By Aneurin Delmas
On the evening of Monday 27th June between 5pm and 8pm, myself and several thousand people assembled in Parliament Square for what may well turn out to be one of the more significant events of the week with regards to the workers’ movement. I have heard one optimistic attendee claim that over 15,000 people were present, and the Daily Mail, whilst true by technicality, gave the conservative figure of more than 1,000. I think the figure quoted by most of between 9,000-10,000 is probably correct, though it became hard to tell at various points as more people drifted in over the course of the evening.
I am talking, of course, about the Support for Corbyn Rally. In the wake of the blatantly staged Blairite coup attempt, and we must stress it is merely an attempt at this stage, that a rally called at barely a day or twos notice can attract such a large following from up and down the country is hugely significant. It has been said by others but it bears repeating: it is hard to imagine Hilary Benn or any of his allies being able to pull that kind of crowd in support of them with weeks to prepare, let alone 3 days.
The atmosphere of those assembled was angry but festive, jubilant even; a movement ready to fight and confident enough of its own strength not to be unduly worried by the battle to come (for example, everyone was expecting the result announced yesterday that the vote of no confidence would be lost by Corbynite leadership). It was also a crowd more than interested in serious discussions about how to drive the movement forward. Copies of the Marxist World journal were being actively requested, in particular by young people, and we were also asked about the Capital reading groups that Marxist World are setting up.
At around 7pm Dennis Skinner arrived, fresh from flicking the V’s at rebellious Labour MPs, to give one of his famous speeches. Also, there was the other Corbynite stalwart in the Shadow Cabinet, Dianne Abbot. Though I was unable to catch most of what she said, the crowd certainly seemed receptive, greeting it with cheers.
After this, John McDonnell came out to give a speech where, in no uncertain terms, he declared that Corbyn would not stand down as Labour Leader. This was greeted by great cheers from the crowd, and not long after that the embattled leader himself made his presence known. It was hard to catch again exactly what he said as the crowd rarely gave him longer than a sentence before erupting in to cheers, but what I caught was the standard fare that he has peddled all along. He seemed to be more psyched up for the fight ahead and certainly more charismatic than when I first saw him speak on the same spot a year ago. Not long after this the demo began to disperse and the last groups remaining were interviewed by Russia Today and New Zealand News with the final group of workers ‘Latin Americans for Corbyn’ leaving when this was finished.
Revolutionary Marxists in the Labour movement must take an unconditional but not uncritical support for the embattled Corbynite leadership. Why support Corbyn, some people ask, when in this journal alone we have critiqued his economics and argued that social democracy cannot solve the problems of the working class in the long run?
The reason is because a defeat for Corbyn at the hands of the Blairite right-wing would be nothing less than a defeat for the workers’ movement as a whole. A whole layer of young radicals and workers are investing their hopes in the social democratic leadership of John and Jeremy right now and we must be sober – the forces of revolutionary Marxism are incomparably smaller. My support is unconditional because it is our duty to support our social democratic worker brothers and sisters in their fight against attacks from the Right. If the forces of revolutionary Marxism stand on the sidelines now and the Corbyn leadership is toppled by the Blairites, these workers will not jump for joy and exclaim ‘you were right’ and immediately draw revolutionary Marxist conclusions. More likely is that Corbyn supporters will become hostile to us and ask why we did not support them and instead stood by and watched the Labour Party burn.
Equally, however, this support is not uncritical. This is because our aim during this struggle is not to form a block with the leadership of the Labour Party but to support those workers who currently invest their hopes in the road of the Social Democrats. We do so in order to eventually win them to the banner of Marxism and to show those workers that their true interests are best served with the revolutionaries who have struggled beside them and will struggle on when their reformist leaders inevitably come up against the wall of their own contradictions. This is not done by hiding a revolutionary socialist programme, but by working patiently and explaining what it means, whilst supporting the social democratic workers in their fight. But nor is it done by cutting ourselves off from the social democratic workers and lecturing them from the edge of the playing field. The need for serious study of the United Front as a concept and tactic is of key importance.
The Blairite Coup – which direction will this go?
Over the last day it has come to light that this attempt by the Right of the party to topple Corbyn has been long in the making and is not some spontaneous tantrum thrown by disparate elements. The sheer scale of the Shadow Cabinet resignations, not to mention the preparation work done to lay the idea down that Corbyn did not campaign vigorously enough for the EU, implies a broader perspective at work. For one thing, the staged nature of the resignations can be deduced from the fact that they staggered them over a number of days and that they stopped during the England-Iceland Football game only to restart 2 minutes later! However, in my opinion the Right has acted prematurely, wrongly convinced again that its own Westminster bubble is representative of the feelings of the party membership and populace in general. Only last month a YouGov opinion poll suggested that a leadership challenge would return Corbyn to the top of the party with an increased majority. This may have changed somewhat in the last week. However, I highly doubt that the disparate opposition to him would be able to put forward a candidate which could pull the party membership behind it. Even for the Right’s preferred candidate, Angela Eagle, her constituency party has issued a motion of support backing Corbyn!
This is why Corbyn’s decision not to resign and to stand firm is so important. If he refuses to resign he will remain on the ballot paper unless the Blairite’s lawyers can exclude him through a legal technicality. However, no move would be more likely to undermine the Labour Party and force a split more than such a bureaucratic manoeuvre by them!
A victory for the Corbyn leadership looks likely even at this stage in the upcoming struggle. What would such a victory mean? At the very least, certain elements like Hilary Benn and the most outspoken of the Right would be compelled to leave the party. It is even possibly that the MPs in the PLP would leave en-masse, triggering many a by-election and effectively separating the social democratic wing of Labour, largely consisting of the Corbyn leadership and its rank and file, from the Right. This would lay the basis for the formation of a new party in British politics, probably along the lines of Syriza or Podemos. For all the criticisms I have made previously of these organisations (not least in my article ‘The Greek Road to Socialism’), such a development would be a step forward in the development of a mass working class party here in the UK, raising the confidence of the workers’ movement as a whole.
The other potential, although bleaker, outcome is that the Corbyn leadership is defeated. It is my opinion that a defeat would more than likely lead to the Social Democratic leadership remaining loyal to the party, staying within it as they have done under every other defeat for the Left in preceding decades. This would more than likely cause the disillusionment of the those layers of workers and youth who have put their faith in them and put Labour back on the road of the long decline it has historically been experiencing, whilst demobilising a large section of those new activists drawn in to the struggle around the Corbyn programme. Make no mistake, a defeat by the right-wing of the party at this stage would be an objective set back, not just for the social democrats, but all of us.