Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters can guarantee an anti-coup

It's become clear that despite the rumours of Corbyn being ousted, his popular support is too great

Corbyn

 

In April 2002 the Venezuelan military, supported by the nation’s corporate media, carried out a coup d’état against Huge Chavez, the democratically elected president whose popular government had been undertaking significant reforms in favour of the nation’s poor.

Chavez was arrested and Pedro Carmona, the head of the nation’s largest business group, was declared interim president. The constitution was suspended, the National Assembly disbanded and Supreme Court closed.

The US quickly moved to recognise the new government and pressured other countries to follow its lead.

However, in an extraordinary example of people power, fewer than 48 hours after he was forced out, Chavez was returned to office after hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans poured into the streets of Caracas demanding he be reinstated.

Gene Sharp, the world’s leading expert and proponent of non-violent resistance, has a name for what happened in Venezuela: an anti-coup.

Sharp argues successful anti-coups were also staged in the Soviet Union in 1991, against hardliners intent on deposing reforming President Mikhail Gorbachev, and in France in 1961 to stop a group of generals from overthrowing Charles de Gaulle’s government.

Should Sharp write about anti-coups in the future, he will have another case study to discuss: Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Since his landslide election in September 2015, Corbyn has faced an almost uniformly hostile media and constant rumours of attempts to unseat him, including from a senior serving British General.

His enemies heralded the local elections in May 2015 as a particular danger point, with reports suggesting there would be an attempt to remove Corbyn if Labour performed below the very high bar set by his opponents in the party.

However, on the day before the local elections the Guardian reported that “Jeremy Corbyn’s critics inside his party have set aside the possibility of a post-election leadership challenge in the face of warnings by pollsters that the party leader remains impossible to defeat in any vote of Labour members.”

According to Joe Twyman from YouGov, the polling data confirmed Corbyn remained “a country mile” ahead of other potential candidates. “The bottom line is that those eligible to vote in the Labour party leadership election strongly supported Jeremy Corbyn last year and that has not significantly changed,” he said.

The Guardian went on to note that Corbyn is “being shored up by the grassroots movement Momentum, which has compiled a database of more than 100,000 supporters that it believes could be used within days to help fight off any potential challenge.”

In other words, popular opinion and grassroots pressure has staved off an attempt to remove Corbyn, though the mainstream media will never frame it in these terms.

Jon Lansman, the Chair of Momentum, explained Momentum’s role in an interview with the Guardian in March 2016, saying he thinks it is possible that people might move on Corbyn.  

Asked if Momentum is preparing for an attempted coup, he claimed they are not, though suggested the group’s huge database of supporters and networks of local groups could be activated should the need arise.

“Part of my role has been to ensure that Momentum is equipped to campaign to defend the legitimacy of Jeremy’s leadership”, Lansman told the New Statesman in May 2016.

With Labour’s predicted local elections meltdown failing to materialise, Sadiq Khan elected as London mayor and a new YouGov poll putting support for Corbyn within the Labour Party at 64 per cent it seems the MP for North Islington is safe for now.

Though it may be obvious, it bears repeating just how high the stakes are for the British people: arguably Corbyn’s leadership will be the best opportunity for significant progressive change in Britain for a generation.

And, as I argued just after Corbyn was elected Labour leader, just like all progressive change throughout history, it is the size, power and tactical nous of the popular movement/s supporting Corbyn’s leadership that will be the deciding factor: whether he continues as leader of the Labour Party, the extent to which he will need to compromise his political positions and his chances of being elected Prime Minister in 2020.

If they can be built and sustained, then the popular campaigns and mass movements backing Corbyn should have two broad aims.

First, to protect his leadership from the incessant attacks – from the Tories, from big business, from the military, from within the Labour Party and from the media (Corbyn’s politics inevitably means he has a lot of powerful enemies).

Activists need to understand it is not just the right-wing press that have their knives out, but that much of the liberal press, including the Guardian and BBC, has played an integral part in the ferocious propaganda campaign targeting the Labour leader.

To change the media story, the movement should go on the offensive, pressuring news outlets and journalists, setting the agenda and controlling the narrative as much as possible. Popular pressure should also be applied on Labour MPs who are attempting to undermine Corbyn and his political positions.

Second, pressure should be applied to Corbyn himself and his supporters within the Labour Party – to make sure he keeps to his promises. The more active support he gets, the more confidence he will have in pushing forward his political vision.

McDonnell’s positive noises about a Universal Basic Income suggest the Labour leadership is open to considering ideas coming from the radical grassroots.

But more importantly, pressure needs to be applied on Corbyn to push him to be more green and radical. For example, Khan – whose Mayoral campaign was backed by Corbyn – has already removed a key obstacle to the expansion of City Airport.

In addition, despite the rising climate chaos engulfing the planet Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell continue to push for economic growth.

“In other words”, the Green’s Rupert Read noted, “they repeatedly call for worsening the number one cause of the ecological crisis.” 

