The right-wing majority of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) is seeking to overthrow the party’s left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, having been desperate to ditch him ever since he won the 2015 leadership contest by a landslide.
Until recently, the PLP and the trade unions always decided on new leaders between themselves, but rule changes now mean that individual members and registered supporters have the final say. Since the majority of ordinary party members have shown that they are pinning their hopes on left social democracy to find solutions to austerity, privatisation, unemployment and war, anybody who hopes to replace Corbyn as leader is forced to use left-sounding phraseology too.
Hence the Labour bigwigs’ preferred ‘unity’ candidate, Owen Smith, who, while polishing his leftist facade, comes reassuringly equipped with an impeccable corporate CV, thus earning him the confidence of the party establishment and imperialist media alike.
A surge of hope
The election of Corbyn as leader brought with it a great surge of hope to all those who still believe that if only the Labour party can get ‘back to its roots’ and win an election on a left-social-democratic platform, the problems of crisis and war can be tackled fairly; that by taxing the rich more effectively and refusing to launch imperialist wars, the government could balance its books and bring back the fast-diminishing welfare state; and that the People’s Assembly is right when it asserts that “austerity is a political choice, not a necessity”.
According to this view, a left-wing Labour government would renationalise utilities and services, rebuild the NHS, re-fund education, reinvigorate industry and employment, bring back social services, increase the state pension, and fund the benefit system so as to provide an adequate safety net to those who can’t find jobs or are otherwise unable to work.
Put simply, most of us long to live in a fairer and more secure world. The surge of support for Corbyn is just one manifestation of this desire, and of the anger at the constant downward pressure on living conditions that the majority of British workers have had to endure in recent decades.
This anger and frustration is also behind the rise of Ukip/BNP-type British nationalism, of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, of black nationalism and of bourgeois feminism. All these movements claim to offer solutions to workers’ problems, but all are based on the idea that the enemy we need to fight is within our own ranks (immigrants, black people, white people, English people, men).
They all act to divide the working class whilst leaving the rule of the capitalist class intact.
Can capitalism be fixed?
Essentially, all the solutions on offer are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the world in which we live.
The conditions that allowed the Labour government to provide public services, social housing, jobs and benefits to workers in 1945 no longer exist. The USSR is no longer offering its glowing example of socialist prosperity, and the post-war need for massive reconstruction has been replaced in the capitalist world by a deepening economic crisis, which is forcing the imperialists to cut costs everywhere.
The collapse of the USSR, and the consequent disarray in the world communist movement, has emboldened our rulers to believe that they no longer face the imminent threat of revolution. The need to buy social peace has been replaced by the need to pass the burden of the crisis onto the working class, and our potential resistance is being crushed not by buying us off, but by pushing us into the arms of all the charlatans who make careers out of spreading racist, nationalist and other divisive lies to confuse us and to divert us from targeting our real enemy: capitalism itself.
Resistance needs direction
Our party greets with enthusiasm the rising spirit of anger and resistance among British workers, but Marxist science shows that they will be powerless to change society until such time as they have learned to recognise their real, class interests and to distinguish clearly between friends and enemies.
Given the strength and all-pervasiveness of the corporate imperialist propaganda machine, that is no easy task, but life is every day blowing holes through the officially accepted narratives and providing us with lessons that are there if only we are willing to open our eyes and learn from them.
People who genuinely want to change society for the better must help accelerate this process by using every cut, every war crime and every act of scapegoating to prove to workers that it is impossible to provide a decent life for all while capitalism remains.
Capitalism begets and increases inequality; it cannot avoid the waste of unemployment and overproduction; it cannot solve the problems of poverty and unemployment, nor plan its activities so as to avert environmental catastrophe. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, exacerbates all these contradictions on a world scale. Imperialism leads to war, and imperialist crisis today is pushing us towards a cataclysmic world war with Russia or China or both.
Labour’s history, soaked in the blood of the oppressed masses, proves that it has never been a tool for workers’ emancipation; it is a party at the service of the ruling class againstthe interests of the working class. Moreover, with the best will in the world, and even with the nicest of leaders in charge, Labour is incapable of fixing capitalism’s contradictions. Even if he can retain his position at the head of the party, Corbyn will not be able to change that simple fact.
Even supposing it were possible to transform the Labour party, it is not possible to turn a capitalist democracy into a workers’ one by simply changing those who run it. In capitalist countries, prime ministers serve the ruling class, not the people.
No PM in a time of crisis can resist the ruling class’s need to implement austerity and wage war if they want to keep the job. Corbyn would be left trying to reconcile the anti-war and anti-austerity feelings of the masses with the capitalists’ need to wage imperialist wars and effect cuts and privatisations.
Let those who believe Mr Corbyn can win the battle against British capital without threatening the foundations of the capitalist system do their best. For our part, we would be happy to see JC elected PM, since that would be the surest way to disillusion the millions who are pinning their hopes on such an outcome. Meanwhile, our party will continue to do everything in its power to win workers over to the struggle for socialism.
Hard as it may be to accept, in the end, we have to admit that the working class has no other viable option. Only by completely replacing the capitalists’ economic system and political dictatorship with workers’ social ownership and with production directed to meeting people’s needs will we be able to build a world fit for human beings, and to consign poverty, inequality, ignorance, disease and war to history.