Corbyn’s Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

Corbyn’s Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

We are pleased to republish this week’s editorial from The Socialist newspaper.

How can we save our local leisure centre? What can be done to halt gentrification and meet housing need? How can the deepening crisis in social care be addressed? What must be done to protect local jobs and halt attacks on pay and conditions?

These are just a few of the questions which working class people are asking, especially as we approach council budget setting and May’s local elections.

They are questions which demand concrete answers in the here and now. Rhetoric, handwringing, and semi-pious exhortations to ‘hold on for a general election’ are all utterly insufficient.

Yet at present, it is this that is on offer, not just from Labour’s Blairite right (many who are actually brazen with their anti-working class policies and sentiments) but even from the leadership of Momentum.

Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North and former shadow fire minister, appears to have been pushed to resign from the front bench after making comments about an alternative to local government cuts.

Acknowledging that the austerity which has been dutifully doled out by councils over the last seven years is in fact intolerable, he argued that Labour-run local authorities could consider increasing council tax for those living in properties which fall within the highest tax bands.

This, he said, could be used to help raise the funds needed to stop cuts and protect services.

Fighting austerity

Socialists must always oppose any increases in taxation which have the potential to fall on people with low or middle incomes.

Council tax, which is calculated based on the estimated value of properties in which people live (whether as tenants or owners) and which does not properly take account of people’s ability to pay, could certainly not be described as progressive.

Chris Williamson’s proposals did acknowledge this, and included ideas for ways for those on lower incomes to ‘claw back’ increases in the tax on higher bands – to protect cash-poor pensioners, for example.

This complex schema, to be approved in each council area in a local referendum, would be open to ferocious attacks and distortions by the Tory media.

Nonetheless, he was grappling with vital questions: how can Labour councils act to protect working class people from the ravages of austerity? How can they play their part in fighting to ensure that the burden of paying for capitalist crisis does not fall on workers, pensioners and youth?

For Labour’s right, this is a crime which cannot be tolerated. Since the beginning of Corbyn’s leadership the Blairites have sought to use their base in local government – where they have the vast majority of Labour councillors – in order to undermine him.

In particular, they have ferociously opposed any suggestion that Labour councils might have options other than those of cuts, privatisation and redundancies.

In one indicator revealing the extent to which many Labour councillors have accepted the ‘logic’ of neoliberalism, it has been revealed that Leeds City council was on the verge of offering a £100 million contract to the parasitic company Carillion just before its collapse.

But councillors do have a choice. Around Britain, Labour councils currently hold over £9.2 billion in general fund reserves.

They administer combined budgets of almost £75 billion. They have substantial borrowing powers, as well as the ability to work together to ‘pool’ funds and collaborate with other local authorities.

In other words, far from being powerless ‘technocrats’, bound by the logic of austerity or the chaos of the market, Labour councils are in fact a potential alternative power in Britain.

Indeed, even if just one Labour council was to take a stand, using reserves and borrowing powers and refusing to lay more hardship on working class people, it could mobilise behind it a mass campaign and have a profound effect on the political situation.

It could hasten the demise of May’s weak, divided government and bring about an early general election.

Any hint that councillors could take such a road is anathema to the Blairites. That is why it was disappointing that Corbyn and McDonnell appear to have bowed to their pressure by encouraging Williamson’s resignation.

Unfortunately, this has not been their first retreat on the issue. As part of their mistaken strategy of attempting to ‘keep on board’ the Blairite rump that remains dominant in Labour’s parliamentary party, local government and machinery, they have made a number of concessions to the demands of the right on this issue.

NEC elections

But far from placating the right and buying their loyalty, concessions like these have only encouraged the Blairites to press Corbyn to back down on other issues.

In particular, these have included questions of party democracy and the selection and reselection of candidates.

Labour’s recent national executive committee (NEC) elections saw Momentum-backed candidates win all three of the available seats.

This means that for the first time since Corbyn’s election as leader, his supporters (all-be-it of varying shades of politics and loyalty) will have a narrow but clear majority. Momentum’s self-appointed leader Jon Lansman was among those elected.

This is potentially a step forward. The question is: how will this position be used? To fight for mandatory reselection that will allow Labour members and trade unions the chance to democratically decide candidates and kick out the Blairites? To help take on cuts-making Labour councillors and support any and all who are prepared to resist austerity and refuse to implement cuts?

In recent weeks, Momentum’s leadership has begun to push an alternative strategy for ‘fighting’ local government cuts, which is based on a model put forward by Bristol’s Labour mayor, Marvin Rees.

The essence of it is to support and call for protests against cuts, and to use these as a platform to ask the government to provide more funding – hoping that the pressure of large demonstrations will bear down on May’s government.

Borrowing from the strategy put forward by the Socialist Party, they even suggest drawing up ‘needs-based’ budgets.

But unlike us, they see this as merely an exercise in propaganda, not as something to be acted upon and implemented. It is here that the strategy ends.

Should the Tories refuse to provide funding, councils should, according to Momentum’s leaders, make the cuts as required.

Those who have joined protests to demand an alternative should be asked to simply accept that the council ‘has no other option’.

They should be asked to continue to cast their votes for Labour councillors, even while they make themselves busy destroying local jobs and services.

Demonstrations are not a bad place to start. But they must be linked to a strategy which includes councils refusing to implement cuts.

