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Posted on 29 October 2020 at 17:02 GMT

Jeremy Corbyn, photo Chatham House/CC

Jeremy Corbyn, photo Chatham House/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Corbyn suspended

Workers' movement needs a fighting political voice

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party general secretary

Back at the start of 2020, in order to win the Labour leadership, Keir Starmer tried to dress up in some of Corbyn's clothes, claiming he wanted 'unity' with all wings of the party. Six months later, he has suspended his predecessor from Labour membership.

MPs who vote for benefit cuts and war are welcome in the Labour Party. So are those who voted for privatisation of public services, or for the right of state agents to commit crimes while spying on trade unionists and socialists, as are those who campaigned for a 'hostile environment' for migrants. Jeremy Corbyn, who as Labour leader in 2017 achieved the biggest vote gain in a general election for any party since 1945, is not.

As the Socialist Party warned, Starmer's victory was a conquest for the capitalist class's campaign to make Labour once more into Blairite 'New Labour', a party that could be relied on to act in the interests of the billionaires.

Throughout the five years that Corbyn led the Labour Party, he was accused by the pro-capitalist right of the party as being too 'factional' and 'divisive'. In reality he and those around him made the opposite mistake, making endless concessions to the right wing - who continued to dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party and the council chambers - in the vain hope of pacifying them.

Even now, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are pleading with Labour Party members to "stay calm". The right, by contrast, are completely ruthless, only happy when they have annihilated every last vestige of Corbyn's legacy.

The frenzy whipped up around the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on antisemitism is completely synthetic, designed to bury Corbyn's radical programme under a pile of slander. Antisemitism must of course be taken seriously and combated. This, however, is a cynical attempt to use false accusations of antisemitism to attack the left.

Incredibly, their investigation only claims to have found two examples of 'unlawful harassment' of an antisemitic character. These alleged incidents are by Pam Bromley, a Labour councillor, and Ken Livingstone. The quote by Bromley highlighted in the report summary consists of complaining that Corbyn hadn't sufficiently challenged false accusations of antisemitism that were used by the right. This is Alice in Wonderland stuff - a 130-page report, being trumpeted by the capitalist media as proof of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party - finds just two people guilty, in large part for criticising the behaviour of the Israeli government and asserting that the claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party are exaggerated.

From the moment of Starmer's press conference this morning, Tory MPs have been demanding that he suspend Corbyn. Just hours later, he has done just that. Starmer is desperate to show that - should growing anger at the economic and health crisis force Johnson out - he is ready and waiting in the wings to take over as a reliable representative of big business.

By suspending Corbyn, Starmer has laid down a clear challenge to the workers' movement. The choice is clear - accept having no party that represents the interests of the working-class majority, or stand up and fight!

A month ago Unite, the biggest Labour-affiliated trade union, cut its funding of Labour by 10%, as a warning to Starmer not to move Labour to the right. What clearer indication could there be that Starmer has no intention of sticking by Corbyn's manifesto promises on nationalisation, free education, or repeal of the anti-trade union laws? Starmer and the other pro-capitalist MPs will never represent the interests of the working class.

Unite's leadership should now institute an immediate conference, to be a council of war of the workers' movement - inside and outside of the Labour Party - to fight this attack and to discuss how to ensure workers have a vehicle that does fight for their interests. In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s - with unemployment spiralling and children going hungry - a mass socialist voice, including at the ballot box, is desperately needed.

If this step is not taken from the top, there will be many workers and young people who will be prepared to do so. The Socialist Party is fighting for that, and appeals to all those who agree, to join us in that struggle. As a starting point, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), involving the transport workers' union, the RMT, the Socialist Party and others, is back in action and preparing to stand in elections next May.

The rest of the labour movement - the left union leaders in particular - must act. The determination of the right to make Labour safe for capitalism could not be clearer. If now is not the time for similar determination from the left to fight for a mass workers' party - when is?

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

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.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleUnison general secretary candidate and Socialist Party member Hugo Pierre speaking during an anti-racism demo in 2017. Click here for the latest article in the Socialist on the general secretary contest.

triangleCorbyn suspended - Time to fight for a new mass workers' party

triangleNon-fiction: This Land - the story of a movement

triangleUnite votes to cut affiliation fee to Labour

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: The Labour Party - what is its future?


triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleHugo Pierre, a candidate in Unison's general secretary election, speaking at Socialism 2020, 21st November 2020. Click here for a report in the Socialist. Videos will be posted soon.

triangleAfter Corbyn: TUSC and the fight for working-class political representation

triangleOvercrowded Little Ilford School strikes against more expansion

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