Friday, September 30, 2016

Victorious Corbyn consigns Blairism to history

This is a fascinating and honest assessment of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Labor Party and it is by a conservative journalist.  The slander and assault Corbyn has weathered has completely backfired as the LP has become the largest party in Western Europe by accounts.

There is a lesson here for us in the US. Not only Corbyn's rise, but also the rise and fall of Syriza in Greece. Syriza received a mandate from the Greek working class to stand against the austerity agenda of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, known widely as the Troika only to have the leadership of the party shamefully capitulate 48 hours later.
 
Here in the US we have the two most unpopular candidates in history according to the mass media.
We have an ignorant representative of the capitalist class on the one hand who is basically a land speculator, racist and misogynist, and a sharp, conscious and brutal representative of US capitalism on the other who will continue the Bush/Obama foreign policy with gusto. We have an unprecedented situation with right wing Republicans supporting the Democratic Candidate. The US bourgeois could well be left with one party after this is over or, we will see a major alignment in politics. 

We have pointed out on this blog that the Green Party can emerge from this campaign stronger than it has ever been as Sanders supporters have moved in to it after his betrayal.  A significant showing would be a victory for the Greens and would also alter the balance of class forces in the US.  Unlike the British Labor Party, the Green Party has no base in the trade unions and is strongly and very negatively influenced by the petty bourgeois; it does not orient to organized labor at all in the main and has a very undemocratic internal life. We have urged socialists in the Green Party to build an open and active left caucus/current within it. The GPUS recently adopted an eco-socialist plank but neither its presidential or VP candidate mentions it.   Some of us from this blog attended the Green Party Convention in Houston in August. Here are the three points we suggested the left or a functioning left caucus take up.    This article is reprinted from Middle East Eye 
Richard Mellor


Goodbye New Labour: Victorious Corbyn consigns Blairism to history

Peter Oborne's picture
By routing his opponents and breaking the neoliberal consensus, Corbyn has the strongest mandate of any opposition leader since Tony Blair

According to the British media class, the last week has been an unmitigated disaster for Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Don’t believe a word of it.

According to the received version of events, Jeremy Corbyn leads a split party, has zero chance of winning the next election, and is driven by a demented political ideology which will take Britain back to the worst days of the 1970s.

As a Tory, I don't share many of Corbyn's political beliefs, but I am certain that most of what is written about the Labour leader is false.
He has not simply defeated his opponents. He has routed them. He therefore has the strongest mandate of any opposition leader since Tony Blair in 1994
The truth is that Corbyn has had an outstanding week which has vindicated everything he has ever done and said as a man and a politician – a point that the Labour leader drove home in his superb leader’s speech from Liverpool this afternoon.

The achievement is colossal, and Corbyn is still growing into his job. This week has won a massive endorsement from Labour Party members – and on a scale which would leave most politicians open mouthed with envy.

More significant still, it is the second endorsement he has secured from Labour Party members in just 12 months.

This means that Corbyn is now unchallengeable as Labour leader. He has not simply defeated his opponents. He has routed them. He therefore has the strongest mandate of any opposition leader since Tony Blair in 1994.

The hard way 
Unlike Tony Blair, Corbyn has to do it the hard way. He has achieved his triumph in the face of hostility from a deeply unfair and partisan British media, much of which is openly determined to destroy him and distort his actions.

He has been forced to pay a very high price for challenging conventional opinion.
I've been a political journalist for nearly 25 years and there is no question that Jeremy Corbyn should be celebrated for ushering in this new kind of politics
But in the space of barely a year, he has reinvented Labour as a political party, taking Labour Party membership from 200,000 in the wake of the 2015 election, to more than 500,000 today.

He has done this by reinventing public discourse itself. He has abandoned the discredited politics of spin and manipulation associated both with Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair’s New Labour and David Cameron’s Tories. Corbyn is not by any means a great orator, but he speaks in the simple, intelligible language of ordinary people.

I've been a political journalist for nearly 25 years and there is no question that Jeremy Corbyn should be celebrated for ushering in this new kind of politics.

Breaking the old model
As he explicitly set out in his hugely important speech this afternoon, Corbyn has broken from the consensus politics of the last quarter of a century. From the rise of Tony Blair in 1994 until the general election of 2015, there was – to use Corbyn’s potent phrase from Liverpool today – a "political stitch up" between the main political parties.

There was an unspoken agreement between Tories and Labour that they would only work within very constrained parameters. The Cameron Conservative Party and the Blairite Labour Party both advocated near identical spending and taxation targets. They both supported the marketisation of the public sector. They both agreed the same neoliberal economic model.

In foreign policy terms, both main parties accepted British subordination to the United States of America, and therefore a neoconservative doctrine of armed intervention in order to advance the interests of the West in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Nobody can claim that these twin doctrines -  neoliberalism at home and neoconservatism abroad - were successful. They led to debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as the banking crash of 2008. But anyone who challenged these two orthodoxies was politically marginalised.

This afternoon, Corbyn became the first leader of a mainstream political party to directly challenge this paradigm, with his assertion that "the old model is broken and we’re in a new era". Corbyn deserves almost unlimited credit for offering an alternative.

Support, leave - or conspire?

Corbyn's triumph does, however, create a real difficulty for his many opponents inside the Labour parliamentary party. They have been overwhelmingly defeated not just once, but twice.

It is time that they acknowledged that they have been beaten. There are two honourable ways that they can do this. They must either come out and support Jeremy Corbyn as he tries to implement the settled, democratic will of the Labour Party. That means taking front bench jobs and supporting the leadership as it sets out its distinctive vision for the future of Britain or - at the very least - supporting Corbyn loyally from the back-benches.

Alternatively, they should leave the party altogether. This would be a painful course of action - but entirely honourable. The Blairites are completely at liberty to set up their own political organisation, just as Shirley Williams and David Owen set up the Social Democratic Party in despair of what they saw as the far-left wing taking over the Labour Party in the 1980s. They can then test their popularity with the electorate.
The Blairites are completely at liberty to set up their own political organisation, just as Shirley Williams and David Owen set up the Social Democratic Party
The third course of action is to continue to behave as they have over the last 12 months, and to carry on conspiring against and undermining Corbyn. That would be deeply dishonourable and wrong, but on past performance entirely in character.

There are some intriguing parallels between the disloyalty of Blairite Labour MPs towards Corbyn and the attitude of the Egyptian deep state towards President Mohamed Morsi after he was elected president in free democratic elections in 2012.

The Egyptian Army and intelligence services, the business elite and the Nasserite left simply refused to recognise the legitimacy of multiple elections and would not enable Morsi to govern. They had their way, but the democratic transition was set back years in the process.

So far, that has been the approach of Hilary Benn, Tom Watson, Ben Bradshaw and the other Labour wreckers and saboteurs. They are refusing to accept that Corbyn has a democratic mandate and, as a result, are determined to destroy him from within.

Corbyn has earned his chance. He proved with his fine speech this afternoon that he has a vision. Labour MPs should now give him his chance to prove that he can reshape a new kind of British politics. God knows that it is badly needed. Even as a Tory, for the health of the British political system, I wish him all the luck in the world.

- Peter Oborne was named freelance writer of the year 2016 by the Online Media Awards for his reporting for Middle East Eye. With MEE colleague Nawal Al-Maghafi, he is among the few correspondents to have ventured into war-torn Yemen in recent months.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks on the fourth day of the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool, north west England on 28 September 2016 (AFP)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

San Jose: Union construction workers pitted against non union.

