Tag Archives: Theresa May

Tories: Ready to fall – and then?

Because of acute divisions over Europe the Tories are extremely vulnerable. However, says David Sherrief, the last thing we need is a ‘normal’ Labour government to replace them

Theresa May’s government is deeply divided and looks set to blunderingly take Brexit negotiations to a disastrous ‘cliff edge’. Despite her Florence speech, little progress is being made in Brussels. No breakthrough over the divorce bill. No breakthrough over the Irish border. Then there is Boris Johnson and his 4,000-word Sunday Telegraph manifesto calling for a low-tax, low-regulation Britain finding a “glorious” future outside both the single market and the customs union.1)The Sunday Telegraph September 15 2017 A cat in the “nest of singing birds”.

True, the government comfortably got the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through its second reading in the Commons. The final vote was 326-290. However, the war is far from over. Tory MPs – not least Nicky Morgan, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry – have tabled amendments aimed at shooting holes into May’s Brexit plans: eg, they want to include the EU’s charter of fundamental rights. There will also be challenges to the use of so-called Henry VIII powers and demands for a vote on final terms. This brings the distinct possibility of government defeats. Of course, that would not trigger a general election. For the moment at least, May is secure. Thanks to the £1 billion deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, she would win a vote of confidence. Nonetheless, the government is vulnerable and we should expect compromises, gruelling late-night sittings, MPs being brought in from sick beds and desperately fought by-elections.

Surely, though, the government’s main problem is that a hard Brexit runs counter to the interests of the dominant sections of big capital in Britain. For example, the recent Downing Street approach to large private companies and selected FT-100 firms, in the attempt to obtain endorsement for the government’s post-Brexit plans for a “global Britain”, was greeted with derision. Technology, aerospace, pharmaceutical, energy, manufacturing, banking and financial services firms have all warned that the drifting Brexit negotiations could lead them to transfer some operations from Britain. Toyota is already openly questioning the future of its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire.

Many capitalists fear that they will face tariffs and other damaging barriers after March 2019 … if there is no deal. Nor do they have any liking for the government’s leaked proposals to limit immigration post-Brexit. The markets confirm what the personifications of capital say. Since the June 2016 referendum the pound sterling has fallen by around 20%, compared with other major currencies. Moody’s has meanwhile downgraded Britain’s credit rating from a top AAA to Aa1, and now Aa2. Despite the requirement to pay what is in effect a 20% premium, outward investment has doubled in the last quarter. Figures such as these reveal the thinking of collective capital. The bet is that Britain is heading for difficult times. In other words, Brexit is bad for profit-making.

Of course, at Phillip Hammond’s prompting, there has been an acceptance that Britain will, if it can, negotiate a two-year transition period. This has been cautiously welcomed by many of the CEOs and boardrooms of blue-chip companies. But the lack of detail causes uncertainty, frustration, even anguish.

A recent survey of 1,000 UK businesses reported that more than two-thirds of them needed to “know the details of any transition arrangement after Brexit by June 2018 – just nine months from now – in order to plan properly”. If investment and recruitment decisions that have been put “on hold” are to be “unblocked”, 40% of the businesses say the government must set out what the transition will involve, when it comes to vital areas, such as the movement of goods, capital and people, as well as legal arrangements.2)Financial Times September 12 2017

Far from May and her cabinet providing Britain with ‘strong and stable’ leadership, big capital worries that party interests are being put first. Hence, addressing widespread concerns amongst voters about ‘unrestricted’ immigration is being prioritised over guaranteeing access to the single market. Private meetings and frantic lobbying have had little effect on David Davies and his department for exiting the EU. The government says it has its mandate and appears intent on brushing aside the interests of big capital. All in all, therefore, “big business is in a difficult position”, reckons John Colley of the Warwick Business School.3)https://uk. nance.yahoo.com/news/businesss- government-lobbying-brexit-isnt-working- heres-143415309.html

Of course, the capitalist class, though it is the ruling class, is particularly ill-adapted to exercising direct control over day-to-day government operations. The main business of members of the capitalist class is business. The exploitation of labour and dog-eats-dog competition is hellishly time-consuming. On average CEOs work “10-11 hours per day” plus weekends.4)Time October 16 2015

So the capitalist class has to find itself a political party which “can take, and stick to, an overall and farsighted view of the interests and needs of the system as a whole”.5)H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York NY 1977, p324 Since the 1920s that party has been the Conservatives, but no longer, it seems. Today the Tories are clearly acting against the long-term needs and interests of the system: ie, the capitalist class as a whole. Maybe this reflects the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of modern capitalism – foreign investment in Britain stood at around £950 billion in 20156) House of Commons Library Debate pack Number CDP 2017/0159, September 8 2017 – and therefore a hands-off approach to national political parties, their national rivalries and their national machinations.

True, a few big businesses, such as JCB, Westfield and Bloomberg Europe, have donated considerable sums to the Tories.7)The Guardian April 1 2015 But most of the money going to Tory HQ nowadays comes from very wealthy – often very quirky – individuals (many of them after access to government, dinners with ministers, knighthoods, membership of the House of Lords, etc).

Over the years the number of companies making donations has shrunk.8)B Jones (ed) Political issues in Britain today Manchester 1999, p313 Yet, with the bulk of Tory finances coming from the rich and the super-rich, with hundreds of Tory parliamentarians holding directorships, with Tory MPs coming from business and going back to business, with the visceral hostility to trade unions, it is clear that the standard Marxist description of the Conservative Party as the party of big business, albeit it with various qualifications, remains correct. Nevertheless, the tension that exists between the interests of big capital and the direction being taken by May’s party and government is unmistakable.

The origins of this divergence lies squarely in electoral calculation. Having outmanoeuvred her rivals and successfully taken over from the hapless David Cameron – following his June 2016 referendum humiliation – Theresa May thought that she could inflict a massive general election defeat on the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party … if she seized hold of the political programme of the UK Independence Party. Of course, her gamble did not pay off. May’s presidential campaign proved to be a disaster, while Jeremy Corbyn’s For the many, not the few campaign was, by contrast, a brilliant success.

Now, irreversibly committed to a hard Brexit, the Tories resemble the Loony Tunes cartoon character, Wile E Coyote. Fixated on chasing the Road Runner, his nemesis, Wile E Coyote, suddenly finds himself in mid-air over a precipitous canyon. His legs still move and so does he. For a brief moment it appears nothing is wrong, that the momentum can be maintained. But, inevitably, Wile E Coyote realises that he is suspended in mid-air … then comes the long plunge to the ground.

Since the 48.11%-51.89% referendum result, Britain has not suffered the economic disaster George Osborne, Mark Carney, Peter Mandelson and co predicted. No yanking recession. No flight of capital. This has allowed little UK Europhobes right and left – from the Daily Mail to the Morning Star – to claim vindication. But a Brexit referendum result hardly amounts to Brexit. True, statisticians report that the British economy has been growing slower than the euro zone. It is, though, a case of anaemic growth compared with anaemic growth. Projected long-term, that heralds Britain’s continued relative decline.

Nonetheless, a negotiated hard Brexit deal – let alone a hard Brexit non-deal – could quite conceivably result in absolute decline. Such a prospect deeply worries big capital. Unless control over the Conservative Party can be reasserted, the choices it faces are all unpalatable: tariffs on goods going to the EU, reduced supplies of cheap labour, running down investment in Britain, decamping abroad, sponsorship of a national government, etc.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer has succeeded in getting the shadow cabinet to come out in favour of negotiating a “new single market relationship” with the EU. For the sake of appearances, he pays lip service to the 2016 referendum result. There is no wish to alienate the minority of Labour voters who backed ‘leave’. Nonetheless, the message on Europe is clear: it is Labour which is articulating the “interests and needs” of big capital.

Indeed, just before the Brighton conference opened, Jeremy Corbyn declared that Labour “is the natural party of business”.9)Morning Star September 23-24 2017 He has, in fact, said similar things before. Eg, 18 months ago Corbyn told the British Chambers of Commerce that “we are natural allies”. Such statements ought to be taken seriously. Basically what Corbyn is promising is that the “next Labour government” will be a normal Labour government. A government fully in the spirit of Ramsay MacDonald, Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson, etc. That ought to be good news for the Labour right – it shows that Corbyn can be tamed.

Whether or not big business believes Corbyn is another matter. After all, there is his long established record of opposing imperialist wars, supporting strikes and advocating wide-ranging nationalisation. And, of course, as the capitalist class well knows, behind Corbyn there lies a mass membership which is expressing itself, is eager for ideas and is already tentatively pursuing its own agenda: a mass membership which, if disappointed, if thwarted, if it asserts itself, could well abandon Corbyn and embrace the “dangers of Marxism” (Chris Leslie).

We do not consider big business “natural allies”. No, on the contrary, we strive to express and represent the “interests and needs” of the global working class. Hence, when it comes to Europe, instead of getting embroiled in the argument about what is and what is not in the ‘national interest’ – eg, staying in the single market versus leaving the single market – what Labour ought to adopt is a clear, ambitious and farsighted working class perspective.

Marxists have no illusions in the European Union. It is a bosses’ club, it is by treaty committed to neoliberalism and it is by law anti-working class (note, the European Court of Justice and its Viking, Laval and Rüffert judgements). But nor should we have any illusions in a so-called Lexit, as advocated by Labour MPs Dennis Skinner and Kelvin Hopkins.

On the contrary the EU should be seen as a site of struggle. Our task is to unite the working class in the EU in order to end the rule of capital and establish socialism on a continental scale. That would be the biggest contribution we can make to the global struggle for human liberation.

