AWL: Labour’s gains have put socialism back into politics

June 10, 2017 at 7:51 am (AWL, campaigning, class, democracy, elections, labour party, Marxism, posted by JD, reformism, trotskyism)

By Cathy Nugent at the Workers Liberty website:

The 2017 general election was a stunning success for the Labour Party and within the terms that Theresa May set for this election – to hugely increase her Parliamentary majority — a failure for the Tories.

At the start of the campaign, the Tory Party had a 20 percentage point lead on Labour in the opinion polls and was predicted to get a landslide victory. Labour’s result is partly down to a reaction against May’s arrogance and dismay with election issues such as the “dementia tax”, but it is much more.

Labour’s advance will prepare the way for renewed interest and commitment to explicitly socialist ideas. During the election John McDonnell explicitly spelled out his commitment to socialism. At the very least the election opens up is a chance to remake the Labour Party into a strong political voice for working-class people, for two reasons.

In its manifesto, despite a number of serious problems and limitations (e.g. no commitment to freedom of movement), Labour issued a clarion call against the ideologues of “capitalist realism” who say that poverty and inequality are inevitable, or even the fault of the people who are capitalism’s victims. As such, support for Labour, increasing their share of the vote to just under 41% with a net gain of 31 seats, is a truly remarkable achievement.

This election result sees politics once again polarising around class. In our society, there are two important classes. The Conservative Party represents the capitalist ruling class; the Labour Party is supposed to represent the working class. Labour lost support when Labour governments abandoned and even attacked working-class people, many of whom became alienated from politics, some of whom turned to minor parties, whether of the right (UKIP) or the apparently-left (the Greens). This election is a vindication of the idea that this approach was wrong. One of the most significant features of the election result is that support for those parties has shrunk to insignificance, and that the LibDems’ hoped-for rejuvenation has evaded them.

It is now clear – Labour can win elections when it fights on ideas that challenge ruling-class orthodoxy.

We have a Tory minority government, but how long May stays is not clear. As of now, the Tories will get a working majority in Parliament by relying on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). But there will be divisions between the Tories and the DUP and from within the Tory Party as the talks on Brexit proceed. The Tories are in deep trouble and Labour was right to immediately call for May to resign and to say that they are ready to form a minority government. The Tories may survive or rather they will only go down if Labour keeps up the public pressure.

Millions of people listened to Labour’s call and responded positively. Labour’s support included some people who have never voted before and former UKIP voters and this too is significant. That is why there is now a huge opportunity for the labour movement — which at is best has always been the guardian of a working-class moral authority against capitalist realism — to reassert itself in political life.

It is down to the left to solidify and expand on these gains. In achieving this, it is very important that Corbyn has increased his own personal standing. Die-hard Blarites in Labour will be forced to shut up — for now. It is to Corbyn’s great credit that he has faced those people down.

In success, just as much as in defeat, it is important to reflect on the new trends and opportunities and that is what revolutionary socialists should do now. We have some initial observations.

The increase in young voters is highly significant; it is a reversal of a long-term trend of young voters being turned off mainstream politics and participating in elections. The Corbyn team’s strategy of holding rallies in safe seats and using Corbyn’s facility for speaking “on the stump” and then building support through social media succeeded in the context of an election campaign. The strategy of turning a layer of new activists in Labour out to marginals made those 31 seat gains and helped to close the gap elsewhere. The gains for Labour in Scotland, while being distinctive political trends, also represents a significant breakthrough for Labour. What can be done to build on these things?

The Tory minority government may not survive for very long. But whether it stays for one year or five years Corbyn’s team, Momentum and the broader left have to do some things they have so far failed to do. We need to make a serious turn to building the organisational strength and reinvigorating the political culture of the labour movement.

Rallies are good in election campaigns, but we need solid local Momentum groups and Labour Party organisations, which meet regularly and take political debate seriously.

To do that, the left needs to step up the fight for an open, democratic Labour Party, against the still-strong old regime of bureaucratic manipulation and political purges. The leadership of Momentum made peace with that old regime; it must reverse that choice.

