It wasn’t clear who would win Thursday’s general election as Socialist Worker went to press. But Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has shown that millions of people want real change in Britain.
The Labour leader began the campaign more than 20 points behind in the opinion polls.
Everything—including the media and the right in his own party—was stacked against him. It seemed the only plausible result was a thumping Tory victory.
Within weeks, that shifted massively. Corbyn showed that, if you confidently put forward left wing ideas, you can get an audience.
Labour’s manifesto pledges included renationalising the railways, scrapping tuition fees, raising taxes on the rich and boosting the minimum wage.
It was a radical shift from the “austerity-lite” that Labour has offered in recent years.
And far from the right’s claims that such ideas are laughable and unpopular, they won him huge support. The biggest surges in Corbyn’s support came when he talked left.
As the Financial Times newspaper admitted on Tuesday, “Against the odds, Mr Corbyn is turning the 2017 general election into a serious contest.
“The idea that Mr Corbyn is even in contention, just a few days from Britain’s general election, has astonished media pundits, the Conservative Party, and even many of his own MPs.”
Big, young, working class rallies marked Corbyn’s campaign.
On Monday some 10,000 turned out in Gateshead in the pouring rain to listen to him. Previously he drew over 2,000 in Birmingham, some 3,000 in Leeds, 3,500 in Hull, 1,000 in Scarborough and over 1,000 in York and Glasgow among many others.
Corbyn’s popularity echoes that of some left wing politicians elsewhere. As mainstream parties fail to solve the economic crisis and attack workers, voters looked for more radical options.
Sometimes that mood is grabbed by racist, right wing forces.
But in the US Bernie Sanders won nearly 13 million votes in the race to be the Democratic Party candidate in last year’s presidential election.
Sanders, who called himself a socialist, eventually lost out to Hillary Clinton. But he beat her in 23 states.
And his radical message drew rallies tens of thousands strong across the US.
In France left winger Jean-Luc Melenchon won almost 20 percent of the vote in the first round of this year’s presidential elections. He won the most votes of those aged under 24.
In Greece radical left party Syriza was elected in 2015 promising a break with mainstream parties and an end to austerity.
There are limits to parties that promise to reform away the problems caused by capitalism, as the experience of Syriza shows.
But the growing support for them shows that everything is not going to the right. There is an audience for left wing ideas and a thirst for radical change.