Friday, 30 September 2016

* Corbynism is reshaping politics with a brand of reverse neoliberalism

Jeremy Corbyn's conference speech yesterday underlined exactly why he has been subjected to a ferocious smear campaign. We have heard an endless catalogue of critiques: That Corbyn lacks leadership; that he is not electable; that Labour has become a protest party infiltrated by the far left. Yet the real reason behind these attacks is that Corbyn is a clear and present danger to powerful, vested interests.

For the first time in a generation, a Labour leader is truly challenging the cosy political consensus extending through the Thatcher-Blair-Cameron axis. The policies taking shape represent a clean break from several decades of deregulated free market economics.

Corbyn has positioned Labour as an anti-austerity party. He emphasised that the financial sector caused the 2008 crisis not public spending. This is important as Miliband and Balls mystifyingly failed to make this argument. One can only surmise that they were eager not to offend the City of London.

Corbyn promised to reverse privatisation of public services. This would mean renationalisation of the railways. It would mean restoring a public NHS reversing its privatisation and conversion into a private health insurance system.

It would mean an end to the outsourcing of council services. It would mean returning public services into public hands. And none of this is radical. Polling shows the majority of the public, including Conservative voters, is in favour.

It is no surprise that Richard Branson and Virgin seemingly used Traingate in an attempt to discredit Corbyn. Virgin would stand to lose billions in contracts if such policies went ahead. As would many other corporate interests - the likes of Serco, G4S, Capita and Unitedhealth to name a few.

Corbyn promised Labour will build enough social housing and regulate the housing market. Again, property developers, investors and construction firms would stand to lose from the restoration of housing as a social good rather than a financial instrument.

Corbyn vowed that bankers and financial speculators cannot be allowed to wreak havoc again. Regulation of the financial sector will have the City running scared - the party may well be truly over for them. Deregulated finance has resulted in industrial scale corruption profiting a tiny elite at the expense of ordinary people. This was evident not only during the crash but in the raft of scandals since, including LIBOR and PPI.

Corbyn added that the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes. Labour would take effective steps to end tax avoidance and evasion. This would need to start with winding down the offshore empire much of which comes under the influence of the UK and the City of London.
Corbyn highlighted the grotesque inequalities driven by neoliberalism. The result has seen millions of ordinary people abandoned by a system that does not work for them. Here, Corbyn again broke with the consensus pointing out that immigration is not to blame. Scapegoating of migrants is convenient for elites keen to distract from the damage that they are causing. Corbyn emphasised that it is exploitative corporations, which are to blame for low wages not migrants. Over-stretched public services are down to Conservative cuts not immigration. However, after years of xenophobic anti-migrant rhetoric, winning this argument will require plenty of hard work.

On the economy, Corbyn promised investment with £500bn of public spending and a national investment bank. He also promised investment in research and development, education and skilling up of the workforce.

Yet none of this is especially controversial. Much of it is increasingly accepted as common sense amongst economists.

It is Corbyn's reset on foreign policy, which is truly intolerable for the establishment.

Corbyn spoke of a peaceful and just foreign policy. There would be no more imperial wars destroying the lives of millions; generating terrorism and migration crises. Arms sales to countries committing war crimes would be banned starting with Saudi Arabia. This will have set alarm bells ringing amongst the nexus of intelligence agencies, defence contractors and corporates. Corbyn is directly challenging the Atlanticist relationship paramount to the US-UK establishment and its global hegemony, particularly in the Middle East.

It is no surprise that the Conservatives and their mainstream media cheerleaders have therefore attacked Corbyn. The most damaging attacks, though, have come from his parliamentary party. The process of disentangling from the New Labour machine captured by corporate interests may still generate more damage.

As Corbyn and McDonnell have both made abundantly clear, socialism is no longer a dirty word. Corbyn's Labour - the largest party in Western Europe - is powering forward with a vision of forward-looking 21st century socialism.

Youssef El-Gingihy is author of How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps

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