Source: South Bay Labor Council

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

"Brethren we conjure you...not to believe a word of what is being said about your interests and those of your employers being the same. Your interests and theirs are in a nature of things, hostile and irreconcilable.  Then do not look to them for relief...Our salvation must, through the blessing of God, come from ourselves.  It is useless to expect it from those whom our labors enrich." (1)

I caught a short clip on the local news tonight about a protest at a construction site in San Jose.  The very orderly protest was directed at a developer who has been using non-union labor according to the report and various building trades unions had called the protest. A couple of construction workers talked of how difficult it is trying to live in the Silicon Valley area due to the cost of housing and this employer was bringing in non union labor from the central valley and sometimes from out of state undercutting local workers. They earn a little above minimum wage the worker said.

Even with the somewhat better union wage scale (benefits and health care are a huge benefit in these cases) workers are having a hard time living in the area in which they work

This is common throughout the Bay Area as is well known. Rents and housing consume a huge percentage of family income. In San Jose, as of August 2016, the average apartment rent within the city is $2936. One bedroom apartments in San Jose rent for $2527 a month on average and two bedroom apartment rents average $3205.  The figures for the city of Santa Clara are: $2625 a month and $3316. (Source: Rent Jungle.com)  Trying affording that on a $15 an hour minimum wage that might take place in three or four years time in some cases.

As the poster form the South Bay Labor Council website explains, The company KT Urban was targeted for “short changing the middle class and stifling hundreds of local construction workers out of middle class wages.” Ben Field is the head of the South Bay Labor Council to which 100,00 workers in 97 unions are affiliated.  The Labor Councils are the county bodies of the national labor federation, the AFL-CIO.  When an AFL-CIO union goes on strike it has to receive what is called “sanction” from the labor council to which it affiliated in order to get support. These days support generally means a rally here and there and some gestures of solidarity like fundraising, anything that is sure not to hurt the struck employer too much. Sometimes officials like Field will bring a Democratic Party politician to the picket line who will walk around for a while telling us how his grandfather was a miner or something like that and how he is just one of us.

Field was interviewed briefly and explained that the motive for this shabby treatment of workers was pure “Greed” and Field should know. He has a law degree and a PhD in American History from UC Berkeley. His bio on the Labor Council website boasts of his membership on the various labor management boards like, “Team San Jose, a partnership of the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotels, the arts and labor, the Nova Workforce Investment Board, and the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority’s Advisory Committee….” The bio continues, ….”After graduating with a degree in Political Science from Columbia University in 1986, Ben worked as a legislative aide to Congressman Don Edwards and later on the United States Senate Banking Committee, Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Development.”

The heads of organized labor have built a relationship with the bosses based on labor peace. They keep the membership in check and ensure strikes, if they occur, do not actually hurt the employer. They ensure demands are “realistic” which means they are acceptable to the labor hierarchy’s friends in the Democratic Party and among the employers whose team they are on.

The highest ranks of organized labor people like Field and AFL-CIO strategists who determine policy, is filled with fancy college educated types from Harvard and Brandeis and other capitalist institutions.  It goes to show that all the lawyers and PhD’s in the world can’t be relied upon to defend the interests of working class people and it certainly wasn’t these types that built the trade union movement. The ideology of the ruling class is very strong in universities. And so it should be, these are institutions of capitalism, factories that turn out the forces that make capitalism work to the extent that it does and where Field and others like him soak up the so-called free market ideology like a sponge.

I stress of course, that great individuals, members of the middle and upper middle classes (the petty bourgeois best describes them for me) with college educations have been great labor activists and of course revolutionists. These individuals adopted the class position of the worker, abandoned their class privilege and orient to and place their skills at the service of the working class. But these are rare people.

So the PhD and the leaders of the unions involved lead their members on a rally and protest that basically pits them against lower waged workers form the Central Valley which is a very poor section of California who also need to feed their families. In many situations like these here in California, many of the lower paid from this area will be Latinos, Mexicans or Mexican Americans.  It's not rocket science is it to figure out that these workers would love to earn union wages and benefits. It reminds me so much of the vicious attacks against Irish labor back in England during the 60’s that always included a racist element.

Instead of whining about a rogue employer and appealing to the so-called “friendly” employers who pay the union rate, what the 100,000 workers of the South Bay Labor Council should be mobilized for is for a 30 hour workweek with no loss in pay. This would be a first step in opening up the job market a little. Fifty mles to the north San Francisco has a labor council also with more than 100,000 workers. Here in the East Bay, the Labor Council has another 130,000 or so all in key industries. The LA labor council has 800,000 and the state of California Labor Federation $2 million workers affiliated. Both the SF and Alameda County Labor Council were involved in general strikes, SF in 1934 and Alameda in 1946

There should be a campaign for more jobs, a massive infrastructure spending program paid for by ending all predatory wars and taxing the rich.  Defense production should be cut and funds reallocated for social use. There should be a massive organizing drive aimed at the workers from the Central Valley and others like them, the unemployed for example, and get them in to the unions. Organize the unorganized don’t allow the bosses to force us in to competition with them.  These unions should be organizing residential construction instead of consciously abandoning it as they have done. HERE, the restaurant workers union also made the conscious decision to abandon small outlets and concentrate on the big hotels as they bring in lot of revenue. This is what happens when you run a workers' organization like business.

All the talent and skills of the workers on the shop floor of the industry they are in can be utilized to build and spread organization. But it’s safer to hire an army of staff loyal to the tops, many of them college kids at first who have no base among the troops or in the workplace. (read this) This is a conscious strategy, one word of criticism from them and they will be out of a job, they have no solid footing, no base in the union on which to rest and that can challenge the organized leadership and their full-time apparatus.

But this is what happens when the strategists atop organized labor have the Team Concept philosophy as their guidance, that workers and bosses have the same interests, are on the same team. The union bureaucracy is on the same team, the folks that pay the dues aren’t. This inevitably pits workers in one industry against those in another, workers in countries against each other.  It’s a disaster, we can’t build workers unity and solidarity that way and if we can’t build that unity we can’t ever win.

As I write this it becomes so clear that what we face within organized labor is ideological warfare. The leadership of organized labor, their views and policies represent an alien ideology.  All Field’s education is useless to us, he is not putting it at the disposal of the working class in our struggle for control of our work lives and the society in which we live.  Him and most of them are connected in all sorts of ways to the capitalist class, through the Team Concept on the job in terms of what is and what is not acceptable economically, and the Team Concept in the political sphere through their deathly embrace of the Democratic Party and their association with its institutions. They soak up the 1%'s  economic and philosophy of the world in their universities.

I concede that the members are accepting Field’s argument, attacking the workers being exploited even more so by this particular employer because they have no union to defend them and/or may be immigrants. They are not making any effort to link with them. This is a mistake and harmful to their own self interest. But there are activists within the unions that refuse to take up this false policy of the leadership openly, that refuse to build opposition caucuses in the workplaces and union that can challenge the present policies and build a new leadership based on defense of our class interests; they keep their mouths shut. The members have to see there is a force inside the union that they can turn to, that has a plan and a way to fight back to bring change. As for socialists, how can we talk to workers of the need to join with us in overthrowing capitalism when we refuse to even confront the leaders of the workers' organizations, or can't fight for a clean restroom on the job.?

As we say on this forum, we are in a battle for the consciousness of the working class and that includes the organized sector of it and winning that war means challenging the petty bourgeois layer, the lawyers, economists and other academics that head our organizations on behalf of Wall Street. 

