How do we relate to the Corbyn phenomenon?

For a long time I have been posting on the Facebook page Jeremy Corbyn - True Socialism. It has thousands of members according to the admin.

This is something I wrote regarding Corbyn.

Corbyn is now recognised by the mainstream as a contender for power, no longer dismissed as an unelectable aberration. Many suspect Corbyn will not live up to the hype, but few are aware of capitalism’s laws, its own dynamic, which prevent amelioration of conditions for the majority.

It is only through the materialist analysis of capitalism, one which recognises that the profit drive is the raison d’etre of the system and that the tendential decline in the rate of profit as described by Marx is the Achilles heel of the system, that one can understand the trajectory towards ever greater levels of exploitation, inequality and unemployment, veiled by part time working, zero hours and the like.

Even within a framework of overall decline for the exploited, certain sectors may benefit, thus prolonging illusions, providing Corbyn and labour with political " credit".

It is unlikely that our argument regarding economic trajectory to worsening conditions, tendential decline in profit rates, is going to attract a mass audience before the scenario plays out to a more extreme stage. There is no simple economic determinism that can link a certain threshold, a certain set of economic conditions with a definite response from those whose conditions are undergoing erosion, yet this remains the prime element in our forecasts that the class struggle will intensify to the point that the revolutionary perspective becomes a reference for the working class in general.

Corbyn holds out a hope for pacific transition. Without great difficulty, without great understanding, all that is required is electoral support, perhaps for the more committed a role in drumming up that support, and we will have no more slashing of services, a brake on the growth in poverty, gone the burden of university fees and an end to belligerent imperialism will materialise.

The left, identifying, socialist, even Marxist and anarchist, who have sided with Corbyn have ignored the reality of capitalist crisis, the trajectory of capitalism which Marx painstakingly laid bare as the inevitable result of its contradictory dynamic.

We, as did Marx, see no stage of mitigated capitalist conditions as a pre-condition for socialism. That the capitalist process of the past underwent periods of rapid expansion allowing for a temporary appeasement of the working class through significant reforms does not in any way mean that such a possibility is a permanent feature, simply dependent on utilising the electoral mechanism or applying pressure through trade union methods or any other mechanism to the advantage of the exploited. What capitalism conceded in times of relatively high profitability and expansion (its early days, periods of post war reconstruction) has to be clawed back when the rate of profit again becomes a critical issue, preventing investment and bringing the whole process from a full-on gallop to a gasping crawl.

Socialism is not the fruit of escalating improvements under capitalism. It is the result of mounting crisis and consequent class struggle AND revolutionary perspectives.

The period of improvement is not the condition for revolution, there is no ramp to an almost seamless change from capitalism to socialism. On the contrary, the period leading to revolution is marked by an intensifying class antagonism. On the one side, a vast accumulation of capital faced with an increasingly difficult task to generate profit to make the process worthwhile, on the other an exploited majority seeing its conditions eroded as only thus can the rate of profit be maintained in the vicious competitive struggle between the rival capitalist concerns.

The terrain of class struggle, precipitated by the attacks on the conditions of the proletariat, opens the possibility of generalisation of a revolutionary perspective which does not arise spontaneously but is the result of understanding the capitalist dynamic and the historical experience of the class struggle.

The idea of making things better, improving working class conditions under capitalism is not our concern. If temporary fluctuations and ruling class policy go that way for this or that sector of the proletariat, that is out of our hands. We have an objective of the end of class society. Fluctuating conditions do not change that. They may impact on the willingness of the class to heed the message, but it remains what it is.

The reality appears to be that we as the revolutionary minority who have taken seriously the analysis Marx initialised remain marginalised for any foreseeable future until the conditions of capitalism deteriorate to the point that the risk of revolution is seen as viable by its victims.

All our intervention can be is patient explanation of the Marxist perspective where we can present it. A few Marxists getting involved in reformist projects is irrelevant at best. If it contributes towards the illusion of a brighter chapter emerging out of capitalism, then it is decidedly harmful.

Our contribution is mainly related to consciousness, understanding of the situation, historic perspective. Dismissing that is an error. The proletariat cannot come to power through a gradual takeover of the capitalist economy. Not even by a sudden takeover. The question of power has to be settled. It is only by creating its own organs of rule, the workers’ councils, that the class can move as a united force, challenge the state power of the capitalist class and take its destiny into its own hands.

As a minority we may consider conditions ripe for revolution, but this is not a generalised perspective. The decline is far from the finale. The barrier to acceptance of our perspective and remedies is largely based on the ability of capitalism to make the status quo bearable and the promises of reformism credible.

By courting temporary popularity and giving in to the illusion of quick solutions, ignoring the material reality of the capitalist process and aiding and abetting the forces of conservation of capitalism, all those who have advocated support for Corbyn’s Labour Party have only contributed to the retardation of the generalisation of revolutionary theory which alone can guide the class beyond the present trajectory of social collapse.


