For readers bewildered by the indifference of Labour’s leaders to Brexit, let me offer a suggestion: you cannot understand British politics until you grasp that the party has been taken over by men (and the occasional woman) who spent their lives around the fag ends of the 20th-century Marxist-Leninist movement.
It’s not that Labour now has a communist programme. Revolutionary socialism is as dead as any idea can be. Rather, Labour has inherited the mental deformations of the Leninist style of doing business: the leadership personality cult, the love of conspiracy theory, the robotic denunciations of opponents, and most critically for our current crisis, the ineradicable fantasy that the worse conditions for the masses become, the brighter the prospects of the far left are. Disaster socialism is its alternative to disaster capitalism.
The hardest thing to see is what is staring you in the face. Even now Labour supporters do not recognise that their party had inherited the worst traditions of the far left. Yet how else to explain why Labour wants to end the freedom of movement its young members celebrate and leave the single market on which the manufacturing working class depends? An authentic leftwing party would worry about how a “compromise” Brexit – let alone the threat of leaving without a deal – will hit the poor and traditionally Labour-voting regions of Wales, the Midlands and northern England and extend austerity by cutting the tax base.
Labour’s leaders don’t sound remotely fearful, however. When asked about Brexit they deliver bland, mendacious slogans and make it as clear as a waiter trying to avoid eye contact that they would much prefer to talk to someone else. The easy point to make against them is that ending freedoms is what the far left has always done: there was precious little freedom of movement across the Iron Curtain. But, for anyone familiar with socialist history, it is the embrace of what Leninists called “revolutionary defeatism” that is Labour’s most striking characteristic. [Continue reading…]