Right wing Labour MPs had another go at undermining left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn last Sunday.
A letter to the Observer newspaper by 29 backbench MPs, led by Chuka Umunna, demanded that Corbyn defend Britain’s membership of the bosses’ single market.
Britain could leave the single market trading bloc as part of leaving the European Union (EU).
They said Labour should “fight tooth and nail” to stay in the single market, which promotes privatisation and restricts workers’ rights.
Using nationalistic language they claimed criticisms of the single market were “not worthy of a great country like ours” before going on to attack migrants.
The same Labour MPs who want to stay in the single market want to ditch its only positive aspect—freedom of movement for EU nationals.
“Britain is Europe’s second largest economy, its most significant military power,” they wrote. “It should not be beyond us to conclude a deal that retains our single market membership while reforming the immigration system.”
The Labour right hopes to use the issue of the EU to divide Corbyn from his supporters, who largely voted Remain.
Corbyn rightly whipped Labour MPs to vote for the bill to leave the EU last month. A recent article by hard right Labour faction Progress describes this as the “perfect faultline” between Corbyn and his supporters.
Their plan has no hope of solving Labour’s real problem—the long-term decline of its support.
A poll last week put Labour’s support 19 percentage points behind the Tories. The right claim this is because Corbyn is too left wing. In reality Labour’s support began falling long before Corbyn’s leadership.
Labour governments betrayed working class voters’ hopes and the party’s alliance with the Tories against Scottish independence in 2014 led to its collapse in Scotland.
Supporting the single market will not bring Labour back from the brink.
Corbyn has not been able to rescue Labour’s support. Concessions to the right, who constantly undermine him, make him look like a weak leader of a divided party.
Corbyn has to be defended against the right. But he must also confront them and focus more on the struggles against racism and austerity.
Recent speeches Corbyn made to demonstrations defending migrants and the NHS boosted him.
Putting himself at the heart of a movement against such attacks can force the right—in Labour and the Tories—onto the back foot.
The obstacles put up against him also underline the need for socialist politics that concentrate on struggles in the streets and workplaces, not on parliament.