Reassessing Corbynism: success, contradictions and a difficult path ahead

June 21, 2017 at 7:35 am (left, elections, labour party, class, democracy, Europe, immigration, economics, conspiracy theories)

A worthwhile (and generally leftist) critique from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI):

Corbyn’s success in building an alliance that extends from Greens to UKIP voters only postpones the moment of Labour’s reckoning with Brexit

By Matt Bolton, Doctoral Researcher, University of Roehampton

The trickle of mea culpas from the rapidly diminishing band of Corbyn-sceptics following the election result has now turned into a flood, and not without cause.  Once widely-held truisms – Corbynism is a ‘movement’ more clicktivist than canvasser, Corbyn himself is electorally toxic, Labour face a 1931-style demolition and the collapse of its Parliamentary presence – have been shown to be categorically wrong.  Corbyn ran an energetic, positive, smart campaign, founded on an unashamedly tax-and-spend manifesto.  The quick-witted air war was backed up online and through unprecedented numbers of volunteers taking to the streets to engage potential Labour voters and getting them to turn out on polling day.  Such mass activism had long been promised by Corbyn’s most vocal supporters, but aside from his own leadership campaigns, had been in sparse evidence on the ground.  But there is no doubt that when it came to the crunch, Corbynism cashed its activist cheques.  This level of enthusiastic political engagement would simply not have taken place with another leader – although the suspicion persists that a lot of the urgency was the product of retrospective regret on behalf of younger Remainers that they had not done the same (or perhaps even voted) during the EU referendum.

The election result also clearly demonstrates that Corbynism has not destroyed the party’s parliamentary presence.  Labour has made some promising gains, particularly in England, and as Paul Mason notes, seem to have somehow picked up votes both from the liberal and green metropolitan left, and a decent sized portion of the former UKIP vote.  This was undoubtedly a remarkable and wholly unexpected achievement, one which few in the top echelons of either party thought possible up until the moment of the exit poll.  But while Labour are rightly still celebrating a welcome electoral step forward, not to mention capitalising on the total collapse of Theresa May’s authority as Prime Minister, unpicking the reasons why Corbyn was able to bring this unlikely electoral coalition together reveals that many of the criticisms levelled at the Corbyn project continue to hold.  Indeed, in some ways this election has merely postponed a true reckoning with the contradictions and regressive tendencies that run through the Corbynist worldview.  In particular, Corbyn’s success postpones once again the moment of reckoning at which the left finally recognises that the acceptance of Brexit and the end of free movement constitutes a fundamental, generational defeat, one for which gains in the House of Commons, however welcome, are scant recompense.  With this in mind, then, this article is not yet another mea culpa.  It is rather an attempt to take stock of what has changed and what has not, in the form of some first thoughts on how this election result – and in particular Corbyn’s Green-UKIP alliance – was possible.

This was the first post-deficit election

Direct comparisons with previous elections (whether on seats or vote share) are misleading.  Each election takes place in an entirely different context, which shapes what can and cannot be said within the campaign, and what is regarded (rightly or wrongly) as ‘credible’.  Much of the day to day grind of politics consists of the battle to shape that context (as can be seen with the struggle  over the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ interpretation of the referendum result, a battle which until Thursday night at least, May seemed to have comprehensively won).  The 2015 election was dominated by discussion of the deficit and debt.  The endless repetitions of how the Tories were still ‘clearing up Labour’s mess’ trapped Ed Miliband in political-economic territory from which he could never win  –  every word from his mouth was framed by the context of how Labour’s supposed overspending had led to the crash and the ‘deficit’.  This frame has, incredibly, now virtually disappeared. Labour were careful to cost their manifesto nonetheless – demonstrating that the difference between their position and Miliband’s cannot be explained by mere hard left ‘will power’ – and the Tories failure to bother doing the same, lazily assuming the line from 2015 still held sway, left any attacks they made on Labour’s spending plans seem hollow and hypocritical.  But it was the combination of austerity finally starting to bite the lower middle classes in a way it hadn’t in 2015 (school cuts and the NHS winter crisis cut through in a huge way) and Brexit that really wiped the economic slate clean.  The Leave promises of an extra £350m a week for the NHS, regardless of their veracity, put public spending for services back on the ‘credible’ electoral playing field in a way that we have not seen since 2005.  Add in May’s own desire to boost infrastructure spending, and Corbyn and McDonnell had the space to make spending commitments that were just not available to Miliband.  They made the most of it.

