Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/932/24224

From The Socialist newspaper, 18 January 2017

Editorial of the Socialist, issue 932

Labour's civil war continues - build a mass workers' party

Labour Party members who voted for Jeremy Corbyn want a 'new kind of politics' but Momentum have used old Blairite methods, photo Paul Mattsson

Labour Party members who voted for Jeremy Corbyn want a 'new kind of politics' but Momentum have used old Blairite methods, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Trust in politicians and all sections of the 'establishment' is falling even further. An annual trust survey (by PR firm Edelman) shows that trust in the British government has dropped from a low 36% in January 2016 to just 26% now. Only 18% of respondents said they trust political parties in general to "do what is right".

The surveyors themselves say: "If we thought 2016 was bad, 2017 could be far worse. The virus that has understandably destroyed trust among those who feel let down by the system has now obviously spread. Even those who got richer after the financial crisis exhibit declining trust in the key pillars of society - politicians, business leaders, NGOs and the media."

An inchoate rage against austerity and against the rich and their politicians found expression in the Brexit vote and in the rejection of the 'lesser evil' Hillary Clinton. The incendiary findings of Oxfam that just eight billionaires own the same wealth as 3.7 billion people will add to that mood.

The crisis besetting capitalism is deep - with no way out of an economic quagmire, the rich getting obscenely richer, and a deep political crisis among the main capitalist representatives. As the Tory party openly splits over Brexit, big business finds itself without a party to reliably act in its interests. They fear rebellion.

It is not only in the Tory Party that the erstwhile representatives of capitalism are thrashing around. The Blairite 'project anaconda' to squeeze Corbyn into further retreats continues but they are at this stage unable to remove him due to his popularity.

As part of the right-wing propaganda campaign to slowly crush Corbyn, the Fabian Society predicts that Labour is heading for defeat in the next general election, and could be reduced to fewer than 200 seats.

The "existential angst" and "deep despair" of some Labour MPs facing "crushing defeat" was expressed by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer, discussing the resignations of Blairite MPs Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt. He describes Hunt's "general lament that the left, including the centrist left that he represents, have failed to respond to the challenges thrown up by 'social, cultural and economic forces which have rocked mainstream social democratic and socialist parties' across the democratic world." He concludes, "having devoted a lot of time to thinking about how to renew social democracy for the 21st century, [Hunt] had grown increasingly fearful that he hadn't got the answers to Labour's predicament." He is right to despair - his pro-capitalist position offers no way forward for society.

Organise

While right-wing forces such as Trump or Ukip can be the beneficiaries of this unrest, it is by no means automatic. What is required is to organise that rage into decisive collective action and for it to find a political expression.

We must fight hard against racism, sexism and all forms of division, but the fundamental need is for a mass working class party - a socialist alternative - as the huge support for Bernie Sanders in the US has shown.

The massive waves of support for Jeremy Corbyn represented a layer of working class and radicalised middle class people seeking their own political voice.

Corbyn's retreats, in a vain attempt to appease the right, have disappointed many, including the capitulation just before Christmas over Tony Blair's role in the Iraq War. It has not gone un-noticed among London RMT members that Corbyn gave welcome support to the Southern Rail strike but appeared lukewarm on the tube strike, so as not to clash with Blairite Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.

But Jeremy Corbyn has 'rebooted'. Apparently trying to do a Trump, appealing over the heads of a hostile media to the anti-establishment mood, he declared that Brexit and the other political earthquakes of 2016 are due to a political elite divorced from the people they govern. Stating that the economic system is rigged against working people, he said "Labour under my leadership stands for a complete break with this rigged system".

His call for a maximum limit on bosses' pay was met with relief from many working class people, who feel that at last Corbyn is voicing their concerns. Those opponents who ridiculed this idea do so, of course, in order to protect the profits of big business.

He attacked Theresa May over the NHS crisis saying: "The fact is, this government have repeatedly failed to put the necessary resources into our health service, while they have cut social care and wasted billions on a top-down reorganisation to accelerate privatisation." He pledged to fund the NHS and to nationalise failing care homes.

Labour's poll ratings increased by two points since the relaunch. Imagine what could be the effect if he boldly fought for the programme on which he ran his election campaigns, and fought the Blairites so that it became Labour's programme. On the basis of offering a real socialist alternative Labour could easily win a general election.

Welcome as this change of tone is, the fight to change the Labour Party is far from over. The Labour Party is still two parties in one - a pro-capitalist, Blairite party and at least the potential beginnings of a party that stands in the interests of working class people. The trickle of resignations could in itself become a method to try to defeat Corbyn, to trigger a series of byelections that the Blairites hope he will lose. A determined fight still needs to be taken to the Blairites.

