The Coming Referendum

Should we write another book? Echo the old lines, attack the old enemies, show up to the old events with the same slightly-older people, and relish the opportunity to do it all again? This time maybe it’ll work. With a blast of Sturgeon’s trumpet, the settled will of the Scottish people has been unsettled, forced to stumble forwards into independence or backwards into Brexit. We know the script already: the radicals will trot along dissatisfied behind the SNP, the establishment case for independence will not work, a mid-campaign tactical shift to the left will lead to a thrilling last dash to the polls, and we’ll lose. There might even be a ‘Yes’ vote, but the socialists – on both sides of the divide – will finish in the same position as last time: sidelined, confused, and angry at one another.

In 2016 we wrote that the 2014 referendum had become fossilised, its molten, complex life tramped down into something dead and solid under the boots of two warring tendencies: instrumental analysis and romantic nostalgia. The SNP surged onwards, their energy waning under the shock assault of Brexit. But Scottish nationalists understandbetter than anybody else the energising potential of fossil fuel: with a new referendum they hope to ignite 2014’s buried power for their ‘progressive beacon’ to burn now that the embers of Thatcherism and Labourism have faded to dust. Within moments of Sturgeon’s announcement, Twitter – that venerated battleground – featured reenactments of ancient arguments, with the same contradictions and frustrations, the same sense that everybody was hiding something sinister beneath their loyalty to naive notions like the British working class or the Labour Party, Scottish radicalism or social democracy. The old lines, like old shoes, fit both comfortably and uselessly. Worn again after years in storage, their holes have grown, letting all the outside elements in. Each side has taken on characteristics of the other – Corbynites are devoted to the same wild hopes for ending austerity that they parodied in the Radical Independence Campaign, who in turn are considering whether to feign the enthusiasm for the EU that Corbyn tried and failed to make convincing. The soiled costumes of dead referendums hang like habits from the frames of the young.

There’s nothing new under the sun, except what we might imagine. But the Scots have learnt to be careful with their imaginations. During the reign of James VI and I, at the point of the real political union of Scotland and England in the early 1600s, some women imagined the king’s death all too vividly, and were put to death for treason. One Agnes Sampson sailed with 200 other women in sieves from Leith to North Berwick, on the way baptising a cat and then drowning it, in order to kill the king in a storm. Thus it became High Treason to imagine the death of a king. Since then, we’ve been careful to keep our minds in check. No treacherous thoughts pass through our empty heids beyond a desire to shuffle the sovereign from one capital to another, and shuffle capital from one sovereignty to the next. Scotland captures the seditious imagination as a trap captures a hare: during excitable moments the people imagine a better Scotland, but they never begin to conjure up the image of a life without sovereigns. Real imagination is sorcery, and sorcery is dangerously and powerfully independent.

Many in James’s court were agitating for him to break from the British Union and restore the Union with France that had clothed his provincial nobles in garments of genteel worldliness. These were contending bonds pulling the Scottish sovereign in two different directions. Sturgeon, too, has started to carefully ease the nation towards the second choice, a settlement that will protect – or if needs be restore – Scotland’s Union with Europe. A free trading, NATO-nurturing, North European satellite-state is the strict limit of the nationalists’ imagination. Sorcerers reject the sovereign choice altogether.

One of the most debilitating features of the independence movement is its careful destruction of any serious, critical imagination of Scotland’s future. Criticism of the ‘Yes’ campaign that imagined a worse Scotland, one of strife and turmoil, was roundly condemned as being the product of a lack of imagination or decried as imagination’s undesirable cousin, fantasy. In demanding that we imagine ‘another Scotland’ after independence, nationalists are really asking us to suppress all those aspects of our collective imagination other than the emptiest dream of all: a ‘blank canvas’ for the infinite possibilities of civil participation.

Who does such an image serve? People will wake up on the day of independence and find businessses and bureaucrats filling the whole canvas with their own monotonous hues. Thinking about the practicalities of statehood – migration rules, benefits systems, tax regimes and ‘national security’ – stirs up a certain dejectedness about political reality, like the exhaustion that arises from a quest for the end of the rainbow. The attempt only emphasises the dull materiality of the ‘one great thing’ on offer. But if we soberly imagine the affairs and actions of an independent Scotland under (and after) Sturgeon, then our own grievances and gloom about that Scotland will become clearer. We can start to inspire resistance to that future Scotland, casting spells against what we expect will emerge after the referendum. Anticipating an independent Scotland but refusing the path being offered means choosing a more treacherous and uncertain route. Right now, Scottish traitors can plot with impunity: there can be no trials for sedition in a state which does not yet exist. A thoroughly imagined community entails an imagined resistance, so amidst the referendum haze Roch Winds (and anyone who cares to join us) will illuminate the future Scotland, and describe the actions – mutinies, barricades, and resistance – that we can pitch against it. It will be fiction, but it could be future history.

