By KD Tait
- Members choose the leader, not MPs
- Fight austerity and war; defend free movement
- For a workers’ party with socialist policy
10,000 people turned up at 24 hours’ notice to support Jeremy Corbyn at the 27 June meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party which John McDonnell described as being like a “lynch mob without a rope”.
THE COUP has failed. Jeremy Corbyn has resisted a vicious attempt to morally blackmail him into resigning and opening the way to a right-wing counter-revolution in the Labour Party – a return to austerity-lite and anti-immigration policies.
The Labour rebels will now have to challenge Corbyn and hundreds of thousands of members in a leadership contest, once they stop squabbling amongst themselves and agree a candidate.
This is not about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. This is a rebellion against the ideas he represents:
- an end to austerity
- an end to participation in wars and occupations
- for public control of services
- the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor
- refusing to blame migrant workers for the havoc wreaked by the Tories, the bosses and their system
These ideas are a threat to the Establishment because they embody the aspirations of millions of people for a radical break with the status quo.
The campaign to leave the European Union was led by people who want us to blame immigrants for the problems caused by cuts and by the failure of the market to provide enough homes and jobs. Jeremy Corbyn’s call for new politics to counter the racism and austerity of the Establishment politicians can be a positive alternative.
If the rebels really cared about working class people, they would be concentrating their efforts on attacking the Tory government. If they really cared about the disaster of the referendum, they would be fighting the surge of racism and preparing to resist the assault by Michael Gove or Theresa May on labour rights and protective regulations, and a new austerity budget to pay for Brexit.
Instead, they refused to vote against the Welfare Bill, which plunged disabled people into further poverty. Most of them voted for Britain’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Now, they want to sabotage the fightback by dividing and splitting our forces, instead of taking advantage of the turmoil in the Tory party.
Their record speaks for itself. It is a record of putting the interest of the British Establishment, the ruling class that controls all the fundamental economic levers in society, ahead of the interests of working class people. This is a revolt by the agents of the Establishment, the defenders of the failed politics of the past inside the Labour Party, against the members.
The action of the 179 rebels ranks alongside previous acts of betrayal in Labour’s history; the Gang of Four split in 1981 and Ramsay MacDonald’s destruction of the Labour government in 1931. They should remember that the labour movement is not quick to forget or forgive treason. They should ask themselves why it is the billionaire media and the Tory leaders who cheer them on.
The answer to MPs who think they simply overrule the membership is to use the democracy of the party against them.
The Parliamentary Labour Party rebels have arrogantly brushed aside both the Party’s policies and its rules. At a General Committee meeting of her Camberwell and Peckham constituency Harriet Harman, former interim leader, came up with a priceless remark that sums up her caste’s contempt for democracy:
“You don’t have the right to lead just because you have been elected.”
Elsewhere, Dan Jarvis MP has written:
“As a Labour MP I’m not a delegate for my local party, I’ve been elected to Parliament by my constituents to stand up for them and make sure their voice is heard in Parliament”.
But he wasn’t elected primarily due to his individual qualities; people voted for the Labour rosette on his lapel, for the policies of the Labour Party.
He appeals to the voters, but conveniently for him they are a “silent majority”, allowing him to claim to speak on their behalf.
On the other hand a party made up of hundreds of thousands of members can use its democratic structures to make the majority views of its members known.
Jarvis is making absolutely clear that whatever the membership votes for he will do exactly what he wants. All members who have demonstrated this aristocratic attitude to the members need to be told that we choose them to represent the policy of the party, as decided by the members. If they don’t like that, they are free not to be MPs.
Who do you answer to
They want a party that is “respectable” – in the eyes of Murdoch and the City billionaires, because it has “sensible” economic policies, those approved of by the Financial Times.
They want a party that is “responsible” in the eyes of the army, the spy chiefs and the warmongering leaders of the United States and the European Union.
The rebels are bitterly divided, but they are united by a common goal: to secure a Labour Party and a leader who are responsible to the financial and political elite, to the capitalist ruling class of this country. Tony Blair got them used to the idea that Labour was a third party for this class, totally loyal to it. Many of today’s MPs joined the Commons as part of this “Project”.
Corbyn’s election was a huge shock to them; a reminder that the party was still rooted in the trade unions, in working class communities, in young people inspired by radical and socialist ideas.
It reminded them that Labour has two opposed characters – and that the one that had been suppressed for decades, reduced to a tiny minority in the PLP, could re-emerge, and has just done so in sufficient force to challenge and topple the Blair Project.
The Labour Party elite in parliament, and their allies in the councils and their staffs, would rather split and destroy the Labour Party than see it become a voice and a vehicle for those without a voice, without a political weapon to resist exploitation and oppression.
Fight to win
The aggression of the PLP rebels is is not a sign of strength – it reveals their weakness and their fear of losing control. If they lose control of the party, and alienate the unions, they will lose their utility to the British ruling class, and the social and economic privileges that come with it.
They know this is a political fight to the death, and are acting accordingly by dispensing with the rules and trampling the party’s democracy into the mud.
This time, the struggle will be harder. The right wing are prepared, the majority will unite around one candidate, and the media will escalate its attacks on Corbyn and the members.
Our priority is not to expend our efforts winning over the weak and hesitant middle ground in the Party bodies. Projecting a defensive and pacifist message would come at the cost of winning the young, the angry, those who never came to branch meetings to hear tedious reports from the MP or the councillors.
More demonstrations and outpouring of support are needed to help Jeremy and his allies in parliament stick to their guns.
If Momentum is able to provide a lead in mobilising huge mass meetings across the country to communicate Labour’s anti-austerity, anti-racist message, as Corbyn’s campaign did in 2015, the right can be routed again, this time decisively. Like last time too, we need huge pressure from grassroots union members to ensure their leaders continue to back Corbyn to the hilt.
But this time we should recognise there is little chance of the PLP submitting to a renewed mandate when Jeremy wins. They will continue to rebel and sabotage the Party. Widespread reports in the media that they are investigating how to seize the party name reveal that they are preparing to split and condemn us to at least five more years of Tory rule. Calls for “Party unity” by people preparing to split is naked hypocrisy. They picked this fight; we must finish it by definitively changing the policies of the party, and its representatives.
Now is the time for all socialists, all progressive people, all those who want a genuine political alternative, to join Labour to defeat the rebellion, and then to open the road to a new kind of party which can make revolutionary change a reality.
An shorter version of this article appeared online before being edited and updated for print