Centre-Left stalwarts are hoping that the Corbyn junta will be crushed in a spectacular election defeat
The question now is not whether Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is fit to govern, but whether it is fit to contest an election.
These are truly extraordinary times. I can remember a number of occasions when major political parties simply fell apart – most commonly after a spectacular defeat – but never before in the opening days of a general election campaign.
It is impossible to exaggerate the political significance, not to say the emotional impact, of lifelong Labour stalwarts actually advising their supporters to vote Conservative: to commit, in effect, what would once have been seen as mortal sin.
The broadcast news may have tried to present (perhaps in the interests of a confused notion of “balance”?) the cataclysmic testimony from Ian Austin and the resignation of Tom Watson as the electoral equivalent of Jacob Rees Mogg’s infelicitous phrasing. But even the BBC seemed to get it in the end. Somehow the story “Top Tory Inadvertently Says Something Tasteless”, didn’t quite match up to the extraordinarily moving testimony of a man who had been devoted, man and boy, to the Labour cause – and now felt morally compelled to renounce it.
This is not just a campaign mishap. It is a historic milestone in our national politics. The major Opposition party is no longer functional. The governing party – whatever your view of it – is the only credible one that can be supported.
This is the view not only of the high-profile figures who have resigned from Labour but of a large number of those who will continue to run and campaign for the party with varying degrees of despair and desperation – quite a few of them scarcely bothering to conceal their hope that the Corbyn junta will be crushed by a massive election defeat.
It is almost too late to ask how it came to this or even to examine the logic of this grave situation. But those unfamiliar with the assumptions and thought patterns of the hard Left might still miss the meaning of the Corbyn message (although it is, in fact, being stated quite baldly) so there is a need for some elucidation.
For those of us who spent years immersed in this mind set, what it going on is absolutely unmistakeable. What Corbyn and his more hard-headed comrade, John McDonnell, are advocating is the programme of the British communist (not Trotskyist) movement. The headline plans include renationalising private industries with compensation to shareholders decided arbitrarily by the government rather than at market value, which is to say the state seizing the means of production on whatever terms it chooses.
There will be the introduction of taxes on assets (like private homes) as well as income, which amounts to the seizure of individual savings and the financial security they provide. Then there is the apparent intention to eliminate the existence of billionaires from the country – which effectively exports all their tax liability to some other jurisdiction, thereby losing vast amounts of revenue that might have been spent on, as Mr McDonnell would say, our Northern infrastructure.
But the economic illiteracy may be too abstract to have real meaning to hesitant voters. So let’s look at the impact of those famous legal changes that Corbyn proposes for the workplace, or “guarantees of rights” as they are known. Under a Labour government, employees would have a legal right to choose (not to “request” – to choose) their hours of work.
Seriously enforced, this would produce such ungovernable chaos that the efficient management of businesses would be virtually impossible. But the problems of running a business are precisely not what Labour wants to be seen as understanding.
Private bosses are the class enemy. The workers, whose labour produces the wealth which permits these businesses to exist, are in constant danger of being exploited by, for example, being made to work hours which they have not chosen. This is Marxist logic: the workers must have the power to decide their conditions of employment because it is they who create the wealth, etc, etc.
If you are not a Marxist and believe instead in a free market economy, you will see the problem with this. Businesses that are prevented from prospering by having to allow their employees to work whenever they want, will not be able to invest or expand. They will not be able to serve the consumer or – most significantly for the potential workforce – to employ more people. (In fact, Labour have suggested that very small firms might be exempt from this rule which would be a positive incentive not to expand and create more jobs.)
It is important to understand that the Corbyn-McDonnell doctrine rejects free market economics precisely because it creates mass prosperity – which it always describes as “greed”. In fact, individual prosperity offers the possibility of self-determination: the freedom to move on, to escape the passivity and defeatism of poverty.
But that argument would cut no ice with the McDonnell-ites because they aren’t champions of individual freedom which depends on having choices. They are advocating clear, defining steps toward a command economy as outlined in the essential Stalin-era doctrine of the British communists. Perhaps this explains their bizarre sentimental attachment to Russia.
Why on earth, in the post-Soviet age, defend Putin against accusations of attempted assassination in the Salisbury poisoning outrage? (Note to Seamus Milne: you do know that Russia isn’t a socialist country anymore, right?) I suppose old loyalties die hard.
Oddly, Corbyn seems to have the same soft spot for Putin as Donald Trump with whom he also shares a rabble-rousing populist campaign style. At one of his rallies, when Corbyn was insisting that the Tories were going to sell off the NHS to America, his supporters began chanting “Not for sale! Not for sale”, sounding uncannily like Trump’s audience shouting, “Lock her up! Lock her up!” It was a surreal moment.