Jeremy Corbyn, despite what many supporters believe, has historically been opposed to the EU. When this is discussed however generally rail nationalisation is raised as an example and it’s then pointed out that the EU doesn’t prevent state owned railways. It’s then also pointed out that Labour policies aren’t really that radical and that many Scandinavian states have similar left wing policies.
This leads to the hope that either a) Corbyn isn’t really pro-brexit or b) as soon as he understands that he can nationalise the railyways or utilities or have a larger State under the Single Market rules he’ll be OK with the EU again.
The mistake here however is in assessing “Corbynism” through a 21st century political lens, in thinking of his beliefs in terms of “normal” 21st century economic thinking. This is a flawed approach as Corbyn’s ideas were formed in the 1970s and haven’t changed much since and in fact his traditional aims & objectives go further than nationalising the railways or even the power companies. Labour is a socialist party, however “pure” or “traditional” socialism isn’t just about equality or improving the social contract.
In fact, the traditional aim of socialism is to control the “means of production” or “the commanding heights” to quote Lenin. This wasn’t even an unusual policy for Labour back in the day.
In July 1945, Labour came into power totally committed to nationalization and determined to conquer the “commanding heights” of the economy, having borrowed the term from Lenin by the mid-1930s
Tony Benn, a key socialist from Labour’s past and Jeremy Corbyn’s guru, advocated a break from the EU back in 1975 (source: Wikipedia) for this very reason:
The Secretary of State for Industry in the Labour government, Tony Benn, wrote a paper …in 1975, … “It described … Strategy B which is the real Labour policy of saving jobs, a vigorous micro-investment programme, import control, control of the banks and insurance companies, control of export, of capital, higher taxation of the rich, and Britain leaving the Common Market“.
With Britain in economic crisis in October 1976, Benn put forward the (Alternative Economic Strategy) … “the protectionist course which is the one I have consistently recommended for two and a half years…protectionism is a perfectly respectable course of action. It is compatible with our strategy. You withdraw behind walls (in a “Siege economy”) and reconstruct and re-emerge”.
Yes it’s true that this was 40 years ago, but this is how far back Corbyn’s political roots go. It’s well known that he strongly admired Tony Benn and his policies and has carried most of them forward.
What would this “State control” mean in practice? To take an example, if a major car manufacturer pulled out of the UK as a result of Brexit, a “Jobs first Brexit” might actually take over the car plant and pump in Government money to keep the plant going.
This would be Corbyn’s approach – you might even agree with it. The issue though is that now the state is supporting Car Manufacturing. Other car companies would be at a disadvantage. Steel production would follow, then Banks & perhaps Insurance Services and other service industries, the new “commanding heights”
This may be a society you are happy with, millions would be. The Labour Leadership would be. It’s one way of “fixing” things in our society. But it’s not compatible with being in the EU or the Single Market.
This is because problems arise when you try to sign a trade deal (with the EU or anyone else) or try to attract inward investment. The UK economy is no longer a level playing field and cannot therefore operate fairly in the Single Market. Other countries would not sign comprehensive trade deals with a county which is subsidising its industries – they simply wouldn’t be able to compete with state supported UK companies and trade is ultimately about competition.
This matters if you want to be an outward facing country however it doesn’t necessarily matter if you want to create a “socialism in one state” bubble society.
This is the root of why Corbyn, McDonnell and others are opposed to the EU and always have been at a very fundamental level. This “traditional socialist”, heavily subsidised government owned economy just wouldn’t work within the Single Market, it would create unfair competition. It’s also why comparisons of Corbynism with Scandinavian countries are a false measure. Corbyn thinking is more geared towards the original Venezuela model even if Labour party policy appears non-radical.
Therefore, talk of “he wouldn’t be that crazy to push for a Hard Brexit, it would cause major economic harm” is well wide of the mark. If you believe that the economy is fundamentally unfair & broken, top to bottom, in its assumptions & operation then you will be entirely comfortable with a period of destruction if you believe a better society will arise from the ashes. Of course your supporters may not be entirely comfortable with that future or the interim pain which is why its not shouted from the rooftops as a plan.
The reality is, most of us assume Corbynism is about more money for NHS, Tax credits, welfare. It’s not. Corbyn & his team believe UK society is fundamentally broken and needs to be reformed along pure socialist lines to address its issues. You may well agree however it should be noted such a model has never worked well in other countries, and such a country would find it hard to function as a trading nation (as part of the WTO for example).
It may be a “fairer” society, but it would also likely be a poorer one, with far less opportunity & flexibility. However it is a model, very different from ours, and our society does have issues.
The point being, don’t expect Corbyn to change his mind any time soon on the EU, or think that the ability to nationalise railways will convince him. His antipathy towards the EU is long standing. In fact it’s ironic that now both the hard left in Labour and the hard right in the Conservatives want to leave the EU for the same basic reason, to radically alter how our society & economy operates (Singapore low regs/low tax economy vs State owned bubble society).
For the past 2 years Jeremy Corbyn has attempted to give the impression of being pro-european because it was needed to maintain his position, but supporters need to look back to his past as his (now deleted) history says otherwise.