John Harris

Journalist & Author

Can Labour forge a new, 21st-century socialism? | John Harris

The scepticism about Corbynism isn’t because it is too radical, but because in an era of disruption, it is not radical enough

In among all the noise about Brexit and Donald Trump, there’s a remarkable sound: a great deal of the free-market, laissez-faire ideas that have dominated the last four decades being criticised and contested, perhaps as never before. In the US, the fallout from the election of 2016 has fed into the first stirrings of a new, confidently radical Democratic politics; in Britain, the Labour party might still be locked into endless travails and internal tensions, but it has definitely pulled politics leftwards. On a bad day, the political darkness can still feel overwhelming, but even in the most unlikely places, there are sometimes tantalising signs of light.

A panicked Tory prime minister is now rhapsodising about public housing. The Economist last week published an essay about the revival of liberalism built around such ideas as land taxation and a guaranteed income. For sure, continuing austerity and the polarised state of politics may bring to mind the hoary old quote from the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” History doesn’t glide; it wildly lurches. But the idea that neoliberalism is on the back foot is surely beyond doubt.

So far, the Labour party has had depressingly little to say about the decayed British state

Related: Labour conference: what to expect in Liverpool

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