Labour Party in crisis: Momentum taking us nowhere

The crisis in the Labour Party, the depth of which was exposed by its abject defeat at the general election and by Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the subsequent leadership election, shows no sign of abating. While the media pore over every word Corbyn utters and minutely scrutinise his behaviour, members of his shadow cabinet openly undermine him. The ruling class onslaught is, as expected, relentless: the aim is not just to crush Corbyn but also the very notion of fighting austerity. In response, pro-Corbyn MPs led by Clive Lewis have set up Momentum as ‘a grassroots network arising out of, and following on from the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader campaign’. However, its purpose will be to ensure that any movement against austerity, racism or war will be tied arm and leg to the Labour Party. Robert Clough reports.

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Corbyn’s victory: Labour Party in crisis

Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership election shows the depth of the crisis that is engulfing the party. The size of his majority may have quelled any immediate attempt by Labour MPs to unseat him, but they are already manoeuvring to challenge him over possible British military intervention in Syria and replacing Trident, using the fact that his support in the parliamentary party is negligible. Given his determination to maintain the unity of the Labour Party, Corbyn has already been forced to make concessions. He faces an insoluble contradiction: on the one hand, large swathes of the working class will no longer vote for a pro-austerity Labour Party, while on the other hand, the ruling class and its Labour MP hirelings will not accept a future Labour government led by Corbyn. Throughout the coming period, therefore, Corbyn will have to decide which is more important: building a movement against austerity or preserving the unity of the Labour Party. The two cannot be reconciled. Robert Clough reports.

By the end of the campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, it was no surprise, even for his most stubborn and malevolent critics, that Corbyn won. But the scale of his victory, 59.5% in the first round, was a resounding shock. Despite the dire warnings of a string of Labour Party pro-imperialist grandees, 49.6% of party members supported Corbyn, as did 83.8% of registered supporters and 57.6% of affiliated union voters. The Blairite and openly ruling class candidate Liz Kendall was utterly trounced, obtaining a miserable 4.5% of the vote. Together, the other two establishment, pro-austerity candidates, Yvette Cooper and the one-time favourite to win, Andy Burnham, shared 36%.

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Corbyn’s victory: Labour Party in crisis

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By the end of the campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, it was no surprise, even for his most stubborn and malevolent critics, that Jeremy Corbyn would win the election. But the scale of his victory, 59.5% in the first round, was a resounding shock. Despite the dire warnings of a string of Labour Party pro-imperialist grandees, 49.6% of party members supported Corbyn, as did 83.8% of registered supporters and 57.6% of affiliated union voters. The Blairite and openly ruling class candidate Liz Kendall was utterly trounced, obtaining a miserable 4.5% of the vote. Together, the other two establishment, pro-austerity candidates, Yvette Cooper and the one-time favourite to win, Andy Burnham, shared 36%.

The reactions were immediate. Within hours, the Conservative Party was presenting Corbyn’s politics as a threat to national security. The ruling class was outraged. Eleven shadow front bench members resigned, refusing to work with Corbyn. Their passing will not be mourned: among their number were Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, the openly reactionary shadow Works and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt and shadow business secretary Chuku Umunna, who had been a leadership candidate for 24 hours before passing the Blairite baton to Kendall. Good riddance to them. Most Labour MPs, an unprincipled bunch of frauds and self-serving careerists intent only on feathering their nests, were horrified at Corbyn’s success. 178 of them abstained in a parliamentary vote on the vicious benefit cuts announced in the July budget – they have only contempt for the plight of the poorest sections of the working class, despising them as scroungers and shirkers.

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New anti-trade union law: more shackles on the unions

May 2014: FRFI supporters demonstrating against benefit sanctions at Peckham Jobcentre

The government’s proposed new and draconian anti-trade union law has horrified the Labour Party as, apart from further limiting rights to strike, the bill contains proposals which will choke off union funding for the party. The aim of the legislation is to place even more shackles on the trade union movement before further savage cuts in public spending and consequent job losses take place. The Tories also aim to take advantage of the total lack of resistance trade unions have offered over the last five years of austerity and leave nothing to chance. Taking advantage of Labour’s disarray and threatening it with bankruptcy is a bonus. Robert Clough reports.

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Labour leadership contest - Jeremy Corbyn: social democracy’s last gasp

http://www.revolutionarycommunist.org/images/britain/jeremy_corbyn.jpg

It is impossible not to feel satisfaction at the extreme discomfort of Labour Party leaders as they look at the scale of Corbyn’s lead in the race for the leadership. A YouGov poll published on 22 July predicts Corbyn winning 43% of first preference votes and picking up sufficient preferences for an easy win in the fourth round. This has left those MPs from the right who nominated him hoping to discredit an anti-austerity standpoint looking very silly.

One thing needs to be clear: a victory for Jeremy Corbyn would not change Labour from what it is: a racist, imperialist, warmongering anti-working class party. Corbyn would be hostage to a parliamentary party which showed its true ruling class colours in the vote over the welfare bill. Nevertheless, already the knives are out, and there are threats of a coup in the unlikely eventuality of his victory and fresh leadership elections. None of the other three candidates – Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper – want anything to do with him as they polish their ruling class credentials and show themselves to be even more pro-business than the Tories and as hostile to those forced to survive on inadequate welfare benefits.

