Annie Teriba asks 4 questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. This is an open invitation to help think through what it means.
1. How does the changing nature of struggles jar with the narrative coming from Labour elites?
Local campaigns are doing work not just to fight austerity but also to rebuild community. Local battles and/or victories are empowering people to reconceptualise politics breaking down the perception that Government has a monopoly on the power to improve or worsen material conditions. Is it possible that this is why the claims of electoral oblivion are falling on deaf ears? Firstly is the idea that a Labour election victory is the end rather than a means to a more just society being complicated as Labour’s ineffective opposition is making the two more distinct? Secondly, because people are looking for new solutions that deal with local problems, do they see less of a need for Labour as a vehicle to articulate a reformist vision of a fairer society?
2. How can we understand Jeremy’s policy strategy?
There’s an element of this which can reconcile the charges of being an old white lefty. He seems to be taking lessons on strategy from the ‘old left’ and applying them here with quite a bit of success. His policies appear to have been written by people who have been embedded in those campaigns, and so there seems to be an element of taking local struggles as lessons for the national stage. Is this a good route into talking about the ‘social movement’? What are the possibilities of making Labour a nucleus for local struggles?
3. What do we think of Corbyn’s chances in 2020?
If we think he has a shot, should we also be talking about what he needs to do between now and then? I’m really curious about how a leader who sees himself as a vessel for a broader movement might destabilise the politics of personality. I’m also interested in how far we think this idea of a social movement might help push unionisation and mobilise beyond what has been achieved already. How can we articulate an optimism about this without glossing over its limitations?
4. Where do we fit in?
This is the most important question. There are a few parts that I want to explore. First, how do we win people round to our politics as labour shifts left? Second, if the way people are relating to struggles and thus the Labour party is shifting, is the language of reformism sufficient for these relations? Are the limitations and risks of the pull of parliamentary politics changing too – because it doesn’t definitely look like they’re getting any less significant?