So far, the ‘Rees model’ has singularly failed to extract further funds from the Tories. Indeed, when the Bristol mayor came to London to meet the communities’ secretary he was snubbed – not even offered a meeting!

Socialist and left-wing politics means little if it is unable to provide a way forward in the real struggles faced by working class people in the here and now.

In the June election, Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto generated a surge of enthusiasm because it began to offer answers to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people.

But this manifesto provides a sharp contrast with the programme on which the majority of Labour’s right-wing councillors will be standing at this year’s local elections.

As Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett put it at this year’s TUC congress “if Labour councillors act like Tories we should treat them like Tories”.

In the view of the Socialist Party, this should include being prepared to provide an electoral challenge to cuts-making councillors – whatever colour rosette they wear.

2018: more upheavals loom

2018: more upheavals loom

We are pleased to publish the following article by Socialist Party General Secretary Peter Taaffe from the forthcoming issue of The Socialist.

“Biggest fall in living standards for a generation.”

“Sharp rise in child poverty as cuts bite.”

“700,000 young people and pensioners join ranks of Britain’s poor in four years.”

“Stoke proposes £1,000 fine for homeless using tents.”

“Budget signals longest squeeze on living standards since 1950s.”

“OECD: Britain state pension is worst in the developed world.”

“Nursing ‘in peril’ as number of student applications falls below 18%.”

“Food banks stock up as reforms to welfare add to fears of cold winter.”

These are just some of the recent headlines gleaned from the capitalist press, as they regale us daily with a blizzard of facts, which unconsciously indicts their profit-driven system and their callous political representatives, the Tory government of Theresa May.

It is also a fitting testimony to the failures of capitalism in 2017, in Britain and worldwide, as well as a pointer of what is to come unless this system is seriously challenged in 2018, laying the ground for system change to socialism.

Worldwide capitalism is still in the grip of the enduring economic crisis, resulting from the meltdown of 2007-08.

Sure, the capitalist soothsayers seek to reassure us that the ‘worst is over’ that a ‘recovery’ is underway which they claim if not guaranteeing a return of the economic sunny uplands of yesterday, indicates significant improvements in the position of working people.

It is true that some countries have experienced an increase in the number of jobs – such as the US, here in Britain and a few countries in Europe.

But contrary to the propaganda that the future looks rosy, this recovery is not broad-based and certainly has not significantly improved living standards.

They have been largely concentrated in low-paid, part-time and precarious jobs. In Britain this means that the working poor are so low paid, increasing numbers are forced to resort to food banks – a confession of bankruptcy by capitalism.

It is also a criticism of right-wing trade union leaders in particular, who still fail to effectively fight for desperately urgent, substantial increases in wages.

Bank of England strikers marching for a pay rise, 3.8.17, photo Sarah Wrack

Bank of England strikers marching for a pay rise, 3.8.17, photo Sarah Wrack   (Click to enlarge)

It is no accident that retail trade has been flat – spending is therefore down – because of the limited purchasing power of the working class, in turn due to chronically low wages.

In other words, the working class cannot buy back the goods that it produces, one of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that Karl Marx drew attention to 150 years ago.

The capitalist economists and their institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank – are actually bemoaning the lack of ‘demand’.

They are ‘theoretically’ urging the bosses to increase wages and, in some instances, even urging the trade union leaders to fight harder for increases.

But individual and groups of capitalists and governments resist this ‘advice’ and continue to viciously oppose workers fighting even for small increases. Witness the ferocious resistance of Serco, one of the numerous ‘privateers’ who leech off the NHS, to Unite hospital workers in the Barts Health Trust for an increase of 30p an hour!

They are not likely to respond to the demand of the unions in the public sector – including nurses and other hospital workers – for wage increases beyond the 1% ‘limit’ without trade union mobilisation and effective unified action.

So it has always been and will always be under capitalism. Even a wage increase of 2%, given the remorseless rate of increase in the cost of living, will leave most working people with continued reduced living standards.

This requires bold and decisive leadership from the trade unions, which is unlikely to be forthcoming from right-wing trade union leaders.

Their policies amount invariably to ‘compromise’ and endless postponements of struggle, in the hope that the anger of low-paid workers will be dissipated and resignation will set in.

Yet the anger of working people is at boiling point – as the rash of small strikes indicates. These include civil servants in the PCS, RMT rail workers and more.

They have brushed aside the recent anti-union legislation by taking action after record turnouts and majorities in strike ballots.

This can mean that if the union tops are not prepared to lead, then they can be pushed aside to make way for those militant leaders who are prepared in this urgent situation to fight the government and the employers.

Crisis of system

However, this struggle – as with all the other battles on housing, education, etc. – is closely connected with the current crisis of capitalism.

In the past, the capitalists were prepared to give reforms – crumbs off their very rich table – to the working class.

But those days have gone, with boom conditions having been replaced by an organic drawn-out crisis of capitalism.

In order to safeguard their profits and interests they have conducted an offensive against all the gains of the past.

The capitalists and their governments do not resist demands for change just because they are greedy and cruel – which they are.

They see no alternative but to savage living standards in order to safeguard their system. This means endless poverty – disguised by the anodyne word ‘austerity’ – which will be inevitably resisted by the working class.

May herself, in the honeymoon period after she became leader of the Tories, appeared to sympathise with the ‘left behind’ and with poor families, and promised an end to austerity.

But the demands of those she represents, the capitalists, dictate otherwise even if she did ‘sincerely’ want to lessen misery and suffering.