Behind the dark, seductive images of conflict and resistance there is something gentler that motivates us, and others like us. It is undoubtedly something we partially share with the independence movement. On the one hand, it is a longing for the free play and transformation of our identities in their fullest sense – our selves – collectively made and shared, defined in relation to (and sometimes against) those we hold close and call friends. On the other hand it is the recognition that this communal life must be rooted in something, must be delimited by some arbitrary boundary (a hard border, as it were). For nationalists of all stripes that boundary is the nation, a state-imposed container in which the raw material of human identity can be informed of its limits and find some comfort in them, perhaps attempting to explore them. For us the boundary is instead the struggle against everything, the desire to reject and resist any limits that cannot be created and re-created as easily as we create and re-create ourselves. Perhaps independence holds some residual appeal for us because it still hints – however superstitiously – at such a choice.

After the referendum we watched in glum resignation as the wildest hopes of a mass movement were gradually subsumed into a cautious, conservative project of political consolidation.  Weird and wonderful projects were forced into a wandering mass which could be easily dispersed into a future state – or, as it turned out, a party. There is no imagination, no sorcery, in radical attempts to resurrect a movement that was and will be subsumed into mainstream campaigning. Beneath the carapace of that homogenous and biddable mass, we want to see rogue networks of cells sprouting up, errant bands of political brigands and vagrants cutting loose from the spectacle of two tightly-fought campaigns. True radicals on both sides should seek ways to create, preserve and defend that sense of friendship which exists for a brief moment before a project is absorbed into the grim mechanisms of state-oriented politics. In the tumultuous final years of the 18th century, the radicals of the London Corresponding Society struck terror into the establishment: their structure was cellular, splitting into small groups whenever one group got too large. Look around you and find your friends. If the group is too large to encompass cellular imagination and attempts at treason, then split. Build up numbers for the purpose of splitting. What really frightens the establishment is the solidarity of armed friendship, the imagination, originality, and resilience of a set of comrades in life.

Elites also fear history. E.P. Thompson claimed that ‘we are historians because the past is not dead’, and this year of all years the reality of revolution is impressed upon us as the events of the Russian Revolution are rehearsed in the historic imagination. One hundred years later we still catch spectral glimpses of the barricades, the dance of the bombs, and the rush to the surface of groups that had been dispersed, underground, across Europe – often destructive, often treacherous. What does that have to do with you? Won’t the confrontations of the future be postponed until they present themselves? Constant delay makes this reheated stew of nationalism so nauseating. In Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Grey Granite (1934), one character  has a moment of nausea in a stiflingly bourgeois museum. Instead of clipped Scottish landscape and portrait, he imagines pictures of struggle,

picture on picture limned in dried blood, never painted or hung in any gallery… the Spartacists, the blacks of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Parker’s sailors who were hanged at the Nore, the Broo men man-handled in Royal Mile. Pictures unceasing of the men of your kin… and their ghastly lives through six thousand years – oh hell, what had it to do with you?

The question is answered later, when the same character is organising a strike at Gowans and Gloag’s factory because of its production of weapons that the trade unionists believe will be used against Chinese workers. The sub-editor of the Daily Runner, attempting to lambast the industrial action, attempts to turn to an account of the ‘absolute and unswathing loyalty of our Army and Navy throughout the hundreds of years of their history’. But the past is uncontrollable. The Nore mutiny of 1797, the Étaples mutiny of 1917, and the Invergordon mutiny of 1931 are stark examples of challenges to the authority of the state, all led by Scots: the sub-editor gives up. Things that have once been imagined are not so easily swept away.  Mutiny becomes the present.

Each note of treacherous history can be transposed from its moment in the past into a setting far more familiar and real. There were no trials for sedition in Scotland for almost a century before the events of 1789, but when the French revolution entered the imagination, Scottish minds stopped languishing in banal terror and started threatening their sovereigns in the streets. Likewise, we might do well to swap sedation for sedition, and practice treason in graffiti, articles, and plans.

