The Brexit election and the death of Project Corbyn
Rarely has the British public entered a general election with less enthusiasm or interest in the election campaigning and manifesto promises of its contending parliamentarians. Why? Largely because, as a nation, trust and belief in the statements of British bourgeois politicians is at an all-time low. ‘They never do what they promise,’ is the overwhelming sentiment. And then, of course, there’s the fact that the 2016 Brexit referendum result tossed a hand grenade into the formerly cosy British establishment from which the political elite remains in shock, and shows little sign of recovery.
Who does parliament serve?
The British parliament, the ‘mother of all parliaments’, was developed out of the King’s Council, a feudal body of the country’s chief nobles and church dignitaries, formed as a mechanism for the landed nobility to advise their absolute monarchs. This Council went on to become the political vehicle of the rising bourgeoisie. With the slogan ‘No taxation, without representation’, the merchant parliamentarian class was propelled to real power by the roundhead armies of the Cromwellian revolution, which deposed the monarchy and beheaded the last absolute monarch, King Charles I.
Over the centuries of its existence, parliament has been through many stages, but at all stages since the English revolution, Westminster has been and remains the vehicle for the political power of the bourgeois – capitalist – class.
This year saw the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre. That event is held up by many as a seminal moment in the struggle for the right to vote of the working class. It should certainly be held up as a sign of the attitude – a mix of contempt tempered with fear – with which the ruling class and its acolytes view the proletariat, and its attempts to organise and express its political will.
The rise of Chartism – which demanded a charter of workers’ rights, including the right to vote, led to some rights being granted but granted by decree, not by the victory of that movement, which was defeated. Simultaneously, British workers’ living conditions were elevated by their participation in an industry that had the huge colonial empire as a market.
The right to vote was tempered at first by the limited franchise (granted only to men of property and not to women or to workers), and then even in its universal extension, though resisted at every stage, became a guarantor of the privilege of the wealthy. The political and state mechanisms were enmeshed with the real economic power of the exploiting capitalist class, which, despite all show of ‘democracy’, exercises the most secure dictatorship over the economy and the state apparatus.
The British Labour party
Since the newly-formed Labour party proved itself to be loyal to British imperialism, loyal to empire, loyal to the monarchy and its betters in the wealthy industrial magnate class, to the bankers and financiers in the City of London – since World War 1, in fact – the British ‘democratic’ parliament has remained a vehicle for the rule of wealth, unchallenged by its contingent of loyal Labour MPs. Beyond that, all talk of ‘democracy’ and ‘socialism’ has simply been for show. Labour has become integral to the system of controlled opposition, which is, in reality, a two-party Labour-Tory consensus.
“You can have any colour so long as it’s black,” said Henry Ford. You workers can have any political party so long as it serves us, say the city-financier rulers. Like the casinos in which they gamble, the electoral odds are rigged in their favour.
Workers are not meant to have any say or control
And that’s why it was such a mistake, on the part of Cameron and the Conservative party, to give any semblance of a say to the working people over a question as fundamental to the economic interests of British imperialism as the organisation of rule of European finance capital, our membership of the European Union.
Why did they do it? For their own selfish and petty internal party reasons (there was a split in the property-owning class between the financiers and manufacturers). And because they have of late developed such supreme contempt for the working people of Britain that they imagined they’d simply do as instructed. But they had not factored in the preceding decade of austerity and financial crisis that has crushed so many British workers, and about which there is a justly seething and bitter, if often unfocused, resentment.
The CPGB-ML position
Britain’s communist party, the CPGB-ML, has been clear in calling for workers to support Brexit – even advocating a tactical vote for the Brexit party in the 2019 European Union election. It viewed that election as a second referendum, and the results – with the Brexit party winning the most seats and the most votes – clearly showed that it was not alone in doing so. But let us be clear: we, and the CPGB-ML, advocate Brexit because we fiercely oppose the EU and the unbridled domination of finance capital that it embodies; we do not support the Brexit party.
Nor do we claim that the British parliament is the natural vehicle of the will of British workers. We support the working class, and all that will strengthen its struggle to gain real power and independence from the exploiting capitalist class, which is more alien to the working class and its interests than any foreign power. But that road will not be trodden lightly by British workers, so let us survey the political scene that actually lies before us.
