Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/879/21780
Editorial of the Socialist
How to defend Corbyn and defeat austerity
Jeremy Corbyn continues to face savage and relentless attacks from the capitalist establishment and also from within Labour.
The latest example has been scurrilous attacks by the Murdoch-owned Sky News website, which ran a 'Jihadi Jez' headline following the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris, merely because Jeremy Corbyn had suggested it would have been better if 'Jihadi John' could have faced trial (instead of an extra judicial killing).
Unsurprisingly, the article was packed with attacks on Corbyn from figures in the Labour machine. This included John Woodcock MP, chair of Labour's backbench defence committee, who condemned Corbyn's position on the Middle East as "willed powerlessness".
Woodcock's position, of course, is to support increased Western intervention in Syria, including UK airstrikes. But this would do nothing to end the nightmare facing the people of Syria and Iraq. It would only make it worse, as Jeremy Corbyn has said bringing: "more conflict, more mayhem, and more loss".
Nor would it do anything to protect people in Britain and elsewhere from the nightmare of the kind of horrific terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on Friday; on the contrary it will make them more likely to occur.
This is just the latest attack on Corbyn in a clear escalation by the right wing of civil war in the Labour Party, as they try to undermine the anti-austerity and anti-war programme on which Corbyn was elected.
It would be a major mistake to imagine it is possible to pacify the Labour right, trying to 'peacefully co-exist' with the Blairites while they conduct an all-out war, with the full backing of the capitalist class.
To defeat the right requires building on the 'Corbyn surge' to create a mass movement against austerity. Only a movement of this kind will be able to launch a serious fight to transform Labour so that it not only has an anti-austerity leader, but is an anti-austerity party.
This is not possible on the basis of accepting the current, highly-undemocratic, Labour Party structures.
To say, as Jeremy did, for example, that he was making it 'crystal-clear' he opposed mandatory reselection of MPs was a mistake. It emboldened the right and can potentially disarm the hundreds of thousands of workers and young people who would like to deselect pro-war, pro-austerity Blairite MPs.
Instead of making political and organisational retreats it is essential to stand firm on the anti-austerity programme which delivered a landslide victory in the Labour leadership election and attempt to organise all anti-austerity forces in defence of Jeremy Corbyn.
A 'council of war' involving all anti-austerity forces - including the non-affiliated unions, the Socialist Party and others - is urgently needed.
At this stage the unaffiliated unions' best means of supporting Jeremy Corbyn is not to affiliate - which means handing over large sums of cash to the right wing-controlled Labour Party machine and receiving virtually no influence in return.
Far better now to directly fund Jeremy Corbyn's 'anti-austerity' Labour and help the fight to democratise the Labour Party.
One vital demand should be for all political forces that have been fighting against austerity to be welcomed into Labour. This means removing all bans and proscriptions against socialists but also extending the existing list of acceptable affiliated organisations to include the Socialist Party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, anti-austerity forces within the Green Party, and others.
This, in practise, would re-create the vibrant coalition structure of the Labour Party when it was founded, involving trade unions, the co-op movement, social movements and different socialist parties.
It would be a struggle for a force that could take up and defeat the capitalist establishment, which is gathering its forces - including within the Labour Party - to defeat the Corbyn movement.
Another essential strand of the battle against austerity is to fight for Labour councils to refuse to implement austerity locally. Local authorities have already suffered 39% budget cuts over the last five years, with more to come.
Up until now Labour councils have dutifully implemented the cuts demanded by the Tory government. An important element in Jeremy Corbyn's victory in the Labour leadership contest was his urging "Labour councils to stand together against the cuts". This can only mean: don't implement these cuts, which will only add to the already unbearable suffering of working class people.
The combined financial reserves of Labour councils with elections next May amount to a considerable £4.4 billion. For all 100-plus Labour-controlled councils it is much higher. What is to stop Labour councils coming together and - via pooling their reserves and using prudential borrowing powers - collectively refusing to implement a single further cut?
Such a stand would create the conditions to build a mass movement which could potentially stop Tory austerity in its tracks. Clearly, many Labour councillors are on the right of the party and would not be prepared to refuse to implement austerity. But if Jeremy Corbyn were to make a clear call for action of this kind it would encourage more Labour councillors to act and would also enormously increase his standing among the many council workers and service users who are facing cuts.
Conversely, if the new 'anti-austerity' Labour Party was seen to uncritically back Labour councils implementing cuts it would undermine Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity stance and inevitably disillusion his potential supporters.
The Socialist Party has a record of standing anti-austerity candidates in elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, along with the RMT (transport workers' union) and others. Of course pro-austerity right-wingers have criticised us for this, but how else could trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists have developed a political voice against unrelenting austerity from councils of all political stripes?
We do not wish to stand against Labour candidates in the future; but to prevent this being necessary requires a strategy to develop anti-austerity Labour councils who are prepared to oppose the cuts not only in words but in deeds.
Jeremy Corbyn's victory has lifted the confidence of all those who oppose austerity and has already dealt a blow to the establishment. However if the right succeed in containing and undermining him the danger is that those drawn around Corbyn's campaign will become disillusioned.
This would represent the loss of another favourable opportunity to strengthen the workers' movement in the battle against capitalism and its political representatives - the Tories and other forces that base themselves on outmoded capitalism.
There is an urgent need for all those who oppose austerity to discuss how we can defend Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party by building a mass movement against austerity.
In The Socialist 18 November 2015:
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