Does Jeremy Corbyn embody a nostalgic swan song or the rebirth of the left? The dilemma fills progressives with enthusiasm and anguish, burned by the hard experience of Syriza in Greece. Whether he marks a return to the past or to the future, the candidate of the radical left in the primary elections of Labour is already a change of perspective. Just look at the litmus test of the media to understand how Corbyn is the most feared political by conservative chancelleries, financial capitalism and social democrats subordinated to the neoliberal dogma of austerity. The syllogisms that he is related to are coarse but pervasive: Corbyn is an idealistic utopian because has no government experience, he is anachronistic in his request to overcome monarchy, his pacifism is not aligned to NATO, and according to the Prime Minister Cameron he would jeopardize safety the United Kingdom. Solidarity with Palestine cost him the label of anti-Semite, he is considered too soft on the IRA and Putin’s Russia and especially Eurosceptic, but Corbyn the Socialist is against all forms of nationalism. On the other hand, he subordinates the presence in the EU to a reform of the Treaties, an adjustment of trade imbalances and the protection of social rights and the environment.
Tony Blair uses all the means to accuse the political suicide of Labour: “If he is in the hearts of voters, they should do a heart transplant.” To this not-so-British kind of sarcasm, which fits the style of his pupil Matteo Renzi, obsessed with “owls” and envious opponents, the Labour candidate opposes the disasters of Blairism: the crimes of the Iraq war, tax favors to lobbies of the City, privatizations that extended to water and ambulances, the detachment from the union, the elimination of social housing despite the high cost of living.
Like a fresh breath in a stagnant political world or a bolt from the blue depending on your point of view, Corbyn breaks the mold, even in terms of aesthetics with respect to the “cool leadership” of good tailoring, TV-like make up and jolly complacency that seems to express the concept of victory/power at any cost, including the loss of any value. His marxist trade unionist white beard is the result of the rise of Blair (“It’s my form of dissent,” he claimed), his disillusioned attitude and a serene 1968-like background, his look neglected as a periphery militant is coupled with his choice of consumer awareness (and “thrifty” by definition). As a cyclist, a “cycling grandfather” who has no car. Corbyn, born 66 years ago in Chippenham, Wiltshire village, was educated by middle class parents who had fallen in love during the Spanish Civil War: David, an electrical engineer, and Naomi, a math teacher, fought as volunteers for the Republic against General Francisco Franco. Jeremy’s commitment to trade unions began at 18 the National Union, having completed his studies at the North London Polytechnic, whereas his political career begins seven years later. This is when he brought the instances of the London Haringey underclass to the local Council. In the meantime, the experience of working in a pig farm marked him so much that he would become a vegetarian.
Corbyn has led his battles inside and outside of the Parliament, where he has been sitting since 1983, securing his votes in the stronghold of Islington, the poorest district of London. The following year, he was arrested during a demonstration outside the embassy of South Africa against apartheid, but he continued to fight for rights and peace as in the Vietnam era. He helped migrants and refugees, and he began talks with separatists in Northern Ireland and the Argentineans during the Falklands War. In the drawer, he keeps the photo of Che Guevara, as if he wanted to recall the need to defend the oppressed and denounce old and new forms of fascism. In 1998, as a member of the Commission on Civil Rights, blamed Margaret Thatcher for the tea she had with Augusto Pinochet, “one of the greatest killers of this century”. Threats arrived promptly but they did not scare him. International issues will continue to deal with producing various writings including “Problems of OTAN”, the book published last year by Spokesman with contributions ranging from Tsipras to the Soviet dissidents Roy and Zhores Medvedev. Corbyn has three children and has been married three times: with the companion of party Jane Chapman, with the exiled Chilean Claudia Bracchita and with the Mexican Laura Alvarez, who imports Fairtrade products.
In his staff there are long-time companions, as he can count on the support of the largest unions, Unite and Unison, and the grand old man of Labour, the former deputy Lord Prescott. For the first His brother Piers Corbyn, a Marxist meteorologist who believes that global warming is a hoax, went out publicly for the first time to support him. Jeremy has his feet firmly on the ground, he is considered a “Bennite” in the field – in the sense of a follower of the Republican Tony Benn, the late minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments who advocated basic activism but always loyal to the party. “The Company”, as the Italian Bersani would call Pd, even though in the end, his dissent was much smoother. In fact, while remaining in the majority, Corbyn voted over 500 times against the Blair government in the Commons. Bersani, who replaced Veltroni “the American”, is more similar to Ed Miliband, a leader with a Social Democratic imprinting, who by the way respects the Blairite Third Way. Above all, the elections held after the respective failures in the two countries had opposite outcomes: the Democratic Party has swerved to the right with Renzi, whereas the left is reviving in the UK.
Surveys that forecast an advantage for Corbyn say he is appreciated by under 30 voters as well, thus not only by the working class. How did old-style socialism became so appealing? Perhaps because he aims at lowering tuition fees (British ones are among the most expensive in the world) and guarantee a minimum wage, thereby redistributing wealth through new taxes on corporations. The bearded candidate would like a welfare state that is not only efficient but also inclusive. He cares for public school so much that his second wife’s plan to enroll their child at Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school would be among the reasons for their divorce, according to the Guardian: Corbyn has proposed to extend the model pioneered by Labour in Islington, where there has been an increase in the teaching staff and the technological equipment in schools: “I will continue to support the needs of the students, so that they can go to college or university, thus being able to exploit all their opportunities in the best possible way. “
The Quantitative Easing for the People proposal, advanced by his advisor Richard Murphy, is studied by Post-Keynesian experts. The proposal encompasses a direct support to public businesses and infrastructure by the Bank of England, instead of providing liquidity to private banks. No to finance, yes to the public economy, in case the clause IV, which committed Labour to the nationalization of industry, will be re-introduced after it was abolished by Blair in 1994. The plans of Corbyn entail railways and postal services, the revival of mining sector demolished by Thatcher, investment in social housing and innovative sectors, which place the Greenwich meridian back on the concept of forward-looking social and progress. So the laboratory in an advanced western country, free from the budget straitjacket of Eurozone, could include the progressive taxation à la Piketty and the deficits for growth advocated by Modern Money Theory.
It is not a coincidence that Corbyn said he was close to Bernie Sanders, the socialist who dares to challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s primary election with the support of Mmt, and the youth movement that animates Podemos in Spain. Besides, what is culturally more revolutionary than a fight against injustice that restarts from the bottom, house by house and street by street? The internal rivals within the Labour Party discuss about chasing the center in order to conquer moderate voters. Instead, Corbyn loves to speak clearly, in an essential and incisive way, believing that the return to the origins can fill the vacuum of values and electoral populism which is being filled by UKIP’s Nigel Farage (and by Le Pen in France and Salvini and Grillo in Italy). Will the “cycling grandfather” give impetus and courage to a new social and political bloc of the European left, also in the Social Democrat area, starting from the needs of the weakest?§
Stefano Santachiara (translation by Giacomo Bracci)
LEFT AVVENIMENTI (http://www.left.it/2015/09/02/jeremy-corbyn/)