Statement by Marxist World Editorial Board
In an almost unprecedented turn of events, yesterday Tory Prime Minister May called a snap general for Thursday 8 June, breaking her previous promise of not holding one until the end of the full parliamentary term in 2020.
Speculation is rife around the reasoning behind this, but it seems that the ongoing investigations into Tory election fraud from overspending in the 2015 General Election and the strong possibility of losing their wafer-thin majority of 11 MPs in parliament was the trigger. By calling the general election, they hope to effectively smother any attempts by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to take any action against the Conservative Party and their MPs.
The Tories are in trouble and many are now jumping ship, including former chancellor George Osbourne. It seems that the divisions between the ‘liberal’ pro-EU wing and the jingoist little-Englander wing are coming to the surface after the brief Brexit honeymoon of Theresa May.
Another aspect is that the election presents the Tories (and the right-wing of the Labour Party, i.e. the main representatives of the ruling class) an opportunity to force Corbyn to resign should Labour do badly. Given that the right-wing of Labour have tried (and failed) on multiple occasions to oust Corbyn, perhaps the ruling class have gone for a change of tack. They are hoping that the polls putting the Tories in the lead with 17 points are accurate. But the polls have been proved wrong in recent times on several occasions. This is because they are based on outdated statistical models that weights the electorate’s propensity to vote on the basis of a number of assumptions made by the modelers. Those assumptions might have held true in the past, but as the political aftershock from the 2008 capitalist crisis has been felt in recent years, those assumptions no longer hold. Although working class people and those on low incomes are statistically less likely to vote than the wealthy, Corbyn has drawn support from precisely this demographic, in the same way that Brexit motivated the dispossessed to vote against the establishment.
Can Corbyn do it?
Following Brexit, UKIP are in meltdown as many voters see the job done of holding the referendum and leaving the EU. Many UKIP voters will ‘return’ to voting either Labour or Tory. The Lib Dems are posing as the anti-Brexit party, which will likely do more damage to the Tories than to Labour. They will draw support from those sections of the middle class who were happy with the Tory status quo but who have been paralysed in a collective breakdown since the EU referendum in June 2016.
But we all know the Lib Dems offer no progressive alternative. They have gone into coalition with the Tories before and they’ll do it again. Back in December 2016, even after the EU referendum, Tim Farron refused to rule out going into coalition with the Tories and described Corbyn as ‘toxic’, claiming that ‘any serious politician who rules out going into power isn’t a serious politician’. In another radio interview only yesterday, he repeated the same platitudes. Thus there can be no question on tactical voting – a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories. The only principled class vote can be for Labour.
Corbyn faces an uphill struggle, against his own Party MPs who are sabotaging him at every step, the capitalist establishment and the billionaire-owned media. It also has to be said that the Left have failed to collectively organise coherently to push for real structural change within Labour which would shift power towards the membership. The compromising ‘softly softly’ approach of the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership towards the Blairite traitors has backfired and has only strengthened the right-wing. The only organised faction of the Left that could have vigorously pushed for grassroots reform, such as mandatory reselection, within Labour is Momentum, but since Jon Lansman’s coup they have uncritically towed the Corbyn/McDonnell party line of compromise.
But despite all this, Corbyn has at his disposal an important weapon that no other party in the whole of Europe has: over half a million members. Labour gained 2,500 members only yesterday! It’s also clear that the hundreds of thousands who have joined Labour over the last two years have done so purely to support Corbyn. And whilst those members may not have been entirely motivated to come to branch meetings or even canvass in the local elections, they will surely come out in droves to support their man.
We only have to look across the channel to France, where the left-reformist Mélenchon has gone from relative obscurity to rivalling Le Pen in the polls for the Presidential Elections. He was given a big boost following a successful televised debate. Contrast this with Theresa May who is refusing to participate in any television debates – clearly she did not call the snap election from a position of strength!
Mélenchon’s popular left policies include a four day week, raising the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the rich, leaving NATO and floating the possibility of leaving the EU. The first round of the presidential election is set to be held on 23 April. Should no candidate win a majority, a run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on 7 May. A victory for Mélenchon would give an indirect boost to Corbyn’s campaign because it would show that class-based reforms are popular and electable.
Yesterday, a record 150,000 people registered to vote. Every person and their dog knows this is crunch time for Corbyn. If Corbyn goes, the whole project is over, and likely so is Labour as any kind of vehicle for working class interests. What would come after this we can only speculate, but let’s be clear – a defeat for Corbyn’s Labour on 8 June would be a defeat for the whole working class and a huge setback for the revolutionary Left.
No time for sectarianism
Organisations like the Revolutionary Communist Group, a third period Stalinist sect, who declare they will ‘fight… the Labour Party and its apologists’ with catchy slogans like ‘DON’T VOTE, ORGANISE!’ show their utter bankruptcy and failure to engage in Marxist praxis. If they believe the masses will flock to the banner of the RCG and communist revolution following the defeat of Corbyn, they are sadly mistaken. They should perhaps heed Marx’s advice:
The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement (Marx 1848).
Other groups like the Socialist Party claim to support Corbyn and yet continue to stand candidates against Labour. They have made no effort amongst its members to join Labour, other than a token petition to save face. If the Socialist Party claim to support Corbyn, will they go out and canvass for a Labour vote for 8 June? That is the concrete question staring in the face of all sectarians of various shades.