Social media is a powerful tool but we also need much more face-to-face campaigning — on the streets. Labour and the Labour left need both a vibrant social life and a serious turn outwards to political campaigning — fighting the cuts everywhere, continuing to argue for the best ideas in Labour’s manifesto on education, health and the minimum wage. Above all we need to be drawing much wider layers of Labour’s expanding membership into political activity.

Young people should not be a “stage army” on which Labour relies every time there is an election. The left needs to rebuild Labour’s youth wing so that young members have space to develop socialist ideas and can also take a central role in shaping the political life of the Party and the broader labour movement.

This election is a huge step forward for the “Corbyn surge”, for the constituency of people who want an end to austerity. The AWL exists, to paraphrase the Internationale, to bring “reason in revolt”, to forge the kind of class struggle socialism we believe can arm that movement and ensure its fight can grow and win.

If you want to discuss these ideas with us please come along to our Ideas for Freedom event on 1-2 July.


  1. Ben said,

    With a different leader who is not tainted with support for leftist dictators, human rights violators, terrorism and antisemitism the way Jeremy Corbyn is, Labour would have won a solid victory in this election. The excellent Labour manifesto would now be Government policy. The electorate could have been looking forward to the prospect of a Britain where young people can receive an education without crippling debt, the old and sick can get better health care, everyone can reasonably expect better housing options, and the selling off of public property such as the railway, water, and energy utilities at knock-down prices is reversed.

    Electorally, Labour today is where Gordon Brown left it. There is nothing to celebrate.

    • Joe Baxter said,

      And if my aunt was my uncle. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that Corbyn’s supposedly tainted reputation significantly affected the vote and anyway who was this paragon we missed out on? Pathetic, why can’t you be honest? Would you have been happy to see the election turn out the way the pundits were calling it?
      The idea that Labour is now where Gordon Brown left it is ludicrous. 72% of 18-24 year olds voted in this election, overwhelmingly for Labour. Received wisdom regarding who does and who doesn’t vote and why has been set on its head. The Tories are badly wounded, their vote turned out but there’s no where they can grow it – the young electorate is being continually refreshed. Can’t see how Gordon Brown had anything to do with this.

      • Ben said,

        “…Pathetic, why can’t you be honest?…”

        In 2010, when Gordon Brown resigned, Labour lost the election after obtaining 258 seats. In 2017 Labour got only 262 seats but should have won easily with at least 340 seats. Labour was dragged down by Corbyn, and would have done much better with someone who was not extremist and fanatical at the helm.

  2. johnanthonypalmergmailcom said,

    Ben – you do not seem to have understood (what almost everybody else has understood) that as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn achieved the highest proportionate increase in votes for Labour between two general elections since Clement Attlee in 1945. And THAT was achieved in the face of deliberate and pre-planned sabotage by right wing Blairite Labour MPs who campaigned openly in this election saying that ‘Corbyn should never and will never become Prime Minister.’ This will not be forgotten.

    • Dave said,

      I think Ben is pointing out the blindingly
      obvious even if you’re barely numerate.
      Labour ended around 70 seats short of
      a working majority and its seats that count
      as I don’t think we were electing a Prez.
      ‘Stunning’ no for that we would have to
      have won. A lot better than expected yes.

  3. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Labour did not win the majority seats and therefore will not form a government. Corbyn will be too old in five years. And Labour is not a socialist party and never has been. Corbyn puts his reforms squarely in extracting more money from profiteering capitalism. He is just a reformist.

    • Political Tourist said,

      Glasgow Bigot drops reference to Hamas and the Provos. Fall back position is attacking the pensioner running the Labour Party.
      See Theresa May and attacking OAPs.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        A very rich pensioner who gets payment for fuel poverty while poor non pensioners turn of their heating. Nationalise the power industry without compensation and support those who have to turn their heating down in the winter. I get the heating allowance and do not need it, My sister bought the grandweans their xmas presents with the allowance.
        The allowance is a political football and needs changed. And you are an out of touch prick PC.

