions to be put directly to the Prime Minister during the weekly parliamentary ritual of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). For the first time in history, these sessions were made up of questions composed by ordinary people. And Corbyn never stopped his inspired tactic of sticking like glue directly to his real power base – the British electorate.

For two years Jeremy Corbyn has travelled up and down the country talking directly with the people – bypassing the poisonous mainstream media altogether. This direct contact with the public is primarily responsible for Corbyn’s growing rock-star status. But he hasn’t just been making social calls, he’s been re-educating, giving people an alternative narrative to the one that’s been peddled by the Tories and the complicit mainstream media for many decades.

This reaching out and re-educating that Corbyn has already been doing to the best of his ability needs to be institutionalised by the Labour Party. The people need to be taught that contrary to Thatcher’s infamous lie that “there is no alternative”, there are, in fact, alternatives, and very good ones at that.

Socialism

Arguably the single most important new alternative for people to learn about is an alternative economy. As well-conditioned capitalists, most British people automatically reject the alternative world that’s possible with socialist economics. The knee-jerk responses are automatically wheeled out: it failed in Russia; it’s anti-democratic totalitarianism; socialist “sums don’t add up”… and so on. These are all the inevitable results of the misinformation and outright lies churned out by a capitalist-controlled world. Anyone with just a modest understanding of socialism could easily refute them all. The Labour Party could and should begin re-educating the people to the very real benefits of socialist economics.

Pacifism

During his recent election campaign Jeremy Corbyn was grilled several times over his pacifist leanings. He was often challenged about his position over nuclear disarmament, his opposition to Trident nuclear weapons, claims that he would not “press the button”, and his previous apparent support for the IRA and other supposed “terrorist” organisations. This was clearly a political weak spot for Corbyn, not because there’s anything wrong with his views on these subjects, but because of the public perception that it would be dangerous for a Prime Minister to hold such views.

Like the economy, what’s mainly needed here is re-education of the public. Like many other things, Corbyn isn’t wrong in his opinions about British foreign policy, the British public are wrong in theirs. Conversion of public opinion is seldom a very difficult task, as just about every major war has shown in the past, where previously pacifist or at least indifferent public opinion has been quickly transformed into fanatical war-mongering. Of course, this has invariably been achieved through cynical manipulation of the media, but it suggests that if at least some of the media were managed in a pacifist, humane way the necessary change of public perception could be achieved. Corbyn’s belief that nuclear weapons should be banned, and that British foreign policy is primarily responsible for the terrorism that Britain experienced from both the Irish and now the Islamic world, should become mainstream public opinion – not viewed as the deluded ravings of some isolated deranged geriatric.

The benefits of opposition

Although I’m delighted that Jeremy Corbyn did so well in the general election, and I’m proud of the fact that my vote helped secure his success, I truly hope this is the pinnacle of his success for at least five years. I would not like to see a Labour government for at least that period of time. To understand this position one only needs to think about what would probably happen if another general election was called, within two years say, and a Labour government was returned to power.

First and most crucially, the catastrophic fallout of Brexit would have to be dealt with. Given Britain’s extreme economic weakness, with only a corrupt and largely criminal financial services community providing a fig leaf of respectability to economic data – a community that may have mostly disappeared in two years‘ time – Britain would be in the worst economic shape it’s been in since the end of WW2. That’s not necessarily terminal, but for a socialist Labour government it could well be. Because the very last thing the US government wants to see is a successful pacifist, socialist government anywhere at all, but least of all where it’s most reliable capitalist ally used to be. So if we add a hostile US position together with a crippled economy we get the perfect storm, and a disaster that would ruin the Labour Party, and socialist hopes, forever.

If Jeremy Corbyn was to become Prime Minister, he could not possibly maintain his pacifist socialist ideals and stay friends with the US. The only real hope Britain has for surviving the calamity of Brexit is to establish even closer trading, military, and diplomatic ties to the US. On the face of it there doesn’t seem much in it for Washington – which is not well known for doing anything that doesn’t produce a profit for its corporations. But Britain does have one thing that’s almost priceless to the US – its geography.

Britain is a good sized island that’s only swimming distance from the European mainland. It already provides homes for various US military bases and spy stations. Furthermore, Britain has remained a staunch ally of US imperialism when many other European countries have ranged from barely lukewarm to downright frosty in their attitude towards Washington. A Tory government will almost certainly capitalise on these factors to help survive the aftermath of Brexit. As Japan is the main US proxy to Asia, Britain would likely become the main US proxy to Europe. But how could Corbyn maintain his pacifist socialist credentials, and serve as US lackey to Europe?

Jeremy Corbyn has a golden opportunity at his fingertips. The British public are not yet well enough informed to see the huge benefits of the socialist reforms he would like to implement. They have to be deprogrammed and re-educated. They have to learn about and understand the horrors that have been inflicted by centuries of Tory misrule, so that it’s not socialism they fear, but capitalism. Such a reversal in thinking requires a nationwide effort by the Labour Party. Failure to do this would mean that as soon as things got a little bumpy under a new socialist government it would be easy for the mainstream media to steer the people back towards their capitalist programming, and dispose of socialism, possibly once and for all.

Corbyn should remain in opposition, and avoid Downing Street for at least five years. The people are not yet educated enough to implement the changes he would love to make. So he should use this time to prepare them, and to prepare individual MPs too for the enormous reforms they will need to make throughout government, reforms that could very well become reality in five years, but not in two.

John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. Check out John's books: Fiction: The Road to Emily Bay; Non Fiction: The School of Kindness; The People’s Constitution. Read other articles by John.