All the evidence is pointing to left wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn winning the contest for the leadership of the British Labour Party, results of which are due to be announced on 12 September.
To say this is surprising to the British political establishment is to put it mildly. Corbyn had hardly any support among Labour MPs . They only agreed to put him on the ballot paper because they thought they should give the appearance of a fair debate.
Initially the bookies had him at 100/1 and its doubtful that even Corbyn himself thought he had a chance.
But from the very first TV debate the surge of support was spectacular and unprecedented. Now Corbyn stands clearly ahead of all the three ‘mainstream’ (i.e. right wing) candidates by every available measure: nominations from Constituency Parties, backing from trade unions and crucially voting intentions of individual members. Paddy Power have said they think its all over and willing to pay out to those who bet on Corbyn!
Particularly important is that he has addressed a series of overflowing mass meetings across Britain – 1000 in Liverpool, 2000 in Camden Town, 2000 in Newcastle and so on – meetings of a size no other politician could command. Cameron would only get 2000 out to protest against him.
Faced with the Corbyn surge all the old Blairite ‘big beasts’ of the Labour establishment have come out attack him, warning in the direst terms against Labour Party members having the temerity to vote for such a dangerous radical. One after another Tony ‘war criminal’ Blair, Peter ‘Prince of Darkness’ Mandelson, Alastair ‘spin doctor’ Campbell and Neil ‘I betrayed the miners’ Kinnock spouted the mantra that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. The only visible effect has been to increase Corbyn’s support. Actually polls show that Corbyn is not only leading with Labour members but also the most popular candidate with the wider public.
There is no great mystery to all this. Internationally this year has seen a wave of popular rejection of austerity and the neoliberal capitalism that underpins it. From Syriza in Greece, to Podemos and other left candidates in Spain, to the SNP in Scotland and the rise of the Left in Ireland we have seen a wave of support for political forces who have offered an alternative to mainstream business-as-usual.
Even the US has not been immune to this with the self described socialist Bernie Sanders doing well in the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination and even leading Hilary Clinton in the polls for the New Hampshire Primary.
What Corbyn has done is simply express what millions of people are feeling: anger at the way they have been made to pay for the crisis of the bankers and capitalists and yearning for a better alternative.
None of the other candidates for the Labour leadership were willing to do this. They were convinced that to win they had to sound ‘moderate’, ‘sensible’ and ‘pro-business’. The candidate who embodied this most was Liz Kendal, the pick of the true Blairites, and she stands last in the polls.
Jeremy Corbyn’s real problem is not winning the leadership contest but what happens when he wins. He will face a parliamentary LP overwhelmingly opposed to him. In all likelihood they will try either to undermine him or tame him, i.e. make him sell out, or both at the same time. How will he both ‘maintain party unity’ and not bitterly disappoint ghis own supporters? For example, will he really commit to getting rid of Trident or leaving NATO?
It would be even more difficult if Corbyn actually wins a general election and forms a government. As the experience of Syriza shows he would then be faced with immense hostility and economic terrorism from those whose interests really rule our society- the 1% of bankers, billionaires and industrialists and the likes of the IMF and the ECB. There would be no chance of them respecting the democratic vote of the British people. They would set out to destroy a Corbyn government.
This is why revolutionary socialists in Britain want Corbyn to win but say just voting Corbyn is not enough. The campaign to support Corbyn also needs to build active resistance to the Tories on the streets and in the workplaces and lead to a genuine socialist alternative to the Labour Party which has now governed Britain ten times but never done anything other than run capitalism.