Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Vote Labour In Stoke and Copeland

Vote Labour


23rd. February

In the by-elections tomorrow in Stoke central and Copeland, workers should vote Labour.  They should do so for all the reasons Marxists always advise workers to support the workers' party. 

“As the experiences of the Russian Revolution teach us – remember this in England and America! – the most important thing of all is to stay in the midst of the masses of workers. You will often go wrong with them, but never leave the mass organisations of the working class, however reactionary they may be at any given moment”.

(Zinoviev’s closing speech at the 15th Session of the Second Congress of the Comintern) 

Particularly, at the current moment, the Labour Party following the election of Corbyn, as Leader, in 2015, is moving Left, and so all of the old excuses of the left sects ring even more hollow today, as they ossify in their self-imposed isolation from the working-class, and its main political organisation.  No Marxist would suggest that Corbyn's Labour Party is perfect, though it is an improvement on what has existed over the last thirty years, but perfection only springs into existence ready formed, in the minds of fantasists and deists.  In reality, anything even approaching perfection has to be forged through hard work, over long periods.  The best conditions for workers identifying what is good or bad, and what needs to be improved in the existing Labour Party, therefore, arise when it is tested in that real fire of class struggle.  We need Labour MP's and a Labour government to test that mettle, and to forge ever harder tools and weapons.

Of course, for an ordinary worker in Stoke the recent events may weigh heavily on their hand as they hold the pencil in their hand ready to make their mark in the polling booth.  If they were a Leave voter, they may on the one hand, be concerned that Labour were opposed to Brexit, and that the Labour candidate Gareth Snell correctly stated in one tweet that "Brexit is a load of shit".  They may, on that basis consider voting for the parties that honestly support Brexit, rather than are committing themselves to it, only after the referendum, and so as not to risk losing the support of Labour voters in Leave areas.  So, they may consider voting for the Tories or more rationally UKIP.

But, even as a Leave voter, they would be wrong to do so.  In all polls going back years, prior to the referendum, the majority of voters, including in areas like Stoke, rated the EU and Immigration, as coming low down on their lists of concerns, behind jobs, wages, the NHS and so on.  That is why, these areas continued over the years to vote Labour, who the workers in these areas saw as being the party committed to policies they needed on those issues.  Workers in Stoke, and similar areas did not suddenly become hostile to the EU, or concerned about immigration only last June!  All of those who live in these areas, and talk to ordinary workers as a matter of our daily lives, know that these sentiments have been there for decades.  Yet, none of those concerns stopped workers in those areas, year after year voting labour, and in some cases being active members of the Labour Party itself.  Nor will that situation have changed on June 24th 2015 either.

Whatever Labour Leave voters might feel, their overriding concern for the issues of jobs, wages, the NHS and so on, means that they should still vote Labour, because they must know that the Tories are the enemies of workers on all these issues.  It is the Tories who want and where they can, have cut workers wages.  It is the Tories that are decimating the NHS just as they did under Thatcher and Major in the 1980's and 90's.  It is the Tories who want to use Brexit so as to have a bonfire of workers rights and turn Britain into a 21st century equivalent of Batista's Cuba, with low wage, low status jobs for the the majority, and low taxes and vast speculative wealth for a small minority.  

Moreover, Nuttall's Nutters in UKIP are even worse.  Nuttall himself is a former hard-right, Thatcherite Tory, who stood in elections under that banner in the past, and openly advocated privatising the NHS.  However, workers in Stoke feel about the EU or immigration, which the Tories and UKIP and the gutter press over decades have led them to believe are the causes of their problems, in order to distract them from the real cause in the inadequacies of capitalism, and the austerity policies carried out by conservative politicians, they should vote Labour, because only Labour comes close to offering them the kind of policies required for dealing with their main concerns over jobs, wages, the NHS.

The Tories and UKIP offer the opposite kinds of policies on all those issues.  They offer only further attacks on workers jobs, conditions, wages, the NHS and public services.  As far as the Liberals are concerned, its tempting to ask, "Are the still here?"  We all saw where the priorities of Liberal politicians lie in 2010.  The whiff of ministerial leather caused them to jump into bed with Cameron's Tories, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in carrying through their right-wing policies of austerity, supporting things such as the Bedroom Tax.  Had they won more than their paltry 8 seats at the 2015 General Election, they would have had no qualms about getting back into bed with the Tories.

