Corbyn And The Battle In British Labour

In September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election with a landslide 59.5% of the vote. A surge of new members and supporters joining the party during the leadership campaign resulted in about 550,000 people being eligible to vote in the contest.

Socialist Worker

Corbyn And The Battle In British Labour

In September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election with a landslide 59.5% of the vote. A surge of new members and supporters joining the party during the leadership campaign resulted in about 550,000 people being eligible to vote in the contest.

At the time former leader, Ed Miliband, said “Jeremy has won a very clear victory in all sections. I believe we should respect that mandate”. But Tony Blair took to the pages of the Guardian to warn that the Labour Party was “walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below.” Ever since the Blairites and much of the Parliamentary Labour Party have been working to undermine their own leader.

In June 2016, Labour MPs voted 172-40 in favour of a motion of no confidence in Corbyn. The ballot itself had no constitutional legitimacy however MPs attempted to use it to force Corbyn to step down. The vote was followed by a plethora of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. On 11 July Angela Eagle launched an official leadership challenge . Just two days later Welsh MP Owen Smith threw his hat into the race too, dividing the anti-Corbyn vote. Six days later Eagle withdrew leaving Smith as the only challenger.

The Labour right tried to prevent Corbyn even getting on the ballot paper. When that failed they used the National Executive Committee to deny the vote to people who had joined Labour in the last 6 months and to impose a registration fee of £25 – a real hardship for those on low incomes.

Bur this has not stopped over 180.000 people registering to vote and the Labour Party becoming a real mass party.

Blairites

These are the plain facts of what has happened in the British Labour Party over the last ten months. But what are we to make of all this? First it is important to note that British Labour and the Irish Labour are very different beasts. British Labour has maintained a level of working class support and left-wing politics that died in the Irish party many decades ago.

Next, we have to understand the current crisis in British Labour within the context of the historical struggle between the power of the people and the power of parliament. It is a battle between those who support war and austerity and those who support peace and equality

In September of last year 251,417 people voted for Corbyn as leader. In June 2016, 172 people attempted to force him out of that role. These MPs have time and again shown utter contempt for the will of the people.

They have run to the media claiming their motivation for such a blatant disregard for democracy is the unelectability of this overwhelmingly elected leader of their party. They feel intimidated, they say, by the mass movement of ordinary people that has formed around Corbyn. At every turn these self-serving MPs have sought to present Corbyn as a utopian fantasist, or an extremist of the loony-left.

Perhaps Corbyn is some sort of extremist. Voting to get rid of nuclear weapons is extreme. Voting against the Iraq war and the bombing of Syria is extreme. Indeed, standing with the working class against the interests of international capitalism, fighting against austerity and for workers’ rights is extreme. But these extreme actions could only be construed as negative by MPs who are so out of touch with the lives of ordinary people and so trapped in the legacy of Blairism that they cannot drag themselves from the swamp of Tory-lite politics: politics that hammer the working class at home with austerity while hammering the working class abroad with bombs and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Socialist

While they claim that Corbyn’s personality is the problem, the truth is that the Blairites find socialist policies repugnant. They recoil at them like vampires from a string of garlic. They been indoctrinated in the belief that a party standing on socialist principles will never be elected, and high office, and power are the ultimate goals for these people. They will never accept the anti-war, anti-austerity message of Corbyn, because they are true devotees of capitalism and the status quo.

There is another important lesson in this Labour crisis. That is, parliamentary democracy under capitalism will never yield power to the left. It is easy to get caught up in the apparent potential that lies in a left-wing victory in the polls, but we must remember that this is the capitalists’ system, not ours.

While we welcome manifestations of left-wing power within parliamentary democracy and stand in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn we also know that ultimately we will need a people power revolution to overthrow the system.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login