A handful of disloyal members are using their privileges as MPs to launch a coup against Jeremy Corbyn. This coup demonstrates the plotters’ contempt for democracy and for the wishes of the 250,000 people who elected Jeremy as leader nine months ago. Deputy leader Tom Watson barely waited to get the Glastonbury mud off his boots before adding his knife to Jeremy’s back. The vote to leave the European Union has been used by the plotters as a pretext to launch a premeditated attempt to oust Corbyn and reverse the membership’s vote to endorse an anti-austerity, anti-war, internationalist policy for the Labour Party.
The motivation for this latest assault is Corbyn’s allegedly “lacklustre” campaign to Remain in the EU.
Labour’s joint campaign with the Tories in the Scottish referendum saw the party virtually annihilated north of the border. A joint campaign with the British ruling class would have reinforced UKIP’s claim that Labour is a party of the establishment, indistinguishable from the Tories.
The EU has many genuine defects – its imposition of austerity on Greece and its undemocratic institutions should not be ignored. Corbyn was right to stand 100 per cent for Remain whilst at the same time criticising the EU. He took this working class-oriented campaign across the country and was right to reject collaboration with the Tories, to reject pandering to the racist right on immigration and to demand an EU-wide struggle to improve the conditions of working class people.
The hypocrisy of these charlatans is breathtaking. Corbyn led a campaign that saw two thirds of Labour voters side with Remain. But many of the leading rebels were responsible for their constituencies voting Leave by large majorities. If anyone should resign for failing to get the Labour vote out, it should be them.
The actions of the rebels are sabotaging the most urgent task facing the entire labour movement – to unite in action against the consequences of Brexit: a harsh “Brexit budget” to pay for it, the rise of UKIP’s influence and a normalisation of racist intimidation and violence against migrants and refugees.
A new hard right Tory leader, whether Boris Johnson or Theresa May, will be in place by October; and a snap general election to bolster their position will be carried out in a climate of frenzied attacks on migrants and Europe.
The Labour party should be preparing to lead the labour movement in a fight against the clear and present dangers we face. Instead we have been plunged into civil war by an unaccountable clique of right wing MPs and their bag carriers in the party bureaucracy and local government.
These irresponsible MPs would rather destroy the Labour Party and sabotage the opposition to the Tories than accept that they are out of touch with the views of the membership.
Us and them
But they can and must be stopped. The key fact is their mortal fear of the party and trade union membership. These cowards have demanded a secret ballot of the PLP so they can avoid exposure to their constituents – who they did not bother to consult before appearing on every TV channel available to announce their coup.
They are using the PLP to launch their coup because they know that they would lose if they are forced to challenge Corbyn in a new leadership election. General Secretary Iain McNicol has apparently received legal advice that the MPs would have to decide if he appears on the ballot.
For all their talk about Corbyn being “out of touch”, the plotters know it is they who have no support in the party, let alone in the wider labour movement.
We are many – they are few. But as Karl Marx said about the whole working class:
“One element of success they possess — numbers; but numbers weigh in the balance only if united by combination and led by knowledge.”
That is where Momentum comes in. It has mobilised an online petition which links to your MP and published a statement supporting Corbyn. Even better it has organised a picket of the PLP meeting today. It should extend this across the country to MPs’ surgeries, where they should be asked point blank to condemn the coup and endorse the democratic decision of the members.
Whether the rebels attempt to replace Corbyn as leader in the House of Commons, keep him off a leadership ballot, or simply try to fatally wound him in a new election, we must accept that a hardline clique has declared war on the membership. There is no going back.
Union leaders and their members must back up the statements of support with concrete action: de-recognise the rebels and cut them off from any union funds. Any MP who refuses to recognise the authority of the elected leader of the party must be replaced with one who does. The NEC must stand up to the blackmail of the parliamentary elite and cut them off from all official party funds and resources.
This is the moment for decisive action. All party members should bombard the party HQ and their MPs voicing their opposition to this coup. We need to organise meetings of all members and supporters to plan our response.
Because this isn’t just about defending Jeremy’s leadership. For the hundreds of thousands who elected him and the millions more who respect his integrity and principles, this is about defending the policies that he was elected to lead the party on in 2015.
The right want to triangulate with Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson over immigration. They don’t want to stop privatisation in the NHS. They want Britain to participate in NATO’s wars and occupations. They don’t want to stand up for migrants and those who rely on the safety net of the welfare state.
If they succeed it would provoke a mass exit by hundreds of thousands of members and set back our struggle to create a party that defends the interests of the working class, against the billionaires who exploit us.
Momentum faces a life or death struggle; we have to rouse the mass of members and supporters against the parliamentary mandarins; force them to surrender and pledge their loyalty to the members – or to resign their seats.
The new members of the Shadow Cabinet should immediately tour the country, speaking at mass meetings of Labour supporters and voters to discuss the radical alternative that the Labour Party should offer.
Whether or not there is a leadership contest, the Labour Conference in Liverpool should move to launch a campaign with the unions to defeat the oncoming Tory offensive and reverse all the cuts.
We need to be ready for the Tories to call a general election at a time of their choosing and be prepared to confront a UKIP offensive in those areas neglected by Labour governments and cuts imposed by Labour councils.
By then let us have a PLP that is a principled, disciplined and willing servant of a democratic party – and not its arrogant master.