Labour and Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn was not expected to become leader of the Labour party. Labour was the party of the Iraq war; of blood-soaked imperialism; of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Frank Dobson and Alistair Campbell’s NHS privatisation by Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Private Finance Initiative (PFI); of crushed unions and the subordination of all to the market.
Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell were regarded by their own party grandees as ‘loony-left’ jokes, to be tolerated for as long as they provided an electoral ‘left’ fig-leaf, covering the truly hideous nakedness of Labour’s servility to capitalist imperialism, and (falsely) signposting to the discontented and unrepresented workers that Labour remained the party for them.
Like clause IV in the party programme, they were to be tolerated but ignored; a mutual pact of convenience. They were permitted quietly to voice their opposition from within the party’s ranks, just so long as they did not cross the red line and stand up for their supposed principles – as George Galloway so memorably did in exposing British imperialism in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Corbyn: a man of ‘principle’ – but what price ‘unity’?
Corbyn, throughout his long tenure as a back-bench Labour MP, said he stood against Nato, against apartheid in South Africa, against imperialism, against Israeli suppression of Palestine and apartheid in Israel, against British suppression, division of and apartheid in Ireland, against US suppression of Venezuela and Cuba, against the ‘Tory’ (and Labour) crushing of the miners’ strike, against racism and against war – and of course against the European Union. But in order to remain in ‘real politics’ – ie, in the Labour party parliamentary racket – he was happy to bury all these fundamental differences with his own party and remain a loyal backbench MP: quietly voicing opposition from within the ranks was his social-democratic calling-card.
All this, of course, under the slogan of ‘Unity!’
The 2017 election – austerity, poverty and class
Soon after the 2016 EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn found himself propelled, as a man of apparent principle, into the position of leader, and leading the Labour party into a general election in the teeth of overwhelming hostility from his own party, the political establishment, and the media.
His strong performance tapped into the discontent of the working masses, and for a while the enemies within his own party were compelled to mute their critical tone, apparently making ‘peace’. The Grenfell Tower massacre underlined, just weeks after that general election, all that was wrong with modern Britain; the contrast between the impoverished workers and the billionaire playboys, living cheek-by-jowl in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The Tories, led by a Theresa May who promised only further austerity, seemed so obviously alien to the crying needs of workers that they found themselves fighting a rearguard action for the political narrative of capitalism itself – ground they were not expecting to revisit. Thatcher had declared Blair to be her greatest political achievement, but now Corbyn was threatening to reverse austerity (as an ideological choice of the Tories), increase taxation on the wealthy and spending on the poor and needy. Wasn’t that just the socialism that Britain had been fighting all these years?
A new mode of discourse entered political life. In fact, there was nothing very radical about the plan to tax and spend a little more, but in the conditions of profound economic crisis and the general tightening of the screws on the workers, it was a message that the City of London capitalists could not stomach. Neutralising Corbyn and neutralising Brexit became their watchwords.
The party machine strikes back, hand in glove with the state
There was a real question at issue. If the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) could not eject Corbyn in 2017, through the electoral ruin it had foreseen and worked towards, and there was an influx of 400,000 into the party, loyal to and inspired by Corbyn’s apparent message of social equality and justice, how would they keep control of it?
Corbyn was encouraged by his allies and Momentum base to introduce mandatory reselection – that would require all Labour MPs to face mechanisms that would make acceptance of Corbyn’s leadership, manifesto and political line fundamental to being chosen as a candidate to fight the next election. This would have seen some political struggle, but was a putative mechanism to gain control of the parliamentary party: toe the line, fall behind your new leader, or face the members, who will deselect you as an MP.
But a general hue and cry was raised and the proposal was dropped.
Daily media propaganda emanated from the press, government and state officials, with a leading part being played by the PLP – notably, by deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow cabinet members such as Chukka Umunna, Hilary Benn, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry. Corbyn was a ‘security risk’. If Corbyn became prime minister the army would stage a coup. Corbyn was weak on Syria (where he apparently did not support the democratic bombardment of that country by British cruise missiles). Corbyn was weak on Venezuela, and refused to condemn ‘dictator’ Nicolás Maduro (who had done no more to deserve the presidency of this important oil-rich nation than win the presidential election; as opposed to the US approved and ‘democratically selected’ leader, Juan Guaidó!). Corbyn was weak on the economy. Corbyn was weak on Trident.
