Socialist Bernie Sanders hailed the election of socialist Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s down-and-out Labour Party:
“At a time of mass income and wealth inequality throughout the world, I am delighted to see that the British Labour Party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader,” Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post Saturday. “We need leadership in every country in the world which tells the billionaire class that they cannot have it all.”
One thing that Sanders and Corbyn have in common is delusional talk about “billionaires.” There are around 100 billionaires in the U.K., presumably not enough for a “class” in the Marxist sense. Labour was hammered in the last election because it was crushed among Britain’s middle class voters. Here in the U.S., there are approximately 500 billionaires, with a total net worth of about $2 trillion, maybe 2% of Americans’ total household wealth of around $80 trillion. Scapegoating billionaires may be good politics, but it is absurd public policy.
Some, like Tim Worstall writing in Forbes, have argued that Bernie Sanders is no Jeremy Corbyn. Sanders, Worstall says, is a garden-variety social democrat, while Corbyn is “barking mad.”
Certainly Corbyn has gone beyond Sanders on a number of fronts: Corbyn has refused to condemn the IRA, and was seemingly tolerant of their attempted assassination of Margaret Thatcher. These days, he is an enthusiastic supporter of Iran’s mullahs and is on friendly terms with Hamas. He also wants to withdraw from NATO and unilaterally retire Britain’s nuclear force.
Domestically, Corbyn is an old-fashioned socialist. He wants to nationalize all power companies and railroads. He opposes welfare reform and wants to institute rent controls. He has proposed “people’s quantitative easing,” under which the Bank of England would print money to be poured into “large-scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects.”
Is Corbyn really crazier than Sanders, or is he just Sanders, unfettered by political constraints? The spectrum of acceptable British politics runs farther to the left than America’s. Moreover, Sanders is running for the nomination of a successful political party that has won the last two presidential elections. That dictates a reasonable amount of prudence. Corbyn, conversely, is taking over the shell of a Labour Party whose moderate elements are fleeing for the lifeboats. Maybe Corbyn represents, more or less, what Bernie Sanders would like to be, given the opportunity.
I don’t know whether that is the case or not, but Sanders’ “delight” at Jeremy Corbyn’s victory should provide fodder for some effective campaign ads. It might be time to remind American voters what “socialism” really means.