I have admired Jeremy Corbyn for many many years. But there’s much more to it than that as to why I have voted for him twice now in the Labour Leadership Elections. Let me explain. We need to look at the big picture and a big vision. It is repeatedly said that Corbyn’s success is a cult of personality. I don’t buy that. He isn’t perfect and not surprisingly he has made mistakes. But what some in the party don’t seem to get is it’s not really about Jeremy, it’s about what he stands for. He has a positive vision. It’s the politics of hope. As Jeremy himself said “I think it’s called Socialism”.
There, I’ve said it – the dreaded “S” word. In the last 20-25 years the “S” word has become like a swear word. If you were in the Labour Party you weren’t supposed to mention it. To some it was like a portal to a nightmare world, long gone. To say it was like admitting you were a dinosaur. You were either patted on the head and told you will think differently when you’re older, or alternatively you would be told, ‘Oh yes I agree with a lot of that, but of course it can never happen’, based on that age old assumption that somehow humans can’t co-operate together because the world is purely dog eat dog.
Except humans are capable of lots of different things – from great love to intense hate, from amazing generosity to enormous greed, and all things in between. Everybody has good and bad in them. We can all be complicated creatures. But does that mean we can’t have a different type of society? That we are forever to live with the politics of the last 30-40 years? That greed is good, the markets are wonderful and somehow the wealth will trickle down from the top to the bottom? Well to me and increasing numbers of people, the evidence suggests something different. In that time Britain has become more unequal. Simply put, the rich have got richer and the poor poorer. Deliberately so. Just think about that. Is that progress? How have we fallen for it?
However things are always changing; nothing can stand still. So what has happened this last 2 years – with Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour Leadership twice over – is a reaction against the lost decades of neoliberalism. Things have gone too far and now people are angry and want change. Where’s there’s a cause there will be an effect.
So back to that “S” word; Socialism. What is it? It probably means different things to different people. At its most basic level, it means a more equal, more fair society to live in. Nothing extreme about that is there? But I would argue it’s more than that. It’s about how you can achieve these aims.
On the back of our Labour Party Membership card it says, “for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few”. To me Socialism is about redistributing wealth. It’s about getting the best healthcare whatever your income; it’s about getting the best education whatever your income; it’s about giving more power to ordinary people; it’s about running Public Services for the good of communities rather than private shareholders; it’s about giving workers more power in the workplace, and indeed in how workplaces are run; it’s about a fairer progressive Tax System; it’s about getting a fair day’s pay at work; it’s about looking after our planet and having a long-term plan instead of looking at a short-term profit motive as the only priority – it’s about putting people first. Most of all it’s about looking after each other in our society.
Those are some of my ideas of what Socialism is. Does it sound extreme or unattainable? Not to me. Jeremy Corbyn speaks of some of these ideas and has done for a long time. Of course the problem has been that for the last 30-40 years the whole agenda, and so debate, has been successfully shifted rightwards. We have constantly been told there is no alternative. There are always alternatives, but the establishment have never wanted ordinary people to know about them. Well now younger people are finding out there is an alternative, which is why so many are attracted to what Corbyn has to say.
So I think it’s time we reclaimed the word Socialism. The demonisation of it has gone on for far too long. It’s time to say it with pride again. To shout it from the roof tops, to say this is what we believe in and we can going to try to make it happen. I am proud to be a socialist. The world has changed immensely over the last 100 years, but good ideas don’t go, they don’t die – they live on. Some people say we aren’t a Socialist country – it will never catch on. But let’s remember the most Socialist thing a Labour Government has ever done was create the NHS – and it is also the most popular thing a Labour government has done! Socialism can be popular. Labour can win with a Socialist Manifesto. But no one is pretending that will be easy.
As I said earlier, people have been attracted to Corbyn because of his hopeful message – that things can change for the better for everyone. When I was a child growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s I remember being told that things are a bit better for every generation. That way progress is made. Our children would be better off than us. At school, in a Geography lesson, I remember being taught that in the future people would be working fewer hours. Well in the last 30-35 years this not only didn’t happened, we have gone backwards. The hope has slowly gone. But why should we accept this? Our children deserve better than we had, not less.
Every trick in the book will be used to discredit Corbyn. In some people’s eyes for him to be elected Prime Minister would be their worst nightmare. But society has grown more polarised, more unfair. A lot of people think things will never change. Our role is to convince them it can, and must. We cannot carry on for the next 30 years like we have the last, with more disasters for ordinary people while the fat cats get fatter.
Thatcher thought she had destroyed Socialism as a credible idea in this country. She said there was no such thing as society. But there is another way to run society and that’s Democratic Socialism. So when someone tells you it will never happen just smile and say yes it will – it has to.
But only when enough people demand it.
– Rick Evans
Adapted from a piece first published on the excellent Turning The Tide blog