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Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics Paperback – 10 Oct 2017
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'Richard Seymour has a brilliant mind and a compelling style. Everything he writes is worth reading.' --Gary Younge
'One of our most astute political analysts turns his attention to Corbyn, and the result is predictably essential: not just to make sense of how we got to this unlikely situation, but for his thoughts on what the left might do next' --China Miéville
'Richard Seymour's Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics not only shows how, amid Labour Party decline, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters challenged the neoliberal consensus, but also considers the possibility of success and what form that might take.' --Times Higher Education [Books of 2016]
"An excellent political biography" -- Choice
“A highly opinionated study of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, and the circumstances that gave rise to it … full of insights.” – Andy Beckett, Guardian
About the Author
Richard Seymour is a writer, broadcaster and socialist, currently based in London. He writes regularly for the Guardian, the London Review of Books, Jacobin and many other publications.
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I rarely fail to finish books, so I forced myself through to page 196, when a sentence beginning, "The pro-Remain Economist, a magazine for company owners and directors..." finally made me to ask myself, "Why am I reading this ****?"
From previous reviews, I expected this book to be written from a socialist viewpoint, but Seymour's over-generalisations and personal attacks were tiresome and added nothing to the analysis. I expected more from an author who is an academic.
I still look forward to reading a quality biography of Jeremy Corbyn, who - love him or loathe him - is an interesting figure about whom much is said but little is known.
However, the book's main weakness relates to the rapid pace of change we have seen in politics within the last few weeks alone. It seems a life time ago since Britain voted to leave the EU. We have a new PM keen to re-brand the Tory party and adopt a "one-nation conservative" agenda. In addition, there have been mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet, a formal leadership challenge from Angela Eagle and the eventual selection of Owen Smith as the Corbyn challenger. I could go on but my point is that although the book has only been published very recently, lots has happened to change the political landscape. I would recommend the author adds a small new chapter at the end of the book reflecting on recent events and what these mean for Corbyn/Labour; this could then be published in a new revised edition of the book. It would not have to be a long chapter (even if a dozen pages or so would do) but it would vastly improve the book, as I couldn't help but feel like I was left wanting more.
Overall, the book is an interesting read. As a Labour member, I'm anxious about the future and this book has done nothing to alleviate those anxieties. However, it has aided my understanding of the challenges the party faces in the future.
The challenges facing Corbyn from within the Labour Party are daunting enough with, in some cases, Blairites and right wing Labour MPs actively conniving to undermine him. When added to media hostility, the disdain of the City and, according to the polls, an electorate seemingly indifferent to Labour's change at the top (with several polling organisations reporting that Labour's support is stuck at a lowly 30%), the odds against Corbyn leading the Labour Party to a 2020 election victory appear forbidding.
Maybe so, but as a Labour Party member who supported Corbyn's leadership bid and as a long-term malcontent over the Blair/Brown conversion of the Labour Party to be a neoliberal sidekick of the Tories, I hope to join with other rank and file 'Party members to sustain Corbyn and to call to account those Labour MPs who would rather see him fail and gift victory to the Tories.
Issues such as the lack of affordable housing; securing the future of the NHS, the opposition to lavish bankers bonuses, the scandal of the windfalls to private landlords, the bedroom tax, the attacks on the living standards of the poorest and the proliferation of soup kitchens may well draw more support to a Labour Party that, albeit not a times uncritically, gets behind Corbyn in the campaigns ahead.
Richard Seymour concludes: "In the final analysis, Corbynism will struggle to outrun the limits of Labourism. And it is those limits, above all, which have brought us to this impasse."
The Labourism I think Richard Seymour is referring to is the way in which the Labour Party grandees have increasingly muzzled constituency Labour Parties and rank and file members, reducing their roles to election door-knockers. Weary of this and Labour's rightward drift, it was rank and file members of the 'Party who overwhelmingly voted for Corbyn as 'Party leader.
For all that Richard Seymour wrote "Corbyn: ..." in haste, it reads well, is persuasively argued and deserving of a wide readership.
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