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December 17, 2019

A hidden majority

Opinion

December 17, 2019

The threat posed by Jeremy Corbyn to the powerful and privileged in Britain at the 2019 general election was far more severe than the one from Clement Attlee in 1945. While his Labour Party manifesto may have just laid out plans for a return to post-war norms of a ‘civilized’ European social democratic state, Corbyn’s ambitions have long lain deep in English history, with movements like the Diggers in the 17th Century and the wider workers’ movements of the 1920s General Strike years.

Arguably, well known for decades in elite circles, Corbyn represented not just the fiery trade union base associated with Arthur Scargill during the 1980s Miners Strike — the closest Margaret Thatcher came to be overthrown — but also he represented the fight against neo-colonial power. He has always been on the right side of history, often evidenced by photographs and video, notably his arrest when protesting Thatcher-backed apartheid South Africa. Corbyn was never another Attlee.

The 1945 Labour leader lauded for introducing “British socialism”, understood why rubber money from the genocide of communists in the Malaya Emergency could be used for the creation of the National Health Service. And Attlee understood the need for Britain to play its part in the slaughter of 20 percent of Northern Korea’s population. He knuckled down to Truman’s orders for the UK to host US nuclear weapons bases without telling parliament. No one could see Jeremy Corbyn doing that. For him, humanity has always been equal, worldwide. And what’s even worse for the ruling classes — they knew Corbyn understood the centuries of pain.

The 2019 UK election results demonstrate that most people do not desire the atomized neoliberal model of society catalysed by Washington Consensus politicians James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher. There was still a majority of votes cast against Johnson. The concept of council, neighbourhood and street-level community still matters. It is why Boris Johnson’s Conservatives were forced into making pledges on the National Health Service — the crucial “cradle to grave” system, signalling the UK together despite private contractor interference powered by Tony Blair’s Labour Party and successive governments. Extra funding of the National Health Service, though, is now inefficient funding because of the skimming off of profit by multinational firms. Extra taxpayer money for public services merely disappears into a rabbit-hole of corporate contractor profits and as services fail to improve then so do elites argue for yet more privatisation in a vicious cycle.

Nevertheless, Johnson was forced into making promises about centralized funding — he could not, as he has done before in parliament, actually argue for the virtual end of the NHS against Jeremy Corbyn. He would have lost the election. As for the lethal inequality destined to arise from NHS funds effectively disappearing into tax havens, Johnson has a plan: he pledges to recover police numbers slashed to bailout the City of London since the 2008 Western economic crisis. As mayor, Johnson infamously favoured the use of increasingly draconian equipment to punish protest in London and his prisoner rehabilitation program is to “lock ‘em up and throw away the key”.

Given Corbyn’s lifelong commitment to the Irish civil rights struggle, it is also notable that if he forced his opponents like Johnson into committing to extra NHS spending — he has also cornered the ruling classes into staring Irish unity in the face. Given rising neoliberal inequality in Eire, it is possible a Corbyn government could ironically have slowed down the unification of Ulster with the Republic. Why would those in Northern Ireland have wanted to unite with a South de facto controlled from Brussels which has busily been promoting globalized neoliberal policies and increasing inequality right across the EU? As Johnson’s so-called Brexit deal stands, it effectively paves the way for Irish unity, something former Tory parliament partners the DUP Unionist party identified, catalyzing the general election in the first place.

On the EU itself, Corbyn has opposed it throughout his political career. However, the successful case for Brexit made by Nigel Farage has never been as loud on the left of UK politics. The 2008 financial crash created a new cadre of young progressive supporters of Labour bound by shared understanding of the power of identity politics but not that Brexit could mean something other than xenophobia and racism. With the LEXIT case not being made properly since the days of Corbyn’s mentor Tony Benn, no circle could be squared demographically for uniting the progressive young who believed Brexit meant right wing and the Brexit Labour heartlands whose livelihoods had been wiped out by globalization. Put simply, if Corbyn had supported Remain, he would have lost the working class. If he supported Brexit, he would have lost the cosmopolitan young. The ‘lose-lose’ dichotomy defined his ‘neutral’ General Election stance.

But again, if Corbyn has forced Boris Johnson’s Tories into albeit inefficient funding of a privatized NHS let alone BREXIT policies that foster the cause of the IRA — he may also see Johnson carrying out a Brexit which he has for so long desired. Despite Johnson’s successful “Get Brexit Done” soundbite policy, this could be the most difficult of Corbyn’s under-the-radar successes.

International capital does not want Brexit and has not tolerated any EU population voting for exit from the EU. Clearly, multinationals find it much easier to control one central EU than scores of states. Brussels and Strasbourg are easier to manipulate, supranational legislation easier to lobby for and against. Though English elites motivated by nationalist ideology and idealistic visions of a tax haven off the shores of Europe have power, do they really have the power of more bourgeois facets of the global financial services industry? The same threats from those interests will be visible as Johnson attempts to “Get Brexit done”.

Excerpted from: ‘A Hidden Majority: UK General Election 2019’. Courtesy: Counterpunch.org