“The first time I laid eyes on Jeremy Corbyn was at Marxism Festival in the late 2000s. Years later, right after he was elected leader of the Labour Party, I would have a dream that he walked in to my local pub, vaguely reminiscent of the Palm Tree in Mile End, and demanded I buy him a pint. It was London Pride, I think. Three beers later, we had put the world to rights, plotting capitalist overthrow and remapping his own party’s horrific stances on immigration and other oppressions. My affinity for him had been, by this point, burned into my subconscious.
Back then, however, he was simply a glint in my eye – a big, blazing, bonfire-sized glimmer, to be fair. Hearing him, a mainstream politician – and at other points in my life in the UK, John McDonnell and Ken Livingstone – speak with the same passion against capitalism, imperialist war, gender oppression and structural racism as David Harvey, Nina Power, Tariq Ali, and other Marxists, literally made my jaw drop to the parquet floor.
As you can imagine, this election, then, is somewhat of a watershed moment for me in my 11 years living in the UK. If I could vote, it would be the first time in my life I would vote, with some passion, for a mainstream politician. I even tried – and failed, given my American citizenship – to join the Labour Party soon after Corbyn’s first leadership victory.
Don’t get me wrong, Labour, and Corbyn, are imperfect. His party is responsible for some of the most regressive and repressive immigration policies in the history of this country, dating back to the 1950s. Back then, too, the mainstream unions actively ignored the struggles of their black and brown, largely women, comrades at Grunwick or within the Indian Workers’ Association. Marx even said a proletarian revolution was possible everywhere but in England, alluding to the UK’s unflinching allegiance to industrial, and later finance, capital, and the collusion of its working class leaders.
On the plus side, they’re now speaking in a language many have considered long dead in the UK, including most of the rats in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Their manifesto slogan, for the “many, not the few” is a re-appropriation of Marx’s dictum that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. This is a great start. They’re going after fat cats and their tax havens; they’re supporting Eelam Tamil self-determination at a time when many Tamil refugees face deportation to the recently deemed “safe” country of Sri Lanka; they’re talking about eradicating student debt and student fees.
Most of this would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.
So, yes, if I could vote, I would vote for Jeremy Corbyn. But don’t listen to me, listen to Stormzy, listen to JME, listen to Gary Younge, listen to China Mieville…and help cast Theresa May into the void, forever.”
Novelist – ‘Street Politician’
Built around a sample of David Cameron chatting absolute rubbish, “Street Politician” is the hardest, most politically savvy UK rap song I’ve ever heard. That beat!