Taking Stock: Introduction

An overview of the aims of our Taking Stock series, which we begin today.

In our Taking Stock series, which we begin today, New Socialist will analyse the present condition of the Corbyn project, its achievements, potential and its limits (and whether and how they might be transcended) across a range of areas from matters of policy (and the absence of policy), to the efforts to advance the left and democratise Labour at a number of points, to Labour in local and devolved government, and to the tasks of the wider movement.

We face a situation where ruling class fear of a left-led Labour government is exercising a disciplinary effect on the Tory Party (and their arrangement with the DUP) despite their fractiousness and deep internal contradictions. This disciplining of the Tories makes it unlikely that we will see the government collapse any time soon. We have also seen, in the absence of the collapse of the government and new elections the dissipation of the euphoria of the surprise election result, the electoral vindication of a left programme, and, perhaps most significantly, that this was done through collective grassroots effort against not only the Tory Party and the media but against the establishment within the Labour Party. Whilst painful, the loss of this euphoria should allow for a more sober assessment of the situation and this is what we will attempt.

The basis for much of our analyses will be, firstly, our belief that the 2017 manifesto is not a final destination (as the more constructive part of the Labour right, and, perhaps some within Corbynism would have it), but the starting point for developing a programme of wide and deep social transformation, and a foreign policy based on international solidarity—in foreign policy, in significant ways, breaks rather than developments of the manifesto are necessary.

Programmes on their own, however, are not enough; if left programmes are to be implemented, forms of popular power need to be developed and institutionalised, what could be described as Corbynism from Below. Popular power is necessary not only to face down the challenge capital will pose to a left programme, but to maintain constant challenge and pressure on the leadership in the face of pressures to compromise and, in many cases, popular power and knowledge will be an essential part of carrying out a programme and social transformation outside of that constituted by Labour in government. With this, the Labour Party itself must be transformed and democratised, both in its rules and its internal culture (what we have called its double democratisation). The democratisation of Labour is about both the advance of the left and its wider transformation, the development of new cultures, relationships and practices, adequate to the democratic transformation of society.

In this series, we aim to combine a serious commitment to the Corbyn project with an understanding of the challenges it faces and its limiting features. Part of the development of a culture on the left adequate to the transformations that are necessary both of ourselves and society is to foster a space of useful criticism and challenge. We aim to continue to contribute to this.