Editor Mike Davis reports on a new politics and new direction for Labour
In a powerful speech to Chartist AGM in central London on Saturday 9th July, Jon Lansman (founder of Momentum) spoke about his reservations with the word ‘new’ — given its associations with New Labour and the proto fascist 1930s Mosleyite New Party – but said he had been won round.
He asked, ‘What’s wrong with the old politics, summarising it in a sentence: an accommodation ‘with corporate greed produced by globalisation’. He went on to argue ‘globalisation has destroyed a lot of old certainties, creating huge insecurities but also produced growth that has only benefitted the one percent.’
‘Globalisation has seen the rise of a new generation who are angry at the failure [of governments] to deliver progress on class inequality and in the process had trashed the planet’. We are witnessing the ‘death of many old parties, a rejection of political elites, and a perception of a democratic deficit’.
He highlighted the rise of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, and the Arab Spring…and Jeremy Corbyn’s election, as examples of this shake-up of the old parties and thirst for greater democracy.
In the western world these problems had been ‘exacerbated by the banking crisis’.
He spoke of ‘Generation Rent’ a swathe of society riddled with debt. In the UK he cited the growth of UKIP and the SNP as evidence of a reaction to the establishment elites.
He then castigated the politics of spin. ‘The way New Labour used spin helped push opinion to the right. He cited immigration and benefits. The Blair government argued for ‘an open door for the wrong reasons’—a flexible labour market with few protections, with the narrative of ‘British jobs for British workers’ pandering to hostility to migrants and refugees. On ‘benefits Gordon Brown had sought to reduce poverty but promoted a narrative about strivers and skivers’ thus stigmatising those receiving social security.
He argued the result of all this has been a rejection of the old politics and this was manifested in the support for Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders and their message of hope and change. They had ‘promoted solidarity, community, equality, and democracy’ in the face of austerity, reducing living standards, alienation and insecurity.
He went on to speak about the birth of Momentum, the grass roots movement born out of the successful Corbyn leadership election campaign last year. ‘It emerged organically, ‘my task is to hold it all together’. Whilst there were different views on how to define the movement it was 100% committed to working to secure Corbyn ‘s continued leadership of the Labour Party.
He acknowledged Corbyn and team had to reach out to disaffected PLP members, ‘avoid the bunker mentality’ and had handled some members ‘badly’. He also agreed the Corbyn team had failed to establish effective means to develop fresh policy—with the exception of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s’ work on new economics. In Corbyn’s defence he cited the history of left marginalisation over 30 years, an inherited command and control model of policy making (the National Policy Forum), ‘inhibiting democratic policy making’ and the unremitting hostility to the leader by most of the media.
In the event of a leadership challenge he stressed Momentum had a strong structure on the ground in the Labour Party. ‘The surge of 100,000 new members in the past month’ was largely in support of Corbyn and evidence this would help secure success in any new leadership election.