Understanding the mind of Jeremy Corbyn and co (Robert Henderson)


Robert Henderson

There will be many watching the antics of the Labour Party who will be wondering what on Earth is going on. Corbyn and his close associates are constantly at war with most of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) including members of the Shadow Cabinet while being regularly assailed with embarrassing political connections from the past such as a rather cosy relationship with Irish Republicans and quotes which show them to be very Hard Left personnel indeed. The unrelenting absurdity of the situation was starkly demonstrated when Corbyn attacked his shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn for supporting British military action in Syria.

The behaviour of Corbyn and those who surround him will seem inexplicably bizarre to most, but to anyone used to the ways of the Hard Left it will come as no surprise for Corbyn and his supporters are acting exactly as one would expect such people to act. They are not interested in exercising democratically gained power because it involves compromising and that would mean they cannot remain ideologically pure. This is anathema to any true ideologue, so they prefer to behave in ways ever more divorced from reality to remain within their ideological boundaries for that is , their first and end, to remain ideologically consistent. Consequently, they do not look at the practicality or consequences of a policy or action or even whether it will achieve their overt ends. To have made their ideological statement is enough. If they are Marxists, and most members of the Hard Left are, either self-consciously or simply because Marxism was the original foundation of their ideology and has left its mark, they have the certainty of a believer that although their policies may not appeal to a majority of voters theirs is the true way and the failure of the great mass of people to recognise this is simply false consciousness. Best of all if they are self-conscious Marxists, they are sure the historical process is unravelling to achieve the ends they desire regardless of how they behave, for at best the Marxist can only hasten the process of history not change it fundamentally. The Marxist also has no time for morality because that is merely a bourgeois device to delay the inevitable end of history which is communism. Because of this the Marxist never has any problem with allowing the end to justify the means. This, incidentally, is a weakness of the left generally.

Any normal person would be terminally embarrassed by both the lack of support Corbyn is getting from the PLP and the positions and people which Corbyn and others have embraced in the past. The most embarrassing example is probably Corbyn’s feeble response to the Defence Review which Cameron immediately quashed by quoting Corbyn as follows: “Why do have to be able to have planes, transport aircraft, aircraft carriers and everything else to get anywhere in the world? Why?”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world, instead of taking pride in the size of their armed forces, did what the people of Costa Rica have done and abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army, and that their country is near the top of the global peace index. Surely that is the way we should be going forward.”

But the Hard Left are not normal people. For them the fact that they are constantly shown to be inconsistent at best and wilfully dishonest at worst is irrelevant because the only people they take any heed of are those who are part of their group of true believers. Any embarrassment they suffer is viewed by them as an honourable wound in the revolutionary fight.

There are two types of people who are attracted to ideology. The first and rare type are the intellectuals who gain not only a sense of security but an intellectual pleasure from mastering the ideology and twisting it into whatever bizarre shapes ideological purity requires when faced with reality. The second and common type are the intellectually underpowered who crave a system of thought which does their thinking for them by providing them with answers to everything. Corbyn gives every indication of being the second type, the strongest indication of this being the feebleness of his responses to subjects such as the Defence Review and his evasion of debate or hostile questioning whenever he can manage it. It is also worth noting that his academic history is weak, the best he could muster being two’ Es’ at A-Level, despite having had the advantage of a private education. This is important because the less intellectually competent Corbyn is, the more stubborn he is likely to be.

What people like Corbyn want is to use prominent public positions as a propaganda platform and bring change not through the ballot box and a majority in the Commons, but by supporting and encouraging agitation by groups outside of mainstream politics such as trade unions, pro-immigration bodies and students to gain by protest and strikes that which the ballot box will not deliver. In fact, people with Corbyn’s mentality would probably secretly welcome being overthrown from within the Labour Party by a coup staged by the large majority of the PLP who are utterly dismayed by him , for this would be seen in the mind of the Hard Left as proof of what they have always said, namely, that democratic politics is a sham. There is also a strong probability that Corbyn would be absolutely terrified at the prospect of becoming PM because he has zero political experience beyond being an infant terrible as a back bench MP who voted hundreds of times against the Labour whip. He has not held even the most humble of government or shadow positions or chaired a Commons committee.

