IT WAS a speech of Brezhnevian length, but Jeremy Corbyn’s address to the Labour Party conference yesterday matched quantity with quality.
The Labour leader was confident, bold and unifying. He was right to brandish the grisly Grenfell Tower catastrophe as the supreme symbol of a “failed and broken” capitalist system. He confirmed the kind of policies on state investment, public ownership, equal rights, dignity, democracy and peace that strike fear into Britain’s greedy, corrupt and costly ruling class.
These are the policies which won an additional three million votes in June’s general election, despite two years of the most vicious media campaign against a Labour Party leader in modern British history.
That campaign continues, more subtly in some quarters, with renewed emphasis placed on the hugely exaggerated question of anti-semitism in the party and on the economic turmoil that might follow a Labour victory.
In the gutter press, however, it’s business as usual, especially after Corbyn’s speech fingered the multimillionaire tax dodgers who own most of it.
On the very day that he singled out the hysterical campaign of personalised vilification run by the Daily Mail in the run-up to polling day, that paper carried an extraordinary cartoon by Mac, alias Stanley McMurtry. It depicted two giant tattooed thugs with baseball bats behind their backs, towering above a timid and elderly bespectacled delegate and telling him: “We couldn’t help but notice, comrade. You didn’t clap and cheer the last time our glorious leader’s name was mentioned.”
It was a vile caricature based on the prolifically peddled lie that Corbyn’s supporters are a fanatical, adulatory gang of thugs responsible for a new reign of terror in the Labour Party. As such, it follows in the tradition of Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail and Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer in the 1930s.
The good news is that most people never get to see the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sun or the other tabloid hate-sheets that pollute political life in Britain. Among those that do, a degree of immunity appears to be developing.
More and more people want to hear for themselves what Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the Labour team have to say in response to their own hopes, fears and concerns.
They wonder why one of the wealthiest countries in the world seemingly cannot afford decent and reasonably priced housing, public services, utilities and public transport for all; why there is so little investment in productive industry and our economic and social infrastructure; and why so much poverty afflicts children, students, workers and pensioners while those at the top are coining it in virtually tax-free.
Labour’s left leadership is helping people to join the dots, make the connections and see the big picture. The contrast between private wealth and public squalor can no longer be concealed beneath the celebrity gossip, monarchist propaganda, online gambling and unreality television spewed out daily by the monopoly mass media.
By taking to the streets, shopping centres and social media, Corbyn and his team are cutting through the smog to show that another kind of society is both necessary and possible.
But three points must be borne in mind if Britain is to take its own road to socialism.
First, extra-parliamentary campaigning will ultimately determine whether this minority Tory regime will be replaced by a left government. Second, sovereignty must reside in the people, which means the EU referendum result has to be implemented, not least so that a left-led Labour government is free to carry out its radical policies.
Third, Britain’s ruthless ruling class will fight tooth and nail against any significant encroachments upon its wealth and power: building the Labour Party, the Communist Party, the trade unions and mass campaigning movements is now becoming as urgent as it is vital.