The left’s instinctive trust in Corbyn allows him to successfully triangulate

The idea that Corbyn is a truly authentic man who has stuck to his principles through thick and thin is prevalent even amongst his fiercest critics.  It is also his greatest weapon when it comes to keeping the left (and the youth vote) onside while in reality triangulating as ably –  if not more so –  as any Blairite.  Labour’s policy on immigration in this election was well to the right of the 2015 manifesto.  Miliband was pilloried by the left for proposing ‘controls on immigration’, which slogans on mugs aside, amounted to a two year ban on EU migrants receiving benefits.  Corbyn’s manifesto went even further than May herself by pledging to end free movement of people from the EU come what may in the Brexit negotiations.  While the effect of this was to almost entirely drain the ‘immigration debate’ from the election in a way unimaginable even six months ago, this was only due to the total capitulation of both Corbyn and the broader left on the issue.  The immigration policy in Labour’s 2017 manifesto was more extreme in concrete terms than what most of the Leave side were proposing in the referendum -  in essence assuring full withdrawal from the single market, whatever the consequences -  and yet Corbyn’s supporters on the left accepted it because they refuse to believe that Corbyn himself, as a man of principle, can really mean it.  While every word Miliband (or indeed virtually anyone else who is not Corbyn) is treated with suspicion, despite the pro-single market arguments of the contemporary Blair being inherently far less punitive on immigration than Corbyn’s position, Corbyn is given the benefit of the doubt every time, even when the policy is written down in black and white.  This is triangulation of the highest order, enabling Labour to appeal to hardline anti-migrant UKIP voters while also keeping the trust of the ‘cosmopolitan’ urban left.  It is doubtful any other Labour leader would have been capable of achieving this.  Yet the faith in Corbyn’s supposedly unshakeable core beliefs is such that his party’s policies on immigration barely register amongst people who would be incandescent with rage if another Labour leader even vaguely gestured towards them. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

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Jacobin: why Corbyn ‘won’

June 9, 2017 at 11:31 am (class, democracy, elections, labour party, left, posted by JD, reformism)

The US-based Jacobin website has put out its analysis of the UK election remarkably swiftly. Shiraz wouldn’t agree with all of it (especially the praise for Corbyn’s simplistic ‘blow back’ linking of terrorism with foreign policy), but overall, it’s not bad:

By Bhaskar Sunkara

I don’t care if he didn’t actually win — he won. Jeremy Corbyn has given us a blueprint to follow for years to come.

The Tories may still be in power at the end of the night, but Jeremy Corbyn won today.

Yes, I know this is shameless spin, but hear me out: the last few weeks have vindicated the approach of the Labour left and its international cothinkers under Corbyn.

This is the first election Labour has won seats in since 1997, and the party got its largest share of the vote since 2005 — all while closing a twenty-four point deficit. Since Corbyn assumed leadership in late 2015, he has survived attack after attack from his own party, culminating in a failed coup attempt against him. As Labour leader he was unable to rely on his parliamentary was unable to rely on his parliamentary colleagues or his party staff. The small team around him bombarded with hostile internal leaks and misinformation, and an unprecedented media smear campaign.

Every elite interest in the United Kingdom tried to knock down Jeremy Corbyn, but still he stands. He casts a longer shadow over his party’s centrists tonight than at any time since he was elected Labour leader.

Okay, Corbyn may not be prime minister tomorrow. He was a “flawed candidate,” he wasn’t the strongest speaker, he had his share of gaffes, he ate cold beans. All this is true. But besides for outside hostility and the opposition of his own parliamentary group, it’s worth remembering that Corbyn became Labour leader at the most perilous moment since the party’s birth.

Labour was discredited by the Blair-Brown administrations — from their catastrophic military adventures in Iraq to their privatization agenda at home and their overseeing of the financial crisis. The Blairites got their wish: Labour was looking more and more like a social liberal party than a social-democratic one, embracing the financial sector and prepared to “modernize” the welfare state by gutting it. But there was no serious challenge from its left, and there were professional-class voters to chase.

The party’s mass membership base deteriorated, as did its links with a weakened labor movement. Scotland was lost. The only anti-establishment voice in formerly Labour-dominated communities angry at years of neoliberal economic policies was the right-wing UK Independence Party.

