The Socialist 5 June 2019 |
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- Editorial of the Socialist issue 1045
Corbyn must go on the offensive against the right with socialist policies
Tories out, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Unprecedented crises continue to engulf the two main parties, Conservative and Labour. The main capitalist party, the Tory party, is consumed by a leadership contest that is revealing the fissures along which it could tear itself apart.
Following the humiliating resignation of Theresa May, who departs as party leader this week, a horde of potential leadership candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. As we go to press the number of leadership candidates has reached 12, so thinly spread is the potential leadership of this "strong and stable" party.
The crisis in the Tory party is symptomatic of the political and social crisis facing capitalism which is struggling to maintain social support for the system itself. This was reflected in the EU referendum vote which was at base a way for disaffected working class people to strike back against the effects of austerity and of the crisis of capitalism.
Boris Johnson is front-runner to win the Tory leadership contest with wide support amongst the dwindling and ageing Tory membership, but if he wins he will not be able to unite the irreconcilable wings of the party.
Johnson will not be able to command a parliamentary majority for his Brexit policy but it would be very dangerous for him to call a general election to attempt to strengthen his parliamentary position. His manifesto would itself split the Tory party and also risk handing Jeremy Corbyn an election victory.
All the Tory candidates shrink from the prospect of a general election because the party faces the prospect of a serious, possibly terminal, defeat and even worse - the election of a Corbyn government.
Such is the political gridlock in parliament that normally a general election would have been called and the capitalist establishment would have turned to their second eleven, a pro-capitalist Labour leadership. But they fear a Corbyn government that would come under pressure from a militant working class movement that would press for even more radical measures.
Labour's pro-capitalist Blairite opposition might claim that Corbyn will not win an election but neither they, the Tories nor the capitalists are confident of this. They all fear the prospect of a Corbyn government like death. However so split are the Tories that a new Tory government could collapse and force a general election.
So serious to them is the threat of a Corbyn government that the Financial Times (03/06/2019) has advised the utility companies on how they should value their companies for compensation when "the compulsory purchase order plonks on their doormat" - when a Corbyn government nationalises them.
Of course, there should be no compensation to the profiteers who have already made billions from water and energy, only to small investors who can show proven need. But the article shows the serious fear with which the capitalist class views the prospect of a Corbyn government.
A Corbyn government would come under enormous pressure from the capitalists to retreat from radical measures in favour of the working class. But a Corbyn victory could inspire the development of a mass movement that would defend popular reforms and even push the government further than it intended to go.
And the fear of a Labour victory under Corbyn is not limited to the Tories but is the worst nightmare of the pro-capitalist majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, who are determined to prevent it by any means necessary.
Following the poor result for Labour in the Euro elections the Blairites have renewed their attacks on Corbyn. The abject showing of their Blairite sisters and brothers in Change UK in the elections - splitting within a few months of being formed - may have discouraged some from leaving Labour for now. (Although some may be tempted to join Chuka Umunna and defect to the Lib-Dems).
They see little hope of another internal coup succeeding so they are hoping to isolate Corbyn and soften his policies by concentrating their fire on removing Corbyn's advisers.
This campaign was sparked by remarks of the former Corbyn supporter, rightward-moving Paul Mason, but has been taken up by arch-Blairite Lord David Blunkett. Writing in The Observer Blunkett says: "In my view there are two forces within the Labour movement - the unions and Momentum - who must now act to get rid of those key advisers who are a block on policy changes".
It is striking that Blunkett believes that to undermine Corbyn he can enlist the support of the undemocratic leadership of Momentum, which originally arose as a mass campaign to support Corbyn following his election as leader.
Blunkett also calls on right wing union leaders to step in: "The major unions have historically played a key role in the stability of the Labour Party, taking difficult and sometimes painful action when failure had to be dealt with".
Here he is referencing the key role that right wing union leaders played attacking Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) which was the necessary pre-condition for the Blairites to seize control of the party in the 1990s. It was the union leaders not the members in the constituency parties who allowed Neil Kinnock to force through the purge against Militant.
This campaign will be intensified in the event of Labour losing the Peterborough by-election to the Brexit Party. There are special circumstances in the by-election coming so soon after the Euro elections and following the removal of the previous Labour MP by recall petition after criminal wrong doing.
But the Blairites would use a defeat to pile the pressure on Corbyn to jettison his current advisers and isolate him within a circle more pliant to the right wing.
The Blairites hope to force Corbyn to support the call for a second referendum to enable the reversal of the Brexit vote as well as blunting his more radical policies. But calling a halt to Brexit would cut Corbyn off from millions of working class Leave voters, who would feel cheated by such a manoeuvre.
The right wingers claim that more Labour voters could be won back from voting Liberal Democrat, Green and SNP/Plaid Cymru than from those that voted for the Brexit Party, an idea echoed by John McDonnell.
But as we explained in this column last week, the Euro elections offer a very distorted snapshot of the current support for the parties, with a low turnout and in an election that has a tradition of protest voting. There was a lower turnout among working class and Labour voters than middle class and non-Labour voters.
Those Labour supporters who did not vote or backed Remain-supporting parties could be mobilised with a radical manifesto to end austerity and raise living standards together with other ex-Labour voters who abandoned the party in the Blair/Brown years.
It is also possible that Farage could help deliver a victory to Corbyn because the Brexit Party will take more votes from the Tories than from Labour. Nevertheless the opinion polls after the Euro election do indicate the dangerous potential for Farage to use the frustration of working class Leave voters to try and develop a new right populist party, by posing as a rebel against the attempts of the political elite to prevent Brexit.
The way that Corbyn can cut across both the rise in working class votes for the Brexit Party and Remain votes for the Liberal Democrats and Greens is to campaign on socialist policies that undercut all the politicians who support austerity, including Farage.
The Euro elections were certainly not a vote for the incumbent middle-of-the-road Westminster politicians. The votes represented a rejection of the professional political elite. This presents Corbyn with an opportunity to go on the offensive against the Blairites and for socialist policies in favour of the working class.
That means taking the democratic measures the Socialist Party has argued since Corbyn's leadership victory. Most socialists and Labour Party members would have cried "good riddance" to the expulsion for voting Liberal of Blair's spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, one of the leading architects of the disastrous Iraq War. And been happy to acquiesce to the request of the Blairites who declared "#expelmetoo".
But above all members need the opportunity to deselect the pro-capitalist Blairite MPs through an automatic reselection process as part of the democratic transformation of the Labour Party into a genuine workers' party.