Labour leadership contest: Corbyn’s support shows anti-austerity message is popular

Editorial from the Socialist Newspaper from the 28th July:

Labour leadership contest:  

Corbyn’s support shows anti-austerity message is popular

corb

Jeremy Corbyn, photo David Hunt, Wikimedia Commons

Panic is gripping the right-wing clique that dominates the Labour Party, at the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader.

Even some in the Tory Party, despite enjoying watching civil war unfold within the Labour Party, are now frightened about what it will mean if Corbyn actually wins. One cabinet member is reported as worrying that Corbyn’s leadership “would drag the overall debate to the left and the tiny risk of his victory would be a catastrophe for Britain” (Guardian 27 July 2015).

For decades barely a whisper of the views of the majority of working-class people – far to the left of any of the establishment parties – has been heard in Westminster.

For example, opinion polls consistently show big majorities for renationalisation of privatised companies. One YouGov poll in 2013 showed 68%, 67% and 66% support respectively for renationalisation of the energy companies, the Royal Mail and the railway companies.

Yet Labour – just like the Tories and the Lib-Dems – has refused to promise any renationalisation. On the contrary, in office it massively expanded the role of the private sector in the NHS and other parts of the public sector.

Even former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is no socialist, commented that he was not surprised at Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity given the “demand for a strong anti-austerity movement around increased concern about inequality”.

He went on: “The bottom 90% of the economy has seen stagnation for a third of a century…It’s just very hard to say these centre-left parties – with emphasis on ‘centre’ – have been able to deliver for most people. Their economic models have not delivered and their message is not working.”

Only a handful of Labour MPs – including Jeremy Corbyn – have put forward such ‘dangerous’ ideas as opposition to austerity, or call for the abolition of student tuition fees or for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws.

Up until now they have been drowned out by the baying of the Blairites. This was summed up by the leadership election before Jeremy Corbyn’s late entrance, with all three candidates competing to show who was the most ‘business friendly’.

Wave of support

Now – having scraped onto the ballot paper after being ‘lent’ nominations by right-wing MPs – Jeremy Corbyn has got a platform for an anti-austerity programme. The result has been a tidal wave of enthusiasm for his candidacy. The right wing MPs who nominated him to ‘broaden the contest’ are bitterly regretting their actions.

One of them, Margaret Beckett, accepted the accusation that she had been a ‘moron’. Young people and trade unionists, excited about anti-austerity ideas are the worst nightmare of the Blairites.

They have dedicated decades to stamping socialist ideas out of the Labour Party, beginning with the witch-hunt against the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party).

Now the anti-austerity voice of the majority is in danger of bursting their Westminster bubble. To try to stop this, the Labour right is scrabbling around to try to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn is defeated.

In this they have the full and vocal support of the capitalist media and behind it the capitalist class.

They are using every tool at their disposal to try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. However, so far all their efforts are backfiring.

One of the lines of attack is to suggest that the Labour Party is supposedly being infiltrated by “Militant Tendency types”.

According to the Daily Mail chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party John Cryer MP has claimed that “Militant supporters are using the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to pay the £3 voting fee.” This is wholly inaccurate.

TUSC

The Socialist Party wishes Jeremy Corbyn well in the Labour leadership election. However, we are part of TUSC along with the transport workers’ union, the RMT, and many other socialists and trade unionists.

TUSC stood over 700 candidates in the elections which took place on 7 May 2015, aiming to begin to create the basis for a new – 100% anti-austerity – party of the working class.

We are not encouraging TUSC supporters to join the Labour Party, but rather to continue to build TUSC.

The existence of TUSC has, however, assisted Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid. It was made clear at the Unite NEC, a Labour-affiliated union, for example, that one of the reasons for its decision to back Jeremy Corbyn was that if it didn’t, TUSC supporters campaigning for a new party may succeed as a result of the increasing discontent of Unite members with Labour’s anti-worker policies.

The people being decried as ‘infiltrators’ are overwhelmingly young people new to politics and also older workers previously disillusioned by Labour’s transformation into a capitalist party.

Labour lost the general election not for being too left wing, as all the other Labour leadership candidates claim, but for not being left wing enough.