References

1 The Sunday Telegraph September 15 2017
2 Financial Times September 12 2017
3 https://uk. nance.yahoo.com/news/businesss- government-lobbying-brexit-isnt-working- heres-143415309.html
4 Time October 16 2015
5 H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York NY 1977, p324
6 House of Commons Library Debate pack Number CDP 2017/0159, September 8 2017
7 The Guardian April 1 2015
8 B Jones (ed) Political issues in Britain today Manchester 1999, p313
9 Morning Star September 23-24 2017

Thesis on the general election 2017 and after

June 8 was a disaster for Theresa May and a triumph for Jeremy Corbyn. Marxists need to explain how it happened and map out how our labour movement can take further steps forward. 

1. The results of the June 8 general election were almost without exception excellent from our viewpoint. The Tory share of the vote was 42.4%. Humiliatingly though, they lost 13 seats. Labour’s share of the vote rose to 40% and saw it gain 30 seats. No less positive, the Scottish National Party suffered a significant setback. They are down by 21 seats. True, as we have long warned, there was an always present danger of a Tory rebirth north of the border. Ruth Davidson now has 13-strong group of Scottish MPs. But Labour is back too. Having been reduced to a single MP, Labour now holds seven seats in Scotland’s central belt. Those on the left who pathetically trail the SNP – eg, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance, Scottish Socialist Party, etc, and wanted to “make” June 8 an “independence election” – have had their answer. And in Wales, instead of the Tories gaining, it was Labour.

2. With good reason we can say that there is a return to two-party politics. Not that it ever really went away. Capitalism, the existence of two main classes, the first-past-the-post system, all tend to produce two great camps: one of capital, the other of labour.

3. What of the other parties? The Liberal Democrats were well placed to hoover up discontented remainers because of their manifesto promise to oppose Brexit and the offer of a second referendum. True, they gained four seats. However, their share of the vote fell to just 7.4%, an all-time low. An additional bonus: Nick Clegg lost in Sheffield Hallam – the final coda to the Cleggmania that swept the country just before the 2010 general election.

The UK Independence Party now looks to be heading the same direction as the British National Party. And it was not Stand Up To Racism that was responsible – Theresa May stole their programme. This helps to explain why the Tories could increase their overall total vote to 13.6 million. Nevertheless, especially in the north of England Labour too benefited from Ukip’s collapse. Northern Ireland’s politics are ever more polarised. The Democratic Unionist Party gained two seats, as did Sinn Féin. In parliamentary terms the official Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic Labour Party suffered complete wipe-out.

4. Was June 8 a second EU referendum? Was it chiefly about Europe and Brexit? That is what pundits suggested when the general election was first called. And, obviously, that is what Theresa May and her Tory strategists intended. The same can be said of Paul Nuttall and Ukip, and Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats. However, unless they could not help it, that was never going to be the case with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Their position on the EU was, and is, deliberately equivocal. They campaigned ‘remain’ in 2016, now they say they respect the 52%-48% ‘leave’ vote. Moreover, they want a Brexit that protects British jobs and British industries, while simultaneously making noises about reducing the flow of labour from abroad. A classic left-nationalist fudge.

5. Lord Ashcroft’s analysis of the general election is revealing. Six out of 10 of those who voted ‘leave’ in 2016 voted Tory this time. Only 25% of them voted Labour. Meanwhile, amongst ‘remainers’ 25% voted Tory, 51% Labour and 24% Liberal Democrat. In other words, in terms of electoral base the Conservative Party is solidly pro-Brexit, that of the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats is opposed to Brexit. Certainly, taken as a whole, this bloc has no wish to see a hard Brexit. That said, when it comes to reasons for voting, while Tory and Lib Dem voters rated Europe as their key issue, Labour voters were much more likely to be motivated by education spending, NHS cuts, student grants, poor housing, low wages and opposing foreign intervention. Given how well Labour actually did, certainly when it came to poll predictions, it is clear that June 8 was not a Brexit election.

6. Arguably June 8 was a generational election. The figures are startling. Of those aged 18-24, a massive 66% went with Labour, a mere 18% with the Tories. And this cohort came out in record numbers, many for the first time. But when it comes to the over-65s, the picture almost reverses: 58% Tory, only 23% Labour. What this reflects, however, is not a generational war: rather class retrogression – the proletarianisation, the de-petty-bourgeoisification of the younger generation. They might be attending university, or already have graduated. But they come out of full-time education burdened with huge debts, and then they can only secure precarious or comparatively low-paid jobs. As for the dream of home ownership, it is likely to remain just that: a dream. They have to stay with aged parents, pay exorbitant rents for tiny, often shared, flats. Sociologists insist on classifying them as middle class, but, of course, they are no such thing. They are working class. They have to get up in the morning and sell their labour-power. Even those who still aspire to make it into the middle class bitterly oppose the Tories, their austerity, their anti-migrant national chauvinism, their warmongering, their amorality and their worship of the market. Newly qualified teachers, junior doctors and young techies alike voted Labour in huge numbers. Corbyn excited them, inspired them, motivated them.

7. Ever since Jeremy Corbyn looked like he was going to win the Labour leadership contest in 2015, certainly since the Brexit vote and Theresa May as prime minister, Marxists arrived at five main conclusions. One, the Labour right would fight an unremitting civil war against Corbyn and the left; two, we had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to transform the Labour Party; three, there would be no hard Brexit; four, whatever May was saying about waiting till 2020 and the fixed-term parliament act, she would eat her words and call a snap election over Brexit; five, the Labour Party would come out of the general election badly defeated.

8. Like many, we were surprised by Labour’s strong showing. We expected that the ongoing attacks against Jeremy Corbyn by the pro-capitalist right in the Labour Party, aided by almost the entire bourgeois media, would lead to Labour receiving a trouncing in the ballot box. We feared a Tory landslide and that Labour reduced to a parliamentary rump would demoralise the hundreds of thousands who had joined or rejoined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. We warned that the strategic goal of transforming the Labour Party would, as a consequence, flounder. It seemed desirable to try and lower expectations in the short term with a view of securing the long-term goal. We are glad that our fears did not materialise.

9. Our fears were understandable. In the couple of weeks before June 8 polling companies were reporting that, while the gap between the two main parties had narrowed, it was still considerable. ComRes gave the Tories a 12% lead (down from 21% when the election call was first made). ORB put the Tories at 44% and Labour 38%. On the day of the election, Lord Ashcroft produced estimates giving a Tory majority ranging from 52 to 96. Given past performance in by-elections and the recent round of council elections, such figures appeared quite likely. Labour was also plagued by a rightwing anti-Corbyn campaign that amounted to out-and-out sabotage. Labour MPs habitually briefed against Corbyn, staged coordinated resignations and regularly demanded his resignation. Rank-and-file leftwingers were subject to vile charges of anti-Semitism, intimidation and even assault. Thousands were expelled or suspended. While, of course, no rightwing Labour MP actually wanted to lose their seat, without exception they expected Labour to do badly. Therefore “working the tearooms” and the renewed preparation of leadership bids. Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna were widely touted. So was Clive Lewis (thanks to Owen Jones).

10. Terrified by the prospect of an increased Tory majority, Jon Cruddas, Clive Lewis, Helena Kennedy, Hilary Wainright, Tulip Siddiq, etc pleaded for Labour to stand aside for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion and the Isle of Wight. In line with this, Compass – a “leftwing” pressure group once aligned with the Labour Party, but now uniting “people across different political parties (and those with no party affiliation)” – promoted its ‘Progressive Alliance’. This popular front involved tactical voting and Labour, the Lib Dems, Plaid, the SNP, the Women’s Equality Party and the Greens getting together to “co-create a new politics”.

11. Of course, there was no increased Tory majority. Nor was there a ‘Progressive Alliance’. Thanks to Tory blundering, May’s cowardice, Corbyn’s wonderfully successful town and city rallies, his more than competent media performances, the alternative Labour machine in the form of Momentum and a huge army of individual members canvassing and campaigning, not least by Facebooking, Tweeting and Snapchatting, Labour did remarkably well.

12. Nevertheless, by all accounts, the Labour surge took place with the finishing line already in sight. The general election became really interesting only in the closing weeks. According to Lord Ashcroft’s post-election analysis, unlike the Tory vote, Labour’s took some time to firm up: 57% decided to vote Labour in the last month, 26% in the “last few days” of the campaign.

13. And there has been another significant influx into the party. Tens of thousands have joined. It should be said, moreover, that the majority of them stand instinctively, albeit vaguely, to the left. They soaked up Labour’s policies from the social ether … and gave them their own take. Tory propaganda also had its own, altogether unintended, effect. Corbyn was denounced as a communist, a Marxist, a friend of extremism, an advocate of class war. The Tories repeatedly showed old pictures of him standing alongside Gerry Adams; they repeatedly showed old pictures of him speaking in Trafalgar Square in opposition to the Iraq war.

14. This hugely expensive media and advertising campaign totally backfired. Nowadays many people, especially the young, are looking for an alternative to capitalism. They no longer fear socialism. They positively yearn for radical solutions … and they are looking to Jeremy Corbyn to deliver.

15. The Tories attacked Corbyn for suggesting some causal link between what has happened to Muslims in the Middle East over the last couple of decades and Manchester, London and other recent examples of home-grown Islamic terrorism. Well, there is a link. That is not to excuse the bombings, the car attacks, the stabbings. It is merely to state the obvious … and served to bring attention to Tory cuts in police numbers in pursuit of their austerity agenda.

Moreover, the electorate was usefully reminded by the Toriesthat Corbyn was one of the tiny minority of MPs who consistently stood against the imperial interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria … and the hell on earth they created. Not only has the ‘war on terror’ cost the lives of “as many as two million people” (Physicians for Social Responsibility). The conditions were created for al-Qa’eda, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Nusra, Islamic State, etc. As for Gerry Adams, British ministers now regularly meet and greet him. Sinn Féin is integral to the constitutional arrangement put in place by the 1998 Good Friday agreement. As for being pictured alongside Gerry Adams, Charles Windsor, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair have all posed for the world’s cameras, smiled and duly shook hands with the great peacemaker.