The partisans had made a poor job of the Leith Walk barricades. The highest on the hill had originally stretched from the scrap-metal giraffe statues at the cinema across the South and West exits to the roundabout, but this had proved to be overambitious. The remnants of this great monument to strategic stupidity were still visible, but more in the lack of paving stones behind it than in its own height. Most of the paving and road surface had been broken up – using demolition hammers and the few excavators that had not been requisitioned for work on the utopian schemes of the early days of the June Revolution – and piled up haphazardly, favouring the south front (the partisans had been acutely aware of their painful strategic position, lying downhill of the Pale parts of the city.) But the main attacks had come from Queen St, from the swathes of soldiers who had been stationed in the portrait gallery, and the partisans had made a slow retreat, so that the length of Leith Walk was littered with temporary barricades, from painfully neat walls of carefully stacked paving slabs, to tetering piles of antique-shop furniture. The whole progress of that revolution could be read from a wander down the street, until at the foot the spectator could find the more symbolic barricades, constructed when the heat of the fighting was over and the great stalemate had begun. These barricades had a kind of rough beauty. Everybody had known that they could serve as no physical frontier, indeed that they did not need to, and so joiners had come together in the evenings to construct spidery wooden frames that spanned the street and pointed up at bizarre angles towards the sky…

Amy Westwell
Rory Scothorne
Cailean Gallagher

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Corbyn’s ‘New Politics’ Is No Politics at All

When one Westminster pundit said the Parliamentary Labour Party’s choice between Smith and Eagle was like choosing whether to bring a fork or a spoon to a gunfight, they had it slightly wrong. It’s more accurate to say the PLP are debating whether to bring a sabre or a broadsword to a family get-together.

The PLP have tried various confrontational methods of bringing Corbyn down from his post. First Angela Eagle attempted a public duel, attacking his abilities and demanding he forfeit power. Next, Tom Watson held private negotiations to strong-arm him to a lowlier position, while Owen Smith extended a hand as if to wrench him down from where he’d climbed too high. Then Watson led the effort to coax the NEC into stopping Corbyn being automatically on the ballot for the next leadership contest.Fortunately for Corbyn, the plotters were ‘fucking useless’.

The PLP’s next moves will be a series of even more violent efforts to topple, by force or fraud, a party leader whose reputation rests on moral commitment and disdain for the ‘old politics’ of secretive manoeuvres and sly back-stabbing. These hapless foes will continue to miss their mark, because Corbyn will continue refusing to engage in the fight or the game. The politicking undertaken by the PLP is despised by those who favour Corbyn’s soft sincerity. Jeremy ‘doesn’t do personal’. His strange immunity comes from what his enemies call ‘dogmatism’ and what his followers applaud as idealism, morality, and total refusal to take part in political connivery and confrontations. His enemies feign admiration for his principles, then reject them as impediments to political leadership. Eagle insisted that although ‘not a bad man’, he was certainly ‘not a leader’, while Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

He’s deeply driven by his principles and wanting to do the right thing. He won’t compromise them in order to be in government and he doesn’t think that he needs to. I don’t seek actively to speak ill of him… You can achieve some things from opposition, but nothing like the possibility of power.

From the outset, the secret of Jeremy Corbyn’s success was his earnest, compelling commitment to stand for what is good, in solidarity with all those downtrodden or despised. This morality defined his initial appeal to the membership last summer when night after night he delivered speeches founded on moral imperatives: we as a society must provide for the hungry and the homeless, cherish our children, learn to protect the planet, and save our services from irreversible ruin. He carried this into PMQs, where he sought a more ‘adult’ approach, shorn of rhetorical and personal berating in favour of quotidian perspectives and letter-to-the-editor pleas from the public. His appeal to the conscience of pundits, parliament and prime minister was meant to bypass the jibing that makes Westminster politically famous, or infamous.

Corbyn won’t join the melee, and the people gathered round him will raise him above the maelstrom. In one of his most effective speeches during the height of the coup, at the Durham Miners’ Gala, Corbyn said that he had been asked over and over about the political pressure he was under but that an understanding of the pressure of poverty put the whole situation into perspective. For his most fervent followers this is what makes Corbyn so special. A fortnight ago I stood outside SOAS watching a tired Corbyn give a speech that was a list of social wrongs that must be righted: poor mental health, crumbling communities, crime, poverty. It was a young crowd that couldn’t fail to be carried with him – but when one heckler demanded he explain what is to be done about Brexit, the leader had no words. Then last week I was at a meeting in Lambeth of about a hundred Corbynistas – mostly over-50, part of a generation that is intent on saving the public services which younger generations have stopped expecting will be available to them. Every other floor-speech praised Corbyn’s integrity and commitment to making a better world. They bore badges proclaiming ‘JC – Our Saviour’ with pride. And the comparison with Jesus is only part-irony: they seem convinced a better world can be attained through the strength of their common spiritual endeavour. They believe in JC.

