Labour’s bizarre policing of their leadership election has been strikingly reminiscent of a certain Orwellian novel.
In a move that has angered many people, large numbers have been banned from voting in the ongoing Labour leadership election. Perhaps surprisingly, lifelong Labour activists who have been members of the party for many years have been included in the scandalous purge, which is seeing an ever-increasing number of voices muffled in the upcoming vote – with some even being expelled just for daring to have political convictions. MP Andrew MacKinlay has even gone as far to suggest that the purge wouldn’t be happening if Corbyn wasn’t appearing to be standing head and shoulders above the other candidates as the outright winner.
These fresh attacks shine a light on the obviously parlous state of the Labour Party’s internal democracy. You might as well not have a contest at all if party elites like Chuka Ummana and Tristram Hunt can conspire to stage a coup against an election result in the event that they don’t like the outcome. Moreover it reveals that magnates at Progress and their acolytes in control of the party in Westminster fear that grass-roots democracy has gone too far in propelling an unorthodox candidate – Jeremy Corbyn – to a platform where he can throw a spanner in the machine and spoil the show.
The tremendous organisational effort behind his campaign is a testament to the strength and vision of the party’s grassroots, and his classic left-of-centre, social democratic policies have inspired the biggest surge in membership anyone can remember. He has won massive support within the party for his no cuts, anti-austerity stand and amongst the general membership his message has thrived; but the robots in power will do anything to tear him down.
Most disturbingly, the reasoning that members and supporters can be denied voting rights because they ‘don’t support Labour values’ seems disturbingly consonant with the idea of ‘thought-crime’. Punishing thought-crime was a strategy used by ‘the Party’ in George Orwell’s 1984 to persecute independent thinking and therefore maintain absolute political control, and to keep a steely grip on which ideas can be accepted. What the party really means to say when they accuse members of not supporting Labour values because they explicitly support Corbyn is simply that they are worried about their voting preference, giving lie to the illusion of internal democracy.
There is little to no logic in the claim that people with strong socialist values who support trade unions, who are against austerity, who oppose the transfer of public goods to private hands and who are opposed to involvement in foreign wars are incompatible with membership of the Labour Party. It shouldn’t seem divisive to claim that a movement founded by the combined struggle of socialist Kier Hardie and the burgeoning trade-union movement might need to be taken back out of the hands of an unjust, undemocratic, unaccountable cabal of careerists who attack working people’s rights, privatise the commons, and make war for profit.
I support Corbyn because his policies of free education, nationalisation and investment in public goods seem like the sorts of ideas that ought to be debated, and that’s what I think Corbyn would bring, a more balanced debate between left and right.
No politics, no campaign, however idealistic they may be, can entirely remove the threat of rank corruption and deception, but if Jeremy Corbyn is announced as a winner on September 12th his success will go some way to engendering real transformation, towards a politics which is founded on inclusion and debate, instead of exclusion, censorship and repression.