June 23, 2017

An argument is presented – that a socialist left is best equipped to run a capitalist economy, security, policing, trade and welfare in the interests of all. Corbyn’s project is not alone here. Research from within the International Monetary Fund has argued that a more interventionist state may be able to leverage solutions to a neoliberal consensus that has failed on its own terms to stabilise geoeconomic relations. Despite the spectacular resistance of European states against these alternatives on the continent, Corbyn went for them; initiating a rearguard pursuit of post-Keynesian economics as a means of levering an end to Tory rule. This strategy, coupled with an ethical socialism rooted in the humanist steer of the British left, was originally laughed off by people within his own party and everyone else in the ‘common sense’ press. Yet the Corbyn project can now claim to have accrued considerable damage to the Conservative platform and those various media factions – liberal and tabloid – that have held sway over public discourse for as long as we can remember.

Most striking about the June 2017 election is that conspiratorial smears mobilised in viral hate campaigns and in tabloid headlines – aimed squarely at ‘terrorist loving’ Corbyn, yet importantly mediated through an Islamophobic subtext – failed to square a Conservative majority. This failure of capitalist power blocs to move the election through an embedded history of racist and chauvinist touchstones is a cause for celebration. Corbyn, on the whole, managed to substitute this racist-Hobbesian pact between government and electorate for a moral egalitarianism. Much of this, including the confident presentation of a social democratic manifesto, has burnt a hole into the liberal pragmatist consensus that has mediated nearly ten years of austerity, promising, amongst other things, an end to the Work Capability Assessments that have led to thousands of deaths and suicides since their introduction by Labour in 2008.

Though we should also not forget the peculiar transgressions of this socialist breakthrough. Most alarmingly, the ease with which Labour managed to bolster its law and order platform, which helped to score political points and gazump the Government’s record on policing, especially in the wake of the attacks in Manchester and London. The argument from a parliamentary left perspective is that concessions to the right with regard to the expansion of militarised policing are required to garner wider support for a socialist manifesto that aspires to social transformation. In the process, leftist positioning becomes embroiled in celebrations of the police and of national or metropolitan togetherness. Failure to reflect and scrutinise these positions – and their potential to scale as stable campaign building blocks – disavows the reality of identifying with the state. Put simply, claims to ensure credibility on security and policing will have to be defended and implemented with the same determination as a strong welfare provision.

Within the dynamic of immediacy that conditions election campaigns, degrees of critical language and focus can therefore become increasingly absent. The everyday violence of the border regime that sits on either side of Brexit, and the focus of a broader anti-migrant and anti-black continuum, are most clearly obscured by parliamentary positioning. Against the claim that political discourse is opened up asunder by left-electoral battlegrounds, we should neither forget how in the lead up to the ballot, there was a distinct closure of arguments and considerations over the violence of policing, detention and deportation: forcing this reality – this violence – out of focus. Against these tendencies, it is the structural continuities of a protracted capitalist crisis that we think must be restated. Included in this issue is analysis of the long trajectories of racial animus and Islamophobia that are structural to British statecraft; their crystallisation in post-crash appeals to nationalism; the unviability of restarting capitalist accumulation in the old heartlands and reviving “golden age” industry; the relationship between capitalism and climate; the impossibility of a future under these present terms.

As the left parliamentary project looks to scale, its tendency to foreclose a critical conception of the state as a composite of antagonistic agencies and violent machinations, is at risk of collapsing into economic positivism. Such a movement presents a real threat of drawing extra-parliamentary organisational formations under the rubric of the Labour Party. Community self-defence around instrumentalised housing provision, against immigration raids and police violence, can find no allies in the state. The autonomy of this activity from state actors reflects the necessary distinction between these tendencies: to police and manage a new acceleration of capital accumulation / to survive and organise through this instrumental objective. The interplay between these disparate social forces will determine the long-term possibilities of the Corbyn project, and others like it.

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