Radical Britain


From The Guardian:

EU membership poses no insurmountable obstacle to nationalised utilities, redistributive taxation, generous welfare states or activist industrial strategy, as a glance at France, Denmark or Germany shows. Even Labour’s new friends in Greece’s Syriza party – no cheerleaders for neoliberalism or austerity – recommend sticking with the European project. If Corbyn could not be satisfied with egalitarian social democratic policies practised for decades in Scandinavia, if he is shopping for a system beyond the leftmost frontier of EU rules, he must be looking at something altogether more drastic. Cuba, perhaps.

Labour’s new radicals respond that comparison with existing forms of government is narrow-minded, pessimistic, tethered to the wreckage of 20th-century thinking. The goal, they say, cannot be grasped without a liberating bound of the imagination. Here too they sound like Tory Brexiters, who promise that the UK will carve out a unique role in the world, starting with a bespoke EU partnership bringing all the benefits of membership and none of the constraints. When that ambition is tested by mundane realities of trade and diplomacy, the utopians insist that reality yield. Corbynism sits awkwardly with anything that smacks of remain because it is intellectually allergic to incremental change, and romantically impatient with everything about the status quo.

It is an extraordinary feature of British politics that two years ago there was no revolutionary party in the mainstream, and today revolution is the only item on the menu. Tory Brexiters and Corbynites face in opposite directions but are held together by mutually reinforcing dynamics. Fear of a Labour government keeps moderate Conservatives from breaking ranks and disrupting May’s plans, lest they end up triggering an election. And Labour has all the permission it needs to be radically unbound, because Brexiters have incinerated the rulebook on economic prudence and moderation. May has deployed the full capacity of government to make revolution respectable, which gives Corbyn and McDonnell their chance to make revolution permanent.

“Brexit Tories opened the door to revolution. Corbynites walked through”,