Birth of an activist army

CORBYN’S Labour did very well in the local elections — although not so well in Scotland — but you would not think so from most of the media. The major newspapers, their columnists, the TV channels and the social media websites had all prepared to gloat over Labour facing huge losses. When that did not happen they went ahead with their prepared scripts only slightly adjusted to reality and reported significant gains as a disaster for Labour.

The Guardian, New Statesman and Huffington Post — all apparently “left-of-centre” came out with some of the worst journalism ever written. These are the publications that at first sight seem to be standing up for the victims of cuts, the deprived, the disabled, the unemployed and downtrodden. But when such people actually stand up and start fighting for themselves they are horrified.

The poor and oppressed are supposed to stay cringing in their hovels so that the bountiful middle classes can say beautiful, sad things about them and throw them the odd item of cast-off clothing and drop a packet of economy biscuits in the food-bank collecting bin in their local supermarket, and the poor are supposed to be grateful — and humble.

These middle class counsellors and mentors are full of advice as to how the destitute, depressed and suicidal should better themselves by thinking positively, changing their ways and selling themselves as the perfect multi-tasking but humble, devoted and dedicated employee to the fat-cat employers.

The poor are not supposed to get angry, get organised and come out fighting, which is the whole basis of the working class and socialist movement as it arose over the last two centuries. That is a threat to their comfortable middle class life or privilege as servants and agents of the filthy rich tiny minority who really run the show.

And Corbyn represents that tradition of left-wing Labour — even though he is very mild mannered and no extremist. He has won high office and stands a very good chance of being our next Prime Minister, and he has done it not through careerism, undermining rivals, assertiveness, backhanders and deceit — which are the only methods these people understand. He has done it almost by accident simply by being honest, hard-working and sincere, and it terrifies the ruling class that these qualities have proved popular with the electorate.

They fear for their own futures — not so much from Corbyn himself but from his working class supporters. They never knew there were so many of us.

And this is why some of the most vile calumnies have been levelled at Corbyn’s left-wing supporters in Momentum. There have been complaints that Momentum organised an army of volunteer foot soldiers — canvassers and polling day door-knockers — and deployed them in marginal seats where they were most needed.

Half a century ago — before electronic communications and phone canvassing — these tactics were normal traditional electioneering. It was taken as obvious that any party which neglected to commit such an army to canvassing and to knocking on doors on election day to remind people to vote would do poorly. There were committee rooms in each estate, usually in a supporter’s front room, with tables covered in sheets of paper bearing the names of those who had said they would vote and tireless bands of young people who would sit by polling stations asking voters nicely if they would mind telling them who they were so that they could be crossed off the lists of those who still needed a knock on the door to get them to vote.

But is seems now that Labour, through Jeremy Corbyn’s success and the existence of Momentum, is the only party that now, once again, has such an army and it is making a vital difference. The other parties no longer have mass activist support and electronic communications are not filling the gap. This is terrifying the ruling class.

Corbyn himself will take us forward though not as far as a real socialist total change of society. But this new army of young activists with a growing political awareness, solidarity and confidence in their own collective strength may well lead the way to this change.