When does a church become so broad that its congregants no longer profess the same faith? For Labour, that challenge goes beyond the present rows over Brexit and antisemitism. It drills into deep ideological faultlines.
Corbyn’s party has no leftmost boundary. There is no form of radical socialism that it deems taboo. It welcomes people who wave hammer and sickle flags, whether they are unaware of atrocities committed under that banner or simply relaxed about them. It is not controversial in the Labour leader’s office to see the fall of the Berlin Wall as a sad event. Corbyn’s inner circle includes former senior Communist party members and Stalinists.
A lot more than seven Labour MPs think Britain would be badly governed by such people and that the levers of state power – the army, police and security services – must never come under their hands.
The usual defence against charges that the party has been captured by extremists is to wave the 2017 election manifesto. It pledges nothing more sinister than a spot of light renationalisation, which is meant to prove that the whole project would look centrist by the standards of continental Europe. If it seems ultra-left it is only because Margaret Thatcher sent Britain hurtling off to the right. Many Labour moderates suspect the trajectory is to a darker place, and it is more than a hunch. Their view is based on the Corbyn’s past associations, familiarity with the tactics of the hard left at local party level and the invective of online trolls. But that is thin evidence in the court of members’ opinion. The leader’s testimony as a mild-mannered peacenik is more persuasive. So the question of what Corbynism really means has been parked. The model could be anywhere between Venezuelan socialism and Swedish social democracy. It can sound revolutionary for whipping up passions at a rally and reasonable for reassuring swing voters. It wants to abolish capitalism at the demo but only to reform it on the doorstep.
Those are not pillars supporting the same roof of a broad church. They are rival conceptions of what a government is for. [Continue reading…]