Don’t let Jeremy Corbyn become the next Rosa Luxemburg
As I write this, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party is under attack from the party’s MPs, while a huge proportion of the party’s membership continue to support him.
My personal views aside,1 I’m starting to become concerned by elements – I’m seeing mostly younger people but there maybe other ages too – within the Labour party who are using violent language and cult-of-personality tactics to attempt to drown out reasoned debate on the subject.
I was moved to write this post after I saw a post on Facebook from a former Green Party colleague who switched to Labour in the Corbyn era: a very rational, reasoned argument for why he cannot support Corbyn any more and is supporting one of his opponents in the coming leadership election. This post had pages of comments from the author’s own Facebook friends mostly just containing hashtags like “#iamwithcorybyn” and “#votecorbyn” without reasoned or constructive replies to what he said. Some said that the author was no longer trustworthy, a fool or even that he and his preferred candidate should “go fuck themselves”. This from his own friends.
Politics isn’t football: it has to be about more than sticking up for your favourites, whatever happens. It has to be about accepting that everyone does good things and bad things, and recognising that any one person is always a compromise of some sort. It has to be about listening to rational debate and contributing constructively to that debate. It can’t be about telling your friends to fuck themselves, or throwing a brick through someone’s window, just because they support a different politician to you.
I wanted to bring to light a little history, because it is important to remember the mistakes of the past such that we do not make them again in the future.
During the first world war, the left of politics in Germany was divided between the pro-war SPD (social democrats) and the anti-war KPD (communists), led by Rosa Luxemburg. Luxemburg was a popular leader and she campaigned strongly for non-violent industrial action, positioning the KPD as being both opposed to the centrist pro-war positions of the SPD and the violent approaches of the Russian communist party, as led by Lenin.
The KPD organized a major strike in November 1919 that featured elements of Leninism – extremists within the KPD tried to overthrow the SPD government. This led to Rosa Luxemburg’s assassination by government-sponsored thugs, which was swiftly followed by the KPD becoming more violent and Leninist in nature.
This violent version of left-wing politics made it easier for the right wing in Germany to stir up fear in the general population about the dangers of communism and, when in 1933 the Reichstag fire was blamed on a Dutch communist, Adolf Hitler seized power and immediately gained public support for the total outlawing of left-wing politics. And the rest is history.
The parallels with Jeremy Corbyn are there: he himself is anti-war, anti-violence. Just like Rosa Luxemburg. The left is once again divided between the pro-war centrists and the anti-war leftists. And now we’re seeing militant revolutionary spirit coming from the ranks of the Labour party.
Let’s not allow history to repeat itself. If you’re a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and you’re anti-war, please practice nonviolent behaviour too. Jeremy Corbyn is known for listening to people and engaging in rational debate. Do the same thing yourselves – listen to what your opponents are saying with an open mind, instead of attacking them just because you see them as opponents. A violent revolution is always going to be scary to the population, and it will allow the real bad guys to win. It’s happened before and I believe it could happen again.
- I actually quite like Corbyn, his policies, and his approach to leadership, with certain reservations. [↩]