Ridiculous as Corbyn may seem it is important understand that he is forging ahead with remaking the Labour Party. Since he became leader Corbyn has pursued a classic hard left strategy. Get a foothold on the power positions in an organisation; then expel the dissenters and bring your own people in. Of course this cannot be done overnight when the organisation to be captured and moulded is a major party in a parliamentary democracy because by its nature such a party is a broad coalition. Nonetheless, Corbyn has already placed many like minded people in his shadow cabinet such as John McDonnell as shadow chancellor and employed special advisers from the Hard Left Like Seumas Milne as Executive Director of Strategy and Communications who unburdened himself with this in 2006 in the Guardian: “ For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment… Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination…”

That is just the beginning of the Corbynisation of the Labour Party. The Momentum organisation which has grown out of the political engagement generated by Corbyn during the Labour leadership campaign. What does Momentum seek to do? This:

Organise events, rallies, meet ups and policy consultations to encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society.

Encourage those inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to get involved with the Labour Party. Assist members in making their voice heard in Labour Party debates.

Facilitate and coordinate people to build new and support existing organisations that can make concrete improvements to people’s lives. Through these actions, we aim to demonstrate on a micro level how collective action and Labour values can transform our society for the better.

So far Momentum’s main public showing has been for some members to engage in the type of vicious trolling which taints the SNP cybernats. Further down the line the Corbyn plan is to push through compulsory re-selection of Labour MPs and use Momentum to ensure the deselection of anti-Corbyn Labour MPs and their substitution with Corbyn followers. Momentum will also be working to replace anti-Corbyn candidates who are not MPs with Corbynites.

In the meantime an attempt to silence Corbyn’s many critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party by controlling what they say on social media. Labour’s National Executive Committee are have agreed to the creation of a code of conduct on social media for Labour MPs which will inhibit criticism of Corbyn.

It might be thought that with a majority of Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn it would be easy enough to unseat him as leader within the next year for only 20% pf the PLC need to nominate a challenger. But the politics of the situation are much too messy for that to be the case.

The first stumbling block is Corbuyn’s overwhelming victory in the leadership election. To gain nearly 60% of the vote in a four horse race is astonishing. It shows how much a large segment of the Labour Party and its supporters are sick to the back teeth with the Tory-lite of Blairism. Nor is that support a passing fad. A recent YouGov poll showed 86% of Corbyn supporters in the leadership election think he is doing a good job as leader, a view shared by 66% of Labour voters. Corbyn’s electoral mandate alone makes it difficult to mount a challenge to him and the continued high levels of support he is getting from Labour members bolster that mandate. There is also the embarrassing lack of a strong candidate to challenge Corbyn. Alan Johnson would be an obvious choice but he has more than once made it clear that he is not interested in becoming leader.

But suppose a challenge did arise, would Corbyn be required to gain 15% of the PLP to nominate him or would he be allowed to stand simply because he is leader? This is not clear because Labour’s “politburo” the National Executive Council (NEC) would probably decide the matter. But which ever way the NEC decided the PLP would be in a bind. If Corbyn did stand he would in all probability win the contest again, for it is difficult to see how it could be run on a different franchise than the vote which elected Corbyn leader. Alternatively, if he was unable to run because the NEC decided he had to meet the 15% of the PLP to nominate him and he was unable to do so, that would quite reasonably be seen by both Labour supporters and to some degree the public at large as at best shabby and at worst straightforward chicanery.

The sad truth is that the Labour Party are in serious danger of ceasing to be a serious Party. If Corbyn remains for any extended period there is every chance that the Party will split and become as irrelevant as a contender to form a government , either on their own or even as the dominant party in a coalition. That would not be healthy because it is not healthy for any democracy to have only one party or political grouping which has any hope of holding office.

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18 comments

  • Robert, Corbyn is a conviction politician, but shouldn’t all politicians have convictions? I am amazed he hasn’t been able to enunciate the reasonable argument against air strikes in Syria – this will lead to ground troops; we have no plan for a stable Syria (other than backing Assad, which is the obvious thing to do); it will lead to more refugees; it will not make the UK safer as the Muslims are already here… The way the media have of making a politician seem like a clown is worrying in a democracy. We cannot have all parties represent exactly the same thing.

