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Jeremy Corbyn: Does a Corbyn government lie in the near or  medium future? (Chris McAndrew CC BY 3.0)

In the aftermath of last June’s general election, Jeremy Corbyn predicted that he would be Prime Minister by Christmas — or that is what he is reported to have said backstage during his appearance at the Glastonbury festival later that month. The adulation of the crowd, in the aftermath of Labour’s much better than expected election result, must have gone to his head. Corbyn has failed to make good on his prognosis — but is a Corbyn-led government in the near, or indeed medium, future a realistic prospect? It is not only his supporters who are hyping the prospect: Conservative whips are using the fear of it as a powerful threat to attempt to keep their more recalcitrant MPs in line, especially on Brexit. Backbench MPs fear that removing Theresa May as Tory leader could precipitate the end of Conservative rule and an early election. Fear of a far-left Labour government is making some foreign investors have second thoughts about putting their money into the UK.

Such fears are not surprising — a Corbyn-led Labour government would be coming from a very different place than not just the Blair and Brown governments, but any previous Labour administration. The second most powerful figure in such a government would be shadow chancellor John McDonnell who when asked, in a 2006 interview with the Trotskyist Alliance for Workers Liberty, what his greatest influences were stated, “The fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, basically.” Other leading Labour figures may have had an understandable affinity for Marx — it is not inconceivable that other senior figures could have said, as McDonnell did, that “one can’t understand capitalism without reading Das Kapital” — but Lenin and Trotsky? The corpus of these men’s work has nothing to offer other than revolutionary, anti-democratic stratagems and highly authoritarian, centralist theories on party organisation — and that is to say nothing of their actions leading directly to the deaths of millions. In the same interview McDonnell went on to state that his support for Labour was pragmatic and most certainly did not stem from a deep allegiance to the party: “The affinity and loyalty of the large section of the labour movement and of the working class [to Labour] . . . you can call it false consciousness or whatever . . . [means that for] very pragmatic reasons it is important to work within [the Labour Party].” There is no reason to believe that McDonnell’s views have moved on since then.

If one then looks at Corbyn’s two closest non-elected advisers — his director of strategy and communications Seumas Milne and his election strategist and trades union link Andrew Murray — one finds two men who have made defending the Soviet Union and its “achievements” their life work. In 2006, Milne wrote in the Guardian, of which he was comment editor: “Communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment . . . Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.” These aspirations could probably also sum up Milne’s ambitions for a Corbyn government.
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