Millions of ‘traditional Labour’ voters did not vote, or voted for other parties, because they could not stomach Labour’s ‘austerity-lite’ programme.

Now, faced with further vicious attacks on working class people by this Tory government, Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature has kindled a hope that Labour could become a voice in defence of all those under the cosh.

His campaign programme is actually quite limited, merely calling for ‘meaningful regulation of the banking sector’ rather than for nationalisation of the banks under democratic control, for example.

Nonetheless he has enthused many with his clear call for abolition of student fees and to reinstate the student grant, his promise to repeal anti-trade union laws and other pledges.

In a concerted attempt to frighten Corbyn supporters out of voting for him, the Labour right is claiming that left-wing ideas will never win an election.

The Militant is being held up as a bogeyman whose ideas would have consigned the Labour Party to un-electability.

Militant’s Liverpool record

Yet the history of the Militant Tendency demonstrates exactly the opposite. The Militant Tendency played a central role in the ‘city that dared to fight’; the 1983-87 heroic struggle of Liverpool City Council against Thatcher’s government.

The council refused to implement cuts, and demanded the return of the money stolen from the council by the Tories. It was able to mobilise working class people Liverpool in support of its stance, with massive demonstrations and city-wide strike action.

As a result of standing up to the Tories in 1984 it won £60 million from the Tories. Liverpool City Council’s achievements included the building of 5,000 council houses, six new leisure centres, four new colleges and six new nurseries.

Today Labour councils up and down the country are dutifully implementing Tory cuts; imagine how popular a council that took the ‘Liverpool Road’ would be? If a swathe of councils took the same stand the resulting movement would have the potential to end Tory austerity.

And the ‘Liverpool Road’ was popular back then as well. The legacy of the Liverpool struggle was, for many years, a consistently higher Labour vote in Liverpool than other cities.

Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, launched a vicious witch-hunt against Militant and Liverpool City Council.

In reality, this was part of the drive to transform Labour into one more party of big-business, virtually indistinguishable from the Tories and Liberals.

It was justified, however, by the need to be ‘electable’. Yet in the 1987 general election, Labour nationally inched ahead, condemning workers to another five years of the Tories. Meanwhile in Liverpool Labour’s vote increased by 9.5% compared to 1983, the biggest swing to Labour in the history of the city.

These events were followed by the battle against the poll tax, where Militant supporters led an extremely popular 18 million-strong mass non-payment movement, which not only led to the abolition of the tax but also to the resignation of Thatcher.

If the Labour leadership had supported the non-payment movement they could have won the 1992 general election. Instead, disastrously, Labour councils were sending non-payers to prison.

As Militant supporters were expelled from the Labour Party we warned that this was the thin end of the wedge, and that the end result would be the expulsion of socialist ideas and the voice of the organised working-class from the party.

This is what has taken place over the succeeding decades. The right has strengthened its political grip on the party, while the democratic structures of the Labour Party – which allowed the organised working class in the trade unions to influence the party – have been destroyed.

Leadership election

It is highly ironic that an unintended consequence of the latest undemocratic rule changes, implemented under Miliband, is the current situation. The Labour leadership has become a virtual lottery in which any individual – Labour supporter or not – can potentially vote.

The result is people signing up for £3 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. We do not support this electoral system, which is more akin to a US-style ‘primary’ than to a democratic election of a party leader.

Usually this system means that the membership of a party is dissolved into broader layers of the population, who are more influenced by the pro-capitalist propaganda from the mainstream media.

On this occasion however, despite the efforts of the capitalist press, given the groundswell of support for Corbyn, and the extreme weakness of the other candidates, it is possible he could win.

If this happens it would be a real step forward. It would mean, in effect, the formation of a new party.

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters would face open revolt from the right-wing that dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Labour machine, which would be totally unwilling to accept his leadership.

Of the 232 members of the Parliamentary Labour Party only nine are members of the Socialist Campaign Group to which Jeremy Corbyn belongs.

Already Labour MPs are threatening to trigger another contest immediately in order to get Jeremy Corbyn ‘out by Christmas’.

Far from respecting democracy the Blairites, as Bertolt Brecht put it, want to dissolve the electorate and get a new one!

In this situation Jeremy Corbyn would need to stand firm and mobilise the maximum possible support from across the workers’ movement.