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People's Assembly rally for Corbyn

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On Saturday 20 June, Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) supporters attended the 'End Austerity Now' demonstration in London, called by the People's Assembly. Up to 150,000 people marched.

Following the addition of Jeremy Corbyn to the ballot for leader of the Labour Party, the People's Assembly attempted to turn the march into an election rally. Sam Fairbarn, General Secretary of the People's Assembly, was reported in The Guardian on 16 June as backing Corbyn and complaining that Burnham, Cooper and Kendall had refused to attend the march. Of Corbyn, he said ‘Jeremy is the only candidate who takes a principled anti-austerity, anti-war stance consistently’. This was followed by an article on 17 June by Chris Nineham, national officer of the Stop the War Coalition and a leading member of the People's Assembly, under the headline 'Corbyn is in the leadership race – don't just celebrate, organise!':

‘Getting Jeremy Corbyn onto the Labour leadership ballot was a breakthrough which opens up a big opportunity for the left in Britain...An ambitious, high profile campaign for Jeremy which draws on the movements against austerity, war and racism, can project radical ideas to a huge audience and build the forces of the left in every area.’

Yet Corbyn's 'principled stance' has not prevented him remaining a member of a Labour Party that in government has implemented savage austerity policies, murdered hundreds of thousands in imperialist wars, and when last in office boasted of deporting one person every eight minutes – all of this while he has been an MP. There is no chance Corbyn will win the leadership contest: he is simply a left cover its evermore reactionary character.

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Labour Party facing disintegration?

The outcome of the General Election may have been in doubt until the final moments, but the victory of the Conservatives following five years of punishing austerity for the working class demonstrates that the Labour Party presented no real opposition. It could not credibly reconcile its pro-austerity position with satisfying the needs of the working class and sections of the middle class. While it increased its support by one million votes across England and Wales, this was far short of the five million it had lost since 1997. With the trouncing it received in Scotland, losing 40 seats to the Scottish National Party (SNP), Labour ended up with 232 seats, 26 fewer than it had in the previous parliament. The Conservatives, with 331 seats, now have an unexpected overall majority of 12. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.

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Owen Jones: cheerleading for Labour racists

Owen Jones

In a Guardian Comment article on 21 April, Owen Jones openly called for a Labour vote to stop the cruel society being built by the Tories. The extremes of austerity, he said, would be challenged by Labour's £50bn spending promise. Never mind Labour supporting benefits sanctions, anti-immigration laws and refusing to meet the £8bn gap in NHS funding. Never mind that the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a dramatic fall in schools funding under both main parties. We can have austerity-lite. Pepsi instead of Coke. But Jones went further than that and credited Labour with following the demands of a mass movement by pledging to abolish the bedroom tax. He paints a picture of trade union 'activists' and 'dogged NHS campaigners' forcing Labour into progressive campaign promises, making struggles under a Miliband government more winnable. Under the Tories, he argues, resistance has 'no chance' of success. The reality is very different: Labour has consistently failed to respond to the needs of working class people who have been at the receiving end of the ConDem government’s austerity programme. On the contrary, it has promised to continue the attack. All that Jones does is offer a feeble excuse for spineless trade unions and covers up for the reactionary role of Labour councils while ignoring the victories of the Focus E15 Mothers and other housing campaigners in winning the right to stay in London because they don't fit his opportunist model.

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Labour: fighting for imperialism

The last Labour government waged war against Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. It remains just as bellicose:

  • The assault on Libya, 2011. Only nine Labour MPs opposed Ed Miliband when he supported the NATO ‘no-fly zone’ amidst a hysterical climate demonising Colonel Gaddafi.
  • Intervention in Syria, August 2013. Although Labour voted against a motion to join the US in launching airstrikes on Syria, it did not oppose military action provided it had UN blessing.
  • Airstrikes on Iraq, September 2014. Labour supported airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq with just 23 of its MPs opposing a return to war. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said Labour’s support for extending operations into Syria would not be conditional on UN authorisation, declaring that ‘the UK’s moral compass is not set in Moscow and Beijing’.
  • Sanctions against Russia in 2014: Alexander has been equally belligerent over the Ukraine crisis, stating in July that ‘Labour has called for further economic and diplomatic measures to ensure that Russia feels both the costs and consequences of its continued aggression towards Ukraine’. He has urged Russia’s expulsion from the G8, the suspension of military and civilian co-operation, and questioned whether Russia should host the 2018 World Cup. In February 2015 he supported the despatch of 75 British military advisers to the Ukrainian army.