(1) 1840's appeal from New England laborers to their fellows to abandon the idea that the employers/capitalists would solve working people's problems.  Philip Foner History of the Labor Movement Vol. 1 p192

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Donegal Woman. Now in eBook Form

Our readers know Sean O'Torain from this blog, but you may not know about his book The Donegal Woman. Written under the pen name John Throne, the book is based on the true story of the author’s own grandmother, Margaret. Born to the poorest of Protestant farmers in the hills of Donegal, Margaret was hired out as a child, raped by her master, and once pregnant, forced to marry another man many times her age. But Margaret survived in a silent world of her own, driven by a passionate determination to do right by her children.

Reviving the tradition of three of Ulster’s great radical writers, Peadar O’ Donnell, Patrick MacGill, and Sam Hannah Bell, Sean has captured the authentic voice of a woman of extraordinary spirit. He beautifully tells his grandmother’s tragic story, a story much like that of countless other Irishwomen of her time.

The book was published in Ireland to great acclaim, and it is at long last available in eBook form exclusively (meaning nowhere else, including Amazon) at https://donegalwoman.com/shop/.

We’ve collected some of the kind words readers have shared about The Donegal Woman below. Please feel free to visit the book's Facebook page to read more.   

Here's a sample:

Marycruz Arango This book changed my life, it’s a powerful and so sad story. Thanks so much Sean for sharing your book with me. It was an amazing gift.

BrĂ­d Doherty Absolutely brilliant … could not put it down when I started reading it. I could not even lend my Donegal Woman to anyone I felt I understood it all brilliant the young people need to read this they would have a better understanding of how things were then. More please.

Terri Connor A brilliant read could not leave it down……….very sad as well.

Mary Doherty The best book I’ve read yet its a must for first time readers xx so real … You haven’t read a book until u have read this.

Charlie Boyle Read this ten years ago and have often mentioned it as a best ever. Brilliant book.

Mary McKinley Read this book and I couldn’t put it down such a harrowing read and the best book I  have ever read. Looking forward to your new book.

Maria Comiskey Read it years ago….. broke my heart… everyone should read it.

Sarah Gorman I read it years ago also, brilliant book.

Bridie Feeney Brilliant Book xx

Sarah Quinn That was the saddest book i ever read I think everyone should read it to see what life was like back then not easy that poor girl.

Bernie Patton Heartbreaking but such a gripping read.

Frances Moore A brilliant book I read it a few years ago couldn’t recommend it enough.

Jackie Donaghy I read this book a few years ago 2. Very good book and to think that happened to your relatives back in the 70’s and it was probably still going on behind closed doors for a good few years later. Looking forward to ure next book.

Sharon Gallagher Read it great book

Kathleen Coyle That was the saddest book I ever read — well-written.

Antoinette Gillespie Great book really enjoyed it.

Maeve Moss Omg what a read I cried it such as sad story even tried to figure out where about in Donegal it happened drove around as I live on hill and you have to walk down past church there is a lough not so far away to thought it might have been my area I have now read it 4 times still cry looking forward to your new book.

Maire Kelly Enjoyed the true read – hard times – would take tear from a stone.

Catherine Hagney-Doogan I read this book fantastic but brutal

Ronnie Mc Gonagle I have read this book, it is brilliant. It’s a weepie.

Paddy Roddy A fantastic heart rendering read and a reality that poverty and misfortune had no religious divide for the working class in the Donegal of the time and slavery and hardship of those children hired out so their families could survive the winter to heart.

Dado Gyure great book xo

Daoine Ni Frighil Great reviews John, one of my favourite books.

Mary Boyle A brilliant read but very sad and unfortunately true I actually read the book twice would make a great film.

Sonia Mackey I read the book could not leave it down till I finished real weepie loved it

Margaret Quigley Read this book a few years ago what a hard life that poor woman had great read

Rena Peacockcraig Read this book a few years ago. Very sad. But just made you stop and reflect on her life and the times that were in it. I live in Donegal.

Ann Lyons Brilliant book

Fidelma Carron I’ve read it too. Harrowing story but I couldn’t put it down. It was brilliant.

Sheila McClean I have read this book it was one of the scariest books I.v ever read. Sleep wouldn’t come to me that night.

Mary McLaughlin A great story sad but hard to put the book down

Noleen Doherty Read it it’s brilliant.

Margaret Bogan Brilliant book very sad

You've enjoyed Sean's writing here at We Know What's Up for years, and now you can enjoy the eBook edition of his first novel, The Donegal Woman.

Visit https://donegalwoman.com/shop/ to order your copy today.

More on Jeremy Corbyn's Labor Party Victory.

from Roger Silverman in London

The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party with a strengthened mandate is a sign of the change that has transformed British society. After decades of relative stability, political life in Britain is now in turmoil. In last year's general election, the briefly fashionable Liberal Democrats were virtually annihilated, and the Scottish Nationalists swept from relative obscurity, with just six MPs out of 59 Scottish seats, to a near-monopoly of 56. Now the ruling Tory party is reeling from the shock result of the Brexit referendum, following which the prime minister resigned overnight, and the party is riven with barely concealed splits. Most significant of all is the transformation of the Labour Party, which has more than trebled its membership in a matter of months as hundreds of thousands of working people and youth have joined to elect a left leader and begin to restore it to its class roots.


This transformation of the Labour Party represents a decisive rejection of the legacy of the Blair years. With Blair's accession as Labour leader in the mid-1990s, there was an influx into parliament of career politicians owing little or no allegiance to the Labour and trade union movement. This process accompanied a conscious tactical manoeuvre by the ruling class. The Conservative Party had become discredited beyond foreseeable repair by popular revulsion at the effects of a decade of Thatcherism, and subsequently by the disaster of Black Wednesday in 1992, when the value of the pound sterling crashed. The decision was taken to abandon temporarily the Tories as the traditional political instrument of the establishment. For the first time, corporate donations poured into New Labour, with a mandate to carry onward under a new banner, along with some minor reforms, the Thatcherite crusade of privatisation. For the first time in its history, the Tory party found itself starved of funds; media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch became miraculously transformed into champions of Labour; and for the first time ever, under its new pro-business leadership Labour won three elections in a row and ruled for three full terms, from 1997 to 2010.


These Blairite MPs adopted an identity very distinct from Labour's socialist traditions, proclaiming themselves explicitly as a separate party (“New Labour”), and expunged the socialist aims embodied for eighty years in the Party constitution, ditching in words as well as deeds time-honoured principles to which previous leaders had had to pay at least nominal lip service, such as defence of trade-union rights, an aspiration towards public ownership, and opposition to colonial wars. It was only following the financial catastrophe of 2008 that the New Labour project was deemed to have outlived its usefulness. Corporate support for Labour was unceremoniously withdrawn, funds began once again pouring into Tory Party coffers, and the media switched to vicious and unrelenting ridicule of Blair's successor Brown.


This left the spent political residue of Blairite MPs - a beached whale if not quite a rotting carcase - awkwardly sprawled across most of the Labour parliamentary benches, lacking either the confidence of the newly regenerated Labour ranks or the patronage of a ruling class to which they have largely outlived their usefulness, except as an obstacle to the democratic rights of the Party membership. All that is left to them is to cling on to their careers in parliament. The ferocity of their resistance to the spectacular revival of Labour's membership is due to the fact that they are fighting not just for discredited political ideas, but for their very livelihoods.