Jeremy caved on issue after issue. Would he use the nuclear bomb? If he had to. Would he support Venezuela? He condemned “the violence on all sides” – this amid a US-sponsored attempt at colour revolution. Would he oppose war in Syria? No he’d allow a free vote. He was formerly head of CND, would he oppose renewal of Trident? He’d “support Labour policy” – that is, renewal of nuclear weapons in order to protect arms workers’ jobs, and their use if needed. Every position he claimed to hold was given up – as, in fact, it had always been throughout his career – for the sake of ‘unity’.
First they came for Ken Livingstone. Ken unwisely claimed that Hitler was a Zionist. Not quite right – but the Nazis did make a direct agreement (the Haavara) with the Zionist Federation of Germany to transfer Jews from Germany to Palestine, since both groups had an overriding nationalist supremacist ideology and both believed that Jews did not belong in Europe. Hitler, of course, believed that Jews did not belong in the human race.
But the plan was clear; a very British imperialist plan. Israel is but one small cog in the imperialist machine, but its particular stock-in-trade is to play upon its credentials as a victim state, or a state of victims – of European imperialism, and European history, we note – to cover its very real imperial crimes, committed on behalf of Anglo-American imperialism against the Palestinian people, throughout the middle east, and further afield.
And what better ruse than to attack left Labour on its cause celebre – to make it impossible for its members to criticise Israeli imperialism (as a minor middle-eastern partner of British and US imperialism), and in that way mute their criticism not only of the Israeli monkey, but most importantly of the Anglo-American organ-grinder.
The fact that Corbyn’s support of these anti-imperialist causes has been tepid at best was neither here nor there. The mild-mannered anti-apartheid campaigner and social democrat was reinvented as an IRA and Hamas terrorist, and of course, an antisemitic racist to boot.
The IHRA definition of antisemitism
On the back of this campaign, a new definition of antisemitism – the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition, quietly garnered from, of all places, the European Union Monetary Committee – was adopted by the Labour party, clearing the way for its legal adoption as a ‘consensus view’ by many state institutions. This Zionist definition makes it illegal, and officially a hate crime to denounce Israeli policy – perversely, and as an appalling and truly racist insult added to a century of injury to the Palestinian people, in the name of ‘fighting racism’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The vitriolic, even rabid attacks and accusations levelled at Labour MP Chris Williamson, a loyal Corbynite, for suggesting that Labour should have responded by rebutting unfounded accusations of antisemitism – “We’ve been too apologetic” – would be funny if they were not an indication of the profound lack of leadership, plan or vision of any of the so-called Labour ‘left-wingers’, and their complete inability to mount any serious or sustained challenge to British imperialism on behalf of and in the interests of British workers. Corbyn did nothing to defend Williamson, one of his chief allies. Rather, he cemented his own isolation by allowing the Blairite PLP and press to dispense with him unopposed. This was Jeremy showing his true lack of mettle or moral fibre. Whether through careerism or cowardice, in the end it amounted to the same thing.
The 2019 election campaign
And so Zionist organisations, ‘Labour Friends of Israel’, ‘Jewish Labour’ movements, chief rabbis and Tory peers are all falling over themselves to cry wolf.
Corbyn may be pusillanimous. He may be weak. Corbyn may be many things, but he is not a racist. Even the retiring John Bercow, in his interview with GQ magazine’s war-criminal-in-residence Alistair Campbell, admitted that the Tories, not Labour, were the actual party of racism, including antisemitism – and he should know.
The Jewish community, meanwhile, should think long and hard before allowing itself to become the political football of the British imperialists. This is to an extent the logical extension of the pact that Zionism concluded with British and US imperialism a century ago.
Zionists have already travelled so far down this road that the transition may have seemed easy to swallow. But calling out workers, anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, and defenders of human dignity and social justice as ‘racists and antisemites’ can only serve to undermine fatally their own position within society. When real antisemitism raises its ugly head, and no-one any longer listens to the boy who cried wolf, the folly of this moral prostitution to the British ruling class will become terribly clear. The British ruling class is supremely cynical. It has no permanent allies – only permanent interests.
The ruling class will throw Britain’s Jews under the bus just as surely as it has thrown everyone else, from Muslims to Somalis, Yugoslavs, Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Africans, African-Caribbeans, and minorities and immigrants generally, not to mention coalminers, steelworkers, single mothers, benefit claimants, and, indeed, the majority of British workers, in order to secure its own privilege and power.