This is a system based upon production for profit not social need. It is founded on inequality by virtue of the fact that, individually and collectively, the capitalists exploit the labour power of the working class to create what Karl Marx called ‘surplus value’ – which is then divided among the different exploiters into rent, interest and profit.

The struggle over the surplus between the capitalists and their governments on the one side and the working class on the other drives the class struggle and is the key to understanding history.

Historically, the capitalists used this surplus value to reinvest in industry, create new means of production – the organisation of labour, science and technique – and drive society forward.

This is largely what happened in the upswing of capitalism, when it was a system which was relatively progressive in laying the economic foundations for a new social system of socialism.

This, Marx wrote, was the historical mission of capitalism – to drive forward the growth of the productive forces.

But today it is betraying this ‘mission’, failing to invest. The capitalists are now more interested in piling up their own personal wealth through the massively inflated salaries of CEOs, stoking up ‘shareholder value’ rather than retooling and investing back into industry.

This also undermines productivity – which is static, if not falling, in Britain and throughout the advanced capitalist countries.

In the US for instance, a colossal total of $2.7 trillion from investments abroad is kept ‘offshore’ – outside of the US and not invested in US industry itself.

Following Trump’s so-called ‘tax reforms’ – a bribe to big business, together with the loosening of some state supervision of the banks – some or all of this could be ‘repatriated’ to the US.

But it is unlikely to be reinvested into industry, thereby rewarding Trump’s base of unemployed industrial workers and others with improved job prospects and living standards.

It will inevitably go into the pockets of the rich, pushing up shareholders’ wealth, the loot of the 1% and, in particular, the fabulously rich 0.001%; the plutocrats who ultimately call the shots under capitalism. Eight individuals control the same wealth as half the world’s population!

This indicates the increasingly parasitic character of modern capitalism in Britain and worldwide. The earlier Panama Papers and now the aptly named Paradise Papers – which means hell for the rest of society and heaven for the super-rich – have revealed this in great detail.

The Financial Times aptly described such tax havens as “getaway cars” for the super-rich.

And capitalism has demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of taking society as a whole forward.

Another economic crisis in the manner of 2007-08 – which only genuine Marxists, like the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International (the international organisation that we are part of), fully anticipated – could take place at a certain stage.

The timing of such a crisis is impossible to predict but the inevitability of an economic breakdown is inherent in capitalism.

Moreover capitalism has not fully recovered from this crisis which, we should recall, resulted in the loss of ten million jobs in the US and Europe alone and the wrecked lives that flowed from this.

As Jeremy Corbyn said at the Labour Party conference – echoing the analysis of the Socialist Party – 2017 was the year when this crisis saw a delayed political expression of the crash.

The political earthquake of the general election, as well as many other recent upheavals such as the Scottish referendum in 2014, Brexit in 2016 and Trump’s accession to the US presidency, were rooted in this.

Developments in the US

Subsequently, Trump has rampaged on the US and the world stages, breaking the crockery of world capitalism in the process.

Rather than the usual ‘official’ role of US presidents as an international ‘stabilising’ force, he has acted as a firebug, fanning the flames of already inflammatory situations.

His ‘recognition’ of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel promises to reap a whirlwind in the Middle East and worldwide among Palestinians and Muslims in particular.

He has proved to be a disaster for the American ruling class as he bypasses the normal channels of capitalist democracy, preferring to rule by tweet in a special expression of US parliamentary bonapartism.

Even the New York Times has used unprecedented language by describing him as the “liar-in-chief”. The growing opposition to Trump has resulted in an open discussion about his removal from the US presidency, similar to that which preceded the overthrow of Nixon in the 1970s.

Even a right-wing commentator like Anne Coulter can write: “Who isn’t in favour of his impeachment?”

The Republican Party is split, which may result in a complete cleavage between Trump and his outriders like Steve Bannon on one side and the Republican establishment on the other.

This could lay the basis for a new right-wing nationalist Trump party and the increasingly alienated ‘moderate’ Republicans organised in their own party.

The Democratic Party may also itself split between the right wing and the supporters of Bernie Sanders – the ‘Berniecrats’ with their ‘Our Revolution’ movement – resulting in a new mass radical left formation.

Socialist Alternative, our cothinkers in the UK, has played the role of a catalyst for the left. This was shown by the electrifying effect of the election and re-election of Kshama Sawant – the first socialist councillor in 100 years in Seattle – and now with the spectacular performance of Ginger Jentzen in Minneapolis, who led among working class voters after the first round of the recent election.

Therefore, the US could be faced with an unprecedented four-party set up, which would have colossal repercussions not just in the US but worldwide.

The ideas of socialism are spreading like a prairie fire among young people in the US in particular, at a faster rate than even in Europe at this stage.

The earlier emergence of Podemos in Spain, the Corbynista surge in Britain, a similar movement around Mélenchon in France, and the Sanders revolution in the US are all part of the political awakening of a new, radical generation.

Corbyn surge

In Britain this is tending to fuse with the reactivation of older layers of the left who were discouraged by the previous move towards the right within the labour movement.

It represents a rejection of sell-out Blairite ‘social democracy’ and is potentially a powerful agent for socialist change.

However, programmatically it has not yet reached the same political awareness, consciousness, as the 1980s Bennite left within the Labour Party – which Militant, now the Socialist Party critically supported – with its demand for the nationalisation of 25 monopolies.

