Notes on the Labour and Tory Party Conferences 2016
The Labour Party Conference started with a bang for the ‘Corbynistas’ this year with the declaration of the last leadership election giving their messiah a massive 313,209 votes to 193,229 or 61.8% lead over the Right Social-Democratic faction’s man, Owen Smith. This was not in the end a surprising result but the margin could have been so much bigger as the Rightists, who form a vast majority of the Labour Party ‘establishment’, had refused or ejected thousands upon thousands of suspected Corbyn voters from the poll in an effort to win!
So for many of the Rightist MPs a certain amount of public prostration before the new idol was required and some of those who had earlier tried their best to rid themselves of Corbyn by resigning from the Shadow Cabinet or refusing to take posts in it that were offered to them were now signalling their willingness to serve in that ‘august’ body under the leadership of the same Jeremy Corbyn. There is a small hard-line Rightist group who will try, with Tory assistance, to become the Chairs of important parliamentary committees and continue to battle against the policies of their own Party and its leadership from there.
Just prior to the election result Rightists won a battle in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting to start the process to revert back to the pre-Miliband position of the Shadow Cabinet being selected by MPs as a way of hampering Corbyn, but this was not put to the Party Conference for debate as it should have been and so at the moment it seems that Corbyn is secure.
Of his two keynote speeches, the closing one was missed by a number of leading MPs (owing to a day-change on the agenda, they claimed). The Labour leader on immigration said: “Immigration can certainly put extra pressure on services,” adding “that’s why, under Gordon Brown, Labour set up the Migrant Impact Fund to provide extra funding to communities that have the largest rises in population. “What did the Tories do? They abolished it and then they demonise migrants for putting pressure on services.” He continued: “A Labour government will not offer false promises. We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration – and make the changes that are needed.” Corbyn has apparently let it widely be known now that he is “not concerned by numbers”, according to an unnamed spokesman, and instead used his speeches to point correctly at the rich saying “It isn’t migrants that drive down wages, it’s exploitative employers and the politicians who deregulate the labour market and rip up trade union rights. It isn’t migrants who put a strain on our NHS, it only keeps going because of the migrant nurses and doctors who come here filling the gaps left by politicians who have failed to invest in training. It isn’t migrants that have caused a housing crisis; it’s a Tory government that has failed to build homes.”
We would add Labour governments to that last sentence as well! It is one thing to point out these myths, but one of the biggest anti-immigrant myths is taken as Gospel by many MPs in his own party – the myth that immigration controls can help raise indigenous worker’s wages. Within capitalist society the worker is forced to see every other worker as a competitor for their job no matter where they come from, what colour their skin is or what language/accent they have – because it is true, we do have to compete with each and every other worker in this failing and rotten society. However, the unity of workers within a workplace or series of workplaces can give those workers some mutual protection even within capitalism. That limited protection of some employed workers is good, but the unity of workers rallied around a revolutionary party committed to the struggle to destroy capitalism and replace it with a system of socialist production and common ownership brings workers together in real comradeship and the realisation of that socialist society that they struggle for removes the cut-throat competition between workers to survive and brings them real power. That is not something that is sought by the Labour Party – even those ‘Left’ Social-Democrats who proudly proclaim themselves to be ‘socialists’ will only commit themselves to a socialism that avoids upsetting the billionaires too much and can therefore either come about through the ballot box or non-violent protest, i.e. fairy tale socialism that can be debated forever but which can never be achieved. History has proved time and time again that the ruling class only fosters ‘democratic rights’ and elected governments as long as the electorate is ‘sensible’ and votes in governments willing to serve first and foremost the interests of the capitalist class.
The press was quietly given a correction to that Corbyn ‘doesn’t care about immigration numbers’ ‘quote’ by another spin doctor’s assistant when the following appeared in a couple of newspaper reports “Sources close to Corbyn said he believes in trying to reduce the number of migrant workers in the UK, but doing so by ending the undercutting of pay through the exploitation of migrant labour. It is understood that the words attributed to Corbyn’s spokesman, about a lack of concern over numbers, gave a misleading impression, which did not reflect the Labour leader’s view.” So even the position taken at the conference has been retreated from.
Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Minister, has given an interview on the BBC Andrew Marr Show saying that: “There has been a huge amount of immigration over the last 10 years and people are understandably concern about it”, adding “I think it should be reduced and it should be reduced by making sure we have the skills in this country that are needed for the jobs that need to be done.” When Marr asked him if he accepted that limits on immigration would mean an end to free movement and therefore a departure from the EU’s tariff-free single market, Starmer said: “We have to be open to adjustments of the freedom of movement rules and how they apply to this country. We have to be shrewd and careful.”
