Friday, 18 November 2016

THE ROAD TO CORBYN - A VIEW FROM THE PLATFORM

I want to live in a Britain where all the frustrations, desperation and anger - and hurt and sense of unfairness - that ordinary people are feeling are channelled towards the principled solutions offered by a Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. A Party that communicates the vision and hope of a new socialism for the 21st century. At the beginning of this week, JC sent out an email to all Labour Party members that carried the title: 'People are right to be angry'. 

Jeremy Corbyn - a leader with a vision


Let me give you some extracts:

'Last week's US Presidential election result was a global wake-up call.

Whether in the US or the UK, people are feeling left behind - marginalised by an economic system that makes them work harder for less, while hovering up ever greater rewards for a small elite.

People are right to be angry. Our political and economic system is delivering rising inequality and falling living standards.

Young people today find it harder to get a home of their own, harder to find good secure jobs, and are landed in lifelong debt simply for wanting an education.

Older people see their children and grandchildren struggling, their libraries and community




services cut, their friends' social care get worse.

They've seen politicians privatise what were once our collective  assets, and they are paying the higher bills and higher fares as a result.

If we, as socialists, don't step forward and offer solutions, then into the vacuum step the merchants of hurt and blame ...

Meanwhile, the economy is slowing again. People's pay still hasn't recovered from the last recession and housing costs have soared. The Tories are cutting schools budgets, have slashed social care and have put the NHS into its worst crisis.

It's time for our party - half a million strong, with more members than all the other UK parties  combined - to get out there to tell people why a Labour government matters.'

Tens of thousands of us will be out on the streets on Saturday 26 November for our National Campaign Day but that is but one action. This will be a long and very hard struggle.

My book 'The Road to Corbyn' was born out of the struggle between Profit and People, between Mammon and Decency. My desire to see its sales multiply comes from a belief in its worth as a vehicle for communicating that socialist message for our times. It was authored in two parts. The main section, then entitled 'Deception', was written between the spring of 2013 and the summer of 2014 as ordinary people in the UK suffered under the politically-contrived Austerity programme led by Cameron and Osborne. The last two chapters were penned in the aftermath of first the May 2015 General Election result that saw the Tories gain an overall majority as their spin merchants frightened voters with lies about Labour responsibility for all society's ills  - and then the subsequent election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party. It was conceived as the crisis was manipulated and addresses the fundamental questions of our contemporary crisis. And it contains answers. 21st century socialist answers.

Seven copies of my book in the Middlesbrough front window of Fahrenheit Books and Community Centre  


All this has been wonderfully grasped - in large degree - in my most recent national review. It's in the online comment site called 'The Platform' - see the link here. In their words, '... offering a space for critical and creative global exchange to understand ourselves and the world we live in. We want to give our international community of writers the stage to engage with a readership and define the issues that matter through original and quality journalism'. My reviewer is Ashley Perks and here is a copy of the review and our exchanges since: 

     New book by Rob Donovan imagines the pilgrim on a journey of rampant inequality in Britain

There has been a lot of speculation about the political and social context in which Jeremy Corbyn came to be leader of the Labour party, despite the opprobrium of the majority of Labour MPs.
Former political editor of The Times, Philip Webster, suggests that it is the result of “one of the biggest blunders” of New Labour following the death of John Smith in 1994: the so-called Granita Pact, in which a ‘gentlemen’s deal’ was done to give Tony Blair uncontested leadership without the need to hold a leadership election. That was fine while Blairism was popular, but the largely unpopular Iraq war and the business-friendly nature of New Labour were to become increasingly despised policies among both traditional Labour supporters and the wider electorate.

Commenting on the Left’s increasing influence in The New European magazine (October 14-20), Webster asserts: “Much of the British Left has always been more interested in winning the Labour party than winning the country… they insist that the country has never had the chance to vote for a diet of true socialism or a leader who really believed in it… Now they have Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran of the Left’s last attempt to take over Labour.”

Author Rob Donovan paints a bigger picture of what he sees as the actual conditions that have resulted in the renewed appeal of socialism, and therefore Corbyn’s coronation, in his new book.
In The Road To Corbyn, Donovan has created what the publishers describe as “the conceit of a dream” a modern take on one of Christianity’s classic pieces of allegorical literature, The Pilgrim’s Progress. That book, written by John Bunyan in 1678, was detailed as “The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream. The central character, Christian, is seen making the journey from this world to the “Celestial City”.
So: what a conceit! For many people of faith, particularly Christian, I suspect the hijacking of a masterpiece on faith and the spiritual journey by a left-wing author will grate, especially as Donovan’s Interpreter points out that Pilgrim’s journey “will be a journey without the support of faith”.