If implemented, Benn’s programme from that time would make serious inroads into the power of big business but would not completely eliminate it.

It would provoke the capitalists to mobilise to bring down a left Labour government, similar to the events in Chile with the Allende government in the 1970s.

We therefore proposed the nationalisation, with minimum compensation on the basis of proven need, of the top 200 monopolies and the implementation of a democratic socialist plan of production.

But Corbyn’s programme does not even go as far as Benn’s proposals for large-scale nationalisation.

Betrayal in Greece

Unless economic and political power is taken out of the hands of the capitalists, they will use this to sabotage any threat to their system.

Is this not the lesson to be drawn today from the experience of Greece, where the Tsipras government raised expectations with the clarion call that “hope is coming”? Instead, all the hopes of the Greek working class were dashed on the rock of the Troika (IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank) and its demands for a further round of savage austerity – cuts in wages and pensions, mass privatisation – which the Tsipras government is presently implementing.

This retreat is comparable to the infamous betrayal of the German social democrats with their support for their own ruling class and the bloody World War One.

The Syriza government had a clear choice. It could bend the knee to capital, or break the hold of big business and move towards a democratic socialist Greece; at the same time appealing to the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and European working class to join Greece in a great socialist confederation of the region, linked to socialism in Europe as a whole.

This same dilemma could be posed before a Corbyn government, maybe as soon as this year, 2018.

Brexit

An immediate collapse of May’s Tory government seems to have been averted through the recent negotiations on Brexit.

There were congratulations on all sides of the Tory party when May returned from Brussels with the latest deal consisting of ‘studied ambiguity’ on key issues like the border between Northern and Southern Ireland and the single market. This represents a colossal fudge.

May has stolen some of the clothes from Jeremy Corbyn, who on all the fundamental issues relating to the EU – the single market, migration, etc. – appeals to both those opposed to the EU and those who wish to remain in it.

The Socialist Party believes that it would still be possible to appeal to both with a class and socialist approach.

This would involve clear opposition to the neoliberal aims of the EU by emphasising trade union rights and opposition to policies like the posted workers directive, which furthers the process of a capitalist race towards the bottom for all workers in all countries.

We stand for a socialist united states of Europe as the only lasting solution to the problems facing working people.

The strategists of capital – such as Lord Heseltine – were seriously considering support for Labour and Corbyn, despite his programme, as an electoral alternative to May and the Tory Party, which seemed wedded to a ‘hard Brexit’.

They were prepared to consider this despite their fears that a Corbyn government, once in power, could be propelled under the pressure of a politically aroused working class to go much further than the mild social democratic programme on which Corbyn successfully fought the the election.

These issues have not been solved by kicking the can down the road, which is what the latest agreement amounts to.

They could return once more and May could yet flounder, with splits within the Tory Party widening and breaking out, resulting in a general election being forced. Labour is eight points ahead in the polls and could be pushed into office this year.

Moreover the radicalisation which we have witnessed internationally will be fuelled further by the underlying continuing crisis of capitalism – more like a series of crises, rather than a sudden collapse, although a repetition of the 2007-08 crisis cannot be completely ruled out.

2017 represented an important stage for the labour movement, for the working class and for the Socialist Party.

In November we had the largest Socialism rally yet – Socialism 2017. We continue to draw some of the best fighters for socialism and the working class into our ranks, particularly of young people and workers.

This has allowed us to forge ahead in all fields, in the trade unions and the daily battles of working class people. 2018 promises to be an equally successful period for the struggle for socialism in Britain and worldwide.

Sixth form student in Coventry explains why she is supporting Jeremy Corbyn

Sixth form student in Coventry explains why she is supporting Jeremy Corbyn

Young people protesting against Academies

We are pleased to publish this piece by Sophie, a sixth form student in Coventry, who will be supporting and voting for Jeremy Corbyn. If you support Corbyn and want to help build the fight for socialism, fill in the form at the bottom!


At any Labour rally with Jeremy speaking, it’s clear to see, young people dominate the crowd, more young people are interesting in and following politics than I’ve personally ever seen before.

Whether it Corbyn’s political agenda or his dashing good looks; I’m yet to decide. To me it’s the fact he seems different than other politicians. He’s passionate for polices that will benefit the many and honest with his promises and how he’ll achieve them. Whilst others vote for Conservative out of fear of what’s to come, I vote for Labour out of hope.

Hope that kids will stop being disadvantaged purely because of the situation they are born into.

Hope that there’s no longer such a divide between rich and poor that people are choosing whether to feed themselves or their children, whilst food banks continue to be relied on. I’m under no illusions that voting Labour will save the country but I at least hope it’ll make it better

Corbyn has appealed to the young voters with polices which prioritise them in areas such as education and employment rights. More young people are expected to vote due to campaigns urging under 25’s to use their voice, and it’s worked. A quarter of a million registered to vote on the final day, like most of us do procrastinating to the final deadline. Teresa May was banking on the fact that young people didn’t care, but we’ve showed her that we do. I just hope it’s enough.

Let June be the END of May, Vote Labour and Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday!

If you need any more convincing, go and watch this!

Video: Dave Nellist talk and Q&A at Warwick Politics Society

Video: Dave Nellist talk and Q&A at Warwick Politics Society

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, a Coventry Socialist Party member and national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, recently spoke as a guest at a Warwick University Politics Society Q&A event about the current Corbyn movment and battles inside the Labour Party and his experiences as a ‘Militant’ supporting Labour MP.

