Full Corbynism: Constructing a new left Political Economy beyond Neoliberalism

Labour is now on a permanent war footing and is a realistic contender for office. As a result, the left must now get much more serious about policy and strategy.

‘There are three stages’, Sidney Webb wrote in a Fabian Society pamphlet in 1890, ‘through which every new notion in England has to pass: ‘It is impossible: It is against the Bible: We knew it before’.’1 This month’s sensational election result means that Corbynism is now rocketing toward the latter stage, consolidating its position as the new common sense on the left of British politics. Granted, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour didn’t win. Outright victory on 8 June was never likely given the party’s weak prior standing, and would have required a seismic shift far greater than could reasonably be expected in a landscape fractured and divided by Brexit. Nevertheless, what Corbyn and his team pulled off – against all odds, and in the teeth of an overwhelmingly hostile media and continual sabotage from within – is truly remarkable. The Labour Party is now a government-in-waiting, poised for the next General Election, which could come at any time and could easily carry Corbyn into Downing Street as Prime Minister.

Before turning to the immense responsibility that now falls on the shoulders of the Labour left and the broad movement at its back, it’s worth savouring the accomplishment. When Theresa May fired the starting gun for a snap election and unusually short campaign, Corbyn was more than twenty points behind in most polls. According to YouGov, the polling company whose predictions turned out to be most accurate, on the day Labour’s manifesto was released May was on course for a parliamentary majority of more than seventy. Despite one of the worst campaigns in living memory, she actually achieved a vote share comparable to Margaret Thatcher’s in 1983. That this didn’t translate into a sizeable majority is down to the ‘Corbyn Surge’, an unprecedented turnaround in public opinion.

Corbyn deftly prized apart what had seemed an unbeatable electoral bloc around Brexit, largely through direct engagement with the underlying economic issues. He ended up taking 40 per cent of the vote on a 9.5-point swing, the largest increase in Labour’s share since Clement Attlee in 1945. Corbyn’s electoral appeal to previously out-of-reach sections of the public such as the young has also proved extraordinary. Turnout among 18-24 year olds shot up from around 43 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent last week, and Corbyn’s name is being chanted in nightclubs across the country. Labour also carried 55 per cent of 35-44 year olds, compared to 29 per cent for the Conservatives. Opinion surveys since the election have placed Labour ahead by five or six points – 45-39 in a recent Survation poll. Amid the rubble of May’s hegemonic ambitions can also be found the wreckage of yesterday’s received political wisdom. The establishment punditocracy, including its nominally left wing, has been repeatedly wrong-footed by events and lacks credibility as to what is and is not possible in Britain in 2017. We have arrived at a new conjuncture.

Labour is now on a permanent war footing and is a realistic contender for office. As a result, the left must now get much more serious about policy and strategy. Embracing the magnitude of this historic opportunity, the task is now to put flesh on the bones of a transformational agenda capable of living up to the hopes and responding to the deep structural challenges of a fluid and rapidly changing political and economic landscape. To consolidate the ambitious project they have initiated, Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell must follow through on the construction of a radical new left political economy. The responsibility is enormous. As McDonnell has said, ‘I want us to surpass even the Attlee government for radical reform. The situation demands nothing less’.

Getting elected may be the easy part. There is a strong possibility that a Corbyn government will take power in the midst of the greatest crisis of confidence in the British economy since the end of the Second World War. Only by re-establishing broad control over the national economy can the left hope to manage the coming period of pain and dislocation that will occur as a result of exit from the European Union, not to mention the further shocks – inevitable, and therefore to be confronted squarely – that will stem from any attempt to substantially unwind neoliberalism. Without wishing to be alarmist, it’s increasingly evident that a high price will be exacted from any left government with the temerity to pursue serious departures from the status quo. ‘The roof will fall in’, warns Ray McAnally as radical Labour Prime Minister Harry Perkins in A Very British Coup. Capital flight, investment strikes, foreign exchange crises, trade retaliation – all are possible, whether as market reactions or deliberately administered punishment beatings.

Careful planning and strategy will thus be critical. In this regard, there may be important partial models to be found in past instances of capitalist crisis management. One example that springs to mind is the contingency plan – known as ‘the unmentionable’ and kept locked in a cupboard at HM Treasury – for trade and capital controls drawn up for deployment in the event of failure of the 1976 IMF talks.2 The strong policy measures taken by a number of developed and developing countries in response to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008 Great Financial Crisis are another potential source of ideas.

