Corbyn did well this week

Possibly the best film I have ever seen about politics is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. It is partly inspired by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s extraordinary book, “Team of Rivals”, that includes biographies of Edward Bates, Salmon Chase and William Seward, who served in Lincoln’s cabinet, but were also opponents of his who had themselves sought the Republican nomination.

Lincoln of course had an extraordinarily difficult task, as he was a relatively obscure figure compared to his opponents, all of whom had more experience than him in the corridors of power. Lincoln won due to superior organisation in the nomination contest, and a grassroots reputation gained following his success in the famous debates with Democrat Stephen Douglas in 1958, after which he toured, for example accepting the invitation to speak against slavery in Seward’s powerbase in New York

Once elected President, Lincoln had to contend with the chronic disloyalty of Salmon Chase who despite being a Cabinet member schemed and conspired to replace the President, and was deeply resentful that a political outsider like Lincoln should occupy the highest office of state. Lincoln had the advantage of his mandate as elected President of the United States, but his rivals were better connected within the political establishment.

The genius of Spielberg’s film is showing how Lincoln holds together the disparate coalition of interests from the extreme radicals who believed that blacks should have the same rights as whites( in 1860 a fringe view amongst white Americans) to the conservative Republicans and War Democrats who were prepared to compromise with the slave owners’ rebellion.

In one scene in the film that stuck in my mind, Lincoln discusses the role of political principles as a compass which shows you the direction to travel, but that a compass doesn’t tell you how to deal with lakes, rivers and cliffs that you might meet when traveling in that direction which might require you to detour or even temporarily turn around.

The former Whig Congressman, Lincoln, whose political career had earlier been cut short by his outspoken opposition to President Polk’s military aggression against Mexico had a distinct advantage over – for example – our own Jeremy Corbyn, because Lincoln was the leader of a new political party, the Republicans, that had coalesced out of the Whig Party, the few anti-slavery Democrats, and the northern part of the anti-immigrant but otherwise progressive Know Nothing Party. The Republican Party had not developed its own conventions and institutions that Lincoln’s political opponents could leverage against him. The authority of the President of the United States is also through direct suffrage to choose state representatives for the electoral college, which gives an independent mandate, and a constitutional position of patronage and veto that allows leverage against Congress.

In contrast, the British Labour Party is a highly complicated organism where the parliamentary party has more than a century of tradition behind its convention of autonomy; an autonomy that has also been long respected by the affiliated unions. What is more, the labourist traditions that derive from the party’s relationships with these trade unions have underpinned an acceptance of the economic benefits of Britain’s imperial heritage, and there is a strong interpenetration between parts of the parliamentary party and the British state, the British military and therefore directly or indirectly with American influence. These institutionalized interests are imperiled by Corbynism, and sometimes consciously and sometimes instinctively they will feel more comfortable supporting the establishment than the new direction of the Labour Party.

The Tsunami of popular support that swept Corbyn to the office of Party leader is a mighty social phenomenon, based at least partly upon the movement that derived from the anti-war protests over Iraq, partly from the Peoples’ Assemblies, and partly from the loose but engaged networks that social media have enabled over the last decade. It has enormous potential, and over the last week the movement against the bombing of Syria, both inside and outside of the Labour Party, has significantly shifted public opinion and effectively turned the terms of the debate, so that last night’s vote saw Jeremy Corbyn backed by the majority of the parliamentary party, the majority of the shadow cabinet, and the majority of the wider party. This includes support from a number of MPs who are seen as on the right of the party.

It is important to understand three things though. Firstly, while the grassroots base of Corbyn’s support are extremely exercised by opposing British military involvement in the Middle East, this is an issue of relatively marginal concern among the wider electorate. Secondly, Corbyn’s principled challenge to the military instincts of the establishment, its NATO alliance and the prestige of the UK as a nuclear power will be determinedly, irreconcilably and ruthlessly opposed by not only the Conservative Party, but also the newspapers and BBC, and parts of the Labour Party. Thirdly, Corbyn’s mandate of support and powerbase in the Labour Party has limited purchase in the PLP.

