Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn used his conference speech today, Wednesday, to set out his vision for “the socialism of the 21st century”.
He said his re-election as Labour Party leader on Saturday “grew out of a thirst for a new kind of politics”. And he called on Labour Party members to build a movement to get rid of the Tories.
Corbyn’s speech was a refreshing challenge to those who have tried to remove him and drag Labour back to the right.
He said, “It’s no good harking back to the tired old economic and political fixes of twenty years ago because they won’t work anymore. The old politics is broken. We’re in a new era.”
His speech flatly contradicted the one by deputy leader Tom Watson yesterday. Watson defended the record of previous Labour governments and lectured party members, telling them, “Capitalism, comrades, is not the enemy”.
Instead Corbyn said he was right to apologise for the Iraq war earlier this year, which was launched by previous Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
And he promised to raise taxes on the rich in order to bring back Education Maintenance Allowance and maintenance grants for students.
He also pointed to his ten-point plan, put to conference earlier this week, that promised to build more council houses and stop NHS privatisation.
After the speech some Labour members told Socialist Worker they were pleased that Corbyn had called for party unity.
But others said they were inspired by his speech to take on the Tories. One member told Socialist Worker, “I liked the challenging of austerity, and the reaching out to communities.”
Another said, “I liked the part about renationalisation of industries. We owned it all before—why shouldn’t we own it all again?”
One woman told Socialist Worker, “It was amazing. It was the best ever. I’ve waited 40 years to hear a Labour leader talk about socialism like that—and it was worth the wait.
“I’m looking forward to the next general election—I think we can win with Jeremy.”
Corbyn also used his speech to speak out against scapegoating migrants.
He made some dangerous concessions to the idea that migration causes problems in society. He talked of “the undercutting of workers’ pay and conditions” and migration putting “pressure on hard pressed public services".
But he also insisted that migrants were not to blame for putting pressure on public services or the NHS.
It was a refreshing difference to speeches by shadow home secretary Andy Burnham and MP Yvette Cooper earlier in the day. Both said Labour should try to clamp down on “unskilled migration”.
Corbyn said building a movement was key to beating the Tories. He said Labour’s "hugely increased membership is part of a movement that can take Labour’s message into every community. To win support for the election of a Labour government.”
Yet Corbyn’s appeal for unity with the right could open him up to more attempts to remove him. He stayed away from topics likely to anger Labour MPs and trade union leaders such as scrapping Trident nuclear weapons and ending fracking.
And his proposals are likely to meet serious resistance from bosses if a Labour government ever tries to implement them.
Beating them means building a movement that isn’t just about getting a Labour government elected. We need a movement that can defeat all those who want to put the left back in its box - inside and outside Labour.