Unused to operating at such levels of technical detail, it’s essential that the left now begins thinking along these lines. With very few exceptions, the think tanks and liberal commentariat won’t lead on this, though some may follow. The stakes could hardly be higher. For all the wrenching dislocations, someone has got to go first in successfully creating a new economic model beyond neoliberalism. The agonies of Syriza in Greece – a popular left government of the damned, neutered and humiliated, condemned to implement the very policies it was elected to oppose – provide a cautionary tale, a memento mori of the costs of taking on the international economic order unprepared. Britain, though, is not Greece, and we should take our chances. How fitting it would be if the first advanced industrial economy to provide a testing ground for neoliberal policies were to be the first to fully re-emerge, blinking into the sunlight, as the long dark night of neoliberalism draws to a close.

The Manifesto and Beyond

Not since the ’seventies and early ’eighties – when the party was committed to bringing about what Tony Benn termed ‘a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families’ – has Labour put forward as bold a plan for the transformation of Britain as is contained in the 2017 manifesto, For the Many Not the Few. Policies ranging from increasing the minimum wage and abolishing zero hours contracts to raising taxes on the rich and introducing rent control are generally popular. Scrapping tuition fees proved to be a hit with younger voters, who not only turned out in higher numbers but broke overwhelmingly for Labour. Re-nationalising railways and utilities – policies that were jumped on by the right-wing press as evidence of Labour’s hard left turn – are also supported by large numbers of Britons.

Although widely described as a social democratic programme, For the Many Not the Few in fact contains the seeds of a radical transformation beyond social democracy. Policies such as establishing a national investment fund to help ‘rebuild communities ripped apart by globalization’, linking public sector procurement to a regionally balanced industrial strategy, creating a national investment bank and new local publicly-owned banks, and democratising the economy by supporting public and worker ownership begin to provide a vision of a break with established economic orthodoxies. In combination with a commitment to devolving and decentralising power and decision-making to local communities and forming a Constitutional Convention that ‘will look at extending democracy locally, regionally and nationally, considering the option of a more federalised country’, the contours of a very different pattern of political economy begin to emerge.

It’s long been clear that to survive in the era of austerity social democracy would have to turn radically to the left. There can be no going back to either the post-war Golden Age or the Third Way settlement. In the former, redistributive social spending and welfare state expansion were linked to the post-war boom. Even before the oil shocks of the ’seventies the terms of this boom were being called into question, as productivity waned and capitalists, facing declining rates of profit, sought new ways to outflank increasingly emboldened mass trade union movements. When stagflation undermined Keynesianism, social democrats had no alternatives to hand – in part because, as Robin Blackburn has argued, they ‘failed to enlist the mass of working people … [and] left untouched the central dynamic of the private accumulation process’.3 The Third Way, in turn, relied on full accommodation to neoliberalism in order to skim off the surplus for ameliorative social spending, a strategy that first ran aground and then collapsed with the financial crash and the end of the growth upon which it depended. Social democrats have since been bereft of a programme, defaulting to a position as the left wing of austerity with disastrous results. What Corbyn has demonstrated should have been obvious for a while now. Ordinary people are way ahead of the politicians and pundits, they know that things are not working – and want to hear an authentic political message about change that will make a difference.

Corbynism contains the seeds of something very different, but it will only succeed if it can energize its mass membership and the wider British public around a transformative vision. The starting point is the wildly popular ‘offer’ contained in the manifesto. This must now be augmented by a comprehensive plan of action capable of truly addressing the growing social, economic, and ecological challenges Britain is facing – from inequality and failing democratic legitimacy to climate change and increasing labour market precarity. At the core of such a programme is a new set of models, institutions, and strategies that, if put in place, would in and of themselves produce vastly improved societal outcomes.

The scaffolding of this emerging new approach can be found in McDonnell’s ‘new economics’, especially regarding alternative ownership forms. A few days before the election Labour released Alternative Models of Ownership, a report to McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy, by a group of cutting edge theorists and practitioners. An extended review of this extraordinary document can be found here on New Socialist. Suffice it to say that the report represents the most exciting economic programme to be developed by the Labour Party in forty years. It models the way in which the wider left should now be rolling up its sleeves and getting to work, going beyond rhetoric to detailed institutional design and policy formulation. There are submerged but long-standing left traditions that can be drawn upon to reanimate the old promise of economic democracy as we explore new avenues for the wholesale democratisation of the economy and society.

