Friday, 11 September 2015

After A Corbyn Victory, What Next?

I'm writing this ahead of the official announcement of the Labour Leadership election.  However, the bookies have taken Corbyn from initially being 100/1 outsider to 1/16 clear favourite, with the closest rival being Yvette Cooper on 10/1.  The bookies are so confident that Corbyn has already won that some have even already paid out ahead of the announcement.  Whatever else can be said, Jeremy Corbyn and his campaign have created history.

Some months ago, as this campaign began, I wrote that it was necessary for socialists to be careful not to allow themselves to be caught up in just yet another of the ephemeral searches for a new celebrity upon whom all hopes of salvation were to be placed.  Support for Corbyn was fine provided it was seen in the context of the need for something much more, a rebuilding and renewal of the labour movement as a whole.  In some ways, what has happened has already started that process, but only that, only a start, and a Corbyn victory should be seen not as the time to wave the chequered flag, and wait for the voice to announce "You have arrived at your destination on the Left", but should be seen only as the time of waiting for satellites to be acquired.

If Corbyn has not won, then it will be a bigger upset now, than him winning would have seemed at the start of the campaign!  But, if that is the case, then aside from the undoubted calls for an inquiry as to why not, amid suspicions of ballot rigging by the party machine that would inevitably follow, and probably a civil war that would destroy the party, the fact that so many new members of the party have been recruited, that so many people have been enthused to get involved, has in itself changed things.  Someone my son has worked with in the past, who has had no involvement in politics, signed up to vote for Corbyn, and was mysteriously told they had been blocked.  When he spoke to them, they offered to give him his money back, but he rightly told them he didn't want his money back, he wanted his vote to count!  He was subsequently told that his vote would be counted, but that they reserved the right to reject it after the count!!

Not surprisingly, he has said that if that happens, and Corbyn loses, he will never vote Labour ever again.  That is a microcosm of what would be likely to happen, if Corbyn loses under suspicious circumstances.  But, I doubt that is going to happen, so I am devoting the rest of this post to a discussion based on the assumption of a Corbyn win.

The first thing to be said is "Well Done".  The second thing to be said is that an immediate requirement is to change Labour's ridiculous method of electing its leaders.  This system was introduced on the urging of the Blairites, who thought that it would guarantee for ever more that only candidates from their wing of the party got elected.  Its ironic that it was John Mann who first trialled a system of US style primary elections, for leader in his constituency, of the type now used for this election, but that it is Mann who has been one of the most vocal in criticising the result of the system he was previously so keen to introduce.

As a student of politics, I always thought that the US system of primary elections was completely bonkers, because it was well known that supporters of one party registered as supporters of the other, just so as to be able to select the candidates they thought would be least likely to get elected in a general election.  But, even aside from that, the idea of primary elections, destroys the whole purpose of a political party.  Political parties arose from a confluence of interests, so that those of a like mind could organise to achieve their aims, and be better able to hone their ideas, and convince wider numbers of the population of those ideas.  But, a primary election stands that on its head.  Instead of the party starting from a set of commonly held principles and ideas, which it seeks to fight for, instead, it abandons all such concepts, and instead says to the population give us your ideas, and we will repackage them so as to win your votes.  It is the essence of Blairism.

The rational conclusion of that, is of course, that a Blairite party in 1930's Germany in order to triangulate, and win the maximum votes, would have been repackaging all of the anti-semitic, fascistic views of a large swathe of the population, so as to content for their votes with the Nazis.  It can be seen today, by the collapse into such nationalistic policies by some of the Labour politicians, in the face of the support given to UKIP and the Tory Right, rather than putting up a principled opposition to those views, as Labour politicians even have done in the past.

The good thing about the way this election turned out, however, was that it showed another lunacy with the present system.  Corbyn only got on to the ballot in the first place, because a few MP's agreed to nominate him, who did not support him.  Their reason for doing so was obvious.  They thought that not only would he fail to get the nomination, but that he would get a humiliatingly low vote in the election.  Those who did that were not "morons", they acted in a quite cool calculated manner, but their calculations went badly awry.