Of course, if there were a mass or semi-mass centrist or revolutionary Marxist organisation, the context and the question posed would be completely different. It is due to the failure of the Marxist Left over the past two decades, when conditions were not favourable for work in the Labour Party, that no attempt was made to build a united revolutionary Marxist organisation. Instead, the various far-left groups either retreated into sectarian isolation or took part in various reformist projects such as the Socialist Labour Party, Socialist Alliance, Respect and of course TUSC.
Had the far-left united to build such a party during the New Labour era of ‘capitalism with a human face’ on the basis of a clear revolutionary programme with genuine roots in the working class, there would have been a legitimate case for backing it during an election, despite knowing that its votes would be squeezed by a Corbyn-led Labour Party.
Instead, all that exists to the left of Labour is TUSC, which is now in terminal decline following poor electoral results and, more recently, the SWP’s departure. The RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union) are also edging away from TUSC, with many branches voting to abandon the project in the wake of Corbyn. In effect, TUSC is now just a front for the Socialist Party, who in turn refuse to call for a Corbyn Labour vote. Why support a tiny reformist project when there is a mass reformist project to support in the form of Corbyn’s Labour Party? Only the existence of a credible revolutionary party with social weight would offer a qualitatively different alternative.
Vote Labour without illusions in England and Wales
Marxist World calls for an unconditional vote for Labour in England and Wales, without illusions. Unconditional means a vote for the Labour candidate regardless of whether they are Blairite, Corbynista or the devil himself – a vote for Labour is a vote for a Corbyn reformist government. At the same time, we do not promote illusions that a Corbyn government will be able to achieve all of its modest aims.
We do, however, appreciate the situation in Scotland is different to that of England and Wales. Unfortunately, Labour does not support the right of Scotland to independence, which led the Scottish National Party to wipe them out at the last election. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has said that she would not support a Tory coalition government, implying a potential alliance of sorts with Labour in the event of a Labour minority government after 8 June.
Marxist World cannot advocate a vote for the radical bourgeois SNP, yet nor can we deny the Scottish people’s right to independence which is supported by the majority of the Scottish working class at present. We would therefore encourage a vote for any party in Scotland that puts across an independent, socialist class position and simultaneously supports Scottish self-determination.
Economic and political crisis
The crisis of global capitalism and the falling rate of profit mean that implementing promised reforms such as a £10/hour minimum wage, free school meals for all primary school children and a fully funded and public NHS will face the wrath of the capitalist class, who would face the prospect of financing these reforms out of taxation. In such a situation, many businesses would threaten to leave the country and attempt to hold the working class to ransom through inflation and unemployment.
In the past, previous Labour governments were formally committed to making progressive reforms, with the majority of reformists, either of the left or right wing, in acceptance of them. When confronted with the limitations of the capitalist market, the difference between the two wings was that the right-reformists would give up without a fight and immediately capitulate to the capitalists’ demands, whilst the left-reformists were at least prepared to mobilise the working class in order to exert pressure on the ruling class which could allow them to squeeze a few more concessions, before ultimately giving up as well.
However, such is the political degeneration of the bulk of today’s Parliamentary Labour Party and their complete material and ideological commitment to neoliberal capitalism, many would simply point-blank refuse to support Corbyn’s modest reforms, either by voting with the Tories on all relevant policies or even going as far to formally break from the Labour Party and form their own “progressive” party, perhaps joining up with the Lib Dems in the process as Tony Blair has already hinted at. In fact it seems that ‘Labour’ Blair will actually campaign for the Lib Dems!
No amount of pressure will compel the bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party to implement Corbyn’s programme as they have utterly broken from any pretence of supporting the workers’ movement. Instead, in the wake of a Labour victory, the focus of Marxists must be on mobilising the working class and the Labour grassroots membership for a socialist programme independently of parliamentary government. Therefore, our call to vote Labour is primarily about exposing them and the real class character of the Parliamentary Labour Party before the eyes of the working class.
Through our website and journals, supporters of Marxist World have put across a number of critiques highlighting the limits of reformism and ‘anti-austerity’ policies, along with other more modern trends such as ‘postcapitalism’. Our upcoming summer issue of the journal will develop these points, including a piece outlining how a democratically planned socialist economy could work, in opposition to the various shades of reformism offered by Corbyn and the bulk of the Labour Left.
What is clear for Marxists is that remaining within the structure and logic of the capitalist system, where profit is the sole motive for businesses to do anything, is a dead-end. The only way to break the rule of this minority exploiting class is to organise the majority, the working class, into a mass revolutionary organisation, armed with a programme to expropriate the property and wealth of the capitalists and establish workers’ control of the production and distribution of goods. Local councils and organising committees would be set up across the country to facilitate this and bring democracy to the grassroots level.
Such a revolutionary process will not happen in a straight line. But a Corbyn government would strengthen the movement in the sense that it would lead to generalised class struggle across the country, helping to prepare the workers’ movement with the necessary insight, tactics and strategies needed to fight for socialist revolution. Comrades, let us rally for a Corbyn victory on 8 June and prepare for major class struggle, whatever the result. We have a world to win!