Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics by Richard Seymour
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seymour is clearly broadly sympathetic to the left generally, and to the Corbyn project specifically. That said, it is a (highly topical after his recent re-election) contextualisation of Corbyn in both the recent and more distant history of the Labour party.

The bulk of the book is a a broad sweep through Labour history from the 1920s to date. The underlying theme is that the core of the party’s drive to gain power has always been from the right of the party, underpinned by a belief in gradualism – that the only path to any form of socialism lies through taking control of the levers of state power to implement whatever changes are possible. Alongside this has been a dependence on being able to deliver the Trades Unions, and workers general, to support this gradualism and essentially co-opt the working class to the support of the state.

Seymour demonstrates how Blair and the New Labour project, although a distinct project, also fit within this historic context. In the earlier part of the book seeks to show how the end result has been the long term decline of both the Labour party as an organising force, and the intellectual exhaustion of the left. Far from Corbyn taking control of the party away from a successful election winning ‘Blairite’ faction, the party has been in long term decline. None of the candidates defeated by Corbyn in the 2015 leadership election look likely to have reversed this decline (and neither did the recently defeated Owen Smith).

Corbyn therefore has an almost unique opportunity to reshape the party away from it’s traditional governing coalition and towards a more general socialist agenda. The final sections covers both the extent of this opportunity and the challenges that make the success of the project difficult.

It is a topical read, and no less relevant following Corbyn’s recent second victory. Seymour doesn’t assess the effectiveness of Corbyn as a leader – and his basic competence as a leader is my primary criticism of his time in office thus far – but he does calmly talk through the challenges that an extended leadership will bring. The key lesson is that the Corbyn project is taking Labour away from it’s historic approach. Creating a genuinely future facing left wing project will not come easy – especially if they ever make it into power. Seymour is open about how both the inexperience of the new activists and the intransigence of the scarred class warriors of the previous generation both represent key barriers. The second it strikes me is the key problem for the Corbyn/McDonnell generation.

In short a valuable analysis following Corbyn’s recent re-election and a thoughtful situation of the phenomenon in its historic context.

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One thought on “Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

  1. Pingback: A short “future left” reading list | A Very Marx Adventure

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