    • Dave said,

      ‘Just a Reformist’ so are you a revolutionary
      GWC. Reformist socialism is the only
      Socialism that has ever delivered owt for
      the working class. The revolutionary
      sort delivered the gulag and the mass

  4. Political Tourist said,

    Why does Glasgow Bigot even bother?
    What exactly is it you want out of all this?
    From all your posts all i’ve gleaned is you thought Farage and the Ukip gang were good guys.
    Why do even bother posting here?
    Some old guy with too much time lining with the Fash and co like something out of Dad’s Army wishing the Empire was still around.
    Your stuck on an island off the European mainland run by a bunch of Tories and religious nutters from N.I.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      You should concern yourself with what you want. And what do you want? I assume the religious nutter from NI are Catholics! Wine and blood!! Buggery etc.

  5. John Rogan said,

    “In its manifesto, despite a number of serious problems and limitations (e.g. no commitment to freedom of movement)…” – Cathy Nugent.

    The Labour Manifesto went further than “no commitment” when talking about freedom of movement. It stated clearly – “freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union” (pg 28).

    At the same time, in the “Negotiating Brexit” section (where the Party said it accepted the referendum result), it stated it wanted a “strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union” (pg 24).

    In other words, Labour’s Manifesto promoted a “Cake and Eat It Brexit” which anyone who has listened to EU leaders over the past year knows is just not on.

    Let’s also remember, by the way, that the Labour Shadow Cabinet explicitly opposed Peter Hain’s pro-Single Market amendment in the House of Lords. The reason given was that it would be against the referendum result which meant Labour was now anti-immigration.

    As reported in Business Insider (Feb 28, 2017) –

    ‘Labour’s Brexit spokesperson Baroness Hayter said that a vote to stay in the single market would have defied the will of the people on immigration.

    She told the House that accepting the single market amendment would be acting “as if the referendum had not happened and the result was not for leaving.” She added that continued single market membership would be akin to “airbrushing” people’s desire to restrict immigration.

    “We cannot simply airbrush free movement from the referendum decision,” she said.

    “If we turn around to those who voted out and say, ‘Yes, well, we’re out but still have everything exactly as it was, with free movement unchanged,’ I think that might evince some surprise.” ‘

    So, what happens next?

    Labour are now pretty much united behind Corbyn’s leadership. However, the tensions over Brexit are still there. If the Tories were to elect a new leader (Hammond) on a pro-EEA line (out of EU but with Single Market and Freedom of Movement), then I’d expect some ructions within Labour which would cut across left and right.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      The people voted Out. The hard and soft brexit is an invention by those remainers. Out is Out..

  6. Mick Rice said,

    Labour needs thousands to deliver hundreds?

    You will know that we have particular problems campaigning here in Argyll and Bute as we cover a very wide geographic area which also has 23 inhabited islands! During the recent campaign, we tried to get members to “sign up” to deliver leaflets in their immediate locality if we sent them a batch through the post.

    Now that members across the UK are enthused and the Tories appear to be on the rocks we need to harness that energy and give it direction. If we can fashion it into an interventionist force – particularly in target seats – this will make all the difference when the next election occurs.

    Here in my constituency I am sure we could “sign-up” at least a dozen (and maybe more) members to agree to deliver 100 or 200 Labour leaflets in their immediate locality on a monthly basis or quarterly basis. These would be sent in the post direct to them. Such leaflets would obviously focus on national issues.

    I am sure that across the country many thousands of Labour members and supporters are willing to do the same in their area. As the future period looks uncertain for the new Tory government – members will see the need for such campaigning. It may be that target seats would have a monthly delivery schedule with the others quarterly. Frequency would depend on resources.

    Having a central database of 1000’s of activists that are distributing leaflets is a huge resource of people power. Of course, distributing leaflets also means that these activists will become recognised as Labour supporters. They will learn how to argue Labour’s policies on the doorstep as people will raise issues with them.

    To coin a phrase – “Organise the many – not the few”

  7. Political Tourist said,

    Labour in Argyle and Bute?

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