Blinded with delusions in their own status, these MPs have now precipitated their own downfall. It was they who opened the electoral floodgates to allow non-members to vote in leadership elections, deluding themselves that the wider electorate would always flock to their support against the left; some of them even nominated Corbyn as a leadership candidate in the mistaken belief that he would be trounced in any leadership vote and the left humiliated for evermore; and even after Corbyn had already proved them wrong by winning the leadership by a landslide, it was they who imagined that they could still bring him down in an orchestrated back-stabbing coup by resigning en masse from the Shadow Cabinet, hoping that the left would crumple under their pressure.


At every stage they showed themselves blind to the change sweeping Britain and the world. In their insulated Commons cocoon, what they had failed to notice was the new mood of revolt, in Britain taking the form of a wave of determined but scattered local grass-roots protests against housing evictions, hospital closures, etc., and most spectacularly the unprecedented strikes of hospital doctors. They have now perversely precipitated their own terminal crisis, by wantonly undermining a democratically elected leader who already enjoyed the biggest mandate in the party's history.


It is the new mass influx into the party which has transformed the political outlook. According to some surveys, Corbyn's contemptible challenger Smith had won a small margin among that minority who had been members prior to 2015; but overall Corbyn won overwhelming majorities in all three sectors: among full party members, registered supporters and affiliated trade unionists. His victory is all the more impressive when account is taken of the outright sabotage practised by the party officials surviving from the Blair years, who grossly and blatantly rigged the vote, disenfranchising up to 200,000 party members through the imposition of arbitrary membership deadlines, targeted suspensions amounting to a wholesale purge, and even plain vote-stealing. Behind these machinations stood the unanimous hysteria of the media, from the BBC and the Guardian rightwards, who let loose an unprecedented barrage of baseless smears of intimidation, sexism and even anti-Semitism.


Now that Corbyn is confirmed more overwhelmingly than ever as leader, the entire establishment is clamouring for the winning side in this contest to throw away its victory in a one-sided gesture of reconciliation which would leave the defeated MPs in place for perpetuity. They have magnanimously offered to resume their places in Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet… in return for just one favour: a guarantee of jobs for life. By demanding a ban on the right of local Labour Parties to hold democratic reselections of Labour candidates in future elections, they are insolently putting the onus on Jeremy Corbyn's supporters for avoiding the coming split in the Labour Party which they themselves have made inevitable.


Labour today is a reinvigorated mass party, already numbering more than 600,000 members. They must insist on their right to select candidates who reflect their interests. The right seem to have conjured up a new dogma: the divine right of Labour MPs. It is those who deny their members simple democratic rights who are paving the way for a split.


The old parties of social-democracy that had in more affluent times succeeded in winning partial concessions and reforms are today in terminal decline all over Europe: Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Scandinavia… In Britain the eclipse of New Labour and the influx into the Labour Party of workers and youth eager to transform it is a particular local variant of this same worldwide trend.


What matters now is to formulate a programme adequate to the challenge. Winning and then reaffirming the election of a left leader is only the beginning of a long hard bitter struggle. With the active connivance of the ruling class, the right wing of the Labour Party has succeeded easily in outmanoeuvring the left, by springing clever traps in reshaping the composition of the National Executive Committee, fixing the election of conference delegates, manipulating conference procedures, etc. So far the programme of Corbyn and his chancellor McDonnell is confined to inspiring visions (a universal living wage, free lifelong education, a million new homes, etc.), but rather more modest immediate practical proposals, limited to renationalisation of the railways, limited curbs on the utility companies, etc. There are no proposals even for the nationalisation of the banks. Among the population there is a widespread thirst for far more sweeping measures.


Yes, Corbyn's decisive mandate has generated genuine hope for the first time in decades; but on its own, hope is not enough. Now it is time to launch a debate at every level about how that hope can be vindicated and translated into deeds. Momentum has arisen spontaneously as a mass left movement within and alongside the official Labour institutions, but it has yet to develop a structure and a constitution, and above all a socialist programme. In their absence, it has already lost impetus and needs to catch up fast. The time for cheerleading is now over. What Corbyn and McDonnell need now is not just passive support but active participation in a democratic debate drawing in the whole revived movement.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

British Labor Party Election: Jeremy Corbyn’s second victory

Here is a very interesting report on the UK Labor Party leadership election and what it means for the British working class and economy. In it, John discusses the role of Momentum, the group around Corbyn and the role socialists can play in the strengthening of the party and the war against the capitalist offensive. It is a little long but worth reading. The video did not come with the article.

by John Pickard

Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership victory in a year has been a crushing defeat for the right wing of the Labour Party who triggered the contest by their bumbled rebellion. As the correspondent of  the Daily Telegraph, Tim Stanley, noted, the rebellion and subsequent leadership campaign has left Corby stronger than he was before. The attempted coup, he says, was the political equivalent of “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

The unprecedented 62 per cent mandate was achieved despite months of unrelenting smears and distortions in the press and on TV. There has never been a campaign in the entire post-war period like the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn. The nearest equivalent was the so-called Zinoviev Letter, a forged document used to link the Labour Party to the Bolsheviks in 1924 and used by the lying Daily Mail in the general election of that year. But even the smear campaign of 1924 is tiny in comparison to the overwhelming bias today. Academics have even logged and quantified the clear bias that has been shown in the BBC coverage of Corbyn. Last June, one of the BBC’s chief news correspondents, Laura Keunssberg, even conspired with Shadow Cabinet members to have them resign on air.

The press has done their best to demonise Corbyn and his supporters. They have followed the maxim of Goebbels that no matter how big the lie is, if it is repeated often enough, it begins to be believed. Thus, a completely artificial campaign on supposed “anti-Semitism” was launched just prior to the May local elections and still reverberates around the media, with the sole intention of undermining Corbyn. The latest pretext to undermine him has been a blizzard of accusations about “abuse” within the Labour Party – the vast majority of which is without the slightest morsel of evidence or basis in the real world. Many right wing Labour MPs see any kind of criticism as “abuse” because they are used to Party members being meek and deferential. The Momentum organisation, set up to support Corbyn after his election the first time, has come in for particular criticism by the right. What they really object to is the fact that the Party now has tens and hundreds of thousands of members who want their voices and opinions felt.

Some commentators in the capitalist press, as if looking in a mirror, have themselves noted the bias in the press and have even suggested that the lack of balance is so now obvious that it is even counter-productive. In other words, workers expect the press to be biased so they reason that if it is a newspaper article on Corbyn, it must be a lie. For millions of young people, in any case, their main source of news and information is not the press or TV, but the internet and social media, which have proved to be a lot more transparent and even-handed than the press and TV barons would have liked.

The actual leadership election was rigged in such a way as to deliberately disadvantage Corbyn. The payment for a vote by a ‘registered supporter’ was raised by 800 per cent compared to 2015, from £3 to £25 and the on-line registration period was narrowed down to a very brief 48 hours. But still, despite this, 180,000 registered to vote. All local Labour Party meetings were put into a ten-week ‘lockdown’, allegedly to prevent abuse and intimidation, but in reality to prevent awkward discussions and votes of no-confidence in MPs like Angela Eagle in Wallasey. Several Constituency Labour Parties have been suspended and Annual Meetings invalidated on the most spurious grounds. In many CLPs, the right wing managed to avoid any kind of leadership nomination meeting, but where they were held, the vast majority of these voted to nominate Corbyn.

