Organise, strike, resist, to fight for Corbyn’s policies

The 2017 general election created another opportunity to carry through the transformation of Labour into a mass working class party fighting for socialist change. The following article by HANNAH SELL was published in the immediate post-election edition of The Socialist, issue No.952, 14 June 2017.

Theresa May’s failed election gamble is a nightmare for the capitalist class in Britain. Seven weeks ago most of Britain’s elite were hopeful that May would succeed in dramatically increasing the number of Tory MPs, thereby buttressing her government to be able to weather the storms of economic crisis, to carry out vicious austerity against the majority in society, and to implement a Brexit in the interests of the 1%.

Instead she is now a ‘dead prime minister walking’, only able to temporarily cling to power by leaning on the reactionary, sectarian Democratic Unionist (DUP) MPs, describing them as her ‘friends’ on the steps of Downing Street.

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The left unions and the Labour affiliation debate

After the general election a new debate opened on how the left-led trade unions should act to transform the Labour Party. This article by CLIVE HEEMSKERK was first published in The Socialist, issue No.956, 12 July 2017.

In a significant development for the whole labour movement, the recent annual general meeting (conference) of the RMT transport workers’ union agreed to open a branch consultation on re-affiliation to the Labour Party. A special general meeting will be organised subsequently to discuss the results.

An RMT predecessor union was one of Labour’s principal founding organisations in 1900, as the larger unions initially maintained their support for the capitalist Liberal Party. Expelled over a hundred years later in 2004, the union continued to fight for a political voice for working class voters, effectively disenfranchised by the transformation of Labour into Blairite New Labour.

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Vultures circle but Corbyn insurgency can still be saved

Re-grouping after the general election, the right renewed their destabilisation campaign against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The following Socialism Today editorial was published in the September 2018 edition, issue No.221.

Jeremy Corbyn’s insurgent Labour Party leadership election campaign in the summer of 2015 raised the hopes and expectations of millions of workers and young people, not just in Britain but internationally.

The late Michael Meacher MP, one of the handful in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) backing Corbyn, spoke at the time of “the biggest non-revolutionary upturning of the social order in modern British politics”. The enthusiasm for Corbyn’s anti-austerity challenge, he said, was a product of mass discontent with “20 years of swashbuckling capitalism”.

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Warning lights flashing for Corbynism

The 2019 local elections saw Labour suffer a net loss of councillors. The editorial from the June 2019 edition of Socialism Today, issue No.229, was published just before the further warning sign of the 2019 European elections.

The promise of the Corbyn insurgency that began in 2015 is in danger. The triumph of the left-wing backbench outsider in the Labour leadership election four years ago opened up the prospect of overturning Tony Blair’s 1990s transmutation of the Labour Party into New Labour. By qualitatively changing Labour from a ‘capitalist workers’ party’ working-class political representation had effectively been eliminated as a mass force for over two decades. Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected victory was a bridgehead from which, potentially, this process could be reversed and workers achieve a mass party of their own.

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Brexit: no unity with capitalist politicians

By summer 2019 Theresa May had fallen, but the Labour right were blocking a no confidence motion in the new Johnson government. The following Socialism Today editorial was published in the October 2019 edition, No.232.

Have the September shenanigans in Westminster fatally undermined the chances of a Corbyn-led government being elected this autumn? And, as pertinently, what do they say about the character of such a government if it were to come to power in the midst of the political crisis and looming economic turbulence now confronting British capitalism?

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Stand firm for socialist policies to stop Tory attacks

The 2019 general election was held on December 12. The following article is the text of the special supplement of The Socialist, issue 1067(1), produced as the results came in and printed and distributed on 13 December 2019.

The Tories have won a substantial parliamentary majority. Boris Johnson’s victory speech talked about being a ‘one-nation Conservative’ and promised increased spending on the NHS. This is a lie. When Maggie Thatcher won in 1979 she quoted Frances of Assisi, promising to bring harmony and hope to Britain.

Instead, she ruled ruthlessly and attacked the working class. Johnson will do the same and rule not for the ‘whole nation’ but the billionaires. His manifesto promised an immediate assault on the rights of rail workers to strike. This, combined with the recent brutal anti-democratic court rulings against the postal workers’ union, the CWU, gives a glimpse of the attacks on workers’ rights to come.

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The special Covid crisis of British capitalism

Britain could well end up with the highest Covid death rate in Europe, fuelling the accumulating anger at the government’s handling of the crisis. While the union tops have largely vacated the field and Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership election was a victory for the capitalist establishment, that anger will find an outlet in a society being turned upside down by the crisis. HANNAH SELL writes.

On the surface Britain’s government did not seem the worst prepared for the corona pandemic. Prime minister Boris Johnson had led the Tories to election victory just three months earlier with the biggest parliamentary majority for the Conservative Party since 1987. In 2019 Britain had been found to be the second best prepared for a pandemic of 190 countries, beaten only by the US. As the pandemic has developed, however, while no government has taken the necessary measures to fully defend the working class from its effects, Britain has had one of the most ineffectual responses of the major capitalist powers.

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Saboteurs at the heart of Labour’s apparatus

An internal Labour Party report, leaked to the British media over the Easter weekend in April, has detailed sabotage by senior party officials of the attempts by former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to radicalise Labour policies. It accuses senior party officials of working for Labour’s defeat in the 2017 general election.

The report, a mammoth 851 pages long, is entitled ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019’. It quotes from transcripts of thousands of emails and WhatsApp discussions between Labour’s senior officials, particularly in the 2015-2018 era before the appointment of the current general secretary, Jennie Formby.

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Beefing up the state

What role will the state play in the post-pandemic world? That question is posed by the economic measures, but also by the major powers granted in the new coronavirus laws.

Behind the ‘all in it together’ national unity line, capitalist governments world-wide are beefing up their powers to deal with the increased class struggle that is widely predicted. As IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath put it: “If the crisis is badly managed and it’s viewed as having been insufficient to help people, you could end up with social unrest”. There is no if about it.

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New Labour’s real NHS legacy

Despite the heroic efforts of healthworkers the NHS has been ill-prepared to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. But the roots of this lie in years of neo-liberal policies, including the marketisation drive of the New Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, argues JON DALE.

Ten years of ConDem coalition and Tory austerity left the NHS ill-prepared for the sudden huge increase in very ill patients suffering from Covid-19. Over 100,000 unfilled staff posts (one in twelve), 17,000 fewer beds to their lowest level ever, equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles run down – these resulted from annual 1% funding increases when 4% was needed just to stand still.

Financial cuts were aggravated by years of upheaval following Tory Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act (2012). This caused such disruption to services that even his successor, Jeremy Hunt, was forced to row back on some of its measures. Lansley wanted NHS services provided by ‘any willing provider’ – private companies who would tender to win contracts. In a dire financial situation the lowest tenders were always likely to be picked, whatever the price in terms of quality. The drive towards privatisation has weakened NHS capacity to respond to Covid-19’s challenge.

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