The Labour conference and the parliamentary vote on bombing Syria has shown, for all who have eys to see see, that left Labour will not fight its right-wing.
In the name of unity Corbyn has said that he will not remove pro-war or pro-cuts members from his shadow Cabinet. In a letter to party members Corbyn and Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson, one of 66 MPs who voted for military action stated that calls to remove pro-war MPs was “abuse and intimidation” and that such calls “have no place in politics. And the party as a whole will not accept such behaviour, from whatever quarter it comes”.
Although a free vote was granted, the idea that calls for removal of right-wing MPs has “no place in politics” further strengthens the right and underlines that Corbyn cannot break from the right-wing.
The Labour leader was in a strong position to apply the whip to oppose the government – but his decision was to allow a free vote. The leading Labour protagonist for war Hilary Benn, shadow foreign secretary, however, got his way.
A majority of the National Executive Committee are against bombing as were the Unite and Unison leaders. Furthermore Corbyn had a mandate to oppose war and bombing from the membership, 75 per cent of who responded to a Labour membership survey, (a sample of 1,900) were against the air strikes, and there is a growing opposition on the streets in the UK and Europe.
For Labour MPs Corbyn said support or opposition for bombing was a “matter of conscience”, as if, perhaps, imperialist bombing could be done for humanitarian reasons!
There is another aspect of Corbyn’s anti-war outlook which needs to be examined.
Stop the War Coalition, while opposing the bombing seems to be uncritical of Assad, re-published an article by Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite that included:
“The truth is that there needs to be a peace agreement between the Assad regime and its opponents leading to a transitional administration which could then take on IS. For years, the Prime Minister has worked against such an agreement.”
However, this is the same “perspective” as the USA and EU imperialism who are bombing and want to shore up the brutal dictatorship of Assad that has killed more Syrians than IS.
Articles on StWC web site argue that it is impossible to fight IS and Assad at the same time. Stop the War Coalition and Corbyn need to clearly explain their position on Assad.
McCluskey’s shoot to kill
Len McCluskey recently attacked Corbyn’s criticism of the shoot-to-kill policy adopted in Paris, after the terrible events. Everyone should know what such a policy means, as with the infamous case of the killing in London of Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, by security police and there have been many others in Britain and France.
Corbyn should do more than just criticise the “shoot to kill policy” he should campaign to ban this policy in Britain and all the deaths that have occurred in custody by the police. No case has ever lead to prosecution.
As Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, sister of Leon Patterson who died in police custody, explains: “United Families and Friends was set up to fight for justice, change and accountability. Of 4,800 deaths in custody since 1968, no state official has ever been convicted.” http://www.irr.org.uk
At the Labour Party conference John McDonnell said of Karl Marx that “People might disagree with his conclusions about what to do with the system, but actually to understand how the system works he comes up with some interesting analyses that have been built in to traditional and fairly classical economics” (such comments have a tradition in the Labour Party see Bill Hunter’s archive article on the Labour Party in this issue).
For McDonnell Marx’s theory and practice on how to end capitalism is more than a step too far.
Instead the Corbyn leadership chose a panel of economic advisers including radical capitalists like Joseph Stiglitz, and Danny Blanchflower who was part the Bank of England’s interest rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee 2006 and 2009. The committee seeks to use worn out Keynesian ideas and they are radical capitalist thinkers who want to save capitalism not overthrow it.
Labour Party – establishment party
The class struggle has provided the Labour left with many opportunities since the 1980s to fight austerity, but they have failed. Previously under the leadership of “Ed, the Red”, chosen by the trade union leaderships, decisions were made to unite with the right- wing despite facing huge pressure from the working class at every important decision. They consistently moved to the right.
Two significant examples are Miliband’s refusal to support the 2010 students’ strikes, and the public workers pension strikes in 2011. However there is no indication that the Party will act differently because of a Corbyn leadership.
The Labour Party is an establishment party, a bourgeois workers party and Corbyn is not a revolutionary. He aims to save the Labour Party from its current decadence, and maintain unity without changing its capitalist character.
It is therefore like Podemos and Syriza, because alternatives such as TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) or Left Unity have failed to become a rallying point for the masses.
We say to the youth and the working class that Corbyn will not lead the way out of our misery, but we will defend any progressive measure implemented by Corbyn against right-wing Labour or Tory attacks.
But for progressive measures to have any effect at all, they must be part of a revolutionary programme, that is, part of the class struggle for socialism.