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General election

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From: The Socialist issue 1050, 17 July 2019: Stop Boris - general election now

Search site for keywords: General election - Election - Labour - Capitalist - Government - Labour Party - Brexit - Len McCluskey

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1050

Stop Boris - General election now

Prospect of Corbyn-led government terrifies capitalist establishment

Boris Johnson, photo Paul Mattsson

Boris Johnson, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Boris Johnson, the Eton-educated millionaire and Trump wannabe, seems to be heading to Number 10, put there by around a hundred thousand members of the Tory Party, less than 0.35% of the electorate.

Playing to the overwhelmingly wealthy, mainly elderly, Tory party rank and file, Johnson has stood on a programme of tax cuts for the rich and corporations, combined with a Tory Brexit at any price.

Without doubt, the next Tory government, whoever leads it, will mean continued misery for the majority.

The capitalist class is also looking on in horror, however, because - while both Tory leadership candidates stand for the interests of the elite, the 0.1%, the Tory party can no longer be relied on to consistently act in the long-term interests of British capitalism.

On the contrary, the Tories are coming off the rails, and even threatening to shatter into pieces, leaving big business with no party it can depend on to reliably do its bidding.

The working-class majority, however, should draw confidence from the meltdown in the Tories. This weak, divided Tory party can be forced out of office.

The workers' movement needs to take advantage of our class enemy's weakness and urgently fight for a general election and the election of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government on a socialist programme.

The stepping up of increasingly frenzied attacks on Corbyn by the capitalist media, senior government civil servants, and the pro-big-business wing of the Labour Party is a sign of their fear that a Corbyn-led government is on the agenda.

Corbyn was right when he declared to the Durham Miners' Gala that the reason for the "incredible level of media hysteria" was "the programme that Labour offers, of redistribution of power, of wealth, of investment in a decent future, for an end to the privileges of the few in order to advance the cause and the need of the many - that is what they are upset about." While Corbyn's programme is actually very modest, the capitalist class are terrified by the enthusiasm it could create among millions of working and middle-class people who have suffered endless austerity.

The current dirty-tricks campaign gives a glimpse of the lengths the capitalist elite would go to sabotage a Corbyn-led government. To succeed in building a society for the many not the few it would be necessary to act decisively to take power out of the hands of the capitalist saboteurs. They will do all within their power to prevent the implementation of a radical programme in the interests of the majority.

To achieve this would require nationalisation, under democratic workers' control, of the major corporations and banks that dominate the economy. That would lay the basis for the implementation of a socialist programme. After more than a decade of capitalist austerity, decent jobs, homes, pensions, and high-quality free education could be offered for all, alongside measures to prevent the destruction of the environment.

It is now nearly four years since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader. The chaos in the Tory Party means that he could become prime minister before the year is over. As the Socialist Party has warned from day one, the obstacles in achieving this are inside the Labour Party as well as outside. Without fail, whenever it seems possible that a Corbyn-led government could be on the agenda, the pro-capitalist wing of the Labour Party step up their attempts to sabotage him.

Panorama documentary

This was the only reason for the Panorama documentary attempted hatchet job on the Labour leadership. The documentary consisted almost entirely of completely unsubstantiated claims by ex-Labour officials that antisemitism was rife in the Labour Party. While action should always be taken against any genuine cases of antisemitism in the workers' movement or elsewhere in society, there hasn't been any evidence that Labour has a particularly high incidence of it, either provided by Panorama or any other source.

Unsurprisingly, a complete absence of evidence has not prevented a renewed onslaught against Corbyn by the Labour right. As ever, deputy leader Tom Watson led the charge. He was followed by more than 200 Labour staff and former staff who signed a letter demanding that Corbyn resign unless he could "renew trust with Labour employees". Labour leaders in the House of Lords joined in the attack as did, according to reports of a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, John Cryer MP, and the pro-capitalist shadow Brexit minister, Keir Starmer.

It could not be clearer that the pro-capitalist Blairite wing of the Labour Party is set on undermining Corbyn, and - if they judged they could succeed - removing him. They have the backing of the whole capitalist establishment. They will act to try and prevent the election of a Corbyn-led government and, if such a government is elected, to try and prevent it taking any decisive measures in the interests of the working-class majority.

