As worker commuters waited this morning at the station for their trains to work-joy, the Metro headline ‘Coalition of Chaos’ following last Thursday’s General Election seemed to be on everyone’s minds. If May didn’t actually win outright, why are the Tories still clinging to power? The first past the post system doesn’t reflect the actual votes of the electorate, the overwhelming media state bias against Corbyn and the boundary changes designed to favour The Tories exposes the lie of corporate controlled ‘democracy’, and of course, the treacherous role of the Labour right controlled Parliamentary Labour Party – against all these odds Corbyn, without actually winning, has emerged vindicated and strengthened, sending his many party opponents into a calculating, sycophantic race now to try and capture positions in his possible government-in-waiting, with The Guardian naming ‘big hitters’ such as Ed Miliband and Lisa Nandy as possible appointments.
The Labour careerists, not least the Welsh ones, are in shock that ‘pro-worker’ policies such as free education and scrapping the tuition fees is popular, something those of us on the socialist left have been campaigning for since Blair’s Labour actually introduced the fees in 1997, a blatantly anti-working class policy supported by endless Labour Party careerists in the NUS, the PLP and too many of the unions. Welsh Labour has consistently refused to use even its limited powers to try and stop job losses and cuts and do not support ‘devo max’ for Wales or fight for control over the Welsh budget and with Wales historically underfunded by the Barnett formula. Wales has never voted Tory yet we keep getting stuck with their governments ruling us. Welsh Labour politicians remain part of the problem, not the solution.
Meanwhile May is delaying the Queen’s Speech as she tries to scramble a deal with the horrifying DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), a sectarian, sexist, homophobic, austerity-loving and utterly reactionary party with links to loyalist terrorist groups – a deal which could threaten the Northern Ireland Peace Process. A deal breaker for the DUP is abortion, which is still illegal in Northern Ireland – May is planning to legislate to reduce the time limits on abortion to win their support. A demo in London is already planned to protest this disturbing partnership and the threat it represents to women’s reproductive rights (Women’s March On Downing Street Against The DUP, Central London, June 24th). Never has extra- parliamentary activity been more essential and it’s been frankly over-due a long time now.
Corbyn plans to challenger her right to rule and put forward the case for an alternative government, hoping for another General Election to attempt to win a decisive mandate for Labour (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/09/jeremy-corbyn-plans-alternative-queens-speech-challenging-may). The DUP are especially dangerous and threaten working class unity and an escalation of ruling class Unionist reaction in Northern Ireland and also Scotland.
Following the result with Corbyn calling for the discredited May to resign, Caroline Lucas of The Greens is indicating that her party would be willing to partner with Labour and the other ‘anti-austerity’ parties (I put speech marks around this as all the proposed parties in this possible but highly unlikely alliance have actually implemented austerity whilst in power be it the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and yes, The Greens themselves in Brighton). Despite my scepticism about any of these parties so-called anti-austerity record (please remember that Corbyn has previously ordered Labour Councils to pass cuts in order for council budgets to be ‘legal’ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/18/corbyn-local-labour-councils-illegal-budget-setting-cuts- ), the entire labour movement needs to mobilise now to demand May resigns, oppose any Tory / DUP coalition and insist on an end to austerity now. But what we also need is a clear anti-capitalist vision and an end to parliamentary illusions in the first place.
This task cannot be left to Labour alone, nothing changes without mass independent action of the working class. The entire movement needs to mobilise with protests, marches, strikes, mass meetings and rank and file union organisation of both unionised and non unionised workplaces. Whilst many Labour activists have been celebrating this weekend, the reality is that people are still sleeping on the streets this morning and many of us are in workplaces facing closures, cuts and job losses with trade unions (when we have them) generally missing in action.
Even if Labour were able to form a minority government with the support of other parties (an outcome certainly preferable to the Tories and their sectarian friends being in charge), the real risks of compromise and betrayal of workers lies ahead – and it’s far from certain that’s on the cards. But even if it did happen, first of all, it still wouldn’t be enough seats. Secondly, Corbyn would have to make compromises with the right in the Scottish Nationalist Party, the discredited Liberal Democrats (remember that ConDem coalition), Plaid Cyrmu who have also implemented austerity in power AND the right-wing of his party, Machiavellian opportunists such as Stephen Kinnock (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-40239384).
Labour’s program, progressive especially in the context of decades of neoliberalism from the establishment parties, is not as radical as it seems. Aside from maintaining Trident, supporting Nato and promising to work with business and not supporting the free movement of labour, it is informed by Keynesian state capitalist economics and already opportunist right wingers are pouncing on the opportunity to serve in the shadow cabinet whilst the hardest of the right continue their plotting. Corbyn is speaking about how the unity of the party must be maintained and there is the real danger he will continue to compromise even further with his new found ‘moderate’ allies who like power-hungry vultures are sniffing and foaming at the mouth at the chance to rule again in the possible near-future.
