Searching for Socialism
The Project of the Labour New Left from Benn to Corbyn
Leo Panitch, Colin Leys
A new and essential history of the Labour new left from Tony Benn to Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn’s rapid ascent to the leadership of the Labour Party, driven by a groundswell of popular support particularly among the young, was met at the time by a baffled media. Just where did Jeremy Corbyn come from? In Searching for Socialism, Leo Panitch and Colin Leys argue that it is only by understanding Corbyn’s roots in the Bennite Labour New Left’s long struggle to transcend the limits of “parliamentary socialism” and democratise the party, as a precondition for democratising the state, can you understand his surge to become leader of the party.
Closely analyzing the forces inside the party aligned against Corbyn’s leadership, Panitch and Leys explain what happened between the validation of the Corbyn project in the 2017 election, while advancing an ambitious programme of democratic socialist measures unmatched anywhere since the 1970s, and the electoral defeat amidst the Brexit conjuncture of 2019. They argue that while this defeat marked the farthest point to which the generation formed in the 1970s was able to carry the Labour new left project, it seems unlikely that the new generation of activists will quickly see any other way forward than continuing the struggle inside the Labour Party, so as to fundamentally change it. In the face of the contradictions being generated by twenty-first-century capitalism, and the need for discovering and developing new political forms adequate to addressing them, this book is required reading for democratic socialists, not just in Britain but everywhere.