Class politics returns to Britain

3

10/06/2017 by socialistfight

Socialist Fight Statement: General election 2017 review 10/6/17

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Class Politics returns to Britain

The widely proclaimed return of two party politics in this election is the return of class politics in Britain. The statistics show the middle ground is giving way; Conservative (Tory) at 42.4% was its highest share of the vote since 1983. 1959, at 49.4% and 1955, at 49.7% are the Tory post war highs. Labour’s at 40.2% was its highest since 2001. Its highest post war was 1951 at 48.8%. Their share in 1945 was 47.8% and in 1966 it was 47.9%. These are the comparisons of Labour to Tory percentage shares since 1974, with the Prime Minister and party elected:

1974 (February, Wilson, L), 37.2% to 37.9%, 1974 (October, Wilson, L) 39.3% to 35.8%, 1979 (Thatcher, C): 30.7% to 43.2%, 1983 (Thatcher, C): 27.6% to 42.4%, 1987 (Thatcher, C): 30.8% to 42.4%, 1992 (Major, C): 34.4% to 41.9%, 1997 (Blair, L): 43.2% to 30.7%, 2001 (Blair, L): 40.7% to 31.7%, 2005 (Blair, L): 35.2% to 32.4%, 2010 (Cameron, C): 29% to 36.1%, 2015 (Cameron, C): 30.4% to 36.9%, 2017 (May, C): 40.2% to 42.4%.

Similarly, the overall votes for Labour, first in the table, fell under the neo-liberals Blair and Brown but began to rise under the slightly leftist Miliband and rose dramatically under Corbyn. And class polarisation is also shown in the Tory vote:

1997: 13,518,167,   9,600,943

2001: 10,724,953,   8,357,615

2005: 9,552,436,   8,784,915        

2010:  8,606,527,   10,703,754

2015:  9,347,304,   11,334,576     

2017: 12,874,985,   13,667,213

This confirms the leftist surge in the working class that moved first via its vanguard when they elected Corbyn in the 2015 and again saw off the Blairite right wing in 2016 when they tried to oust him.

Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour party in 2015 because the previous method of election was changed by the Collins Report into the reasons for the loss of the 2015 election. This weakened the links between the trade unions and the party and instituted a US-style primary vote system. The previous system was that a third of the electoral college were the MPs, a third the trade unions, most of whom now balloted their members,  and a third were the membership of the party. The practice of balloting the levy-paying members of the trade unions as against the leadership casting a block vote already secured the election of the more leftist Ed Miliband against his more Blairite brother David after the loss of the 2010 election against the mass media campaign for him.
 Now a full   “one member, one vote” system was instituted in the party and the trade unions where all members of the party and trade union members who paid the political levy to Labour were balloted and also non-members became “registered supporters” with the vote on payment of a minimal £3 fee. This diluted the influence of the right wing MPs; all three sections voted heavily for Corbyn.

It is worth mentioning that he secured the 35th nomination from MPs and MEPs necessary to stand in 2015 with less than two minutes to spare. The right-wingers who nominated him did so in the hope that he would get only a few percentage and this would utterly humiliate and marginalise the left in Labour.

 

Such was the contempt the Labour right wingers and TU bureaucracy had developed for the mass of the working class that they fully anticipated that when it came to electing a new leader these new members and supporters would do what the right-wing mass media and the Blairite right wingers told them and the left would be wiped out. It proved to be a monumental miscalculation when Corbyn, initially at 500 to 1 to win the leadership, swept to victory with almost 60% of the vote and increased it again a year later despite mass expulsions of left wingers and raising the affiliation fee from £3 to £25.  However, the right-wing Blairite bureaucracy remain firmly in control of the National Executive Committee and most party structures.

Ultra leftists say we must not vote Labour. By the same token we should not have voted for Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1945 that brought the welfare state and the National Health Service. That government was certainly no better politically than Corbyn’s Labour, but even though it defended the British Empire in foreign wars the working class were right to vote for it against Churchill’s Tories. Does the mass movement unleashed by Corbyn count for nothing? Are these millions of left-moving working-class masses not worth a mention or a second thought? They are the hope for the revolution. And the only way to relate to them on the 8th May was to vote Labour. This Lenin understood in 1920 and Trotsky and all serious Trotskyist have understood since. But those who have contracted the infantile disorder that Lenin polemicised against so well in 1920 will have none of it.

