Politics | Jeremy Corbyn’s victory might only be a first step, but it’s an important one

This summer's Labour Leadership race, which culminated in Jeremy Corbyn's election two weeks ago, offers valuable lessons on the power of mass movements, argues Frank Barat.

New in Ceasefire - Posted on Friday, September 25, 2015 22:44 - 0 Comments


Jeremy Corbyn addresses overflow crowd ahead of his Nottingham rally, 20 August 2015 (Image: Ceasefire)

Jeremy Corbyn addresses overflow crowd ahead of his Nottingham rally, 20 August 2015 (Image: Ceasefire)

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the labour party – and the election campaign that led to it- has taught us many things about what can be achieved when you build a mass movement led by the people, for the people.

Indeed, it is, in some ways, a return to the source of what politics (from the Greek ‘politikos’) is and should be about: citizens – acting on their behalf and advancing their core concerns, with a view to making their lives, and the society they inhabit and help construct, better.

The Corbyn triumph has radically changed the way we are going to think about politics and, most importantly, it has opened our minds and expanded the realms of what is now possible. Regardless of what happens next, many people across Britain, but also around the world, have been touched and empowered.

This is a victory in itself.

Over the last few months, we have also learned something else.

Potentially the most important aspect of Corbyn’s victory has been to expose, once and for all, the corporate media’s abysmally Machiavellian approach when trying to forge popular views and opinions.

There has been nothing objective or fair about the way most of the media, across the political spectrum, has been reporting on a campaign that has produced one of the most unexpected electoral outcomes in British political history.

Media coverage during the Corbyn campaign, and in the two weeks since his overwhelming triumph, seems to have been carefully planned and executed by commentators and editors. The corporate media has been forced to show its hand, and its pivotal function as an arm of the neoliberal elite.

Of course, this is unlikely to subside any time soon, quite the contrary. Opinion pieces attacking Corbyn and dismissing his supporters keep popping up. During the campaign, despite the overwhelming enthusiasm and support Corbyn was generating , evident in dozens of oversubscribed public meetings, the Westminster media, with a helpful hand by the New Labour old guard, became obsessed with detecting “tendentious” zones in Jeremy’s past and sinister ones in the profile of his “new supporters”.

The ludicrous Tony Blair was given endless opportunities, on media platforms Left and Right, to vent his impotent frustration and utter disgust at Jeremy Corbyn’s unassailable ascendancy. Incredibly, the man who illegally invaded and destroyed Iraq (with all the tragic repercussions its people endure today) because “it was the right thing to do” and “god told him so”, was given free reign, in op-eds and speeches to the converted, to openly insult the huge number of people rallying behind Corbyn, calling them believers in “Alice in Wonderland politics” who were “in need of a heart transplant”.

However, while media assaults were ostensibly directed at Corbyn, their real target was, in fact, his the movement of supporters behind him. One need not read between the lines to detect the complete contempt most commentators hold for the ordinary voters who dared stick with Corbyn.

Indeed, even after Corbyn’s astonishing landslide, many in the media seemed to be in denial about the huge democratic mandate he has secured. “Corbyn’s election shows Labour’s delight in losing”, screamed one headline, apparently unaware of the contradiction.

Of course, those writing the attack pieces (whether politicians or so called ‘experts’) and those running the outlets printing them, are mostly indistinguishable from one another. They’ve attended the same exclusive set of schools and universities, and frequent the same restaurants and holiday spots. They read the same books, go to the same movies, buy the same cars, sleep with the same women/men. and regard the large majority of inconsequential “others” as an unworthy distraction, hardly capable of producing a rational, intelligent thought.

Their view of the world, steeped in the very capitalist certainties behind so many of the ills afflicting or world, is a dogmatic one; a religion where no alternative is possible.

But they are facing a huge problem. First, they are a tiny minority. Secondly, people are starting to see through the propaganda, becoming increasingly immune to it. Media attacks on Corbyn mocking his “mismatched suit” or his choice of knitwear found no traction, and were instead openly ridiculed on social media as the crude, childish, irrelevant smears they were.

Slowly, people around the globe must continue to this push to break the corporate media’s grip and drive it into irrelevance. We can and must do so by reclaiming the platforms and the narrative. This is a crucial goal for any mass movement seeking radical, real change.

This is a fight that needs to be won. This is a victory that will change everything.

Frank Barat

Frank Barat is Coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and the author of “Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians” with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe. His new book, 'Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement', with Angela Davis, is out now.  He tweets at: @fbarat1

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