We would encourage him to organise a conference of all those who have voted for him, plus the many trade unions – including non-affiliated unions like the RMT, PCS and FBU – which support a fighting anti-austerity programme.

The Socialist Party would participate in such a conference and would encourage other TUSC supporters to do the same. The ensuing battle could result in the pro-capitalist elements being ejected from or leaving the Labour Party.

However, given the class character of the Labour Party today – it is more likely that such a struggle would result in the right clinging onto the machine and forcing out the democratically elected leader and his supporters.

Whatever the outcome the basis would be created for a significant, clearly anti-austerity, and potentially very popular new party.

If, on the other hand, one of the three Blairite horrors wins the election we would urge Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters to draw all the necessary conclusions from their experience.

While anti-austerity ideas are viewed with disdain by the Labour Party machine, they are very popular among workers and young people.

A political voice for those ideas is urgently needed. The Socialist Party, along with others in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has been campaigning to prepare the ground for the creation of such a party.

If Jeremy was defeated in the Labour leadership election but was then to call for his voters to join him in building a new party – with a clear anti-cuts, socialist programme – it could very quickly gain momentum.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the single most important feature of it is that anti-austerity young people and workers are beginning to find a political voice. This is an important step forward which will be vital in the coming struggles against the Tory government.

….For Further reading the The article below was posted by the Socialist Party on 17th July….

Support for Corbyn’s anti-austerity message rattles Labour machine

“Jeremy Corbyn ‘on course to come top’ in the Labour leadership election” declared the New Statesman on 15 July, 2015.

Following leaked polling which suggested that Corbyn was ahead of all three of his Blairite rivals, the Daily Telegraph published an article on how its readers could ‘doom’ Labourby paying the nominal £3 fee to become a Labour supporter and voting for Corbyn.

No doubt if, as is possible, Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership contest, the pro-capitalist majority of the parliamentary Labour Party will try to blame it on readers of the Daily Torygraph.

This would be far from the truth. The popularity of Corbyn’s candidature reflects, above all, enthusiasm for his anti-austerity stance.

Labour lost the general election not for being too left wing, as all the other Labour leadership candidates claim, but for not being left wing enough.

Millions of ‘traditional Labour’ voters did not vote, or voted for other parties, because they could not stomach Labour’s ‘austerity-lite’ programme.

Now, faced with further vicious attacks on working class people by this Tory government, Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature has kindled a hope that Labour could become a voice in defence of all those under the cosh.

His campaign programme is actually quite limited,merely calling for ‘meaningful regulation of the banking sector’ rather than for nationalisation of the banks under democratic control, for example.

Nonetheless he has enthused many with his clear call for abolition of student fees and to reinstate the student grant, his promise to repeal anti-trade union laws and other pledges.

Signing up

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a FE cuts lobby of parliament, June 2015, photo Rob Williams

The result is a layer of people signing up to participate in the leadership election in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

One local Labour Party chair told the New Statesman that, “‘more than two thirds’ of recruits since the election are supporters of Corbyn.” Three national Labour-affiliated trade unions have given support to Corbyn, including Britain’s biggest union Unite, compared to just one (UCATT) that has supported Andy Burnham, supposedly the ‘trade union candidate’.

In addition two left non-affiliated unions – the RMT and the FBU – have backed Jeremy Corbyn. So far 65,000 members of affiliated unions are reported to have signed up to vote in the leadership contest.

No doubt, the right-wing MPs who nominated Corbyn, allowing him to scrape onto the ballot paper, are now nervously regretting their actions.

One of their major motivations was to make it easier for the leaders of the affiliated trade unions to justify remaining with Labour.

This could have proved impossible if the ‘pro-trade union option’ had been Andy Burnham – the man who was booed at GMB conference for supporting benefit cuts and launched his campaign at international tax-avoidance specialists Ernst & Young! However, in putting Corbyn on the ballot paper they underestimated the risk they were taking, not understanding the potential popularity of an anti-austerity programme.

A virtual lottery

Jeremy Corbyn addressing  UCU strikers and supporters)

It is an ironic consequence of the complete destruction of the Labour Party’s democratic structures, via which the trade union movement could express its collective voice, that the Labour leadership has become a virtual lottery in which any individual – Labour supporter or not – can potentially vote.