In addition to these measures, an unknown number of Party members have been suspended or expelled on the flimsiest grounds. The Labour Party “Compliance Unit” has employed new staff with the particular responsibility of combing through Facebook posts and Twitter tweets – sometimes going back for years – to seek any ‘evidence’ of past support for other political parties or ‘abusive’ behaviour. Even commentators in the Tory press have had wry smiles at the blatant bias in this process and although there is no official notification of how many members have been suspended or denied a vote because of ‘administrative errors’,  the total figure has been put as high as 60,000. The turnout of 77.6 per cent might give an indication of how many votes were missing – it amounts to over 100,000 – and it is inconceivable that no more than a few thousand of these were active abstentions.

The biggest element of the rigging was the completely arbitrary decision to exclude all full Labour Party members who joined after January 12th, thus keeping 130,000 votes off the list. The vast majority of these – people who joined the Labour Party since Corbyn was elected – joined to support him. Altogether, it means if all LP members had been allowed to participate without suspensions or completely arbitrary ‘cut-off’ dates, it is likely his majority would have been well over 62 per cent and more like 65 or 70 per cent.

The crushing defeat for Labour’s right wing is a confirmation that British politics has changed irrevocably, as it also has in the USA and in Europe. There is an ongoing historic change in the consciousness of working class. As Karl Marx put it, “…the old mole of revolution has been burrowing away” even in what is seen by some as a period of relative political calm.

An article by James Kirkup in the Telegraph noted the changes sweeping through politics in general. The article heading, “Don't be afraid of Jeremy Corbyn. Be afraid of what comes after him” itself speaks volumes. “If there is one lesson from the last 12 months of politics, in Britain, in Europe and the US,” he writes, “…it is that the established order is fragile, more fragile than it has been in a generation and maybe more. Some of the iron laws of politics, economics and society in the industrialised west have proved to be surprisingly flexible.  Britain couldn’t leave the EU, and now it is. Donald Trump couldn’t run for president, and now he is. Things have changed, and are continuing to change”.

What Kirkup calls the “iron laws” of politics were never more than illusions: the illusions of capitalist stability and progress. We have now returned to the ‘norms’ of capitalism, with over-production and crises, leading to greater insecurity, uncertainty and impoverishment for the broad mass of the population. Although there has been a temporary respite in the economy, following a severe bout of post-referendum nerves, the longer-term perspective for British capitalism is dire. In the event of a world economic downturn – which is a matter of “when” rather than “if” – the British economy will suffer the consequences far more than others.

Data from the Office of National Statistics, published earlier this year (February), shows the devastating decline of the British economy relative to its rivals. Using 2014 data, it shows that output per hour worked in the UK is 18 per cent below the average of the G7 countries, the widest gap since the financial crisis of 2007-09. British output is 30 per cent below the USA, 36 per cent below Germany, 5 below below Spain, 45 per cent below Netherlands and even 30 per cent below Ireland. The economic outlook has no other perspective than a continued ‘drive to the bottom’ in living standards and conditions of work. This is the real explanation for the economic policies of the Tories, not political ideology.

Having long ago given up all hope of competing with its rivals through a policy of long-term investment and economic development, the British capitalist class uses the economic model of Victorian England to squeeze the maximum out of the sweated brows of the workers they have. Britain is fast becoming a low-wage, long-hours, low-skill economy, kept afloat only by virtue of London being a financial centre for the hundreds of billions of dirty dollars, not invested in useful production but sloshing around the globe. This is the real economic and social background to the election of Jeremy Corbyn and it is leading to huge changes in political consciousness in a way that the right wing of the Labour Party just does not and cannot understand, linked as they are by a thousand threads to the Establishment and the status quo.

Once again, as happened in 2015, within hours of Corbyn’s election being announced, a variety of Labour right-wingers have gone to the media to complain about the result. MP John Woodcock drew a comparison between Corbyn's leadership and the regime the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's dystopian political satire 1984. "For those Labour supporters who are disappointed by this result,” he said, “my message is this: don't give up, don't walk away and don't stop making the case for the kind of party that can change the lives of the many who need a Labour government."  The implication is clear…once again the right are peddling the myth that Labour is “unelectable” under Corbyn, when it is a left Labour government they fear, not a Labour defeat.

“Labour” MP, Chuka Ummuna, darling of the Tory media, has also thrown in his pennyworth, articulating the underlying fears of many parliamentary careerists worried about their meal-ticket-for-life.  Corbyn should make it very clear, he said, that “the only talk of deselection that there should be is of Conservative MPs at the next general election." He has also echoed the call of the right wing for the Parliamentary Party, overwhelming on the right, to surround Corbyn with a right-wing Shadow Cabinet, elected by MPs – the same MPs who have “no confidence” in the Corbyn leadership.


C
hris Leslie, former shadow chancellor and another who refused to serve under Corbyn, questioned whether the party could ever win under his leadership. The day after Corbyn’s victory, he echoed the myths rattling around the Tory media. "Unless we see a leader who can set out credible policies, stamp out abuse, take us ahead in the polls, persuade the public that he is a prime minister, that is going to be a really difficult challenge."

Another so-called heavyweight, David Blunkett, weighed in – writing for the extreme right wing Mail – that Corbyn’s victory was a “disaster”. There is not a shadow of doubt that the majority of the 172 Labour MPs who voted no-confidence in Corbyn will continue to snipe and undermine him at every stage. Like their supporters in the media, right-wing Labour MPs are more afraid of a left Labour government than a Labour defeat and their guerrilla war against Corbyn will continue. On the other hand, the Labour Party rank and file is more radicalised than it has been for decades and members will not take kindly to having a few dozen careerist MPs undermining the prospects of a Labour victory in the next election.

What, then, is the perspective for the Labour Party? There is already a gulf between the majority of Labour MPs and the rank and file. A formal split in the Party, therefore, is inevitable at some stage. The only question is how, when and under what precise circumstances it will take place. Marxism is the condensed experience of the working class and we have to at least look at past experiences to see to what extent they are a guide to the future. In this regard, the events surrounding the National Government of 1931 hold important lessons for us because the same sort of conditions are maturing today as were maturing in the early 1930s when that Government was formed.

The key question is the unbridgeable gulf that exists between the parliamentarians and the increasingly radical rank and file of the Labour Party. The neo-liberal Blairite wing of the Party is still intact in the PLP and in Progress, although they have no real base in the Party rank and file. These MPs have more in common with Teresa May than with any ordinary worker or Party member, but as the election of Corbyn clearly shows, the Party is coming under huge pressure from the class. Now that this pressure has an outlet in a radical leader – and the formation of Momentum – that pressure will only increase in the coming years.

It is inconceivable that the Blairites, who detest Corbyn and everything he stands for, will remain in a party with a mass membership and a firm trajectory towards the left. But to the question of what will the Parliamentary right wing do next, it is hard to answer with any certainty. They probably have two options, both of which involved splitting from the Party. In fact, both options may be adopted by different parts of the Parliamentary Party. The more rabid right wingers might leave before the next election if they see that Corbyn is not going to be toppled – they will hope to stymie a Labour election campaign much like the SDP did in 1983. There might only be a few who do this – it is impossible to say. Linked to this is the question of de-selection.

In many Constituency Labour Parties up and down the country there is real anger that their sitting Labour MP has been undermining Corbyn and sabotaging the Party.  The ‘lock-down’ of Party meetings was in no small part due to an impending meeting of Wallasey Labour Party, where it was likely that there would have been an overwhelming vote of no-confidence in the arch coup-plotter, Angela Eagle. But Wallasey Labour Party is only one of many, probably dozens at least, where the sitting Labour MP is at odds with his local Party. It will take only one de-selection for the alarm bells to ring loudly around the PLP and for the question of a walk-out to be discussed again.