The European Union
And then, of course, there was Brexit. Seventeen and a half million people voted to leave the EU. The majority of Labour supporters voted to leave the EU. The majority of the electorate Labour needed to win over to gain a parliamentary majority voted to leave the EU. Corbyn has always been against the EU. So, apparently, has his former close comrade and current shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Yet suddenly there is an about-face. We are not privy to the dark forces at work here. We don’t know what kompromat, what dirt, the state has on McDonnell, or whether he has simply been offered an illusory reward: ‘Change your position on Brexit and we can do business.’ Either way, and despite Corbyn’s dancing on the head of a pin as he tries to please both sides, no-one is in any doubt that Labour effectively joined the Remain camp, abandoning the wishes and interests of the British, European and world working class – and, most glaringly of all in the current political climate, of the expressed majority of the British electorate. This left Corbyn open to easy point-scoring that he is flouting the will of the people, and abolishing democracy.
True, he has not gone quite so far as LibDem leader Jo Swinson, who said her party would simply “cancel Brexit” and ignore the referendum result altogether. But he betrayed those who voted for his last manifesto in 2017, and effectively sealed his own fate in the 2019 elections, which were decided above all on this single issue.
No promise of free full-fibre broadband was able to detract from the scale of this about-face.
Who are the Labour party?
And so Corbyn remained, in title at least, the general of the Labour party’s army, but the real power remained with Tony Blair and his cohort of Labour grandees – Alistair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, Gordon Brown et al, who, along with the overwhelming majority of the PLP, are only too happy to openly suborn themselves to the unbridled interest of city financiers and industrial capital.
Having given up on mandatory reselection, Corbyn stood at the head of a motley crew of free-market fundamentalists who were in open mutiny against his rule and talked frankly of ousting him by Christmas. Far from culling the worst of the Blairites and ‘reclaiming’ the party, the only members who were not contesting the 2019 election were the loyal Corbynites, who had been taken down, or hamstrung, like Corbyn himself.
We will leave aside, for now, the fallacy that old Labour and new are separated by a deep and meaningful political divide, and that clause IV was in fact a true statement of socialist intent that repelled social-imperialists from the Labour party’s ranks, as holy water repels devils. The Labour party has shown itself, once again, to be a machine that rules over workers in the interest of capital. Labour has proven, heedless of the influx of Trotskyite, revisionist and anarcho-liberal sects, to be a machine that is incapable of meaningful change, or of being ‘reclaimed’ for the working class. You cannot ‘take back’ something that was never, in reality, yours. The Corbyn project has proven as ill-fated as we foresaw. And the disillusioned Momentum influx, now ebbing out of that party, will have to decide what to do and where to go.
What price ‘unity’?
History repeats itself. The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. The ‘tragedy’ of Corbyn’s defeat in 2017 was mitigated by the strong resonance of his anti-austerity message, and the perception of his being ‘a man of principle’. The farce of the intervening years, during which Corbyn betrayed his closest supporters, abandoned many of his apparently fervently-held principles in the scramble to become ‘prime minister’ at any cost, and, most notoriously of all, made a blatantly anti-democratic Brexit U-turn, fatally undermined his credibilityand thus wiped out any ability he might have had to wield influence over the PLP, once cowed by the 2017 election result.
The Labour PLP machine has shown its hand and trounced Corbyn, and it is Blair and Campbell with their free-market-trumps-all capitalist ideology who remain in control of the Labour party, in close alliance with the interests of the British ruling class.
Britain’s workers, dismayed at Labour’s position on Brexit, deserted the party in droves and voted for the Tories across the country. It is a sorry spectacle when a truly racist Etonian Tory toff, who openly sneers at the working class and espouses theories of racial and ruling-class supremacy, can use the leader of Britain’s gang of ‘left’ Labour clowns to back up his assertion that his own party, the Tory party, represents the many, while Labour has deserted the workers.
‘Getting Brexit done’
Regardless of Boris Johnson’s careerist use of the Brexit issue, it should not be forgotten that the whole saga and spectacle of parliamentary deadlock and endless ‘Brexit’ news can only be understood once a simple fact has been acknowledged: the British ruling class does NOT want to ‘get Brexit done’. Quite the reverse.