This was the situation that Corbyn inherited. Yet against all odds, his team brought Labour back to life.

They rebuilt the party’s mass base, turning Labour into Europe’s largest party, with more than a half million members. Momentum, the grassroots formation created to support the effort, organized tens of thousands in communities across Britain. Battles with the Labour center and right helped in a certain way, too, distancing the leadership from a discredited establishment. Many party members came to embrace the ire of the billionaire press.

Labour developed a robust left character and platform for the first time in decades. Even as it dipped behind in the polls, it was forming the nucleus of a real opposition, a real alternative.

But even if we didn’t care about program and just wanted the Tories out, it’s hard to imagine that a rightward-tacking Labour leader would have done any better than Corbyn. Would Owen Smith have inspired the surge in youth turnout that pushed what should have been a Conservative landslide into a hung parliament? Would Angela Eagle or any “soft-left” challengers have kept Wales in Labour hands? Could any force but the Labour left begin to win back Scotland from the siren-call of the Scottish National Party?

Corbyn salvaged this election by bucking Labour’s conservative slide over the past several decades and sticking to his left-wing guns. His success provides a blueprint for what democratic socialists need to do in the years to come.

Labour’s surge confirms what the Left has long argued: people like a straightforward, honest defense of public goods. Labour’s manifesto was sweeping — its most socialist in decades. It was a straight-forward document, calling for nationalization of key utilities, access to education, housing, and health services for all, and measures to redistribute income from corporations and the rich to ordinary people.

£6.3 billion into primary schools, the protection of pensions, free tuition, public housing construction — it was clear what Labour would do for British workers. The plan was attacked in the press for its old-fashioned simplicity — “for the many, not the few” — but it resonated with popular desires, with a view of fairness that seemed elementary to millions.

The Labour left remembered that you don’t win by tacking to an imaginary center — you win by letting people know you feel their anger and giving them a constructive end to channel it towards. “We demand the full fruits of our labor,” the party’s election video said it all.

If the immediate economic program of Labour was inspiring, the leadership also revived a vision of social-democratic politics that looks beyond capitalism. The most striking thing about Corbynism isn’t that it’s run-of-the-mill welfare capitalism in an era where neoliberalism rules supreme, but that its protagonists see the inherent limits of reforms under capitalism and discuss ideas that aim to expand the scope of democracy and challenge capital’s ownership and control, not just its wealth. What other post-Golden Age, center-left party has drafted plans to expand the cooperative sector, create community-owned enterprises, and restore the state’s control of key sectors of the economy?

The plans were far from exhaustive, but they would put Britain on a course for deeper socialist transformations in the future. That’s a lofty dream, one that will take decades to come to fruition, but it goes far beyond traditional Labourism.

The Labour left isn’t a “mere social-democratic” current. Whereas what social democracy had morphed into by the postwar period often tried to tamp down class conflict in favor of tripartite arrangements with business, labor, and the state, the new social democracy of Corbyn was built on class antagonism and actively encourages movements from below.

But Labour couldn’t just put forward a pie-in-the-sky program. It had to deal with issues that socialists have typically not had to confront. And it succeeded by appealing to the commonsense of “the many” they sought to represent.

When the issue of terror and security was raised during the campaign, Corbyn showed not only that the Left was not weak on these issues — in many ways, we’re more credible than our opponents. For years, it’s been taken for granted that when it comes to terrorism, the choices confronting the Left were either sticking to our hallowed principles and suffering for it electorally, or mimicking the bellicose rhetoric of the Right.

Corbyn found another way through the madness. In the wake of the horrific Manchester and London attacks, the Labour leader was unafraid to connect British imperialism overseas and the proliferation of Islamist terror. Corbyn expanded his criticism into other aspects of British foreign policy: a deep-rooted set of alliances with Gulf States at the center of Middle East reaction.

Corbyn has taken some flak from the far left for his call for a proportional police response to terror. But he outlined a broad alternative, one that spoke of the social causes behind the path to terrorism, and used it to attack the violent xenophobia and scaremongering pushed by the Tories. In doing so, he changed the debate about terrorism in fundamental ways. There will always be alienated, angry people engaging in anti-social activity, but Corbyn offered a way to view such acts as security matters to be dealt with at their roots, rather than a clash of civilizations.