Whether or not Jeremy was right or not to offer a free vote on the Syria debate is a matter of judgement and opinion. But it is entirely plausible that had he imposed the whip, then several Shadow Cabinet members would have resigned, creating a media circus and mood of crisis that would have led to Corbyn’s demise, especially as it might have played into a self fulfilling narrative of catastrophe in Oldham. Furthermore, the determination of some MPs to vote with the government, as Alan Johnson explicitly said in his parliamentary speech yesterday, would have meant they did not feel obliged to follow the whip. It is entirely plausible that as many MPs would have voted with the government. What is more, the opportunity to embarrass and possibly remove Corbyn would have been likely to ensure that Cameron proceeded to the vote, even had Labour been whipped to oppose.

In my view, Corbyn did well over the last week. The parliamentary vote in favour of war was contained to mainly the most predictable suspects. Corbyn spoke for the anti war opinion in the country, and the campaign against British military involvement in Syria continues.

56 comments on “Corbyn did well this week

  1. Andy, coincidentally I was actually perusing a book of Lincoln’s letters in a coffee shop when I checked in on the blog and read your piece. I had also just purchased Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ and was giving that a quick browse too.

    I thought this passage from a letter Lincoln wrote to General McClellan apposite to the issue at hand: “You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?”

    This from Machiavelli is also pertinent: “he will prosper most whose mode of acting best adapts itself to the character of the times.”

    However much you try to claim otherwise, I cannot but disagree that Jeremy did well. He suffered a resounding defeat and his leadership I feel has been grievously weakened as a consequence; to my mind irrevocably.

    Watching Benn’s Ciceronian speech, suffused with rank opportunism, was painful. Jeremy seemed to visibly shrink as he sat behind and looked on. No sooner had the motion passed than the right wing of the PLP were out in force declaiming against bullying and intimidation by Corbyn’s supporters, thus closing the space in which they could be countered.

    I honestly do not blame Jeremy for it. He is, as I have said and say again, a thoroughly principled, decent and humane person. They are qualities that saw him propelled to the leadership on a wave of hope and passion that none of us will ever forget it. However, and ironically, I fear they are the same qualities that have led to his demise. He needed to be assertive, ruthless and brutally hard this past week, leaving no doubt who was the leader and that he wasn’t going to be bullied any longer. Benn should have been sacked before last night’s debacle took place and now it is too late. Benn is being regarded as Labour’s saviour and the right has the ball at their feet.

    I genuinely hope I am wrong in this. And if so I will be the first to admit it. And I will continue to support him as much as I can. But I can’t call it any way other than as I see it. No disgrace whatsoever devolves to Jeremy Corbyn. There were undoubtedly massive impediments to him being able to lead as he wanted to, but he had no option other than to fight the rebels this week and for whatever reason chose not to.

    I believe last night was the beginning of the end.

  2. Pete Jones on said:

    Corbyn has a long game to play, and has done well up to now. He needs to embed democracy in the labour party, and mobilise the new recruits. The Tories are on a high, but will corrode over the next free years over Europe and the deteriorating economy, and the Syrian military disaster. He needs to survive and redound the labour party against extraordinary institutional opposition. Boy done well so far.

  3. Andy Newman on said:

    John,

    McLellan’s over caution was however actually a mixture of hubristic pride and a political strategy to ensure conciliation with the rebels, with whom he sympathised.

    Lincoln’s point was also barbed because Mclellan’s army was huge and well equiped.

    Lee’s Army of Virginia was paradoxically also operating from a position of strength, in that his aggressive strategy was predicated upon pushing up the cost of the war for the north and prolonging it long enough for elections to deliver a weakened US government.

    A more apt analogy to our present conjuncture would be how Lincoln had to bow to the political realities by delaying his emancipation declaration due to ambivalence and oppisition in the Cabinet (from memory from Bates) and a growing anti war feeling in the country. He waited until there was a military victory first.

    Picking the right battle, at the right time

  4. John Edwards on said:

    John,

    “Benn should have been sacked” Maybe but we don’t know how many of the others would have gone as well including Tom Watson the elected Deputy Leader of the party who also backed air strikes. I tend to agree with Andy Newman that JC has done the best he can in the circumstances.