This point needs a little clarification. Not least because Labour, under the leadership of Corbyn, has taken to referring to a ‘hard’ or no-deal Brexit (actually leaving the EU customs union, single market and security bloc) as a ‘Bankers Brexit’. This term is, well – bonkers!
As a gauge of the true feeling of the City of London, it is always useful to turn to Mark Carney, the financier who has been entrusted with Britain’s macroeconomic policy – a man of culture and sophistication, and an imperialist servant to his fingertips. Speaking in August this year on the perils of recession facing Britain (we are already in a prolonged and profound recession, we note) consequent upon Brexit, he opined: “Leaving the most integrated economic relationship in the world would have an impact on the economy.” Everything has an impact upon the economy. Socialist revolution will no doubt have an impact upon the economy. It is a question of who benefits and who suffers.
The concept that we are ‘all in this together’, that what is good for the capitalist is good for his workers, is as old as capitalism (as old as exploitation, in fact), and boils down to the notion most beloved by our ruling class that, to quote Engels: “The capitalist is a capitalist for the good of the workers.”
“The economics of no-deal are that the rules of the game for exporting to Europe or importing from Europe fundamentally change,” said Carney. As a result, he said, “very big” and “highly profitable” industries in Britain would become “uneconomic”. “Very difficult decisions will need to be taken,” he said, explaining that those would have a “knock-on” effect on the economy. He pointed to carmakers, food manufacturers and chemical firms as some of those that would be hardest hit. “These are the sectors that have not been investing,” he said.
We will not here expound the entirety of Marxist political economy. Let this brief reference be sufficient to note that in no way do the bankers wish to see Britain leave the EU, particularly without a deal; without perpetuating manufacturers’ market access, the free movement of capital, and access to cheap labour from the depressed economies of Europe (in particular the recolonised countries of eastern Europe), and generally ensuring the ongoing close unity of Britain’s financial centres with the rest of EU imperialist block.
Who owns Britain?
The ruling class, we must remind ourselves, does not consist of the political representatives of capital alone. The rulers are not the politicians who sit on the benches of Westminster and in the various regional parliaments, but are made up of the economically powerful – in particular, the billionaire class and the owners of huge conglomerate businesses and financial directorships of capital that are centred in the City of London. It is the finance capitalists who call the tune, and the true representatives of British, US and EU banking and industrial capital find the EU a most convenient vehicle for advancing their interests – as they have done since its inception after the second world war. At that time, a domestic policy of anticommunism twinned with an anti-Soviet foreign policy was the order of the day – the only way for the imperialists to preserve their exploitative system and the remnants of empire. Since the collapse of the USSR and the people’s democracies, the EU has been on a mission to expand up to the borders of Russia, and is the economic vehicle of Nato imperialism in Europe.
Inequality, poverty, homelessness and social destruction: austerity capitalism
EU convergence criteria limit state spending on social welfare and hamper many domestic industries in order to push an agenda of austerity and free-market fundamentalism in the interest of the giant conglomerates and large European banks. The financiers in the City of London, like those in other European national financial centres, particularly in Germany and France, are happy to participate in this exploitative bonanza, which has de-industrialised Britain to such an extent that only 9 percent of the workforce are involved in manufacture.
European capital lives, increasingly vampire-like, from sucking dry the labourers of the oppressed world. And this parasitic vandalism finds its mirror image in the devastated communities in Europe – not least in the former socialist countries, but also to the great detriment of the industrial heartlands of the midlands and the north of Britain.
Anti-EU sentiment on the rise throughout Europe
The diminished income of the working class and the drive to austerity has become abundantly clear since the worldwide capitalist economic crash of 2008. Greece has been devastated socially to ensure the continuing flow of tribute to the European central bankers. The southern European economies of Spain, Italy and Portugal are under enormous strain, and there is mass anti-EU sentiment among workers even in Germany. In France, the yellow vest protests have gained mass support in demanding an exit from the EU, Nato, the Euro and capitalism. But the EU bankers have no desire whatsoever to see Britain or any other country fall out of their orbit.