Donovan’s version of the Pilgrim, far from being Bunyan’s earnest believer in God, is an every-man seeker after ‘truth’, in particular during the lifetime of the 2010-2015 UK government. The Pilgrim is aided and abetted in his quest by three key characters: Lady Hope, Charity, “a bird whose colours, crimson red and honey yellow, flamed in the sunlight”, and the Interpreter, who will be Pilgrim’s guide on “the path… that leads to the most content for the many and the least misery for the few.” A Socialist Narnia, then.

There follows an account of Pilgrim’s journey through a Britain of rampant inequality and unjust distribution of wealth a country run by those who deceive themselves and others to justify the policies and politics that reinforce those perceived inequalities and injustices.
Along the way we meet some of the protagonists such as the Prime Minister (Head Boy), the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Pocket Money), and No Benefit, in charge of Work and Pensions. All are pretty predictable caricatures of the Conservative-led government.

Once the “I saw in my dream” nonsense is abandoned, Donovan gets down to marshalling and quoting an impressive range of political, social and economic commentators. There are numbered footnotes (132 in all) to explain references and support his arguments. He cites some of the obvious, including Thomas Piketty, Dr Ha-Joon Chang, Naomi Klein and Joseph Stiglitz, along with several contributors to the Guardian and The Observer.

The Road To Corbyn is more than a pastiche of Pilgrim’s Progress, however. If you can get past the allegorical characters and concentrate on what the Interpreter (Donovan, obviously) explains, you get a broad picture of the Left in particular, and the renewed appeal of socialism among Labour supporters. There is also much about the nature of democracy and its alleged abuses by the Right, as well as an offer of alternatives to austerity, market forces and the monetising of healthcare, among other references.

Corbyn’s rise, according to Donovan, was inevitable. Inevitable, too, the concerted effort of the Right, bolstered by a largely sympathetic majority of the (capitalist-owned) media, to trash him.
“Jeremy Corbyn is a man who has consistently seen the world as a fundamentally good place filled with people who are shamefully let down by an elite who are half-crazed by power and wealth,” the Interpreter claims and this impression is what has clearly galvanised not only the Left, but an increasing number of ordinary men and women who believe that real, practical socialism is finally within reach.

If you believe in socialism, then, Donovan is preaching to the converted, and if you are a sympathetic doubter, you might just be persuaded.

Rob Donovan’s The Road To Corbyn: A Modern Day’s Pilgrim’s Progress is published by Matador (2016)
Image from: http://politi.co/1X1ItSA





About the author
Ashley Perks
Ashley Perks is a freelance copy writer, currently living in Norfolk, UK. He was a section editor for the online political magazine The Backbencher and for several years was a feature writer for the English language newspaper Today's Zaman in Turkey (since closed down by Turkey's president). He has also contributed to other publications.




3 Comments

Dr Rob Donovan Thank you, Ashley, for this this empathic review of my book – it was a pleasure to read as a first-time published author. It left me feeling this guy largely understands what was going on in my head as I created the book. Interestingly, all but the last two chapters were written in 2013 and 2014 at which stage the book was titled ‘Deception’ . The last two chapters were written and added seamlessly after the General Election triumph of the Tories in May 2015 and the subsequent election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. You may be interested to read the review of ‘The Road to Corbyn’ in The Morning Star last week by Paul Simon – a traditional Marxist – and my  response in a recent blog of mine.
    Ashley Perks Dr Donovan, thank you for your kind comments. I hope your first book is doing well in the light of recent events! I will also read the review by Paul Simon.
      Dr Rob Donovan Hello Ashley,
      I’ve just come across your response to my comment – thank you for your good wishes and interest. Sales are around the hundred mark, I guess. The publishers sold 38 in the first month and I don’t have any figures for October and November. I’ve sold in person and through the online shop 29 copies. My own work – telephone and in person – has ensured the book is in eighteen booksellers across the country from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Penzance and east to Ipswich and Felixstowe. Oxford has most copies. I’m hoping for more sales among Momentum supporters as my own political activism increases.


Having almost got the review into this blog intact, I'll leave well alone and hope you find the view from the Platform interesting! Just one last picture:

The book called 'The Road to Corbyn'