When the Italian social scientist Vilfredo Pareto observed the political revolutions and machinations by which presidents are overthrown and regimes fall and rise, he coined a phrase which has entered the lexicon of political sociology. His ‘circulation of elites’ – the notion that, in government, there is a superior ‘class’ of people who ensure the perpetuation of their morality and the propagation of a certain ideology – was not new: it had its philosophical genesis in Plato’s elite guardians of the state which he termed ‘philosopher kings’ – those who govern essentially because they know what’s best for the common people. It is the totalitarian pursuit of social engineering to ensure that government should never be exercised by those who are considered ‘unsuitable’ or in some sense ‘unqualified’.
“By the circulations of elites,” Pareto wrote, “the governing elite is in a state of continuous and slow transformation. It flows like a river, and what it is today is different from what it was yesterday. Every so often, there are sudden and violent disturbances. The river floods and breaks its banks. Then afterwards, the new governing elite resume again and slow process of self-transformation. The river returns to its bed and once more flows freely on.”
Jeremy Corbyn may or may not be about to get has hands on the Labour’s levers of power: voting has only just begun, and we are months or years away from learning what a Corbyn government might look like in terms of its social, economic and political priorities. But one thing has already been decided by the political elite: Jeremy Corbyn is not ‘suitable’ to lead the Labour Party, and not ‘qualified’ to lead the country.
Let us set aside his overtures to Hezbollah and his cultic zeal to establish a New World Order: in intelligence, political skill, social concern and mental capacity, Jeremy Corbyn is, of course, manifestly ‘qualified’ to lead both Labour and the country. You may not agree with some of his policies or approve of some of his friends, but, to quote CJ, he didn’t get where he is today by not spotting an opportunity when one presents itself. The problem, of course, is that he’s “not one of us”. That is, he’s not an enlightened, neo-liberal, Third-Way, ecumenical, pro-EU New-Labourite: he is disjunctive and schismatic. And so, in order to ensure the perpetuation of their superior political philosophy, Labour’s philosopher kings are plotting and scheming to ensure that the residues of Old Labour socialism may not be revived.
Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall are gifted, eloquent, flexible and shrewd, but they lack fidelity to any principle other than the pre-ordained pattern decreed by the elite. Jeremy Corbyn has his own faith and ideology: his loyalty is to his principle; his solidarity is with his people. He cares nothing for hierarchy, establishment privilege or the Euro-elites from whom and by whom all things are made and all progress defined. His mind and heart are with the non-elites, the governed, for whom democracy is the only safety valve between civil peace and social revolution.
Even out of government, Peter Mandelson remains one of the governing elite. He has been in circulation (and re-circulation) for two decades: his teleological task is to resist the undesired infiltration which might lead to philosophical revolution. His psychology is impeccable; his morality unimpeachable; his dogma infallible. To him, Jeremy Corbyn belongs to a lower stratum; not simply one of decaying dogma and the residues of ignorance, but one which offends against all that is good, noble, righteous and pure.
And so the self-perpetuating elite circle around Corbyn like vultures around a corpse. He is not dead, but they will do all that is within their power to smother him and quench the hope that he represents for millions of true, sincere, devout socialists. As Cooper, Burnham and Kendall decline in significance, Baron Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool will conspire with other elites either to nullify the election or reject the result. It is his special cunning and prerogative power, for he is the venerable elite, and so must ensure that the old elite is replaced by a new elite – by force, if his cleverness and cunning come to nothing.
Pareto observed that “History is the graveyard of Aristocracy”. The Athenian aristocrats have nothing on Labour’s oligarchs. The rightful heirs and successors were chosen long ago, and the deluded masses had just better get used to it.