16. The general election greatly diminished Theresa May. She is a shadow of her former self. Her remaining time as prime minister is surely limited. Already her trusted aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, have been forced to fall on their swords. Leading rivals retain their ministerial posts and have demanded one token concession after another. The “confidence and supply” deal with Arlene Foster and her Democratic Unionist Party is a recipe for weak and unstable government. May’s allies are sectarian, bigoted, eccentric, crazed … and unreliable. Expect MPs to be transported to the Commons by ambulance. Expect desperate government bribes. Expect by-election defeats. Indeed, so slim is the government’s legislative majority, so fractured are the Tories, that what will happen in the Brexit negotiations is extraordinarily unpredictable.

17. The Brussels bureaucracy, the EU 27 – crucially Germany and France – will play hard ball. British negotiators will be treated with contempt. After all, Theresa May did not get the mandate she asked for. She was rebuffed, thwarted and punished by the British electorate on June 8. True, the Great Repeal Bill that parallels Brexit could be presented to parliament as a one-line motion. Politically, however, that is impossible. Meanwhile the two-year clock is already ticking away. The March 2017 vote on article 50 saw to that. Therefore, with an unprecedented mass of legislation to steer through parliament, in all probability Brexit will simply grind to a halt. Tellingly, both president Emmanuel Macron and the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaüble, have recently put on record that the EU is “open” to a British change of heart.

18. Big business frets over the uncertainty. The June 23 2016 EU referendum came as a terrible shock for the core representatives of capital. Now they have the June 8 2017 general election. A double whammy. Note, Moody’s is already casting doubt over Britain’s stability and its Aa1 credit rating. Understandably, desperate voices are being raised calling for a “national unity government” made up of ministers from both main parties. Of course, as the Financial Times readily admits, in the “real world” it will not happen. Corbyn has no apparent appetite for a coalition and is obviously relishing the prospect of a decaying Conservative Party and outright victory in the next general election.

19. The fact of the matter is that Labour’s For the many, not the few manifesto, is only a tad to the left of Ed Miliband’s 2015 offering. Britain can be better promised a ban on “exploitative” zero-hours contracts, to “freeze energy bills”, “abolish non-dom status”, to “value” trade unions as an “essential force” in society, to “reduce tuition fees to £6,000” annually, invest in health and education, put in place a national rail body and encourage “public-sector operators”, build “at least” 200,000 homes, “cut the deficit every year”, “replace” the House of Lords with an elected “Senate of the Nations and Regions” and “build an economy that works for working people”.

20. For the many promised to eliminate the “government’s deficit on day-to-day spending within five years”, “invest in cutting-edge” industries and to “upgrade our economy”, bring back into “public ownership” the rails, establish “publicly-owned water companies”, no new “private prisons”, “regain” control over “energy supply networks”, “review laws on trade union recognition”, “repeal the trade union act”, “ban zero-hour contracts”, a programme to build a “million new homes”, a Britain “for the many, not the few”, etc.

21. In other words a pro-worker Keynesianism that was tried, tested and failed in France with the 1981-83 socialist-communist government under president François Mitterrand. Having begun with the mildly leftwing policies of the common programme, which were presented as a step in the direction of socialism, Mitterand presided over the so-called tournant de la rigueur (austerity turn) two year later. Capital went on strike, inflation shot up and French competiveness slumped. The fate of the Syriza government in Greece should also stand as a warning.

22. That For the many is in fact Mitterandist lite did not stop the economistic left going into rhapsodic overdrive. The manifesto was welcomed as “a socialist platform”, “a programme which would help begin the socialist transformation of Britain”, etc.

23. However, there was nothing socialist about For the many. For orthodox Marxism socialism begins with a fundamental break with capitalism – socialism being, the rule of the working class and the transition to a classless, stateless, moneyless society. But For the many does not even adhere to a reformist socialism … which holds out the prospect of ending capitalism though introducing socialism in one country at a time through piecemeal legislative change.

24. For the many accepts capitalism, does not mention socialism, wants to reconcile antagonistic classes. In fact, for those willing to see, there are many tell-tale formulations in For the many designed to appease the pro-capitalist right in the Labour Party. No wonder after the shock of June 8 one MP after another has gone to TV and radio studios to sing its praises. The opening section of For the many includes the revealing statement that Labour “will support businesses”. Big capital is given the assurance that a Corbyn Labour government will keep corporation tax “among the lowest of the major economies”. And then there is the pledge to “put small business at the centre of our industrial strategy”. We are furthermore told that Corbyn and McDonnell will set a “target” for “eliminating” the deficit “within five years”.

25. Indeed, sadly, it is worth noting that For the manyinternalises many aspects of Thatcherism. Take the programme for building a million homes. Nine tenths of them are projected to be private. Only a tenth council and housing association. A Corbynite take on the Tory ideal of the property-owning democracy: a cynical attempt to undermine working class consciousness by getting mortgage slaves to imagine themselves as little capitalists.

26. Nato membership goes unquestioned and there is the boast that the last Labour government “consistently” spent above the 2% benchmark. Indeed it is claimed that the Tories are putting “Britain’s security at risk” by “shrinking the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars”. We are also told that the “scrapping of Nimrod, HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier jump-jets have weakened our defences and cost British taxpayers millions”. Unlike the Labour 1983 manifesto, For the many commits Labour not to a “non-nuclear defence policy”, but renewing the Trident missile system. Bizarrely, this is proposed in the name of fulfilling Britain’s “obligations” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So building the next generation of SSBN submarines – together capable of obliterating 172 cities – is meant to be a step towards “a nuclear-free world”.

27. No genuine leftwinger, no genuine socialist, no genuine Marxist could possibly support For the many. Our motto remains: “For this system, not one man, not one penny” (Wilhelm Liebknecht speaking in the German Reichstag in 1871). The working class should, as a matter of elementary principle, oppose the standing army, not regret its reduced size. We are for a popular militia, not weapons of mass destruction.

28. Nor are socialists purveyors of the myth of Britain’s “long established democracy”. Britain’s quasi-democracy is in historic terms recently established. And every democratic advance has been won from below in the face of fierce opposition from above. Most male workers only got the vote in 1918. Women in the late 1920s. And, of course, the capitalist press, the media, the education system normally ensures that the electorate normally votes for safe, careerist, bribable candidates (eg, a clear majority of Labour’s 262 MPs elected on June 8). Moreover, the country is a monarchy, where the privy council, the secret service, the bureaucracy, the army high command and the judges can legally dispose of any unacceptable government. Yet For the many innocently proclaims that: “Democracy is founded upon the rule of law and judicial independence.” A classic liberal formulation. And, apart from calling for an elected second chamber, a “more federalised country” and a vague phrase about “inviting recommendations about extending democracy”, the existing constitutional order is accepted.

29. The same goes for capitalism. For the many believes that capitalism, the economic system, can be managed for the benefit of the many. It simply cannot be done. Capitalism is a system of exploitation based on the endless self-expansion of capital and generalised wage-slavery. Individual capitalists and top managers can have their dividends heavily taxed and their salaries capped. But capital has to expand through extracting surplus value from workers … without that capital will cease to be capital, stay as money, find its way abroad, etc. In fact, the “creation of wealth” is not, as For the many maintains, “a collective endeavour between workers, entrepreneurs, investors and government”. Wealth is created not by so-called entrepreneurs, not by investors, not by government. No, wealth is created by workers … and nature.

30. Past Labour leaders have promised much in opposition … but once in office they always side with the interests of capital … typically disguised with the coded phrase, used by For the many, of putting the “national interest first”. And in the “national interest” they keep down wage rises, attack irresponsible strikes and back British capitalists against their foreign rivals.

Therefore the real significance of For the many lies not in how leftwing it is. No, it encapsulates the political drift, the taming of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Once they were left reformists; now they seem to have reconciled themselves to the existing constitutional order and system of capitalist exploitation. Obviously the same applies to the main writers of For the many – reportedly Andrew Fisher, a former darling of the LRC, and Seumas Milne, a former Straight Leftist.

31. However – and it cannot be stressed too strongly – for the ruling class, for the political, business and state establishment, Jeremy Corbyn remains totally unacceptable as a potential prime minister. His past statements on Marxism, the monarchy, Nato, nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union, Iraq, Zionism, Palestine, etc, rule him out as a safe option. No wonder, as soon as he was elected Labour leader, there were rumours of unnamed members of the army high command “not standing for” a Corbyn government and being prepared to take “direct action”. Prior to that, the normally sober Financial Times ominously warned that Corbyn’s leadership damages Britain’s “public life”.

32. Despite that – and again it cannot be stressed too strongly – the majority who voted Labour on June 8 did so not because of what For the many actually says, but because what they believe For the many says. Hence, while there is the strong probability that Corbyn and McDonnell will steer to the right, in the attempt to secure PLP unity and victory at the next general election, there is also the chance of transforming the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind and equipping it with the minimum-maximum programme of classical Marxism.

33. It is quite possible that the Tories will be doing their damnedest to avoid another general election in the short to medium term. Under these conditions our main emphasisshould not be demanding ‘Theresa May out’, etc. Just as David Cameron was smoothly replaced by Theresa May, the Tories will smoothly replace Theresa May with another leader. No, our main emphasis must be on transforming the Labour Party, defeating the right and democratising the entire labour movement from top to bottom.

34. If a Corbyn-led Labour Party wins a House of Commons majority and forms a government, we will defend it against attacks from the Labour right, the capitalist press, the City, big business, the secret state, etc. However, while it would be quite right to place specific demands on a Corbyn-led government, we need to bluntly state that a Corbyn-led government based on carrying out the For the many manifesto is not only to chase an illusion – the left-Keynesian illusion of a fair, just, equal capitalism: a Corbyn-led government based on For the many will be a capitalist government that, because of the exploitative inner logic of capitalism, will sooner rather than later attack the working class.