None of this is about selling a fantasy. Real-world examples of democratic, participatory economic alternatives already exist (or previously existed) in communities across the globe. They illuminate how practical new approaches can generate innovative solutions to deep underlying problems. They embody new design principles, relying not on regulatory fixes or ‘after-the-fact’ redistribution but on fundamental structural changes in the economy and the nature of ownership and control over productive wealth that go right to the heart of our current difficulties – and are capable of producing greatly improved and politically and ecologically sustainable outcomes.

Ultimately, a deep and thoroughgoing break with neoliberalism will be required. Britain’s departure from the European Union, despite near-universal lamentation on the left, is a significant opportunity, over time, to fundamentally recast the basic operations of the British economy in a far more radical direction than would ever be permissible under EU competition law and single market regulation. A range of instruments and policy options – from public ownership and procurement to industrial strategy and managed trade – that are discouraged or outright forbidden by the EU treaties will soon be available. We must make the most of them.

A radical Agenda

The elaboration of a full policy programme for a radical Labour government should be a process of collective endeavour, drawing upon the manifold talents, viewpoints, and experience of the wider movement behind Corbynism. Labour’s National Policy Forum, as inherited by the current leadership, seems entirely unfit for such a purpose, as if it were specifically designed to undermine the ability of the membership to influence policy. Lest precious movement energy be wasted on an unproductive process, it should be quickly overhauled and democratised. In the meantime, the aforementioned Alternative Models of Ownership report suggests the possibilities inherent in reviving the rich tradition of discussion documents and pamphleteering that played such an important role in the development of Labour’s last radical programme, the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES), which for a decade in the late ’seventies and early ’eighties represented the left’s alternative to both Keynesianism and neoliberalism.4

It is in such a spirit that the following suggestions are presented, the broad brush strokes of a possible agenda for ‘Full Corbynism’ – a proposed political economy for the British left based on new institutions and approaches and the centrality of ownership and control, democracy and sustainability, participation and decentralisation. They are offered up as a contribution to a necessary discussion and debate about what it would actually take to build a better economy and society in Britain in the twenty-first century, based on socialist principles of equality, democracy, community, and sustainability.

Democratic Ownership

Slowly but surely, the attractions of worker ownership and control are creeping back up the UK political agenda, given their suitability as instruments for tackling inequality and allowing ordinary people to ‘take back control’ over their lives and the economy as a whole. Even Theresa May talked about adding worker representation to company boards (she quickly backed down in the face of corporate opposition). The Labour manifesto calls for a ‘right to own’, which would give workers the right of first refusal when their companies are up for sale. Public authorities in the UK should be actively supporting and funding the incubation and expansion of worker cooperatives as part of their local economic development strategies. As is suggested in the Alternative Models of Ownership report, Labour should also investigate the benefits and limitations of Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), which could dramatically increase worker ownership with little risk or cost to workers.

There are huge potential benefits from pursuing a massive expansion of democratic ownership of enterprises, given the opportunity presented by the coming ‘silver tsunami’ of retiring baby boomer business owners and the succession question this raises for large numbers of small and medium-sized companies. A large worker-owned and cooperative sector could form an important institutional base for a new place-based economics and politics – one that is capable of overturning simplistic notions of ‘pro- or anti-business’ and replacing them with new alignments around re-circulatory local economies built on multipliers in opposition to extractive multinational corporations.

Money and Banking

The City sits atop one of the most highly financialised economies in the world, with rentier concerns long predominating over productive investment or social need. Britain needs a new approach that puts banking, credit creation, and investment at the service of the real economy and public priorities. The Labour manifesto promises ‘to transform how our financial system operates’ through increased regulation of financial firms and creating a ‘more diverse banking system’ to drive investment to localities and regions. This would include creation of a national investment bank and a possible break up of RBS into smaller, publicly owned banks. Over time, we should be moving in the direction of a more fully democratic, public-benefiting model at the community, regional, and national levels. There are a host of possibilities for more democratic finance, from public and postal banking systems to mutuals, credit unions, and fintech innovations that support peer-to-peer lending. Woven together, a new money and banking system could allow for more active fiscal and monetary policy to allocate credit in the economy toward social, environmental, and community development purposes.

The left needs to better understand the macroeconomics of money. There is actually a ‘Magic Money Tree’. It is to be found on Threadneedle Street, where it has been located since 1734 – the Bank of England. The operations of central bankers tell us a great deal about what is possible, beyond false notions of scarcity of money that underpin austerity. With a few keystrokes, the Bank of England produced over £500 billion in new money via ‘quantitative easing’ as part of an effort to rescue the private commercial banks from their reckless behaviour and stimulate the economy following the financial crash. It’s high time we had a conversation about how to better use this tremendous sovereign monetary power that is at our disposal.

