JEZZA! JEZAAAAAAAA AHHHHHH JEZZZZZAA YOU ARE THE MADMAN WE NEEDED THE ABSOLUTE BOY YOU DID IT YOU BEAUTIFUL BASTARD HAHAHA I AM READY TO DEADLIFT A TRAIN OF BILL O’REILLY’S CASH THEN SET IT ON FIRE
The feelings inside me have gone all supernova, and now I feel as if I have twenty arms, and each hand has a high-powered assault rifle in it. Reality has changed.
You think I’m exaggerating, perhaps. But Corbyn has won. To begin with, he won. That must be understood before we talk about anything which follows. Jeremy Corbyn, running an honest-to-God true-leftist, raise-the-red-flag campaign, has won. He took Labour back to its socialist roots, and it worked. To say this was supposed to be impossible is downplaying it. At the moment, May is still Prime Minister. The Tories remain the largest party. But that won’t last.
All the Western politics of the last thirty years are built on a very simple equation:
The Left is not supposed to win. Ever.
I cannot stress enough how central this belief is to neoliberalism. Most political ideologies exist to oppose another ideology: conservatism is defined by its opposition to progressivism, for instance. But neoliberalism, the reigning ideology of our time, is unique: it insists it is not an ideology.
You know how these conversations go: “Oh, dear friend, of course I think Bernie would have won, but who can really say … but, you know, sigh, it isn’t possible these days … terrible tragedy, isn’t it? Too bad there’s no alternative. Now, go ahead and pull this lever for the Goldman Sachs candidate.” The neoliberals never make an argument on the merits; they just rule out Bernie, and all the Bernies of the world as metaphysical unlikelies. As if you were talking about a man with the head of an eagle and the body of a motorcycle. Corbyn’s victory shows that these people are utterly, totally, completely full of shit. Bernie would have won because Corbyn just fucking did.
Neoliberalism was the technocratic celebration of rapacious capitalism, because it was the best we could do. That was the argument. There could be no Left, just centrists leaning Left. Neoliberalism defined how we built our societies, and that is the reality most people deal with day in, day out.
Neoliberalism is why all the horrors of the last three decades occurred. Why the Clintons and the Obamas could do what they did.
Neoliberalism said there is no alternative. Even we wanted to go left, we couldn’t be elected, the neoliberals said.
Now there is an alternative.
I have never felt such political schadenfreude, Shane. It’s a lot like falling in love.
Corbyn and the Left won last night, and all the sharp people suddenly have nothing left to say. None of the elite in the United Kingdom were ready for this. None of the talking heads, or high-powered consultants, and certainly not the press. Every expensively-suited neoliberal in America, from Obama on down, disdained Corbyn and Left Labour. It wasn’t just that they disagreed with him: it was that Corbyn’s dream was far-fetched.
He would lose. They treated their opinion as a scientific proposition, like you or I treat the rising of the sun in the east. They knew that Corbyn would lose, their magazines knew it, their TV programs knew it; their children knew it, their servants and flunkies knew it, all parties were in agreement with Corbyn losing.
This is how ideology works, Shane. This is what I mean when I say, with a kind of cockeyed grin. that reality has changed. Our experiments prove certain physical facts about the world, but beyond that, in the realm of human society, we have to kind of guess the rest, paste it together from our beliefs and hope for the best. Yesterday I lived in a world where every authority told me Corbyn could never win.
And now the grim neoliberal world, the world they claimed was forever, is fading before our eyes. As flimsy as the court of Louis XVI. The dawn is breaking through. The society that centrist capitalism has built—this world of fake meritocracy, of outsourcing, of dismantled unions, of false friends selling speeches to investment banks, of student debt, of no jobs, of irreversible climate change—that world can be changed. If the neoliberal tomorrow is not our fate, if it is not our lot in life … then what else might be possible?
Even a hung parliament, where the Tories will still rule, is a miracle. Because it wasn’t supposed to happen. Imagine an independent, scrappy group of scientists announce they plan the unwinnable: develop a vaccine for all cancers. Big Pharma says it’s not doable, literally physically inconceivable. And then, despite incredible opposition, the scientists return with a vaccine to cure half the cancers. That is still a wonder beyond the dreams of the utopians.
This is how it must have felt walking around after Copernicus: yesterday, I woke up in a world where the Sun revolved around the Earth. What a splendid new ground we stand on.
It’s a tremendous victory on its own, but when you consider how incredibly lonely any leftist movement is doomed to be, it’s almost outrageous. If you’re a true progressive, you take flack from the right and from the center, and when the media’s not ignoring you, they’re either downplaying or mischaracterizing your ideals. It’s one giant barrage of dishonest criticism and bizarre bad-faith distractions, and against this ungodly machine a leftist has just one ace up his sleeve: The people.
Inundated as we are by traditional media and their slavish devotion to conventional wisdom, it’s remarkable that a movement like Corbyn’s could gain any momentum at all. The fact that it did, and succeeded so wildly, proves a truth that many of us were afraid to even consider—yes, it is possible to break the shackles of neoliberalism, and the “alternative” of fascist nationalism, and imagine a future that isn’t constrained on all sides by the misery of late capitalism or the dogma of hatred. That’s an enormous gift, and a boon for progressives in America and the whole world over.
Far from being limited by the media’s pessimism, or May’s arrogance in trying to bury Labour once and for all by calling the election, or the cynical attempts to paint him as soft on terror, Corbyn put out his message honestly and simply, and found his people. In about a month, he erased an enormous gap and essentially ruined the career of Theresa May, while leaving her party in tatters. The statistics surrounding the election are even better than the election itself—Corbyn won the young vote by 44%, compared to about 15% for the last Labour candidate, Ed Miliband. You can’t find a better sign of good things to come—these are not the kids of old, who must inevitably turn conservative as they age. It’s a new world we’re living in, and economically not a better one, so the old patterns are busted. With each passing year, the demographics will shift more and more toward the side of progressivism.
None of this is going to be easy, by the way, and anyone who sees last night as the end of our troubles is making a big mistake. Corbyn is still not Prime Minister, and despite her disastrous night, Theresa May, for now, has more power. The cause of Labour, and Labour’s analogues across the world, has to be pursued with an incredible amount of determination, because the current world order is not going to go quietly. You and I have already encountered the bullshit excuses—”imagine what Labour would have done with a better candidate!” There are too many people who don’t get it, and who will never get it, but with time and hard work, they won’t matter. For now, it’s more than enough for me to see this beacon of hope shining across the water, and to feel a little bit of joy as the political spectrum begins to shift in our direction.