35. The danger is that this would demoralise Labour’s voter and activist base, put the Labour right firmly back in control and lead to yet another, even more reactionary, Tory government. However, that scenario can be avoided if the left, crucially the left in the Labour Party, commits itself, not to be a Corbyn fan club, but, instead, stands firmly on the principles and perspectives of working class rule, socialism and the transition to a stateless, moneyless, classless society. Of course, those principles and perspectives have to be given solid, well defined organisational form. The left needs to be reconstituted as an alternative Labour leadership and therefore an alternative government.

36. Under conditions of government, a thoroughly democratised Labour Party, a Labour Party that is open to the affiliation of all socialist organisations, a Labour Party that has been remade into a permanent united front of the working class, would deselect en masse wayward MPs, including a wayward Labour prime minister.

Things have just got even better

The unexpected general election result has considerably weakened the Tories and strengthened Jeremy Corbyn’s position. The left has a real chance of transforming the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind, says James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists

I was firmly convinced that the Tories were heading for a clear majority and the Labour Party would almost certainly lose seats. You can therefore appreciate my emotional state on election night. Delight mixed with surprise, as soon as the joint BBC-ITV-Sky exit poll was announced. The Tories were on track to be the biggest party … but with no overall majority.

From our viewpoint the results were almost without exception excellent. While the Tory share of the vote was 42.4%, humiliatingly they lost 13 seats. Labour’s share rose to 40% and we gained 30 seats. No less pleasing, the Scottish National Party suffered a significant setback – down by 21. True, as we have long warned, there was an always present danger of a Tory rebirth north of the border. Ruth Davidson now has 13-strong group of Scottish MPs. But Labour is back too. Having been reduced to a single MP in 2015, we now hold seven seats in Scotland’s central belt. Those on the left who pathetically trail the SNP – eg, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance, Scottish Socialist Party, etc – and wanted to “make” June 8 an “independence election” have had their answer.1)www.scottishsocialistparty.org/category/news And in Wales, instead of the Tories gaining, it was Labour.

With good reason we can say that there is a return to two-party politics. Not that it ever really went away. Capitalism, the existence of two main classes, the first-past-the-post system – all tend to produce two great camps: one of capital, the other of labour.

So what about the other parties? Frankly, I expected a minor Liberal Democratic revival. They are, after all, ideally placed to hoover up discontented remainers because of their manifesto promise to oppose Brexit and the offer of a second referendum. True, they gained four seats. However, their share of the vote fell to just 7.4% – an all-time low 2)From a 1951 2.5% historic low point the Liberal Party enjoyed a revival in the 1970s, which saw them win 19.3% of the popular vote in the February 1974 general election. Despite the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, even in the 1979, 1983 and 1987 general elections the Liberal vote stood up at well over 10%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Party_(UK)#Electoral_performance. As for the Liberal Democrats, their vote has taken this path: 1992, 17.8%; 1997, 16.8%; 2001, 18.3%; 2005, 22%; 2015, 7.9%; 2017, 7.4%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democrats_(UK). An additional bonus: Nick Clegg lost in Sheffield Hallam3)http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/sheffield-hallam-a-parallel-campaign-to-defeat-nick-clegg/ – the final coda to the Cleggmania that swept the country just before the 2010 general election.

The UK Independence Party now looks to be heading in the same direction as the British National Party. And it wasn’t Stand Up To Racism what done it. Theresa May stole Ukip’s programme. This helps to explain why the Tories could increase their overall total vote to 13.6 million. Nevertheless, especially in the north of England Labour too benefited from Ukip’s collapse.

Northern Ireland’s politics are ever more polarised. The Democratic Unionist Party gained two seats, as did Sinn Féin. In parliamentary terms the official Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic Labour Party suffered complete wipe-out.

Nature of election

Was June 8 a second EU referendum? Was it chiefly about Europe and Brexit? That is what pundits suggested when the general election was first called. And, obviously, that is what Theresa May and her Tory strategists intended. The same can be said of Paul Nuttall and Ukip, and Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats. However, unless they could not help it, that was never going to be the case with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Their position on the EU was, and is, deliberately equivocal. They campaigned ‘remain’ in 2016, but now they say they respect the 52:48% ‘leave’ vote. Moreover, they want a Brexit that protects British jobs and British industries, while simultaneously making noises about reducing the flow of labour from abroad. A classic left-nationalist fudge.

Here the Lord Ashcroft analysis of the general election makes fascinating reading. Six out of 10 of those who were for ‘leave’ in 2016 voted Tory this time. Only 25% of them voted Labour. Meanwhile, amongst ‘remainers’ 25% voted Tory, 51% Labour and 24% Liberal Democrat. In other words, in terms of electoral base the Conservative Party is solidly pro-Brexit, while that of the Labour Party and Lib Dems is opposed to Brexit. Certainly, taken as a whole, this bloc has no wish to see a hard Brexit. That said, when it comes to reasons for voting, while Tory and Lib Dem voters rated Europe as their key issue, Labour voters were much more likely to be motivated by education spending, NHS cuts, student grants, poor housing, low wages and opposing wars of foreign intervention. Given how well Labour actually did, certainly when it came to poll predictions, it is clear that June 8 was not a Brexit election.

Arguably it was a generational election. The figures are startling. Of those aged 18-24 a massive 66% went with Labour; a mere 18% for the Tories. And this cohort came out in record numbers. Many for the first time. However, when it comes to the over-65s, the picture almost reverses: 58% Tory, only 23% Labour. 4)http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2017/06/result-happen-post-vote-survey

What this reflects, however, is not a generational war: rather class retrogression, the proletarianisation, the de-petty-bourgeoisification of the younger generation. They might be attending university, or already have graduated. But they come out of full-time education burdened with huge debts, and then they can only secure precarious or comparatively low-paid jobs. As for the dream of home ownership, it is likely to remain just that: a dream. They have to stay with aged parents, pay exorbitant rents for tiny, often shared, flats. Sociologists insist on classifying them as middle class, but of course they are no such thing. They are working class. They have to get up in the morning and sell their labour-power. Even those who still aspire to make it into the middle class bitterly oppose the Tories – their austerity, their anti-migrant national chauvinism, their warmongering, their amorality and their worship of the market. Newly qualified teachers, junior doctors and young techies alike voted Labour in huge numbers. Corbyn chimed with them, excited them.

Predictions

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn looked like he was going to win the Labour leadership contest in 2015 – certainly since the Brexit vote and Theresa May became prime minister – Marxists arrived at five main conclusions:

  1. The Labour right would fight an unremitting civil war against Corbyn and the left.
  2. We had a once-in-a-lifetime’s chance to transform the Labour Party.
  3. There would be no Brexit – definitely no hard Brexit.
  4. Whatever May was saying about waiting till 2020 and the fixed-term parliament act, she would eat her words and call a snap election over Brexit.
  5. The Labour Party would come out of the general election in no position to form a government.

I make no apology about warning about a bad Labour result. The danger was that a Tory landslide and Labour being reduced to a parliamentary rump would demoralise the hundreds of thousands who had joined or rejoined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn. The strategic goal of transforming the Labour Party could, as a consequence, hit the rocks. It was necessary therefore to try and lower expectations in the short term with a view to securing the long-term goal.

And, of course, that is what the polls were telling us. In the couple of weeks before June 8 polling companies were reporting that, while the gap between the two main parties had narrowed, it was still considerable. ComRes gave the Tories a 12% lead (down from 21% when the election call was first made). ORB put the Tories at 44% and Labour 38%. On the day of the election, Lord Ashcroft produced estimates giving a Tory majority ranging from 52 to 96. Given past performances in by-elections and the recent round of council elections, such figures struck me as quite likely. Labour was also plagued by a rightwing anti-Corbyn campaign that amounted to out-and-out sabotage. Labour MPs habitually briefed against Corbyn, staged coordinated resignations and regularly demanded his resignation. Rank-and-file leftwingers were subject to vile charges of anti-Semitism, intimidation and even assault. Thousands were expelled or suspended. While, of course, no rightwing Labour MP actually wanted to lose their seat, without exception they expected Labour to do badly. Therefore the “working the tearooms” in preparation for a new leadership challenge.5)Evening Standard April 20 2017 Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna were widely touted. So was Clive Lewis (thanks to Owen Jones).

Hence, it was more than reasonable to take a sober approach. Opinion polls, recent election results, ongoing Labour Party divisions and historical parallels, such as 1931 and 1983, are certainly a lot more reliable than subjective impressions derived from the last person one happened to talk to on the bus or at the train station.

Terrified by the prospect of an increased Tory majority Jon Cruddas, Clive Lewis, Helena Kennedy, Hilary Wainwright, Tulip Siddiq, etc, pleaded for Labour to stand aside for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion and the Isle of Wight.6)Letters The Guardian April 30 2017 In line with this, Compass – a “leftwing” pressure group, once aligned with the Labour Party, but now uniting “people across different political parties (and those with no party affiliation)” – promoted its ‘Progressive Alliance’.7)www.compassonline.org.uk/about This popular front involved tactical voting and Labour, the Lib Dems, Plaid, the SNP, the Women’s Equality Party and the Greens getting together to “co-create a new politics”. 8)www.compassonline.org.uk/together-we-win

Of course, there was no increased Tory majority. Nor was there a ‘Progressive Alliance’. Thanks to Tory blundering, May’s cowardice, Corbyn’s wonderfully successful town and city rallies, his more than competent media performances, the alternative Labour machine in the form of Momentum and a huge army of individual members canvassing and campaigning – not least by Facebooking, Tweeting and Snapchatting – Labour did remarkably well.