Even among those MPs who stay in the Party, there will be pressure to leave, particularly after a Labour victory in 2020. A Labour victory will immediately lead to a Government of crisis. There will be such an enormous degree of economic and political pressure put on – as it was for Syriza, but worse. The UK ‘credit rating’ will be cut to the lowest level; the stock market will fall, there will be an investment strike. The top civil servants in the Treasury will be pressing ministers – supported by the World Bank, IMF and hysterical headlines in the press – for massive cuts in public expenditure. The cuts that would be demanded would put into the shade the swingeing cuts that have taken place in Greece. The NHS, public education, public transportation and all public services and institutions will be in jeopardy. The capitalist class will try to force a Corbyn/McDonnell Government along the same road as the Syriza Government in Greece – to surrender to the global financial ‘reality’.

Under these conditions, the Marxists in the Labour Party and the trade unions will argue for the Labour government to take emergency measures to nationalise the banks and finance houses, to take over the large industries upon which the economy depends and to base its policy on the interests and needs of the working class. We would argue for a crash house-building programme, financed by a nationalised banking sector. We would argue for the defence and the ‘renationalisation’ of the NHS. We would argue for a national minimum wage of £10 immediately and for the restoration of all trade union and workers’ rights. Using transitional demands, it would be possible to link the day-to-day needs of the working class to the only means of realising those needs –the socialist transformation of society. Under such conditions of economic and political crisis, the rank and file of the Labour Party and trade unions will be energised as never before in the post-war period. Support for the ideas of Marxism will grow in leaps and bounds.

Despite the opposition of the overwhelming majority of the rank and file of the Labour Party and the trades unions, in these circumstances what remains of Labour’s right wing and many of the ‘softer’ lefts will be pushed to agree to some kind of ‘technocratic’ cross-party government to “save the day”. It will be like a National Government Mark II.

For the moment, the political representatives of British capitalism are split and more indecisive than they have ever been at any point since the Second World War. The referendum campaign exposed deep divisions not only within the ranks of the capitalist class itself, but even in the once monolithic Tory party. These divisions will not be easily healed. The only thing on which they agree is on the need to lower living standards still further because of the ongoing economic crisis. Again, all this points to the possibility of a new National Government.

The British ruling class no longer have any easy options. They controlled the right wing leadership of the Labour Party and the trades unions by their political influence and by direct connections and patronage. But that was in the past: it is not so easy in a period of austerity and radicalisation of the working class. What they want and what they get will not be the same thing. The whole situation is pregnant with all kinds of new possibilities or new variations of ‘old’ themes. It is worth bearing in mind that when the National government was formed in 1931, some lefts stayed inside the Labour Party and (even unconsciously) still reflected the political influence of the ruling class, even though they hadn’t split at that stage. That also might happen again. If Labour splits, Marxists should not assume that all those who remain are genuine ‘lefts’ and class fighters – they might just be waiting to split themselves at a later (more critical) stage.

Whatever happens – and one can really only speculate against the experiences of the 1930s and the more recent SDP split – what is true is that the possibilities for Marxism will be better in the Labour Party than for any period in modern history.

What is of absolute importance is that the Labour Party has a mass membership for the first time in decades. It is now not only the biggest political party in Britain, but the biggest social-democratic party in Europe. Nor are these just ‘paper’ members, but half a million individuals who have made a conscious decision to participate in the election of Labour’s leader. Just as tens of thousands joined after his victory in 2015, again there will be thousands of youth and workers joining the Party after this new victory. Indeed, 15,000 joined on September 24th, the day of his victory. With over half a million members now, the total could easily become a million as an election draws near. Added to this is the fact that there is more opportunity that ever before for serious political debate and discussion in LP meetings.

In the wake of the Corbyn victory, the most significant development for Marxists is the appearance of Momentum. Within days of Corbyn’s first victory, the chief political correspondent of the Financial Times noted with alarm that the huge enthusiasm and scale of his campaign was likely to change the Labour Party permanently. He wrote, just prior to the Brighton conference, that “the battle looms for party control” and bemoaned the fact that in Essex, for example, a “permanent network” of Corbyn supporters had already been set up. He quoted the right wing Labour MP, Barry Sheerman, who noted that although Corbyn is “not a dab hand” at organising, “there are some around him who are more organisationally adept than him.” (FT, 25 September 2015)

Nationally, such a “permanent network” of Corbyn supporters is now well-established in the shape of Momentum. This organisation has a national membership structure and in the first week of its membership going live on-line, signed up 10,000 members. There are now hundreds of verified groups around the country and the numbers are increasing weekly as new groups are set up, usually with no prompting or support from the national office. It is clear that this organisation is bound to grow enormously in the future.

It is true that those behind Momentum nationally – the Corbyn campaign team, more or less – have an almost obsessive preoccupation with the rules and constitution of the organisation. Many of the meetings, like the first formative National Committee, are virtually apolitical, with little reference to austerity, low pay, the housing crisis or any of the issues faced by working people. There is a spectrum of views within Momentum, from ‘soft lefts’ (and some not even that) on one side, to ultra-lefts on the other, but for the moment these political differences are muted in many meetings. One of the tasks of Marxists in Momentum is to encourage and participate in discussions on ideas, not to debate for its own sake, but to have political ideas and programmes clarified and tested out against the march of events. Nominally, the aims of Momentum are to “transform Labour into a more open, member-­led party, with socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government”. This clearly offers a lot of scope for discussion of ideas and policies.

It is also true that the growth of Momentum has been patchy, with some groups developing lively political discussions and others not, some groups with a big influx of new young people and others not. But the likely trajectory of this organisation is unmistakeable. It will develop apace and, despite the shortcomings and the bureaucratic mentality of its national leadership, it will bring into political discussion hundreds and ultimately thousands of the best, most class-conscious workers. Many meetings of Momentum are similar to Labour Party meetings as they used to be, and as they will be again in the future, with lively discussions and plans for campaigns and activities.

In some Momentum groups the ultra-left sects have participated, especially where there have been meetings opened up to the public. After decades of condemning the Labour party as dead and beyond all hope – or even describing it as a “capitalist” and/or Tory party – they cannot but be impressed by the huge wave of support for Corbyn and the movement it has engendered. In the main, because they cannot bring themselves to be active in the Labour Party and have no perspective for a left Labour Party developing, they are reduced to bleating on the side-lines.

There was originally a lot of discussion in the early meetings of Momentum about its orientation and membership. Some wanted membership to consist of only Labour Party members; others wanted it to be completely open. In the end, the first National Committee agreed a compromise, with Momentum facing towards the Party, but open to non-members. However, it was clear that there was no room in its ranks for those who were members of other parties opposed to the Labour Party – in other words anyone who stands or supports candidates against Labour candidates. The compromise that was reached allowed Labour supporters – those who are not ready to face the right wing and the ‘slog’ of Party meetings – to participate in the comparatively more active and politically alive Momentum. In that sense, Momentum can also act as a ‘bridge’, a half-way house between Labour supporters and members, although it still actively encourages – correctly, Marxists would say – joining the Labour Party. It has a link to join the LP on its website, for instance. But for a long time, Momentum is likely to exist as a ‘separate’ organisation, standing alongside and partially immersed in Labour Party meetings. Here and there its intervention is likely to shift the composition of Constituency Labour Parties, through fresh elections at AGMs and this tendency will accelerate.

