Jeremy Corbyn and a whirlwind of change
Up until now, the emergence of a new political and anti-austerity movement has threatened only the periphery of the European Union, with Greece and Spain leading the way, whereas Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the British Labour leadership elections represents a blow much closer to the heart of the beast, the City of London.
Against all odds, Jeremy Corbyn won the polls this Saturday in the first round with 59.9% of the vote. The veteran Corbyn achieving what had seemed impossible: a staunch critic of austerity, unswerving campaigner on environmental and anti-militarist issues and someone offering solidarity with refugees, chosen to become leader of his recently defeated and beleaguered Labour Party. Thus what the Labour Left had failed to achieve during in more triumphant times, became a reality when least expected.
His campaign, full of hope, had been founded upon social media and huge rallies, but was somehow able to combat a smokescreen of fear and panic put out by establishment scaremongers so familiar to us both here and in Greece. And though the Blairites within his own party turned their cannons against Corbyn, their blitz was not enough to defeat hope.
In fact, it was the British ‘social-democrats’ in league with economic and financial power, who, as in the rest of Europe, have dug their own graves long ago. Corbyn’s triumph is a consequence of New Labour’s betrayal of the interests of its own social base: their defeat is very much in line with those we have seen in Greece with PASOK and, in the last European elections, in Spain when the PSOE got the worst results in its history: only 23% of the vote.
Corbyn is in tune with Podemos and the Syriza that had represented real change, and not the Syriza that yielded to the Troika. The difference now in Britain is that this alternative to outdated social democracy arises from within the very party that had previously abandoned itself to the markets; this sudden re-emergence of a real opposition highlighting the deep public disenchantment with traditional politics, the so-called “old politics”. In voting for Corbyn, the members and supporters of the Labour Party signalled deep unease with the party’s cozying up to the powers of business and finance capital. Their vote was a vote for no cuts, and end to financial insecurity, to privatisation, and to every facet of “austerity”. The people have said “enough”. Sound familiar?
This is not the first time the people of Europe, angered by unbridled capitalism and opposed to imperialist wars, have organised to push for change. We saw it in the anti-globalization movement during the early 2000s, and the rise of social forums in Florence, Paris, London … with the assistance of thousands of people across the continent. We saw it with the Occupy and los Indignados movements which began in 2011 and planted their flags in hundreds of cities across Europe; their epicenter in Spain. And we see it again with the emergence of a “new politics” founded on “change”, not only social, but political and institutional. Their goal: to win.
Of course Corbyn will not have it easy. The old guard of the Labour Party will do everything possible to sink him, since his programme is diametrically opposed to Blairism. But he has the support of thousands of people. Success will depend upon being true to their promises irrespective of the immediate consequences. But the lessons of the failure of Syriza cannot be ignored. Defeating austerity, we have seen, is never an easy ride. However, with Corbyn we see not merely the winds of change, but the coming of a hurricane.
*Author of several books on food and agricultural policies and social movements, her latest work is The food business. Who controls our food? ( Icaria ed., 2014)
**Translated by James Boswell | Wallofcontroversy.wordpress.com