Let’s not underestimate voters. After years of endless wars and violence, most of them are ready for peace. Corbyn offered them what they wanted, and he wasn’t punished for it.

Even with a diminished Conservative majority, things won’t be rosy tomorrow. Momentarily humbled, the Tories still rule. Their allies in the business and media elites will regroup. They will come up with new plans to attack working people and the public good.

But Corbyn’s party is better positioned than any recent Labour regime to be a credible opposition rooted in an unapologetic left vision — to offer hopes and dreams to people, not just fear and diminished expectations. Also, Bernie would have won.

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May fails!

June 9, 2017 at 2:28 am (Conseravative Party, democracy, elections, gloating, Guardian, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Steve Bell (with whom we sometimes have our differences) in the Gruan the day before the election:

Steve Bell cartoon 08.06.17

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Labour’s future: notes on the Resolutionary Road

June 5, 2017 at 7:48 am (class, democracy, elections, Johnny Lewis, labour party, reformism)

By Johnny Lewis

The Manifesto
Post-election Labour will be confronted with choosing between two diametrically opposed futures: one road takes it back to some variant of New Labour while the other is the refounding Labour as a reformist party. Although which future will be determined by the forces each side can muster, the leverage open to either is in no small measure contingent on the election outcome.

Some three weeks ago the Tories held a 24% lead, Labour was heading for a defeat of 1931 proportions and the party’s right were ecstatic. Defeat on such a scale would see off Corbyn ensuring in short order the loss of a left majority on the National Executive, and the Party bureaucracy intensifying its purge against anyone seen as a danger to incumbent constituency parties and council leaders. This would clear the way for the Party to jettison its manifesto, replacing it with some pale blue austerity-light policies. The press and the right’s narrative to remove Corbyn would be straightforward enough: Labour’s defeat was a consequence of Corbyn’s divisive nature, his lack of leadership skills and a far-left manifesto which alienated the British public.

Even if Labour do badly, the cant the press spew out and the right’s attempt to unseat Corbyn will not have such purchase in the light of the way the election campaign has turned.

For sure the Tories have run a bad campaign by displaying May in all her pomp we have seen her for what she is: a third-rater. Of course the odium poured on Corbyn will have some effect but it will be limited because unlike May he is a known quantity. What has changed politics in the last 14 days has been Labour’s manifesto.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2015 defeat every commentator, pundit and pollster’s analysis of Labour’s chances in 2020 where at best bleak. The only route Labour could take in 2020 was to offer a social programme which appealed to the whole class rather than just the poor, and this is what we have seen with the present manifesto. It is its radicalism which has closed the gap with the Tories. Moreover it has provided a means for the young to begin to come out from under the dead weight of the old.

Labour’s social programme has largely thwarted the plan to ditch Corbyn, placing the left in a far better position to defend the leadership against attacks by the right. I also consider it has done more in the following sense: support for Corbyn comes from individuals whose lived experience of modern-day capitalism has led to a rejection of its inequalities. As such they are bound together negatively by what they are against. Outside of their rejection of inequality we find a cacophony of competing voices and no way of uniting them. The manifesto changed that and has provided the first substantial positive voice which the movement has been able to organise around. Moreover it provides us with the first important measure around which this melee of competing voices can begin to take on a coherent political shape through critique and debate around how the ideas in the manifesto can be developed.

Barring some unforeseen circumstance the election will have massively strengthen the left’s position made possible by the manifesto. Post June 8th the Corbyn movement can begin to reshape Labour into a reformist party. If this potential is realised and we witness the emergence of a reformist party it will be of historic importance and I think unique in character as rather than being based on the unions (the old Labour model) it will rest on an overtly pro-working class political programme. We are still a long way off from that, but far far nearer than it looked just a few weeks ago.

Momentum and the Party.
Only the membership can undertake such a transformation: the manifesto provides the positive statement for us to unite around, while the activity we need to undertake to transform the Party will develop us into a more ideologically coherent entity (but I hope a pluralistic one). This however will not happen spontaneously: the pivotal force to drive it forward can only be Momentum, supported where possible by union organisation. Of course my hope for Momentum to play such a role will be in vain if Lansman turns out to be as perfidious as some make out and is indeed a puppet of the Blairites (!).