  5. John – it is far too soon to write Corbyn’s political obituary. I would say that the odds on him surviving are 70/30 in his favour, and will improve the longer he stays in post.

    The lies about death threats and intimidation of pro-war MPs are designed to create an atmosphere of crisis and hysteria, and a demand (amplified by the Tory press) that ‘this cannot carry on’. The Blairites know that time is running out. They will use every trick in the book to defenestrate Corbyn before the changing facts on the ground make the progressive hold on power irreversible.

    My hope is that the membership is hardened against media manipulation. We have so much experience of Murdoch et al smearing socialists that we are inoculated against it. The more they attack Corbyn and try and drag him down, the more we support him.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist and I have no wish to be alarmist but I worry about an attempt on his life. The unique set of circumstances today mean that if Corbyn leaves office, the Blairites will be able to block a socialist replacement using the 35 nominations hurdle. Once a non-socialist leader is installed (Benn or possibly Jarvis), the mass expulsions will begin and all the gains will be reversed.

    Despite enormous pressure, Corbyn shows no sign of going anywhere. Once the Blairites and their state allies run out of options to dump him, they may contemplate extreme measures, given the stakes.

    Does anyone doubt that some of the creatures around Blair are morally capable of something appalling?

  6. John Edwards: “Benn should have been sacked” Maybe but we don’t know how many of the others would have gone as well including Tom Watson the elected Deputy Leader of the party who also backed air strikes.

    Hopefully all of them, but now it’s just speculation.

  7. To be honest, I think Tom Watson considers himself lucky he’s even allowed into the HOC. If he’d have been whipped he would have toed the line, sharpish,along with many of those careerist knobs on the Labour right.

  8. Graham on said:

    Compare and contrast Labour’s tortuous divisions over the war vote with the clear anti war position of the SNP which reached its verdict with a minimum of fuss and rancour. Mhairi Black’s description of the revulsion she felt at the cheering of the vote to bomb has resonated across Scottish social media.
    The better together/bombing together couplet sums up the frustration felt here that yet again, Scotland’s politicians and public opinion count for nothing when the Westminster war machine cranks into life. A decent man and a principled socialist Corbyn may be, but don’t be surprised if Labour get an almighty kicking when the Scottish Parliament elections roll round in May.

  9. Pardeep on said:

    A good week for Corbyn, but a terrible one for the people of Syria. Still who cares about them, getting a right wing Labour party elected os what counts.

  10. With a bit of luck we marxist ‘armchair parliamentarians’ will step back from this obsessing about parliamentary procedure crap and realise a) we know fuck all about it and b) we know nothing about the significance of it c) we never stand for elections d) we could just concentrate on supporting the minimal advances ‘we’ are making.

  11. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Lee’s Army of Virginia

    Am I right Andy in saying that the majority of the pre-split USA’s army cadre and experienced staff was from the “South” and largely supported the southern cause and the Army of Virginia. This therefore meant Lincoln’s regime had to bring through new people with little experience and hope that they coped.

  12. John Grimshaw on said:

    Graham: but don’t be surprised if Labour get an almighty kicking when the Scottish Parliament elections roll round in May.

    I think this is right. Why vote for Labour when you can have the “real deal”. And also by voting SNP you can piss off the Westminster politicians. The SNP’s weakness though which the SLP refuse to exploit is it’s fiscal conservatism. I don’t know how it works in the LP so I don’t know what influence the ELP can have but Corbyn could do worse than getting on that job.

  13. Michael Rosen: we could just concentrate on supporting the minimal advances ‘we’ are making.

    Those advances will remain minimal unless Corbyn shakes himself from his torpor and shows a willingness to fight. Thus far he hasn’t shown any such willingness and this week the result was there for all to see.

    Momentum has now successfully been painted as a Marxist Tendency mark II with Jeremy’s connivance in his ill conceived statement about ending personal abuse, etc. He keeps handing his opponents the initiative. In the words of Johnny Kovack (Sly Stallone) in the movie FIST: “Nobody ever won a fight taking a punch.”

