You are here:   Features > The cult of Corbyn is Marxist gnosticism
We have been here before: A copy of the first volume of “Das Kapital”, belonging to Trinity College, Cambridge, donated by the economist Piero Sraffa and  inscribed: “Dem Deutschen Arbeiter-Bildungsverein [The German Worker’s Educational Association]  18 Sept. 1867. Karl Marx” (IMAGE © the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge)

Whenever he speaks at a public gathering, the chant “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” comes back from the young faithful.  On the face of it, this degree of adulation is puzzling. Corbyn certainly projects sincerity of conviction; and he has shown campaigning skills as well as a kind of dogged tenacity in pursuit of his ambitions. But he does not come across as particularly intelligent or charismatic, and given that his political discourse seems to be confined to the recycling of generally discredited Marxist clichés that are deeply unoriginal, his transformation into the object of a quasi-religious personality cult is indeed surprising. No doubt this says more about his audience than it does about him. For here we seem to have the classic case of a Malvolio figure, who has had greatness thrust upon him, for no better reason than he happens to have become the accidental object of a deep emotional yearning, or a kind of spiritual hunger, among his predominantly young followers.

So how to account for this phenomenon? Perhaps in so far as we have alighted on a spiritual aspect to it, some insight might be gained by trying to understand it from the perspective of the history and typology of some of the religious movements of the past. For it seems possible to recognise in the Corbynista phenomenon a modern day and secularised version of what we might describe as a gnostic cult.

One of the key features of Gnosticism is a mindset that sees the world in dualistic terms, where the forces of good are having to battle it out against the forces of evil. Gnostics see themselves as a militant vanguard group, possessed of special insight (or Gnosis); they are natural rebels and outsiders who are forever conscious of what they perceive to be the world’s corruption and injustice; they are by instinct antinomian, and hyper-critical of the establishment power, together with the legal and institutional constraints it imposes. Gnostics tend to be impatient for salvation, and inclined to hanker after a messianic figure, who they believe, will deliver them in short order to a state of blessed redemption.

Translate these doctrines into secular form and the parallels are indeed striking. For Corbyn has prided himself on belonging to a like-minded fraternity of hard-left rebels that have consistently refused to compromise their ideological convictions or co-operate with the “Establishment power”, even if that power happened to be, as it had been under Tony Blair, the governing Labour Party. Theologically speaking, this self-proclaimed community of virtue has embraced a thoroughly dualistic vision of the world in which the forces of righteousness that hold the banner for the poor and the oppressed are locked in a perpetual struggle with the forces of evil, identified with the usual targets of Marxist demonology: American neo-imperialists, Zionist colonisers, rapacious global banks and multinationals, and closer to home, selfish Tories and their stooges in the Murdoch press.

View Full Article
Alex Bensky
February 20th, 2018
3:02 PM
Sabermetrics is an aspect of baseball study whose goal is "the search for objective truth about baseball." It's basic questions are these: "I have always believed X to be true. If X is true, what should I see? If I don't see that, what evidence explains what I do see?" I love that line above, "[a]ny kind of leftist movement strives to create equality..." If this were true, since we have dozens of examples of leftism put in power, we would expect to see resulting societies that have greater equality, production so everyone can live at a decent basic level, and so forth. With the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries, the evidence is that this is not the result of leftism but instead oppression, a general lowering of economic standards--except for the nomenclatura--and a substantial if not total loss of freedom. Certainly the regimes that Corbyn openly admires have not created what the credulous poster above thinks should happen.

Just received this as an ad on facebook for some reason...
November 9th, 2017
4:11 PM
Marxism and the labour movement is not dualistic. It acknowledges that people have within them qualities that lead to creating inequality and with our current economical and political system these qualities are awarded with wealth. Any kind of leftist movement strives to create equality and believes that humanity fundamentally wants good for the community and with created proper conditions by redistributing the wealth and means of production everyone in the world would be able to live with enough commodities and as equal members of society.

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.