Faced with this renewed onslaught against him Corbyn has broken his silence to criticise the 'many, many inaccuracies' in the Panorama programme. Len McCluskey, left general secretary of Unite, launched a broadside against Tom Watson on the issue. It is vital that all the necessary conclusions are now drawn. The history of Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party to date has been one of mass groundswells of support defeating the attempts of the right to remove Corbyn but, as soon as the right are pushed back, the Labour left returns to trying to pacify the Blairites by making concessions to them.

Most recently, this was graphically demonstrated by the suspension of left MP Chris Williamson and then, within a day of his reinstatement, his resuspension under the pressure of Blairite Labour MPs. Shamefully, Jon Lansman, leader of a supposedly pro-Corbyn, pro-left organisation, Momentum, supported his resuspension. This approach of endless concessions must cease. Inevitably, it has led to confusion and a growing disillusionment among those who were initially enthused by Corbynism.

Mass campaign

It is urgent to launch a mass campaign to deselect pro-capitalist MPs, as part of a programme to transform Labour into a workers' party. This would include democratising the party, bringing its structures under the control of its working-class members and supporters, particularly via the trade unions, and a return to the kind of federal structure Labour had when it was founded. It would also mean launching a campaign for Labour councillors to be prepared to lead a fight against Tory austerity instead of implementing it.

Alongside transforming the structures of the Labour Party, it is vital a battle is waged politically to transform it into a party with clear socialist policies in the interests of the working class. This includes the question of Brexit. No surprise that Tim Dexter, one of the main figures attacking the Labour leadership in the Panorama documentary, has now left the Labour Party to work for the 'Peoples' Vote' campaign. For many of the Blairites a central part of their campaign to undermine the Labour leadership is fighting to shift Labour into support for a second referendum to reverse Brexit.

If Corbyn were to follow their recommendations it would severely damage the prospects for a Labour government. The scale of the working-class vote for Brexit in 2016 was a cry of rage against the capitalist establishment and the misery being inflicted on the majority in the wake of the 2007-8 economic crisis. If Corbyn is seen to be acting at the behest of that establishment to reverse the result of the referendum it would finish him in the eyes of an important section of working-class voters. Unfortunately, the Labour left's continuing vain attempts to compromise with the Blairites have resulted in widespread confusion about the party's stance on Brexit.

The only way to correct this, and to start to cut across the division that exists between working-class Leavers and Remainers; is to launch a serious campaign to demand a general election now, linked to a clear socialist programme in the defence of the interests of the whole working class.

Unfortunately, this was not sufficiently clearly stated in the agreement reached between the five biggest Labour affiliated trade unions on the issue. The statement was from both right and left union leaders. It correctly argued that the workers' movement should campaign against a Tory 'no deal' Brexit but, in that scenario, that the trade unions should campaign for a public vote with Remain as the only alternative, rather than sticking to demanding a general election and for a Corbyn-led government to negotiate a new deal.

Nonetheless, the claims by much of the capitalist press that the trade union statement was putting forward blanket support for Remain is not accurate. On the contrary, their second option was for a snap election, Labour to negotiate a new deal and for that to be put to a confirmatory vote. Len McCluskey made clear in a letter to Unite members that in his view:

"If we were successful in achieving an election victory, then I am confident we would achieve a good deal to exit Europe which would leave Labour in a position to campaign in favour of the deal. Although it is correct to reserve our commitment until we see the nature of such a deal."

Socialist programme

Labour could win a landslide if it stands on a socialist programme. The 2017 manifesto could be a starting point, but the manifesto should also include, for example, reversing all cuts to council services, scrapping Universal Credit, and a pledge to nationalise Honda Swindon, Ford Bridgend and British Steel under democratic working-class control, along with any other companies which carry out closures and job cuts in the name of Brexit or otherwise. This should be combined with nationalisation of the major corporations and banks to really take the levers of power out of the hands of the capitalist saboteurs.

If a Corbyn-led government came to power on such a programme it would create huge enthusiasm among the working class in Britain and internationally. It would then be in a powerful position to negotiate a Brexit deal in the interests of the working class. Such a deal would take as its starting point opposing all pro-privatisation anti-working class EU laws, including repeal of all anti-trade union legislation, and abolition of anti-state aid and nationalisation rules. On that basis it would be possible to make a successful appeal for solidarity to workers across Europe to support the Labour government's stance and to fight for a socialist Europe.

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The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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Article dated 17 July 2019

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