  14. John Grimshaw on said:

    Michael Rosen: With a bit of luck we marxist ‘armchair parliamentarians’ will step back from this obsessing about parliamentary procedure crap and realise a) we know fuck all about it and b) we know nothing about the significance of it c) we never stand for elections d) we could just concentrate on supporting the minimal advances ‘we’ are making.

    This doesn’t make much sense. Why do you assume “we” know nothing about parliament? Lefties have and do stand for Parliament although admittedly without much success apart from the CP in the 40s/50s. If Burnham as expected had been elected as LP leader and business had been as normal then maybe we could just have shrugged off the forum of Parliament as continuing nonsense. But Corbyn’s election and more importantly the significant rise of LP membership must cause us to think about the implications. How long this phenomenon will last for is moot point?

  15. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: Momentum has now successfully been painted

    Presumably your saying this is not a good thing? Or not honest?

    I caught Watson on the Radio this AM describing Momentum as “a rabble”. However he also spoke about his support (fake obviously) for the leader. I agree with you that in the battle of words and sneaky deeds they are trying to separate Corbyn from his grass roots and isolate him.

  16. John Grimshaw on said:

    FYI

    Sue Wheat
    4 hrs · Edited

    From
    OK – If you’re worrying about activism in Walthamstow please read and share this.

    I just want to set the record straight for anyone reading or listening to the news about Walthamstow and Stella Creasy which as far as I can tell is totally UNTRUE.

    On Tuesday a local resident Sophie Bolt and Rev Steven Saxby organised a family vigil organised which myself and others helped to publicise quickly on social media. No one asked me to do it, I just did it.

    It was a beautiful, calm meet-up of for anyone who wanted to come and wanted to show our MP Stella Creasy that we wanted her to vote NO on air strikes in Syria. We met at the Queen’s Road mosque with candles in jam jars and walked quietly to Stella’s Labour office on Orford road where there were speeches by religious and community leaders. It was a beautiful, community, inspiring family event of people trying to make their voices heard against the air strikes and trying to influence Stella, even though we knew she was in Westminster.

    We took post-it notes and thought it would be powerful to write messages of peace and stick them on the office window. It looked beautiful and powerful.

    The next day we realised someone called Paul S Jakubovic had put up a FB post on the Refugees Welcome UK website with a picture of the start of the vigil which was outside the mosque. You can see the mosque on the right if you zoom in, but mostly it’s just the houses next to it, and he said we were outside Stella’s house and said something incendiary about her not having children to worry about. His exact post was: ““outside [her] house…apparently she has still to make up her mind – and she has no children to upset”. He managed to get some police in the pic which made it look like a demo and it was dark and blurry. In fact the very low police presence were very helpful and friendly throughout.

    Then we went to her office about half a mile away. There were about 200 people including children and various community and religious leaders spoke – it was very inspiring peace rally. The police were laid-back and friendly there was no intrusive police presence.

    NOW FOR THE MOST WORRYING THING – the picture and FB post message by Paul S Jakubovic was found by the Independent and used in an article about the social media activity lobbying Stella to vote No in Walthamstow started off a mass media misinformation story about constituents bullying Stella. It was then picked up by LBC, the Standard and many other media and went viral on social media. I tried to counteract lots of it, especially with journalists following up the story.

    Then someone found out Paul S Jakubovic’s FB account was created the night before and posted from Leeds although when I searched for him it says he lives in Orpington, Kent. Nowhere near Walthamstow! Now if you search for him his account won’t open. He decided to use this peaceful family event to defame the peace actions of our amazing community! Why??

    When I realised that the Independent had used his picture and post to create their story stating Stella was targeted I contacted the journalist but she wouldn’t retract it. Then it went all over the world. I was sobbing with frustration. Please share this version of events. There may of course be things I don’t know that happened separate to the vigil. All I know is the vigil was peaceful and no-threatening and the thousands of FB posts I’ve seen from Walthamstow residents are respectful but utterly desperate to share their views with Stella to vote NO. That is democracy – that is what she asked for. That is not bullying.

