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What comes next for the left after Corbyn?

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Activists gathered in London last week to debate why Labour lost last year’s general election, and where now for the left after the end of Corbynism
Issue 2691
Foreign Office strikers are leading the way (Pic: Guy Smallman)

PCS general secretary

Mark Serwotka

‘We need a united trade union response’

The left needs political clarity. We need to understand what went on in the last few years.

But we also need to mobilise political activity and action and we need to be lifting people’s spirits and morale. The game is not up for five years.

The left needs to participate in debate. But, if we only debate and don’t struggle then we’re not doing anyone any good.

In PCS we have a strike that has just started at the Foreign Office. We have maintenance workers—workers that often get forgotten—out on strike for a month.

They are striking for union recognition in the private sector.

We need to have those struggles whether they are small and local, global, industrial or political.

And we need to bring people together and fight back.

No struggle is too small to get union support. And no struggle is too big that we should scare ourselves into thinking that we can’t win.

The last two years have been dominated by a radical leader of the Labour Party and a minority Tory government continually losing votes in parliament.

In Labour we fought an election with the most radical manifesto in my lifetime. We all hoped that we would see Corbyn in Number 10. We should recognise that the defeat was shattering.

I think there is a collective labour movement issue of how we related to the divisions in the working class around Brexit.

The Labour Party started with a very carefully crafted position, both before and after the referendum.

That position was to respect the result and fight to defend jobs and freedom of movement.

But in the last year, many people—including myself—got caught up in the parliamentary theatrics. Labour rapidly fast forwarded to a second referendum and remain.

We need to debate what effect this has had on working class people and how we can reconnect with them.

It’s not just Brexit. The disconnect started under Tony Blair. Voters became disenchanted and Brexit pushed them over the edge.

It’s important that we relate to the Labour Party leadership election.

In a party of over 500,000, the key for the left is whether the Labour leader believes in public ownership, redistribution of wealth and scrapping universal credit. Or will they take the Labour Party back to the centre?


We should intervene in these discussions to argue for the bold socialist policies that were put forward.

In five years the general election will be a critical issue for socialists. I am keen to have a discussion of what this means in practice.

At the same time we are about to see a Tory government that was fairly paralysed and is now going to go on the offensive very rapidly.

I raise this because the government is about to launch the most brazen and provocative attack on public sector workers’ pensions.

That requires a clear and bold response. This includes a united trade union response.

If there isn’t an immediate and angry response then the government is going to get away with it.

My opinion on what’s next for the left is that we need to resist.

We have the climate struggle. And we have workers out on strike.

We need to make sure that the climate strike is huge.

If we could argue for co-ordinated national strikes it could transform the mood across Britain.

Socialist Worker Editor

Charlie Kimber

‘Fight for a stronger socialist challenge’

Two things changed on 12 December. One was the end of an era of focus on Jeremy Corbyn and a prospect of a left Labour government.

The second is the end of an era in which Tories didn’t have a stable parliamentary majority.

I think we’re much closer to a situation that existed in the 1980s when the Margaret Thatcher government—in parliamentary terms— could do what it wanted.

The focus of resistance cannot be in parliament and cannot be around the Labour.

This doesn’t mean that what happened in the election doesn’t matter. It does matter.

We need to interrogate what happened in that election result.


It’s not an accident that 52 out of the 54 seats that Labour lost to the Tories were in places that had voted Leave.

It was completely wrong for the Labour Party to adopt a second referendum position. But that wasn’t the only thing that mattered.

I think that the disgusting and disreputable use of

antisemitism slurs against Corbyn and the Labour Party—and the fact that they gave in and compromised with those slurs—was important.

The action of a hostile right wing media was of course important.

And the actions of Labour councillors implementing and attacking ordinary working class people was important.

Too often workers were forced to strike not against Tory councils but against Labour councils that were cutting their jobs and their wages.

In 1997, 59 percent of the worst paid people voted for the Labour Party. In 2019, 39 percent of them voted for the Labour Party.

This is about a Labour Party that turned their back on working class people.

We need raise our sights about what’s possible.

No one expected to see the revolts we have seen in Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon.

The point is not just whether there’ll be resistance. The point is what the politics of that resistance will be.

I don’t think that the crucial thing about the resistance is making sure that Rebecca

Long-Bailey becomes leader of the Labour Party. And I don’t think it’s about creating conditions so that in five years Labour can win an election.

We need to a different sort of politics not based on what the Labour Party does. This begins foremost with a massive pressure on what happens in the streets and the workplaces.

What’s exciting about what’s happening in France is not what’s happening in elections.

It’s about people saying, “Our lives are being ripped up and we are going to do something about it.”

Are we going to come away from this debate thinking the target will be the mayoral election or the county council election or the next general election?

Or are we going to try and build a movement that draws on the best of the climate rebellion, the anti-racist movement, the anti-austerity movement and the strikes that are bound to happen?

We have to found a movement which is strong enough to put forward a stronger socialist challenge inside all the movements that are happening and bring them together.

We need a stronger internationalist movement based upon genuine socialist ideas.

This means a revolutionary socialist party bringing together all these issues.

Watch the full discussion online at

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