Given the size and scale of Momentum now and the potential that it has, Marxists must be active members and participants in Momentum. It is not possible to increase the influence of Marxist ideas with a ‘stand-offish’ or dilettantist approach. To have your ideas taken seriously, you must first be a serious participant. We must be among the best and most active members, actively seeking to build and develop Momentum groups, as well as the Labour Party itself. The database of supporters of Momentum is 120,000-strong and its potential membership is on the same scale. It is potentially the biggest movement on the left of the Labour Party for eighty-five years since the old ILP, which constituted the ‘core’ of the left of the Labour Party and had tens of thousands of members, but which split away in 1932.

The organisation of a left grouping in Momentum would also be an important step forward, as a necessary counterweight to a leadership which has been politically weak and organisationally almost Stalinist. Unfortunately, after an initial start, the ‘Momentum Left’ has disappeared from view and shows no signs of resurfacing. This is a pity, given the constipated organisational processes of Momentum itself. In putting in place a structure and an organisational framework, its national leadership has tried to choreograph the setting up of groups down to the nth degree. Momentum groups are only officially recognised, when they have ticked all of the prescribed boxes, irrespective of whether or not the local members want an exact match to what the leadership requires. There is an almost paranoid dread of groups being formed that are not ‘official’ or who might open a Twitter or Facebook account without formal authorisation.

This careful monitoring and control from above runs directly counter to the original stated aims of Momentum that it would be a grass-roots and ‘bottom-up’ movement. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the net result of all this control has been a partial suffocation of the enormous potential of Momentum. It is not ruled out that the attitude of the leadership could mean that Momentum is strangled before it is properly born, or at least that it might result in severely hampering the networking of local and regional groups.

While lip-service is given to ‘democratic’ values, there is more than a suspicion that many on the provisional National Committee are not representative of really active groups, but are self-selected and based on the original Campaign election team. In at least one case, an elected regional representative has mysteriously been replaced by another person, obviously more in favour with the national office.

Momentum now has proposals to elect leaders by e-ballots, but there are great dangers in this approach. Firstly, it means that the scrutiny and oversight of the election process is not open, as it would be at a regional or national event. Secondly, it means that the national leadership – those who control the website and mechanism of the on-line voting – will necessarily have more exposure than others who may wish to challenge them. Most importantly of all, those participating in an electronic vote will have no idea of the views and opinions of the candidates. Election of regional and national committees at regional and national conferences, allows the delegates to see and hear the candidates and judge for themselves whether or not they are deserving of their support and whether or not they even agree with their political views.

As much as the Momentum leadership is over-tough on organisational questions, it is the opposite on political issues as was seen on the question of the so-called “anti-Semitism problem” in the Labour Party. This whole episode was a completely artificial and manufactured campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in the run-up to the May elections, yet in the face of this assault, the leadership of Momentum was at best weak and at worst craven. The best known national leader of Momentum went out of his way to support the disgraceful suspension of Ken Livingstone, and by various publications and policy statements in effect supported the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ against him. When some local groups tweeted their opposition to Livingstone’s suspension, they were asked to take down the tweets because Momentum “was not taking a position”. This weakness in the face of a concerted attack by the media and Labour’s right wing on the Corbyn leadership does not augur well for the future.

The Marxists and the left of Momentum need to be based on the local groups as much as possible. Once it was initiated and given the name “Momentum”, the floodgates opened and the organisation mushroomed. But although the national leadership may own the ‘brand’ at that level, locally, it is the activists on the ground that have the Twitter and Facebook accounts, who organise meetings and who are involved in campaigns on Housing, NHS, Education and so on. It will be in these healthy and vibrant local groups that the left of Momentum will promote political debate, discussion, education and clarification of ideas. The local groups will be a focus of organisation of campaigns of solidarity and activities. They will also be a focus of change in the Labour Party itself.

The whole raison d’etre of Momentum is lost if it has no effect in the official structures of the Party. Momentum meetings will inspire and motivate Labour supporters who are put off by the routinism and lack of discussion in the Labour Party: they will see Momentum doing what they really want the Labour Party to do. But in time, these supporters must be encouraged to participate in the Party meetings and make their voices heard there too.

Marxists should make sure that Momentum groups promote discussion and debate in the Party by, for example, circulating model resolutions and speakers’ lists and ultimately, Momentum should be a vehicle for changing the Party. In time, the huge mandate of the Corbyn victory will be reflected in CLPs, in the election of officers, regional and national conference delegates, in the nominations and elections to the NEC and also in the selection of local and parliamentary candidates.

The tide of history is flowing in our direction. The right wing has nothing to say to the four million living in permanent poverty. They have nothing to say to the young workers living on minimum wage, zero-hours contracts, and living at home because their chances of getting affordable accommodation are virtually nil. The whole economic and social crisis of capitalism is undermining the relative ‘stability’ that existed in the past and is driving working class people, but especially the youth, towards radical ideas and radical solutions.

Every political party will feel the coming series of earthquakes. This is also the case internationally. Internationally, every single election is fought and won under the slogan of ‘change’ because people are completely alienated from the system, although what the ‘system’ is and how it can be changed is not clear in the minds of the mass of workers. In one election after another in Europe, the result has been indecisive and we have a succession of short-term, unstable coalition governments. The two or three traditional parties, which in the past had eighty or ninety per cent of the votes shared between them, are under enormous stress as new parties come along and gain millions of votes from nowhere.

As it is with other political parties, the long-term (and not so long) perspective for the Labour Party  is for a split or a series of splits as the rank and file become more radicalised under the pressure of events and as the right wing increasingly expose themselves as the political advocates and agents of capitalism.

Another important development is the beginning of the opening up of Young Labour to real political activity and campaigning. The June conference of Young Labour had enormous significance. Here was a conference that for the first time for years in the Labour Party reflected a movement of young people to the left.  The supporters of Corbyn won nearly all the elected positions. Only the NEC position was lost – and that by a whisker, after the Labour Party apparatus ruled out a crucial handful of delegates. The conference voted in favour of free education and the NHS.

Given the general economic and political outlook in the world as a whole and in Britain in particular, the next few years will see the politicisation of greater and greater layers of workers. It is beyond the scope of this short document, but apart from a few relatively isolated and localised disputes, industrial struggles are at a very low level at the moment. 2015 saw the second lowest number of days lost through strikes since records began in 1891. Many jobs have been lost and the drive to reduce basic working conditions and wages has cowed many workers, particularly in the private sector, with the result that trade union membership has been reduced to a little over half the total of twenty-five years ago. The big majority of young people, especially those on zero-hours contracts and dead-end jobs are not yet organised into unions so that the profile of a typical union member is relatively old and in the public sector.

However, the basic conditions of life at work and the cul-de-sac in which workers find themselves will force more and more into being organised in the future and into fighting for their basic rights and conditions. The present relative industrial peace cannot last long. As it was in the United States in the 1930s and in Britain forty years before that, there will be a surge of new, younger workers into the trades unions as the struggle is taken up for better wages and secure work. Newer layers, even of skilled workers who were previously isolated from the labour movement, like the junior doctors, will be brought into struggle.  Inevitably, this will bring newer, fresher layers into the unions and many of these new activists will draw political conclusions from their experiences.

As it will be on the industrial plain, inevitably, thousands of British workers and youth will be drawn into active politics, often for the first time. In which direction will these new activists move? As Trotsky said on many occasions and Ted Grant after him, workers do not understand small organisations. The overwhelming majority of workers and youth moving into political activity will move towards Momentum or the Labour Party and towards Labour’s youth organisation. 