This is more akin to a US-style ‘primary’ than to a democratic election of a party leader. Usually this system means that the party membership is dissolved into broader, more passive layers of the population, who are more influenced by the pro-capitalist propaganda from the mainstream media.

There is no doubt that in the remaining eight weeks of the Labour leadership contest much of the capitalistmedia will crank up the anti-Corbyn propaganda to try and make sure that he loses.

However, given the groundswell of support for Corbyn, and the extreme weakness of the more right-wing candidates, this is not guaranteed to succeed.

If Corbyn was to win, however, there is no prospect of this being accepted by the right-wing pro-capitalist elements that dominate both the Labour Party machine and the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Of the 232 members of the parliamentary Labour Party only nine are members of the Socialist Campaign Group to which Jeremy Corbyn belongs.

Very probably the right would refuse to accept the result – perhaps on the basis of individual Tories having voted – and demand a new election. In whatever form it took, a civil war would erupt in the Labour Party.

A clear socialist programme needed

Corbyn and his supporters would need to stand firm against the attacks of the right, fighting for a Labour Party with a clear socialist programme – and for the recreation of its destroyed democratic structures, including for the exclusion of the openly pro-capitalist elements and the re-admittance of those socialists – including supporters of the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party) – who were expelled as part of Labour’s transformation into a capitalist party.

If such a battle was engaged the Socialist Party would welcome it as potentially an important step on the road to solving the crisis of working-class political representation.

However – given the class character of the Labour Party today – it is more likely that such a struggle would result in the left being ejected from the party. This too, however, could create the base for a significant new workers’ party.

If, on the other hand, one of the three Blairite horrors wins the election we would urge Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters to draw all the necessary conclusions from their experience.

While anti-austerity ideas are viewed with horror by the Labour Party machine, the widespread support for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has already shown they are very popular among workers and young people.

A political voice for those ideas is urgently needed. The Socialist Party, along with others in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has been campaigning to prepare the ground for the creation of such a party.

If Jeremy was defeated in the Labour leadership election but was then to call for his voters to join him in building a new party – with a clear anti-cuts, socialist programme – it could very quickly gain momentum.

Advertisements

TUSC opposes attacks on trade unions

TUSC opposes attacks on trade unions

TUSC supporters

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has added its voice to mounting opposition against the Conservative government’s Trade Union Bill raising the threshold for union strike ballots, and allowing employers to bring in agency staff to break strikes.

The Trade Union Bill, introduced to Parliament on Wednesday, 11th July, imposes a minimum 50% turnout in union strike ballots; for public sector strikes to be legal they would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote.

TUSC national chair, former Labour MP Dave Nellist, said:

“The threshold the government wishes to impose would mean that, in the public sector, a ballot in which 50% voted, and of those 70% voted ‘Yes ‘, would still not be a legal basis for a strike.

Those percentages far outweigh the votes on which the current government were elected – yet they wish to impose a higher test on trade unions than they themselves passed in May.

The real reason the Tories are pursuing this course is the billions of pounds of cuts still to come in additional public spending this autumn – savaging in particular local services, everything from libraries to youth clubs, from family centres to adult social care – and the knowledge that working people will resist, and that trade unions will lead the opposition.

The government are getting their retaliation in first.

TUSC will oppose the introduction of these new anti-union laws, and demand that current legislation, already some of the most Draconian in the advanced industrial world, be repealed. We will work with trade unions opposing this Bill in the 120 towns and cities where TUSC stood candidates this year. If this Bill is passed we will support workers who take strike action whatever the majority vote in favour or size of turnout.”

Hundreds protest across West Midlands against Tory Austerity Budget

Hundreds protest across West Midlands against Tory Austerity Budget

The Tories emergency budget on 8th July saw vicious attacks on huge sections of society. But one group particularly hard hit was young people. The abolition of student grants, attacks on our right to housing benefit and that under-25s will be excluded from the new so-called living wage, mean young people are facing an even more bleak and uncertain future. But Osborne’s cuts budget was met with resistance. Protests took place around the country. In the West Midlands, Youth Fight for Jobs and young members of the Socialist Party organised 6 events throughout the day.

