I’ve sent the following open letter to Jeremy Corbyn (firstname.lastname@example.org) following watching his televised leadership debate with my m.p., Owen Smith, on the Victoria Show on the BBC. I’ll wait and see if I get a reply from his office…..
I’m writing to you as a long standing, independent socialist living in Pontypridd, your leadership challenger, Owen Smith’s constituency, to express my total frustration with the role of the Labour Party in implementing austerity, cuts, war and divide and rule within the working class both in the South Wales valleys and throughout the U.K. and to explain to you how whilst I admire your integrity, honesty and determination to stand up to the undemocratic plotting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, I remain very concerned about your strategy of pursuing unity with the right in your party. I also want to explain some of my own political history, my very serious reservations about the limits and dangers of representational politics and why I believe parliament is designed to maintain capitalist rule and can not be reformed to represent workers’ interests.
I watched the debate between yourself and Owen Smith on the Victoria show with exasperation. Although I am not, never have been and almost certainly never will be a member of Labour, the fact that the right-wing challenger comes from my town encapsulates why the Labour Party never appealed to me in the first place. Indeed, I’ve never even voted Labour. For decades and decades, the Labour Party, alongside its many supporters in the trade union bureaucracy, has provided the main career path for opportunist social climbers keen to avoid actual work and desperate to get on the money laden path of corporate financed political office, whilst ensuring the so-called labour movement does the government and employers bidding by stopping trade unionists, students and community campaigners taking any effective action against the endless attacks on our rights, living standards and communities, services and workplaces.
As a trade unionist with 15 years of experience in Unison, PCS, UCU and Unison again, my experience has been that the Labour Party in the trade unions has been the main barrier to any effective trade union action, instead preaching ‘partnership’ with the bosses. This has happened in my own workplace, a further education college in Cardiff, for example, where the college has been effectively privatised and turned into a ‘corporation’, leading to massively worsening of workers’ rights and a sub standard, expensive service for mainly working class students – a policy overseen and implemented by the ruling Labour government in Wales. So excuse me if I don’t believe that either Owen Smith or indeed ANY of Welsh Labour’s elected m.p.s, A.M.S or councillors are ‘socialist’ – and in the latter case, whether they claim to support you or not
. Labour Grassroots in Wales is not a left-wing organisation and some of the main ‘left’ leaders in it have actually implemented austerity and cuts throughout Wales. Smith may be from Pontypridd and now claims to be socialist but it’s not where you’re from that matters, it where you are now and what you have been doing with your life and Smith is an egotist utterly indifferent to the incredible poverty, mass unemployment and all round suffering that is the unbearable norm for the overwhelming majority of Valleys residents. Smith was incredible in his absolute dishonesty in that and no doubt all the other debates so far. I was struck by the talent and articulate anger of new members like the woman in the debate who expressed her shock and horror at the deceptive manoeuvring and desperate mud slinging of the Labour bureaucracy in effectively witch hunting Corbyn supporters, denying them a say in the party’s structures, miscasting them absurdly as ‘Trots’ and ‘cult members’ and worst of all, charging £25 – which for most of us out here in the real world is a lot of money – for the right to vote in the leadership contest.
However I’m very concerned that activists like this – rightly angry now they are learning in practice what the Labour Party is really about – are going to have their hopes that Labour can be ‘won back’ under your leadership cruelly dashed, so long as you insist on perpetuating the myth that Labour ever was a real socialist party in the first place (it never was and the betrayal dates back until at least 1914 when the Second International abandoned international class struggle to support their ‘own’ ruling class during WW1), understate the inevitable capitalist state opposition to any attempts to introduce increase in corporate taxation, decommission Trident and reverse austerity and the domination of the markets and above all attempt to achieve reconciliation between corporate sponsored politicians and business ‘leaders’ and working class socialists – a reconciliation which is impossible to achieve. The right wing in the party understand this but unfortunately you are reluctant to draw this conclusion which risks compromise, betrayal and ultimately defeat YET AGAIN for our class.
