Traingate: Jeremy Corbyn Goes Off The Rails

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Through his spat with Richard Branson regarding alleged overcrowded trains, Jeremy Corbyn has revealed he wants to be treated like an Emperor.  Corbyn was filmed sitting on the floor of an off-peak Virgin train from London to Newcastle, having a moan about privatisation.  However, CCTV footage released by Virgin Rail shows there were many seats available on the train without reserved tickets.  Corbyn chose to sit on the floor as a publicity stunt that has somewhat backfired.  Now he says ‘what he meant’ was he wanted a free double-seat so he could sit with his wife.  But that expectation is absurd.

The humble hoi-polloi are well aware if you want to sit with family members, it is best to book in advance where that can be fully accommodated.  But Corbyn who thinks he has a god-given right to be the next Prime Minister simply because he pays lip-service to ‘socialism’, believes special measures should be laid on just for him.  The fact is that no train company – state owned, or private – could have guaranteed that Corbyn and his wife could sit together if they haven’t booked in advance.  It is a utopian dream whilst any company has to operate within the parameters of the market, be it a nationalised company or a private company.  It is simply too expensive to generate enough carriages for everyone to have lounging room, hence seats are designed on the fair principle – one man, one seat – based around the physical structure of the human being.  If you bring someone else on to the train without booking in advance, you should expect you may be separated.  Normal people put up with this.  Normal people also remember when rail was nationalised – prior to 1996.  It was a shoddy overcharging service with overcrowded trains back then as well.

It isn’t ‘bloody Tory privatisation’ or whatever, it is derived from the efficiency of the market.  If you want a superior system to this, you need to go beyond the capitalist mode of production and develop the train network far beyond what is possible if everything has a price.  So Corbyn’s threat to nationalise the rail network really means, in this context, he will tax people more to fund his desire for himself and whoever he decides to travel with in the lap of luxury whilst everyone else struggles to make ends meet (because their tax bill has risen).  But the solution is to transcend the “nationalisation vs privatisation” debate.  Nationalisation to the extent it implies social ownership is only useful if it exists in the context of a broader liberatory challenge to capitalism, i.e. that the goal is part of a project to abolish the wage-labour/capital social relation at the heart of things through a social revolution.  This leads to the erosion of the law of value so that people become free to produce longer trains without the need to consider profitability at all.  As well as this, the likelihood of getting rid of all train staff becomes possible.  If you can have driverless cars, you can have driverless trains.  A fully automated network would also not require any station staff or guards, freeing all these people (3068 of them in Virgin Rail) to do more rewarding jobs than just travelling the same old routes up and down the country again and again just to earn the right to survive.

Corbyn’s supporters such as the Guardian’s Owen Jones has argued that privatisation is a tactic of greedy capitalism so they can overcharge on fares and cut corners on delivery in order to make super profits.  Is he for real?  Whilst Virgin Rail’s annual turnover is just over £1bn, their net worth in 2015, the latest year where figures are available, is only £42m.  When you think of the millions of journeys made in any year, a net worth of £42m is a pitiful sum.  Virgin Rail are definitely not making super profits, they are only just surviving, if that.  The problem with the capitalist mode of production isn’t that it makes some people rich, it is that it cannot develop the economy enough.  It is thus that we are stuck with an inferior train network which neither privatisation nor nationalisation can solve, since both are wedded to a wider market structure.  If Corbyn’s ‘socialism’ was anything more than moralistic posturing, he might be able to grasp this point.

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Jeremy Corbyn: Has Labour Gone From A Lifeless Corpse Into Frankenstein’s Monster?

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No doubt some of you will have been celebrating hardcore this past weekend over Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory, becoming The Leader Of The Labour Party, no less! Indeed I would agree that his projection from Zero to Hero is something quite good in terms of making Parliamentary debate more interesting. Now it’s time for some sober reflection. Here are a few areas through which progressives should want to challenge the limits of Corbynism, to help promote a better future for all.

