There are lots of lessons to be drawn about our ‘democracy’ from the reactions of our masters in politics-media land about the Corbyn* surge. We need to register their hypocrisy, but get past the outrage. For this is how our system works: it is rigged to ensure that there can be no serious change. When radical change threatens to happen anyway, it’s all hands on deck for the professionals who are paid to tell us what politics should be. They dislike Corbyn intensely, as they dislike the people who support him. They’d endorse any move, any fix, any coup, to stop him, now that the ‘wrong’ result threatens to occur. That wrong result did happen in Scotland, and now they are determined that it shouldn’t get repeated across the entire United Kingdom.
It’s easy to despise them for their hypocrisy and self interest, but we really do need to get past moral outrage and get to what politics and social change is about. This has an ethical charge, of course: a demand for justice. But that demand becomes effective when we transcend fuming and excoriating and get into the business of challenging the system that enriches the few, exploits the many and impoverishes the poorest.
We must take seriously the thought that this is a long struggle, and that it is about the very fabric of our unequal and exploitative system. Our opponents regard hurrah words like ‘democracy’ or ‘rights’ with utter cynicism: there to be deployed to keep things the same, but to be ditched as soon as they cease to be useful. We shouldn’t ape their attitude or their methods, but we must realise that there is a big gap between the words and the reality, and we must act to expose that gap, and then close it.
But be in no doubt: this is a more like a war than a debate, and it needs intelligent strategy more than it needs moral indignation. Whatever the result of the leadership contest turns out to be, Corbyn’s campaign has already gone a long way in showing how unwelcome any interventions from below are to the professionalised ‘centre left’ political establishment.
A last thought: the thing they fear the most, whether it is in Greece, Spain, Scotland, England or anywhere else is the mass mobilisation of people around radical policies. They would prefer the torpor, apathy and general disconnection from spectator ‘politics’ that they so often claim to dislike.
Masses of people taking a passionate and practical interest in changing society for the benefit of the many and not the few. What’s that called? Now I remember: democracy.
*Note for non-UK readers: this is about the forthcoming election of a new leader for Britain’s Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn, the only radical left candidate, is starting to look like he might win, which is precisely not what was supposed to happen.