    • Well said, and I completely agree. I, too, find it disturbing how the media are effectively acting as the propaganda arm of the War Party, and also how so many Labour politicians can support military action. I am in little doubt about the interests at work behind the scenes.

      • War sells newspapers.

        • No. It’s not that “war sells newspapers”. This isn’t some kind of re-enactment of that ridiculously disingenuous film, Wag The Dog. The point is that war serves significant ethnic and economic interests.

    • This comment has been promoted to the front page.

    • The fact that Corbyn has not put forward a coherent argument against airstrikes is symptomatic of his and the hard left’s mentality. People like Corbyn do not care what those outside their circle think or say. They “know” they are right. This leads them to think that simply asserting something is sufficient argument. The politically correct liberal left have the same failing.

      In Corbyn’s case there is the further complication that he is not very bright. Even if he wanted to engage in genuine debate he would not be good at it. In his heart of hearts he will know that.

  • Let us hope that UKIP begin to fill the space occupied by Labour. If they do, this will be a major blow to the mainstream Left (though it will open up new political and electoral opportunities for far-Left parties).

  • Just in case my comment in response to David Webb was a little too opaque for some, let me spell it out. I believe that Corbyn is the victim of his own ‘anti-Zionism’. The interests at work in the media, and politics, and in the background, are Zionist. He is being slaughtered in the press and media because the press and media are largely owned, controlled and influenced by interests that are sympathetic to Zionism, Israel and Jews. That is whey are presenting him as a ‘fool’.

    • Less about Jews and Zionists, if you please.

      • Why? If an ethnic group have influence in society, why shouldn’t we comment publicly on this?

        Also, when you say ‘less’, am I to take it you mean ‘no comment’ at all about the issue?

        Please clarify, because I acknowledge this is your website and I will refrain from commenting, or visiting here, in future if free speech isn’t welcome.

        • My view is that, once certain discussions are allowed, a blog stops being a worthwhile forum for anything else. Throughout its history, the Libertarian Alliance has taken a firm stand on freedom of speech for everyone. But, just as we may defend the right of consenting adults to do something, we don’t encourage it on our own property.

          • That makes no sense to me, but you’re the man with the PhD. It just sounds to my simple brain like you don’t want the issue discussed, and you are looking to rationalise from there, rather than tackling the validity or otherwise of the issue itself. I accept this is your website, and I emphasise that I do not wish to, and will not, comment where I am not welcome, but by not discussing Jews and Zionism, you are excluding an entire facet of what goes on in society. Sort of like discussion on mechanics without mentioning gravity. A bit odd, to say the least.

            If we were having a discussion about Irish Republican terrorism, I doubt you would lay down a dictum that we should not mention Irish people as an ethnic or national group or allude to their peculiarities and the relationship of these to political violence, even if it meant upsetting ‘Irish interests’. Of course, it may be that to speak of an Irish sonderweg is nonsense, but the point is that the discussion would be allowed. I rather suspect this is because there aren’t really any ‘Irish interests’ to speak of. But there are Jewish interests.

            Thus we have reached the core of the matter, which is that certain truths are not politic or socially acceptable, because of pressures in society. We are therefore in a Catch-22 position: if I want to discuss Jews and Zionists in relation to appropriate issues, then I am rational, but if I am rational, I am some species of crazy. If, on the other hand, I ignore Jews and Zionists as a social issue, then I am irrational, and if I am irrational, then I am sane and rational.

            Anyway, you haven’t really answered my question, which I think is valid and reasonable, and of some practical importance, not just for myself, but for anybody posting here: Are you asking me to desist from mentioning Jews and Zionists at all, or do you just want me to be still more selective in mentioning them? If the former, then I must leave (and I will leave anyway if that is your wish). If the latter, then that would be still more problematic as I don’t mention Jews/Zionists in all my comments as it is, so it then becomes a question of what is acceptable, and really, the whole thing takes on a Kafkaesque quality as I’ll never know when I am crossing the line.

