Citizen Activism, Food for Thought, Voting = Resistance

What Can We Learn from Corbyn/Labour Gains?

A Hudson Valley Strong member writes:

I’ve been reading a lot about the Corbyn/Labour gains (as well as the huge Macron win), to glean what I can that might be helpful to us in NY-19 vis-a-vis our grass roots efforts. One thing that strikes me is that the galvanizing and hopeful results for both Corbyn and Macron come from very different political/policy perspectives. For that reason, I don’t think we can necessarily draw, as some are wont to do, that a “progressive” platform is the key ingredient to an electoral win. As they say, it all depends.

That aside, there’s a lot to draw from the way these campaigns were run on the ground. I’ve just finished reading Theda Skocpol’s book, Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life. Here’s an excerpt from the close of the book (published in 2003):

Over the past third of a century, the old civic America has been bypassed and shoved to the side by a gaggle of professionally dominated advocacy groups and nonprofit institutions rarely attached to memberships worthy of the name. Ideas of shared citizenship and possibilities for democratic leverage have been compromised in the process. Since the 1960s many good things have happened in America. New voices are heard, and there have been invaluable gains in equality and liberty. But vital links in the nation’s associational life have frayed, and we need to find creative ways to repair those links if America is to avoid becoming a country of managers and manipulated spectators rather than a national community of fellow democratic citizens. . . .

Taking lessons and inspiration from our nation’s rich civic history, we must find ways to fashion again for our own times the sorts of great voluntary combinations that long ago impressed Alexis de Tocqueville with the extraordinary capacity of Americans for the vigorous practice of civil and political democracy.

I had Skocpol’s words much in mind on reading an article about the Corbyn/Labour gains in the Guardian. I was particularly struck with this passage in an article, There is no unwinnable seat now’ – how Labour revolutionised its doorstep game:

For Mundy [Max Munday, a 32-year-old volunteer from Momentum Sheffield], all parts of the Labour party have things to learn from the 2017 campaign, ahead of the next general election. Momentum members should be getting involved and communicating more with CLPs [Constituent Labor Parties] (indeed, from 1 July all Momentum members will have to be Labour members, too). Meanwhile, the party should be rethinking its strategy at a national and local level. “What we have to do now is bridge the experience of the older members and the enthusiasm of younger members.”

The reason Momentum members will have to become Labour members has its genesis here:

The group had been riven by factional disputes since Corbyn’s re-election in September, amid reports that it had been infiltrated by Trotskyists. Corbyn had urged its members to resolve their differences, telling the Guardian in December that he would like to see them join Labour. Momentum issued a public statement on Tuesday night that said elections would now be held to a new ruling body and its existing governing structures dissolved. It will then seek to become an affiliate of the Labour party. (boldface added)

I’m still thinking about what this suggests for us in the US, but one thing I’ve been brewing on for quite a while is how much less frustrated I would be with Bernie Sanders if he were a member of and worked within the Democratic Party, rather than standing outside as an Independent. Instead, he has, and continues to, exude “us” v. “them,” and, as a result, there are whole swaths of voters and potential voters who care about exactly the same things who will continue to be turned off by him. I wish he had the capacity to grasp this and would take some cues from Corbyn, who stayed focused on Labour’s Manifesto and apparently never went negative against his own party, but rather saved his ire for Theresa May and the Tories.