Despite catching the only times during the day where it rained, protests were held in Wolverhampton and Nuneaton while the budget proposals were being announced. With Youth Fight for Jobs organised events taking place later on in the day in Stoke and Worcester as well.

nuneaton budegt day

  Nuneaton Protesters

wolves budget

Wolverhampton

Aidan from Nuneaton reported;“We had loads of good conversations with people who were disgusted with Tory austerity and happily signed petitions and took leaflets away about building the anti-austerity movement”

100 people also attended an early evening demonstration in Coventry, that marched from Broadgate Square to Coventry Council House. Linking the latest draconian austerity measures with the proposed attacks on Trade Union facility time by Coventry’s Labour Council.

cov b 2

Coventry protesters march to the Council House

In Birmingham an energetic crowd over of over 300 people heard from numerous speakers of different ages, some being new to the experience.

A group photograph was taken in support of the Greek people, after which, everyone marched to the West Midlands BBC office. Chanting all the way, and gaining attention from passers-by, the march delivered a letter to the West Midlands BBC director requesting they present more anti-austerity coverage.

brum 1

Birmingham

YFJ’s lively stalls and their demands of a £10 an hour minimum wage, rebuilding public services and a 24-hour general strike were extremely popular. A short but vibrant rally included speakers from the RMT, CWU and Unison as well as YFJ and campaigners against cuts to local library services.

Overall, with a youthful and fresh feeling, the protests have added to the range of demonstrations held across the region and has received much positive feedback from people. Over 150 people signed up to be involved in YFJ’s future anti austerity campaigns across the West Midlands who had never participated in political activity before.

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers - on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers – on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

By Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT joint secretary (personal capacity)

Coventry City Council, a Labour controlled authority, is seeking to make draconian cuts on the trade union facilities time of the recognised trade unions.

Recently in The Socialist newspaper we have had reports of attacks on trade unions in Conservative councils which are being fought alongside mass privatisation of services, but these attacks, from a Labour controlled council are an absolute disgrace.  Trade Unions are organising and mobilising members to defend our rights to support our members.

What’s worse is the manner in which they are trying to railroad this through without proper negotiation and regard to our collective agreements.

A Collective Dispute lodged on behalf of Unison, Unite, NUT, NASUWT and ATL has been disregarded.  The proposals outlined in a flawed document, which is defended with references to the arguments used by the Tax Payers Alliance, would mean that unions would suffer severe reductions in the time allocated for Trade Union duties to support their members, with Unison losing 45%, Unite, 21% and the NUT losing 70% of facilities time.

Pressure by the two Labour Party affiliated trade unions to persuade Labour leaders to intervene and withdraw the proposals has had no impact which makes members question more seriously why their unions are funding the Labour Party.   A wide campaign has now been launched to challenge the attacks.

Two issues need to be highlighted.  City Council Trade Unions have been at the forefront of the campaign to defend council services in the city.  We have had some success in pressurising the council to pull back on some areas of cuts to more vulnerable services such as Library cuts, disabled transport for schools and an employment service for vulnerable adults (TESS).  More importantly, these attacks coincide with the plans for the huge cuts which are about to come because Coventry Council, like others across the country have refused to stand up to Tory cuts.

It’s not just going to be services that are under attack.  As well as the 1000 jobs already cut, we know that there will be more job losses planned as well as huge attacks on pay and conditions on our members.

The key issue here is that whilst you sort of expect it from Tory councils, the fact that Labour is now openly preparing the way for the Tory’s dirty work exposes just why we need political representation that supports workers and defends our services.

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

The National Shop Stewards Network on Saturday, demonstrated how important it is to have fighting trade unions. The NSSN conference heard from trade unionists in Coventry about the campaign – with hundreds of union activists, including shop stewards, NEC members and general secretaries pledging their support for us

The fight in Coventry needs to be supported locally, nationally and internationally because if they get away with it here then your council or workplace trade union facility time will be next.

Our trade union movement has made great advances over the decades, but what we are seeing now challenges to all of those gains.  This must not be allowed to happen.

Support us by

  • Signing the online petition here
  • Like the Facebook campaign page here
  • Join the protests against austerity on Wednesday 8th July, 5.30pm Broadgate