Hope

Jeremy Corbyn speaking to one of many mass audiences, photo Steve Score

Jeremy Corbyn speaking to one of many mass audiences, photo Steve Score   (Click to enlarge)

When Corbyn first won the leadership in 2015, we called for all those forces that supported Corbyn's anti-austerity call, both inside and outside the Labour Party, to be brought together to fight for that programme. The surge in supporters and members was not due to a loyalty to the Labour Party as such - Labour spectacularly failed to defeat the hated Tories in 2015 because they offered only continued cuts and privatisation, 'austerity lite' - but a hope for a party that will finally stand up for them.

That necessarily meant taking on and defeating the right wing in the party, who made it clear from minute one that they would fight tooth and nail to maintain the Labour Party as a safe pro-capitalist party.

We argue for mandatory reselection, a mechanism which would enable the democratic deselection of Blairite MPs. We appealed for 75 expelled and excluded socialists to be readmitted to the Labour Party and call for a structure in which all socialist and anti-austerity forces, including the Socialist Party, can be a part of an anti-austerity federal party. Kick out the Blairites and admit the socialists!

A key part of the Blairite project to keep the Labour Party safe for big business was to strip the unions' power out of the party. Currently, as the RMT's political strategy says, Labour does not have the "structural/constitutional arrangements that would make affiliation in the union's interests." An essential step to changing the Labour Party would be to reestablish a role for trade unions that reflects their importance as the organised, collective voice of millions of workers.

Momentum, had it been established on that basis, could have played a pivotal role. But instead of leading and organising a fight, Momentum has counselled constant appeasement of the right wing. In one poll 69% of Corbyn supporters backed mandatory reselection. Given a lead, many would have fought for it. But Momentum opposed this and instead chose the route of purges and expulsions of the left.

Recently, Momentum leader Jon Lansman shut down all of Momentum's structures and imposed a new constitution, with only a 'take it or resign' option to members and supporters. Overturning the original aim to bring people inside and outside the party together, membership of the Labour Party is now a requirement.

The change is dressed up as 'direct democracy'. The ground was laid by commentators like Owen Jones, presenting this as a battle between new fresh layers of people against "Trotskyist sectarian saboteurs".

'One member one vote' was a tool of the pro-capitalist right wing in the Labour Party to drown out the collective voice of trade unions and to set inactive, passive members against those who participate in meetings, debates and activity. The Momentum leadership are using it for the same purpose. It sounds very democratic, but in reality this 'direct democracy' means individuals clicking answers in response to questions set by the leadership, while the leadership do as they please with no democratic mechanism to hold them in check.

Momentum trailed this method when they decided their position on the EU referendum. An issue of such importance was decided by people individually sat at home under a deluge of capitalist media, with no alternative being put, no discussion or debate, clicking a yes/no answer.

The worst of the many problems with Momentum's new imposed constitution is the total sidelining of the role of the organised working class. Trade unions that affiliate to Momentum are collectively granted just six representatives on the new National Coordinating Group (NCG). Decisions of the NCG will be made by a simple majority. Thus the Fire Brigades Union, a militant, democratically-organised body representing tens of thousands of people, carries no more weight than individuals, and can easily be outvoted.

Contrast that with the consensus method of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which means that representatives of the RMT rail union on the steering committee cannot be bounced into accepting any decision that they believe would not be supported by their members or that contravenes the democratic decisions of their annual general meeting.

Process

But the failure of Momentum does not mean that the process is over. Corbyn supporters could still be mobilised to fight the right. Another attack on Jeremy could trigger another wave of people to get active. Trade union representatives would have a big effect if they were to openly appeal to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to fight together with them for measures such as mandatory reselection, and the re-introduction of democratic structures into the party including the collective trade union voice.

Corbyn's biggest Achilles heel is the Labour councils up and down the country which are implementing Tory cuts. Local government cuts are savage and are only going to get worse. Campaigns are rising up to defend homes, libraries and other services. Just as happened in the 2016 local elections, many working class people who support Corbyn will vote for alternatives to kick their local cutting and privatising Labour-led council. Their support is for Corbyn's anti-austerity stance, not for the Labour Party no matter what. We could see anti-cuts campaigners concluding that they have no choice but to stand in elections themselves if the candidate allegedly representing 'Labour' at the ballot box is just another pro-austerity establishment politician.


