Editorial: Preparing for the post-Corbyn era

Just two months after the general election the simmering divisions within the Tory party that were quieted by the outcome of the December contest, bubbled back to the surface with Sajid Javid’s dramatic resignation as chancellor on February 13.

The immediate cause was Boris Johnson’s ultimatum that Javid’s advisors be sacked, echoing the conflict between Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, who resigned as chancellor in October 1989 just a year before her own mortal wounding by the mass anti-poll tax non-payment movement (in which the Socialist Party’s predecessor, Militant, played a critical role).

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Establishment parties hammered in Ireland election

The general election in Ireland saw a seismic change in the electoral landscape, with a big surge in support for Sinn Féin. Presenting itself as a radical, anti-establishment alternative, Sinn Féin was able to channel much of the voters’ anger, especially among the youth.

The party, which had its first TD (a member of the Dáil – the Irish parliament) elected in 1997, took 24.5% of the vote, winning 37 seats out of 160. Prime minister Leo Varadkar’s right-wing Fine Gael was pushed into third place on 20.9% (35 seats).

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Is the BBC worth saving?

At the end of January, the British Broadcasting Corporation announced the latest redundancies in its drive to ‘save’ £800 million between 2016 and 2022, following reductions to its licence fee income. Fresh lay-offs in news will exceed 500 as the division works towards its allotted £80 million share of the cuts. Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, called it “part of an existential threat to the BBC”.

The need to defend these jobs is not in question. Trade unions organising in the BBC must urgently discuss with members and propose industrial action to stop the cuts. But what of the institution itself? What is the real role of the Beeb – and the media under capitalism?

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Global Warning: Preparing for Glasgow’s COP26 jamboree

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, is to take place in Glasgow in November. This conference is seen by climate scientists and activists as critical to cutting carbon emissions and increasing investment in green renewable energy. These measures are essential if there is to be any chance of reversing catastrophic global warming.

But already it has blown up in political controversy. Former Tory energy minister Claire O’Neill, appointed to lead the summit, was sacked by Boris Johnson for questioning his commitment to tackling the climate crisis. She was punished for stating that the UK was way off target in cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

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Rebuilding fighting trade unionism

PETER TAAFFE reviews an important contribution by Britain’s most prominent trade union leader to the vital task of building a new generation of conscious class fighters for union rights and socialism.

Why You Should be a Trade Unionist

By Len McCluskey

Published by Verso, 2020, £7-99

It says everything about the current weakened state of the trade unions in Britain and worldwide that Len McCluskey in this powerful book argues effectively for workers today to join a trade union and use their collective power to carry through further victories. It is in part a history of working class endurance and tenacity, and also his own experience in fighting for trade unions. This was achieved through the many battles of the British working class in the never-ending struggles against capitalism for democratic and trade union rights.

He is the most prominent and influential left trade union leader in Britain today. It is a fascinating and instructive account of his own trade union and political journey in Liverpool and later as national leader of Britain’s biggest, and strongly militant, union Unite.

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Socialists debate identity politics

The relationship between fighting women’s oppression, identity politics, and the struggle for socialism is a feature of many debates in the workers’ movement internationally. Mistakes made on this question by the Irish Socialist Party were central to the division that took place in the Committee for a Workers’ International in 2019. In the wake of the Irish general election HANNAH SELL draws up a balance sheet.

In 2019 a major debate took place in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated. The debate resulted in a split in the CWI with some of its former supporters moving in a rightward opportunist direction.

One of the main triggers for the debate was the mistaken approach of the leadership of the Irish Socialist Party (then the CWI’s affiliate in Ireland) towards the fight against women’s oppression, and its relationship to the struggle for socialism. The debate on these issues has important lessons for the workers’ movement internationally, particularly in this period where identity, rather than class, is frequently put forward as the central divide in society by individuals and forces who claim to be on the left.

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Women and the early Labour Party

The critical role played by women activists in the formation and development of Britain’s labour and trade union movement is often overlooked. CHRISTINE THOMAS reviews a recent book that aims to redress the balance.

The Women in the Room: Labour’s forgotten history

By Nan Sloane

Published by IB Tauris, 2018, £20

Labour’s general election defeat raises questions about the future of Corbynism and by what means a genuine workers’ party might take shape in the future in Britain. In that context, The Women in the Room is an interesting read. It is fundamentally a brief history of the foundation of the Labour Party and its early years (up to the end of the first world war), but with a difference: making visible the participation of women. In weaving together the three main strands of trade unionism, political representation and women’s suffrage, it shows that identity politics is by no means a modern phenomenon and intense debates over the relationship between class and identity were being waged from the very beginning of Labour’s history. 

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The rise and fall of council housing

Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing

By John Boughton

Published by Verso, 2019, £9-99

Reviewed by Niall Mulholland

From 1945 to 1981, over five million council homes were built in Britain. This is celebrated by John Boughton in Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing. “Historically, councils have made an enormous contribution to meeting our housing needs and in doing so, they have transformed the lives of many millions for the better. Not every home was a ‘Buckingham Palace’ to its new residents, though many were, but to nearly all those who lived in them council housing provided a decent and secure home”.

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The age of electoral volatility

Electoral Shocks: the volatile voter in a turbulent world

By Edward Fieldhouse, Jane Green et al

Published by Oxford University Press, 2019, £25

Reviewed by Clive Heemskerk

December’s general election outcome produced a flurry of capitalist media commentary hailing a new era of prolonged Tory rule and the possibly terminal demise of the Labour Party.

The Blairite Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland was just one among many when he wrote of “Labour’s worst election performance since the 1930s… that broke new records for failure” (14 December), in order to feed the narrative – promoted in the immediate aftermath of the result by Tony Blair himself – that, unless ‘Corbynism was ditched’, Labour would be finished.

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Editorial: After The Defeat

 

The decisive majority for Boris Johnson in December’s general election represents a turning point in Britain, all the consequences of which have yet to fully work themselves out. The British capitalist class still looks upon 2020 with trepidation. For them 2019 was a nightmare – with economic stagnation, a deadlocked and unpopular parliament, the risk of a chaotic Brexit, and above all the fear of the consequences of a Corbyn-led government. The fact that the Supreme Court intervened directly in politics – against a Tory prime minister – was a clear indication of the pitch of the crisis. The serious strategists of capitalism are now hoping that the election outcome will provide their class with some temporary stability or at least a breathing space. But even if this momentarily appears to be so, none of the underlying problems have been resolved and new crises will be posed in short order, which the capitalist class will not be able to trust Johnson to reliably deal with in their best interests. 

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