“We need a fighting workers’ party not Corbyn’s revamped version of Old Labour”: Marxist workers group

Posted: November 7, 2015 by Admin in British politics, Capitalist ideology, Class Matters, Commodification, Economics, Europe, Limits of capitalism, Political & economic power, Poverty & Inequality, State capitalism, Unions - Britain, Workers' rights, WWII

The piece below appeared as the editorial in the September 16 issues of the weekly bulletins for a range of workplaces produced by the Workers Fight group in Britain; we’ve slightly altered the subheads.

Jeremy Corbyn: leader or hostage?

Jeremy Corbyn: leader or hostage?

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership election was a blow to all those who claim that the working class should pay with its jobs, conditions and services in order to boost the profits of the capitalist class.

The uproar and consternation caused by this result among the political establishment and most of the media, was an expression of their class contempt – if not their class hatred – towards us, workers. They just cannot swallow the fact that, for once, a quarter of a million people managed to voice their refusal of any form of austerity!

Yes, for once, the promoters of the capitalist market and the champions of austerity have been challenged in public. And that, if nothing else, should be cause to rejoice. But only provided we keep our eyes wide open and do not forget that the real battles have still to be waged.

Leader or hostage?

Indeed, Corbyn’s victory can’t deliver more than a return of Labour to office – in the hope that it will implement his proclaimed radical agenda. Except that this won’t happen.

Leader or not, Corbyn does not have much more control over his own party than its members have. Even in the Commons, most Labour MPs are openly hostile to his programme. Neither can he control the political and organisational decisions of Labour’s actual leading body – its NEC.

Of course, today, Corbyn seems at least to enjoy the support of the main union leaders. But what is this support really worth?

Isn’t the union leaders’ main preoccupation to retain their cosy “partnership” with the bosses rather than to lead their members into battle? Isn’t that the reason why they failed to organise a real and coordinated fightback against the bosses’ attacks and the government’s austerity over the past years, thereby letting down and disarming the working class?

What will happen when the bosses tell these union leaders “dump Corbyn and his intolerable behaviour, or else”? Faced with this threat to their cherished “partnership” with the bosses, how long will it take before these leaders run back with their tails between their legs and beg Corbyn to tone down his language?

The reality is that, leader or not, Corbyn will be a hostage of the Labour machinery. He will be retained for as long as he can be useful to revamp the party’s much damaged image, before he is dumped in order to prepare the way for another version of Blairism.

What was so good about Old Labour anyway?

No matter how genuine Corbyn may be, the simple fact that his only perspective is to remain within the framework of the Labour party means that his radical agenda will remain pure rhetoric.

For over a century the Labour party has been protecting the interests of the capitalists, whether in government or in opposition. It started during World War I, when union leaders joined the war Cabinet to send hundreds of thousands of workers to their deaths on the killing fields of Europe. And it never stopped serving the capitalist system ever since. To imagine that the thousands of Labour officials who hold positions in the capitalist state machinery will ever rock the boat of the system and risk losing their social status is just self-delusion.

Just as it is self-delusion to hark back to the “good old days” of “Old Labour” before Blair came in, as Corbyn does.

Indeed, what was so “good” about “old Labour”? That it built social housing? Sure, but so did the Tories in the same period – and there was never enough. That it created the welfare state? Of course, but this was the result of a cross-party agreement, according to plans drafted by the war cabinet during World War II.

What “old Labour” did as well, though, was to restrict the right to strike under Wilson, over a decade before Thatcher. Then, under Callaghan, it tried to impose a wage freeze in a period of high inflation. And it took a 9-week strike at all Ford plants in 1978, followed by the public sector strikes of the “Winter of Discontent”, to force his “Old Labour” government to back down!

The need for a party of our own

But this is precisely what’s missing from Corbyn’s agenda – the class struggle. Labour will not deliver the goods, because it would mean shooting itself in the foot. But the class struggle could, by mobilising the entire working class. Except that the phrase “class struggle” is not part of Corbyn’s radical- sounding language!

And this is why we, workers, need a party of our own: a party which does not seek positions in the institutions of the capitalist class, but which is determined to lead our struggles and build up our collective strength, with the ultimate aim of getting rid of this rotten profit system, once and for all!

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