Seemingly, the Labour surge took place with the finishing line already in sight. According to Lord Ashcroft’s post-election analysis, unlike the Tory vote, Labour’s took some time to firm up: 57% decided to vote Labour in the last month, 26% in the “last few days” of the campaign.9)http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2017/06/result-happen-post-vote-survey

And there has been another mass influx into the party. Hundreds of thousands have joined. It should be said, moreover, that the majority of them stand instinctively, albeit vaguely, to the left. They soaked up Labour’s policies from the social ether … and interpret them as far more radical than they actually are. Tory propaganda also had its own, altogether unintended, effect. Corbyn was denounced as a communist, a Marxist, a friend of extremism, an advocate of class war. The Tories repeatedly showed old pictures of him standing alongside Gerry Adams. They repeatedly showed old pictures of him speaking in Trafalgar Square in opposition to the Iraq war.

This hugely expensive media and advertising campaign totally backfired. Nowadays many people, especially the young, are looking for an alternative to capitalism. They no longer fear socialism. They positively yearn for fundamental change … and they are looking to Jeremy Corbyn to deliver.

What about the Iraq war? The Tories attacked Corbyn for suggesting some causal link between what has happened to Muslims in the Middle East over the last couple of decades and Manchester, London and other recent examples of home-grown Islamic terrorism. Well, there is a link. That is not to excuse the bombings, the car attacks, the stabbings. It is merely to state the obvious … and it served to bring attention to Tory cuts in police numbers in pursuit of their austerity agenda.

Moreover, the electorate was usefully reminded by the Toriesthat Corbyn was one of the tiny minority of MPs who consistently stood against the imperialist interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria … and the hell on earth they created. Not only has the ‘war on terror’ cost the lives of “as many as two million people” (Physicians for Social Responsibility).10)www.middleeasteye.net/columns/unworthy-victims-western-wars-have-killed-four-million-muslims-1990-39149394 The conditions were created for al Qa’eda, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Nusra, Islamic State, etc. As for Gerry Adams, British ministers now regularly meet and greet him. Sinn Féin is integral to the constitutional arrangement put in place by the 1998 Good Friday agreement. As for being pictured alongside Gerry Adams – Charles Windsor, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair have all posed for the world’s cameras, smiled and duly shook hands with the great peacemaker.

Brexit crisis

The general election greatly diminished Theresa May. She is a shadow of her former self. Her remaining time as prime minister is surely very limited. Already her trusted aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, have been forced to fall on their swords. Leading rivals retain their ministerial posts and have demanded one token concession after another. The proposed “confidence and supply” deal with Arlene Foster and her Democratic Union Party is a recipe for weak and unstable government. May’s allies are sectarian, bigoted, eccentric, crazed … and unreliable. Expect to see MPs transported to the Commons by ambulance. Expect desperate government bribes. Expect by-election defeats. Indeed, so slim is the government’s legislative majority, so fractured are the Tories, that the prospect of a hard Brexit has been reduced to zero. At least that is my considered opinion.

The Brussels bureaucracy, the EU 27, crucially Germany and France, will play hard ball. British negotiators will be treated with contempt. After all, Theresa May did not get the mandate she asked for. She was rebuffed, thwarted and punished by the British electorate.

True, the Great Repeal Bill that parallels Brexit could be presented to parliament as a one-line motion. Politically, however, that is impossible. There are too many factions, too many conflicting interests, too many hobbyhorses. Meanwhile the two-year clock is already ticking away. The March 2017 vote on article 50 saw to that. Therefore, with an unprecedented mass of legislation to steer through parliament, in all probability the whole Brexit process will simply grind to a halt. Tellingly, both president Emmanuel Macron and the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, have recently stressed that the EU is “open” to a British change of heart.11)www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40267063

Big business frets mightily over the uncertainty. The June 23 2016 EU referendum came as a terrible shock for the core representatives of capital. Now they have the June 8 2017 general election. A double whammy. Note, Moody’s is already casting doubt over Britain’s stability and its Aa1 credit rating. Understandably, desperate voices are being raised calling for a “national unity government” made up of ministers from both main parties. Of course, as the Financial Times readily admits, in the “real world” it will not happen.12)Editorial Financial Times June 10 2017 Corbyn has no apparent appetite for a coalition and is obviously relishing the prospect of a decaying Conservative Party and outright victory in the next general election.

Labour’s manifesto

Yet the fact of the matter is that Labour’s For the many, not the few manifesto is only a tad to the left of Ed Miliband’s 2015 offering. Britain can be better promised a ban on “exploitative” zero-hours contracts, to “freeze energy bills”, “abolish non-dom status”, to “value” trade unions as an “essential force” in society, to “reduce tuition fees to £6,000” annually, invest in health and education, put in place a national rail body and encourage “public-sector operators”, build “at least” 200,000 homes, “cut the deficit every year”, “replace” the House of Lords with an elected “Senate of the Nations and Regions”, and “build an economy that works for working people”.13)Labour Party Britain can be better London 2015

For the many promised to eliminate the “government’s deficit on day-to-day spending within five years”, “invest in cutting-edge” industries and to “upgrade our economy”, bring back into “public ownership” the rails, establish “publicly-owned water companies”, no new “private prisons”, “regain” control over “energy supply networks”, “review laws on trade union recognition”, “repeal the Trade Union Act”, “ban zero-hour contracts”, a programme to build a “million new homes”, a Britain “for the many, not the few”, etc.

In other words, a pro-worker Keynesianism that was tried, tested and failed in France with the socialist-communist government under president François Mitterrand. Having begun in 1981 with the mildly leftwing policies of the common programme, he presided over the so-called tournant de la rigueur (austerity turn) two years later. Capital went on strike, inflation shot up and French competiveness slumped. That For the many is in fact thoroughly Mitterandist did not stop the economistic left going into rhapsodic overdrive.

A Labour Briefing editorial called for “Labour to power” and somehow managed to claim that this amounts to “a clear socialist message”.14)Labour Briefing May 2017 The Labour Representation Committee, the mother ship of Labour Briefing, welcomed the manifesto as “a programme which would help begin the socialist transformation of Britain”. The LRC even gave For the manyits own subtitle: A socialist manifesto for Britain. But the word ‘socialism’ never appears anywhere in the actual text.

Socialist Worker fulsomely welcomed Labour’s manifesto as a “shift to the left” and, crazily, urged Corbyn to embrace the cause of Scottish independence.15)Socialist Worker May 11 2017

Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, announced that it would fight “for a Jeremy Corbyn-led government with socialist policies”.16)The Socialist May 12 2017

Paul Mason, formerly a leading Workers Power member, now a right-moving “Momentum activist”, said that we can “elect the Labour Party on a socialist platform”.

Socialist Resistance – otherwise known as Resisting Socialism – praised Corbyn for presenting a “radical alternative” … and in that spirit called for an “anti-austerity alliance” uniting Labour, the Greens and the SNP.17)http://socialistresistance.org/corbyn-presents-a-radical-alternative/10054 Class politics is a long forgotten concept for these comrades.

Ironically, the economistic left found confirmation in the hard right print media. Except, of course, that their hopes are turned into nightmares. The Daily Telegraph described the Labour manifesto as “a tax raid on the middle class” and a recipe to “take Britain back to the 1970s”.18)The Daily Telegraph May 16 2017 A “socialist programme”, fumed the Daily Mail, that is “red in tooth and claw and dripping with class envy”.19)Daily Mail May 10 2017 The Sun, Express, The Times, etc, could be quoted along similar lines.

However, as we have seen, there is precious little that is genuinely leftwing about For the many. Certainly it has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine socialism. For orthodox Marxism, as everyone knows, socialism begins with a fundamental break with capitalism – socialism being the rule of the working class and the transition to a classless, stateless, moneyless society. But For the many does not even adhere to a reformist socialism … which holds out the seemingly plausible prospect of ending capitalism though introducing socialism in one country at a time through piecemeal legislative change.

For the many accepts capitalism, does not mention socialism, wants to reconcile antagonistic classes. In fact, for those willing to see, there are many tell-tale formulations within it, designed to appease the openly pro-capitalist right. No wonder in the aftershock of June 8 one rightwing Labour MP after another has gone to TV and radio studios to sing its praises.

The opening section of For the many includes the revealing statement that Labour “will support businesses”. Big capital is given the assurance that a Corbyn Labour government will keep corporation tax “among the lowest of the major economies”. And then there is the pledge to “put small business at the centre of our industrial strategy”.

As for ‘back to the 1970s’, in truth it is more like ‘back to the 1980s’. Margret Thatcher thought that rail privatisation was a step too far. What of prisons? Did she ever seriously envisage wholesale privatisation? No, the most that was considered to be politically viable was allowing private companies to tender for contracts and building prisons through the so-called private finance initiative (continued by the Blair-Brown Labour governments).

Indeed, sadly, it is worth noting that For the manyinternalises many aspects of Thatcherism. Take the programme of building a million homes. Nine-tenths of them are projected to be private. Only a tenth council and housing association. A Corbynite take on the Tory ideal of the property-owning democracy: a cynical attempt to undermine working class consciousness by getting mortgage slaves to imagine themselves little capitalists.

Nato membership goes unquestioned and there is the boastthat the last Labour government “consistently” spent above the 2% benchmark. Indeed it is claimed that the Tories are putting “Britain’s security at risk” by “shrinking the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars”. We are also told that “the scrapping of Nimrod, HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier jump-jets have weakened our defences and cost British taxpayers millions”. Unlike the Labour 1983 manifesto, For the many commits Labour, not to a “non-nuclear defence policy”, but renewing the Trident missile system. Bizarrely, this is proposed in the name of fulfilling Britain’s “obligations” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So building the next generation of SSBN submarines, together capable of obliterating 172 cities, is meant to be a step towards “a nuclear-free world”.

