I had a very interesting chat with a dear friend today, who as well as being a friend happens to be a life-long Labour supporter.
He is also one who shared my experiences of the last time Jeremy Corbyn ran anything when he was the power behind the republican throne of Bernie Grant in the London Borough of Haringey in 1970/80s. So despite his loyalty to his party he too shudders at the thought that Comrade Corbyn could be on the cusp of real power.
We shared another thought too. That was to despair at the way the new Hard Left have retained the abiding and visceral personal hatred of political opponents, both outside and just as often inside, their party.
We both felt that the one thing we had always found common to people involved in real politics at whatever level and via whichever party was a sense of public service and a desire to make the world a nicer place.
By ‘real’ politics we meant those people who devote their leisure time to attending branch meetings on cold and rainy evenings (they don’t have to be cold or rainy of course), who knock on doors and deliver leaflets, who fund raise for their party, and who stand for office and sometimes get elected.
We did not mean people who pay a minimum party membership subscription, wave a placard, or click to show their support.
My friend and I had also shared the experience that many of the new recruits to ‘new’ politics had not only failed to ‘pay their dues’ through real involvement, but also thought that people who did not agree with them were ‘the enemy.’
Thinking back over five decades being in or around politics, I can’t think of a person who I regarded as being the enemy.
I have always respected and unusually liked people who though holding opposing opinions to my own, were ca;able of presenting their case, and who enjoyed argument. Politics is the business of argument, and so without that it is difficult for me to understand what would attract someone to be involved in politics.
My friend shared a third thought from a Labour perspective about the majority of people he had encountered who were new recruits to his party and who had been attracted by Momentum, Comrade Corbyn’s personal party within a party.
He said that they were quite different from the Hard Left who flocked to Jeremy’s cause in the 1970s and since. Those people were as hard as nails, earned the description “extremist” and had signed up to the Marxist visions for socialism as reinterpreted by the more authoritarian fathers of modern socialism to varying degrees of authoritarianism, mostly notably Stalin of course. He said that the people now flocking to the Red Flag were not extremists, they are idealists.
If that is true, it would explain a lot.
Critics of Corbynista politics tend to berate new recruits, particularly young supporters, for ignoring the lessons of history. It would seem that this is not the case.
They are not reading those lessons and choosing to ignore them. It is more the case that they are starting with a clean sheet to paper and are giving Comrade Corbyn the benefit of the doubt. They do not see his record, they simply see something which looks and sounds attractive – a new politics, without appreciating that it is really very old politics.
All very interesting I thought, but more importantly a reaffirmation that friendship can be enriched by political debate, rather than treating it as a barrier.