Given Corbyn’s camaraderie with Cameron on the day of his resignation it is difficult not to wonder whether sometimes his good-heartedness gets the better of him. Which brings me to the point: good politics and good morals are not one and the same. The good politician is not the good person, but one who can enact, by generating and using power, those ideals to which they are committed. This is something like what Eagle was getting at when she called herself a ‘practical socialist’ – her practice of being a socialist is the effort to implement her kind of socially just conception of the world. She offers a kind of realism which adjusts ideals to what is seen to be the scope of possibility, and seeks to attain them as far as possible using the practices of politics.

Now, this kind of politics – which is attacked by a moralist left – is not foreign to the radical socialist tradition. William Morris, an artist who founded the influential Socialist League, which would later merge into the Labour party, became a convert to socialism because he believed it was the only way to bring about the violent revolution that would overthrow the rule of the rich and oppression of the poor.  Morris, like Eagle, called himself a ‘practical socialist’, and looked to fit his ideals into the frame of politics. He explained:

I might never have been drawn into the practical side of the question [of how to bring about socialism] if an ideal had not forced me to seek towards it. For politics as politics, i.e., not regarded as a necessary if cumbersome and disgustful means to an end, would never have attracted me…

Yet Morris had come to believe that ‘socialism was a necessary change, and that it was possible to bring it about in our own days’. However ugly, political methods were essential.

This idea of politics as a necessary evil was described by Machiavelli in The Prince, where he demonstrated that the ruler who is too morally upstanding – whether honest, liberal, peaceful or clement – will tend not to achieve the good ends they seek, while those who achieve the most for their state or people will treat politics as a craft and only maintain the appearance of morality. Unfortunately Corbyn and his team seem disinclined to the Machiavellian approach, and have staked much of Corbyn’s reputation on a very public rejection of this kind of political chicanery.

So it turns out Corbyn’s ‘new politics’ is a kind of anti-politics. Corbyn may think this is good and right, and that it aligns him with the popular disillusionment with politicians. It might even shelter him from the internal politicking of the PLP. But it is at the core of Corbyn’s growing problem. Some of Corbyn’s own backers are starting to doubt whether he has a competent strategy to attain the policies he describes: taking more tax from the banks for public services, injecting cash from the bottom up through people’s quantitative easing, or retrieving schools and hospitals from the clutches of petty capitalists; these will never be attained simply by describing the harms they would relieve. Corbyn’s stated objective is to be prime minister and lead a government, but even in government his aims will come up against untold resistance from opposition within the Labour party, across the Commons floor, and above all from boardrooms. Left or right, politics is the craft of gaining and using power.

George Buchanan, an adviser to politicians in sixteenth-century Scotland who resented the power of the rich but harboured doubts about the worth of prophet-types, wrote a play about the life of John the Baptist. At the beginning, two Pharisees discuss how their power and interests are undermined by John the Baptist who by his delusions

draws the lookes of all men towards him, the common sort being possest with ignorant beliefe, that a new Prophet to the world is sent; And now unto himselfe he hath reduced an Army of the vulgar following him.

They debate whether the prophet presents any genuine threat to their interests, and the sager of the two concludes it best to hold back from attacking him with reason or with arms, for he represents little threat to their own power, since he does not engage in power-play himself. Just as the Tories and the CEOs are content to let Corbyn promulgate his morals in peace, the Pharisees realised that they would be safe as long as they stayed clear of the moral fray.

Speaking the truth about misery will not confound the powerful interests that maintain that misery. A good player of politics can provoke that power to show itself and its tyranny; and in this case it may allow for power of another popular kind to be deployed. Those who maintain that morals trump politics tend to leave the question of action for later. In much the same way, those who obsess about constitutional legitimacy are in the business of constant delay and political procrastination. They are less inclined to think politics entails conflict or confrontation, let alone class struggle, both against the Tory government and capital itself.

The conflation of politics with morality is, as we argue in Roch Winds, one of the flaws that has kept the Left from power and success in recent years.

