[Marxism] Tweets from Luigi Pagarini on Corbyn

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 15 09:42:57 MST 2019

I did around 120 hours of canvassing in London, Bedford and Milton 
Keynes. I didn’t expect this result but here’s how I can make sense of 
it from what I encountered on the doorstep.

The age differential was stark. Of course many of the older people I 
spoke to were polite and pleasant but 100% of the people who were rude 
and hostile were 50-80 years old. All of the oldest (>80) and younger 
(<40) voters were polite, whomever they were voting for.

There was a visceral hatred of Corbyn (sometimes combined with Diane 
Abbott) from a section of voters outside inner London, primarily older 
white voters, both middle and working class. So far, so obvious. How did 
the demonization of Corbyn have such a strong effect in 2019 but not in 

Although on the face of it that demonization has been raw and 
relentless, actually it has only circled around the key charge, never 
making it explicit,... ... so it has taken four years for low engagement 
voters to absorb it fully. The real charge against Corbyn is that he 
fundamentally believes that British/white lives are of equal value with 
the lives of others.

Our opponents wouldn’t put it so bluntly but that is what it has always 
been about. That prioritisation of British lives must always be assumed, 
never justified, taken for granted as the ground the state is built on, 
never officially avowed except through ritual. The cenotaph. Gerry 
Adams. Prosecutions of historic crimes in N.I. Laying wreaths in foreign 
cemeteries. Poppies. Diane Abbott. Pushing the button. Watching the 
Queen at Christmas.

It is impossible to defend Corbyn against this unspoken charge because 
it is clearly true. When these voters talk about having paid into the 
system all their lives, they’re not just talking about literal national 
insurance payments and the financial benefits they’re entitled to in 

They’re talking about a life of loyalty and deference to the state they 
expected to be their exclusive patron; and now they see a Labour leader 
who seems to invite the whole world to his allotment, to offer his 
homemade jam to anyone who needs it,... ... no matter which flags their 
ancestors have spilt their blood for. I think this is also how the 
anti-semitism scandal had such a big effect on people who don’t really 
care about anti-semitism itself.

Leaving aside all the people who do care about anti-semitism for its own 
sake,... ... for a lot of people Corbyn’s association with anti-semitism 
seems to represent his association with Islam, where Islam in turn comes 
to stand for the undifferentiated mass of humanity making a claim for 
equal eminence.

What is particularly strange about all this is how it has moved away 
from primarily a concern about immigration itself, to a broader set of 
questions of patriotism, fiscal constraint, Brexit for its own sake 
rather than to end free movement, and deference to authority. With such 
voters, already retired or coming towards the end of their careers, talk 
of what we can build together leaves them sceptical and uncomprehending. 
It seems more zero sum to them.

We have salvaged a small horde from the imperial wreck and only those 
whose fealty is proven can claim their share. I have absolutely no idea 
how we can appeal to such people. The idea of taxing the rich didn’t 
seem persuasive as these people just think it is impossible.

They want the patronage of the powerful, not to challenge their power. I 
also canvassed a lot of young (18-35) working class people who had very 
little engagement with politics. Many had voted in the referendum (leave 
or remain but with much less conviction than the older voters) but only 
occasionally vote otherwise. Many had never heard about class politics 
at all.

The idea of working class people voting for a party to tax the rich to 
pay for redistribution and public services was completely novel, and 
generally immediately attractive. It was amazing to see how quickly and 
instinctively they grasped a left-wing agenda while saying they had 
never thought about it before. There seems like a huge opportunity there 
for the left to make inroads with younger non-graduates in towns but how 
do we reach them? Organising and social media I guess?

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