Dave was elected for Coventry South East in 1983 and took only half an MP’s wage, basing his income on the average skilled workers’ rate in Coventry factories. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1992 for his refusal to pay the Poll Tax. He was elected as a Socialist Party city councillor in Coventry from 1998 to 2012. Mr Nellist is currently national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which in the last two years has been the sixth largest party in terms of the number of candidates stood at elections.

We would like to thank Warwick Politics Society again for inviting Dave and Warwick Socialist Students for coming along in their numbers to support Dave.

Coventry Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson fails to oppose Saudi war in Yemen

Coventry Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson fails to oppose Saudi war in Yemen

Millionaire Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson didn’t oppose the Saudi bombing in Yemen 

By a resident of the Coventry North West constituency

Over 100 Labour MPs shamefully abstained in Parliament this week on a motion opposing the Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaign in Yemen. The motion was proposed by Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry – the abstentions should be seen as another blatant attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The motion was not explicitly anti-war, and only called for a suspension of UK support for the bombing while an investigation takes place into whether the Saudi-led coalition has committed war crimes. Just one Tory MP supported the motion, with the rest unsurprisingly underlining their credentials for putting the interests of the arms traders and establishment before the interests of ordinary people in the Middle East and UK.

Despite the mild nature of the motion, even this was not acceptable to the the right, who disgracefully used the situation in Yemen as a political tool to attack Corbyn.

When Jeremy was re-elected he said he wanted the party to unite, and that he would “wipe the slate clean” and work with the plotters. After yet another deliberate plot to attack him, it has to be said that talk of unity with the right wing will only create further difficulties for those seeking to build an anti-austerity Labour Party. If Labour MPs can’t even support a mild motion like this, what are they in Parliament for? The vote this week once again shows the need for mandatory reselection for elected representatives of the Labour Party. We need MPs who, unlike Geoffrey Robinson, will put the interests of ordinary people first.

Do you agree? Are you disgusted by Geoffrey Robinson’s actions? Get in touch!

Trotskyism, the Militant tendency and the Corbyn insurgency – Coventry public meeting

Trotskyism, the Militant tendency and the Corbyn insurgency – Coventry public meeting

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A leaflet we have been distributing for the meeting – text below

Thursday 25th August, 7.30pm, Coventry Methodist Central Hall. Warwick Lane, Coventry City Centre, CV1 2HA

The Socialist Party has had a lot of media coverage over the last few weeks, after Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson claimed that Trotskyists were joining the Labour Party and “twisting young arms” to support Jeremy Corbyn. He then submitted a “dossier” to back up his claims, which included reports from Socialist Party members about events they had spoken at. All these reports showed that, rather than secretly joining the party, we are openly attending events as the Socialist Party and putting forward our views – but this didn’t stop the media widely sharing Watson’s claims. These attacks on the Socialist Party, and our predecessor organisation Militant, show how scared the Labour Party right-wing are of genuine socialist ideas.

We have organised a public meeting in Coventry on Thursday 25th August, with former Militant Editorial Board member and Socialist Party General Secretary Peter Taaffe speaking – as seen on Channel 4 news! If you want to hear about the real ideas of the Socialist Party, rather than media distortions, come to the meeting and find out what we stand for.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party has laid the responsibility of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity at the feet of supposed Trotskyist infiltrators.

Why has the Labour Party right wing and the media suddenly become interested in the influence of Leon Trotsky; one of the leaders of the Russian revolution who dedicated his life fighting for socialism and against Stalinism?

The Socialist Party proudly stands in the tradition of Trotsky in fighting for the working class and fighting for democratic socialism.

It was the Socialist Party, then Militant, who led the mass non-payment of the poll tax which was scrapped and led to the defeat of Thatcher.

In recent years Socialist Party members have been at the forefront of fights against privatisation, the bedroom tax and attacks on workers and young people.

It is these ideas that the right are scared of and are trying to discredit.

A programme to improve the lives of majority and a strategy to win. We’re fighting for a different kind of society – a socialist society where the world’s resources are controlled and planned for the good of all not for the profits of a few.

Thursday 25th August, 7.30pm, Coventry Methodist Central Hall. Warwick Lane, Coventry City Centre, CV1 2HA

Communication Workers Union backs Jeremy Corbyn

Communication Workers Union backs Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn with CWU general secretary Dave Ward – pic from BBC

The below article by Coventry Socialist Party and CWU member Lenny Shail was carried in this weeks issue of The Socialist newspaper. The trade unions have a key role in building support for Jeremy. 

A special press conference organised by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) alongside Jeremy Corbyn himself, saw the union announce its official support for Corbyn in the Labour leadership election.

Before the press conference, a special political briefing by CWU general secretary Dave Ward on behalf of the union’s executive committee was given to branch representatives, explaining the unanimous decision of the executive committee to continue support for Corbyn.

Dave highlighted the significance of motion 47 from CWU conference that was passed, which “predicted the attacks” and the need for the union to do everything it could to organise to defend Corbyn against the right-wing Blairites. Motion 47 was moved and seconded by Socialist Party members at the conference in May.

A small number of CWU branch officers in attendance, who were often the main speakers in opposition to any motions calling for an end to the union’s blind support for New Labour before Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, were the only opposition to the decision.