Finally, there is the matter of what to do about the City. London is the largest foreign exchange market in the world, with around $1.2 trillion per day in spot transactions and derivatives trades. At two hundred times nominal UK GDP, these flows are clearly not financing domestic production. Nor are they financing U.S.-European trade, which they exceed by a factor of four hundred.5 What they are about is providing liquidity to markets – leading to asset price inflation, particularly of London real estate prices, and the hollowing out of other sectors of the UK economy. Critics point to a debilitating ‘finance curse’ from this large and over-mighty financial sector – akin to the infamous ‘resource curse’ afflicting economies endowed with too many valuable natural resources. Beyond separation of retail and investment banking, as promised in the manifesto, Labour should seize upon the historically unique opportunity afforded by Brexit to throw the City under the bus, using the loss of EU ‘passporting rights’ to vastly shrink speculative trading, assert public control over finance, and rebalance the UK economy back toward real production and social needs.

Managed Trade and Capital Flows

Given that Brexit looms, it’s critical that the left begins to set out a plausible trade model, for application in both the short and longer term. This must allow for a Britain considerably less exposed to international trade and finance, one of the areas in which the contemporary left has shown the least economic imagination. Once the preserve of the alter-globalisation movement, critiques of ‘free trade’ agreements, offshoring, and unrestricted capital flows have increasingly becoming the political property of the populist right, of Trump and Le Pen, with dangerous consequences in regions ravaged by disinvestment and deindustrialisation. Globalisation and liberal trade are peculiar causes to have been taken up by socialists, given that they serve to automatically foreclose or undermine virtually every strategy, experiment, and new institutional direction a renewed left can and should embrace.

What is needed is a re-conceptualisation of managed trade that goes beyond archaic protectionism to instead provide actual protection – for democratic autonomy, locally embedded economies, and the policy space required for a new approach to regional and national development. A new model of managed trade and capital controls would open up the prospect of reindustrialisation, improved economic and job security, and community stability – thereby blunting the edge of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. It would also offer the basis for genuine solidarity and economic support for communities in the global South. The left’s solution to labour arbitrage, as we’ve argued before, will be found in the direction of anchoring capital, not people.

Industrial Strategy

In Britain, many of the challenges of post-industrial decline remain starkly present. Entire communities have been thrown on the scrap heap, with all that implies in terms of associated capital and carbon costs and wasted lives. It is time the left revisited the possibilities inherent in an aggressive industrial strategy, both locally and nationally.

A true community-sustaining industrial strategy would consist, in the broadest sense, of the deliberate direction of capital to sectors, localities, and regions so as to balance out market trends and prevent communities from falling into decay, while also ensuring the investment in research and development necessary to maintain a highly productive economy. In some cases this might mean assistance in allowing workers to buy up facilities and keep them running. In other cases, it might involve re-training workers for new skills and re-fitting facilities for work in a different industry. In either case, affected localities and populations would be able to participate in planning and draw upon public resources whose aim is to help secure the long-term stability of community and, overall, to sustain national production in key sectors and industries.

Community-sustaining policy to preserve particular places can be married to sector-based approaches. Green manufacturing strategies and services (such as home and business energy retrofits) can support the building and sustaining of demand and production capacities for ecologically sustainable forms of energy and technology. An industrial strategy designed to underpin a Green New Deal could help Britain overcome multiple economic challenges. It could provide high-wage jobs, generate revenue, expand exports, and reduce trade deficits – all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality and public health.

A key principle underlying a community-supporting industrial strategy must be the preservation of existing communities and their productive capacities on a long-term basis. Deals like that with Nissan that keep factories open for a time but allow private owners to scale back or close them at their convenience do not merit the public subsidies and support they currently receive. A democratic, participatory industrial strategy would help ensure that productive capacities stay in use in such circumstances and provide guidance on how to organise conversion when a shift to a different product is required. Depending on the needs and desires of the community, as well as economic considerations, this may mean adopting some form of community, public, or worker ownership. In the long-term, it may also entail the conversion of certain industries, such as armaments, to socially beneficial purposes.

