Corbynism or Communism? That is the Question

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the #StopTrident rally at Trafalgar Square on Saturday 27th February 2016. Image by Garry Knight, under CC BY 2.0

As election time approaches, Stephen Harper of the Socialist Party of Great Britain sees no meaningful differences between the candidates however progressive they purport to be.

The General Election draws near, the party propaganda machines are in full swing and the tranquillity of my winter evenings is increasingly punctured by the rapping and ringing of the clipboard-clutching ghouls who have wound their way to my front door. My favourite canvasser so far has been the wiry, wild-eyed Liberal Democrat who opened his spiel with a personalised greeting, raced through some questionable statistics and finished off with a desperate appeal for a tactical vote. If I mention to any these guys that I’m a socialist, their assumption is that I’ll be voting Labour. But in fact none of the capitalist gangs will be getting my vote.

Most decent folks are aware that the Conservatives are a party of entitled crooks and chancers that shamelessly defends the economic interests of the ruling class – a party for ‘selfish, grasping simpletons, who were born with some essential part of their soul missing’, as the writer Charlie Brooker has put it. Unfortunately, however, many well-meaning working-class people have been taken in by the promises of other political parties to represent a socialist, communist or human alternative. They don’t. And that is as true of Labour as it is of any other party. In fact, the Labour Party, supposedly under newly ‘radical’ leadership, is a capitalist party – one that is quite as committed to bullshit and deception as its political opponents. Just look at this ridiculous Labour Party video about ‘the economy’, with its villainous billionaire who refuses to invest his wealth (as if capitalism could continue if this happened) and salt-of-the-earth proles cheerfully circulating their own means of exchange by paying for goods and services in their local communities (for a full critique of the misunderstandings and myths in this video, see here). This is not just bogus economics, but facile moralism and it beggars belief that nobody taking part in this production stopped to call some of its assumptions into question. Perhaps they did; but I have seen Labourites happily sharing this baloney on social media.

Let’s get beyond the bullshit. If you really want to understand what Corbyn and Labour stand for, maybe have a look at this text contributed to a left communist website by a group of recovering Corbyholics (I disagree with the article’s tout court rejection of voting and democracy, but that is not its main point). As the authors of the piece indicate, the Labour Party throughout its history has more than proven its dedication to the profit system, which requires the exploitation and often violent repression of the working class, as well as endless wars (in fact, Labour’s foreign policy has tended to be more brutal than that of the Conservatives). And as Adam Buick of my own party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, points out, Labour cannot possibly bring about a society ‘for the many, not the few’ (Tony Blair’s phrase, originally), since capitalism, the system which Labour seeks to manage and perpetuate, depends precisely on the exploitation of the ‘many’ (workers) by the ‘few’ (capitalist owners and controllers).

Along with his sidekick John McDonnell, Corbyn has widely been called ‘Marxist’ or a socialist by his supporters, as well by his conservative opponents. What an insult to Marx and the socialist tradition of which he was part! For Marx, a socialist society would not be one organised ‘for the many, not the few’. It would be a society that has entirely abolished such class division. Communism or socialism (the same thing, despite Leninist protestations) requires getting rid of the buying and selling system and creating a society of free access to goods and services. With the productive capabilities that exist today, there is enough for everybody to enjoy a life of abundance without undertaking any wage labour. Once a progressive force (for all its horrors), capitalism today is a system that generates totally unnecessary suffering for the majority of people and it is long overdue for abolition. It continues in large part because we, the working class, continue to give it legitimacy and because, whatever we might say to the contrary, we don’t really believe that there is an alternative to the market system.

BJ or JC for PM? Labour, Liberal, Tory, Green, or Nationalist? Leave or Remain? These are the questions that will be debated ad nauseam around dinner tables and in media studios over the next few weeks. But the really important questions for working-class people are of quite a different order. Here are some of them. Do you really want to go on working almost every day of your life, just to generate profits for a tiny group of capitalists? Do you know that eight individuals now possess as much wealth as half of the world’s population? Do you realize how fundamentally insane that is? Do you want to live in a society more and more characterised by poverty, addiction and despair? In which children are constantly dying of hunger or being killed in wars, all completely unnecessarily? Do you want to see the natural environment trashed in the pursuit of profit?

It’s no good voting for a new set of leaders to manage the present chaos in a slightly more amenable way. Even if they really wanted to, Labour could do nothing to solve the problems identified above, which are generated by the profit system itself and which in any case will have to be addressed on a global, not a national scale. Nor will a Labour government even make things just a little more tolerable, whatever Labour may be promising. The last Labour government was arguably worse than the preceding Tory one, bringing death and destruction overseas and increasing wealth disparities at home. In its entire history, the Labour Party has never brought a socialist society one step closer.

As always, capitalism’s left-wingers are telling us that this election is different and that this time there is a chance to make a ‘real change’ and forge ‘a new type of politics’ by voting for Corbyn and company. But we have heard all this before. What is actually needed is for workers to come together to bring an end to the madness of the profit system. We should reject the Conservatives, the fake socialists of Labour and every other capitalist party – and use the force of our majority to abolish capitalism. No leader required. But we don’t have forever to get the job done…


Image by Garry Knight via Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License [CC BY 2.0] ()]