Turning the party into a recognisable reformist party was always the only real goal open to the Corbynistas, yet much of the last two years has been wasted pretending they and indeed the Labour Party as a whole, could be something else. The idea of Momentum either as some embryo party or a left current which at some stage splits from Labour to form a new party, turns to dust when it is given a moments consideration. The relevance of Momentum is to change Labour and the relevance of the organised left is to take part in such a transformation not as a faction but a tendency.

In fact the tasks the left faced first faced in the aftermath of Corbyn’s victory are simply repeated post June 8th: defending Corbyn, becoming the catalyst to develop Labour’s social programme, winning positions for the left within the Party, turning the Party outward to campaigning, winning working class members to its banner, training Party members and at the centre carrying out the CLPD’s programme. It is only by organising around these specific tasks that the left will be transformed into an ideologically coherent entity and with it the Party.

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Tory victory is not inevitable

June 1, 2017 at 7:34 am (AWL, democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, Tory scum, youth)

From the the Alliance for Workers Liberty:

No automatic alt text available.

Graphic from The Clarion: an unofficial magazine by Labour and Momentum activists

“If 38% of voters genuinely go for pro-IRA anti-nuclear pro-mass-nationalisation Corbyn, UK voters are no longer mature enough for democracy.”

The Twitter comment from Andrew Lilico of the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs sums up how a section of the British ruling class views even the outside chance of a Corbyn victory on 8 June.

For a whole era after Neil Kinnock quelled Labour’s rank and file revolt of the early 1980s, Labour was a “safe pair of hands” for the ruling class. Tony Blair set out to identify Labour as “unequivocally pro-business”, and on that, anyway, he succeeded.

Millions of working-class people became politically demoralised and unable to see Labour as representing their interests even minimally. Voter turnout among under-25s was estimated at 89% in 1964. By 1992 it had gently slid to 75%. It crashed to 38% by 2005 and had recovered only to 44% by 2015.

Policies in the Labour manifesto like a £10 per hour minimum wage and nationalising the railways as franchises come up for renewal have brought Labour denunciation or derision from the wealthy and their ideologues, and a big lead over the Tories among younger voters. The outcome on 8 June depends on how many of those younger voters get to the polls. The outcome after 8 June, if Labour wins or if Labour loses, depends on whether left-minded young people organise, mobilise, become a dynamic factor in the labour movement.

A YouGov Poll from 24-25 May showed the gap between Labour and the Tories down to 5% (and a subsequent poll shows the gap narrowing further). Polls since the Manchester bombings indicate that the Tories’ attempts to smear Corbyn as a “threat to national security” are not paying off. As the polling agency YouGov reports: “If the election were held only among the under-fifties, Corbyn could beat May. And Labour policies are supported across the whole electorate. Capping rents, nationalisation and abolishing tuition fees are popular policies, as indeed are most of Corbyn’s manifesto pledges.

“Scorning Corbyn and his supporters could be perilous… If Labour after this election ejects not only Corbyn but his mission, without a clear idea of embracing both the centre of politics and the frustrated margins, they could be even worse off.”

Taking £50 billion extra a year from the rich, out of their many hundreds of billions in revenues, is not going to create the fractures that they say it will. But modest measures in the manifesto which have enthused Labour activists and voters will require a fight to push them through, even if Labour should win a landslide on 8 June. A real fight over the minimum wage and banning zero hours contracts will mean gearing up trade unions and the labour movement to organise in workplaces currently unorganised, where workers are hyper-exploited and where a revitalised labour movement backed by a left-wing Labour government could begin to initiate real change.

Scrapping the Trade Union Act will help, but Labour’s omission anything on the older anti-union laws pushed through by Thatcher is a glaring gap. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are in favour of the repeal of all those laws against solidarity action, flying pickets, workplace ballots. So, on paper at least, are all the major trade unions. Right-wing Labour MPs have blocked repeal from the manifesto. Union leaders have been silent, and we suspect that some half-secretly prefer “having their hands tied” by laws which limit rank-and-file action. A Corbyn government, or a strong Corbyn-led opposition, will be effective only if they link with organising, mobilising, and action in workplaces and on the streets. The support gained by the Labour manifesto must be translated into real action, and not be drained away in behind-closed-doors battles in the right-wing-dominated Parliamentary Labour Party.