Corbyn: an imperialist politician with a leftist Manifesto and a mass following

Although an imperialist politician nonetheless Corbyn is a Labour leader with a mass working class following who are now becoming enthused for socialism. It would be impossible for a Tory leader to make a speech such as he made after the Manchester bombing blaming it on the situation in North Africa and the Middle East. Though it was pacifist it still had that modicum of truth that the mass media and all warmongering imperialists have furiously denied. A Tory landslide would have been a disaster for the working class. A Labour victory has advanced the class consciousness of the class towards revolution. Corbyn has a bigger percentage of the vote than Brown or Miliband and Tony Blair’s third election in 2005. Shifting the body politic to the left significantly will supply the water for the revolutionary fish to swim in. Thatcher knew that and drained the fish tank and we lost a whole generation of revolutionary socialists because of her success.

The huge increase in Labour party membership to 600,000 (800,000 now after the election) was not reflected in the opinion polls and the mass media and Blairites maintained a relentless attack on Corbyn such that when the election was called by Theresa May in April Corbyn trailed by 24% and the right-wing Labourites were constantly working for his defeat in order to restore their own corrupt relationship with the capitalist system and its brokers. But a combination of factors combined to reverse all this in a historic reversal of fortunes for the ruling class.

During the election the BBC was legally obliged to give Corbyn equal exposure during the election. Although its bias was obvious they could not prevent his message getting across. His campaigning techniques of mass rallies sidestepped the mass media and appealed directly to the mass of the oppressed. Then the contrast between the two manifestos was very clearly class based.  The Tories clearly promised class warfare against the poor and even on some of its own supporters in the dementia tax for example.

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Corbyn’s manifesto at last overcomes the rightist charge against the left from Michael Foot’s 27.6% 1983 manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history”. In reality, it was the Falkland factor, the 1981 split from Labour by the SDP’s “Gang of Four” and a reviving economy and not the leftist agenda. And Tony Blair’s 1997 42.4% could have been increased by a genuine leftist manifesto, it was not the rightist agenda that won the vote but the class surge against the Tories. Neo-liberalism has suffered its first serious reversal in a major metropolitan country and this will have its consequences worldwide, just as Thatcher and Bush pioneered neo-liberalism in the early 1980s.

The working class, the youth and poor and those in bad health voted Labour to salvage the NHS and other public services, for the education benefits promised and also for the end of tuition fees and student loans. The vote amongst those aged under 25 was 72% compared with just 43% in 2015. Record numbers signing up to vote for the first time, many of them students. This included more than 600,000 people registering on the final day before registrations closed, of which two-thirds were aged between 18 and 34.

Those with disabilities understood at first-hand the need for a good NHS. It is necessary to put an end to the brutality of austerity within the benefits system. Those being crucified by it need changes urgently. And the housing crisis is obviously exacerbated by Tory greed and exploiting the somewhat ignoble aspirations of some workers to buy their council house and enter the property market at the expanse of the poorer sections of the class. Homelessness has more than doubled during the last seven years. The Trussell Trust foodbanks report for the financial year 2016-2017 revealed that they gave 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. They provide are only about 40% of all foodbank supplies in Britain making the total close to 2.5 million handouts, a truly shocking statistic.

A part of the reason for the increase in Labour votes was the three terror attacks in London and Manchester which exposed the collaboration of the Tories with terrorists who they used to overthrow Gaddafi and are attempting the same with Assad in Syria. The Moazzam Begg case in 2014 was widely known where the former Guantanamo internee returned from Syria to be arrested by police and charged with terrorism in Syria only to be released on ‘national security’ grounds; he was MI5’s terrorist against Assad, they were obliged to admit lest he tell the whole rotten tale. May has sold billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, has bombed middle eastern countries and then blamed Jeremy Corbyn for talking to someone connected with Hamas.  Theresa May’s job for six years was dealing with terrorism. Also, a factor was the cutting in the police force by 20,000 by Theresa may when Home Secretary, which workers correctly felt endangered they security. Marxists do not support the police force of capitalist society, advocating armed militias from the organised working class but their reaction to the hypocrisy of the Tories was understandable.

FarageandSalmond

Losers Farage and Salmond; Wiping out of Ukip and decline of the SNP

The 2015 election saw the LibDems devastated, reduced to 8 seats from 57 in 2010 and 62 in 2005. Although 2017 saw an increase in seats to 12 its vote share fell again from 7.9% in 2015 to 7.4% in 2017. But the sharpest indication of class polarisation in 2017 was the wiping out of Ukip, marginalised in every constituency, having won the EU elections in 2014 with 27.5% and 23 MEPS compared to Labour’s 25.4% and 18 MEPs and the Tory’s 23.9% and 18 MEPs. They played a crucial role in securing the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016. The right wing anti-immigrant surge represented by Brexit is now unravelled also. Its right wing has gone to the Tories and its left back to Labour, thereby partially overcoming their own previous rightism.  It is not the case that Corbyn’s agreement on triggering Article 50 to begin the Brexit negotiations or his backsliding on immigration controls won those wayward voters back but the alternative anti-austerity manifesto proposed an implicit class struggle against capitalism itself as we explained above.

