Britain: Jeremy Corbyn – thousands rally to anti-austerity appeal

Large attendances at Corbyn rallies across country

Jeremy Corbyn’s nomination for Labour leadership has transformed the contest. In contrast to the three varieties of Blairite ‘austerity lite’ on offer, he has captured a mood.

Large numbers of people young and old, many from outside the party, have been inspired by the anti-austerity message. This parallels the anti-austerity mood that developed around the Scottish independence referendum and the surge for the Scottish National Party, as well as the million people who voted Green in the general election.

Polls indicate that Jeremy Corbyn is currently in the lead. He got the most nominations from Constituency Labour Parties and also from a number of trade unions including the biggest two – Unison and Unite. Of course to nominate an anti-austerity candidate is good and reflects the pressure from below. In the case of Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the coming union leadership contest and the need to adopt a left pose undoubtedly played a role! But nominating Corbyn is not enough on its own. We also need to fight austerity before the next general election, with the unions taking the lead and organising coordinated strike action.

The Labour leadership election ends on 10 September and the right wing and media are already stepping up “project fear” trying to sway the vote, saying Labour would be unelectable under Jeremy Corbyn. Labour shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie had the cheek to claim Corbyn’s economic programme would hit the poor. This comes after decades of the austerity policies Leslie supports, from all three main establishment parties, which have devastated the living standards of the poorest! He says a Corbyn led party “would not be the one he joined.”

This raises the question – what will happen if Corbyn wins? He would begin as a prisoner of the right wing dominated Parliamentary Labour Party. Unfortunately he has said he would include even Blairites in his shadow cabinet. But they would move to oust him as soon as they could. The Socialist Party has called on him to organise against this by calling a conference of trade unions and supporters- both inside and outside the Labour Party to build a base for a socialist ideas. We would want to participate in that and encourage supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to do the same.

It is also possible that the right could be ejected from or leave the party – implicit in some of the comments such as Leslie’s. This would transform the situation; the potential for a new anti-austerity alternative could be created.

If Corbyn loses the election, the need for that anti – austerity working class alternative remains. If he called for the creation of such an alternative outside the Labour Party it would gain significant support, as his campaign has shown. The Socialist Party is continuing to support and build TUSC as a step towards creating a new mass working class party. The route from which that will develop is as yet undecided, but the anger of young and working class people will find a way to gain its voice.

Liverpool Jeremy Corbyn rally

Tumultuous applause for anti-austerity clarion call

Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool Socialist Party

The Adelphi hotel had not seen the enormous rivers of people pouring through its doors for decades, and on a Saturday night to boot. This was the biggest political rally Liverpool has seen since the days when the socialist council fought Thatcher’s attack on the city between 1983 and 1987.

Twelve hundred people crammed into the main hall with a further 600-700 locked out and listening in adjacent areas.

The composition of this rally made nonsense of Neil Kinnock’s attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Corbyn’s campaign. Kinnock, writing in the Observer, declared that Militant or Daily Telegraph infiltrators with ’malign’ intentions were supporting Jeremy Corbyn.

This is insulting as well as wildly inaccurate, a stance not unusual for his lordship.

The rally was crammed with men, women and children from all walks of life. Some were political veterans, but hundreds had clearly never been to a political event nor were members of a political party, as shown by the number of fresh-faced newcomers who asked questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s policies.

Young students outraged at the debts they faced, people on zero-hour contracts, local activists appalled at local library closures, people on rates of pay so low they had to be subsidised by the taxpayer, NHS workers worried about the service and ever-lasting wage freeze. They all perceived Jeremy Corbyn as a tribune who would represent them.

Pro-working class measures

Jeremy Corbyn’s wide-ranging speech included pledges to re-establish the NHS as fully publicly-owned, free at the point of use; renationalisation of rail and the post office; ending the public sector wage freeze; free education from cradle to grave; cancellation of Trident; repeal of the anti-trade union laws.

After decades of attacks on working class wages and social support, and on the trade unions, with no serious political opposition, this was language which received tumultuous applause.

The enthusiasm, energy and dynamism which were on display was a reminder of the power of the campaign led by the Liverpool 47 councillors in the 1980s.

Jeremy has provided a rallying point for all those who have seen standards driven down while the hedge fund managers, bankers and other assorted financial spivs who caused the economic crisis and who bankroll the Tory Party have seen their fortunes increase spectacularly.

The volume of passion poured out in support of his clear anti-austerity clarion call was akin to a dam bursting under pressure from a boiling cauldron of anger felt by millions of working class people.

The message was clear: No more austerity from either the Bullingdon boys or phoney MPs masquerading as representatives of the working class while accepting the Tory spending cap.

Any mention of ’Blairism’ was received with a loud noise of disgust.

Fundamentally different

A striking feature of the event is that it could not be described in any way as a Labour Party rally. This was a rally to support policies fundamentally different to those of New Labour.

The character of Labour is summed up by Labour’s shadow chancellor Chris Leslie, who after losing his parliamentary seat in 2005 became the director of the New Local Government Network, which was described by the Local Government Chronicle as a "Blairite think-tank".

He was originally elected to Parliament in 1997 on the anti-Tory surge from which Blair profited. He has an impeccable record of supporting Labour’s austerity-lite stance.

He has declared he would not serve in a Corbyn-led cabinet as a Corbyn-led party would be "a very different political party" from the one he joined.

This encapsulates the degeneration of Labour into a haven of those who seek political careerism rather than people with a commitment to representing the working class.

The right wing and its media will do everything they can to sabotage the election and deprive Jeremy Corbyn of victory.

Whatever the outcome, the process has begun in the weeks and months which lie ahead for the building of a new mass party of the working class.

Whilst maintaining its independent stance, the Socialist Party stands ready to assist in that objective.

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August 2015