Corbyn and McDonnell, represent a revival of second internationalism (the ‘international’ which supported WW1 and for many, many decades has capitulated to capitalist economics and maintaining imperialism). The outpouring of working-class support for Labour in last week’s election is undoubtedly encouraging but people’s hopes stand to be dashed if May clings on with the utterly reactionary Democratic Unionist Party, or if Corbyn and McDonnell’s pursue a new election without the mandatory re-selection of m.p.s. The Labour Party is two parties and the members need to assert democratic control – a task not previously ever achieved – or more likely, start to learn some lessons about the impossibility of this task. Parliament has never been a vehicle for socialism which is why the second internationalists degenerated into capitalist conformity in the first place, many, many decades ago. But still the current revival of it is welcome only in the sense that it indicates an increasing confidence of workers and especially young people to move into struggle again –however, the obstacles are huge.
For Corbyn, the ideal would be a fresh General Election with a clear and overwhelming mandate. However, as myself and others have consistently pointed out for the last two years, it is essential that Corbyn uses this opportunity to introduce mandatory re-selection of M.P.S if he wants any chance of decisively winning the internal civil war and ‘democratising’ the party. The two parties in one is untenable. But that doesn’t look likely with Corbyn’s misguided belief in the Labour Party ‘happy family’. Momentum are triumphant but Andrew Langsley and co seem more interested in stopping so-called Trotskyist ‘infiltrators’ (or in more neutral language, new party members) than pursuing the re-selection of M.P.s The Labour Party has never been democratic and this myth that it has ever been socialist needs to be challenged, not reinforced by self-described revolutionaries who uncritically champion Corbyn’s limited state capitalist programme and establishment approved Keynesian economics, not explaining that, however preferable it is to fully bloodied austerity, it still represents a continuation of capitalism which is still in the grips of a long-term ‘great depression’. To quote the marxist economist Michael Roberts latest post, UK Election Results: capital in disarray:
‘The UK economy is set to enter a period of stagnation at best. The OECD’s economists are already forecasting that the UK economy will slow down to just 1% next year as Brexit bites. And there is every likelihood of a new global recession in the next year or two……
…..This minority Conservative government is going to find it difficult to survive for long. There could well be a new general election before the year is out and that could well lead to a Labour government aiming to reverse the neo-liberal policies of the last 30 years. But if the UK capitalist economy is in dire straits, a Labour government will face an immediate challenge to the implementation of its policies. ‘
Not only is another recession very likely, any reformist government, will have to deal with hostile and unaccountable institutions such as the E.U. during Brexit negotiations, the World Bank and IMF etc. Politicians hoping to make capitalism nicer would have to contend with the fact that the dictatorship of the international market will never passively accept any attempts to reduce to redistribute capitalist wealth to the masses. Capitalism exists to make profit, not pay workers fair wages (and all profit is created by the unpaid labour of the working class, the real creators of wealth).
The capitulation of the left-wing Syriza government in Greece is a stark warning, as are the many historical examples of the inevitable, and frequently bloody, resistance of the ruling class to any attempt to fundamentally threaten their profits and power. It’s worth remembering the tragic events of Chile in 1973, where the more radical Allende was overthrown in a CIA supported fascist coup. Pinochet murdered not only the democratically elected Allende, he and his armed thugs of the state executed thousands of socialists, anarchists and trade unionists to crush the mass movement behind Allende. Certainly the ruling class are not adverse to threatening flights of capital, denial of loans, economic blockades and yes, even military coups. Our struggle has to be international and with no illusions in the capitalist state.
Whilst there are encouraging developments with this result in terms of giving the Tories a well-deserved bloody nose and crisis in the establishment, it’s important to be sober and take an honest and unflinching assessment of the huge obstacles our side is up against. We suffer from shockingly low levels of workers’ struggle, with union membership at an all-time low. No one on the left has anything better to offer us than Labour, a party which has consistently betrayed workers and the oppressed over the last century or so. There is no coherent anti-capitalist vision put forward, no strategy beyond A to B marches and co-operating with the police to keep protests neutered. On the police, the left needs to stop sowing illusions in their so-called neutrality – look at the role of the police and military in the Miners’ Strike of 84/85, Hillsborough in 1989 and so on. In Engels words, in the last analysis the state represents the armed bodies of men to protect private property and, as Angela Davis and so many black activists have pointed out, to maintain a profit system based on racism and oppression of all kinds. We need genuine socialist internationalism, updated for the 21st century, if we are ever to succeed in our tasks. Whether this happens remains to be seen. But the politics of tinkering with the system and appealing to the capitalists to be a bit nicer to workers is naïve at best, at worst deluded and dangerous. But still we must struggle…..