By Charlie Kimber
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Letter to a Jeremy Corbyn supporter: October 2015

This article is over 8 years, 9 months old
We'll have to go beyond Laourism, argues Charlie Kimber
Issue 2470
Hundreds attend a Jeremy Corbyn rally in Glasgow

Hundreds at a Jeremy Corbyn rally in Glasgow (Picture: Duncan Brown)

Just like you, I will be anxiously waiting for the Labour leadership results on Saturday. We’ll both celebrate if Jeremy Corbyn wins.

If he loses we’ll join the outraged hundreds of thousands who will want to know the scale of the fixing and purging that went on. The surge in support for Jeremy confirms the idea that bitter hatred of austerity will eventually find a focus.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party scooped up some of that feeling. In Greece much of it settled around Syriza. Spain saw the explosive growth of Podemos.

Here Jeremy Corbyn has become the focus. His opposition to war, his lack of personal ambition, and his readiness to join protests and picket lines have endeared him to a new generation. Some who left Labour over Tony Blair’s warmongering and neoliberalism have felt able to return.

Jeremy has confounded those who said Britain is immovably right wing. The tens of thousands of people who cheered Jeremy at his rallies are a sign of the potential for a mass movement against austerity. And Corbyn has helped shift the debate leftwards over austerity, migration and refugees. 

All of this worries the wiser elements of the ruling class.  They want safe parties that support big business, back nuclear weapons and defend an alliance with US imperialism.

You paid your £3 to vote for Jeremy, and your Twitter account is apparently acceptable to the scrutineers who weed out those suspected of revolutionary thoughts. I didn’t sign up. And I want to remind you why.

If Corbyn is leader he will face a firestorm of opposition from those horrified by any move leftwards. The Labour Party hierarchy remains dominated by people who think Ed Miliband lost because he was too left wing. 

You can get the 20 MPs who really back Jeremy into four cars. There are 210 who don’t. The deputy leader expected to be elected on Saturday, Tom Watson, is well to the right of Jeremy. The candidate for London mayor may well be too.

Lord Mandelson has advised that the right should not strike immediately. But, resentful and brooding, they will plot and scheme to undermine and then eject Jeremy.

The leaders of affiliated trade unions remain at the heart of Labour and wield massive influence. If they think Jeremy won’t win the next election they are not above destroying him. They did that to George Lansbury, Labour’s most left wing leader to date, in 1935.

For now some remain quiet, some claim to support him. 

But if, for example, he makes dumping Trident a central policy some will openly revolt. 

There will be massive pressure on Jeremy to compromise and appease the right wing. That’s the tradition of Labour leaders who were praised by the left, such as Harold Wilson, and ended up as pro-capitalist as any other.

The real danger is that Corbyn supporters are plunged into internal party struggles rather than struggles at work and in working class areas. 

We cannot wait until the next general election before rising up against the Tories. There are 1,699 days from the leadership result announcement until 7 May 2020, the scheduled date of the next election.  In that time the Tories will lay waste to the welfare state, sell off vast chunks of the NHS, and drive thousands more people on benefits to poverty and despair.

They will strengthen state powers, whip up racism and seek to turn the anger in society against Muslims and migrants. We can’t give them time to do this.

Whatever happens on Saturday, the crucial question is to march, protest, occupy and strike together against the Tories. 

Let’s listen to the leadership result together on the demonstration to say “Refugees Welcome Here”, and let’s protest in Manchester on 4 October at the Tory party conference.

Let’s support strikes and other fightbacks, push union leaders to call the action we need, and organise for resistance in workplaces. Let’s take the mood of the Corbyn campaign and use it to raise the fightback against the anti-union laws.

Struggle is the most important question. Of course Jeremy and his supporters see battles outside parliament as important. But it’s a question of emphasis and priority.

We need resistance to beat the Tories—and it’s the best route towards political radicalisation. Labour’s last campaign was utterly uninspiring. If you want a Labour government we need much more struggle.

When people fight together they feel more confident and they’re much more likely to vote for left wing ideas. The very worst route will be for Jeremy to take Guardian columnist Owen Jones’s advice and back off from measures such as leaving Nato.

It will disillusion and demobilise people if, as Jones suggests, issues such as rail renationalisation are “eclipsed by other priorities”. And Jones said that “Concerns about immigration cannot be addressed by sticking our fingers in our ears or by only emphasising the benefits of immigration.” 

That sounds far too much like Labour, once again, bending to the anti-migrant campaign and it will only help the right. Boldness and a break from “politics as usual” won Jeremy his support. He must not back down.

We should all support him against the Labour right, but the crucial issue will be the scale and strength of struggle outside parliament.  One touchstone will be how Labour councils act. Corbyn has called on councils to work together and oppose Tory cuts. 

Some fear he could encourage a revolt of councillors refusing to implement cuts. But that’s exactly what we need.

Is Jeremy going to make speeches against austerity while Labour councils ram through measures that will wreck people’s lives? He needs to organise for defiance of the Tories. That will take a massive battle, and encouragement of every bit of resistance. 

Some 450 Labour councillors have backed Jeremy. But that’s just one in 14. Many of the others have no vision beyond managing cuts. They have to be confronted politically and in struggle. 

 This is not an era of capitalist boom. There is no viable project of hoping that the economy will grow strongly and a big share of the proceeds can be handed out to workers and the poor.

Any real change will need an assault on wealth and power. Look at Greece. The election of left wing Syriza in January sent hope across the world.

But it faced the brutal financial, economic and political pressure of European Union institutions, the bankers and the rich. And, fixated on parliament and negotiations with the powerful, it utterly crumbled.

It is now implementing a worse round of austerity than those imposed by its Tory predecessors. Electing a leader with left wing policies was not enough to stop the bosses’ blackmail. It could only have been different if Syriza had based itself on mass mobilisation.

If it had embraced really radical measures such as nationalising banks under workers’ control, seizing the wealth of the oligarchs and so on. In other words we need genuine socialist policies and a socialist movement.

A Corbyn-led Labour government will not face exactly the same situation as Syriza has. But it will face the hostility of the bosses and the forces they marshal.

If it’s serious about fundamental change it will provoke the fury of undemocratic and unaccountable state structures.

They won’t just sit back if someone is elected who says he can’t conceive of a situation where British troops should be deployed abroad. And there’s no point spending four years striving to get Corbyn into office just to see him destroyed.

Capitalism means poverty, war, racism and environmental destruction. In truth, we need to go much further than Jeremy’s programme. It looks so radical because of how far Labour has moved rightwards. 

We need a movement independent of Labour and a much larger party than presently exists to build towards the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

  • Charlie Kimber is national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party

Read more

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The Labour Party—Myth and Reality
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The Labour Left’s Brightest Star
Article by Paul Foot

Arguments for revolution—the case for the Socialist Workers Party
by Joseph Choonara and Charlie Kimber, £3

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