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Friday, 2 June 2017

Jeremy Corbyn on His Socialist Utopia

Many of Corbyn's speeches in the House of Commons could have been given by Lenin or Trotsky (minus a few local details). They have all the Manichean demagoguery of these communists. Clearly, Corbyn, as a socialist, has always been at war with “capitalist democracy” - even if he uses non-socialist democracy to advance socialism (as a kind of Gramscian). Take this example of Corbyn's socialist rhetoric:

The Government, in their obsession with market forces and the triumph of the rich over the poor, are creating a hobo society. That is all they are trying to do with their housing policies... nothing but homelessness and exploitation for the unemployed, the poor and the homeless.”

You can rewrite this in a manner which would also befit Corbyn:

The socialist Government, in their obsession with radical socialism and the triumph of the workers over the capitalists, has created a collectivised and conformist society. It's proposing a return to the socialism of the Soviet Union or Chairman Mao's China.... nothing but state power and the exploitation for the unemployed and the poor to advance the socialist Party and socialist State.

The quote from Corbyn is Manichean. Indeed there's been a Manichean strain running through the entire history of socialism; though this is even truer of Marxist socialism. It's all about Good versus Evil. Socialists versus everyone else.

In addition, implicit in almost everything Jeremy Corbyn says are two promises – both of which are largely unstated. One, Corbyn is promising a Year Zero. Two, after that Year Zero, there will be a socialist Utopia. Of course a 21st century socialist using the word “utopia” would be embarrassing; as would be using the words “class war” or even the words “Clause Four”.

Thus, on the 11th of September, 2015 (in his “victory speech”), Jeremy Corbyn said:

... it doesn't have to be unfair, poverty isn't inevitable, things can and they will change. Thank you very much.”

It's true that, in terms of necessity, society doesn't “have to be unfair”. Nonetheless, every society that's ever existed (especially socialist ones) has been unfair. Now statements such as that usually evoke the accusation that the person who states them is a “defender of the status quo” or a “reactionary”. Not at all: I'm all for change in the right direction. What I'm very much against is the promise that a society can be created in which there is no unfairness, no (relative) poverty, etc. Utopianism is what I'm against. And I'm against it because it's dangerous. All sorts of demagogues have promised utopia in the past. Sure, hardly any of them used the exact word “utopia” (or even “workers' paradise”). Nonetheless, utopia and its possibility were always the hidden subtext of what they had to say.

Before a political party or leader has power, of course, it can literally promise anything. After power, things are very different. Reality kicks in. The boundless number of variables that impact on one's promises make themselves known. And then politicians, as Corbyn will inevitably do, start to backtrack on some of their promises. Either that or disregard them altogether without so much as an apology.  

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