The media has obsessed this last month with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Corbyn is varyingly painted as a public menace, or a saviour of britain. In this piece I want to clarifying what is really going on and how we, as greens, fit into the picture.
What is Labour?
The Labour Party exists to represent the trade union movement in government; to articulate their interests and demands. Britain has some of the strongest historical unions in the world. At their peak half of British workers were unionized. From the perspective of this struggle, Labour Parties across the Western world made great advances in the 1950’s, developing and building the welfare state.
Since this visionary advance, the Labour Party has been suffering a slow malaise. Power has been slowly concentrated in a political and academic elite; the party has lost touch with its members, its activists and it’s visionaries. This manifests itself both in a gap between party policy and the members, and a total lack of new, visionary or radical politics. I’ll cover two areas of policy here to highlight my point;
The first policy area is economics and workers rights. The most obvious flaw with Labour here, has been their failure to attack austerity. Labour fails twice here. They failed to cut through the deficit scam and take up the task of defending welfare state, which the Conservatives attack as ‘inefficient’. They’ve also failed to see beyond the 1950’s conception of the state, to build new systems of common ownership; utilising workers cooperatives, and new means of public engagement.
Labour has also failed to address new economic problems, like mechanisation. The Greens; a truly democratic and grassroots party, have come up with solutions. Here we support the Citizens Income; a visionary idea suited to the modern era. Labour is supposed to be the leader in workers protection, and the Greens consistently trump them.
The second policy area, more damning for some is ecological concerns. Labour offers a ‘green future’, but a deeper analysis shows they don’t understand the issues. Most obviously, they promote economic growth as a solution to poverty. They don’t realise that we are at the edge of the planet’s ecological limits, and that any growth now has to be meet with reductions elsewhere.
Who is Corbyn?
All of this brings us to Jeremy Corbyn; a moderniser who has managed to win the Labour leadership contest. Corbyn offers a much more modern version of economic policy, and a slightly more progressive environmental policy. Though he is leader of the party, this doesn’t mean that Labour is reformed, rather it is the start of a new struggle in Labour. If Labour is to become a progressive modern party, the momentum needs to emerge from the grassroots, to reform the party as one of real democracy. Corbyn is not the important player here, but the grassroots membership of the party.
It has yet to be seen whether the grassroots of Labour will reform their party, whether they will break off to form a new movement, or whether they crash and burn. With all luck, a democratic party of the Trade Unions will emerge to stand by our democratic party of ecology, and Britain will be stronger for it.
Guest Post By: Andrea Grainger