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Dec 08 2016

You Thought I Was Done With Corbyn?

Au contraire, mon frère.

Why Corbyn Won
by Alex Nunns & Duncan Thomas, Jacobin
12.7.16

There were three major strands which came together in Corbyn’s first leadership campaign, and which continue to form the basis of the movement around him. These were existing Labour Party members, the trade unions, and a range of people on the Left without party affiliation, many of whom were active in various social movements. These people became the £3 members. What all three stands had in common was that they all sprang from resistance to the Thatcherite economic model, or neoliberalism, which suffered such a catastrophic collapse in 2008 and hasn’t recovered.

One thing I try to show is that the last of these three elements, the £3 voters — as important as they were — only really came into play after developments in the first two strands had put Corbyn in a strong position. In other words, the Labour Party was not simply “taken over” by outsiders, as you might think from most of the media coverage. There were long-term developments within the labor movement that, in retrospect, can be seen as crucial to Corbyn’s victory.

Contrary to popular perception, it was existing Labour members — hugely disillusioned with the New Labour project — who put Corbyn in the lead in the first few weeks of the 2015 contest, before the broader anti-austerity movement got behind him and flooded in. As I detail in the book, canvassing data clearly support this timeline.

In parallel to this, the unions began to respond to the end of their long-standing alliance with the Labour right. Eroded by several decades of neoliberal restructuring, this influence was further reduced under Tony Blair. Why bother with the unions? They were seen as an old-fashioned, declining force. As far as Blair was concerned, they were simply an impediment, and he was aggressive towards the unions during his time in charge. Most of Thatcher’s anti-union laws remained in force; Blairites talked of severing the party’s link with the unions; leading trade unionists were briefed against in the press.

The unions therefore found themselves as an opposition within their own party, shut out of their traditional alliance with the Labour right. This was new for them, and they had to figure out how to exert influence. There was also discontent among the rank and file, as members increasingly began asking what the point of affiliating to Labour was, when the party gave them nothing and indeed regularly humiliated them.

Given these developments, the unions began to fight for their influence within Labour, forming a series of tactical alliances with elements of the Labour left. It became clear how big an obstacle the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was, and so a number of unions openly developed political strategies to try and reshape it in their favor. For example, Britain’s biggest union, Unite, had an official policy of supporting working-class (but not necessarily left-wing) parliamentary candidates, and political schools were organized by various unions to train potential MPs. The hope was that by 2020 they’d have a candidate for leader, with good support in the PLP.

This inevitably brought them into conflict with the Labour right, and in particular the Blairites, most notably over the so-called “Falkirk controversy”; Unite was accused of trying to stitch up the selection process for a friend of Len McCluskey, their general secretary. Although it later turned out Unite had not broken any rules, these allegations set off a bizarre series of events and provoked quite spectacular miscalculations from the Labour right, all of which — via a circuitous route — culminated in a radical democratization of how the party elects its leaders. Under a huge amount of pressure, the unions gave up their third of the leadership vote over who leads the part that had been guaranteed to them under the old electoral college system, on the condition that the PLP did the same.

The result was the switch to a one-member-one-vote system (OMOV) and the opening up to the public of the £3 voting fee. Ironically, this was driven by the right in the belief that it would finally smash the influence of the unions and the left — the result, of course, was very different. That Ed Miliband, the supposedly pro-union Labour leader, sided with the right during this episode, meant that union leaders were more open to something they would have never considered before: backing a figure from the radical left, more out of desperation than any expectation of actually winning.

Donald Trump insulted a union leader on Twitter. Then the phone started to ring.
By Danielle Paquette, Washington Post
December 7, 2016

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

“I’ve been doing this job for 30 years, and I’ve heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me,” he added. “So I take it with a grain of salt and I don’t put a lot of faith in that, and I’m not concerned about it and I’m not getting anybody involved. I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on.”

Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, called Jones after Trump’s tweet caught his eye. Jones, he said, had just left his office in Indianapolis, where he manages the needs of about 3,000 union members.

“This guy makes pennies for what he does,” Voorhies said. “What he has to put up with is just crazy. Now he’s just got the president-elect smearing him on Twitter.”

Way to make friends. Oh wait… you’re more hated than Hillary.

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