Socialist Worker

The times are changing

Issue No. 2471

Something has changed in British politics and it was captured in a single day last week. 

On that day Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership with a resounding vote that stunned the establishment. 

Here is someone who has called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes, who has supported workers’ strikes and anti-racist campaigners—and he trounced all the opposition.

His campaign brought thousands to mass rallies, many for the first time.

His first act as leader was to join a tremendous demonstration in defence of refugees which was another sign of changing times.

For years politicians across the board and the media have attacked refugees yet 50,000 people took to the streets to declare, “Refugees are welcome here”. 

After the Tories won in May many commentators argued that Britain was different to the rest of Europe, where the left was gaining support. 

Sentiment

The right was in the ascendancy and the racist Ukip seemed able to harness anti-establishment sentiment. 

But Corbyn’s surprise success has exploded this complacency. It shows that socialist politics and a challenge to austerity can win a mass audience. 

It has wiped the smiles off the smug faces of the warmongers and immigrant bashers.

The bosses’ Financial Times newspaper admitted, “New Labour looks dead and buried.” 

Right wingers wail that Corbyn is just a throwback to the 1980s and out of date politics. 

They don’t get it. Tens of thousands of young people rallied to Corbyn’s campaign. 

They were inspired to hear a politician taking a principled stand on cuts, wars and racism.   

Corbyn’s vote reflects new political surges seen elsewhere in Europe in recent years. 

The rise of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain has shown the thirst for a left political alternative to the main social democratic parties that back austerity. The contradiction is that, in Britain, this has happened within the Labour Party not outside it.

Corbyn faces opposition from the vast majority of his fellow MPs as well as from the ruling class and  the majority of the media. 

They will do anything to bring him down. 

Even some of Corbyn’s own supporters are arguing that he should not be too left wing. There are some differences with some union leaders. 

And journalist Owen Jones has argued that “concerns about immigration” can’t be ignored. 

Patronising

This comes from the pessimistic and patronising assumption that working class people can’t be won to anti-racism, which the recent protests expose as false.   

This is not the time to start rowing back. We have to stop the right in their tracks. 

There is a danger the new-found enthusiasm for socialist politics is sucked into internal battles within the Labour Party. 

As revolutionary socialists we don’t want people to be reduced to spectators. 

We want to turn the world upside down. 

The experience of Syriza shows that the change so many people want cannot be won through parliamentary means. 

But Corbyn’s victory shows the possibilities. 

We have a massive opportunity to turn the tide against austerity and racism. Now we need to translate the mood into a fight deep in the working class. 


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What We Think
Tue 15 Sep 2015, 17:31 BST
Issue No. 2471
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