SF Editorial: Brexit and Workers’ Democracy; waiting for 2020 will not save the NHS or the welfare state

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20/02/2017 by socialistfight


From Tony Greenstein’s Blog

The ruling classes of the world are split as never before on how to face its global crisis. Of course, we can take heart from the widening divisions in the ruling classes in Britain, the USA and France in particular and have good reasons to hope that this will engender confidence in the working class to fight and open up these divisions. But to do that we must have correct tactics and the pressure must come from below. They can still laugh at us now because we have no army.

Lenin wrote in Left Wing Communism in 1920:

“For a revolution to take place it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realise the impossibility of living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place it is essential that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way.”

But we are far from that now because other criteria are not present. The temper of the masses to confront the capitalist system is not present nor is there a revolutionary leadership, even in embryo. Instead the result of the Brexit referendum last June showed and exasperated the opposite situation.

Brexit essentially won by its appeal to national chauvinism and blaming immigrants. And even though those who wanted a left exit, the Lexiteers, were totally opposed to this outcome the victory of Trump reinforced those reactionary sentiments in sections of the working class. We must fight this reaction before it engulfs the whole class, via parliament or a second referendum or whatever. This may enrage the right wing but we must make our political stance against this by all means. But we are conscious that unless the class begins a real fight against austerity and for the NHS these reactionary forces will increase their influence on the class. But Marxist know that that is the only force that can defeat reaction and open the road to revolution.

Simply playing the parliamentary game now and left triangulation to get Corbyn elected in 2020, which are John Lansman’s tactics, is bound to lead to disaster. Corbyn’s fight for a left Brexit looks certain to be defeated now. It was correct to fight via the courts for a vote in parliament against Theresa May who was intent on using the outcome of the referendum to impose her will outside of parliament. “The will of the people” wielded via the royal prerogative, a throwback to the old royal absolutism and divine rights of kings before Cromwell put an end to all that feudal nonsense by chopping off the king’s head in 1649, still has the stink of dictatorship about it.

The contempt for judges displayed by Trump and the Daily Mail, etc. is a point well made in Tony Greenstein’s blog that we have reprinted on page 6. And contempt for parliamentary democracy is another traditional far right position.

Of course, Marxists know that the working class can never win their socialist liberation through parliament. But that does not mean that bourgeois parliamentary democracy is simply a talking shop. Its very existence relies on the existence of the organised working class in all major countries today unlike before WWII. To hail the marginalisation of bourgeois democracy from the ‘anti-establishment’ right populists like Trump or France’s Marine Le Pen or Theresa May’s royal prerogative gambit is to support the right’s offensive against the class itself.

Corbyn is profoundly wrong to hold back struggles against the most important issues facing the British working class, council cuts and in defence of the NHS, to keep the likes of Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey on board. Delaying tactics whilst contributing to the trade union bureaucracies’ eternal tactics of holding the class back from the struggle is the ultimate mistake. On top of the £100 billion cuts already imposed since 2009 there is a further £12 billion of cuts to come, and the phasing out of the £18 billion central government grant to local authorities; councils will face a further cut of 6.7% in real terms by 2019-2020.

Local authorities imposing savage cuts up to now mentioned in an article in the World Wide Socialist Website by Margot Miller on 16 January 2017 include, Newham, Croyden, Lewisham, Birmingham, Manchester City Council Knowsley, Sheffield, Glasgow city council Torfaen Council in South Wales, Lincolnshire County, Bath Council and Southend, most Labour controlled. She adds “Just months after his election in September 2015, Corbyn and his closest political ally, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, sent a letter to all Labour councils demanding they abide by the law and impose austerity cuts demanded by the Conservative government.” The 2016 Labour Conference reinforced this edict.

If these cuts continue in the local authorities and the NHS up to 2020 both these causes will be lost; the welfare state and the healthcare system will be damaged almost beyond repair. Unless a serious fightback begins here electing Corbyn in 2020 will be futile. That is why a rank and file revolt in the unions, linking up with the new mass Labour Party membership, is vital.

And for that two things are vital. First a successfully outcome of the democratic grassroots Momentum conference 11 March. And secondly the election of Ian Allinson as Unite’s General Secretary, or at the least a substantial vote for him and the launch of a powerful rank and file movement in Unite and across all unions.

Both are possible. And we do need both. On 13 January 2017, in an article, “Len McCluskey’s grip on Unite is far from assured, Union supporters of Jeremy Corbyn prefer him to the centrist Gerard Coyne. But there is a third man” the New Statesman challenges the bland, and untrue, assumption that McCluskey was the best supporter of Corbyn:

But on the key thorny issues facing the Labour leadership, Corbyn supporters might find they have more in common with Allinson. Many Unite activists may share Allinson’s frustration with the union’s lack of mobilisation over the NHS, or its stance on immigration. When launching his campaign last year, McCluskey’s first policy was support for border controls in the wake of Brexit. Unite has played a role in influencing the PLP against free movement.

Pro-Zionist John Lansman launched a second coup in Momentum as his first coup last October failed because some of his appointed ‘delegates’ voted against him. He then abolished all democratic structure. By 6-4 the Steering Committee voted to abolish not only itself but all democratic structures, including the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). The CAC has called a Momentum Grassroots Networking Conference (MNGC) of which they say that:

This is not the “founding conference” that was initially planned for February. Its purpose is to allow Momentum groups to – at long last – coordinate with each other on a national level: to learn from each other, discuss and develop campaigning ideas, and debate the way forward for Momentum.

Complaining about Lansman’s contempt for the democratic rights of the membership and pre-empting the outcome of the only democratic conference yet in Momentum is cynically hypocritical and a hopelessly bureaucratic attitude to the membership, mirroring Lansman’s own outlook.

Contempt for workers’ democracy today goes right through society and the labour movement from far right to far left. Bans and prescriptions against ‘democratic centralists’ or ‘sectarian groups’ permeates the TUs, Labour, Momentum, the LRC and many of the far left groups and individuals who are its victims themselves. Gerry Downing, the victim of Landsman’s ire in the LRC who undemocratically secured his expulsion, since reversed, on a bogus charge of antisemitism, was refused admittance to a meeting of Lansman’s opponents because he was a ‘democratic centralist’.

Without endorsing their politics only the CPGB and the AWL allow workers’ democracy in all their public events but the latter victimised Jackie Walker and are trying to stitch up the Grassroots Networking Conference on 11 March. Marxists still hold with Trotsky; “the laws of history are stronger than the bureaucratic straightjacket” provided we know how to fight to release the pent-up anger of the oppressed masse. ▲


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