The greatest achievement of Jeremy Corbyn is the way he has grown the Labour Party. He has brought many people into Labour and this is why he increased his majority in the recent leadership election. However, some Corbynistas are causing harm to the party, by bullying other members and refusing to accept the compromises that have allowed Labour’s broad church to function. Labour Party member Ruth Dee wrote a powerful piece about the problems caused by some of the new members.
There are several ways these Corbynistas are viewed. They are either:
● A radical, far left group of SWP and SPBG infiltrators intent on destroying the party or dragging it somewhere to the left of Che Guevara.
● Or, hate filled, social media thugs who will not tolerate any opposition and accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being a “Blairite”.
● Or, deluded idiots who live in a bubble fed by the Canary, who cannot see anything wrong with Corbyn and are unaware of how bleak the future of the party is.
● Or, ordinary people whose opinions have been left out of an increasingly right-leaning political debate, people who have been dismissed or taken for granted by Labour leaders for years.
Some people from the far left have joined the Labour Party, but they are a minority of the new members. There are not that many Trotskyists in the UK, so talk of an extreme left take-over is ridiculous. A lot of former Green Party members have joined Labour, but being concerned about the environment is hardly an extreme position. Surely one of Labour’s aims should be to convince supporters of other parties that Labour is the party you should be supporting?
The worst aspect of the increase in membership has been a rise in in anti-Semitic rhetoric and bullying from Labour Party members. This bullying (usually on social media) has especially targeted women and is laced with misogyny. On pro-Corbyn Facebook groups, anti-Semitism passes without comment, and anyone with a different opinion is pilloried as a Blairite. On these groups there is even support for George Galloway, a rape apologist and hate merchant who set up a political party with the express intention of stealing votes from Labour. There can be no tolerance of anti-Semitism, sexism and bigotry. Members caught engaging in such activities should be purged without hesitation.
It would be wrong to characterise all of the Corbynistas in this way. However many are willing to overlook the fact that their fellow travellers preach hate and intolerance. The worst arguments for Corbyn are made by his most passionate supporters, who ignore the massive looming electoral defeat in Labour’s near future and peddle conspiracy theories found on sites like the Canary. They talk of Labour providing a “genuine opposition” but there will be nothing genuine about a Labour opposition if the party loses 100 seats and the Tories have complete authority to do whatever they want.
Many of the new Labour members may deny the reality of Corbyn’s leadership, but that does not mean that they do not have valid criticisms of the current state of politics. Over the last 20 years Labour and the Tories have converged on a very narrow strip of the centre ground of the electorate. Opposing privatisation of public services, growing inequality or poorly planned foreign military interventions are considered to be extreme positions by much of the political establishment. These views are widespread, held by many reasonable people, and supported by recent events. Those who hold these views are looking for a political home.
Reading the comments in pro-Corbyn Facebook groups reveals huge numbers of people who were alienated from politics but are now excited by Corbyn. Underneath comments about a Blairite coup, there are peer-to-peer discussions about disability, mental health, benefits and the impact of Tory cuts. These are people frequently overlooked in our political discourse, not represented by politicians or journalists. These are people who have been politicised by austerity, but were put off Labour because of the party’s support of it. These are the people worried about the increasingly racist anti-immigrant rhetoric. These people want their objections to be heard and feel that Corbyn is the man who will do it.
Corbyn-sceptic party members also want to help people suffering under the Tory government, but they do not want to talk to them. An argument is being made by the Corbyn-sceptic side of the party that it is in the best interests of these people to be silenced so that the Labour Party can become electable again. I cannot agree that the future of the party is in ignoring people who are passionately arguing for social change and are suffering under a Tory government.
To win an election Labour must clearly reach out to people it is currently not appealing to. However it also needs to keep its activists on board and represent their views. Passionate and inspired people joining the Labour Party is clearly a good thing. However we cannot tolerate misogyny or anti-Semitism to any degree. Labour members must also be able to accept criticism of their leader and not blame the party’s poor recent performance on an elitist MSM conspiracy.
The root back to electability is by inspiring people - many people. Labour is currently inspiring a few people - many of whom have been ignored for a long time - which is a start. This is why I feel that this influx of Corbynistas is a good thing. However, we must be watchful for anyone engaging in bullying, spreading conspiracy theories or fuelling hatred. Together, new members and old, we can make the Labour Party stronger and more effective. So long as we work together.