The full-time apparatus of the Labour Party has been completely shocked by the election of Corbyn. The supporters of the right wing – Progress – have had years to put their people into positions in the Party bureaucracy. Now, they are like long-term tenants who have suddenly seen their house taken over by noisy and raucous squatters. They will fight tooth and nail to slow down any changes. They will investigate any ‘allegation’ by the right wing, even the most spurious and trivial. All over the country Labour Party members have been suspended in the most Kafkaesque terms as the right wing defend their ground. But in the long run, it will not stop the increase in membership, political activity, discussion and ultimately the radicalisation and growth of the Labour Party.

Even in Scotland, where conditions are not the same as those in the rest of Britain, the developments in the Labour Party are not completely and utterly different to those in England and Wales. There is not the slightest evidence to support the assertion made by some comrades that the 4000 members who have joined the Scottish Labour Party since the 2015 general election are right wingers or careerists as has been suggested. This number is not as great as the membership of the SNP, but scaled-up, it is equivalent to 40,000 new members in the UK as a whole…not a small number.

In Scotland, Momentum membership is approaching 600 and is mainly made up of new members of the Labour Party, including many young activists who voted ‘yes’ in the referendum campaign.  Edinburgh Momentum has taken the lead in organising a major local anti-cuts campaign and a conference before the recent local government elections. It has good links to the trade unions and Unite in particular. There are also active Momentum branches in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. Momentum is supported by Neil Findlay who was at one time a candidate for leader of the Scottish Labour Party, as well as many councillors. What was once an ‘unofficial’ left grouping of Labour youth, the  Scottish Labour Young Socialists now effectively controls the official Scottish Young Labour. It is completely wrong, therefore, even though it is still at a low ebb, to write off the Labour Party in Scotland (“facing extinction”) as some have done.

Impatience and short-termism are the worst habits we can inculcate in young active comrades at the present time. We need to teach young comrades to participate in a movement with workers and youth, not stand aside from it and play ‘spot the contact’, as if it were possible to seriously win anyone to Marxism without showing that you were a serious socialist. Participating in a serious way must mean helping to build, whether it is a Labour Party, a trade union branch or a Momentum group. Marxists should intervene and play their part in building but also in promoting discussion and debate – always in a friendly way – and using Momentum as a springboard for politicising and promoting change in the LP itself.

Marxists who are activists in the Labour Party, Momentum or in a trade union ought to regularly take stock of what work they are doing so they avoid becoming donkeys, mindlessly going from one routine meeting to another without any strategy for building real support for Marxist ideas. An annual ‘audit’ of political work being done and meetings attended is a good idea for anyone in the labour movement. But with trade union work it has always to be borne in mind that it is necessarily long-term. Being an articulate and outspoken member of a trade union branch or Labour Party will inevitably attract at least the respect of fellow members who see someone capable of holding a position and promoting the union. This is not yet political support and it may not mean that other members are won to Marxist ideas; it may mean no more than respect for someone with good principles and clear ideas. But in those circumstances it is not possible to constantly back away from holding some position of responsibility or another. But where a comrade clearly has the respect of workers, even without them agreeing with all the ideas today, winning them to Marxism tomorrow will be possible. On the other hand, a constant refusal to do anything to help build the movement – turning up at meetings and articulating a point of view while  others do the work – means  that you will never be taken seriously.

Ted Grant was never opposed to dirtying his hands among workers. Comparing trade union work to work among the sects, in 1979 he wrote:

 “Work amongst the honest, reformist workers and politically backward workers is far more fruitful than with these exotic elements. Young workers particularly are a thousand times more important than the sects. Engels already explained this problem nearly a hundred years ago. Workers, even right-wing reformist workers supporting the ideas of Callaghan, Healey, Rodgers [Labour right-wing leaders], can be won to the ideas of Marxism on the basis of experience and on the basis of patient argument and explanation…” (emphasis added)

The period opening up in the Labour Party for Marxism is potentially the best for thirty years. In a measurable period of time, the landscape of the main party of the working class will be transformed. It is important that in our work in Momentum and the Labour Party, that Marxists use language and tone that is appropriate. Ted Grant used to always point out that there is no such thing as a ‘sincerometer’ and there is no way to gauge how sincere or genuine a politician is. Our focus must always be on the politics not the personalities.

The big majority of leftward-moving workers are prepared to extend a period of grace to the new Labour leadership. They recognise in them a ‘new breed’ of leaders, who appear to say what they mean and mean what they say. They also recognise that Corbyn is isolated and the few parliamentary lefts who really support him are hugely outnumbered by right wing MPs who would dearly love to see Labour do badly in the polls so they have a pretext to oust Corbyn. Whether or not it is a good idea, many lefts accept that Corbyn is trapped in a situation where he is forced to compromise to hold the line against the onslaught of the right wing.

But where Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are under constant attack by the media and openly sabotaged by Labour’s right wing, it does the Marxists no good at all to suggest they might be “moving to the right” even if we have important criticisms of their views. It is far better to stick to the politics and programme, without personalising the issues. Marxists should argue that “Labour should do this…” and “Labour should do that…” We support Corbyn against the right wing and we “urge” the Labour leadership to adopt socialist policies. We urge the Labour leaders to go to the rank and file of the labour and trade union movement and to appeal to Labour voters over the heads of the right wing MPs. It is absolutely correct to use the example of Greece and Syriza as a warning, to explain the inadequacy of the policies of reformism, but the manner of our criticisms is absolutely key.

Marxists must always issues in a calm, sober and serious way, with facts, figures and arguments, patiently explaining our views. We do not and should not participate in shrill denunciations of the LP leadership even if mistakes are made or compromises with the right wing sought. Where it is necessary, we will make comradely and friendly criticism, but not using the hysterical language of the sects.
Workers who can be won to the ideas of Marxism with the right approach, will be turned off, not by the content of such criticism, but by its tone, which will appear to them as a superior and haughty ‘Marxism’.

Ted Grant always made the point that we criticise the Labour leaders, and especially the lefts, “more in sorrow than anger”. Look at the words Ted used to describe how we should put forward our ideas: “soberly and positively…we must proceed unsensationally and calmly, ‘patiently explaining’…we must be firmly against any adventurous courses and ultra-left gestures… with a Marxist approach buttressed with ‘facts, figures and arguments’, no hysterical denunciations…clear and concrete answers to the problems of the working class…” Referring the left reformist Tribunites and Tony Benn in 1979, Ted argued:
“Tony Benn has enormous popular support among the workers. Marxists must approach this question very carefully. There must be a friendly criticism, of the policies which are put forward by the Tribunites, both in the Labour Party and the trade unions. A friendly approach is absolutely essential if the ideas of Marxism are to gain a hearing.”

If we must criticise the lefts, we do it indirectly, by contrasting the programme of Marxism with the programme of left reformism. Adopting the wrong tone now will lead to a slippery slope that ends up in shrill denunciations of betrayal, cutting no ice with leftward-moving workers.

There is more potential for Marxist ideas than at any time since the Second World War. It took the Militant Tendency two decades to go from a few hundred supporters – the paper was founded in 1964 - to thousands of supporters in the 1980s. It was the biggest Marxist movement up to that point in post-war history. Three Labour MPs supported the ideas of the paper and dozens of councillors. There were key supporters in leading trade union positions nationally, including at one time a member of the TUC general council. There were hundreds of supporters in key positions locally in trade unions and Labour Parties. In the titanic movements that will affect world politics – and in Britain it is only a reflection of world changes – it will not take decades but a few years to reach the same stage again, but on a higher and more solid foundation than ever before.