Let's start with little Paul Mason, tipped to be a major force in the renewed Corbyn leadership team. An unabashed marxist, Mason has spent much of the post-2008 period eagerly spotting revolutionary straws in the wind all over the northern hemisphere - but at the same time, as a good journo with at least some regard for the facts, he's been fairly honest in reporting just how disappointing it often turns out to be. In his more sober moments he even thinks modern youth movements don't actually have what it takes - stamina, attention, focus, discipline, commitment etc - which must indeed be pretty disappointing (particuarly for an old stalinist like McDonnell). Still, hope springs eternal and Mason's hoping.
So. Let's rehearse what Marx actually said. Drawing a kindly veil over his labour theory of value, we should recall he gave a cracking account of the superiority of capitalism over all that went before and, in socio-political terms, warned of the potential dangers of gross and accelerating inequalities in society: inequalities which, he reckoned, were an inevitable long-term outworking of capitalism. There are plenty today, including many who are not remotely marxist in outlook, who'd agree with him on the dangers, if not the inevitability.
Marx then went on to blow his credibility for most people by concluding that the conditions he asserted were necessary and sufficient for the Revolution to happen, were already present in the 19th century. That, coupled with the history of the century that followed (when the only instances of 'communist revolution' occurred in agrarian societies! - not at all what Marx envisaged) pretty much scuppered him in polite society long before the 21st century came around.
His conditions for revolution? That the working class becomes so impoverished - not just relative to the "1%" but in absolute, subsistence-level, on-the-breadline terms - and, at the same time, capitalism becomes so dramatically productive and generates so much surplus wealth, that the workers grasp intuitively that any change in political power whatsoever would leave them better off. Oh, and that this will happen at the global, not national level.
There are one or two compelling reasons why we ain't there just yet - not while the workshop of capitalism is managed by the Chinese 'Communist' Party! - whatever the average Momentum supporter hopes or believes. Their own theory, for those that have any political theory, condemns them as bourgeois dilletantes. Coincidentally, many less theoretically-inclined observers have reached the same conclusion: idle middle-class w*nk*rs.
Which brings us to little Owen Jones who, to do him credit, is also showing signs of Monbiot-Mason syndrome, i.e. on a good day he feels obliged to notice the truth. He wants to believe: oh, how he wants to believe! From the Graun:
After his victory last year, Corbyn’s acceptance speech was criticised for having little to say about reaching out to the country as a whole. Not this time. He was passionate in his calls for unity: “We’re part of the same Labour family,” as he put it. No retribution, no bitterness. He made it clear that Labour was in it to win, would take it to the Tories and focus on developing a compelling alternative. He looked like a leader.But
The Labour movement now brims with anger, mutual distrust and looming internecine warfare ... if this fury is unchecked, then Labour will implode as a political force.What can be done to keep the show on the road?
Hope for the future lies with critical friends of the Labour leadership. They will be attacked by all sides. The uncompromising anti-Corbyn wing will see them as naive accomplices of electoral oblivion. The most ardent leadership loyalists will see them as naive capitulators to saboteurs who will never accept a left-led Labour party. In such a polarised atmosphere, nuance is regarded as flip-flopping, fence-sitting, standing in the middle of the road and being hit by traffic in both directions, to paraphrase Nye Bevan. But whatever derision they face, critical friends are pivotal to both the survival and success of the left in general, and Labour in particular ... Critical friends are critical not because they want the left to fail. They are desperate for it to succeed. Ignoring challenges and problems, and pretending when things go wrong that it is always the media and the parliamentary party to blame, will lead to terrible defeat.I think we may safely guess who's volunteering to be the critical-friend-in-chief. Well, the way you put it, it sounds like a really tough gig Owen - but someone has to do it, eh? But that does rather imply he's no longer to be counted among the ranks of the faithful. And it's only been going a year. Maybe not the revolution, after all.