What it shows, however, is that it is quite clearly ridiculous to have an election process, whereby the run away winner of that contest only got on to the ballot by chance!  The fact that today, Blairites can with a straight face talk about those who put Corbyn on the ballot being morons, that some of those who did so describe themselves in that way, shows just how little concern they have either for democracy, or for the ordinary members of the party.  Corbyn may well win on the first ballot with more than 50% of the vote, but for the Blairites it would have been far better had he never been on the ballot paper in the first place!

If one member one vote is to remain the basis of electing the leader, then the nomination process has to be also changed to give every member of the party an equal opportunity to nominate.  The party now has around 600,000 members, so the nomination process should be changed so that any MP can be nominated for the post, provided they obtain the support of 10% of the party membership, or around 6000 votes.  There is an argument for saying that, like the Greens, and the SNP, the Party Leader does not even have to be an MP.  However, the reality is that a Parliamentary grouping will always appoint such a leader, so it is better to have that process out in the open, and controlled by the whole party, rather than allow the small number of MP's to have a free hand.

It should also be the case that the members of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet are nominated and elected by the whole party, in the same way that the NEC is elected by the whole party.  That is also the basis for dealing with any potential plots by the Blairites and others.  Corbyn, who has been a serial rebel in parliamentary votes, knows that he cannot now come out as a strict disciplinarian against Blairites who rebel.  But, there is a clear difference.  Corbyn was able to rebel, because he took his local party, and others with him in his rebellion.

The message to any Blairite rebels is now clear.  Rebel if you feel the need, but be prepared to have to face your local party, and to explain yourself, be prepared to face deselection, from a party that is becoming transformed and infused with new blood.  That is not in any sense to be calling for expulsions, as the right-wing and soft left imposed with their witch hunts against the left in the 1980's and 90's, and certainly not to be encouraging a split.

When the Balirites talk about the danger of a split if Corbyn wins, the obvious question to them is, who is going to split?  It certainly will not be the left, who have sat through years of domination of the party by the Blairites.  Why when that ends, would we split.  On the contrary, the only people who would have any reason to split under such conditions of having lost the vote, would be the Blairites themselves.  And, of course, the right-wing of the party have form in that regard.  It has always been the right of the party that has split when it could not get its way.  That was what happened with the SDP in the 1980's.

But, as I have written in the past, this is not the 1980's, and Burnham, Cooper and Kendall are no Jenkins, Williams and Owen.  If the current bunch slipped away, no one would notice, and where would they slip away too.  The May election showed where advocacy of their Blairite centre-right politics gets you.  The Liberals advocated precisely that and they are now dead as a political force. The only home for any right-wing split from Labour would be a repetition of Ramsey McDonald's alliance with the Tories, and for most of these Labour MP's under current conditions that would also spell political suicide.

For the last few weeks, the Blairites along with the Tory media have relied on the usual scare tactics. They continue to do so up to the last minute with their ridiculous bleating about a Corbyn led Labour Party being unelectable.  They seem to have missed the point that, the half a million people who have joined the party just on the basis of being enthused by his nomination, have not simply materialised from nowhere.  They are the tip of an iceberg, a reflection of a change in attitudes amongst the population as a whole, a change that has occurred across Europe, as witnessed by Syriza, and Podemos, and other traditional social-democratic forces that have sprung up to replace the moribund, right-wing shells of the old social-democratic parties.  The same thing can be seen in the support for Bernie Sanders in the US.  It is not a socialist transformation, but it is a restatement of basic social democracy, and a rejection of the conservative ideology that has dominated for the last thirty years.

And, in fact, it will be very interesting to see what happens in this respect after Corbyn is elected leader.  At the beginning of the year, I made a number of forecasts, including that the Liberals would be reduced to just six seats, which turned out to be pretty accurate.  Even on election night, Paddy Ashdown was promising to eat his hat, if they were reduced to just the mid 20's, a promise like others made by Liberals, which he has failed to keep!  The fact, is that the Blairites and the Tory media have told themselves their own tales for so long that they cannot deal with a world that contradicts it.  It is why the election of Syriza was such an important event, despite what happened after.

