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Labour leadership (70)


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From: Socialist Party docs British Perspectives 2018, 27 April 2018: Party document as amended by Socialist Party national congress in March 2018

Search site for keywords: Government - Labour - Brexit - Capitalist - Election - Working class - General election - Labour leadership - Jeremy Corbyn - Labour Party

Prospects for a Labour government?

34) The capitalist class fears that Corbyn will come to power and, under the impact of an economic crisis be pushed further to the left.

Even without a new stage of economic crisis he would be under huge pressure from below as a result of the misery the working and middle class have suffered over a whole period.

It is true that a Corbyn-led government is implicit in the situation, but it is not yet guaranteed. Jeremy Corbyn's programme in the general election raised the sights of wide sections of the working and middle classes that an alternative to austerity was possible, but unless it is accompanied by a general struggle to implement its radical measures against the opposition of the capitalists, scepticism can return even among those who have been enthused.

The quietist approach that Corbyn is once again tending to adopt will not be sufficient.

35) In addition, while it is positive that the Labour Party in Scotland now also has a more left wing leader, he unfortunately supports a continuation of the Labour Party's incorrect position on the national question.

Labour did recover some votes in Scotland during the snap general election, but the numbers (around 10,000) are just a fraction of the 3.5 million votes gained in England and Wales.

Some further gains can be made in the next period, but they will also be limited unless Labour at least clearly supports the right of the Scottish people to determine their own future.

36) The capitalist class's desperation to prevent Corbyn winning an election means that they are hunting around for ways to lessen the suffering of the population. "Unless we solve the UK housing crisis, we're going to have Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister", as one financier put it.

Given the scale of the housing crisis and the completely dysfunctional character of the UK housing market bubble, which governments have relied on to fuel consumer spending from Thatcher onwards, it is very difficult to see how they can take any measures to go even partway to solving the housing catastrophe facing the younger generation.

After all, Theresa May, in her ill-fated party conference speech, attempted to steal a garment or two from Corbyn, declaring that the Tories would fund council house-building - but it turned out to be for a paltry 5,000 houses a year.

Nonetheless, by restricting themselves to verbal radicalism, the Labour leadership can create opportunities for the Tories to try and outflank them by stealing aspects of Corbyn's programme, in words even while austerity largely continues in deeds.

37) At the same time, the desire to compromise with the pro-capitalist wing of Labour is leading to retreats on programme.

This is particularly the case on Brexit, where the capitalist class is exerting significant pressure for Labour to put a position which suits their interests.

In the general election Corbyn began to make some headway among workers who had voted for Brexit, by stating that Labour accepted the referendum result and more importantly stressing that he wanted a Brexit in the interests of working class people, and would fight against employers carrying out a race to the bottom.

He combined this with statements against racism and in defence of the rights of members of other EU states residing in Britain.

38) As we explained at the time of the referendum, at root the working class vote for Brexit was a revolt against everything they had suffered at the hands of the capitalist establishment.

Unfortunately, not least because Corbyn abandoned his historical position of opposing the EU as a bosses' club, there was no mass working class or left voice expressing that revolt.

We, alongside the RMT, BFAWU and ASLEF, campaigned for a pro-working class left exit, but our voices were not strong enough to counter the establishment campaigns.

As a result, inevitably, the racism and nationalism of the official pro-Brexit campaigns had a certain effect.

Any growth in racism and nationalism needs to be combated. However, the pessimism of the majority of the left, who concluded that the working class had been lost to reaction, was completely disproved by the enthusiasm that began to be generated by Corbyn's general election campaign.

The youth were at the forefront of this but older sections of workers were also stirred by the election manifesto, answering the lie that the central dividing line in society is now not class but age.

39) Since the election, however, Corbyn has allowed pro-capitalist Keir Starmer to make the vast majority of statements on Brexit.

Up to now the Labour leadership has at least held back from adopting the pro-remain position that is being urged on it by the capitalist class and the Blairites.

The further it goes in this direction, however, the more difficult it will be for Corbyn to make inroads among disillusioned pro-Brexit ex-Labour voters.

One of the, entirely spurious, arguments given by the Blairites for adopting their position is that the young people who voted for Corbyn are desperate for him to do so.

This is clearly not the case. Had Brexit been the central issue motivating young people they would have swung en masse behind the LibDems, rather than Corbyn, in the snap general election.

Six months on and Labour's support among students has grown further to an overwhelming 68%. What is key to winning over workers and young people, whether they are Brexit or remain supporters, is not Labour's attitude to the EU in itself, but standing for an anti-austerity programme that pledges to fight for the interests of the 'many not the few'.

However, this cannot be achieved if combined with a defence of the neo-liberal, bosses' club of the EU which, in reality, would mean forming a bloc on this issue with the capitalist class against the forces that made up the working class electoral uprising of the referendum vote.

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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.
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