Why the Labor Left should embrace Jeremy Corbyn

In the Summer 2016 Edition of Challenge, Andrew Giles MP wrote of Jeremy Corbyn's success in the UK Labour Leadership contest. Giles, whilst indicating there was much we can learn from Corbyn's victory, concedes he would not have voted for him if he were eligible. In response, NSW Young Labor Left member Chris Warren writes why the Australian Labor Left should be more supportive of Corbyn and inspired by his victory.

I would have voted for Jeremy Corbyn, and the Socialist Left should be inspired by his victory.

Like a lot of Young Labor Left activists, I was very personally moved by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn is clearly a genuinely nice person - he appears to have very little ego and is clearly surprised and humbled by his own victory. He did not initially want to run in the Labour leadership, but did so under the expectation he was putting forward a point of view and not the possibility that he would actually win. The movement he generated both propelled and drafted him into the position. I find it really admirable that he is taking on this role out of a sense of duty rather than a sense of ambition. 

Jeremy Corbyn is an avowed socialist, trade unionist and anti-war campaigner. His positions are reasonable - he's a non-interventionist, supports unilateral nuclear disarmament, supports a National Health Service "free at the point of use", increasing workers' rights to take industrial action, publicly run rail transport, and wants to increase government expenditure in social housing. Most of the ALP's Socialist Left members share similar views. He is not advocating for a return to a command economy in Britain, he is not calling for bosses to be rolled up in carpet and tossed into the Thames.

Corbyn has run a very effective opposition so far. You might be surprised to think that with all the headlines of shadow cabinet reshuffles and Michael Foot-esque Remembrance Day criticisms from the Tory press, he would be doing a bad job. He is, in fact, doing a pretty good job. He forced the Government down on cuts to working tax credits, forced them to back out of an ethically questionable Saudi prisons contract, blocked a substantial amount of public service cuts and did quite a good job of explaining how infrastructure spending cuts resulted in the serious flood damage seen in North England last year and this year. The results of a number of council by-elections since the 2015 general election are showing that predominately working class protest voters, voters that have strayed to UKIP, are switching off to those right wing parties in droves and voting Labour again. This is an enormous boon for Labour in Britain's FPTP system.

I think that the Socialist Left as a political organisation should have discussed and celebrated Corbyn's victory more than it did. There have been few public statements from Left party officials or MP's about Corbyn and I have not seen any in direct support of Corbyn. I imagine many have views that they share in private, but it is impossible for rank and file members to know them. I am genuinely surprised that Corbyn and the political organisation surrounding him, a political organisation ideologically very similar to our own in many respects, could take control of a sister party and that fact be discussed as little as it has been.

I think it is important for the Socialist Left's culture to talk about this more. Jeremy faces considerable challenges. The Right, with their considerable capital and influence in media, political life and the corporate and business world are absolutely rabid to destroy him. It's easy to let him be portrayed as unelectable and fringe but the truth is that his opinions aren't substantially different to the mainstream of the ALP Socialist Left. We should learn from Corbyn's victory but we should also embrace it - one day one of our own will snatch the leadership away from the Labor Right. We too will have to defend and fight for socialist values while trying to form government, just like Jeremy Corbyn.

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  • commented 2016-03-13 06:13:44 +1100
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  • commented 2016-03-03 12:24:09 +1100
    Absolutely spot on, well said. One quibble though, I think you’ll find some Labor MPs congratulated Jeremy on his victory.