The truth is that the story that Labour cannot win from the left is as much a loie as the story told by the Blairites and Tory media that Labour wrecked the economy, and that they lost the election because they were then not trusted on the economy.  In 1945, no one believed that Winston Churchill could lose the election, especially to a left wing Labour Part promising to do unspeakable things such as nationalise the railways, transport, coal industry, steel industry and so on, as well as create an NHS, and a welfare state to protect those who could not protect themselves.  In fact, that left-wing Labour government not only won, but won by a landslide, carried forward on the same kind of enthusiasm that exists for Corbyn now.

Similarly, the Labour Party under Harold Wilson in 1964, 1966 and 1974 stood way to the left of Labour today, even under Corbyn.  Callaghan would probably have won had he gone to the polls in 1978, rather than waiting until 1979, and the reason Labour lost in 1983, was that the vote had been split by the treachery of the SDP, not support for the Tories.

That is clear, by looking at the rise in support that arose for Labour after Michael Foot was elected leader in 1980, a fact that the Blairites and the Tory media continually omit, in their narrative.

A Corbyn led Labour Party will face no such splitting of the vote.  In fact, its fairly clear that large numbers of people who deserted Labour for UKIP as a protest vote, who went to the Greens, or who just became apathetic, can now be won back to Labour across all parts of the country.  All of those who have joined the party, or who have become supporters, and should be encouraged to join now play a far more important part than the PLP.  It is those ordinary, enthused, new members of the party, who must be organised to turn their branches outwards, alongside other local labour movement bodies such as Trades Councils, and Tenants and Residents Associations.  We should seek again as happened in the 1980's to build workplace Labour Party branches, to link up with trade union activists; we should seek to unite District Labour Parties with Trades Councils, as the foundation for building local anti-austerity campaigns; we should seek to build and renovate TRA's,  as the basis of extending co-operative housing, and co-operatively managed estates.

The Blairites and Tories have made common cause with some of the sectarian left instead to offer a counsel of despair.  They point to the failure of Syriza, and say "see, told you so."  But, that is like looking at the 1984 Miners Strike, and its failure due to the betrayal of Kinnock, and the TUC leaders, in order to argue that the miners should never have taken on Thatcher, because they were bound to lose.  Syriza lost, because not enough of the labour movement across Europe followed their lead.  Even then that loss may be only temporary.  A Corbyn victory could not only stimulate activity in Britain, it can reinvigorate Syriza and other on the left in Greece, as well as with Podemos and other left forces in Spain, and elsewhere.  There is not objective basis for the necessity of defeat. There is only the subjective basis of a failure of the labour movement to mobilise and fight for what, in any case amounts to only a minimum social-democratic programme of reforms, and opposition to austerity.

A weakness of Syriza was that they spent too much time negotiation with conservative EU politicians, and nowhere near enough building an anti-austerity movement across Europe.  It is a mistake the Corbinistas should learn from.  They should avoid pandering to the various sects, who will spread the poison of division within the movement.  If they wish to offer support, fine, but they represent nothing, and should be treated accordingly.  But, a Corbyn led Labour Party has to be vocal in opposing austerity not just in Britain, but across Europe.  The problems of Britain can only be resolved at an EU level, and a Corbyn led Labour Party should offer a positive social democratic programme for Europe, and should actively seek to build links with Syriza, Podemos, Die Linke, and left forces in all the existing European parties.  It should not self-censor itself in relation to those other parties.

We are an internationalist party, which must turn outwards to Europe, and have a positive programme for it, and a Corbyn led Labour Party should state openly that it seeks a similar transformation of all those other European social-democratic parties as has happened in Britain, and we will actively support all those in these parties struggling to bring it about.   A Corbyn led Labour Party should have as an openly stated aim of a rejuvenation of the Second International, as part of the creation of a single European Workers Party.

The election of Corbyn represents only the first step.

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