Monday, 5 June 2017

Jeremy Corbyn is not a Marxist but a Social Democrat?

Corbyn and Theresa May
I wrote an article sometime back in 2016. I named Jeremy Corbyn as a post modern marxist at that time. After one and half years later I am about to change my mind on Corbyn. Is he really a Marxist or a post modern  Marxist? He won the second leadership contest of the British labour party with a huge margin. Now he faces the biggest battle of his political career as one of the longest serving leftist MPs in British Parliament. Theresa May - The British Prime Minister called a General election to be held on 8th of June 2017.

Last one and half years, I was listening to Corbyn's speeches and went through Labour Party's left wing politics. I came to a firm conclusion (despite assumptions by right wing media) Jeremy Corbyn is not  a Marxist nor a postmodern Marxist either.

As we know a marxist is someone who read the Marx's "Capital" or read only just important bits or did not read it at all but whichever the way accepting Marx and Engel's economic theories and ideology.  Also a marxist would think and act towards  making revolutionary changes in society  that will lead ultimately to a creation of a communist society.

Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin are therefore marxists.

After Karl Marx and Frederick EngelsV. I. Lenin , Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin developed Marxist theories further while creating the first socialist country on earth - USSR.  So we have Marxism Leninism, Trotskyism and Stalinism as well. These all isms were based on Marxism any way. Then after China's very own chairman Mao Zedong we also have Maoism. I would actually categorise all of them as post-marxist.

Ernesto Che Guevera and Fidel Castro are late marxists. (First they achieved the revolution in cuba and then tuned into Marxism). Pol-Pot of Cambodia, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Kim Il Sung of North Korea were also post marxists and some were Marxist Leninist and others were marxists maoists.

There are lot of material available on postmodernism. So I am not going to write about it. I will quote this from Julie Graham's article which one can find here.

"Using the oppositional rhetoric that characterizes the most obstreperous post-modernism, one might summarize the postmodern point of view on Marxist geography as follows: Marxism and class are dead, but geography and locality are alive and well. More generally, modernism, homogeneity, rationality, mass production, metanarrative, tract housing, and space are dead. Long live post-modernism, pluralism, power and desire, small batch production, local narrative, indigenous architecture, and place."

Number of postmodern marxists are hiding inside this postmodern set. When we talk about postmodern marxists the first one to come to the mind is Fredrick Jameson. But dare I say that postmodern Marxist is the one who is firmly standing  on marxist foundation but overreaching all the others isms (leninism, trotskyism, stalinism etc) to find a best possible way to face the modern capitalism while finding reasons for marxism's decline.

Postmodern Marxists do not beleive that marxism is dead. Standing on Marxist foundation they are trying various ways to advance further thus crating different schools of thought. The western philosophers and postmodern marxists of that calibre are many. Alain Badiou, Pierre Bourdieu, Alexander Tarasov, Ernesto Laclau, Gayatri Spivak, Slavoj Zizek to name  a few. Some of them are in this list.

Therefore I cannot add labour leader  Jeremy Corbyn to that category of postmodern marxists. he is not a Marxist either as right wing press trying to portray. In one of the television interviews Corbyn admitted he value karl Marx as an authority on economic theories. However he also admitted he read Adam Smith and Ricardo as well. However just reading material of Marx one will not become a Marxist.

You find a clues in Labour manifesto that shows this is not a communist manifesto. Nowhere near to it.  The shadow chancellor John Mcdonnell also admitted he learned  a lot reading "Das Kapital". Whther you agree to what is in the "Capital" or not it's is better always to read it. Böhm-Bawerk did not write books criticizing Capital while not reading it i hope.

What I can see in labour manifesto is a Nordic economic model followed by countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. A similar economic model also put forward by British ecnomist John Maynard Ken  that we called keynesian economics.

For an example in this manifesto labour promises to  re-nationalise railway system. (public ownership). This is clearly putting a stop to thatcherism. Private British railway services are badly funded, expensive and services are below par. In European countries like Germany, France, Italy, Sweden publicly owned rail service offer tremendous value for money. They are on time, have better carriages and cheap to travel. So Corbyn and friends are not offering anything new. Just popular European rail service.

Until the year 1998 United Kingdom provided free education. up to university level. Number of private universities were only 7.   In 1998, then Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government has adopted a proposals to charge the university education. It was to be £ 1,000 a year. Since then both the Labour and Conservative governments allowed the tuition fees to rise up to   £ 9,000 a year.  However, this tuition fees applied only to universities in England. Wales and Scotland continue  to provide free education at university level.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labor Party manifesto proposes to abolish the tuition fees to study in British universities in England imposed the by the own Labour government. The small number of the private universities will not be abolished.

Next in Labour manifesto is to suggest public ownership of utility companies which supply Gas, Electricity and water. When these services were privatised it was expected that through private ownership healthy competition will reduce the high prices. But it did not happen. These companies got huge profits but they hardley invented them back. Also they raised the rates more daringly ignoring public outcries,  ombudsman's and regulators advises.

Companies like Thames Water stand accused of water wastage of millions of gallons through leaking of pipes but still charging high prices and raking in billions in profits. Another popular policy by Labour. It seems that people are responding well to this policy.

Labour party also promises to safeguard their flagship project - NHS. NHS needs more money pouring into it. They need more doctors, nurses and infrastructure. Corbyn and manifesto promises to stop Theresa May's selling NHS assets to private sector.

All these public services is more or less working perfectly in some  European and most  Nordic countries. People of these countries pay more tax for these services. In Labour manifesto it claims they would  tax 50% for the wages over £123000. Britain's top 5% of the earners will be affected. They would increase the corporate tax from 9% to 26%.   This tax is 39% in United States and 33% in France. They are threatening to tax the companies registered in tax heavens but  operating and profiting on British soil.

Most of these proposal cannot be categorised as from a marxist communist manifesto . I presume in a  a communist manifesto they would have asked to ban ownership of  private property.  There will be no incentives to private enterprises either. That would be banned as well or will be nationalised.

Corbyn will support small and medium sized businesses to stay afloat and creating jobs. They also want to build 10000 new homes instead of grabbing homes from bourgeoisie. 

Corbyn, McDonnell and co identify themselves as democratic socialists.


Theresa may and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs

I remember two countries that named themselves as democratic socialist. One is German Democratic rRpublic or popularly known as Eastern Germany. Socialist unity party of germany i.e. SED was called party of democratic socialism. Country was run by the stasi, the feared secret service. I don't think Jeremy Corbyn wanted to run Britain like that.

Other country is Democratic Socialist republic of Sri lanka. Sri lanka has a free education until university level. Free health service similar to Britain's NHS but badly funded. Railways run by the government but people say time of the British raj railways ran better and ontime. Also there are lot of troubles and underfunding in all government run services. Country is not doing great at all.

However United Kingdom is not Sri lanka and not GDR. It's foremost a first world country with billions of income and healthy working populations. Social democracy is not something new to Britain.  All I can see is Jeremy Corbyn is a leftist politician whose ideology swinging like a pendulum in between a social democrat and a democratic socialist. But he is definitely not a diehard Marxist. 

 British history will be changed depending on  who will win the general elections will be  held on June 8.
One of the Corbyn Rallies in Gatshed


Sources:
1. postmodernism 
2. post-modernism and marxism
3. post marxists 
4. JEREMY CORBYN  has read the works of both Karl Marx and free market pioneer Adam Smith 


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