Wednesday, August 2, 2017

O Jeremy Corbyn (2017)

From the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Corbyn addressed the crowds at the Glastonbury festival and got a pop star's reception, the media reported the crowds chanting 'O Jeremy Corbyn' in line with his newly-acquired cult status.

Hundreds of thousands of otherwise intelligent people regard him as a Leader who will improve things for them and are prepared to follow him on that basis. But leaders are not miracle-workers. They are prisoners of their followers and cannot go much beyond where these are prepared to go. They are also prisoners of objective conditions. No leader can make capitalism function in the interests of the many, as Corbyn's followers imagine. In fact, if ever he did become Prime Minister, this would be a disaster for him.

Elected to office by the votes of followers who did want not socialism but only a capitalism reformed to put 'people before profit', Corbyn would not be able to reform capitalism to work for the many, let alone bring about socialism. He would have to resign himself to presiding over capitalism running on its terms, inevitably to the detriment of the many. 'O Jeremy Corbyn' would give way to 'Corbyn, Out, Out, Out'.

A hundred or so years ago, in America, another working-class leader, Eugene Debs (who knew a great deal more about socialism than Corbyn), repudiated cult status by declaring:
'I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands' (Speech in Detroit, 1906).
Socialism cannot be established by people following some leader. It can only be established by people who want and understand it and participate in bringing it into being and making it work. As socialism involves people willingly and democratically cooperating to run things, it can only be established by people prepared to do this, not by sheep who have given up acting for themselves in order to follow a shepherd.

Jerome K. Jerome (1947)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard
       (We publish the following letter from a reader for the interesting and instructive story about the late J. K. Jerome, but we confess our mystification about the point of the last sentence.—Editor Comm.)

Dear Comrades,

Although our ultimate success is assured I doubt if any of us are satisfied with the crop of Socialists that arise from our efforts. Some are inclined to sit back and wait for the blind forces of economic development to affect the social revolution, rather than seek to promote that change by cultivating the minds of their fellows to achieve this purpose. They do not realise that these so called blind forces may grope about for a thousand years without producing any marked change. On the other hand we have the over optimistic who in consequence of being in the forward line imagined that they could score a goal in North Paddington. Maybe such “Royal Stand-backs” as myself can see more of the game than they can. I read your admirable publication, the “Socialist Standard,” and although I have not had the pleasure of attending any of your propaganda meetings, I am aware of the fact that your immensity consists in your minority. Of course the number of people you are able to speak to is very limited and the “Standard,” even if the paper restrictions were removed, has only a small circulation. You cannot afford to print more. Everyone knows that it is the adverts that pay for the capitalist papers. Naturally they determine the policy. We all remember the old "Clarion” and its cycle trade adverts. But the classical instance is poor old Jerome K. Jerome. He ran a weekly called “To-Day.” It had a good run. It was then I think that Jerome discovered H. G. Wells, as he published probably Wells’ first story, “The Lady in Grey.” Then Jerome slipped. He printed Marx’s “Value, Price and Profit” as a serial. His advertisers dropped him like a hot potato and Jerome went bankrupt. In face of all this is it to be wondered that some of us cast envious eyes upon that powerful weapon of propaganda, the Radio, and desire to harness it to our cause? We know all the obstacles that stand in our way to achieve our purpose, believe me the financial side is the least But we must not be dismayed, our need is great and I would draw attention to a recent remark by some member of the Jewish community who claimed that it was not illegal for Jews to enter Palestine, but that it was illegal to prevent them doing so.
                                                                                                                            Yours fraternally,
F. L. Rimington.