Simply hoping that the Jeremy Corbyn experience can be repeated in New Zealand ignores the political reality of a Labour Party that has long been dead as a progressive force.

THERE IS MUCH DISCUSSION and debate occurring within the British left about the ascension of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party. The talk has been varied, traversing a range of issues. Does the rise of Corbyn represent the death of Blairism or is it just licking its wounds before it begins a campaign to topple Corbyn? Does Jeremy Corbyn represent a real shift in political forces? Does he represent a historic opportunity to revive and renew the British left generally? What are his strengths and weaknesses? And so it goes.

There are, of course, widely varying views but what's driving the debate is a sense that what is said and done now matters, that it is contributing to the possible emergence of a real political movement.

Many decades ago Vladimir Lenin famously said that 'without revolutionary theory..there can be no revolutionary movement'. But he also said that 'correct revolutionary theory...assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement'.

Last time I looked there was no mass revolutionary movement in Britain and those who describe Corbyn and his politics as revolutionary may well like to think again before they again casually throw such epithets around like confetti. The British left needs to walk before it can run and, right now, that's about building an credible and clear alternative to neoliberalism and the polices of austerity. That's the reality we begin with.

Of course the British left are in much better political position compared to that of what can loosely be described as the New Zealand left. At the last election much of it campaigned for a vote for Labour as 'the lesser evil', only to see Labour's vote collapse again. It also disastrously supported Mana Party's mercenary alliance with Kim Dotcom's Internet Party. Indeed one commentator, Chris Trotter, now extolling the virtues of Jeremy Corbyn, even described Kim Dotcom as 'revolutionary'.

That much of the New Zealand left is looking to the British Labour Party and the rise of Corbyn with envy isn't entirely surprising given the dearth of material it has to work with here. There is no Jeremy Corbyn figure within the parliamentary Labour Party. The chances of any Labour politician standing up to sing 'The Red Flag' are zero. I doubt any of them know the words.

Mike Treen, national director of the Unite Union, has unfortunately described Corbyn's victory as a 'political revolution'. From this mistaken premise he ends up limply hoping that the Corbyn phenomenon will soon emerge 'in this part of the world also'. How exactly? Treen, who called for a Labour vote at the last election and supported Mana's shonky deal with the Internet Party, may be simply hoping that a Jeremy Corbyn-like figure is pulled, like a rabbit, out of a top hat. Or, maybe, come 2017, he'll again be plaintively calling for people to vote for his 'lesser evil' Labour Party. Which is the most likely outcome?

The stark fact is that attempting to impose the Corbyn 'template' here is doomed to fail because the Labour Party, even as a minimal progressive force, has long been dead. Jeremy Corbyn's victory, by proxy, won't somehow revive the New Zealand Labour Party as a progressive political force and hoping it will won't make it so. 

There no shortcuts to building a political movement and building such a movement means stop sowing illusions about the political character of the Labour Party. I don't think Jeremy Corbyn would appreciate his name being taken in vain either.


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