Class Politics returns to BritainLeave a comment
16/08/2018 by socialistfight
The widely proclaimed return of two-party politics in the 2017 UK general 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. 49.4% in 1959 and 49.7% in 1955 are the Tory post war highs. Labour’s at 40.2% was its highest since 2001 and biggest number of votes since 1997. Its highest post war was 1951 at 48.8%. Their share in 1945 was 47.8% and in 1966 it was 47.9%. 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: L: 13,518,167, C: 9,600,943
2001: L: 10,724,953, C: 8,357,615
2005: L: 9,552,436, C: 8,784,915
2010: L: 8,606,527, C: 10,703,754
2015: L: 9,347,304, C: 11,334,576
2017: L: 12,874,985, C: 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 was 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 percent, 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. For the same reason 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.
The figures suggest that the Labour vote for Remain held even in the North, where their core vote was already under pressure from UKIP. This is borne out by post a Referendum poll by Lord Ashcroft.
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. A Tory landslide would have been a disaster for the working class. A Labour victory would have 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 second and third elections. 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 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.
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.
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 objective reasons for WWI and WWII and the logic is in play again ever sharper.
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, guided by the trade union bureaucracy, 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 when it invaded China 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.
Who voted Labour?
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 signed 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.
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.
The non-domestic element of the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme was described as “cash for ash” or “the more you burn the more you earn”.
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 Liverpool is absolutely crucial to make advance there.
Both Tory and Labour split over Brexit – likely scenarios and perspectives
The divisions in the Tory party over Brexit look increasingly unresolvable, despite to long tradition of the Tory party for avoiding splits. Boris Johnson’s pitch for leadership by defending his Islamophobic statements may push this matter to a conclusion. Both main wings of the British ruling class, the finance capitalists in the City of London and the industrial capitalists are opposed to Brexit, with only minor opposition. Hence it is plain that Johnson is prepared to inflict short to medium term pain on capitalism itself in order to mobilise the far right to smash the workers’ organisations; the trade unions, the political parties of the far centrist and revolutionary left but principally the Labour party today. The one nation Tories, in the tradition of Ted Heath, regard this scenario with horror and many have now indicated not only will they will not serve under Johnson, but they will resign from the Tory party if he becomes leader. It is impossible to see how they will hold together beyond the end of the year on March or next year, when Brexit must be implemented.
Labour is in a similar bind, though this is now hidden by the third coup offensive against Corbyn, this time explicitly on anti-semetism, which we will deal with later. This is compounded by the fact that the majority to MP are still Blairites and committed to the European Union on a purely capitalist/imperialist basis, in the Blairite tradition. There is a left remain position for Europe which we will examine later.
A report in the Daily Star on 7 August claimed there was a group of Labour MPs plotting against Corbyn:
“The group – which is said to include Chukka Umunna, Liz Kendall and Stephen Kinnock – have been plotting to wrestle back control from Corbyn.”
The report claims that the MPs have even been discussing plans for new party, or a scheme to block Corbyn from becoming PM even if Labour wins the next General Election and again raised the prospect of a new centre party, including Tory MPs who are pro-Remain and the Liberal Democrats. The Star goes on to quote another attendee as saying:
“As things stand Labour could win the next election simply because the Tories have made such a mess over Brexit and look so incompetent. If that happens we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within parliament or a new party. There are [Remainer] Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit. The issue would be then whether we would have time to create a proper identity before an election or if there would need to be an election soon after. In that sense it is complicated.”
If Corbyn wins a majority and a substantial number of his MPs are pro-European Blairites than they have indicated to him now via the Daily Star that they will bring him down by refusing to vote for him as Prime Minister. No stronger argument could be posed for the mandatory reselection of all Labour MPs. And this now poses a very serious question; how can we make the case for left remain? We will deal with this later.