Brian Kenny from Merseyside branch, before Dave Ward had even spoken, demanded to know why Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith hadn’t been invited. Another branch officer simply reminded the meeting and Brian that the CWU is independent of the Labour Party and can do what it wants in the interests of its members!

It will be of no surprise to many to hear that Brian Kenny also happens to be a Labour councillor in Wirral.

Mobilise for Jeremy Corbyn

Socialist Party members and others at the meeting raised that the immediate task is to mobilise in support of Corbyn’s re-election – pointing to the many #keepcorbyn rallies and meetings that have taken place across the country. But to also consolidate the mass support for Corbyn by organising and preparing to remake Labour as a socialist, working class party that really can be a voice for the 99%.

The scaremongering threats of a Labour split that were raised by the tiny number of Smith supporters were answered simply by one Socialist Party member: ”Let the Blairites go and if they don’t, mandatory re-selection is needed to kick them all out and the same with the cuts-making councillors”.

The need for an overhaul in the democratic structures of the Labour Party and opening up to the workers’ and socialist movement, and a return to a federal structure, was raised and received support.

Socialist Party members speaking at the meeting finished by making the case for a fighting socialist programme of renationalisation of key industries including the whole of the communications industry, workers’ rights, better pay, more affordable housing and defence of the NHS, etc, to inspire and win over the mass of working class to the battle against the Blairites, Tories and austerity itself.

Jeremy Corbyn gave a passionate speech to end the meeting with a call to arms for CWU members to get involved in the fight for his re-election and change the course of the Labour Party.

We very much welcome and support Jeremy’s clear call for Royal Mail to be taken back into public ownership, however it was unfortunate that when asked by the press whether he would support the renationalisation of British Telecom he said that wasn’t being considered.

The Socialist Party supports the complete renationalisation of Royal Mail and BT but we would go further and call for all the main postal and telecommunications industries to be brought under genuine democratic workers’ control and public ownership – to be run in the interests of society as a whole and not the profits of major private communications companies.

No compromise with Labour right wing – #KeepCorbyn

No compromise with Labour right wing – #KeepCorbyn

The below article is in this week’s issue of The Socialist – please read and share!

The next few months will decide the fate of the Labour Party. Although he claims to be ‘as radical as Jeremy’, the leadership challenger Owen Smith is in reality the candidate of all those with a vested interest in keeping the Labour Party a safe, New Labour-style version of the Tories.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Labour was set up 116 years ago by trade unionists, socialists, women suffrage campaigners, the working class co-operative movement, and others, as ‘our party’.

But over the course of 20 years under the leadership of Blair, Brown and Miliband it was completely transformed into another party of big business and the 1% capitalist elite.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected victory in last summer’s leadership election created an opening to roll back the New Labour transformation. His anti-austerity message, and support for trade union rights, free education, council housing etc, changed the terms of political debate.

Even Tory prime ministers are now forced to speak of ‘working class families struggling to get by’ from the steps of Downing Street!

But because Jeremy Corbyn’s victory offered the hope of change, a showdown with the capitalist establishment and their representatives within the Labour Party was inevitable.

And now, as the Socialist warned from the outset, the two-parties-in-one are in a desperate fight for control of the Labour Party brand.

The immediate task is to mobilise for Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election. But also to organise to ensure that this time victory is consolidated by remaking Labour as a working class, socialist party that really can be the voice of the 99%.

Labour at the crossroads

The Labour Party right-wing were never going to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Standing behind them are the capitalist establishment, the 1% elite, who have benefitted enormously from the transformation of Labour into Tony Blair’s New Labour and the domination of political debate by pro-market ideas which that allowed.

It was not for nothing that the former Tory deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe said of Margaret Thatcher that “her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two”, with New Labour’s embrace of capitalism.

While for example, average household incomes have only just returned to the levels at the start of the ‘great recession’ in 2008, the richest 1,000 people in Britain have more than doubled their wealth to £547 billion in the same period. The New Labour era was good for the elite.

The Labour right have shown how ruthless they are prepared to be to defend the interests of their establishment backers. Only the protests of thousands of Labour members and trade unionists secured a narrow majority on the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to stop Jeremy being effectively excluded from the ballot paper.

But this attempted coup having failed, the right went on to plan B and limited the franchise compared to last summer’s election, after Jeremy and other supporters had literally ‘left the room’.

Also, for the first time since world war two, all regular party meetings have been closed down, removing the chance for ordinary party members to hold anti-Corbyn MPs and councillors to account.

Angela Eagle’s Wallasey constituency party has been suspended and the election of new, left-wing officers of the Brighton & Hove District Labour Party, the biggest local party unit, annulled.

Meetings necessary

Local parties should defy these edicts and continue meeting, or #Keep Corbyn meetings should be organised independently, including by trade union branches – and involving Corbyn supporters inside and outside the Labour Party.

After all, the dictatorial rule-or-ruin approach of the Labour apparatus in this battle gives a glimpse of the type of regime that will operate if Owen Smith were to win.

The idea that the social movement developing around Jeremy Corbyn could conduct an effective struggle within the confines of the Labour Party in the event that he is unseated from the leadership is utopian.

By the same token, it is clear that if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected this time his victory must be properly consolidated. This means taking on the main bases of establishment Labour, in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), the national party apparatus, and locally, the big majority of Labour’s 7,000 councillors.

Challenging the latter will be vital to show in practice what an anti-austerity party really is, in contrast to the actions of the Labour right.