No genuine leftwinger, no genuine socialist, no genuine Marxist could possibly support For the many. Our motto remains “For this system, not one man, not one penny” (Wilhelm Liebknecht speaking in the German Reichstag in 1871). The working class should, as a matter of elementary principle, oppose the standing army, not regret its reduced size. We are for a popular militia, not weapons of mass destruction.

Nor are socialists purveyors of the myth of Britain’s “long established democracy”. Britain’s quasi-democracy is in historic terms recently established. And every democratic advance has been won from below in the face of fierce opposition from above. Male workers only got the vote in the late 19th century. Women in the 1920s. And, of course, the capitalist press, the media, the education system ensure that the electorate normally votes for safe, careerist, bribable candidates (eg, a clear majority of Labour’s 262 MPs elected on June 8). Moreover, the country is a monarchy, where the privy council, the secret service, the bureaucracy, the army high command and the judges can legally dispose of any unacceptable government. Yet For the many innocently proclaims that “Democracy is founded upon the rule of law and judicial independence.” A classic liberal formulation. And, apart from calling for an elected second chamber, a “more federalised country” and a vague phrase about “inviting recommendations about extending democracy”, the existing constitutional order is accepted.

The same goes for capitalism. For the many believes that capitalism, the economic system, can be managed for the benefit of the many. But it simply cannot be done. Capitalism is a system of exploitation based on the endless self-expansion of capital and generalised wage-slavery. Individual capitalists and top managers can have their dividends heavily taxed and their salaries capped. But capital has to expand through extracting surplus value from workers … without that capital will cease to be capital, stay as money, find its way abroad, etc. In fact, the “creation of wealth” is not, as For the manymaintains, “a collective endeavour between workers, entrepreneurs, investors and government”. Wealth is created not by so-called entrepreneurs, not by investors, not by government. No, wealth is created by workers … and nature.

Past Labour leaders have promised much in opposition … but once in office they always side with the interests of capital … typically disguised with the coded phrase, used by For the many, of putting the “national interest first”. And in the “national interest” they keep down wage rises, attack irresponsible strikes and back British capitalists against foreign rivals.

Therefore the real significance of For the many lies not in how leftwing it is. No, it encapsulates the political drift, the taming of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Once they were left reformists; now they seem to have reconciled themselves to the existing constitutional order and the system of capitalist exploitation. Obviously the same applies to the main authors of For the many – reportedly Andrew Fisher, a former darling of the LRC, and Seumas Milne, a former Straight Leftist.

However – and it cannot be stressed too strongly – for the ruling class, for the political, business and state elite, Jeremy Corbyn remains totally unacceptable as a potential prime minister. His past statements on Marxism, the monarchy, Nato, nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union, Iraq, Zionism, Palestine, etc, rule him out as a safe option. No wonder, as soon as he was elected Labour leader, there were rumours of unnamed members of the army high command “not standing for” a Corbyn government and being prepared to take “direct action”.20)The Sunday Times September 20 2015 Prior to that, the normally sober Financial Times ominously warned that Corbyn’s leadership damages Britain’s “public life”.21)Financial Times August 14 2015

Despite that, the majority who voted Labour on June 8 did so not because of what For the many actually says, but because what they believe For the many says. Hence, while there is the distinct danger that Corbyn and McDonnell will steer further to the right, in the attempt to secure PLP unity and victory at the next general election, there is also a real chance of transforming the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind … and equipping it with the minimum-maximum programme of classical Marxism.

Programme

The minimum programme, it should be stressed, is not concerned with tinkering with capitalism: rather readying the working class to become the ruling class. So the minimum programme is both the maximum the working class can achieve under capitalism and the minimum terms the workers’ party sets for forming a government.

Hence demands such as genuine equality for women, extending popular control over all aspects of society, devolving power downwards, a federal republic, Irish unity, abolishing the monarchy, the second chamber, MI5 and disestablishing the Church of England. The shortage of housing should be ended through a massive programme of council house building. Flats and houses must, of course, be of a high quality and rents set at a token level. Allocation should be on the basis of need. State secrets should be ended, along with all forms of censorship. The pharmaceutical industry, the power, water and transport infrastructure, land, the banks and financial services must be nationalised. Judges should be not be appointed from above, but subject to popular election.

Marxists certainly oppose Brexit and instead demand the democratisation of the European Union – moving towards an indivisible Europe under a council of ministers elected by the European parliament. And, while Marxists would advocate specific measures to protect small businesses and farms from exploitation by banks and monopolies, we have no wish to preserve this sector in aspic. Indeed its destruction is historically progressive.

For the sake of human survival we must put a stop to the degradation of nature in double quick time and seek to preserve what remains. Native animal and plant species should be reintroduced. In short, the connection between town and country must be placed on new foundations. Huge farms and urban sprawl have to be replaced by an urbanised countryside and cities full of gardens, small farms and open spaces. Trade unions must be freed from state control. They are voluntary associations. We fight for complete democratisation and measures to combat bureaucracy in the trade union movement.

When it comes to the armed forces, we demand that officers be elected. There should also be full trade union rights and the rank-and-file soldiers must be encouraged to mutiny if they are given orders that run counter to the interests of democracy, the working class and the struggle for socialism. Of course, we want to see the end of the standing army and its replacement by a popular militia.

Unless we can carry out such a programme in full, which would, obviously, require international coordination, we cannot countenance forming a government. Meantime our task is to act as a party of extreme opposition.

Ten-point platform

There has been much silly media talk of a PLP split and MPs resigning the Labour whip and sitting as independents until Corbyn quits as leader. Frankly, it is not going to happen. To this day, the right is haunted by the ghosts of Ramsay MacDonald and the Gang of Four. MacDonald, twice a Labour prime minister, led what he called the National Labour Organisation into a thoroughly unequal coalition with the Tories in 1931. The Gang of Four of Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams broke away exactly 50 years later to form the Social Democratic Party. The NLO instantly became a tame Tory slave – it finally dissolved in 1945. As for the SDP, it merged with the Liberal Party in 1988 and shared the same richly deserved fate. From the early 1970s, even till the late 80s, of course, the political centre enjoyed something of a revival. No longer.22)From a 1951 2.5% historic low point the Liberal Party enjoyed a revival in the 1970s, which saw them win 19.3% of the popular vote in the February 1974 general election. Despite the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, even in the 1979, 1983 and 1987 general elections the Liberal vote stood up at well over 10%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Party_(UK)#Electoral_performance. As for the Liberal Democrats, their vote has taken this path: 1992, 17.8%; 1997, 16.8%; 2001, 18.3%; 2005, 22%; 2015, 7.9%; 2017, 7.4%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democrats_(UK) Despite May’s hard Brexit stance providing an open goal, the Lib Dems remain to this day marginalised and widely despised.

Given the results of June 8 and the punishing logic of the first-past-the-post system, only a complete fool would now expect Tom Watson to play Ramsay MacDonald, Sadiq Khan to step in for Philip Snowden or Iain McNicol to make an appearance as Benjamin Musgrave. Even with a bad general election result there is every reason to believe that Corbyn would have seen off another leadership challenge. Obviously, with June 8, Corbyn’s position has become considerably stronger. However, while there is every reason to defend Corbyn against the right, we must go far beyond that. Our goal is socialism and towards that end we must put in place and fashion the organisational means. That is why the LPM advocates this 10-point platform.

