Jeremy Corbyn at a doctors’ strike last year. / Gary Knight
Nina Power,  June 9

Hang-Ups

The UK election shows that decency is sweepingly popular

Jeremy Corbyn at a doctors’ strike last year. / Gary Knight
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Not just a hung parliament, but a hung country. One of the most unequal nations in the world, where the richest one percent owns a quarter of the wealth and a quarter of children live in poverty, the UK is divided almost exactly down the middle: leaving or staying in the EU; social democracy versus pro-capitalist individualism; those who own property and those who don’t; those who had free higher education and those who didn’t (and those who would never be able to access it); those who are pro-immigration and those who hate and fear others; the north and the south; the country and the city; and of course those who think foxes should be hunted by blood-lusty poshos in fancy jackets, and those who don’t. Overseen by a powerless but hugely symbolic monarchy, Britain is riven, as it has long been, by major revolutionary, egalitarian, and socialist impulses (the Levellers, the Diggers, the Luddites, Dissenters, Suffragettes, peasant revolutionaries, anti-fascists, anti-racists, anarchists, and communists of all kinds) and, on the other side, conservative, hierarchical, spying, feudal, aristocratic, colonizing, privatizing, war-mongering bastards who continue to fantasize about empire and violence and who, pretty much all the time, rule uneasily over us.

The shock General Election result, with the Conservatives losing their majority and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party on 40 percent of seats, up from 24 percent just a few weeks ago, is wildly encouraging for anyone committed to the redistribution of wealth, an end to war and nuclear weapons, an end to austerity, and for social equality and the preservation of the welfare state, which has been almost entirely destroyed by previous Tory governments.

Their opponents stumbled, repeated, and collapsed, like extremely badly programmed robots.

Anyone who has been involved in left-wing campaigning over the past few decades knows Corbyn—even as he began to electrify ever-larger rallies, he will have spoken at their events, attended their meetings, put in motions defending their cause, given personal and political support, and sacrificed his spare time to help in any way that he could. He is a man of integrity and consistency, a man of the people, because he is a real person, kind, gentle and passionate, with his allotment and messy rose garden, and his sense of time for everyone. He and his many supporters and volunteers ran a hugely effective campaign in the run-up to the election, just by virtue of being human where their opponents stumbled, repeated, and collapsed, like extremely badly programmed robots. When terrorist attacks in Manchester and London occurred, it was assumed they would consolidate the power of the Tories, the party of “law and order,” of “toughness.” But this didn’t happen: instead, people were angry with the government, not least because it had known about the attackers and had failed to act, despite multiple reports from Muslims, themselves a frequent target of government surveillance (the Prevent strategy in particular) and often victims of anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia stoked by a relentless and inhuman tabloid press.

How did Corbyn do it and what does it mean? When the snap election was called a few weeks ago, despair was palpable: the Tories seemed unassailable to pretty much everyone, supported by a vicious media and a mean-minded, pinched majority that cared only about keeping house prices high and immigrants out. But “unelectable” Corbyn’s “victory”—if not an outright one,  certainly an astonishing turn-around in the wake of endless tabloid smears, and attacks from members of his own party as well as from the vast majority of all political commentators and pundits—demonstrates that a large proportion of the population do not want to live in cruel, deadly austerity Britain. Corbyn and his supporters mobilised the youth vote—#grime4corbyn being particularly successful in this regard—and the student vote, with the promise to abolish tuition fees and write-off some student debt. But Labour also ousted several Tories from “safe” constituencies, winning seats in both Leave and Remain areas, and raised its vote immensely across the country, taking votes not just for the Tories but from UKIP, the far-right anti-immigration party that May sought to emulate, but whose vote completely collapsed yesterday.

The many are compassionate, the results say, and the few are weak as hell.

Theresa May has stated that she will form a government with the DUP—the Democratic Unionist Party—who won ten seats. Based in Northern Ireland, the DUP are pro-Brexit (at least a “soft” version), anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, climate-change deniers with strong links to loyalist paramilitary groups. Throughout his leadership, Corbyn has been smeared as a “terrorist-sympathizer” because of his belief that negotiation is better than bombing the shit out of those with different positions. Ironic, then, that the Tories wobble their way into the immediate present only because of the support of former terrorists with ties to the fascist Enoch Powell and the hard-right. I doubt a single person predicted the DUP would end up being able to decide the future of the Tories. It seems clear from such desperate measures, and from such a resounding defeat, that May’s Tories are utterly weakened, utterly bereft of the “strength” and “stability” they tried to base their campaign upon.

Corbyn’s majestic campaign and success is an indication of what is possible, despite the intense political gloom and pessimism brought about by previous Tory success, by the insanity of Trump, and the rise of nationalisms around the world. Britain goes into Brexit negotiations an utter shambles. Now is the time for socialists of all kinds to build on what lies behind Corbyn’s accomplishment, to agitate for another General Election, and to push Labour towards open borders policies, towards the dismantling of the repressive state apparatus, towards an end to all wars, the redistribution of wealth, the reclaiming of the commons, and the centering of care and education. The many are compassionate, the results say, and the few are weak as hell. A little bit more toppling and we’re there!

Nina Power teaches Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art. She has written widely about politics, philosophy, and culture.

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