The old contradictions haven't gone away. At the heart of everything is that most stubborn of all contradictions, that between the private ownership of the world's wealth and the socially created nature of that wealth, creating a situation where a relatively tiny handful of multi-billionaires have gained control over the world's resources and industries while an increasingly impoverished global population grimly toil just to survive. In various forms, this contradictory situation has been around for millennia, stretching back to the dawn of slave owning society, through the feudal epoch and then into the highly dynamic capitalist era. This dialectic between the private ownership of socially produced wealth has been around for so long that one could be forgiven for thinking that this is the natural order of things. It permeates everything and seems to forever frustrate any qualitative advance in how we humans organise ourselves. Jeremy Corbyn's leadership victory will very likely drag this contradiction into the full light of day.

If that isn't enough to be wrestling with, there is the increasingly destructive contradiction between global capital and national aspirations. A future Corbyn administration will be up against this one from day one and even in opposition. This contradiction will make itself felt in every policy deliberation. Look how quickly national Greek aspirations for a fairer society were swept away by the dictates of global capital. And that in the face of a wide political mobilisation of the Greek people. Everywhere global capital tends to be parasitic, speculative and free of national obligation or social morality. Why invest in green technology when you can make an overnight killing on the currency markets? Why invest in the long term education and skill base of the populous when there is a fast buck to be made on the global stock exchanges?

Corbyn has put forward the audacious yet eminently sensible idea of creating a government controlled investment bank for the sole purpose of renewing Britain's aging infrastructure, but will the capital markets play ball? He can instruct the Bank of England to print some money for this purpose but the financial elites will bitterly resist. QE for the banks is one thing, but QE for the general economy is altogether a different matter. No short term profits in that one. Every tiny step that a Corbyn administration takes will be confronted by the rapacious demands of international capital which has grown arrogant and bloated on a nation by nation regime of light-touch regulation. If any one nation-state dares to tighten its regulation of its financial system, capital simply threatens to move to a more compliant base. Can global capital ever be successfully regulated? A Corbyn administration has pledged itself to try.

The objective contradictions of capital can also be expressed in their subject form. For over a century or more those campaigning for social justice have been confronted by the question: Can left-wing social democracy ever successfully capture the levers of power? The omens are not good. Chile's radical left wing Allende Government was ruthlessly deposed by a CIA orchestrated coup. Australia's 1970's left wing Labour government was also quickly dispatched by the same dark forces when it threatened US capitalist interests. It's been a similar story whenever progressive national forces have attempted to carve out a little economic and political independence from international capital. And more recently we have seen the radical Syriza coalition come under relentless pressure from European capital when its left wing social democrats tried to take an independent financial stand. No, the omens are not good.

There are many other deeply rooted contradictions that a Corbyn administration will inevitable have to confront. Having gained the support of the big unions Corbyn will be expected to deliver on their agenda. But a trade union agenda can be insular and myopic. When the NUM was in a life and death struggle with British capital, huge swathes of the official trade union movement just sat back, throwing in a few quid in the collection buckets and mouthing a few supportive platitudes. Some unions were actually quite hostile. It was a critical moment for organised labour in this country and, with some noble exceptions, the trade union movement was found wanting. The result of that equivocation was the destruction of Britain's most militant, well organised sector. Self- interest trumped working class solidarity. That section of Britain's ruling elite that was already hitching its wagon to global finance capital emerged triumphant. And that myopic self-interest has not gone away. Where is the practical union solidarity as the RMT desperately seek to hold the line against Tory anti-union bullying? Decidedly lacking. Confronting the narrow sectionalism of Britain's trade unions will be no easy task.

And then there is the myriad left groups generally known in the capitalist media as the 'hard left'. How will they respond to a Corbyn administration. In the post war years these groups have excelled in just one area and one area only; that of sectarian factionalism. I know, I was a part of that morass for far too long. Don't misunderstand me. There were and are many, many sincere and dedicated activists in these organisations, many of whom have worked tirelessly alongside Corbyn in many an unfashionable cause. Ireland, South Africa and Palestine immediately come to mind. And there was some most creditable work done around the Anti-Nazi League and other anti-fascist initiatives. 

But there is something in the DNA of the left in this country that simply breeds sectarianism, much of which can find its roots in international divisions, but a good deal of which is home grown. It is an infantile disorder and it will very soon tax the leadership skills of Mr Corbyn to the absolute limit. I sincerely hope I am wrong on this one. Perhaps the 'hard left' will reach some early accommodation with Corbyn's radical agenda by either merging their forces into the Labour Party or giving constructive support as part of a progressive alliance. Much of Corbyn's success or failure could hinge on this very point.

I haven't even mentioned Europe yet. This is a conundrum that tears at the very heart of both the Tories and Labour. Should Corbyn stick with the dream of European unity and social collective advance or just except that Europe has finally succumbed to the neo-liberal agenda and get the hell out. Every morning, when it comes to Europe, I seem to wake up with an alternating view. I wouldn't be surprised if Corbyn suffers from the same debilitating condition.

Beyond Europe there are any number of political imponderables. Things that seem crystal clear from the back benches and the street suddenly become a good deal more complex from a position of national leadership. Go for unilateral nuclear disarmament or try to effect some form of bilateral deal with Putin? Pull out unilaterally from NATO or seek to make it more inclusive and invite Russia to join? Continue with the military alliance against ISIS and Al Qaida or try to open up some form of dialogue? The list is endless.

But being faced with these seemingly intractable contradictions does not mean that progressive forces need simple surrender the political space to the forces of compromise and reaction. Social and political realities are not set in stone. Conscious, well organised intervention can change the course of things. Chile's radical socialist experiment may have been defeated and drowned in blood back in the 1970's but those same progressive forces have re-emerged throughout South America. Every reactionary force inevitable creates its own progressive opposite. That is where we are in Britain today.

Will the contradictions facing a Corbyn leadership be too great? Will the forces of reaction be too entrenched? Will the forces for social change splinter under the relentless manoeuvrings of the state and the insistent diktats of global capital? Will JC have the personal skill and strength to weld together the disparate strategies for progressive advance? These are questions that will be resolved in real time and by what happens elsewhere; in Greece, in Spain in Scotland and especially in the USA . But in any event, there is no mistaking that this is a significant historical moment and one worth rolling up the metaphorical sleeves and getting stuck in. Certainly, Corbyn's detractors from both inside the Labour Party and without, will be doing just that.

End JPK Copyright 12/9/15

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 May 2018 17:43 )