Importantly, the mass movement backing Corbyn needs to be pro-active, not reactive as Lansman’s comments above suggest. It is imperative that Corbyn does not continue to get tangled up in Westminster’s web of petty political point scoring.

If Corbyn is to have any chance of becoming Prime Minister then talk of coups and plots and the never-ending intra-Labour snipping needs to end quickly. Because if the atmospherics and coverage around Labour is still full of coup rumours and concocted scandals come 2019-20 then it will likely be game over.

Instead Corbyn’s team needs to go on the offensive and set out their political vision and reach out and build alliances with like-minded politicians and parties such as the Greens.

Hidden within the liberal rhetoric of his run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008, Senator John Edwards made some important remarks about the possibility for political change.

According to Edwards, the general public and incoming president need to be clear: an ‘epic fight’ is required with ‘entrenched, powerful monied interests’ to reclaim back American democracy so it works for the whole population, not just the few. ‘We better be ready for that battle,’ he warned.

The question when it comes to Corbyn and changing British society for the better in the face of established power is this: are the Left and Corbyn’s supporters up for the ‘epic fight’ that is required?

If not, we’d better be. And soon.

Ian Sinclair is the author of The March That Shook Blair: An Oral History of 15 February 2003, published by Peace News Press. He tweets @IanJSinclair

11 Responses to “Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters can guarantee an anti-coup”

  1. NHSGP

    Just remind us again what a wonder socialist heaven Venuzeula is?

    Yep, quite. Not worked has it, and they have huge amounts of oil,

    So why would you be advocating the same for the UK.

    PS How much does the UK’s welfare state owe for pensions? Where’s the weatlh

  2. James Kemp

    Let’s see universal health care first south american country to do so. It was destroyed by the USA because they hate socialism it doesn’t go with the great god $!

    Combined with the sticky fingered brigade with the Swiss bank accounts this is where the money went out there. Here it’s simple why is Tarta being let off not putting any money into the pension pot and the workers looking like losing more? Because business is more interested in shareholders then the workers maybe if we had a proper government this whould not be happening like this….

  3. Dougal Hare

    Dearie me, invoking a failing South American republic and it’s thuggish late strongman president to defend the silent and invisible man if UK politics is pretty thin stuff indeed.

  4. ad

    However, in an extraordinary example of people power, fewer than 48 hours after he was forced out, Chavez was returned to office after hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans poured into the streets of Caracas demanding he be reinstated.

    That would be more reassuring if Venezuela were not both the country with more oil than any other, and a disaster area. Perhaps those Venezuelans should have stayed at home.

  5. Wanda Lozinska

    “In addition, despite the rising climate chaos engulfing the planet Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell continue to push for economic growth.”

    They would like to have far more investment in green technologies which will provide proper, well paid jobs and help with economic growth, as well as helping the planet. During the leadership contest they brought out a detailed policy document on energy and the environment and I understand that they have a very good working relationship with the sole Green MP.

  6. David Lindsay

    Venezuela has always been like that for most people. But only when the champagne stops flowing at the country clubs do the American and the wannabe American Right and pseudo-Left suddenly sit up and take notice. What would replace the present Government? What has replaced overthrown left-wing governments in Latin America and the Caribbean in the past? At whose instigation? And to whose benefit?

  7. Ian Sinclair

    Hi NHSGP
    Thanks for your comment but you seem to have (wilfully?) misunderstood the whole point of my article.
    I used Venezuela in 2002 as an example of a successful anti-coup. I also mentioned the Soviet Union in 1991 as another successful anti-coup. Do you therefore think I am suggesting the policies of the Soviet Union are a good thing, or that I support them?
    I’m also a little confused by your mention of pensions as I didn’t mention them in my article as far as I am aware. So I’m not quite sure what relevance they have to anything?
    Thanks
    Ian Sinclair

  8. Andy Gill

    It isn’t propaganda from the liberal press that is hurting the Labour party. It is the anti-semitism and Corbyn’s failure to address it. Hopefully Labour will suffer a humiliating defeat at the polls, so that a more honorable and less racist party can emerge from the ashes.

  9. Jimmy Glesga

    Hopefully Labour will rid us of Corbyn and McDonnell if we stand any chance of winning the next election. Their past is not going away. Maybe Gerry Adams could have said that!

  10. Peter L. Griffiths

    The Labour Party supports Corbyn, primarily because of Tony Blair’s aggressive policies in
    Afghanistan and Iraq. In this respect it is the so called Labour Party moderates who put
    careers first by supporting Blair and who presently cannot understand why they are being
    ignored in favour of Corbyn. However Corbyn and McDonnell do need to introduce more
    egalitarian financial policies.

  11. Frann Leach

    Dear me. Sad to see so many red tories in your ranks, I have to say.

    People don’t want reheated Blairism. Getting rid of Corbyn would scupper Labour for at least a generation.

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