I believe that you and your supporters have a responsibility to not just your new members but to the entire movement to prepare the working class for the inevitable capitalist opposition to your policies – which by themselves are inspired by the capitalist supporting economist Keynes and are not socialist – and explain that capitalism can not be made nicer. Capitalism is production for profit and workers produce that wealth but we are robbed of it by the expropriators, many of whom sit very comfortably indeed in that wholly undemocratic institution the House of Lords as well as the so called ‘Commons’ which of course is anything but for ‘commoners’.
Just like Syriza in Greece, I’m very worried that even if you do succeed in staying on as leader until 2020 (which still means nearly four more years of hell for the working class), any Labour government under your leadership would attempt to ‘negotiate’ behind closed doors with dictatorial institutions such as the E.U., the I.M.F. and World Bank etc. thereby leading to yet more sell outs. I’m disappointed that your socialist in name supporters maintain these illusions despite knowing better. So long as the class are told to stay passive and rely on parliamentary representation by ‘leaders’ who are characteristically motivated mainly by ego, narrow self-interest and status (I except that you’re an honourable exception, but your rarity in parliament only illustrates the general and real character of politicians), the harder the task is to give the masses the confidence that we can take mass action to fundamentally change society in our collective interests.
I come from the generation which lost the right to free education; Tony Blair was elected when I was 17 and one of the first acts of Labour in power was to scrap the student grant and introduce tuition fees – my year at university was the first year to pay fees. Needless to say, I was and still am furious about this and when I decided to get involved in the campaign to scrap fees at Swansea University, there was no way I was going anywhere near the party which betrayed my generation and concentrated on praising Thatcher and the right of rich people to get obscenely wealthier again – the enemies of socialism. Instead I joined the Socialist Party – mainly because they were NOT the Labour Party and instead were organising resistance to the government’s anti-working class policies. Although I left the Socialist Party in 2013, frustrated and angry at their own lack of internal democracy and inability to practise what they preach – above all, women’s rights – I’d rather eat my own hand than join the same party as Tony Blair, arch war criminal and red Tory. For all the problems of The Socialist Party, the Labour Party, as the long term ‘second eleven’ of the ruling class and so called ‘party of government’ has actual blood on its hands and is responsible for far greater acts of betrayal than any delusional cult masquerading as a revolutionary party can muster.
Whilst I respect that you have rebelled against your party many times in parliament, I’m still angry at Labour’s murderous legacy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya and Syria. Likewise I’m horrified by the Labour Party’s role in promoting the worst divide and rule policies – British nationalism, racism, Islamophobia and the demonisation and the deliberate starvation of unemployed workers and their families. As a virtual lone rebel, you could not stop any of these policies because the Labour Party was co-opted, neutralised and made part of the establishment nearly a century ago – yet I’m meant to join this delusional, myopic fantasy that the very party that is as equally responsible as the Tories for all the seemingly endless setbacks and defeats our class have suffered during this time – not least the defeat of the Miners’ Strike of 84/85 – is somehow going to become a real workers’ party even though the entire constitution and organisational structures of the party are precisely designed to ensure that never ever happens.
Therefore, if you are serious and sincere in your efforts, it is essential that you seek the re-selection of all the Labour m.p.s and effectively re-found the party on an entirely new basis. The fact that you and Momentum have ruled this out should serve as a major warning to all the socialists and soft leftie types currently inspired by you that yet more disappointment and betrayal is ahead. No one likes a nay-sayer but unfortunately the truth has nothing but contempt for people’s wishful thinking. Jeremy you’re a good man and all that and obviously I prefer you to the contemptible Smith, but your evident talent, courage and leadership are in danger of being smashed so long as you keep trying to revive a parliamentary party which in reality is a dead end for the working class. Break from the war mongers, the corporations which fund Labour and the parliamentary careerists and use your platform to launch a new and real working class socialist organisation dedicated to building genuine internationalism and struggle on a clear anti-capitalist program.
All the best,