Dear JC,

I remember you well. During those dark, dark days when Irish Republicans stood defiant in the face of the vicious remnants of British colonialism, you offered them a sympathetic ear. In fact you did more than that – you gave them qualified support. When nearly all in the Labour Party had washed their hands of the Irish Republicans’ legitimate demands for self-determination, you took a principled stand. I suspect you understood those searing words from Marx: ‘The English working class can never be free while it colludes in the oppression of the Irish nation.’ And as far as I can recall, you took a similar principled stand on Palestinian rights, anti-apartheid and a host of other ‘untouchable’ issues. So if you were to achieve nothing else in your political career those courageous, principled stands would mark you out as a success story in terms of political leadership. And as we have witnessed over the post war decades, political leadership has been a rare commodity in the British Labour Party. So whatever comes next in the roller-coater of political life, you should be well aware that your past record is an entirely worthy one. In fact I think it fair to say, an admirable one.

So here we are in 2015 and to everybody’s surprise, including yourself I suspect, you are in the lead in the race for the Labour Party leadership. But the question that keeps bobbling up: what is it a race for? If we listened to the likes of Polly Toynbee and Alan Johnston, both decent enough people in their own way, it is ultimately a race to Number 10 Downing Street and the chance to govern the nation. It is a seductive enough argument but, in the current circumstances of global corporate rule, a deeply flawed one. If the thirteen years of New Labour governance has taught us anything, it is that Labour can be in Number 10 but be impotent when it comes to enhancing social justice, be it nationally or internationally. Compromise upon compromise upon comprise ultimately left the Labour Party’s social democratic programme hollowed out and compromised beyond recognition. New Labour became, in nearly all respects, the Tory second eleven, with Tony Blair wearing the crown of Tory Blair almost with pride and Peter Mandelson more than content to hobnob with the world’s oligarchs on their super yachts. It was a criminal betrayal of the principles for which the Labour Party had been established; in fact a betrayal of social democracy itself.

Now there are those that would argue that Social Democracy is hotwired for betrayal and that even if a leftist leadership should emerge in the British Labour Party or any other social democratic party for that matter, sooner or later it would succumb, either willingly or otherwise, to the political and financial muscle of global capital. And of course they have a point. Just look how quickly Syriza has had to capitulate in the face of concerted neoliberal intimidation. A most unedifying sight to be sure. But I think you capture the moment accurately when you point to a global change in mood. Yes, Syriza in on the ropes, but if they can hold out until the Spanish elections their bargaining position may improve substantially.

And Syriza are not entirely alone. The SNP was handsomely elected on an anti-austerity message. Similarly, Sinn Fein has rapidly grown in support north and south of the border, on a consistent anti-austerity message. And most surprising of all, the socialist leaning US Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is also gaining support on an anti-austerity platform. So you are right to point out that the surge in support that your leadership campaign has received is not an isolated phenomenon but rather part of an embryonic but growing global trend. Yes, social democracy has seen its fair share of betrayals and back-sliding, but its left leaning, anti-austerity variant is earning the right to try again.  

 What I’m trying to say in a roundabout sort of way, is that getting Labour back into Downing Street should not be the central concern. To my thinking, the key objective is to do what you have always done and that is to make a principled stand on the whole range of issues facing not only this  country but the world at large. Then if the Labour Party wants to back these ideas then well and good. If they don’t, then at least a clear alternative has been established. Similarly, if at a later date you should find yourself facing the entire electorate, just be content with setting out a clear and radical programme for government. Pay no heed to the Murdoch Empire, the Daily Mail and the rest of the Tory machine. More importantly, pay no heed to those in the Labour Party who will wring their hands and claim this is the end of western civilisation and the second coming of Joseph Stalin. Just lay it all out before the electorate in a calm and rational manner and be content with a job well done. In other words, just keep doing what you have done all your political life.

If you are elected  leader, should those people who generally support your platform rush up to join the Labour Party? To my way of thinking, it doesn’t really matter either way. If people are already in a politically left leaning party, like the Green Party for example, then it would seem best to stay put. I say this because if the Labour Party under your leadership is going to have any chance of uprooting the neoliberal agenda it is going to need to form progressive alliances wherever and whenever it can. One thing that particularly disappointed me about Ed Miliband’s leadership was his public reluctance to entertain an alliance with the SNP. A big mistake I fear. All progressive forces should be willing to work together for the common good. In the absence of PR, a progressive block is the next best thing. Everything about your campaign to date gives me confidence that you would adopt just such a non-sectarian approach.     

This aspect of your campaign,  your willingness to embrace a wide spectrum of progressive ideas, has impressed many people. The left has been plagued by sectarian attitudes for as long as I can recall. I myself have no doubt contributed my share of such infantile behaviour. It was seen as a virtue to attack those that dared differ, and a weakness to look for common ground. Syriza, with its  coalition of left wing groups, seems to point to the advantages of a broad church. Just how broad that church should be is a highly contentious point of course. But if we start out with a sectarian mind-set then there is little prospect for any political cooperation. If however we keep your open approach in the ascendancy then there will be a mood for constructive collaboration.

All this adds up to a break with a strictly hierarchical approach to governance be it within the Labour Party or from Downing Street. If further social advance is to gain any traction, it seems blindingly obvious, at least with the benefit of historical hindsight, that we must mitigate against  the oppressive nature of both corporate rule and unaccountable state regimes;  and that communal networks need to be encouraged, power needs to be devolved and what hierarchies that are deemed necessary need to become transparent, accountable and recallable. Reading your interviews, press releases and policy statements, I get the feeling you are not a million miles away from these sentiments.

Finally the big question JC; do you think corporate rule can be reined in? Or, to phase the question more precisely, can the rapacious corporates be tamed within a single nation? From what we have seen of globalism so far, the giant corporates are more than adept at side-stepping national regulation. Raise the level of corporation tax in one country and they simply decamp to the next country with the lower rate. Pursue them for tax avoidance and they brazenly threaten to pull out of the country altogether. If the might of the USA is powerless to halt the destructive ramifications of the global corporates, what hope for the small and medium sized economies? The glib answer is obviously an international united front against the corporates but no one holds out much prospect of that in the immediate future. The international community can’t even cobble together a workable climate change agreement when the science tells us that the well-being of the entire planet depends on it. So an international deal to close down the tax havens and regulate the corporates on an international level seems remote indeed.

However, and this is where I return to my original theme; don’t get too preoccupied with what seems impossible to achieve. Simply state what ought to be done in a clear and unambiguous way. Then, if and when the material conditions deteriorate to such a degree that the old way of doing things is no longer possible, then the radical solutions that you have been consistently advocating will suddenly seem like common sense. The job at hand is to create a vision and broad outline of a more rational, more equitable world.

Of course there are practical things that can be attempted immediately;  social ownership of some of the nation’s key sectors, some progressive taxation changes, the rebuilding of the social housing stock, and of course some urgently needed environmental actions. But at best these measures, while under the shadow of global corporate rule, can only ever be tentative and piecemeal. However, such measures should be attempted and I suspect they will be generally well received.

There is a growing sentiment  that humanity is approaching some sort of precipice; economically, environmentally and technologically and that  radically new ways of doing things will be required. If you are open and honest with people and lay all the cards on the table, undaunted by focus groups, opinion polls and fluctuating electoral fortunes, then you may find yourself  well positioned to promote the kind of collective and radical leadership that the new objective conditions now seem to dictate. Good luck. 

End JPK Copyright 8/8/15

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 August 2015 18:36 )