  • Corbyn seems to be right on war. Terrorism seems to be clearly far better treated as a crime matter rather than a matter of war.

    Like the majority of people today, Corbyn overlooks that democracy is coercive so he might well think any criticism of Hilary Benn is a mere petty disagreement.

    Corbyn is not a Bolshevik, as far as I know. So his outlook is not really “hard” in any way but he does like the outlook of Tony Benn. That can attract some support, as we see when he got elected, but the media seem to be right that it might rule out his election to number ten for sure. Most Labourite MPs are more to the centre ground on the idea that the media are right about Corbyn not being able to win a General Election. Yes, Corbyn feels power is no good unless he can do what he wants to do with it. We can call that ideologically pure, if we like, but it seems pointless grabbing power if it means one has to do things that is against what you hold to be right. But there are pure ideologues of the centre as well as to the left or the right and I would say the Labour Party has been a second court party, or Tory Party, since 1931 when they suddenly held that court ownership as well as support might be good, leaving McDonald to go on as National PM.

    It is exactly whether the normal policies will meet their ends that the pure ideologues reject them.

    Marxism is not what Corbyn supports. It is not part of the Labourite tradition.

    The meme of True Believer has nothing to do with reality but instead it is rather silly fiction, if not a downright stupidity, from Eric Hoffer. Why people want to say utterly unrealistic things like that about others is quite phenomenal. They simply do not want to understand their opponents, I guess.

    Belief is certain but it is also ephemeral and more to do with confidence than content. Doubt is its opposite and they exchange about as often and as automatically as we inhale and exhale. Thus we check and recheck so regularly that we hardly notice it, but it is why we usually have our eyes open whenever we do anything. This crowds any faith, which is a popular myth and it is the bogus meme of the True Believer.

    Anyone who disagrees on the facts feels he is right and all others he thereby disagrees with are wrong.

    Robert Henderson seems to conflate the Marxists with the later Bolshevik version. Most Marxists prior to 1914 did not think the ends justified any means; or the morals were only bourgeois. The German Social Democrats were back then basically Marxist, but few of them would have gone along with that sort of thought

    I do not see a left or a country party today. Tony Benn was not anti-court and Tony Blaire and New Labour almost went back before 1931 but it too remained pro-court; or for more state rule and less liberty. Corbyn is for even more politics and even less liberty. That looks more right wing to me, but as Hayek said in his 1945 book, the Fabians got the mass media to look on socialism as to the left of liberalism and the confusion was widely adopted, with the likes of Hans Eysenck, way later, holding that both sides meet in the middle but the reality is that socialism was a Tory idea all along. Free trade and liberty was the pristine left and protectionism was the right and never the twain shall meet. But the freer the better so the less of the state we have the better; but better none at all. However, we can only realistically hope to liberalise bit by bit.

    The UK is not Costa Rica but though it would not make sense to get rid of the armed forces given the activity of recent decades but he is right that the use of them are almost bound to make things worse, but then so is the use of the state in general. We are all open to reason and in that there are no different types. That is the message of the Enlightenment but the Romantic reaction to it attempts to belittle reason with bogus memes, such as the stupid one of the True Believer.

    There is the Marxist meme of ideology that holds it to refer value-systems or paradigms that holds things that no one believes, like any religion; then there is the wider popular idea that an ideology is like an accent in that it is an outlook we all have; this way or that. This latter idea looks far more realistic. But it is too is to do with values rather than with any actual beliefs. Dogmas are never beliefs but always end values, for example. Values are more stable than mere beliefs ever can be. Values motivate but beliefs are mere means.

    The MPs getting rid of Corbyn would not be anti-democratic, as they only want to do so as they fear he is an election-loser. So it would be for democratic reasons.

    Democracy is a sham, though, as Robert Michels held in Political Parties (1911). It is also gratuitous coercion against others, so it is illiberal too, even if it is more like a mere slap than a punch. There was no communism in the late USSR, as Mises explained in his book Socialism (1922). None of Marx’s assumptions were true. This was openly admitted by the change of policy of the USSR in 1921. But Lenin had said it anyway in a pamphlet he did not finish in State and Revolution (1917). And the Bolsheviks were not really Marxists anyway. Reich aptly called them red fascists.