Tens of thousands of activists have been on the streets campaigning for Labour. The campaigns have certainly been a mixed bag, varying from constituency to constituency. A few have been resolutely run and well-organised, with the manifesto and Corbyn’s pledges front and centre. Young people have been drawn in to new activity, new members have been recruited on the doorstep, and many previously disengaged have been brought into the campaign. In other areas the campaign has been long-term activists only, often working with MPs virulently hostile to Corbyn who scarcely mention Labour, let alone the manifesto, or who openly decry the Labour Party’s direction. After the election, there will be a fight both within the Labour Party and about fighting for the manifesto policies on the ground. We need clarity on some of the manifesto promises. What does the commitment to local energy production mean, beyond what is happening already under the Tories?

We should fight for the wholescale nationalisation of the big six energy companies, under workers’ control. How can Labour look two ways on Brexit? We need a Labour Party that really stands by the manifesto promises to secure the same advantages as the single market, and thus fights the Tory Brexit all the way. On freedom of movement, or its emphasis on expanding the security services, the Labour manifesto is wrong.

Activists will fight on the ground and in the run up to Labour’s conference in September to get clear left-wing policies passed and implemented. Despite all that is good about the manifesto, the last two years have been marked by confusion and the old Blairite way of policy-making. Policy should not be the property of wonks, think tanks, or officials in the Leader’s Office. The fundamentals of the ideas and actions we fight for a Labour Government to take up should be formed by democratic debate through the whole labour movement and the institutions of the Labour Party. The Party Conference must be sovereign, democratic, and a real decision-making body.

YouGov and the other polls still predict a Tory victory. Even if Labour’s vote is up on 2015, we could lose seats because of ex-UKIP votes going to the Tories After 8 June, the Labour right wing will seize on any pretext to challenge Corbyn’s leadership and try again, as they did in 2016, to turn the Labour Party backwards.

The fight to transform the Labour Party is still at an early stage. Most of the work remains to be done. We have to work systematically in wards, CLPs and Young Labour groups to discuss and debate policies, and take them out on the streets. That is necessary whatever happens on 8 June.

John McDonnell recalls that in 1992, when he lost his constituency to the Tory Terry Dicks, he and other activists made a point of organising a stall in Hayes Town Centre the very next Saturday. They showed the constituency that they had not gone away and would continue to fight. Whatever the outcome is on 8 June, we must go forward in that spirit.

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Back to Work

May 25, 2017 at 5:42 am (democracy, elections, islamism, Rosie B, terror)

My local hustings was cancelled last night. Electioneering was put on hold after the Manchester bombing and will not resume until tomorrow. Outside of Manchester itself, one day’s pause would have been enough.

There has been plenty written by Mancunians celebrating their city, their football and music and creativity. That is their Manchester, and they cherish it and celebrate more now it is wounded.

I’ve only visited the city once and was taken with its buzz and friendly citizens and its mighty Victorian industrial past preserved. I had heard the music of course but my Manchester, the one I saw, was the civic pride of the Victorian industrialists with its splendid town hall and art collection.

Manchester had come to me from other angles – from Mrs Gaskell’s North and South with its outspoken women factory workers who astonish the lady from the agricultural south. It is Peterloo and the Chartists and the Anti-Corn Law League, the Manchester Guardian, the liberals and the radicals who sought to extend the franchise. Emmeline Pankhurst was a Mancunian. I remember the suffragettes every time I cast a vote. That Manchester shaped British politics.

To honour its spirit we should get back to the door-knocking and leafletting, the hustings and the interviews, the debates and the polls and the betting, the manifestos, the wriggling out of questions and the bad-tempered exchanges and all the noise – some of it fairly cacophonous – around an election.

The democratic process should not be derailed by a failed piece of humanity with a foul ideology who tried bigging himself up by murdering a bunch of gig-goers.

1024px-Brown_work

Work by Ford Madox Ford, Manchester Art Gallery

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Fascism defeated in France

May 7, 2017 at 9:45 pm (anti-fascism, democracy, Europe, France, posted by JD)

Breaking news from the BBC: https://twitter.com/BBCBreaking?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

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Local election results and the task ahead: we agree with the Morning Star !

May 6, 2017 at 6:25 pm (campaigning, democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, Tory scum)

For the first time ever, Shiraz agrees wholeheartedly with a Morning Star editorial (though that doesn’t mean we can ever forgive their support for Brexit and continuing state of denial over its consequences):

Don’t abandon hope just yet

THERE is no point in trying to dress up the local election results as positive for Britain’s left.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is absolutely right to say the outcome of the vote across Scotland, Wales and some parts of England was mixed, and that Labour won important victories.