Inequality has not been prevented by the EU; the reverse is true. The environment has not been protected by the EU. Record levels of poverty, homelessness, hunger and inequality have all been achieved precisely under the tender loving care of the EU alliance of capitalist national governments, which have all signed up to its key imperialist tenets in order to receive the questionable ‘benefits’ of access to its ‘free market of goods, labour and capital’. The presentation of this anti-working-class imperialist institution as some kind of welfare institution for British (or European, or any other group of) workers, and as a force for peace and environmental harmony, is about as far from the truth as Prince Andrew’s claim that he never met Virginia Roberts.
Parliamentary foot-dragging and obvious frustration of ‘democracy’
And yet our parliamentary representatives have been staging a sit-in protest for three years, refusing even to accept Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit” deal, which was really only a Brexit in name only (Brino), entailing as it did remaining within the EU customs union. Joe Swinson took the remarkable step of committing the Liberal Democrats to simply annulling the referendum result entirely. Her party wanted to cancel Brexit, and in so doing made it abundantly clear to all that British democracy is an utter irrelevance. Several of the smaller parties – the Greens, Plaid, SNP, etc – trailed haplessly in her wake. All are united in their will, if not their ability, to serve British capitalism.
That kind of obvious slap in the face for the great unwashed British proletariat is one that even the Tories under Cameron, May or Johnson feel deeply uncomfortable delivering – not because it changes the essence of the matter, but because the well-worn cynicism of the British ruling class and its preferred party of rule helps it to understand that form is important. Better to give a semblance of humility and compliance.
The Tories, of course, act only in the best interests of the ‘whole country’ (capitalist ruling class) and will respect the will of the British people (speak in euphemisms, employ high-sounding phrases, and with forked tongues, tell outright lies and put the boot in when necessary). May’s deal was Brexit in name only, and yet it was a step too far for the majority of her parliamentary colleagues.
Deal or no-deal?
Re-enter Boris. This was different. It was “Do or die”. We would demand a deal in Britain’s favour or leave without a deal. And after much negative mood music from Brussels and other European capitals, it was rather a ‘surprise’ to find that a deal was, in fact, concluded between Boris and EU president Jean-Claude Juncker – with smiles all round.
So what was the content of the deal? After much fanfare it transpired that the deal was Theresa May’s deal, but accepting that there would be a British-EU customs border in the Irish sea.
Yet despite Boris agreeing to a border in the Irish Sea (the obvious place for Britain’s border to fall, incidentally – the clue is in the name) and the desertion of the Unionists who exercised their veto so effectively over May; despite the ejection of the 23 ‘one-nation’ Tories (whatever that name means) who were so concerned about Britain leaving the EU that they couldn’t even stomach the threat of doing so, Parliament agreed to Boris’s deal by a majority of 23, with several Labour MPs from leave-backing constituencies voting for the deal. But up popped former Tory Oliver Letwin – that arch-reactionary, former city banker, and architect of the privatisation of the NHS under Margaret Thatcher – to propose an amendment that the deal be deferred until all necessary legislation had been passed that would enable it to function – an amendment to frustrate the spirit of the Bill in favour of the detail; or to put the cart before the horse. So Boris was forced to die in his ditch and apply for the Article 50 extension that he had sworn he would not, beseeching EU leaders in a slightly codified accompanying letter to reject his request, and thus force parliament’s hand on the existing deal.
Therefore, to force through his deal, Boris had to dissolve parliament, fight a general election and change the composition of parliament in his favour by painting his party as the only popular party of Brexit that could ‘get Brexit done’, undermining the anti-austerity agenda of Labour and the no-deal, WTO, clean-break, single-issue politics of the Brexit party in one fell swoop. In this way, the northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) would again recede to being an anachronistic irrelevance, and its predictable ‘We’re British, not Irish: no surrender!’ obstructiveness could be pushed aside. Boris has even admitted that the threat of no-deal Brexit had to seem real, but that, in fact, he had no intention of leaving without a deal – revealing himself once again as an arch-opportunist who has played his hand well.
The collapse of Project Corbyn?
Corbyn promised to be the great white hope of the ‘British left’. Unfortunately, the British left were on the whole a rather uninspiring collection of Trotskyites and revisionists, who themselves wanted nothing more than a Benn or a Corbyn to ‘reclaim’ the Labour party for their personal vision of socialism – a vision that entailed business as usual for capitalism while announcing a little more spending on welfare and the NHS in dribs and drabs, piecemeal here and there. Something of a damp squib, in fact. And in no very tangible way any different from the policies of the former Labour leader Tony Blair, or indeed the ConDem coalition or the Tory governments. Yet even the little increased spending and a sprinkling of social-democratic phraseology was enough to put the entire British establishment on a war footing.