    What a stressful few days.

    Peace. And do share.

  17. Andy Newman on said:

    John,

    But this isnt a boxing match.

    Nor is it a war, but the analogies for politics and also for trade unionism come from the world of war.

    Where the enemy consists of well trained troops who are dig in a defensive position, then dont engage them with a frontal assaukt by inexperienced troops even if you have a numerical advantage.

    Remember how the American revolution was almost lost at the outset by Washington’s foolish decision to engage a superior British force in a formal battle at New York.

    Victory came by audacity like at Harpers Ferry, choosing his own time and field of battle, and through building the Continental Army as a professional force, on the model of European armies, and keeping it in the field through adversity, hardship, and despite military and political reverses.

    Washington, as a truly great soldier and revolutionary, knew that he had to survive, his army had to survive, and that that could not be done by allowing the British and the Tories to dictate when and where he fought.

  18. Andy Newman on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    The pre civil war army was very small, and much of it deployed on the frontier.

    Certainly a large number of profrssional officers did join the rebellion, but the most senior general, Winfield Scott, stayed in Wadhington.

    Both sides had to expand their armies and appoint “political” generals. One of the most sucrssful generals in the Confederate Army was an Anglican Bishop.

    What was interesting is that almost all the former West Pointers had served together in Mexico, and knew at first hand their strengths and weaknesses

  19. red mole on said:

    The other important aspect in the narrative of the week, which Andy omitted to mention, was that Corbyn showed his willingness to mobilise the membership against the PLP. He did this twice : by emailing them directly to canvas their views, and by urging them to email their MPs, and 30,000 availed themselves of the model letter on the Momentum website. These actions which caused predictable howls of outrage among MPs put the lie to the idea that Corbyn has been weak or ineffective through all this. On the contrary : he has a much better understanding of what it takes to win than many of his critics, ie though mobilising his support, not through parliamentary manoeuvres which could justly be criticised as anti-democratic.

    A large majority of Labour membership is now pro-Corbyn. This is by far the most important fact in the equation. Corbyn doesn’t have control of the policy forum or of candidate selection bodies, so change will take time, but the strength of support means that change will come. The support also means that Corbyn cannot be removed by normal means. Anyone so rash as to stand against him will find that Corbyn will have no difficulty this time getting on the ballot, and the ballot will only confirm Corbyn’s increased standing in the party. The Oldham result has put paid to fears that Corbyn could be fatally undermined by a catastrophic collapse in the Labour vote. The fact that Labour now has so many more footsoldiers helps of course. The only remaining threat to Corbyn is from some kind of jumped up legal challenge, but it’s hard to see how such a challenge could win much support even from among those MPs who voted for Burnham and Cooper.

  20. red mole,

    Yes I think you make good points here, the mobilisation of party opinion to lobby MPs was a breach of convention, and a welcome one.

    Incidently, the somewhat contrived furore about “bullying” of MPs, leading to the issue of the joint statement by Tom Watson and Jeremy Coybyn is not, in my opinion, a cause for concern. There is already an initiative from the NEC to establish a social media code of conduct, which is not likely to favour any particular faction of the party.

    I would like to see it include some guidance against MPs deliberately perpetuating ding dongs with Trolls, and falsely making claims that people who are demonstrably not members or suppotrers of the Labour Party are somehow the responsiblity of the leader of the party

  21. Andy Newman: Nor is it a war, but the analogies for politics and also for trade unionism come from the world of war.

    Indeed they do, and perhaps a more appropriate analogy that helps us to understand the events of this week is the differing fortunes of the French and Soviet armies in the face of Nazi blitzkrieg.

    The French Army collapsed after the initial force of blitzkrieg because they did not have sufficient territory into to which to retreat and buy the time to regroup and organise a counter attack. That space=time is a truth in war that often determines the difference between defeat and victory.

    The Soviets on the other hand did have sufficient territory into which to retreat, affording them the time to reorganise, equip, and mount the counterattack at the gates of Moscow which hurled the Nazis back.