  1. Fight for Labour Party rule changes. Crucially, all elected Labour representatives must be subject to mandatory reselection based on ‘one member, one vote’. MPs must be brought under democratic control – from above, by the NEC; from below, by the CLPs.
    Mandatory reselection, of course, terrifies the right. It was this, “even more than nuclear disarmament and membership of the European Community, that became the main catalyst for the launch of the breakaway Social Democratic Party”.23)http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps Progress, Lord David Sainsbury’s party within the party, furiously denounces mandatory reselection as “a weapon of fear and intimidation”.24)www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament Yes, mandatory reselection is viewed as an affront by every wrecker, every hireling, every parliamentary careerist.
    It is worth revisiting the background. Interestingly, and with good reason, we read, on the Progress website, that mandatory reselection carries “echoes of the Paris Commune, and of the Russian soviets, where delegates were subject to recall if they displeased their local citizenry. It rests on the idea that leaders will always be tempted to sell you out, once they get power.”25)www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament Well, surely, that is what history actually shows.
    For decades, sitting Labour MPs – certainly those in safe seats – enjoyed a job for life (as long as no better offer came along). They might visit their constituency once or twice a year, deliver a speech to the AGM and write an occasional letter to the local newspaper. Meanwhile they lived a pampered, middle class life, frequented various London’s gentlemen’s clubs and spent their weekends in the home counties countryside with Lord this and Lady that. Despite such evident moral corruption, they were automatically the candidate for the next election. Unless found guilty of an act of gross indecency or had the party whip withdrawn, they could do as they pleased.
    With the insurgent rise of Bennism that situation was increasingly called into question. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, founded in 1973, committed itself to a range of internal reforms – crucially mandatory reselection of MPs, which was finally agreed by the 1980 conference. What this saw, however, was not a Labour Party equivalent of the Paris Commune or the Russian soviets – there was no right of instant recall. Nevertheless, once in each parliament, our MPs had to get the endorsement of their local general management committee. Note, GMCs were made up of delegates elected by local party and trade union branches. They were sizable bodies, typically consisting of 100 or even more delegates.
    At the prompting of the bourgeois media and desperately seeking acceptability, Neil Kinnock sought to extract trade unions from the voting process altogether. He failed, but accepted a compromise. A local electoral college for the selection and reselection of candidates was introduced. Ordinary members were given a direct vote for the first time, leaving GMCs with the right to nominate and shortlist only. This electoral college system gave unions and affiliated organisations up to 40% of the vote, with ordinary members having some 60% (the actual balance was different in each seat, depending on party and union membership).
    Trigger ballots were a product of the 1990s. Formally honouring conference’s “desire to maintain reselection”, they made it significantly “easier for MPs to defend their positions”.26)http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps Trigger ballots allowed for a sitting MP to be subject to a full-scale ballot of the membership. But only if they lost the trigger ballot.
  1. We need a sovereign conference once again. The cumbersome, undemocratic and oppressive structures, especially those put in place under the Blair supremacy, must be rolled back. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, etc, must go.
  2. Scrap the hated compliance unit “and get back to the situation where people are automatically accepted for membership, unless there is a significant issue that comes up” (John McDonnell).27)http://labourlist.org/2016/02/mcdonnell-and-woodcock-clash-over-plan-to-scrap-member-checks The compliance unit operates in the murky shadows, it violates natural justice, it routinely leaks to the capitalist media. We say, allow in those good socialists who have been barred, reinstate those good socialists who have expelled or suspended.
  3. Momentum proved to be an effective campaigning organisation. An alternative election machine for Corbyn and McDonnell to wield, given the sabotage, bias and limited imagination of Iain McNicol and the Victoria Street HQ. But politically the stultifying inertia imposed on Momentum has proved to be an own goal. Eg, Jon Lansman blocked all Momentum attempts to oppose the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smears; nor did he allow Momentum to fight the 2016 purge of leftwing supporters of Corbyn. It is now impossible to transform Momentum into a democratic organisation – an organisation that can educate, activate and empower the rank-and-file membership. So there is an urgent need for the left to organise within Momentum branches where they still exist … but, also, go far beyond that by expanding the influence and organised strength of Labour Party Marxists.
  4. Winning new trade union affiliates ought to be a top priority. The FBU reaffiliated. Excellent. Matt Wrack at last came to his senses. He took the lead in reversing the disaffiliation policy. But what about RMT? Especially after June 8 we can surely get RMT militants to finally drop their support for the thoroughly misconceived Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition project. Not only vote Labour, but reaffiliate to Labour … and exert real influence. And what about the NUT? This year’s Cardiff conference saw the executive win an amendment by the narrowest (50.63% to 49.37%) majority, which effectively ruled out affiliation. This can surely be changed … if we campaign to win hearts and minds. Then there is PCS. Thankfully, Mark Serwotka, its leftwing general secretary, has at last come round to the idea. True, PCS affiliation to the Labour Party will run up against the Trades Disputes and Trade Union Act (1927). Introduced by a vengeful Tory government in the aftermath of the general strike, civil service unions were barred from affiliating to the Labour Party and the TUC in the name of ensuring the “political neutrality” of civil servants. The Civil and Public Services Association – predecessor of PCS – reaffiliated to the TUC in 1946. Now, however, surely it is time for the PCS to reaffiliate to the Labour Party. Force another change in the law.
  5. Every constituency, ward and other such basic unit must be won and rebuilt by the left. Our individual membership grew from 200,000 in May 2015 to over 500,000 because of the historic opening provided by Corbyn. And with the general election campaign membership has again risen, this time to over 550,000. A million members is within our grasp. However, the left must convince the sea of new members to attend meetings … only then can we sweep out the right from the NEC, the HQ, the councils and the PLP. Elect officers who support genuine socialism. Elect officers who are committed to transforming our wards and constituencies into vibrant centres of socialist organisation, education and action.
  6. Our goal should be to transform the Labour Party, so that, in the words of Keir Hardie, it can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”.28)Independent Labour Party Report of the 18th annual conference London 1910, p59 Towards that end we need rule changes to once again permit left, communist and revolutionary parties to affiliate. That is what we mean by a united front of a special kind. As long as they do not stand against us in elections, this can only but strengthen us as a federal party. Today affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the Left, the Cooperative party … the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. Allow the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, CPGB, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, etc, to join our ranks.
  7. Being an MP ought to be an honour, not a career ladder, not a way for university graduates to secure a lucrative living. A particularly potent weapon here is the demand that all our elected representatives should take only the average wage of a skilled worker – a principle upheld by the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution. Our MPs are on a basic £67,060 annual salary. On top of that they get around £12,000 in expenses and allowances, putting them on £79,060 (yet at present Labour MPs are only obliged to pay the £82 parliamentarians’ subscription rate). Moreover, as leader of the official opposition, Jeremy Corbyn not only gets his MP’s salary. He is entitled to an additional £73,617.29)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader_of_the_Opposition_(United_Kingdom).
    Let them keep the average skilled worker’s wage – say £40,000 (plus legitimate expenses). Then, however, they should hand the balance over to the party. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott ought to take the lead in this.
  8. We must establish our own press, radio and TV. To state the obvious, texting, Twitter and Facebook etc have severe limits. They are brilliant mediums for transmitting simple, short and sharp messages. But, when it comes to complex ideas, debating history and charting political strategies, they are worse than useless.
  9. Programmatically, we should adopt a new clause four. Not a return to the old, 1918, version, but a commitment to working class rule and a society which aims for a stateless, classless, moneyless society, which embodies the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. That is what socialism is all about. Not a measly £10 per hour “living wage”, shifting the tax balance and a state investment bank. No, re-establishing socialism in the mainstream of politics means committing the Labour Party to achieving a “democratic republic”.30)Labour Party Marxists July 7 2016

 

Sidelines

Organisations such as SPEW, the SWP, the CPB and Left Unity are having a hard time of things at the moment. Not only are they haemorrhaging members: there is profound political disorientation.

Having dismissed the Labour Party as nothing more than a British version of the US Democrat Party, having fought for trade unions to disaffiliate, SPEW’s general secretary, Peter Taaffe, is busily rowing backwards. But if he wants his perfectly correct call for the Labour Party to be opened up once again to affiliation by socialist organisations to be treated seriously, it is obvious what he must do. Put an end to the farcical Labour Party mark two Tusc project. Close it down … permanently.

However, comrade Taaffe is a towering genius, compared with Robert Griffiths, the CPB’s general secretary. When not promising to shop “entryists” to our witch-finder general, Iain McNicol, what he displays is a completely detached attitude towards Labour’s ongoing right-left civil war. He seriously says there are more important issues … like strikes and protest demonstrations. Morning Star editor Ben Chacko is equally small-minded. He sees “a task far bigger than the Labour Party”. Fighting for a mass revolutionary party? No. Forging the links necessary for establishing a new workers’ international? No. What comrade Chacko, laughably, wants is “organising at a local level in groups such as the People’s Assembly, Keep Our NHS Public, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts and many more”.31)Morning Star September 10-11 2016

Where we in LPM strive to elevate local struggles to the national and the international level, comrade Chacko’s sights are set on “saving an A&E or a youth club”. That he does so in the name of Marxist politics and creating a mass movement on the scale of the Chartists shows an inability to grasp even the A in the ABC of communism.

Having rejected any active involvement in the Labour Party at its 2016 conference, what remains of Left Unity is also reduced to issuing its own thoroughly unremarkable list: Another Europe, Stand Up to Racism, People’s Assembly demo, etc. No wonder its entire London membership now meets in the snug little space provided by Housmans Bookshop.

Then there is Charlie Kimber. Showing the SWP’s crisis of leadership, he is now joint national secretary of the SWP and editor of Socialist Worker. Anyway, as might be expected, comrade Kimber called for a Labour vote, but, the more members who leave the SWP, the more he stresses localism, ephemeral demonstrations, economic strikes and fake fronts. In his ‘Letter to a Jeremy Corbyn supporter’, comrade Kimber warned that “there’s a great danger that you could be drawn into endless internal battles”. The “crucial arena” of struggle is not “the long slog” of “endless meetings to (perhaps) get rid of a rightwinger”. No, according to comrade Kimber, it is the “fightback in the workplaces and the streets”.32)Socialist Worker September 20 2016

Comrade Kimber’s claim that what really matters is not changing the Labour Party through the long, hard slog, but the “fightback in the workplaces and the streets”, is a Bakuninist, not a Marxist, formulation. For the 19th century anarchist leader, Mikhail Bakunin, strikes and protests were the key to revolution. By contrast Marxists have always placed their emphasis on programme, consciousness and building solid organisation.

In Marxist terms therefore, because the Labour Party is historically established, because it is a class party, because it involves all big unions, because it has a mass electoral base, because it has drawn in hundreds of thousands of new members, what is now happening within it is a far higher form of the class struggle than mere economic strikes, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ protests, let alone fake front conferences. In point of fact, the struggle to transform the Labour Party, is a highly concentrated form of the class struggle.

It is worth noting that Lenin and the Bolsheviks, following in the tradition of Marx and Engels, considered the “fightback in the workplaces” – ie, trade union politics – the lowest, the most elementary form of the class struggle. Bargaining over wages and conditions might be the dawning of class-consciousness, but, “taken by itself, is in essence still not social democratic [Marxist] work, but merely trade union work”. Lenin elaborates: “… social democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich.”31

Apply comrade Kimber’s derogatory, typically economistic, remarks about the “long slog” and “endless meetings” to the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. There was a drawn-out struggle between the Bolshevik, Menshevik and many other smaller factions. Of course, I am not equating the Labour Party, which can, with its federal structure, only become, at best, a permanent united front of the working class in Britain – our version of soviets – with the highly dedicated, explicitly Marxist, individual-membership Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

That said, it is clear, that comrade Kimber exhibits a fundamental disdain for the Marxist perspective of elevating thetrade unionist politics of the working class (which, through error, miseducation or sorry conviction, far too many on the left nowadays take as common sense). Comrade Kimber and the SWP serve to degrade Marxist politics to the level of routine trade union politics.

