Jeremy Corbyn‘s campaign for the Labour leadership is about doing things differently, about re-discovering the basic Labour values of social and economic justice, but in a way that harnesses the knowledge, commitment and energy of the many, in the changed world of the twenty-first century.
As a Labour affiliate (via the Socialist Health Association, and a union member prior to retirement) I have voted, for him, a decent man and a good communicator, who could lead the majority in both seeing the need to reject,and finally dispensing with the disastrous 35 year history of neoliberalism here in the UK and beyond.
His economic framework (Investment, growth and tax justice: Corbyn outlines economic vision & fairer taxes for Britain 2020) includes a lot to agree with, not least its emphasis on tax justice and the real economy. It is about a re-ordering of priorities, putting people and planet first, rather than profits. Yet at heart it is much the same as other left Keynesian variants. It owes a lot to Richard Murphy and others who I certainly respect, but who seem to assume that using mechanisms like Green Quantitative Easing (or Corbyn’s similar “People’s QE”) it is possible to support the good things (warmer homes, more jobs, cleaner energy…) without the multiplier boosting general consumption and hence the material throughput that inexorably means more emissions (maybe 50% outside the UK). Listen to Richard at Corbyn’s Nottingham rally (37 minutes in), for the repetition of the growth mantra.
The challenge is to articulate credible managed degrowth policies (see the work of people like Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Giorgos Kallis, Molly Scot Cato, Kate Raworth and Dan O’Neil) that reduce the size of the economy to a sustainable level while guaranteeing decent living standards – it really makes for a focus on equality and community well-being. It’s a double struggle, against austerity/neoliberalism and for a society and economy that is ecologically viable.
The Corbyn environment plan is excellent: it could have been written by the Green Party. But the contradictions with what’s being said elsewhere are a bit concerning. In addition to Corbyn’s suggestion of re-opening coal mines (with unproven Carbon Capture and Storage) there is a totally uncritical growthism, for instance in his plan for the North.
Now, the totally unexpected phenomenon of Corbyn’s campaign and the broad-based support for it means that there is inevitably a bit of a cobbling together of policies and proposals. What distinguishes him and his campaign is its openness: its inclusive and participative style. This means that these ideas and proposals are not a finished programme, but elements to be developed, as the gaps and contradictions are explored and resolved. Yet they do represent different interests too. When push comes to shove which tendencies would win? It would come down to a struggle within the contested ground of policy articulation and implementation. We are in for a double struggle, indeed.
I am grateful to comrades of the New Economy Organisers’ Network for some of the points summarised here.