There is a moral drive which stifles radical action and reacts against the impulse to come into conflict with the powers that be. This impulse is one of the most compelling motives in soft-left politics… But it is not politically effective. The basic lesson of political realism is that right is not mighty. A moral politics is impotent; amoral politics has immense potential for good.

Corbyn, for all he has done for the left, risks further embedding morality into the political practice of socialists. At its high-points, socialism and the left has used the rhetoric of toppling tyrants and fighting for freedom, rather than the softer language of entreating the rich to change their ways and yearning for social justice. The moral turn is a pacifist plea, a process of self-disarmament. There have always been radicals who argue for moral consistency, turning the other cheek, and holding to the principles no matter what is the way forward. For centuries they had in mind an image of Jesus urging the people to live a better life so that we may all have a better world. It never came to pass.

The poor were sick with hunger
And the rich were clothed in splendour
And the rebels, whipped and crucified
Hung rotting as a warning

And Jesus knew the answer –
“Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”
Said, “Love your enemies”

But Judas was a Zealot
And he wanted to be free
Resist, he said, the Romans’ tyranny

(Stand up for Judas, Leon Rosselson)

Cailean Gallagher

In Which Corbyn is Caesar

To celebrate the birthday of Julius Caesar, born 2116 years ago, here are some thoughts on Corbyn’s  claim to democratic legitimacy.

Diane Abbott yesterday morning recited the now familiar refrain: Corbyn is the party leader by the will of the Labour Party membership. The unwieldy baggage of party membership has been joyfully cast off by the Tory Party, who yesterday revealed that the long-awaited last stage of the leader selection process would not in fact occur, it turning out that the members’ input in the final stage was not required. Similarly, SNP parliamentarians anointed Nicola Sturgeon as leader rather than allowing her appointment to go to a membership election.

But in Labour, Momentum activists, ‘£3 trots’, long-standing Militants, and syndicalists find themselves in a position of unprecedented importance. Their gleeful cries about rightfully owning the party have a tone of panicked surprise, but nothing that can match the abject terror of the parliamentary labour party, the PLP, whose party structure seems to them to have entered a period of crisis and decline, inaugurated not by Corbyn but by Miliband.

The Labour Party’s constitutional structure appears as a parody of the British constitutional system – there is a tripartite balance of PLP, Trade Unions and other affiliates such as socialist societies, and Labour Party members. To be crude, we might say that the PLP represents the experienced aristocracy, the trade unions the experience of the people. But the members are a difficult part to conceptualise. They represent no one but themselves.

When party members scream of their importance, the question on the lips of the labour coup strategisers is an indignant ‘Why should the members have any say?’ As Chuka Umunna said on the Daily Politics, ‘I’m not walking off from my party at the instruction from the people who have joined in the last two minutes.’ Members used to know their place – they were to disseminate the message of the party in order to win elections. They were to hold the offices required for running the party locally, to allow MPs to get along with more important work (note the embarrassing situation of David Coburn MEP, who through lack of interest in the role was forced to become the treasurer of his local UKIP branch). As a reward for their labour they were to be given some representation on policy forums that have a largely depleted role, and on the National Executive Committee. The labour movement – the trade unions, co-operative organisations, socialist societies – had a clearer right to representation, since it could claim to represent working people, the people the party was founded to represent. The PLP are the experts: representing continuity-in-parliament, they nobly strive to uphold a reassuring constancy. And of course they are also representatives of the electorate. But members – what are they for, beyond grunt work? This is the undoubtedly reasonable question being asked this week, as thousands more people join the ranks of Labour membership, and the party nears overthrowal by a plebeian crowd.

The Tories, who have just disposed of their membership’s mandate like a used tissue, must be enjoying the spectacle of Labour being commandeered by the agents of democratic tyranny. Culpability seems to lie with the rather unlikely figure of Ed Miliband. His solution to the demand for weakening the trade union link in the labour party was to correspondingly weaken the PLP. American advisers encouraged him to develop a primaries system entirely unsuited to the British representative structure of the Labour Party, and a system as it turned out that would create a tyranny of the crowd, the mob, the plebs. Not only did Miliband increase the power of the members in electing a leader, he also increased the power of said leader by ending the elections of shadow cabinets by the PLP, allowing shadow cabinets to be appointed by the leader. Rather amusingly, this was justified at the time by a senior labour source who said “It is important that we no longer have the distraction of internal elections whilst we have a job to do of holding the government to account and preparing ourselves for the next election… It is important that we are talking to the public and not ourselves.”