In fact, it is amazing just how many of the ‘Remain’ campaigners are now telling us that immigration was the only reason that people voted for Brexit and that we must now cut immigration! We cannot deny that some voted for Brexit because they believed the view put forward by the British media and the clowns promoted as spokesmen for the Brexit campaign that Brexit meant anti-immigration, but that was not the only reason for that winning vote. Some of us have always been opposed to the EU as club of European imperialist powers, which pursues the twin aims of repressing the working class at home and waging war abroad. While disagreeing with very much, if not almost everything, that comes out of the mouth of Prime Minister May we must agree with her short observation that “Brexit means Brexit” – that is it, taking Britain out of the EU. Immigration has always existed and always will. Those who voted to stay and wish to portray all ‘leave’ voters as anti-immigrant should ponder the fact that, while the EU professed to champion ‘free movement’, both the EU and individual countries within it have immigration policies that leave refugees from the invasions and proxy wars waged by imperialism in disgusting border camps or wandering through various EU countries, when they manage to force an entry, and prey to vicious bands of racists, without any official aid or protection. Starmer is not the only MP rushing to condemn immigrants and lay the blame for all the ills of capitalism at their door – such scum are legion!
Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, went a step further when he stood up and defended the governments of both Blair and Brown and the political system of capitalism. Capitalism is the system of choice for the vast majority of Labour Party members but it was rare for such a candid disclosure from the podium at this year’s LP conference.
Corbyn laid out the barest of bones of what may become Labour policy calling on the assembled faithful to get behind a socialist vision for Britain under which he would allow councils to borrow more, raise taxes on business to fund education and suspend arms sales to countries where it could be proven that the guns/bombs were being misused, starting with Saudi Arabia.
He also responded to the Rightists who have accused him of not being bothered about winning elections when he said: “Yes, our party is about campaigning and it’s about protest too but most of all it’s about winning power in local and national government to deliver the real change our country so desperately needs,” describing his vision as “21st-century socialism”.
Again appealing to the Rightists he said: “Let’s be frank, no one will be convinced of a vision promoted by a divided party. We all agree on that. So I ask each and every one of you – accept the decision of the members, end the trench warfare and work together to take on the Tories.” This approach serves to present the class war that is ever-present within capitalism as Labour v Tories when in fact both parties serve the ruling class and work for their interests alone while talking of either a classless, all-inclusive state or else claiming to represent the interests of workers over those of the rich and powerful.
Reminding us of another ‘tactical retreat’ by the current Labour leader, the Blairite Lord Falconer said there were many policy areas where Labour are actually united, and praised Mr Corbyn for backing down over his opposition to Trident.
The Tory Conference
The week following this farce, history repeated itself as tragedy with the Tory Conference in Birmingham following the Labour Party lead with virtually every backer of the ‘remain’ campaign in the Euro-referendum deciding that every vote for Brexit meant a vote for anti-immigration and declaring that immigration must now be slashed and indeed, in the case of foreign junior doctors, ‘unneeded’ immigrants should be sent back whence they came! It seemed that every Tory who went to the rostrum, whatever their pre-referendum position, was now a hardened Brexiteer and immigrant basher!
One, however, went too far! When Amber Rudd laid out before conference plans to force businesses to reveal how many foreign staff they employ she immediately raised the hackles of the elite of the ruling class and was heavily slapped down for her troubles. Using workers of different nationalities to undermine each other and destroy any possible working class unity is an old ploy of our masters, as is employing ‘illegal immigrants’ who have no choice but to work for very little or be ‘discovered’ to be illegal and be repatriated! And so, we saw a former advisor to David Cameron, Steve Hilton, writing in the Sunday Times re Ms Rudd that ministers might as well announce that “foreign workers will be tattooed with numbers on their forearms!” The Education Secretary, Justine Greening announced that companies will not be made to publish the data as ‘suggested’ by the home secretary and that the information would be confidential and instead used by the government to identify skills shortages, rather than to “name and shame” businesses that rely on foreign employees. Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, went further when he told BBC Radio 5 Live that he could “absolutely rule out” asking companies to list, name, publish or identify in any way the number of foreign workers they employ. And so the ‘Rudd’ gaffe was put to bed in what David Cameron’s former Communications Director, Craig Oliver, described as a “managed retreat”. Rudd herself was left to whimper “We should be able to have a conversation about the skills we need. I don’t think we should have a situation where we can’t talk about immigration. We must not ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration, and if we do talk about immigration, don’t call me a racist.”
If the two conferences sounded alike on immigration and many of the Labour MPs sounded more Tory than the Tories, the Prime Minister in much of her keynote presentations (when not doing Farage impersonations) sounded a lot like an old-style Labour Party leader with empty promises to protect and further the cause of the workers! “People with assets have got richer,” ‘Comrade’ May said. “People without them have suffered. People with mortgages have found their debts cheaper. People with savings have found themselves poorer. A change has got to come. And we are going to deliver it.” At the same time, on worker’s rights she continued: “Existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am prime minister. We’re going to see workers’ rights not eroded, and not just protected, but enhanced under this government.”
Both Labour and Tories will use immigration to divide us, both will protect the current political system of imperialism and both will support the wars of brigandage and weapons proliferation that comes from it. And both will promise to be our best friends and deliverers from evil but in the final analysis both serve only the needs of the bourgeoisie, anything else is hype for the gullible!
Study the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and prepare for revolution or watch your children’s energies and vitality being used up in various workplaces for the maximum profit of the rich, withering away standing in dole queues while struggling to exist and then every so often being driven like serfs of old to bloodier and bloodier wars to protect their lord’s swollen profits.