THE JUNE election result proved an unexpected disaster for the “winner” and a triumph for the “loser”. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn is safe from his PLP, while Theresa May is on borrowed time is one of those reversals being thrown up more and more often in these turbulent times. Since the election, May’s stock has plummeted even further in the eyes of the electorate, the media and business. All of which is going to make the prime minister’s attempts to negotiate Brexit, whilst keeping her party together, her deal with the DUP workable, and voters onside, rather difficult. May’s only advantage is that the rest of the Tories hate each other so much they can’t agree on a suitable challenger.
So the Tories will tone down austerity to please the DUP, and seek a two-year legislative term in the Queen’s speech, which is likely to be light on new legislation and heavy on the “responsibility” of conducting serious Brexit negotiations. But everyone now knows May’s “Brexit means Brexit” is rubbish. With the Tories and the country in the state they’re in, Brexit means whatever the Europeans want it to – and if we don’t like it, well, we can leave.
Brexit will be a mess for the Tories, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy for Labour either. The Tories may seek to embroil Labour and the SNP in some form of collective responsibility, which would be fatal. Labour needs to reject any class collaboration on Brexit and adopt its own plan, which above all safeguards the interests of working people of whatever nationality to live, work and retire in the UK.
In the interests of party management, both parties played down the importance of Brexit during the election. It will not be possible for them to do so for much longer. It’s time to recognise that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between seeking to sever links with Europe, to privilege British over European workers and being the party of the multi-national and multi-ethnic working class.
In our view the interests of Labour, the trade union movement and the working class here and abroad are best served by choosing to come down on the side of closer integration into Europe and strengthening ties with the European labour movement. In practice Labour should seek a deal which guarantees free movement and access to the single market. It should then put this to a referendum, give all residents over 16 a vote and campaign for this outcome to be accepted.
In the worst possible way, Grenfell has acted as a lightning rod for all that is wrong with our society. We now know that the fire spread so fatally fast because the contractor saved £5,000 on not using fireproof materials.
From the response of the local authority, through the contractors, up to the top of government, a chain of criminal responsibility can be established which, whilst it must certainly condemn individuals, also condemns the entire political and economic system.
Once those affected are rehoused and given the support to start rebuilding their lives, the absolute priority is an audit of all council and private housing, to ensure it meets relevant safety standards. We should not wait for our irresponsible and incompetent government to do this, but start organising it ourselves, through residents’ groups which link up with the fire brigade and council employee unions.
All out on 1 July
John McDonnell has called for a million people on the streets on 1 July. He’s right. We can’t give the Tories any room to breathe.
Over the next few weeks there will be a slew of demonstrations and protests, which reinforce the feeling among millions that the recent election, far from giving Theresa May a mandate, is unfinished business.
We will see whether the trade union leaders endorse his call. But in the meantime, let’s get every Labour Party ward and CLP to back it and start getting people ready to go. Link up with local trade union and trades councils to organise publicity and transport.
A successful demonstration on 1 July can be the launchpad for a movement that refuses to give the Tory-DUP lash up a minute’s rest. The Tories will try and hang on by any means possible – so we need to be prepared to use all the forms of action at our disposal to block them at every turn.
By frustrating their efforts and demonstrating their loss of popular consent, we can force them to hold a new general election, opening the road to a Labour government.
Stop the new war threat
In response to the shooting down of a Syrian air force jet over northern Syria on Sunday 18 June, the Russian Defence Ministry has issued a warning that it would treat any US or allied aircraft operating in Syria west of the Euphrates River as a hostile target. In addition Russia has cut off the “deconfliction” hotline to the Pentagon.
The pretext for the American assault is that the Syrian jet was attacking US allies engaged in fighting Islamic State. All sides in this war freely accuse one other, and especially each other’s local allies, of being terrorists and thus legitimate targets. All of these accusations are expressions of self-serving hypocrisy.
The danger of the two imperialist powers shooting down each other’s warplanes is now a serious one. Putin and Trump, both posing for their domestic audiences as strongmen who put their country’s interests (i.e. its imperialist war aims) before everything else, would undoubtedly be obliged to retaliate and thus escalate the conflict into a direct clash between two nuclear superpowers.
The antiwar movement, which opposed the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the genesis of this cycle of horrors should now mobilise to put mass pressure on the imperialist governments to withdraw their forces from the region, to stop all bombings and to avoid the incalculable dangers of a clash between nuclear-armed powers.
With Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party and a historically once-powerful antiwar movement in the Stop the War Coalition, we have an international duty to raise the standard of revolt against the threat of imperialist war.
Corbyn, who has personally voted against every decision to send troops or bombers to the Middle East, nevertheless conceded a free vote to the pro-bombing majority in the Labour parliamentary party in 2015.
This was a serious political error. He should now insist that the Labour Party in parliament opposes all UK involvement in the bombing and put down a motion to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all British air, sea and land forces from the region. He should impose a three-line whip on Labour MPs to vote for this and make it clear that those who do not do so will be suspended.
Meanwhile the local and national bodies of the party must join with the antiwar movement in mass agitation on the streets against the war threat, which is greatly increasing and which the population must be alerted to.