Review: Corbynism from Below

Edited by Mark Perryman
There is no mistaking the fact that we are currently living through uncertain times. Uncertain times which are giving way to a shift in political discourse. On the right, this shift led to Brexit, the election of Donald Trump in the US and the rise of far-right political sentiment across the world. On the left, this shift has led to the formation of new left-wing political parties such as Podemos in Spain.
And in the UK, this shift led to the election of Corbyn as Labour leader. For Corbynism from Below, editor Mark Perryman has brought together a collection of essays composed by writers and activists to give readers a balanced view of what Corbynism could mean, the context which gave it life and the issues and challenges it must address if it is to succeed in delivering the transformative agenda Corbyn’s Labour champions.
The opening essay written by Perryman himself, ‘The Party Turned Upside Down’, serves as an insightful introduction to Corbynism from Below and, in many ways, gives the reader an idea as to what they can expect from the rest of the essays. Perryman paints a clear picture of the context in which Labour experienced this shift to the proper left: years of Tory austerity, the 2008 recessions and the memberships disappointment with New Labour. He also explores the question ‘what makes Corbynism different?’ In a nutshell, Perryman lays out what Corbynism could achieve, how it could truly transform British politics, if given the support and if it can effectively address and overcome Labour’s internal issues.
The different essays explore the need to address antisemitism, the need to build a left mediascape and the role of unions within Corbynism. Two of the most interesting essays are ‘How Big Organising Works’ by Adam Klug and Emma Rees and ‘An Extra-Parliamentary Affair’ by Lindsey German.
The first argues in favour of giving Labour supporters the tools and information they need to get actively involved in the campaigning. ‘Big organising’, as this phenomenon has come to be known, can have the power to transform the way we do politics and the agents behind that transformation need to be the people, not politicians or the elites. The writers argue that for Corbyn’s Labour to transform British politics it needs to engage its grassroots and the power of movements.
In the latter, German champions the idea that Corbynism needs to embrace extra-parliamentary movements and that its politics need to be intersectional and embrace a wide variety of these movements – environmental movements, LGBTQ+ movements, feminist movements, etc. This will go a long way in making its politics truly democratic and varied.
Corbynism from Below will be of great interest for people interested to know a bit more about how Corbynism came to be and what it stands for while also exploring the changes it has to carry out and the challenges it has to address before it can be fully successful. This collection of essays raises many questions and gives many answers but it undoubtedly carries within its pages heaps of hopes and, in a way, excitement about what might be if Corbyn is ever elected. At its core is the idea that Labour is moving away from ‘making politics at’ and championing the idea that Labour intends to ‘make politics with’. Corbynism has been built from below, it is a political movement being powered in large part by the people and needs to keep building on that.
> Naomi Round
Corbynism from Below, edited by Mark Perryman, is published by Lawrence and Wishart and available via
Read an exclusive extract from the book in our latest edition of WhatsOn here.