The sharp decline of the SNP vote, like Podemos, Syriza and others also indicated and strengthened the class movement. They followed the politics of the Occupy Movement; parties and movements of ‘neither of the left nor the right’ reflecting the political confusionists of the declassed petty bourgeoisie.  As its right wing splits off to the Tories and its left to Labour now the progressive role played by that Labour manifesto is clear.

Labour correctly rejected the ‘Progressive Alliance’ proposed by many of its supporters, the Greens and the SNP, Plaid Cymru and many deluded far leftists. This was a vital element in Labour’s good showing and has to be maintained in future elections if the leftist surge is to be maintained. For instance, many regretted that the Tory Zac Goldmsith beat the Liberal Democrats in Richmond Park by 45 votes and Labour took 5,773 votes there. “If they had stood down here, in St Ives, and elsewhere then the Tories wouldn’t have even managed a minority government with the DUP” runs the argument.

In the French Presidential election of 2002 the run off was between Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen. The French left and most of the far left advocated a vote for Chirac to stop Le Pen. The politics of supporting a rightist, of indeed a leftist capitalist politician to stop a fascist or indeed a far rightist is a disastrous mistake because it fails to recognise the cause of the rise of the far right in the crisis of capitalism and it abandons class politics in the struggle against degenerate capitalism. It is known in communist terms as popular frontism and can only sow political confusion. The vote of the French far left fell disastrously after that mistake, from over 10.5% to less than 2% in the last Presidential election. And still most far leftists repeated the mistake of 2002 and called for a vote for Marcon against Marine Le Pen.

 

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Progressive but nor Revolutionary

Of course, Corbyn is an imperialist politician. A genuine anti-imperialist politician would always be for the defeat of his own and every other imperialist power in all wars as Trotsky observed. A pacifist like Corbyn is simply against all wars unlike a revolutionist who acknowledges war is endemic to capitalism in crisis and cannot be avoided but must be used to break the pro imperialist ideology of workers in metropolitan lands who think their living standards depend of winning foreign wars “in the national interest” which is code for benefiting from the booty of empire. For this reason, Trotsky was for the defeat of Italy in its invasion of Abyssinia in 1936 of Japan in 1937 and, hypothetically, Britain if it invaded Brazil in 1938 although in all three cases the opponents were barbaric reactionary regimes, a good deal worse than Gaddafi’s or Assad’s.

But let there be no doubt that the manifesto was not revolutionary or did not come anywhere close to providing a working-class or anti-capitalist perspective. The Labour manifesto conceded to the Blairite right on Trident, on immigration controls, on supporting the struggle for a united Ireland and against British occupation of the six north eastern counties of Ireland. Corbyn allowed a free vote on attacking Syria. Its reformist premise, seeking to revive the crisis ridden capitalist global economy in Britain alone, cannot ultimately work. Keynesian economics cannot succeed in this revival because the crisis is endemic to capitalism’s falling rate of profit so it cannot be peacefully solved within the bounds of the capitalist system. There is always a solution to every capitalist crisis if resolutions fail; WWIII which would destroy vast quantities of capital and vast numbers of workers to allow a small section of the richest monopoly capitalists to begin anew the grim business of exploitation on a higher rate of profit. Such were the reasons for WWI and WWII and the logic is in play again ever sharper.

Brexit in confusion

May will now lead Brexit negotiations in a seriously weakened and confused position, not at all, “secure and stable.” Her mantra “no deal is better than a bad deal” never made sense. EU Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said on 9 June, “We need a government that can act. With a weak negotiating partner, there’s the danger that the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides… I expect more uncertainty now.”

The pound fell immediately when the exit poll showed a hung parliament. Labour won also in some surprising places which need explaining. For instance, they took Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, the naval port, Canterbury, Tory since formation in 1918 and Shroud in Gloucestershire, all with huge swings approaching 10%. Reasons here seems to be relatively affluent voters who were remainers in the EU referendum fearing the consequence of May’s hard Brexit.

Both the Tory party and the Labour party and now in turmoil over Brexit. A strategy for a hard Brexit now seems to have been defeated and the soft Brexit may well have overwhelming support in the House of Commons. That means fundamentally retaining the single market. If Britain retains the single marker then it will become increasingly attractive to reject Brexit via a second referendum. If SNP’s hope of a second referendum are dealt a blow by this election the second EU referendum has been given the kiss of life, despite the marginalisation of the LibDems.

The Labour right are now marginalised in turmoil. They spent two years trying to oust Corbyn by saying he was unelectable. Now we know he is more electable than either Brown of Miliband or Blair in his last election. We face the prospect of another election within a year if not months.