    When you don’t have the space to retreat to you have to stage your counter offensive before your opponent stages his offensive. In sacking Benn prior to the Syria vote, and in imposing the whip, he would have blunted their offensive and forced them onto the back foot. Now instead it is Jeremy and his supporters who’re on the back foot, both within the PLP and outwith, forced to explain themselves vis-a-vis the lobbying and pressure they brought to bear against prowar Labour MPs.

    This is in spite of Oldham, the whys and wherefores of which Dan Hodges, though I hate to say it, analyses accurately.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nigel-farage/12033154/Oldham-by-election-Nigel-Farage-will-always-be-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride.html

  22. John: The French Army collapsed after the initial force of blitzkrieg because they did not have sufficient territory into to which to retreat and buy the time to regroup and organise a counter attack. That space=time is a truth in war that often determines the difference between defeat and victory.

    No, the French army collapsed because the prevailing opinion in the French ruling class preferred to capitulate rather than fight,

    Let us be clear, Corbyn made a tactical feint this week, to avoid a potentially catastrophic defeat, and the result in Oldham has consolidated his position and bought us time.

    The task of the left is clear, it is to support Corbyn, and hold our nerve.

    Suprisingly to me John, you seem to have given up your optimism at the first sign that Corbyn will face determined opposition

  23. Andy Newman: No, the French army collapsed because the prevailing opinion in the French ruling class preferred to capitulate rather than fight,

    The military defeat was a product of Germany’s lightning advance, the main element of which caught the French and British off guard in coming via the Ardennes instead of via Belgium as they had been expecting. The Germans then quickly drove a wedge between French and British forces in the north and the French forces in the south. The French did not have sufficient territory in which to retreat to form a viable defensive line behind which they might regroup and reorganise.

    The political capitulation you describe came with their refusal to fight on in a guerilla campaign in mainland France and to use their colonies and fleet to continue the war at sea in conjunction with the British.

    As Churchill writes in his memoirs:

    “The French armies, decimated and in confusion, were quite unable to withstand this powerful assembly of superior numbers, equipment, and technique.”

  24. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman,

    As regards France in 1940, John is nearer to the truth on this one.

    Nothing personal, I have found your posts on the American Civil War most informative. Thank you.

  25. Andy Newman:
    Suprisingly to me John, you seem to have given up your optimism at the first sign that Corbyn will face determined opposition

    Yes, think of it as Corbyn’s rope-a-dope.

  26. George Hallam: As regards France in 1940, John is nearer to the truth on this one.

    I concede the point.

    John: The French did not have sufficient territory in which to retreat to form a viable defensive line behind which they might regroup and reorganise.

    I accept this.

    The question though with analogies is whether or not they are apt.

    In this case you are choosing an analogy that is highly loaded, the catastrophic defeat of the French Republic by Nazi invaders. and one that is also of dubious applicability, in so far as you are comparing a single incidence of tactical judgement with an entire national defensive strategy; and one that involved two pre-existing, large, professional armies.

    Basically, the mistake you are making is to assume that the events of the last week represent a significant defeat.

    This I think is the question worth exploring. What is it you think that Corbyn could have acheived, and at what risk?

  27. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: I concede the point.

    Don’t concede. It ill be-fits you. There was a strong “fifth column” in France at that time, especially amongst the military who if not fascist were nearly there. And they didn’t like Jews either. Whilst I am aware of the strategic inadequacies of the French High Command the French army was still superiour to that of the Germans and should have been able to hold the line or whatever. The military simply caved in.

  28. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: As regards France in 1940, John is nearer to the truth on this one.

    I am surprised at this and with you. But as you’re good at this what’s your evidence?

  29. John Grimshaw: I am surprised at this and with you. But as you’re good at this what’s your evidence?

    Since I was the one who originally made this point maybe I can help you with this.
    I have already prayed in aid the thoughts of Churchill re the Battle for France, which obviously failed to convince you, so how about the thoughts of Hitler on the same campaign, lifted straight from Alan Clark’s excellent history of the war in the East: ‘Barbarossa’.

