Image (c) Mark McGowan @chunkymark http://theartisttaxidriver.blogspot.gr/?m=0
Owen Jones's blog, Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer, is rather odd. It's as if he's having (or had) an existential crisis. Labour's low poll ratings have worried him. I find his blog a little bit patronising. Here's why...
Essentially he says (to quote a repetitive, but really rather good (back in the day) rave tune): "You can't beat the system. Go with the flow!" Buy Facebook ads, copy Tory media "strategies", bit-sized chunks only for the (presumably, for Owen, ill-educated, short attention-spanned masses) please, soundbites like New Labour, simple messages, "repeat ad infinitum" (I wonder how many people consider those words to be as essentially illegible as "anti-austerity"?) Oh, and don't fool yourselves by thinking getting out in the streets and protesting (and door knocking) will change THEIR system! Play the game. Play THEIR game. Comply. Or, if you must, beg for (small) change, for THEIR compromise!
Oh, and aren't his little Guardian-sponsored YouTube interviews lovely? He's SO (as Polly "I'll split Labour for a second time" Toynbee says) "honest", SO "brave"; speaking an "inconvenient truth" to those who demand a different system. Owen seems to be implying: Mass movements might work in other countries chaps, but, come on, this is (Little) England. Our bourgeoisie are made of sterner stuff. Stiff upper lips everyone. Keep calm and carry on as (ab)normal. Grin and bear it.
And yet, Owen fetishizes Podemos and other mass movements built by playing a different game. People-powered, socialist games. Mass demos, strong social media, anti-immigration, anti-austerity, anti-Establishment and, most importantly, popularist. This, I accept, is something Labour needs to be a lot sharper on going forward...
But isn’t it great that Owen has helpfully provided a list of HIS own existential questions that, only if answered correctly, might (and even that's a long shot, he admits) lead to a glimmer of hope for socialist democracy? Thanks Owen. I’ll not dissect the 9 policies here but offer (in the spirit of Owen’s blog) my bite-size, reductionist slogans distilled from his blog (to be repeated, of course, “ad infinitum”) with my own little self-indulgent soundbite responses:
- We offer strong and confident leadership: THE PEOPLE.
- We have a clear vision: TO BUILD A FAIR SOCIETY FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST THE RICH.
- Our policies are common sense and moderate.OUR POLICIES OFFER A RADICAL, CHALLENGING ALTERNATIVE TO THE ELITE: SOCIALISM.
- We have a strong, effective, all-encompassing media strategy: THE MEDIA ARE PART OF THE ELITE. THEY FEAR US. LOOK ELSEWHERE FOR NEWS.
- We work for older people too: THOSE WITH THE MOST MUST PAY TO ENSURE EVERYONE, FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE, CAN ACCESS FREE, ADEQUATE HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION, WORK, PENSIONS, SOCIAL CARE, ETC.
- We want to “win back” Scotland. WE DO NOT WANT TO “WIN BACK” SCOTLAND AT ANY COST. WE ARE HAPPY TO WORK IN PROGRESSIVE COALITIONS IN WESTMINSTER WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF INDEPENDENT NATIONS.
- See 3 above. SOCIAL DEMOCRACY IS BASED ON FAIRNESS AND CARING FOR EVERYONE. WE CANNOT BE SELFISH AND DIVIDED. WE MUST SUPPORT EVERYONE IN OUR SOCIETY.
- We recognise immigration is a concern: IMMIGRATION IS PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE. WE VALUE PEOPLE FROM WHEREVER THEY MAY COME FROM. IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT, CUTS, LACK OF SUITABLE HOUSING, CRIME, ETC.
- We have an optimistic, inclusive message: SOCIALISM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR EVERYONE.
The thing is that it seems to me that Owen implies that the only way to win is to compromise: to row back on socialism; to mislead the electorate. We must remember that, as Paul Mason writes, ‘It’s not Jeremy Corbyn they’re afraid of, it’s you’ – IT’S US! We must stay strong. Owen is wrong about the end of the Left. We are growing broader and stronger. Socialism in Britain is not on a precipice! (The Labour Party are, however.)
This excellent open letter to Owen Jones by "ex-ex-Labour party member" Darrell Kavanagh offers a wholly different perspective. It asks Owen Jones to come back and support Jeremy Corbyn. This, together with Paul Mason's blog mentioned above, offer hope and strength to me in this struggle for a radically different future.