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference

Saturday 28 January 2017

11am to 4-30pm (registration from 10am) at Student Central, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY

Click here for more info (on TUSC website)

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 18 January 2017:


What we think

Labour's civil war continues - build a mass workers' party

Tories torn in two on single market


Resist Trump

Resist Trump

Inaugurate the resistance

We can stop Trump's sexist agenda in its tracks


International socialist news and analysis

Mexico: Mass movement against "gasolinazo"

USA: Seattle activists win housebuilding programme

1917revolution.org website to launch


Socialist Party news and analysis

'Black alert' NHS: Demonstrate 4 March

Eight billionaires own as much as half humanity!

Pollution kills 600: fight for clean air!

Northern Ireland calls snap election: back Labour Alternative

Millwall FC move threat: Defend the Den - 'wall not Renewal


Workplace news and analysis

Billions in profit for Tesco, cuts and job losses for workers

Liverpool dockers and drivers protest "appalling lack of facilities"

Manchester: BA cabin crew pay strike

London: Taxi drivers gridlock City of London

Southern Rail strike continues

Unite the Union elections

PCS union national executive elections


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

The Socialist: read it, write it, sell it

Protesters surround Sheffield's cutting council

Fracking protest in Sherwood Forest

Residents protest at plans to close nine community centres

Anger at south east Kent Momentum meeting

Socialist Party national committee agrees document for congress


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Theatre review: high art and savage poverty in Bootle

John Berger: remarkable art of a contradictory socialist

Socialist artists invite others to exhibit work

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 18 January 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleFund the fight against the Tories

triangleCorbyn could re-win Scotland with a socialist approach to independence

triangleCorbyn's manifesto: An important step in the right direction

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleJobstown trial begins

Workers:

triangleAggressive bosses met by determined strike

trianglePensions strikes continue at BMW

triangleHousing maintenance workers plan strikes every week

triangleWorkplace news in brief

War:

triangleThe story of workers from Hull who fought in the Spanish Civil War

triangleBarcelona May Days 1937 - a civil war within a civil war

trianglePalestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

Labour:

triangleCapitalism condemned

triangleBirmingham Central Socialist Party: French elections - What are the lessons for Corbyn's Labour?

Momentum:

triangle'Nurses are angry and we are ready for action'

Austerity:

triangleBlackpool deserves better - anti-austerity rally

Cuts:

triangle31,000 more kids at risk of abuse or neglect

Anti-austerity:

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Tories out! Corbyn can win with a socialist, anti-austerity programme

Democracy:

triangleIncreased majority for Democracy Alliance

Jeremy Corbyn:

triangleApology from Radio 4's PM programme

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

22/5/17

Capitalism

Capitalism condemned

17/5/17

Housing

One in three borrow for rent, Corbyn pledges housing revolution

17/5/17

General election

Corbyn's manifesto: An important step in the right direction

17/5/17

London

Book launch: From Militant to the Socialist Party

17/5/17

Jeremy Corbyn

Kick out the Tories: For a Corbyn-led government

17/5/17

Young people

Corbyn's alternative for young people

17/5/17

Jeremy Corbyn

Tories out! Corbyn can win with socialist policies

17/5/17

Scotland

Corbyn could re-win Scotland with a socialist approach to independence

17/5/17

Children

31,000 more kids at risk of abuse or neglect

17/5/17

Tories

Tories escape election fraud charges

17/5/17

NHS

NHS cyberattack: budget cuts and spy agency to blame

10/5/17

What we saw

What we saw

10/5/17

Environment

Tories forced to publish useless plans on toxic air

10/5/17

NHS

Tories wrecking our NHS: kick them out!

10/5/17

NHS

Corbyn promises to scrap hospital parking fees

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle22 May Capitalism condemned

triangle19 May Aggressive bosses met by determined strike

triangle17 May Increased majority for Democracy Alliance

triangle17 May Corbyn's manifesto: An important step in the right direction

triangle17 May Book launch: From Militant to the Socialist Party

triangle17 May Housing maintenance workers plan strikes every week

triangle12 May TUSC confirms no candidates in June and full support for a Corbyn-led...

More ...

triangle22 May Portsmouth Socialist Party: How can the Tories be defeated?

triangle22 May Birmingham Central Socialist Party: French elections - What are the lessons for Corbyn's Labour?

triangle23 May Socialist Party PCS conference meeting: How Corbyn could win with socialist policies

triangle23 May Manchester Socialist Party: The role of the Socialist Party

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice