During his campaign to be leader of the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders and his supporters frequently raised concerns that the party rigged primaries in favour of Clinton. With the leak of 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails this week, those Sanders supporters, once thought of as paranoid conspiracy theorists, are now quite rightly feeling a sense of vindication. As the evidence of high level bias and corruption mounts, it is clear that from the very beginning, many within the DNC establishment were deeply committed to ensuring Clinton was their nominee. In the US at least, the mask of democracy has slipped.
Bernie Sanders often draws comparisons with Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and it’s easy to see why. Corbyn and Sanders represent an alternative to the self-interest of the establishment: a different way of doing politics. Despite unprecedented levels of support, both men have faced an onslaught of opposition, perhaps most damagingly from within their own parties. With the Overton window having shifted so far to the right, we shouldn’t be surprised that both Labour and the Democrats have been seemingly co-opted by the establishment.
In the UK, similar claims have been made by Corbyn supporters that the establishment is working against him. Given the parallels between Corbyn and Sanders’ campaigns, should these claims of corruption not now be taken more seriously?
Corbyn’s supporters see the way in which dissenting MPs have brought about their challenge as unjust. There is a strong belief that this coup was incepted since Corbyn’s election; Brexit merely offered an opportune moment. Despite the tearful delivery of her resignation speech, reports emerged that a former Labour special adviser called Joe McCrea had in fact paid for the website domain “angelaforleader.org” days before handing in her resignation. This has bolstered claims that the coup may have planned, with some claiming it may have even been on the agenda since Corbyn was first elected.
It is well-known that the Parliamentary Labour Party tried to keep Corbyn off the leadership ballot after a leadership challenge emerged this month, knowing he would likely win. In closing the ‘loopholes’ which allowed so many registered supporters to vote for Corbyn last year, the NEC has also effectively out-priced those who wish to join as new members or supporters to vote for the leader of the Labour Party: supposedly the party of the working people. Anger has been expressed by those who have paid to become Labour Party members since February 2016 and who have been banned from voting, with over 11,000 signing a 38 Degrees petition to overturn the decision.
Last week, Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, even claimed that British Security Services could be involved in trying to discredit Corbyn by posing as pro-Corbyn supporters in order to send abuse to MPs who have opposed him. In a recent interview, McCluskey said he believed that “security forces” could be “involved in dark practices” and that ultimately documents uncovered by the 30-year rule, which allows classified documents to be released into the public domain 30 years after they were produced, would prove him right. If there’s even a grain of truth to that claim, it’s scandalous.
Just as most dismissed claims that the US establishment were out to get Bernie Sanders, many fail to recognise the very real possibility that forces could conspire to derail the rise of a socialist alternative in the UK. While this proposition has been ridiculed as little more than the “conspiracy theory” of an idealistic “pro-Corbyn cult”, the revelations in the US should urge us to challenge our complacency here in the UK. We must not allow the dissenting voices that question the status quo to be derided and delegitimised as conspiratorial or naïve. It does us all a disservice when we dismiss out of hand something that could have a serious amount of truth to it – and, as Bernie Sanders kept insisting before being proven right, we never know what might be happening behind the scenes.
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