Municipal Socialism

The centralisation and consolidation of state power throughout the twentieth century supplanted long-standing socialist traditions of local economic autonomy and experimentation. This has left communities at the mercy of shifts in national policy and global markets, leading to all too many discarded cities, regions, and people. In line with the well-known principle of subsidiarity, political-economic power wherever possible should be decentralised and devolved back to the lowest appropriate level.

A particular source of inspiration is the history of municipal socialism, both in Britain and elsewhere, and how local economic autonomy can allow for the development and deployment of political power (backed by strong movements and institutions) from the ground up. Economic experimentation and innovation in local ‘laboratories of democracy’ can also produce powerful demonstration effects for other localities and become the basis for new national policies – as happened, famously, with mutual health provision in the Welsh mining valleys as a forerunner to Bevan’s National Health Service.

There are openings today for experimentation and progress at the local and regional level throughout Britain. The celebrated ‘Preston Model’ of community wealth building – based on the principles and work of our own organisation, The Democracy Collaborative, in Cleveland, Ohio – is one such direction, deploying public procurement and the stabilising power of place-based economic anchor institutions to set about the democratic transformation of the municipal and regional economy. It suggests the potential basis for a new institutional underpinning for socialist politics, building support for the new economics from the ground up in a way that is far less scary and more comprehensible in a municipal context than it can sometimes appear at the national level.

Public Ownership

Increasing inequality, poverty, environmental degradation and the catastrophic threat of climate change, together with a general sense of an impoverished public sphere and loss of economic control wrought by decades of privatisation and globalisation, are pushing activists and theorists back in the direction of public ownership. As Labour’s manifesto makes clear, it’s time to set out the role of an expanded and fundamentally reimagined UK public sector – from the ownership of enterprise, to the promotion of innovation, to healthcare and education and the production of knowledge.

As calls for public ownership grow, many activists and thinkers engaged in its recovery and rehabilitation have already decided against a simple return to the top-down centralised public corporation model of the post-war period. The fightback against privatisation of public services has been accompanied by the adoption of innovative new approaches to collective ownership. In this view, worker ownership, consumer cooperatives, municipal enterprise and a host of kindred institutional forms all represent ways in which assets and enterprises can be held in common by small and large publics – including through hybrid models that draw upon two or more institutional forms. From the We Own It campaign and the Municipal Services Project to new ‘public-public partnerships’ in water and other sectors, we are seeing the emergence of a more pluralistic approach to public ownership. The question for the British left at this point should not be a technical economic one about efficiency – the literature shows that public ownership is decidedly not inherently less efficient – but rather a political one about power, democracy, the social benefits of ownership, and which particular forms of collective enterprise we might wish to promote. 

Collective Capital

Employee pension funds have grown exponentially to the point where they now represent one of the largest pools of investment capital in the world. If workers were to exercise their collective ownership rights over these deferred earnings, and to express their social and economic priorities through their funds’ investment decisions, it could shake our present economic system to its core. If there is to be a serious attempt to construct an alternative socialist political economy for the twenty-first century, pension fund assets are an obvious place to start because workers already own that capital – and because the ongoing crisis of the welfare state and the demographic changes taking place in advanced industrial countries mean that there is the potential for building political momentum for a different kind of pension regime.

Shifting even a portion of labour’s collective capital into local community development, democratised forms of ownership, and new public infrastructure would be a powerful transition strategy, one that simultaneously increases worker and public control over the means of production and decreases the power of finance capital. The left should also examine the potential application of other collective capital strategies, such as sovereign wealth funds and public trusts – including their possible use as real productive assets to backstop proposals for a basic income or other socialised income streams from capital.

Democratic Planning

If our new economic institutions are not to float helplessly in the sea of the capitalist marketplace, future left strategies will likely need to include substantial planning capacities and functions. In a political context still dominated by neoliberal orthodoxy, planning remains an even dirtier word than nationalisation – even though it is widespread in the internal decision-making of large private corporations, many of which are bigger economic entities than some countries. Given the pressing demands of climate change, including the radical unevenness of its impacts, the next few decades will doubtless require a considerably greater role for economic planning than has been the case in the last few decades.

Advances in technology and computational power can now sustain far more sophisticated planning systems than could be dreamt of in the twentieth century. However, experience demonstrates that such planning must be made democratic and participatory as well as effective. A starting point is the contemporary opportunity to establish and expand participatory budgeting at the municipal level, creating neighbourhood assemblies in towns, cities, and counties that can take on a more robust role in charting their own economic course. Another element is the empowerment of democratised municipal and regional economic planning commissions, comprised of directly elected representatives, stakeholder representatives, and representatives from local citizens’ assemblies. Such a system could give real economic decision-making power to a new generation of devolved local and regional authorities across the country that would be very different from the managerialist model of neoliberal executive mayors.

