Wednesday, June 22, 2016
For Lenin's Tomb
I have completed a quick read of Richard Seymour's new book "Corbyn : The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics" (Verso, 2016). As Seymour runs the well-known blog "Lenin's Tomb", I attempted to submit the following for his relevant comment box - here. But I found that I did not have the skills to break into his system. When my grandchildren aged 11 and 8 next visit me, they can no doubt show me what to do. In the meantime, here are my brief comments. But I doubt whether Seymour will ever see them, unless some kind person forwards him a link.
"I was given your book as a Father's Day present and have read it over the last three mornings, for it is highly readable for anyone with political interests. I feel, however, that its title is somewhat misleading. For although Corbyn's name (which will have helped you to sell the book) appears regularly in chapters 1, 4 and 5; the matters you cover in these are much more related to your sub-heading of "The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics" than they are to your main title of "Corbyn".
Corbyn is presented as little more than a symbol which (especially) newly signed-up Labour Party members have supported in the hope that this will move Labour in a socialist direction. References to Corbyn then mainly disappear in Chapters 3 and 4 as these are centred on Labour's history of socialist shortcomings - shortcomings which you also extend more widely even to the ideas of people such as Stuart Hall and Eric Hobsbawn. The radical hopes which you feel new Labour members share are evidently not fully your own, as you have not become one of them.
Do you feel that these new members are suffering from socialist illusions? For Corbyn (even as a regular rebel) has been active via the Labour Party since his early days in Labour's Youth Section. He has, of course, supplemented this with a wide range of outside campaigning activities. But you cover little about his record in the Labour Party outside of very recent events. Yet parliamentary and other records could have been used by you to spell out his approaches throughout his political life. There is actually much more on such matters just in his Wikepedia entry - here. Do you feel that until his recent lucky break emerged, he was essentially mistaken in sticking with a membership card which you yourself reject? Or has his election as leader shown that it was worthwhile to keep going within the Labour Party, as all that effort might just break in a person's political direction sometime?
You argue that many of Labour's recent Corbynite recruits are young and enthusiastic, and are from working class backgrounds (page 193). This impression may have arisen from the mass meetings during Corbyn's election campaign. But from my own area, it is pattern that is not in operation. The growth in membership is stronger in middle class Tory dominated areas and at its lowest in working class areas. Few new members are young enough to qualify to be Young Socialists. And the small minority who can be attracted to attend Party activities are often elderly. The smallest membership growth is clearly in traditional working class and Labour areas.
(On a minor point : there is a misprint on page 132 where the year 1982 should read 1992. Was Major's "victory in Baghdad" on that page the removal of Kuwait from Saddam's control and the carnage on the "road to Basra"? Or are you referring to something else? "