This week, The Sun instructed Remain Conservative MPs to unite behind Boris Johnson or see Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to ‘turn Britain into an experiment in 21st century Marxism’ become reality. It need not have bothered: the threat of a ‘Marxist’ Corbyn government is one of the few things about which all Conservatives agree. But what kind of a threat does Corbyn really pose?
Keen supporters of the Labour leader speak of their hopes for a ‘transformative’ Corbyn-led government, one that will eventually lead to socialism. This government will permanently change Britain because, they say, it will disperse power to the people. Under John McDonnell’s plans, industries will be renationalised but run differently than in the past: communities and employees will help manage them.
At the heart of the Corbynite vision is the idea that Labour’s members will be – indeed are in the process of becoming – the basis for a ‘social movement’. Instead of just being concerned to get people to vote for the party, this social movement will engage with and empower communities in new ways, infusing them with radical ideas to encourage ordinary people to take on the establishment on council estates and the workplace.
Corbynites believe a Labour government will need such a movement, one composed of millions, if it is to survive inevitable attacks from the capitalist enemy. As the authors of the excellent Corbynite primer ‘People Get Ready!’ write, a transformative government needs ‘both an informed, empowered, and strategically aware party membership, and a strong ecosystem of social movements outside the party’.
With that in mind, Labour has set aside £3 million to employ community organisers whose aim is to build this movement. But there are only 38 of them. If a social movement is to develop it will be largely due to the work of volunteers within the party, and especially Momentum – the self-proclaimed ‘people-powered’ organisation created in 2015 to advance Corbynism.