There’s also the possibility that, given the scale of economic and ecological challenges, such institutions and processes would need to sit within a democratic national economic planning system. This would be necessary in one form or another in order to facilitate several aspects of the above agenda, particularly industrial strategy and trade.

Land and the Commons

Land and real property ownership is, and always has been, of fundamental importance in determining the distribution of wealth and power. Once-great cities have fallen into decay, whole regions been left behind, as elsewhere haphazard growth and speculation push out the poor and vulnerable. In London and other major cities, enormous pressures are being placed upon affordable land and housing by property speculation that has become synonymous with today’s financialised capitalism. Landlordism can also be quite literally deadly, as in the horrendous Grenfell Tower fire disaster. At the same time, the geography of neoliberalism is creating wastelands in many parts of the UK, which now boasts the widest regional economic disparities in Europe.

Democratising the ownership of land and housing and increasing community control over urban and rural development are critical for stabilising local communities – both economically and in terms of population – in both strong and weak ‘market’ cities. However, the left’s answer cannot simply be to seek to ensure more people have access to ‘the market’ or improve state regulation of ‘the market.’ Rather, it should be to encourage movement toward decommodification and a commons-based approach whereby communities can self-organise to manage and steward their own land and housing resources. There are a variety of historical examples and precedents for this approach, including community buyouts of land in Scotland, community land trusts in the United States, public housing in Vienna, and the vision and models of the tenant’s movement in Britain.

Onward to Victory

The above is a only a preliminary sketch, suggestive of some possible elements of a more developed new left political economy. Any such strategy and programme must also be situated within some of the most interesting and complex debates that are raging at the moment, regarding technology, automation, productivity, basic income, race, gender, and care. It’s certainly the case that technological unemployment is accelerating, but suggestions that universal leisure may be just around the corner seem premature, to say the least. British workers toil among the longest hours of any OECD workforce and productivity is painfully low. Gains to GDP in recent years have largely come from the continual addition to the economy of low-wage immigrant labour. Chronic underinvestment in plant and skills remains the true ‘British disease’.

Labour must also lift up the importance of care work, which is so essential but often left out of our official economic accounting. This raises important questions regarding the current gendered division of household labour and care, which should be redistributed and, in some cases, socialised. We must explore such proposed policy options as a basic income or job guarantee, as well as new community structures – from co-housing to the spatial re-organisation of work and family life – and practices – such as a rebirth of civic participation and voluntary work. These possibilities connect back to the visions of past socialists such as Oscar Wilde and William Morris, and to more contemporary demands of socialist feminists for a post-work society.

Many of the necessary tools and strategies already exist to enable the British left to construct a new political economy based on alternative economic institutions and approaches and the centrality of ownership, control, democracy, and participation. Given the growing systemic challenges facing our politics and economics – not to mention the biosphere – it’s imperative that we begin thinking and planning for the long haul, as well as developing strategies that contain the potential of creating – as neoliberalism was able to do in a different way – a new politics and culture based on a new notion of collective agency and citizenship. In this way we can aim to generate the political-economic transformation Britain so urgently needs – and, in so doing, create a powerful new model for emulation far beyond our borders.

For the British left, Corbynism is now the only game in town. We’re just getting started. Ours will be a Long Revolution, but it’s underway at last.

  1. S.Webb, English Progress Toward Social Democracy, Fabian Tract No. 15, 1890. 

  2. K.Burk and A.Cairncross, Goodbye Great Britain: The 1976 IMF Crisis, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992, p89. 

  3. R.Blackburn, Banking on Death, or, Investing in Life: The History and Future of Pensions, London, Verso, 2002, p506. 

  4. Conference of Socialist Economists London Working Group, The Alternative Economic Strategy: A Labour Movement Response to the Economic Crisis, London, CSE Books, 1980. 

  5. J.Toporowski, ‘Brexit and the Discreet Charm of Haute Finance’, in D.Bailey and L.Budd, eds., The Political Economy of Brexit, Newcastle: Agenda, 2017, pp38-39. 


Joe Guinan (@joecguinan)

Thomas M. Hanna (@ThomasMHanna)

Thomas M. Hanna is research director at The Democracy Collaborative and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States (Manchester University Press, 2018). With Andrew Cumbers, he assisted the Labour Party prepare the consultation on democratic public ownership.