Labour Manifesto may be Corbyn’s – and Britain’s – last chance
The UK elections will be held on Dec. 12, marking yet another in the endless string of elections over the past five years. Godot, here played by Brexit, has not yet arrived, and nobody knows if and when he will come.
So far, this election campaign has been flabby, limp, behind the events, leaving voters in the dark and in the cold. The only jolt of adrenaline was Jeremy Corbyn’s “New ‘Old’ Labour” electoral program, presented in Birmingham on Nov. 21. It took its cues from the program on which the party ran in the 2017 election, which crushed Theresa May’s dreams of personal glory and an absolute Parliamentary majority, allowing Labour to recover significant ground from the Tories.
But the program goes further than that. It calls for a massive strengthening and deprivatization of the public health system, free dental care, 100,000 new houses built per year by 2024 to give a home to the homeless, support for the energy conversion to renewable energy and bringing green jobs to deindustrialized areas, the nationalization of electricity, gas and water utilities and of the postal service, and free broadband internet.
It would put a stop the social savagery and vampiric austerity of the controversial Universal Credit system pushed by the Etonians, with the reintroduction of a humane welfare model and the freezing of the retirement age at 66. And it would also mark the end of the most expensive university fees in Europe, together with the nationalization of the railways and free bus rides for those under 25. Furthermore, it would increase the minimum wage from £8 to £10 per hour.
In terms of foreign policy, the program calls for a new internationalism, which essentially means no more carrying water for the American machine as it rips holes in the fabric of democracy far and wide.
Corbyn has spent his life on the front lines, shouting at people while wearing signs around his neck. He hopes this program can get him into Downing Street. One might put it this way: while some people think that nothing like this program has ever been seen before, that there as been nothing so ambitious and redistributive since the days of the Levellers, for others this is only the bare minimum needed. Some of the most ambitious policies, such as safeguarding the freedom of movement, the abolition of private schools (voted by the Labour base at the latest congress) and the sacrosanct decarbonization of the economy by 2030, have all been taken out of the program, particularly due to pressure from the unions.
And still, it’s enough to just glance over these proposals—which have been greeted by the usual shrill cries of “who’s going to pay for it?” of the media subservient to the current regime, unable to envision a society not aimed at the benefit of its wealthy shareholders—for them to have a powerful tonic effect. Those who will pay for it will be the many billionaires who make their fortunes from capital in perpetual flight, or the oil companies that are amassing profits by devastating the biosphere. In short, the 1% at the top, the elite which has made the City of London into its own European capital, will pay for it.
As for Brexit, there will be a second referendum after a renegotiated agreement to remain in the EU Customs Union, “close” to the single market. Even more, European citizens living in the UK would no longer have to go through the process of applying for settled status.
This is the only opportunity left—both for Corbyn, who is in his 70s, and for his younger fellow citizens who don’t want to grow old in a land facing ecological and social desolation—to turn around what is the most privatized and unequal society in Europe, where the press is almost entirely in private, mendacious and right-wing hands, where the economic crisis is being paid for by the victims while enriching its perpetrators, where sales of SUVs are on the rise as the climate catastrophe deprives the world’s South of water and arable land, and where, to top it off, the surreal persistence of a royal family cloaked in ermine robes proves that no, the law is not the same for everyone (the royal scion Prince Andrew is a case in point).
If this opportunity were to bear fruit, this alone would be enough to lift the dark cloud of the appalling Baudelarian anguish in which we find ourselves. After all, if something like that can happen here, in the world capital of inequality, it can really happen anywhere.
What are the polls showing? A thirteen-point Tory lead, but Boris Johnson is confirming that he is a mediocre campaigner at best, able to do little more than repeat “Get Brexit done,” the Tory slogan that recalls May’s “strong and stable leadership.”
No matter what the court jesters of post-political analysis say, after so much hand-wringing, here are the right and left as the clear contenders once again. One can only hope that, as happened with neoliberal Blairism, the rest of Europe would also rush to implement the model of socialist Corbynism. This would be the final end of the Blairite-Thatcherian “There Is No Alternative,” or of Mark Fisher’s “capitalist realism”: it would show that the voice of class cannot be silenced.