Corbyn’s Campaign edited by Tom Unterrainer, Spokesman Books, Nottingham, 2016, ISBN 978-0-85124-851-6 reviewed by Margot Lindsay
We learn here the story of Jeremy’s victory and the opportunities it provides for a renewal of socialism in Britain.
In part 1, Jeremy writes about how he is building a social movement. He describes why he was devastated by the general election result: the Tories used money, greed, individualism and nastiness in order to give themselves a parliamentary majority. They took twelve billion off the benefits budget. Jeremy represents an inner-city high-cost area where private are £300-400 per week for a two bedroom flat, £1,000 a week for a house. He wants to cut the rent bill by controlling those in the private sector.
Referring to austerity, he explains that more money is being used to prop up the banking system rather than taking control of it. When he visited Thanet, he emphasised the need for building unity between people for a stronger labour movement, why there is a need to build a social movement that brings together both economic and peace issues.
Other voices of the campaign describe their involvement including Umaar Kazmi a Labour Party activist, studying Law and Spanish and Nadia Whittome, a Youth officer and an active member of two trade unions as well as in the People’s Assembly. These two teenagers spoke at a rally in Nottingham on August 20 2015. They attacked the lies, deceit and warmongering of the Blair/Brown era.
Umaar explains that in February 2003, Muslims were united in supporting the Labour Party. But these values were misrepresented and undermined through false pretexts and used to justify needless wars and the Labour Party lost the trust of millions of people. He asks the audience to support the politician whose principles have remained unshaken through 32 years of being in Parliament. Jeremy is committed to the ideals and values of a true and honest Labour party that we can all support and believe in.
Nadia explains that Jeremy’s plan for a properly funded and high quality apprenticeship scheme will once again have FE colleges at its centre, a living wage that includes apprenticeships, and a ban on zero hour contracts. Jeremy represents an honest politics that young people can connect with, devoid of spin and pomposity.
Part 2, Campaign and Victory, provides the exciting voices of five young people involved in the 2015 election and remaking the Labour Party. Red Labour was always seen as a serious intervention into the party, but the participants weren’t prepared to play by the rules which seemed to have been set out by those on the left and right of us. It was explicitly populist and accessible. As the 2015 election approached, for example, they presented a series of radical policy proposals, but in badge form. They sought out debate, sometimes controversy – and tested things out, knowing that they would make mistakes occasionally.
This was so radically different from the official output from the party, that it continued to attract a following, both on Facebook and Twitter. Their Facebook page gained nearly 70,000 likes in three months with their top post reaching 750,000 people. On Twitter they gained 64,000 followers.
The extraordinary attendances at Jeremy’s rallies were partly generated by the online campaign, which laid the foundations for the huge appetite for his ideas. There was a real sense that this was a movement everyone could be involved in.
Adele Williams, secretary of Sherwood Branch of Nottingham East Constituency Labour Party, explains that in 2009 the Labour Party was the only viable political vehicle to get what most people need. They launched campaigns on austerity’s impact on food poverty, against the privatisation of the NHS and wider public services. She concludes her discussion by explaining that they now have a Labour Party leadership that really understands campaigning and the importance of building and mobilising from the grassroots. They have thousands of new members full of hope and energy. They can make Labour awesome again.
Part 3 entitled “Changing our World” includes Tony Simpson evaluating Jeremy’s internationalism and continues with Tom Unterrainer onWorkers’ Control.
The appendices include policies developed by the campaign including on the Economy, housing and protecting the planet. “Labour must create a balanced economy that ensures workers and government share fully in the wealth creation process that encourages and supports innovation in every sector of the economy; and that invests in skills and infrastructure to build an economy that is more sustainable and equal”. There is a discussion about the budget and austerity, deficit, growth and investment and an economy that works for all. Taxation is also carefully considered.
“A secure home is the foundation for a happy life and decent housing for all is the foundation of a good society”. “Promoting the well-being of our planet, its people and ecosystems must be at the heart of the Labour party’s vision of a fairer, more prosperous future.”
This book shares the voices of ordinary people who have been inspired by Jeremy’s political principles and campaigning. We learn why so many people have become active Labour supporters and how they overcame the usual bureaucratic obstacles to making themselves heard. The personal views of activists are more influential than policies which emerge after months of committee wrangling from central organisations. This open debate and discussion is a refreshing and stimulating way to proceed in the campaign for a Labour government in 2020.
This compact, inexpensive book is an essential tool for everyone campaigning for the socialist renewal we are now working for. I will certainly buy it for friends who like me, can learn from these clearly articulated voices.