Democratic tyranny had never been the tactic of the trade union part of the party. The strategy of the most powerful trade union force in Labour, Unite the Union, was a bunker tactic, adopted in 2011: Unite trained up candidates for selection and election in the 2015 General Election. Several of those candidates were duly elected. They were to lie low, staying out of trouble, waiting for the next wave of labour movement MPs. The whole plan was thwarted by an over-enthusiastic and expanding socialist membership, who forced the bunkered MPs to come out of hiding in Corbyn’s second desperate attempt to form a shadow cabinet. Having lost the sympathy of the PLP, these MPs now reluctantly represent the labour movement’s divergence from the existing Labour MPs.

In the middle of the spectacle stands one man. Tom Watson, the only link in the dissolving Labour Family, was elected by the membership, has long-standing (and entirely cynical) links with the Left and the trade unions, and is able to work with the MPs. Thus, as the party moved into deeper crisis, Watson was the one to broker talks between the trade unions and the PLP, the nature of which we may never be privy to. They broke down, intentionally or unintentionally. All we can know is that for some time there was actual or feigned collaboration between the two more obviously legitimate parts of the Labour triumvirate – the trade unions and the PLP. Watson is the keystone of the whole structure, the one charged with saving the party from constitutional crisis and electoral ruin, the one who has for whatever reason shoved Angela Eagle in front of the tank driven by newly enfranchised labour members.

In the notorious meeting in which MPs expressed their lack of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Helen Goodman MP cried, ‘What’s John McDonnell doing there, lurking and skulking like Marc Antony?’ While these senators fear McDonnell, he seems to have no intention of making a move just now. But Goodman is correct that McDonnell is a general of Corbyn, who is the Caesar figure in his own party, brought to power through the support of a part of the population that has only a questionable right to representation. This support has made him sterner and more ambitious than his backbenchers reckoned. And if Corbyn is Caesar, Watson is Cicero – the constitutionalist trying to hold it all together.

When constitutions start to fall apart their demise can only be hindered, not reversed. The membership will not relinquish power, and the PLP will not stand for being controlled. But the fatal flaw of the pro-Corbyn Labour members is to repeatedly hold up the Labour constitution as the grounds for their legitimacy. Corbyn has a constitutional right to remain leader, they cry. Constitutional legitimacy is such a poor basis for power from a socialist perspective that it is somewhat surprising to see this line being parroted by anarchists and militants. They bemoan the ‘undemocratic’ actions of Corbyn’s opponents, as if they were not engaged in small-scale coups five years ago in the context of a Labour constitution that they perceived to be unfair.

The fact that thousands of people have signed up to an organisation that Miliband haphazardly reformed into a membership organisation does not give Corbyn or their movement legitimacy. Members do not deserve power in the party of labour by dint of their paying membership fees, or even by virtue of their activism in the party. Why should votes be bought with either time or money? These arguments for constitutional legitimacy are inward-looking and not compelling for the electorate. As Jeremy Corbyn said at the Durham Miner’s Gala last week, constitutional pressure is no pressure at all. Of course certain tactics are required to prevent a right-wing seizure of the party, involving the mobilisation of membership in votes. But the role of members should be to earn the party’s popular legitimacy, not crow about constitutional right. In this, Owen Jones was right when he wrote two weeks ago that ‘A clear coherent message that would resonate with people who aren’t signed-up left-wing activists, that addressed people’s every day problems and aspirations, has yet to be created — and that’s a collective failure of the left.’

The complaint of socialists in the Labour Party for the last ten years has always been that the party is too geared towards parliamentarism and too tied up in constitutional coils. The desire of members to become politicians, the desire of Unite to have its own group of MPs, led to the PLP becoming unduly powerful. But now the socialists have seized power the cloak they have inherited from the old controllers has become an iron cage. As we wrote in Roch Winds, when socialists get stuck in cages, or lobster pots, they become an easy target. They need to break out while they can or else they will lose momentum. We all know the members have constitutional advantage. They need to turn that advantage into power and control, and to do that they need to stop talking about the constitutional legitimacy of Corbyn. They need to give other reasons as to why they should commandeer the party, why Corbyn should be the leader of the opposition, why they have any place in history at all.

When he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

If they really mean to take control, socialists need to make Labour the party of the class, not the party of a damaged constitution.

Amy Westwell