Whilst fulfilling my democratic duty of knowing the news, I encountered an article by Martin Robbins in the NewStatesman detailing what Robbins refers to as Jeremy’s Corbyn’s ‘paranoid style‘. The paranoid style is a conspiratorial suspicion of the establishment that many Corbynistas promote, which Robbins excellently explains, and references several occasions when Corbyn has been hopelessly pipe-dreaming some extreme faux facts. This is not unusual in politics, except for Corbyn it has reached an epic grandeur. To Robbins, it’s a ‘bunker mentality’ where there is ‘no compromise, only [ideological] purity’. (I want to confess, I was a Corbyn sympathiser until I discovered by living there that the socialist paradise of Sweden is a myth and researched Sweden’s economic history). But what are the causes of Corbyn’s paranoid style? One likely factor is simple hubris.
By hubris I mean to define the mindset and social attitude of Corbyn, being one of supercilious certainty. Our thinking habits do affect the patterns we perceive and consequently the conclusions we infer. And when Corbyn and his followers perceive the hand of trouble, they conclude there is a mastermind. That might seem a bit far-fetched, but Corbyn has become convinced that the BBC has an agenda against him. Those turncoat Red Tories are apparently being coordinated by the Blairite PR firm, despite the meagre evidence to suggest this. It’s almost as if many on the left have merged with alt-right conspiracists, like Malia Bouattia, trumpeting the existence of a shadowy superstructure of conniving zionists. To be fair, the mainstream right also contends there are institutional biases. But the narrative of Momentum is they and Corbyn lead the fight against vast corruption within Labour’s ranks, except Momentum are tussling with genuine party moderates. That’s Corbyn’s hubris: the self-aggrandising contention that Corbyn fights against evil institutions and the politics of hate.
What is more, when you suspect every institution to be in cahoots with the monopoly man all factual realism goes up in ashes. It’s natural, mandated even, to claim everything and anything establishment or discovered by independent analysts must be wrong when you see corruption everywhere in a country with (some but) little corruption. In that world it’s of no relevance that Corbyn’s support-base and Momentum are middle-class; not the disadvantaged they purport to protect. When the democratic majority vote for Brexit they must have been foisted by that dastardly Leave Campaign, even though both sides lied to the public. (Wasn’t there meant to be a war erupting in Europe about now, despite being part of NATO?) It doesn’t matter that Owen Jones and other analysts see the numbers aren’t adding up, with polls revealing Corbyn is less popular than Gordon Brown! Must be Tory subterfuge… In earthly actuality, the elite top 1% doesn’t exist. Yes – this oft quoted myth was generated through a manipulation of income bracket data rather than a analysis of individuals’ wealth. And there lies the rub: none of the evidence is important because Corbyn crusades against the nefariousness of neoliberalism itself. When the end justifies the means you internalise an extremist’s hubris: the impossible faith that you cannot be wrong.
This hubris is one reason why Corbyn will accept ‘no compromise, only purity’. As leader of a new social movement Corbyn has become the figurehead of a puritan caste. To concede a political compromise would be to conspire with agents of inequality, but furthermore doubt the movement’s venerable principles. So better the Labour Party be reduced to shambolic ruin under Corbyn’s paranoid-style than participate in the system he will never change.