Presumably Stevein7 posts on Corbynite web sites hoping that some of the participants will be persuaded by his arguments. Part of that process would certainly involve "the patient explanation of the Marxist perspective". By and large, it can be seen, that S has made an honest effort to do that.

Unfortunately, the way in which S presents his arguments against reformism risks letting the leftists "off the hook". S writes "The idea of making things better, improving working class conditions under capitalism is not our concern". The nuance at the end of the sentence is doubly unfortunate. Firstly, there is the relationship between the revolutionary minority and the rest of the working class. The blunt "not our concern" does not reflect communist theory or practice. There are innumerable areas of defensive struggle that sections of our class become involved in. S is well familiar with these - struggles against evictions, fights against wage cuts or appalling working conditions, resisting rack renting, defending local facilities; the list is virtually endless. Far from being a matter of indifference to Communists, we see these struggles as being signs of class combativity, no matter how limited. In addition, we do not ignore such struggles but specifically intervene where possible. Depending on circumstances we present arguments to generalise the struggle, break through the Trade Union and Labour Movement restrictions and seek to encourage self-organisation and proletarian forms of struggle, such as assemblies or mass meetings.

Clearly, S has devoted significant time and energy to engage with the Corbynist swamp. Certainly, one element of our arguments against their agenda is to demystify the minimal real "temporary amelioration" that are not only possible but regularly produced by politicians of all parties. An increase in the minimum wage, index-linked pension raises, easing of benefit cuts, even an extra billion pounds of spend in Northern Ireland - all are possible. With the exception of the last one on the list, those steps, together with a whole host of promises that they will not have to deliver, are the bread and butter of the Corbynite agenda. Many of their followers explicitly describe those reforms as being the reason why they have joined the "Vote Jeremy Corbyn" chorus. S correctly critiques such changes as being limited, temporary and liable to being clawed back. On the other hand, we also need to unravel the core deceits at the heart of Left Labourist / Corbynite politics.

There is a very big lie that we need to address - "The Parliamentary Road to Socialism". While the leftists actively mislead themselves and others, Marxists need to "patiently explain" the real nature of the Parliamentary smokescreen around the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It is hoped that the forthcoming edition of "Revolutionary Perspectives" will progress that clarification. By appearing to simply dismiss the possibility of self-organised defensive struggles, we would not only lose credibility but also antagonise those who might listen even before we start on our fundamental critiques.

The idea of making things better, improving working class conditions under capitalism is not our concern.

I understand from all the examples I have heard so far that the class struggle within the capitalist framework provides terrain for intervention. It makes sense that revolutionaries support the struggles in which they attempt to intervene but I think it becomes problematic when we start saying "demand more than you are demanding" or put forward demands. In my mind the concern is to link the necessarily restricted struggles to the revolutionary outcome.

I am not advocating ignoring the instances of resistance to the capitalist erosion of conditions, I am saying that they need to be explained within the context of the general attack by capital and the necessity of involvement in a revolutionary project.

As we are concerned with the class in general, a global class, we can see that the attempt to improve or maintain existing conditions is bound to fail due to the profitability demands of capital.

This is not dismissing struggle, this is not turning away from real resistance to pursue a purely theoretical path. This is recognising that the class struggle within the capitalist framework is predetermined to failure for the proletariat in general, but that it remains the means to go beyond the capitalist framework.

Intervening within struggles presenting the revolutionary perspective is our concern.

Perhaps only vaguely related, but still relevant I think, is a discussion I initiated on the Corbyn website on the topic;

Debating socialism...Socialism will end prostitution, including pornography. What do you say?

Quite a few participants could see nothing wrong with what they call "sex work" and there were calls for better conditions, rights , legalisation and the rest.

Others like myself made the point that socialists see the condition of prostitution as arising largely through economic conditions of despair and brutalisation and that we socialists ( I use the term socialist but for me it means communist) see the necessary outcome of the resolution of the economic distress as being the grounds for the elimination of prostitution and other realated selling of sexual services for needed resources.

I found it difficult to put forward any demands for amelioration of prostitution under capitalism. All such demands seemed to reinforce the activity, normalising it, creating acceptance of the inhumanity at its root.

And from there it is no great leap to applying the same thought process to the general proletarian condition.

It is not a case of condemning the prostitutes who seek this or that legal reform, this or that improved condition of work.

It is not a case of condemning those proletarians who seek this or that improvement, this or that reduction in exploitation, this or that safety measure.

It is a case of bringing the missing perspective to the argument. That is what I see as the concern of revolutionaries.

It is not condemning struggle, not ignoring struggle, it is bringing trevolutionary consciousness into the fray.

Obviously one has to apply tact.