Welfare

One of Corbyn’s main strengths has been to appeal to those who are ‘mad as hell’ (millionaire singer Charlotte Church) over Evil Tory welfare cuts. Indeed this sums up Corbyn’s whole critique of ‘austerity’. He doesn’t have an alternative economic plan, except for maybe renationalising the railway (more on this later) – his main beef with austerity economics is only that it leads to welfare cuts and a low rate of increase to the salaries of the bloated public sector.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between Corbyn and IDS however. To his credit, IDS recognises that disabled people and those with one form of mental illness or another are not, by default, unable to do anything. Volunteering is a good way for those people to gradually reingratiate themselves with the workforce – it gives people something to do rather than being idle at home watching boring daytime TV, provides structure to the week, and gives people a raison d’etre that the false freedom of doing nowt does not. Indeed forms of online volunteering now exist as well for those that are housebound for whatever reason. This should be promoted if we care about utilising the human potential.

However IDS can be a little too punitive at times. Getting people back into the workforce has to be done in a way both parties consent to, often gradually, and the DWP has to use humane reasoning skills rather than only apply blunt sanctions.

Warfare

Corbyn is to apologise for his Party’s disastrous military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for the Libyan bombing of 2011, and blundering in Syria, all of which has arguably contributed to a million deaths, and created the Islamo-fascist regime known as ISIS which, in turn, has helped fuel the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. This apology is really great! But one wonders why, if Corbyn is so principled, he remained in the Labour Party for so long whilst all this was going on? Perhaps he was just playing the slow game, cunningly waiting for a chance to pounce and become the new Leader, whereupon he would denounce the 22 crimes of his predecessors in order to glorify himself and make the Labour Party totally different! Then again…

Will The People’s Jez promote world peace in contrast to the entire history of the Labour Party? Well, as National Chair of the ‘Stop the War coalition’, the ‘Stop’ possibly better being renamed ‘Start’, our Jez wants the West to apply sanctions against Israel. As any critical leftist knows, sanctions are a form of ‘soft war’ or ‘siege warfare’ that tends to push the targetted country into a position of defiance that ends up leading to all-out war. This is what happened in Iraq. Throughout the 1990s, after their first war against a bad dictator that left 150,000 dead, the West applied sanctions against Iraq, arguably killing millions of children, left the country destitute, and paved the way for Tony Blair to bomb the place again onwards from 2003. Corbyn wants to apologise for Blair, but at the same time, having wiped the slate clean, may repeat the same mistakes of history in relation to Israel. He does already hang around with Holocaust deniers, so perhaps this holy man of peace might launch a far more devastating righteous war?

Nationalisation

Top of Corbyn’s ‘to-do’ list is nationalising public utilities like the railway. Wa-hey! Obviously no-one remembers when the railway was previously run by the state and popularly known as ‘British Snail’. Nevertheless, Corbyn doesn’t seem to grasp that nationalisation is not the same thing as socialism (worker’s control). In fact nationalisation is a prop for capitalism. What happens is that the state, using taxpayers money, buys an industry at premium price, runs it shoddily, then uses that as an excuse to say it would be better in private hands. They then resell the industry to the private sector at a knock-down price. The overall effect is that billions of pounds of taxpayers money subsidises capitalism, with the public suffering in the meantime. Nice one, Red Jez.

Policing society

Corbyn proclaims himself a ‘man of the people’ yet hates the liberties we enjoy. Before Blair even had the idea, Corbyn was arguing for a smoking ban in public places in 1997. Then, on this election run, he floated the idea of having ‘women-only’ carriages on trains. The claim was that over 1,300 women report sexual harrassment on the railway each year. What he failed to mention was that in Britain there are over 1.5bn journeys made each year, making a woman’s chance of being ‘harrassed’ 600,000-1. Furthermore, among these cases of harrassment, most are of the category ‘receiving unwelcome attention’ – not something that should be seen as a serious problem, but something that happens rarely when one lives in a society of human beings. The idea of women-only carriages is a form of segregation. One could easily massage statistics to show 1,300 black people get racially abused each year, therefore we need negro-only carriages. There’s a word for that: apartheid.

Conclusion

As I said at the start, I think Corbyn will help shake up politics in Westminster. Despite his defects, he is not the worst of a bad bunch, and I wouldn’t hold a grudge against anyone that voted for him. But please don’t let nostalgic sympathy for Ye Olde Left get in the way of taking a critical stance to any of our leaders. The last thing we need is a new Messiah.