Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics (Some reviews)
Peter L. Hurst
How did Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the Labour party? and what does this mean, if anything? Richard Seymour’s ‘Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Parties’ sets out to answer both questions.
Seymour makes it clear from the outset that he is sympathetic towards Corbynism but not necessarily the Labour Party of which, he is not a member. This does not in any way detract from the quality of the book, which in my opinion is balanced and fair.
Seymour is an excellent writer. Erudite but never prolix, Seymour eviscerates New Labour/Blairism wonderfully well (not new nor labour!) ‘New Labour once idolised modernity, its slick, Britpop-friendly electoral mercenaries extolling the virtues of novelty and change, however vapidly, at every opportunity. Now they appear every bit as dated as Britpop’ and views the ‘Milliband interregnum’ as a continuation of that trend:- ‘This was not anti-Blairite Leftism. It was a timorous attempt to reformulate Blairism for a post-credit crunch terrain. New Labour was not dead; it was undead.’
One of Seymour’s key points – echoing Colin Crouch’s ‘Post-Democracy’ – is that mass participation and engagement in politics has dwindled weakening the ties of political tribalism due to the neoliberal consensus on the part of both political parties (there is no alternative,) In relation to which, Seymour states:- ‘it is not apathy that characterises a growing chunk of the electorate so much as their exclusion from effective political power’ and later ‘it was not so much that failing banks were nationalised, as that the Treasury was semi-privatised and put at the disposal of the City.’
Seymour expresses optimism that there are signs that the under 30s are beginning to challenge the neoliberal status quo in this country, America, Spain, Greece and elsewhere and cites winning over this cohort as fundamental to Corbyns success. Corbynism seen as a youth movement and a social media movement.
Seymour demonstrates real insight into the history of the Labour party (from the Victorian era onwards) and how its current permutations fits into that historical context. Seymour hints that many of the features of Corbynism are not necessarily traditional features of the Labour party which, whilst emphasising the redistribution of wealth has also (as Seymour’s history reflects) tended towards UK nationalism and has never been pacifist.
Seymour evidently sees the rise of Corbyn as an opportunity for what he sees as ‘radical’ left-wing politics to assert itself and become part of mainstream political discourse again. Seymour makes it plain that he sees this as a good thing albeit not necessarily for the long term future of the Labour Party, which he expresses scepticism towards.
I would reccomend this book to anyone interested in ‘Corbynism’ – because thats what this book is about, its not a hagioraphy of the man himself, in fact, paradoxically, you will learn little about the man himself from reading this book – its well written, insightfull and very topical.
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