    During an exchange with Jodl, Hitler said: “You can conduct military operations only if you have space…That was the misfortune of the French…France was finished off in six weeks, but in this huge space [Russia] one can hold on and on.”

  30. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw,
    I’m hors de combat with a cold so l can’t give you the full shilling.
    The German offensive was very high risk and they were extremely lucky to get away with it. See Adam Tooze 2006 chapter 11 .
    While you’re correct about the sympathies of the French bourgeois (as explained in the 1941 film ‘The Foreman went to France ‘) the most pressing problem was the fragility of the French army’s ‘command and control systems. See Phillip Nord France 1940’ 2015 Yale UP.
    I’m doing this on my phone so that will have to do for now.

    By the way, you never asked what the second ‘S’ stood for.

    Did you guess?

  31. John – like Andy, I’m bemused by your defeatism. You seem to take it as read that Corbyn will be neutered and then removed by revanchist Blairites. Most indicators, especially post-Oldham, suggest the opposite.

    What’s going on? At the risk of playing the amateur shrink, I’d say that you’re trying to protect yourself from disappointment by assuming the worst.

  32. Roger: What’s going on? At the risk of playing the amateur shrink, I’d say that you’re trying to protect yourself from disappointment by assuming the worst.

    No, I guess I’m frustrated at what I consider a lack of fight. I am with Jeremy and my criticism is borne of seeing him being attacked and attacked and derided with no response. My outlook and analysis may well be wrong, time will tell, and I realise that on this I am in a minority, with many people I respect on here disagreeing with me.

    A mea culpa shall be forthcoming if I am, I assure you.

  33. Btw, just to digress a moment, the Alan Clark book I referenced, which I am currently reading, is easily the best I’ve ever read on Barbarossa. Great insightful writing combined with facts that were hitherto unknown to me, despite the fact I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on this history.

    I seriously recommend it.

  34. John,

    That is an honourable position John. The truth is that none of us knows what will be the consequences, and we may or may not all look back at this week to see it as decisive, but I really think that the Oldham result has bought us more time, and consolidated Jeremy’s position

  35. Pete Jones on said:

    John Grimshaw: There was a strong “fifth column” in France at that time …… The military simply caved in.

    The German army may have been stronger when they invaded, but the capitulation was at Munich when the western powers sold out the czechs, even when the soviets would have fought. Lesson – face your enemies down when you are stronger than them – it may not always be the case. In Corbyn’s situation, his enemies are very powerful and he has to avoid a frontal confrontation and defeat.

  36. john Grimshaw on said:

    John: Since I was the one who originally made this point maybe I can help you with this.
    I have already prayed in aid the thoughts of Churchill re the Battle for France, which obviously failed to convince you, so how about the thoughts of Hitler on the same campaign, lifted straight from Alan Clark’s excellent history of the war in the East: ‘Barbarossa’.

    During an exchange with Jodl, Hitler said: “You can conduct military operations only if you have space…That was the misfortune of the French…France was finished off in six weeks, but in this huge space [Russia] one can hold on and on.”

    Two thoughts. Hitler was not the greatest military tactician and France is a big country.

  37. john Grimshaw on said:

    Pete Jones: In Corbyn’s situation, his enemies are very powerful and he has to avoid a frontal confrontation and defeat.

    i recognise the weakness of corbyns position and as many on here have said the only way to remedy that is to get a more solid base in the PLP. This means getting the some of the right wingers deselected as soon as possible and replacing them. Hopefully that would put the fear of God into the remainder. However publicly at least Corbyn seems to be conceding far too much ground.

  38. George Hallam on said:

    John: I seriously recommend it.

    I’m glad that you haven’t let the imperfections of the author (a scoundrel of the first water, a cad, lazy, not to mention his politics) get in the way of your appreciation of book. It is compelling.

    I have been known to recommend ‘Barbarossa’, but only as an introduction to the topic of the Russian-German war.

    However, it should come with a health warning. Clark was writing fifty years ago and a lot is, if not ‘wrong’ then, incorrect in the light of subsequent research.

  39. john Grimshaw: Hitler was not the greatest military tactician and France is a big country.

