Defend anti-austerity struggle
Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary
The Socialist Party has participated in protests across the country since the Blairite coup was launched. We say:
- Demand a labour movement conference open to all left organisations and Corbyn supporters
- Prepare for a general election with a clear anti-austerity, anti-racist programme – opposition to all cuts, £10 an hour minimum wage, mass council housing building and renationalisation.
The civil war within Labour – which has existed since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour leader – has now broken out into the open. The ‘mass’ resignations of the shadow cabinet indicate a determined push by the right-wing Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to remove Corbyn. The no confidence vote of Labour MPs was 172 to 40 against him.
It is a mere trifle to them that he was democratically elected with the biggest mandate of any leader of a British party in recent history. Urged on by the right-wing capitalist media, they are determined to evict Corbyn. They plan to install a right-wing stooge and in this way roll back the labour movement to the dark days of Blairism.
“Labour must now act to remove Corbyn as leader… Having unsheathed the dagger, Labour MPs cannot now draw back”, writes the Financial Times. Show me who your friends are and I will show you who you are!
There is a deep and abiding fear in the possessing classes that in the fluid and charged social situation in Britain – with mass opposition to austerity capitalism – if Jeremy Corbyn survives the latest plots and Labour remains intact, a government led by him could be pushed into power even as early as a general election in the autumn.
The additional fear is that then he could be pressurised into introducing radical measures in favour of working people. And this has convinced them and their echoes within the labour movement to strike now to try to bring him down and, if necessary, to damage and destroy the political influence of the labour movement itself, as in 1931 when Labour split and the right formed the National Government with the Tories or in 1981 with the formation of the Social Democratic Party.
Urgent organising needed
What is needed is an urgent labour movement conference, which should be convened now, involving all those who support Corbyn: the trade unions, Labour Party branches and including all left and socialist organisations inside and outside the Labour Party.
The Socialist Party wanted to be involved in a regenerated, open and democratic Labour Party. Unfortunately, the leaders of Momentum – formed to defend Jeremy Corbyn – rejected this approach in favour of top-down bureaucratic control, which involved them quite disgracefully resorting to exclusions and expulsions of those who disagreed with them. This must end.
The leftward moving ranks of the labour movement have rushed to defend Corbyn, because of what he represents: the promise of a radical and hopefully increasingly socialist future for the labour movement in place of discredited capitalism.
The crowds outside parliament together with protests locally against the anti-Corbyn right-wing MPs indicate this. So also does the welcome shift of left general secretaries like Lenny McCluskey, who has warned right-wing anti-Corbyn MPs that they will be reselected, having previously rejected the arguments of the Socialist Party for this.
This plot was predictable and indeed was predicted by the Socialist Party. We wrote many times that the only things which were uncertain were the timing of the attempted coup and on what issue.
The referendum provided the trigger for the right-wing hounds in the PLP to viciously attack Jeremy and demand that he go. Why? Because he was ‘lacklustre’, his staff turned up late at ‘Remain’ briefings and he was a reluctant remainer, which was obviously the case! Yet he had carried out their bidding in supporting Remain, which the Socialist Party considered was a mistake. The EU is a bosses’ club which has been and will continue to be used against the working class, as Greece and other countries show.
And if the right have succeeded in wearing down Jeremy Corbyn, imposing obstacles to him once more standing for the Labour leadership – which he would win overwhelmingly – then this must not be acquiesced to.
The civil war within Labour indicated that two parties have uneasily coexisted for the last nine months. This could not continue indefinitely and was bound to come to a head at a certain stage, if not over the EU then on some other issue.
Therefore it is necessary to face down and confront the blackmail and sabotage of the right by adopting decisive measures. If it is accurate, then a report in the Financial Times is welcome, which indicated a new determination of Corbyn to fight the right wing. He was asked by a delegation of Labour MPs: “Are you prepared to split the party over this?” He replied that he did not want to but then added, “But if necessary…” [Financial Times 28/6/16]
If he follows through on this, it would mean a welcome, positive development for the labour movement. It would represent a complete break with the discredited right wing and the formation of a new radical workers’ party, which would in turn act like a magnet for workers and youth looking for a serious struggle against capitalism and for socialism.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 28 June 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.