Thursday, December 26, 2019

No Time to Despair: Reflections from a Young Member on the Labor Left
Morning Star, London

TOM RAESIDE, who campaigned in constituencies including North West Durham, gives his take on Labour’s general election loss

I STILL can’t quite comprehend what happened at the general election, but two things strike me from the off.

First, our manifesto and policies must never slip. We have seismically changed the political landscape since 2015.

It is possible to imagine a country that has free university tuition, takes its utilities into public ownership and prioritises the many and not the few.

And second, the above is possible only because of Jeremy Corbyn and our mass membership.

He will and go down in history as a mobiliser, champion and one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Labour Party.

For Corbyn, Laura Pidcock and her team, I am gutted — there are no words.

During this election I canvassed in 10 constituencies. Every evening that I wasn’t at work I was out canvassing for the Labour Party.

A number of factors contributed to our election loss. The media castigated one of the first truly anti-fascist leaders of a mainstream political party, portraying him as a fiend.

There is no brand new point to be made here — the right-wing press are always going to be against us.

However, the vitriol, anger and hatred that they have whipped up against Corbyn-supporting socialists in 2019 is frightening and we have to watch out for ourselves and each other.

I’d like to pay tribute to Owen Jones and to the two canvassers who were injured in Rother Valley and in Hereford.

During this election I was told by a nurse who had worked for 50 years in the NHS that effectively our generation doesn’t deserve the NHS and by many separate people that for supporting Labour I should “get to fuck.” On many occasions I had doors slammed in my face.

The now MP for North West Durham shared a video of me being harassed by a rightwinger on the doorstep after this person said that “he wanted to burn my leaflet” and that he wanted to “have a word” with Pidcock.

Our commitment to backing a second referendum on Europe caused people in the north of England to believe us to be a “London clique.”

I don’t hold the leadership responsible for this. But senior figures in the party do have a lot to answer on how it got so bad.

I voted Remain, like many on the left. I did this because I wanted to preserve the leadership, transform the party infrastructure and to keep an eye on the bigger picture to fight a general election on a socialist ticket.

However, this year, our socialist message and promises were buried under a pledge to commit to a second referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely right when he said on Question Time that he was going to remain neutral on any such referendum as it put into context for us on the left what a non-starter it was.

The EU is obsolete. It’s an undemocratic institution and one of its main purposes is to preserve the status quo. The Health and Social Care Act which has been wrecking our health service since 2012, was passed in while we were in Europe.

Although I don’t think it was a dominant factor, working-class communities voted Leave as they had nothing to lose.

The effective “F off” to the EU in 2016 is something that as a movement we should have jumped on to further our socialist cause.

I think Corbyn recognised this. Unfortunately other comrades who stood alongside him in 2015 and ’16 didn’t.

Where was the John McDonnell who called out Alastair Campbell on Question Time telling him the truth that “you’re the person, above all else, who actually created a political environment where no-one believed a word a politician said”?

This election it was a McDonnell that sat down with Campbell for an interview with GQ magazine.

It was at that point we knew this wasn’t going to be an election like 2017 — this is where standards were at and “the environment where no-one believed a word a politician said” had grown a little bit more.

This is relevant because this and our position on Brexit amounted to a capitulation to the right of the party — a capitulation which is one of the reasons why we have been robbed of a socialist government.

However, Corbyn is not to blame. In fact I am in awe of the man and I’m so incredibly grateful to him.

As Laura Pidcock said of him at the Durham Miners’ Gala this year: “It’s painful when you are called an extremist when you have fought your whole life for peace, when you are called a racist, when you define yourself by your anti-racist activism.

“When we look back people will be in awe that you did not shrink back from the fire.”

This election can never take away the flames of hope, optimism and opportunity Corbyn built for this political generation and it is that flame that we must build on now.

A flame that has delivered a record membership, record attendances at conference and a flame whose political will consists of building a society for the many and not the few.

We have to build and capitalise on the sheer numbers out canvassing that we have seen. We have to use these numbers to build a movement and now policy wise there can be no going back.

No going back. We need to be more radical, more invested and committed to empowering and democratising the working class.

The priority has to be to save the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn and bolster it up with more socialism. To do this we must stay put in the party, don’t leave — it’s not called the struggle for nothing.

This can only be done by organising like never before. It’s going to be incredibly difficult — our values, beliefs and ideology are going to face a brutal attack like never before.

The success and sustenance of our movement depends on making sure there are enough people in the movement organised and ready to fight for these gains.

Tom Raeside, 21, is a member of Bethnal Green and Bow CLP.

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