RF No. 17 Editorial: Getting serious about taking power

THIS YEAR opened with a series of key questions.

  •  Will the Tories’ Brexit woes bring Theresa May’s government down, or do we need to push them out?
  • Is John McDonnell’s economic policy of taxing the rich and big business and setting up a People’s Investment Bank sufficient to transform Britain?
  • Is Labour’s Brexit policy fundamentally different to the Tories’? And if not, what should the party fight for?

Will May fall?

May is ringed by backstabbing ministers, like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, and backbenchers, like the weird Jacob-Rees Mogg. Then there are the Democratic Unionists –unreliable allies if ever there were.

The press is full of rumours that the chair of the 1922 Committee has received close to the 48 letters from Tory backbenchers requesting a leadership election. But a palace coup in Westminster, if it forced May to resign, would unleash a crisis in the party.

Hardline Brexiteers might well win, but then face a parliamentary party with a majority of “Remoaners”. This would make another general election – and a Labour landslide – a near certainty. This prospect might stay the hands of the rebels.

But with Labour now on 600,000 members plus tens of thousands of trade unionists, we can take advantage of the self-harming Tories and topple them.

Starting with the mass demos planned over the next few months, but escalating to strike action and occupations, we should mobilise to:

  • Demand the funds to save the NHS
  • Raise real wages across the board
  • Expose and oppose austerity
  • Fight privatisation and PFI.

Labour keeps saying we need to become a social movement, now is the time to begin acting like one.

Labour’s economic policy

Big business is afraid of a Labour government because they will have to pay more in higher taxes and higher wages.

Currently our policy is to close tax havens, introduce a modest increase in higher rate of income tax and corporation tax, renationalise the railways and some utilities, cancel PFIs and set up a national investment bank to create jobs.

While the economy is growing for the moment, albeit at the slowest rate in Europe and the G7, McDonnell may find some money for some reforms. But what when the next recession hits, as it must?

But with the banks sitting on billions, waiting for higher profit margins to emerge or the chance to speculate on the markets, how can we unlock this wealth so it can be spent on socially useful projects?

Indeed the collapse of Carillion has shown not only that PFI doesn’t work but that when it comes to public services and huge infrastructure projects “capitalism isn’t working”. And it needs to be replaced.

The next Labour government will need to nationalise the banks and put investment decisions under the control of the working class majority, not the billionaire minority. That’s the only way to guarantee useful jobs that can rebuild Britain in the interests of the many not the few.

The progressive answer to Brexit

In this issue of Red Flag we scrutinise Emily Thornberry’s approach to internationalism and the record of the anti-war movement. Both represent cause for concern and need rethinking within the movement.

But it is Brexit that must surely be the biggest worry for Labour Party members. By insisting that the narrow referendum mandate, won through deceit and misleading the public, must be respected, Jeremy Corbyn has backed himself into a corner.

Time and again, Jeremy falls back on his default position: Britain will end free movement of labour, leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, while retaining near-frictionless trading relations with the EU.

Nonsense. It cannot be done. The offer is not on the table. And for good reason: the EU cannot offer non-member states the same rights as members.

So the only policy that makes sense in terms of jobs and workers’ rights – including the right to live and work in other EU countries – is to keep free movement, and stay in the Single Market.

Fortunately for Labour, most two-thirds of its members and voters voted to remain. That figure has probably risen. While it is true that two-thirds of Labour seats voted to leave, those views are not cast in stone and with vigorous campaigning we can turn them round.

Labour should say:

  • Hard Brexit will be a disaster. If you want to see what tariffs can do to jobs, just ask Bombardier workers in Belfast.
  • Free movement of labour does not take away jobs, force down wages or place a burden on services. On the contrary, migration represents a net gain to the economy – and our communities.
  • Labour would aim for a deal that safeguards trade and jobs, i.e. one that keeps the UK in the Single Market – even though that would in fact be worse than remaining in Europe.
  • Any deal must be put to the people in another referendum – or at a general election where the parties’ positions are clear – with options to accept the deal, or leave with no deal, or remain in the EU.
  • Last but not least, we must join with our sister parties and unions across Europe to combat the EU’s neoliberal and imperialist agenda, and fight for a Socialist United States of Europe.

Labour is well placed to make 2018 a real turning point if it can mobilise to push the Tories out, strengthen the anti-capitalist nature of its policy, and realign its position on Brexit.

If Labour takes the road of class struggle, we can defeat the Tories and their big business backers, and open the way to a fundamental transfer of power and wealth from the few, to the many.

That is what we are fighting for – if you agree, join Red Flag and the fight for socialism.