Labour long ago learned to isolate itself from the radical demands of British workers. It did so by expelling the communists who formerly operated openly within its ranks (it was, after all, formed by an amalgamation of smaller parties and organisations, many of whom went on to form the Communist Party in the wake of the Great October Socialist Revolution), through the restructuring of its membership, through maintaining a block vote of unions wielded by trade union bureaucrats who were corrupted by the perks of their positions, and most importantly through the formation of a Parliamentary Labour party (PLP) that was given a dominant position such that MPs elected on the ticket of the Labour party are not mere representatives of the party but an independent organisation holding power over the mass organisation.
While Chukka Ummuna led a small group of Blairite lemmings off the cliff, to be followed by such worthies as Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, it remained the case that the tradition of voting Labour in some working-class constituencies had been so strong that, to quote Comrade Harpal Brar, standing against the notable idiot Pyara Khabra in the Ealing Southall constituency: “You could pin a Labour rosette on a donkey and it would romp to victory.” So the reselection battle was key if this machine was to be turned in favour of Corbyn.
Labour, in fact, cannot be ‘reclaimed’, as it has always been a party of British capital; a social-imperialist party (socialist in words, imperialist in deeds), to use Lenin’s apt expression, recently adopted by Derby MP Chris Williamson as he was ejected from its ranks after 44 years of painful service. The Labour party has proven this, its treachery to the British workers, time and again in concrete practice, notably, during the 1914-18 inter-imperialist ‘great’ war, during the 1926 British general strike, and during the 1984/5 miners’ strike.
Other badges of shame that Labour can boast include its seminal role in entering the EU and forming Nato, in partitioning India, in ruling the colonies, in crushing dissent and the liberation movements in Ireland, Malaya (Malaysia), and Kenya; in helping to crush the popular post-WW2 communist liberation and partisan antifascist movements in Greece and Italy, in betraying the antifascist struggle in Spain; in persecuting and isolating British communists at home; in pursuing a relentless and savagely anti-communist and anti-Soviet foreign policy, and, in the recent past, in conducting wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and cheerleading for countless others.
But ignore all this, say Corbyn’s supporters. Jeremy stood against all of that! But did he? Corbyn constantly campaigned for Labour and remained a loyal member and supporter of the party despite its bloody history of subservience to British capital in holding the British working class down. He was an MP of the ruling party throughout the campaigns and actions he allegedly disagreed with. It is time we notice this incongruity and call it out for what it is: careerism, opportunism and rank hypocrisy.
Putting even the kindest spin on his personal intentions, we can firmly state that the Corbyn project to reclaim Labour has ended as an ignominious failure. And the result of Corbyn’s weak and irresolute stance, and the strength and fervour of the establishment and the core Labour party machine, mean that as the country headed into Boris’s ‘Brexit election’, ironically, the only notable Labour MP who had been deselected was Derby MP Chris Williamson – Corbyn’s most faithful supporter in the parliamentary party.
Corbyn’s project, backed by Seamus Milne, Andrew Murray and John Rees, to reclaim Labour for their pallid vision of ‘socialism’ with Trotskyite-imperialist characteristics has proved a total failure.
No room for a ‘new’ or ‘reclaimed’ Labour party – we need a real workers’ party
The Labour party’s social-democratic social-imperialist politics have evolved to fill the evolutionary niche within British capitalist society. There is no room, as Arthur Scargill discovered 23 years ago, for a mark-two Labour party. Any new workers’ party will have to be different. It will have to put the agenda of workers first. It will have to be economically radical. It will have to stand for a change in ownership of the means of production, of the real sources of our modern material wealth, and make it clear to workers why this is necessary.
A new workers’ party will have to campaign amongst workers for unity; for them to identify as workers primarily on their common economic grounds. It will have to fight against discrimination in order to put aside all secondary and incidental differences in the struggle against the hegemony and the tyranny of capital.
Any new workers’ party worth its salt will have to campaign vigorously and unashamedly against the EU – for a real Brexit, and against the parasitic and moribund system of monopoly capitalism.
It will have to educate, mobilise and weld workers into a determined force. It will have to speak to and appeal to the mass of the British working class.