May’s coalition partners: the DUP,  corrupt Loyalist bigots

May’s partners in government, the Irish Loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are by far the most right-wing, backward in social attitudes and bigoted in Parliament. Their cynical corruption in the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, the ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal. Only the latest of a series of appalling corruption scandals engulfing the DUP. The main concern of the UK government is to prevent exposure of all these scandals and the emergence of the political conclusion that this is an illegitimate state. The scandal was a supposed ‘green energy’ subsidy scheme which resulted in, for example, one supporter of the DUP getting a payment of £1 million simply for heating an empty barn. Some £490 million were or will be lost in this way.

It is impossible to conclude that this was a ‘mistake’ but Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, refused to resign as First Minister until Martin McGuinness, her deputy and leader of Sinn Fein resigned and forced the collapse and the new elections. Previous DUP First Minister, Peter Robinson, was continually mired in scandal after scandal. His wife, Iris, had an affair with a teenager and it was claimed he knew Iris got £50,000 from two developers for her lover in exchange for contracts. A police investigation found him innocent of all wrong doing, naturally. Then TD (south of Ireland member of parliament) Mick Wallace alleged he had benefited financially from the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) properties sale from corrupt speculators seized by the Irish government following the 2008 financial crisis. Allegedly payments were made to him and others from ‘US investor’ who mopped up the properties with their political assistance. Again, the missing millions were explained away by a less than rigorous inquiry. He eventually went in January 2016 amid all these scandals to be replaced by Arlene Foster, who was almost immediately embroiled in her own corruption scandal.

Such corruption could not happen in Britain itself and the guilty parties would surely face not only loss of office but a long prison stretch in Britain itself. But this is the illegitimate state of ‘Northern Ireland’ and the British parliament and Sinn Fein tolerate such behaviour, as do the Irish government in Dublin, to keep the status quo intact and retain the British occupation of Ireland. The DUP are homophobic, anti-abortion misogynists and Christian religious fundamentalists with strong historic and current links with loyalist death squads. Having mercilessly attacked Corbyn and McDonnell for allegedly supporting the IRA the hypocrisy of allying with these vile reactionaries to retain office is obvious. Moreover such an alliance is highly unstable and is bound to fall apart at the first serious test. This time we absolutely must defeat the right on the NEC, and secure open democratic reselection for all Labour candidates. The September Conference of Labour in Brighton is absolutely crucial to make advance there.

Grassroots Momentum

According to Glasgow Grassroots Momentum in Scotland where open rightist Blairites (e.g. in Renfrewshire East) stood the Labour vote went backwards but the pro-Corbyn left of the party made significant gains with two Campaign for Socialism members elected in Midlothian and Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill. But

“what is most encouraging is the clear sign of the beginning of a push back by a section of the youth and working class against both the Scottish and British nationalism of the SNP and Tories throughout Britain. Those of the Scottish left who called for a Labour vote in England and SNP vote in Scotland should be ashamed of themselves for helping keep out good socialist candidates like Matt Kerr in Glasgow South West. They can’t accept a resurgent Labour movement led by socialists as that would disprove the rubbish they’ve been peddling for decades. For these left nationalist leaders, the dustbin of history beckons – for the rank and file and the wider Scottish working class, join Labour and help us transform the party into a mass socialist party!”

they say. It is clear that Scotland is as bad as if not worse than the rest of Britain in the domination of the Blairite right.

It is critical now in the aftermath of this election to focus on the forces within Labour that can really begin the tasks to establish democracy within the party and the trade unions, so much tied up with the Labour party that they are opposite sides of the same coin politically. The TU bureaucracy is the bedrock of Blairism and an unreliable ally at best of Corbynism. John Lansman’s official Momentum is an obstacle to winning these goals, he has opposed deselection of the right-wing MPs who are vicious opponents of Corbyn, he has opposed any democratic structures within Labour and conducted an outrageous coup within Momentum itself, arbitrarily abolishing its structures and imposing a new constitution. And he was able to do this because he ‘owns’ Momentum as a private company, all the assets and income is his personally or belonging to his chosen stooges.  And Corbyn and McDonnell have endorsed this behaviour.

Only the Labour Representation Committee and Grass Roots Momentum have the necessary democratic structures seriously to engage in this task. Allied to this is Ian Allinson’s rank and file network in Unite the union which has the potential to supply the vital connection between the ranks to that trade union and the Labour party. Let us participate in a serious way in these organisations.

 

3 thoughts on “Class politics returns to Britain

  1. stephenrdiamond says:

    Did the Greek victory of SYRIZA advance class politics?

    Like

  2. No. Syriza is not a bourgeois workers party.

    Like

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