But there is no hiding the fact that Labour lost hundreds of seats and that the Conservatives gained hundreds of seats.

It is especially worrying that Theresa May’s party is making significant gains across Scotland, for many years a virtually Tory-free zone.

The advance shows that the politics of competing nationalisms, Scottish and British, are continuing to drown out the politics of class north of the border — which is bad news for working people.

Gains for Plaid Cymru and the Tories in Wales suggest similar forces are at work in that country, although Labour fared significantly better in the only British nation it currently governs than in Scotland.

The total collapse of Ukip will cheer anti-racists, but its cause is clear — Theresa May’s Conservatives are now virtually indistinguishable from the party taken to prominence by Nigel Farage.

A government that moots forcing companies to draw up and publish lists of foreigners in their employ, demanding to see passports at the hospital gate and returning to the days of grammars and secondary moderns offers everything Farage’s “back to the ’50s” outfit did to voters, especially now the decision to leave the European Union has been taken.

The Liberal Democrats also notably failed to make any recovery from the well-deserved drubbing they received in 2015, after shamelessly helping the Conservatives privatise our health service, triple tuition fees, sell off Royal Mail and wage war on disabled people and the unemployed.

Tim Farron might declare that Labour’s losses prove only a vote for his party can stop the Tories, but the claim is nonsense when the Lib Dems are also losing seats — and given that his party is openly willing to return to coalition government with the party of racism and the rich.

No, as journalist Abi Wilkinson has pointed out, these results mean June 8 is a two-horse race — between Labour and the Conservatives.

The Conservatives have a commanding lead, but it is not invulnerable. Local election turnouts are low, much lower than those for general elections.

The younger and the poorer you are, the less likely you are to vote — but the younger and the poorer you are, the more likely you are to support Labour, meaning low turnouts benefit the Tories.

Huge numbers of students have been signing on to the electoral register in recent weeks, and polling — otherwise so dismal for Labour — shows that among young people the party leads.

If the vote was confined to the under-40s, Jeremy Corbyn would beat May easily. All this points to the need for a mammoth get-out-the-vote campaign between now and June 8.

Labour has a huge asset in its party members. This half-a-million-strong army represents man and woman-power on a scale the Tories can only dream of.

However much the parliamentary party and its bureaucracy have mistreated them, Labour members understand what is at stake for Britain and the awful consequences of a victory for May.

Beyond that, the entire movement needs to come together to stop a government committed to smashing trade unions and impoverishing families in or out of work.

A Labour win is the only method of doing so. Over the coming month, everyone on the left should be out fighting for that victory.

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Another fascistic Daily Mail front page

April 19, 2017 at 4:35 pm (Daily Mail, democracy, elections, Europe, fascism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

LBC’s excellent  James O’Brien responds to Daily Mail’s “Crush The Saboteurs” front page

James O’Brien on THAT Daily Mail front page.

“Every time you think things might calm down, along comes the Daily Mail to absolutely reignite the flames of fury and unrighteous indignation.”

The day after Theresa May called for a snap election in June, the Daily Mail’s front page message was simple: “Crush The Saboteurs”.

James O’Brien was compelled to respond to it as he opened his show on LBC. For him, today’s front page might go down in history with the infamous ‘Enemies of the People’ splash the paper ran about the High Court judges who ruled on Brexit.

“As people are very fond of saying, we are where we are. And where we are is headed for the exit, it’s just a question of which exit we’re going to go through.

“The suggestion that we’re going to go through the worst available exit is something surely that you feel qualified to question. It’s reasonable to say: is that really a good idea? Except it’s not.

 “The best proof of this is provided by the man who actually runs the country, the editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre.”

This is the front page in full:

Crush The Saboteurs Front Page

James continued: “I think it’s going to go up there with ‘Enemies of the People’, isn’t it?

“First of all they’ve chosen a picture of her which is unflattering, I think it’s fair to say…this will have [Dacre’s] fingerprints all over it.

“But this phrase here: ‘Crush The Saboteurs’.

“Every time you think things might calm down, along comes the Daily Mail to absolutely reignite the flames of fury and unrighteous indignation.

“‘Crush The Saboteurs’ – what does that even mean?!

“‘Crush The Saboteurs’ seems to me to be the opposite of democracy.

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