It does not mean a party voting for cuts! The fact is that Labour councils this year will be sacking three times the number of workers who are losing their jobs from the collapse of BHS, denounced by MPs as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

If Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected he must organise for Labour councils to defy the Tories, including refusing to implement the new Housing and Planning Act, with local parties pressing councillors who refuse to fight to resign. The situation where council Labour groups and not the members decide council policy must be reversed.

Inclusive structure

The national structures of the Labour Party would also need to be opened out and democratised. To mobilise the maximum possible support, there should be a return to the founding structures of the Labour Party which involved separate socialist political parties coalescing with the trade unions and social movements like women’s suffrage campaigners and the co-operative movement.

That federal approach applied to today would mean allowing political parties like the Socialist Party and others involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and anti-austerity Greens, to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.

While mandatory re-selection would allow local parties to replace their MPs at the next general election, more decisive action would need to be taken before then to bring the parliamentary party into line.

MPs should have the Labour whip only if they agree to accept the renewed mandate for Corbyn and his anti-austerity, anti-war policies.

It is necessary to take on the forces in Labour defending the capitalist establishment, not seek ‘unity’ around their agenda.

Their attempted coup has shown that if there was a Corbyn-led Labour government they would play a similar role to those parliamentarians who joined Syriza as it overtook Pasok, the Greek equivalents of New Labour, but who were then to the fore in pushing for it to capitulate before the interests of capitalism.

A party of struggle with fewer MPs but a fighting socialist programme, would have a bigger impact in defence of the working class than a party with a couple of hundred MPs but which accepts the policies demanded by capitalism.

Winning new support it could regain the seats that may be temporarily held by anti-Corbyn MPs and go on to win a general election.

The right-wing have moved against Jeremy Corbyn and the most important question now is how the social movement that has begun to mobilise in his defence can be organised for the battles to come.

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Coventry Labour MP Fletcher joins anti-Corbyn coup

Coventry Labour MP Fletcher joins anti-Corbyn coup

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Colleen Fletcher MP

Colleen Fletcher, Labour MP for Coventry North East, resigned from her secretarial position today as part of the attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn. Fletcher, who was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Kerry McCarthy MP, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, has also called for Jeremy to resign as Labour leader.

Fletcher’s resignation will have come as a shock to many, not because she was seen as a Corbyn supporter but because they did not realise she had a PPS position to resign from. Despite this, she has resigned in an attempt by the right-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party to force Jeremy to resign as Labour leader. Like many MPs she is completely out of touch with the daily struggles of the ordinary working people she claims to represent. When heroic junior doctors went on strike in Coventry, with a picket line at Walsgrave Hospital in the heart of her constituency, Fletcher was nowhere to be seen – but when there’s a chance to attack the elected leader of the Labour Party she grabs it with both hands!

Jeremy is rightly resisting these attacks, and his supporters inside and outside the party are building a movement to defend him, including a petition which now has over 200,000 signatures and a demonstration outside Parliament. The Blairite coup has been on the cards since Jeremy became leader, and is now in full voice – we need to come out fighting to defend him.

Nicky Downes, who stood as a Socialist candidate against Fletcher in the 2015 elections, said “There is clear support for Jeremy from the public, with 10,000 people on the streets tonight at a protest in favour of his leadership. Colleen Fletcher has shown her true colours by resigning from the shadow cabinet along with the Blairites. It’s time to deselect her. Coventry needs an MP that will share Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to austerity and fight for this city.”

A crucial weapon for those who want to defend the leadership of Corbyn and John McDonnell is to demand the reintroduction of mandatory reselection of MPs, meaning that local Labour Party members can hold them to account for their actions. Jeremy could even go further and remove the Labour whip from the plotters who are attempting to remove him!

Labour members and Corbyn supporters in Coventry North East who are angered by Fletcher’s actions should mobilise and pass a motion in their constituency party condemning her actions and demanding she faces reselection before a general election is held.

Jeremy is absolute right to stand up to the plotters and should continue to do so, and fight to defend his leadership in a fresh contest if necessary. We will continue to support his leadership as part of the fight for an anti-austerity party that will represent ordinary people.

Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

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While the media has attempted to spin last week’s elections as a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn, the reality of the situation is far more complex. The 25% increase in the Socialist vote in Coventry reflects a growing radicalisation and dissatisfaction with the right-wing policies of Labour in Coventry. The below article by Hannah Sell reflects on the situation nationally. Hannah is the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and will be speaking at our post-election rally on Thursday 12th May.

Running up to the May elections the Labour Party right wing – with the full backing of the capitalist class – set out to damage their own party’s chances in order to achieve what is, for them, a greater goal: undermining Jeremy Corbyn. The anti-Semitism uproar – initially relating to comments made by Naz Shah when Ed Miliband was leader – was a cynical attempt to try to prepare the ground for a coup against Corbyn, hoping that the local election results would then provide further ammunition.

Widespread predictions were made by Blairite MPs and in the right-wing media – now included in which is the Guardian – that Labour was on course to lose 100 or more council seats because of the supposed unpopularity of opposing austerity. That didn’t happen.

In Scotland Labour suffered a resounding defeat. That was partly inevitable given the hatred of Scottish workers for the role Labour played in the Scottish independence referendum, acting as the voice of big business’s Project Fear campaign. However good Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Scotland, he would not have been able to quickly overcome workers’ view of Labour as ‘red Tories’.

