Labour again: Corbyn’s victory and the growth narrative

This is a short post to note Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership re-election and ask some fundamental questions.  Despite some misgivings in the last post, I’m delighted.  This is all about rejecting the politics and economics of the last 30 years or more: how impressive that the party has a socialist majority and the membership has the ascendancy over the parliamentary party.  This could lead to a renewed approach to politics, linking extra-parliamentary action with an electoral strategy.  There is a long way to go but this is most definitely not about one man who we should see as an honourable place-holder.  But politics is full of surprises.

I was really pleased to see the paper on energy and environment released by Corbyn.  It is far better than I had anticipated.  But as we learn that the concentration of CO2 will not return below 400ppm, then it has to be said again and again that if the Labour team is serious about the environment, about the climate, and about a future for humanity, then it needs to get a grip on economic growth.  The economy (or at least its material flows) must be downsized.  Continued “growth” makes it far more difficult to realise the radical emissions cuts that are needed, probably no longer to prevent runaway climate change, but to delay it.  I wrote at length on this in a recent post – one that proved impossible to get into more mainstream outlets.

That knowledge presents some extremely challenging dilemmas: how do you ensure that the population has sufficient to live on.  How to you prevent extreme economic turbulence of the kind that will lead to extreme social conflict (including a further rise in xenophobia and the demonising of minorities)?  More immediately, how can a Labour party with productivist ideology and reliance on environmentally reactionary working class organisations (Unite, GMB for example – trade unionist consciousness has never been the same as socialist consciousness, although the two can work together and the one can set the scene for the other) resolve the internal conflicts that a truly redistributive, and environmentalist strategy will provoke (a dilemma for all of us in the degrowth movement – the left of the environmentalist movement)?  How can the realities of climate and ecological security be translated into the bread and butter realities facing people and which will decisively influence their behaviour at the ballot box?


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