Britain: Corbyn’s supporters want resistance against the right

Edited extracts from an article by Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, that will be published in the first 2016 issue of the Socialist (7 January).

Edited extracts from an article by Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, that will be published in the first 2016 issue of the Socialist (7 January).

In Britain and elsewhere, there is a bitter mood of resistance to the deterioration in living standards and the prospect of more to come. A further £10 billion worth of cuts in state expenditure on top of the agonies suffered under the previous coalition government are to be driven through by Osborne over the next four years.

The big butcher, Osborne, wants to franchise out the task of imposing these cuts to the ’little butchers’ – and this is the way they will be seen by workers at the receiving end – at local and county council level. But with this will go the odium and unpopularity for doing the dirty work of the Tory government.

This makes it even more urgent that pressure, particularly from the trade unions and communities, is put on Labour councils to break with the policy of passing on austerity, to lead them to the adoption of ’no cuts’ budgets! Mobilise working people in the manner of the successful resistance in Liverpool in the 1980s!

The underlying combative mood, which has existed for years and sometimes decades, in the case of Britain, was just waiting for a catalyst.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid provided this. His victory was unexpected, not least to himself and his immediate circle. It was a spectacular manifestation of the law of unintended consequences.

The right wing of the Labour Party had successfully imposed a system which eliminated the collective voice of the trade unions and gave the right to vote to new ’registered supporters’ for the price of a pint of beer!

Right wing’s intentions

Taken aback at Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, the right does not even pretend to hide its intentions of replacing him. Young people and workers, both inside and outside the Labour Party, are equally prepared to resist this.

They are demanding measures such as reselection to replace Blairite dinosaurs with new fighting representatives in parliament and in councils. It is not so much a veiled civil war as an open one.

Right-wing Labour supporters have brazenly announced that they already have a thousand of the party’s ’richest donors’ in their pocket ready to back them, particularly if they split and form a new party.

This scenario is likely to be played out in 2016. It is absolutely essential that the left forces gathered behind Corbyn understand the objective basis which compels the capitalists and their right-wing Labour echoes to ferociously resist what is at this stage a mild programme for change.

The movement in support of Corbyn’s leadership campaign, as we pointed out, effectively created two parties: one, the discredited Blairites, who could be easily swept into the rubbish heap of history; and the other a new party in the process of formation, based upon the mass desire for change around the figure of Corbyn.

Momentum’s path

However, his victory is not completely assured. Some of the Corbynistas – for instance in the misnamed ’Momentum’ leadership, which is threatening to become ’Stagnation’ – have a completely false perspective. They wish to postpone all real struggle until after the next general election in 2020. This in a period that is likely to be one of the stormiest in recent British history, with a clamour from the ranks of the labour movement and the working class for decisive action to resist and defeat the Tory government.

Weakness invites aggression! Momentum’s leaders imagine that if they capitulate to the right, abandon reselection of MPs, mollifying them with sweet words, this will in some way insulate Corbyn against criticism from these quarters and prevent moves for his overthrow.

The right can only reconcile themselves to Corbyn if he retreats completely, politically and organisationally – becoming a political puppet in effect – which could result in his support ebbing away.

But even then that might not meet their test of ’electability’ and he will be replaced.

He is in a no-win situation – with the capitalists, their press and their faithful representatives within the labour movement, the Blairite right, conducting a relentless campaign of lies and misrepresentation. If he wins an election, it is despite him and his programme. If he loses, it is down to him and his programme!

Labour’s schism

A complete cleavage – a split – in the Labour Party is not to be ruled out. Indeed, a former editor of the pro-Labour Daily Mirror, Roy Greenslade, wrote in the Guardian: "The Labour Party no longer makes any sense in its current form… The Labour Party has shown amazing resilience through its 115-year history. The broad church has survived any number of past crises. But, as with all parties of the left, it cannot sustain itself much longer. It is now on the brink of complete disintegration."

And the evidence for this? Greenslade writes: "John Mann MP was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph warning Corbyn not to allow deselection of his colleagues because it would create a civil war. Does he think there isn’t a war already?… Labour grandees are aiming to crush Momentum by calling on ’former big benefactors’ to create a ’war chest’ ready to mount a challenge to Corbyn in the future."

In other words, irreconcilable forces confront one another. One is located in capitalism and everything it stands for: war, savage cuts imposed on working people, etc. The other is radical, anti-austerity and instinctively looking towards a break with all the rotten Blairite policies of the past.

The Momentum leadership, who themselves are under attack from Tom Watson and others for being a ’party within a party’, reply to this not with defiance and a programme of resistance but by their own little witch-hunt. How much further to the right indeed they are than the left of the 1980s who, initially at least, opposed bans and proscriptions against Militant and others.

They understood that those attacks were just the opening shots in the campaign by the right to eliminate all vestiges of a working class, socialist programme. They believed in answering political opponents through democratic discussion and debate.

This is still the real traditions of the left and particularly of the new generation who are moving into political struggle because they have seen the stultifying effects on them and their generation which capitalism now represents

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January 2016