Moreover, a look at the actual practice of parties like the Liberals and the Greens, in Local Government, shows a similar pattern, whereby they talk left, but act right, alongside the Tories to implement policies of austerity etc.

On the other hand, a Remain Labour voter in Stoke might be revulsed at the haste with which Corbyn and the Labour Party have themselves jumped into bed with Theresa May to push through Brexit.  They might think that, in response they will register their vote by voting for the Liberals or Greens, who have maintained a principled position of opposing Brexit.  Again they would be wrong.  The Liberals are partly responsible for this mess, because they facilitated Cameron's government, and his hubris in calling the referendum.  The Liberals long advocated such a referendum, yet it was clear that any such referendum undertaken under a Tory government, would not be an adequate test of public opinion on the matter.  The referendum descended into nothing but a Reality TV show, of coverage of the personal bickering of Tory politicians, with everyone else effectively blacked out along with any other perspective other than inside or outside the existing capitalist framework of the EU.  There was no discussion of the possibility of reforming the EU in the interests of EU workers, for example, as opposed to introducing further reforms, such as those proposed by Cameron which would have further undermined workers rights.

The Liberals had their chance and blew it, along with the rest of the Blair-right, Third Way political centre, whose conservative policies over the last thirty years blew up speculative asset price bubbles, which undermined real productive investment, caused the financial crisis of 2008, and threatens an even bigger financial crisis any minute.  The political death of that political centre, be it the Liberals, Blair-rights, Pasok, Clinton, the PSOE, Hollande etc. is no accident.  It created its own gallows, and there is no future for workers in trying to resuscitate that corpse, however much the media keep trying to forge a new Frankenstein's Monster out of the bits of separate corpses, the latest example of which was the attempt on Newsnight by Evan Davies to invite Tory Ed Vaizey and Progress Member Alison McGovern to join together, having had former SDP member Polly Toynbee sing the praises of the French Blair-right candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Even just practically, nationally, neither the Liberals nor the Greens could form a realistic opposition.  If the LIberals even trebled their number of MP's, they would have a measly 27, whilst Caroline Lucas would have her solitary confinement broken only by the addition of an additional two Green MP's.  The only real effect, would be to split the anti-Tory vote, as happened in 2010, and thereby help the Tories back into government.

All of those arguments apply equally to the by-election in Copeland, but there is an additional factor there, which is the issue of nuclear power.  Everyone knows that Jeremy Corbyn opposes nuclear power.  However, Jeremy Corbyn is not the candidate standing in Copeland.  Moreover, the Labour Party is a democratic not a dictatorial party.  Jeremy Corbyn as leader has an important voice, but still only one voice.  The policy of the Labour Party is not to oppose nuclear power, as it is for the Greens and Liberals.

My personal view, as it has been for forty years, is that socialists should not cut off the potential of a power source that could be the most important one we have for the energy demands of our future. The question should not be whether we are in favour of nuclear power or against it, but as with any question of technology, how it is used, for what purposes, and under whose control.  No one opposes the use of nuclear material in medicine, for example, where it is used for X-Rays, C-T Scans, as well as for radiation treatment of cancers.

Our first concern with the nuclear industry should be that it is not used for purposes that damage workers interests, by threatening their lives, health and communities.  We have to be concerned for the workers who live in the communities surrounding such plants, as well as for all those generations of workers to come.  If only such concern had been shown for all of those workers, communities and families who were allowed to work for decades with deadly asbestos, that continues to blight people's lives decades later.  Everyone can be wise long after the event, and bemoan the fact that they were too concerned about short term economic considerations to have heeded the warnings that were given to them.

Labour's policy should be to demand that nuclear plants, and the nuclear industry in general is placed under workers control, with day to day workers supervision undertaken by committees of specialists drawn from the workers' movement, and local communities.  Activity should only be undertaken where it can guarantee very high levels of safety and security for workers and local communities, and just as the government provides huge subsidies to the private nuclear power companies, they should provide sufficient subsidies to ensure that workers can run such plants to these high levels of safety and security.

Moreover, we should demand as a priority, that the government provides large scale funding along with other EU governments for intensive research and development of nuclear technology so as to improve safety and security, and particularly, for the rapid development of nuclear fusion technology, which can provide limitless supplies, of safe and cheap nuclear power into the future.

But, all of that requires that we remove the Tories and their UKIP and Liberal allies, and their faith in capitalism and the free market.  It requires that we build the Labour party, and the Labour Movement, so as to be able to take on these challenges of the future.

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