08/11/2019 by Ian
SF Statement on 2019 General Election
We in the Socialist Fight Group call for a Labour vote in this election. We encourage all socialists, all working class people, all those involved in the movements against climate breakdown, against racism and for women’s equality, those fighting all kinds of oppression, to support the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. Labour’s contradictory nature as a bourgeois workers party is dramatically on show in this election – it is a party created by the working-class movement but dominated by a pro-capitalist labour bureaucracy. All talk is of a considerably more radical manifesto than the one that drove Labour’s 2017 campaign, which against apparently overwhelming odds deprived the Tories of their overall majority from 2015 and produced the current hung parliament.
The election is overshadowed by Brexit, and the attempt of the corrupt, reactionary Trump-like demagogue Johnson to force through a no-deal Brexit through his illegal prorogation, and then trying to whip- up a confrontation between the leave-voting part of the population and parliamentary ‘obstructionists’ with their ‘Surrender Act ’ (the Benn Act which forced Johnson to request the current 31 Jan 2020 extension to the Brexit deadline).
Johnson’s demagogy may well be a potent force in this election; he would like to do to Corbyn what Thatcher did to Michael Foot in the 1983 General Election when she won by a landslide after Labour supported her reactionary 1982 imperialist war against Argentina; the resulting wave of reactionary chauvinism swept Labour to a landslide defeat. Johnson fantasises that his English nationalist demagogy will do the same for him.
But this is not a sure-fire winner. Brexit, far from uniting the UK in wave of national unity and jingoism, has brought about a situation where both sides of the argument have been radicalised. Thugs on the Leave side have threatened MP’s and other public figures from the Remain side with violence, evoking the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox during the 2016 referendum campaign by a pro-Brexit fascist.
But the huge demonstrations against Brexit, the size of which have sometimes rivalled the demonstrations against the Iraq war, show that far from uniting the population, Brexit has divided it, with huge numbers of young people in particular outraged at racism and being deprived of EU citizenship. It’s quite conceivable that in the event of serious violence from far right nationalists around a second referendum, for example, some remainers could reply in kind. And not just with milkshakes, as one wag alluded to earlier in the year to considerable whinging from Brexit ‘snowflakes’.
Brexit cannot be separated from the transformation of the Conservative Party into a dysfunctional formation from the point of view of the main sectors of capital; its leadership being chosen now by the assortment of racist cranks, semi-fascists and other petty-bourgeois imperial nostalgics who are the remnants of the Tory party’s once massive membership. It was this layer in the Tories and their UKIP/Brexit Party splinter, not the old Bennite left, who led Brexit, though there are quite a few Bennite nostalgics around who fantasise that there is a left silver lining in Farage’s Brexit project, with Galloway drawing the logical conclusion in backing Farage in the Euro-Elections while others flinch in embarrassment. The dysfunction of the Tory party has provided the equally bourgeois Lib Dems with their best strategic opportunity for a century.
The damage of Brexit to the unity of the working class was done by a corrupt referendum orchestrated by the Murdocracy dancing to the tune – or perhaps paying the piper — of the Farage-Tory clique. It can only be undone by another properly regulated referendum about the concrete choices available to actually implement Brexit (or not).
Labour is the only party promising such a referendum, though Corbyn himself proposed a soft-Brexit preserving a customs union with the EU, which was already informally offered in principle to him by the EU last year during his talks with May after the collapse of her own deal. This will be put to the voters as a concrete choice along with remaining in the EU if Labour win. As internationalists who seek a pan-European working class movement against capitalism and neo-liberalism, we seek to junk the reactionary little England Brexit project in its entirety, and this may be a way to do that.
Johnson’s own deal, only cobbled together after the Benn Act legally prevented a No Deal Brexit, was secured by the novel method of dropping one of Theresa May’s ‘red lines’ — the one that secured her Bloc with the DUP — the refusal of a customs border in the Irish sea. Johnson, in the interests of his billionaire sponsors’ hard Brexit project to impose a new 1980s Thatcherite shock-treatment on the British working class, stabbed the DUP in the back, once they were no longer useful in terms of House of Commons votes to give him a majority after he expelled the leading Tory remainers. Defeating his shock-treatment Trump-deal Brexit, with its potent threat to the NHS, is a vital interest of the working class.
It is likely that Labour’s manifesto will be more radical than 2017, though it is not clear exactly what will finally find its way into the manifesto. It is likely however that it will fall short of abolishing all the anti-union laws passed since 1979, and will just target the more recent ones passed by the Tories and Lib Dems. Will it include abolishing the ‘right to buy’ alongside the mooted massive expansion of council housing that is desperately necessary? Maybe, maybe not.
Likewise it is almost certain that it will not include all of the radical anti-racist policies passed by conference, to extend the right of free movement to non-EU people, to extend voting rights to all residents, etc, though some of it, particularly the latter demand, are mooted for the manifesto. The demands for renationalising the NHS entirely, for a national care service, for a national education service, for an end to student fees and a reinstatement of grants, etc, are all virtually certain. And no doubt more. There will be a complete ban on fracking, which the government has already been pushed to declare a temporary moratorium on, purely for short-term electoral purposes of course. And there may be many more nationalisations in this manifesto than in the previous one. We will analyse this when it is published.
Then there is the promise of a ‘Green New Deal. The large-scale creation of jobs to transform the fossil-fuel-based capitalist economy to renewables, which would have to be done on a massive scale through economic planning on an international scale to be really effective. This more than anything necessitates workers power and the end of capitalism, though obviously we critically support any measures of a left-reformist government that point in that direction. It will be nowhere near enough, but it could be a starting point to go much further.
One large problem with Corbyn and the Labour left is the failure to take a consistently internationalist position on Brexit. There is actually no ground whatsoever to support British separation from the EU; it is not in working class interests to bloc with little-England imperialist nostalgics and revanchists against British membership. British capitalism is in no way more democratic or less exploitative outside the EU and leaving breaks up a political space in which a Europe-wide working class movement must sooner or later take root.
However, key class issues are posed by the election campaign of the Corbyn-led Labour Party, for all its reformism and parliamentarism, for all its weakness and failure to combat the counteroffensive of the Blairite right on key questions, including the witchhunt against anyone dissenting from imperialist-supported Zionist racism, to which it has grovelled and even purged its best people, most prominently Chris Williamson.
The election of a Corbyn government, if it comes about, will only renew the struggle on a different level as the bourgeoisie will move might and main, using the Blairites and ex-Blairites in the party, to bring the new government to heel. However, it would also massively strengthen the left, both in the party and in society generally, and set the scene for class conflict and social struggle on a much expanded scale. Anything could happen, from military treason against the government to massive strike waves to take back the losses of forty years of Thatcherism. Or both.
Despite all Corbyn’s capitulations, his election would be a major political blow against neoliberalism, against racism, against austerity, and against all the attacks on the working class. Not least it would be a blow against Zionism, which plays a key role today in world reaction, despite his capitulations to the witchhunt. The potential is there for an upset to dwarf what happened in 2017, which in reality thwarted the Tory Brexit spearhead and blunted it until now. We must strain all sinews to secure Corbyn’s election to put his leadership, and that of left-wing British social democracy, to its stiffest test in front of the entire working class.