Hannah Sell, Socialist Party general secretary
Around 10,000 people attended the online launch of Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project (PJP). Speakers – in addition to Jeremy Corbyn – included Len McCluskey, left general secretary of Unite, and Labour peer Christine Blower. While the rally was billed as a global event its participants were mainly from Britain.
There are many reasons to attend a left rally right now. The death rate from Covid in the UK is the highest in the world and 6.2 million people have to rely on Universal Credit to survive.
At the same time, Starmer’s New Labour leadership is determined to show the capitalist elite they can be relied on to defend its interests. Corbyn is currently fighting for his right to be reinstated as a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
There is clearly an urgent, burning need for the Labour and trade union left to come together and discuss out a strategy for how to fight back and to organise effectively in the interests of the working class. Unfortunately, the launch of the PJP was not the kind of event that is needed.
The only speaker based in Britain to make any reference to the ‘elephant in the room’ – Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party – was Len McCluskey, who has supported Corbyn throughout his leadership. But while Len McCluskey correctly called for Corbyn’s reinstatement, he went on to give an inaccurately positive impression of the current balance forces in the Labour Party. He stated that Jeremy had “changed the Labour Party forever” and that in the Labour leadership contest, all “three candidates ran on socialist platforms, although we have to keep reminding Keir”.
This is when one of the candidates – Lisa Nandy – was part of the 2016 attempted coup against Corbyn. The victor, Starmer, has spent his time as leader systematically breaking from Corbyn’s policies.
Shift to right
From largely backing the government’s approach on Covid, to whipping Labour MPs not to vote against the Spycops bill, to failing to sign a letter to stop a Windrush deportation flight, Starmer’s every action, from the smallest to the largest, is designed to show that he does not have a socialist programme.
No amount of ‘reminders’ will change Starmer’s direction. It was clear from the live feed of written comments that many participants fully understood this and had come to the launch hoping it would offer them a way forward, including the establishment of a new mass workers’ party.
Instead, they heard general comments supporting ‘peace’, ‘justice’, ‘hope’ and, as Corbyn put it “a more decent and just economy”. What these words actually meant, and how they were to be achieved, was unfortunately absent. A project of that kind is, in reality, a diversion from the urgent issues facing the workers’ movement.
Corbyn raised that he wanted to defend and build on ideas in Labour’s 2019 manifesto. Doing so requires openly mobilising to combat Starmer’s return to pro-capitalist New Labourism, and to do that effectively the struggle cannot be confined within the Labour Party.
As the Socialist has raised previously, a far more effective ‘project’ to take this battle forward would be for Jeremy Corbyn to stand on a socialist programme in the London Mayoral contest due to take place in May of this year.
- For a fuller analysis of the Peace and Justice Project see the forthcoming edition of Socialism Today