Joey Simons

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Labour: one tweet away from a crisis

The reaction to a tweet sent on 19 November by the former shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry on the day before the Rochester and Strood by-election demonstrates the crisis facing the Labour Party. Committed to austerity and the interests of the City of London, Labour is as much a ruling class party as either the Tories or the LibDems. It cannot represent the mass of the working class: the abject implementation by Labour councils of a fifth round of local council service cuts proves that its loyalties lie with the maintenance of a decaying and rotten capitalist system. Its fear of upsetting the ruling class is so great that it will not commit to undoing these cuts if it wins the 2015 general election, nor will it restore lost NHS funding or end the PFI contracts that ruin its finances, or even take the very elementary and massively popular step of renationalising the railways.

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How to support Labour and hope to get away with it

• Owen Jones, The Establishmentand how they get away with it, Allen Lane, hardback, 358pp, £16.99

Owen Jones has become a celebrity on the left with his newspaper columns, first in The Independent and more recently in The Guardian. He is a major figure in the People’s Assembly, and can command substantial audiences when he speaks on its platforms across the country. His new book is a polemic against what he calls the Establishment, and it reads like an extended newspaper column in that it contains myriad useful facts and sharp observations for those wanting to fight back against austerity, but ultimately lacks real substance. His method is idealist: he cannot tie his Establishment down to the realities of British imperialism. As a result his conclusion, that Britain needs a democratic revolution to undermine the power of the Establishment, not only underestimates the scale of the struggle that this would require, but also fails to point to the agency for such a change. Furthermore, his failure to deal with the reactionary Labour Party leads the reader to conclude that however radical his politics seem, he will join those calling on us to vote Labour at next year’s general election.

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Building solidarity with Palestine –despite Labour attacks

Recent protests for Palestine have produced new forces that are keeping up the pressure against support for Israel in Britain. These new forces have been forced to organise outside the structures of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) because its leadership will not organise the mass direct action that is needed. The PSC values its friends in the Labour Party above all else.

Round up of protests

In Newcastle, FRFI supporters have consolidated Palestine Action Group (PAG) and are working alongside a new organisation, Response North East. On 16 August activists from PAG, FRFI and Response staged an all day picket of the local branch of HSBC, which underwrites the Israeli state budget. Despite a violent counter-protest by the EDL, the picket forced the bank to close its doors two hours early. FRFI, PAG, and Response have collaborated in other actions, including pickets of Marks and Spencer (M&S).

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The Labour Party: a ruling class party

The Labour Party is a racist, imperialist, anti-working class party. It always has been, and always will be.* Its purpose is to defend the interests of the British ruling class, an entirely parasitic layer whose enormous wealth is obtained through the ruthless robbery of the rest of the world engineered by the City of London. Labour represents the interests not only of the ruling class but also of better-off sections of the working class, a labour aristocracy which in the past was made up of skilled manual workers but now consists predominantly of degree-educated public sector workers, as well as the trade union bureaucracy.

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Miners’ strike 1984–1985

Thirty years ago at the beginning of March 1984 the majority of miners in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) began a historic year-long strike against pit closures and job losses. They were eventually forced back to work by a combination of the draconian and brutal actions of the Thatcher government allied with the treachery of the official Labour and trade union movement. The defeat of the miners was not just a defeat for the workers involved but also a major defeat for the whole working class, and its effects are still being felt today. Bob Shepherd reports.

The strike affected working class communities across the country as organisations and individuals were forced to take sides. What quickly became clear to the miners and their supporters was that for the strike to have any chance of success they had to organise beyond the trade union and labour movement as the Labour Party and TUC did all in their power to undermine it. The role of miners’ wives and other women in their communities became crucial firstly in organising food supplies and then in building broader political support for the strike. The strikers also received support from miners’ support groups that sprang up across the country.

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Tony Benn: airbrushed by the left

'Debate of the Decade' - March 1980

Tony Benn: airbrushed by the left

The death of Tony Benn on 14 March 2014 led to an outpouring of grief from both bourgeois politicians and socialist organisations across Britain. To the British left, Benn was the Labour Party MP-turned-socialist who, so the story goes, took a sharp left turn after serving as a member of government in the 1960s and 1970s. Little is said of his time in government, where he served as a cabinet member while Labour waged a dirty war in Ireland and defended Britain's economic and political ties to apartheid South Africa; of his undercover dealings with the apartheid regime; or of his role in driving down wages and conditions in Britain. The myth of ‘Tony Benn – socialist’ was manufactured by the opportunist left at a time when sections of the black and Irish working class were breaking with the Labour Party. The truth is that Benn never did a socialist thing or led a serious movement in his life, but he talked and wrote about it.

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Bob Crow 13 June 1961 - 11 March 2014

 Bob Crow

The Revolutionary Communist Group and its campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba, Rock Around the Blockade (RATB), send their condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Bob Crow, who died this morning. Bob Crow was the militant and vociferous General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, one of only two major British trade unions to have disaffiliated from the Labour Party.

Bob Crow took a principled stand in solidarity with socialist Cuba and RATB was pleased to host him at the launch event of our 2008 speaking tour with Che Guevara’s deputy Orlando Borrego and two other Cuban representatives. The RMT sponsored the speaking tour and Bob Crow publicly condemned the sectarianism of those who opposed the RMT’s support, as the video of his speech shows. He defended Cuba’s right to self-determination and supported its struggle for socialism.