    Yes, the new intake that support Corbyn are almost certain to try kill off New Labour and replace it with Old Labour; or even with one even more like Corbyn’s 1970s “radial” ideals. This could allow a new party to emerge.

    People are sick of politics today, and not only of the Labour Party but some are sure Old Labour might do better but that is not likely to ever be the case outside the Labour Party. When they continue to do badly in bye-elections and local elections, most will get to realise that the media are right that Corbyn has no chance.

    Alan Johnson looks even weaker than Corbyn to me, and by a lot rather than just by a bit. The way Scotland was lost pushed the Labour Party near decline as a party of practical politics and Corbyn’s election did not get them safe but rather pushed them a little bit deeper into the danger area but a strong rival party will be needed to replace them if they are to fall.

    Labour was that emerging party when the Liberal Party was in dire trouble with effectively two leaders in 1918 but there is not yet a similar rapidly rising rival to replace Labour so far. If that is lacking then Labour will most likely revive. So far, the way they lost Scotland is the main damage that has been done this year to the Labour Party, not Corbyn.

    • Two of your major observations seem to be:

      1. Most political positions, including Corbyn’s, are actually a sham and really about exercising power over others.

      2. Beliefs are a means for realising values.

      These seem contradictory, but it could be that in people like Corbyn there is a tension between the two. Beneath the urge to control others – ‘red fascism’ – there might be an egotistical or narcissistic desire to do good or leave an ethical legacy of some kind. We can see in the kernel of even the most unsympathetic ideology there is a desire to ‘do good’ towards some group or society generally.

      Personally, I would take more of a mechanistic/materialist-type view on this, in that I think ‘values’, ‘morals’ and ‘beliefs’ do not exist in any real sense other than as a means to achieve some selfish interest, which will have its root in the primal instincts of sex (reproduction). I think there will be exceptional individuals who fall outside this normative behaviour, but they will be few and far between and they will tend not to reproduce as their behaviours do not gel with the instinct of the rest of society for evolutionary survival. In so far as their counter-normative traits are genetically-transmissible traits, these might not be reproduced or replciated in any great number in future generations.

      [quote]”People are sick of politics today, and not only of the Labour Party but some are sure Old Labour might do better but that is not likely to ever be the case outside the Labour Party. When they continue to do badly in bye-elections and local elections, most will get to realise that the media are right that Corbyn has no chance.”[unquote]

      I think Corbyn’s populist appeal is being vastly underestimated. You also need to take account of the ethnic minority block vote, which will have a significant influence now, as we have just seen in Oldham West & Royton. You may turn out to be right in the end, though. There are reasons why Corbyn is being slated in the mainstream media, and people are sheep-like and may go along with this.

    • “Marxism is not what Corbyn supports. It is not part of the Labourite tradition” – The Labour Party was founded, like many other left parties, including the social democrats in many countries, as a specifically Marxist party. Hence, clause IV which committed the party to .taking into public ownership the commanding heights of the economy. Attlee’s government engaged in the most comprehensive system of nationalisation conducted by any elected government anywhere.

      As for Corbyn’s objection to war in the middle East, he does this for dangerous reasons. It is not to stop Britain from getting involved in war which cannot be won, but because it is in his mind an imperialist war. Moreover, his remedy of effectively pandering to ISIS and other Muslim terror groups by understanding their motivation and engaging with them is patently absurd. Worse, he adopts this position while supporting open door immigration which would result in huige numbers of Muslims invading this country.

  • I think the selective outrage of the legacy media regarding Corbyn’s “Hard Left” background is particularly ridiculous given the background of many (if not most) of the Blairites that were part of (old) New Labour.

    • The mainstream media as ever are dishonest. However, having spent the past 45 years dealing with the hard left I have no illusions about their essentially vicious and treasonous agenda which is to utterly remake society.

      • Yes. I think it worth noting that Blair and co., in a much more “subtle” way shared the same agenda and have done far more damage than Corbyn. Yet, these men are “respected” (in legacy circles) and their ideas are still “hegemonic” in the sense that they are replicated by so-called “conservatives” like Cameron and Osborne.

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