Socialist Worker

Struggle is the key to real workers’ power

Issue No. 2467

Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson—inheritors of Labours tradition

Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson—inheritors of Labour's tradition (Pic: Flickr: Downing Street)

Right wing attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership bid have created a daily debate about the nature and purpose of the party.

Former Labour leader Gordon Brown made his intervention against Corbyn last Sunday. 

He name dropped everyone from George Orwell and Clement Attlee to Aneurin Bevan and Keir Hardie.

When they are in trouble the Labour establishment try to claim they are the natural inheritors of the party’s history.

So Brown said he went on demonstrations in the 1980s but claimed that people were “powerless” because Labour was not in office.

He dismissed those wanting to protest and fight cuts as merely expressing “righteous anger”.

Another ex-Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, argued that sticking to political principles is “corrosive self-indulgence”.

Their words insult everyone who wants to fight austerity and expect Labour politicians to at least put up some resistance.  

But the arguments reveal the contradictions that have existed within Labour since its birth. 

It works to express the needs of working class people, but also seeks to contain them within the confines of the system. 

Those in Labour attacking Corbyn claim that getting Labour elected is the only way for ordinary people to win change. 

They talk of being in government as being “in power”.


They claim Corbyn’s left wing ideas will never win votes among the public, and therefore it’s deluded for Labour to make principled stands.

But the size of Corbyn’s meetings, and the 250,000-strong demonstration in London against austerity in June, shows that standing up to austerity is popular.

It is not true that the working class is in “power” when Labour is in government. Much of the power the ruling class wields lies outside parliament.

Labour governments, even those lauded as part of a “golden age”, have at times opposed workers’ demands. 

It is especially galling to hear politicians who embraced neoliberalism and waged imperialist wars declare that workers’ only hope is their sort of Labour Party.

Corbyn’s campaign has generated enthusiasm precisely because people are yearning for an alternative to Tory austerity—and the Labour politicians who pander to it. 

We want to turn that mood of anger into a fight.

The radical left Syriza party in Greece has just signed up to a deal imposing cuts. 

This shows the weaknesses of looking to win real change through parliament.

We need to organise in every workplace and college, to bring people onto to the streets and show the Tories we can resist their assault.

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