Another analogy. OK, we envisage the possibility of the Labour Party becoming a British version of Russia’s soviets (not that LPM is calling for ‘All power for the Labour Party’). Would the Bolsheviks have been right in 1917 to direct their main energies towards economic strikes, street protests and building fake fronts? Hardly. In fact, Lenin, having returned from his Swiss exile in April 1917, famously presented a perspective of winning the argument for the Bolshevik programme – sloganistically crystallised as ‘Land, bread and peace’. Progress was, however, judged by the election results provided by the “long slog” and “endless meetings” of the soviets of workers, soldiers and peasants.33)VI Lenin CW Vol 5, Moscow 1977, p400

In the spring of 1917 the Bolsheviks were a not insignificant minority fraction in the workers’ soviets. By the summer of 1917 they had gained majorities in Petersburg and Moscow, Kiev and Odessa. And, of course, in November 1917 the peasant congress of soviets voted for the entire Socialist Revolutionary programme of land reform … plus, the vital Bolshevik addition of soviet power. In other words a Bolshevik government.

 

References

1 www.scottishsocialistparty.org/category/news
2 From a 1951 2.5% historic low point the Liberal Party enjoyed a revival in the 1970s, which saw them win 19.3% of the popular vote in the February 1974 general election. Despite the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, even in the 1979, 1983 and 1987 general elections the Liberal vote stood up at well over 10%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Party_(UK)#Electoral_performance. As for the Liberal Democrats, their vote has taken this path: 1992, 17.8%; 1997, 16.8%; 2001, 18.3%; 2005, 22%; 2015, 7.9%; 2017, 7.4%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democrats_(UK)
3 http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/sheffield-hallam-a-parallel-campaign-to-defeat-nick-clegg/
4 http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2017/06/result-happen-post-vote-survey
5 Evening Standard April 20 2017
6 Letters The Guardian April 30 2017
7 www.compassonline.org.uk/about
8 www.compassonline.org.uk/together-we-win
9 http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2017/06/result-happen-post-vote-survey
10 www.middleeasteye.net/columns/unworthy-victims-western-wars-have-killed-four-million-muslims-1990-39149394
11 www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40267063
12 Editorial Financial Times June 10 2017
13 Labour Party Britain can be better London 2015
14 Labour Briefing May 2017
15 Socialist Worker May 11 2017
16 The Socialist May 12 2017
17 http://socialistresistance.org/corbyn-presents-a-radical-alternative/10054
18 The Daily Telegraph May 16 2017
19 Daily Mail May 10 2017
20 The Sunday Times September 20 2015
21 Financial Times August 14 2015
22 From a 1951 2.5% historic low point the Liberal Party enjoyed a revival in the 1970s, which saw them win 19.3% of the popular vote in the February 1974 general election. Despite the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, even in the 1979, 1983 and 1987 general elections the Liberal vote stood up at well over 10%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Party_(UK)#Electoral_performance. As for the Liberal Democrats, their vote has taken this path: 1992, 17.8%; 1997, 16.8%; 2001, 18.3%; 2005, 22%; 2015, 7.9%; 2017, 7.4%. See – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democrats_(UK)
23 http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps
24 www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament
25 www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament
26 http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps
27 http://labourlist.org/2016/02/mcdonnell-and-woodcock-clash-over-plan-to-scrap-member-checks
28 Independent Labour Party Report of the 18th annual conference London 1910, p59
29 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader_of_the_Opposition_(United_Kingdom).
30 Labour Party Marxists July 7 2016
31 Morning Star September 10-11 2016
32 Socialist Worker September 20 2016
33 VI Lenin CW Vol 5, Moscow 1977, p400

June 8: ‘It feels like a victory’

The seismic shock of the June 8 election result continues to resonate. Corbyn’s Labour confounded the pundits (including, it must be said, this publication which anticipated a bad defeat for Corbyn and immediate post-election clamour from the treacherous right wing for his head on a plate). Party activists around the country have been taking a well-earned rest, sinking a few pints and swapping election campaign ‘war stories’. Comrades tell us that a recurring sentiment being voiced by many runs along the lines of, ‘I know we lost; but it feels like a victory!

Indeed. LPM bulletin sends its congratulations to the comrades who worked so hard to produce this tremendous result.

Unfortunately – but unsurprisingly – these congratulations cannot be extended to large sections of the Labour Party apparatus. Reports emerging today confirm the experiences of LPM comrades from a number of constituencies (see the report from the Sheffield Hallam constituency, where former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was ousted). The online bulletin, Skwawkbox, alleges that:

Labour’s HQ, in complete contrast to the aggressive, energetic campaign of the party’s leader, mandated a purely defensive strategy for this election – and cost Labour the keys to 10 Downing Street.

The Blairites at headquarters – national and in many regions – presumably either not believing Labour could win seats from the Tories, or in some cases even hoping for a poor result, decided to circle the wagons around existing seats, particularly favouring those occupied by so-called ‘centrists’.

This meant that – at the instigation of senior HQ figures and right-wing NEC members – almost no resources were made available for the fight to win Tory-held marginals or even to defend Labour-held ones. [Marginals are] seats with a majority of below 3,000.

If this is accurate and we have no doubt that it is, then heads must role – in particular, Skwawkbox targets Blairite Kezia Dugdale in Scotland, who told voters to support the Tories to weaken the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon (an expulsion letter should be in the post soon, we suggest) and Ian McNicol, “for helping for failing to stop the saboteurs”. In our view, that would be just for starters …

Skwawkbox is a well-informed outlet that has grown from 5,000 viewings last October to 267,000 in March. It’s run by a Unite union activist from Liverpool, and the quality and frequency of the material he features strongly suggests he has some very high level contacts in the Corbyn office and Unite. So, perhaps this uncompromising post reflects a dramatic hardening of attitude towards the saboteurs by Corbyn, McDonnell and McCluskey? It’s long overdue.

This tremendous surge to Labour will give the left a breathing space. As will be the fact that there are about half a dozen new MPs now who are firmly in the Corbyn camp, including Sheffield Hallam’s Jared O’Mara, Emma Dent Coad in Kensington, Chris Williams in Derby North etc. But we can be certain that the truce won’t last. The majority of Labour MPs remain deeply hostile to Corbyn and – by extension – to the vast bulk of the mass membership of the party, most of who joined in a series of ‘Corbyn surges’. A June 9 statement from Momentum (Greenwich) notes the “veritable army of young … Momentum supporters campaigning to ensure the election of Labour MPs (some of whom could not disguise their hostility to us).” Encouragingly, it also sets the priority of “recruiting to active membership of the Labour Party Jeremy’s new electoral ‘army’” and “[urges] Momentum supporters to consider nominating for ward and constituency positions and as delegates to the National Party Conference.”

Quite right, comrades, but that process needs to climb higher! The new political complexion of the overwhelmingly majority of the party in the country must be reflected in its parliamentary line-up. Like many others, we underestimated the strength of Labour’s June 8 showing – but the tasks we have repeatedly identified as the key to transforming Labour into a genuinely socialist, democratic organisation remain on the agenda:

  1. Fight for rule changes. All elected Labour representatives must be subject to one-member, one-vote mandatory reselection. MPs must be brought under democratic control – from above, by the NEC; from below by the CLPs. We need a sovereign conference once again. The cumbersome, undemocratic and oppressive structures, especially those put in place under the Blair supremacy, must be rolled back. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, etc, must go.
  2. Scrap the despicable compliance unit “and get back to the situation where people are automatically accepted for membership, unless there is a significant issue that comes up” (John McDonnell). The compliance unit operates in the murk, it violates natural justice, it routinely leaks to our enemies in the capitalist media.
  3. The stultifying inertia imposed on Momentum has proved to be an own goal. Jon Lansman has proved to be a competent autocrat. He blocked all Momentum attempts to oppose the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smears, he did nothing to get Momentum to fight the 2016 purge of leftwing supporters of Corbyn. It is now impossible to transform it into a democratic organisation, or one that can educate, activate and empower the rank-and-file membership. So, there is an urgent need for the left to organise with a view of establishing a worthwhile alternative.
  4. Securing new trade union affiliates ought to be a top priority. The FBU has reaffiliated. Matt Wrack at last came to his senses and took the lead in reversing the disaffiliation policy. But what about the RMT? And what about the NUT? Then there is PCS, where the question was not even discussed at this year’s conference.
  5. Every constituency, ward and other such basic unit must be won and rebuilt by the left. Our membership has grown from 200,000 in May 2015 to over 525,000 today. Surely during and after the election campaign we can get to a million. However, the left must convince the sea of new members, and returnees, to attend meetings … and break the stultifying grip of the right. Elect officers who support genuine socialism. Elect officers who are committed to transforming our wards and constituencies into vibrant centres of socialist organisation, education and action. As such, our basic units would be well placed to hold councillors and MPs to account.
  6. Our goal should be to transform the Labour Party, so that, in the words of Keir Hardie, it can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”. We need rule changes to once again permit left, communist and revolutionary parties to affiliate. As long as they do not stand against us in elections, this can only strengthen us as a federal party. Today affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the left, the Cooperative Party … the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. Allow the SWP, SPEW, CPGB, Left Unity, the Morning Star’s CPB, etc, to join our ranks.
  7. Being an MP ought to be an honour, not a career ladder. A particularly potent weapon here is the demand that all our elected representatives should take only the average wage of a skilled worker.
  8. We must establish our own press, radio and TV. Relying on the favours of the capitalist press, radio and TV is a game for fools. True, it worked splendidly for Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. But, as Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband found to their cost, to live by the mainstream media is to die by the mainstream media.
  9. Programmatically, we should adopt a new clause four. Not a return to the old, 1918, version, but a commitment to working class rule and a society which aims for a stateless, classless, moneyless society, which embodies the principle, ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’.