Despite the attempts of the Blairites to undermine and discredit his campaign, Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership election. Whatever happens next, this is a major turning point for British politics, and shows that left-wing ideas are popular amongst the wider population, especially young people. Stopping public spending cuts, job creation, a higher minimum wage and nationalisation of the public utilities are policies broadly supported by the public.
Corbyn’s victory was enabled by the election reforms introduced in 2013 by Ed Miliband, which allowed literally hundreds of thousands of non-Labour Party members to register as supporters of the Party for £3 and obtain the ability to vote in the leadership election. Ironically, this was introduced as a method to dilute the left-wing vote from within the Party and Trade Unions by bringing in the supposedly more “moderate” voice of the public!
Will Corbyn Compromise?
Some on the Left are hoping that the nice, mild-mannered gentleman Corbyn is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who will immediately embark on a civil war against the right-wing (that is, the majority) of the Parliamentary Party. However, there are no guarantees. For example, Corbyn has remained a Labour MP for the last 32 years, and did not leave the Labour Party on principle like many others, such as over the Iraq war. He has already indicated that he will work with Blairites, and in many ways will have to if he wants to have a full shadow cabinet. He has dropped his previously anti-EU position for one in favour of a reformed EU. In the last major televised debate on Sky, he did not mention the nationalisation of the public utilities once. It is also not clear what his position is on Labour councillors carrying out cuts on behalf of the Tory government is.
Nevertheless, Corbyn may be planning an attack on the right-wing of the party, which we would support, but its success depends on articulating a clear socialist programme based on workers’ democracy, ownership and control of the major corporations, and winning support for such a programme inside and outside the Labour Party.
From TUSC to Husk
In the wake of Corbyn-mania, the Socialist Party’s electoral front, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coaliton (TUSC), faces a precarious future. TUSC was built as a Labour Party mk 2 on the basis that the original Labour Party had abandoned reformism.
As part of the “dual strategy” of the CWI of building a reformist party and a revolutionary (ahem) party simultaneously, the Socialist Party created TUSC in anticipation of “left” Trade Unions (such as Unite the Union led by Socialist Party-backed Len McCluskey, who in turn backed Andy Burnham for Labour leadership) disaffiliating from Labour and looking for a new Keynesian-reformist home. In order to appeal to the Trade Union bureaucrats, TUSC mirrored the Keynesian “anti-austerity” policies the Unions had, on the basis that a nicer, non-austerity capitalism was possible. In doing so, the Socialist Party abandoned any pretence of Marxism and went over to the reformist “anti-austerity” camp – along with the likes of the Scottish National Party, the Green Party, and now Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
TUSC have no way of differentiating themselves from the huge variety of reformist trends other than declaring themselves to be genuinely “100%” anti-austerity (as opposed to, say, 80%?). It doesn’t take an expert in dialectics to realise that quantity has not turned into quality. Being more “anti-austerity” does not make one a socialist, however well-intended one may be. It simply paves the way for de facto support for left-bourgeois formations. Socialist Alternative (the CWI in the US) are doing the same thing in an even worse context in relation to Democrat Bernie Sanders.
On social media, many TUSC supporters are uncritically backing Corbyn and will ditch TUSC very quickly, given there is no fundamental difference in programme. TUSC, which has only had limited support beyond the Socialist Party, will become an empty husk. Whilst the Socialist Party leadership are correct to point out that “[i]f Jeremy Corbyn wins it will be a big step forward in the battle against austerity”, we do not think this automatically implies the progression to a “battle against … capitalism” (http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/7328). Only the conscious intervention of socialists with a Marxist programme can point the way to fundamentally challenge capitalism.
The obsession with “anti-austerity” does not distinguish the Socialist Party from other Left groups and unforgivably sows illusions in the idea that Corbyn’s “anti-austerity” position by itself can solve the social and economic problems that working class people face. For example, Corbyn’s notion of a national investment bank to invest in public works is a positive development and raises the idea of society-wide economic planning, but by itself is completely insufficient and would ultimately not succeed in the long-term. This is because a state bank would operate according to the same laws as the capitalist money markets, and so would be susceptible to pressures from Credit Ratings agencies, currency exchange rates and speculative crashes. Even China has showed that state-ownership in itself cannot overcome these problems – the Chinese banks and corporations continue to operate as capital, within the capitalist system. We will be developing our critique of Corbynomics over the next few weeks.
Corbyn’s victory has rattled the ruling class, and has put socialistic ideas back into the mainsteam. Marxist World will support all steps that Corbyn takes against the Blairite wing of the Labour Party and attempts to re-democratise the Labour Party structures. We also encourage socialists and supporters of Corbyn to consider our critiques of past and future trends that we have developed. We believe that only through a Marxist analysis and programme can the crisis of world capitalism be overcome. A new chapter for the Left in this country is beginning and we encourage all those interested to get involved and help build the forces of Marxism.