    To the first part of your statement it’s yes and no. Hitler’s audacity, which flew in the face of military theory at the time, was responsible for the astounding victory in the Battle for France, which served to heighten his disdain towards his generals and give him an over inflated opinion of his military genius, which in the end proved his and Germany’s undoing in the war.

    However many military historians agree that his obdurate refusal to cede ground taken, while folly from Stalingrad on, did ensure that the retreat from Moscow did not turn into a complete rout.

    As for France, you’re quite right, it is a big country…but not as big as Russia.

  40. George Hallam: Clark was writing fifty years ago and a lot is, if not ‘wrong’ then, incorrect in the light of subsequent research.

    Where exactly is Clark incorrect in his rendering of the history of Barbarossa, George?

  41. George Hallam on said:

    John: Where exactly is Clark incorrect in his rendering of the history of Barbarossa, George?

    That would take a lot of effort and I don’t feel well. A critique of the book would make a great topic for a PhD student.
    If you’re interested try reading Clark’s chapter “The First Crisis” in parallel with “Barbarossa Derailed”.

    Clark wasn’t bad for 1965 but really it’s very superficial .

  42. john Grimshaw: the only way to remedy that is to get a more solid base in the PLP. This means getting the some of the right wingers deselected as soon as possible and replacing them.

    Whenever a CLP decides to deselect their right wing Labour MP, they cannot be replaced until the next general election (unless the deselected MP opts to fight a by election, which they would be unlikely to do except if they thought they would beat the official Labour candidate).

    Hence, whatever the other merits or demerits of deselection, it’s not a strategy that can build the left in the PLP within the term of this parliament.

  43. jock mctrousers on said:

    George Hallam: Clark was writing fifty years ago and a lot is, if not ‘wrong’ then, incorrect in the light of subsequent research.

    Try Gabriel Gorodetsky’s (translator of the Maisky diaries recently) ‘Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia’.

  44. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers: Try Gabriel Gorodetsky’s (translator of the Maisky diaries recently) ‘Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia’.

    I have. Lots of interesting material. The conclusions that Gorodetsky draws from them are a bit confused.

    Also he make the unforgivable error of calling Friedrich Paulus, future commander of Sixth Army, “von Paulus” thereby elevating the son of a school master form middle Germany into a Junker.

  45. jock mctrousers on said:

    It’s a long time since I read it, but that’s roughly how I remember it. It’s certainly not a gripping narrative, but the ‘revision’ of the start of the war, Stalin’s supposed unpreparedness, hesitation, and near nervous breakdown… is essential.

    Hadn’t noticed that about Paulus. I think that’s a common error.

  46. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers: It’s certainly not a gripping narrative, but the ‘revision’ of the start of the war, Stalin’s supposed unpreparedness, hesitation, and near nervous breakdown… is essential.

    At its core it’s a devastating critique of Viktor Suvorov and as such a useful piece of work.

    jock mctrousers: Hadn’t noticed that about Paulus. I think that’s a common error.

    I agree it’s not important, but I enjoyed pointing it out.

  47. George Hallam on said:

    By the way, 6th December was the date in 941 when the Soviet launched their counteroffensive in the Moscow region

  48. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam:
    By the way, 6th December was the date in 941 when the Soviet launched their counteroffensive in the Moscow region

    In 941? I doubt it. 🙂

  49. I’m not too sure about having this disscusion on Luke Akehurst’s blog (!!) – but there was a lot of advice about, before the summer, to make this decisively a bottom-up grassroots campaign, and not go directly for a parliamentary lead. Apart from anything else, as one or two Campaign Group members had openly backed Brown, there was a desire not to split the group (that might seem ironic now, but the history which Harry Barnes refers to on another thread is relevent here). I still broadly think that it was the right strategy, although it was probably important to make sure that the biggest guns were on side (specifically Alan).

  50. #43 I first read it 39 years ago at the age of 13. I couldn’t put it down.

    I re-read it recently ans was still impressed by the style. Inevitably there will have been things that the author would have been unaware of only 20 odd years after the events he describes.