Unfortunately, however, Jeremy Corbyn has not taken a clear position of supporting the right of self-determination for Scotland which would have begun to win some credit back for Labour among the Scottish working class. Of course, had he adopted the pro-austerity ‘red Tory’ approach demanded by the Blairites – who are now blaming Corbyn for the result – Labour would have fared even worse in Scotland than it did.

But in England Labour maintained the same number of councils and only had a net loss of 18 seats, while slightly increasing its share of the vote from the general election. Far from a mass exodus from Labour in the south of England, Labour retained control of key councils including Southampton and Exeter. Significantly, it won the mayors of Bristol and London – the sixth biggest city and the capital – with clear majorities.

The racist campaign by the Tories in London backfired and London is now the first city in Europe with a Muslim mayor, while Bristol – a city built on slavery – now has the first mayor in Europe of African-Caribbean descent.

Labour won the two parliamentary byelections in Sheffield Brightside and Ogmore, with an increased majority in the former. That inconvenient fact may have temporarily stayed the hands of Corbyn’s enemies. Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, openly appealed on Radio 4 to Labour MPs to “have patience” – suggesting not that they should support Jeremy Corbyn, but that they couldn’t move against him yet given the election results and the size of his mandate.

Labour’s right and left

That has not prevented, however, an escalation in the civil war in the Labour Party. Endless successions of Labour MPs are touring the TV studios to explain why – even though their dire predictions did not materialise – this was still a truly terrible election result for Labour. Leading the charge has been the newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan who, as we predicted, is setting out his new position as a platform against Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, the leadership of Momentum, which purports to organise Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, has spent recent weeks uncritically mobilising in support of Sadiq Khan, without even warning its membership about the role that he – a man who has said he wants more billionaires in London – was clearly set to play.

The pro-Corbyn wing of the party has not as yet fought back like it should against the blows being rained down on it, but has vainly attempted to paper over the gaping chasm. Left MP Clive Lewis has appealed to Corbyn to “compromise, reach out”, including on policy questions. As if events of the last weeks don’t prove conclusively that there is no compromise that could successfully pacify the Blairites.

For the right of the Labour Party – and behind them the 1%, the capitalist class – are desperate to once again make their party safe for big business. That means routing the nascent anti-austerity movement that thrust Jeremy Corbyn into power. The only way to defeat the right is not to retreat but to continue to build that movement around a clear pro-working class programme.

Expressions of the anger

And last Thursday’s elections in no way demonstrated that anti-austerity ideas are unpopular. On the contrary, anger at the misery this government is inflicting on the majority is growing. It was not by any means, however, channelled exclusively in the direction of Labour. Instead it was fragmented.

While many voted Labour, others’ view of that party – which has implemented pro-big business policies in power and at local level for decades – had not changed. Some refused to vote Labour because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right-wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats are trying to lay the blame at Corbyn’s door. But they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme. That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for Ukip.

Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood succeeded in defeating Labour in the Rhondda, a traditional Labour stronghold. Her party also increased its share of the vote, making it the second party in the Welsh Assembly. Charlotte Church will not have been alone in voting for Plaid Cymru while continuing to support Jeremy Corbyn, because she recognised that the leadership of Labour in Wales is not anti-austerity.

In Scotland the SNP won 46.5% of the vote for the Scottish parliament, an increase of 1% from four years ago. It had a small fall in its number of seats only because of the vagaries of the electoral system.

The Greens had a net loss of four councillors in England but increased their vote in many areas, overtaking the Liberal Democrats to become the fourth party in terms of vote share. In Scotland they increased their MSPs from two to six and in the London Mayoral contest they scored their highest ever share of the vote.

Similarly they doubled their vote for the Liverpool Mayor to 10,609. Combined with the creditable 4,950 votes for TUSC’s candidate Roger Bannister, this meant that 15% of voters in Liverpool consciously chose to vote for candidates that they perceived as being to the left of Labour and more anti-austerity. Even the votes for Ukip, who won 10% of the votes across council elections in England and came second in both parliamentary byelections, primarily reflect anger and disillusionment with establishment politicians.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Unfortunately, all of those parties, with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level. TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services, which are destroying local government. That is why the Birmingham Post called TUSC “arguably the fiercest defenders of local government itself”.

Despite limited resources and a boycott by the national media, it was vital that TUSC stood candidates, in order to offer a socialist and working class alternative to austerity (see www.tusc.org.uk for more detail on TUSC results).

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners – including the transport workers’ union, the RMT – which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box. We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledge not to stand against those that did so. However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves. Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year. They could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tory divisions and retreats

In the coming weeks the EU referendum campaign will dominate the political agenda. Historically Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed the EU as an undemocratic club acting in the interests of the bankers and big business. If he had stood by that position it would have transformed the EU referendum campaign – which is currently dominated by right-wing big business politicians on both sides. Unfortunately, under huge pressure from the Labour right and the capitalist class, Jeremy Corbyn retreated on this issue.

Nonetheless, the Tories remain split down the middle over Europe. Already they have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues, including now on the forced academisation of schools. In the aftermath of the referendum Cameron, and potentially the Tory Party, could be ejected from power. A powerful, united movement could bring a halt to austerity and force the Tories to call a general election. Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24-hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity. Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement. This will not succeed if it remains trapped within the current undemocratic structure of the Labour Party, vainly trying to compromise with ‘the 4.5%’ – the Blairite representatives of big business in the Labour Party. Instead it means building an open, democratic movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party.