- We need a party that fights for us!
- TORIES OUT!
- Prepare for a union-backed workers’ list for a general election
Socialist Party Editorial
Food bank demand in January 2023 up on 2022 — a year in which millions of people in the sixth richest country on the planet already required emergency food parcels.
Food bank staff, burnt out, face people unable to feed their families for no reason other than poverty wages and benefits, combined with rising prices and bills.
Imagine if, like RMT leader Mick Lynch, Labour leader Keir Starmer was calling for workers and young people to ‘refuse to be poor anymore’. Imagine if he committed to back the strikes and that a Labour government would renationalise transport and the post, and kick the profiteers out of the NHS. Imagine if, like Jeremy Corbyn did, he was presenting an alternative to austerity.
The reality is the polar opposite. Starmer is saying, if this is what you aspire to, if you support socialist policies, then here is the exit door. The Labour Party is not for you. And Corbynism is over. End of.
A columnist in the Independent summed up Starmer’s successful re-Blairisation of Labour. His leadership pitch was: “Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system. That promise has been finessed out of existence.”
Preparing for government, Starmer is slamming the door in the face of trade unionists and anti-austerity fighters, and opening it wide for big business.
So imagine this instead. MPs in Westminster who represent the workers’ movement, who we can actually rely on to vote against cuts, privatisation, attacks on trade union rights, not imprisoned within Labour but fighting capitalist policies at every step — including those implemented by a Starmer-led New Labour government.
Imagine striking — but with a party in parliament that’s actually got your back, even if it’s just a handful of MPs at first.
Trade unionists fighting the bosses at the ballot box in the impending general election, and also in the local government elections on 4 May, as well as fighting them in the workplaces — let’s not leave it to the imagination. Instead, let’s do it!
WHAT WE THINK
When Keir Starmer was elected leader of the Labour Party in April 2020, the editorial of the Socialist said his “victory represents a qualitative step in the capitalist class’s campaign to make the Labour Party once again, as it was under Blair, a reliable vehicle for their interests. They were terrified by the 2017 election result, where Corbyn came close to being elected.”
In December 2019, in the aftermath of the general election, the Socialist explained that Corbyn’s defeat was first and foremost due to the sabotage by the right-wing defenders of capitalism within Labour. The Socialist Party had warned from the moment of Corbyn’s election as leader, that the Labour Party was in the impossible situation of being two parties in one.
It still contained defenders of capitalism within it, especially a majority in the Parliamentary Labour Party, and among its councillors who refused to do anything other than pass on Tory cuts instead of fighting them, and in the tops of its structures.
But under Corbyn, Labour also contained the potential to become an anti-austerity party and therefore a voice for the working class. It was inevitable that a Corbyn government would have come under enormous pressure from the working class to further challenge the capitalist order of exploitation and poverty. This was unacceptable to the capitalist class and its defenders.
From this analysis flowed the need for action, to transform Labour into a workers’ party with a socialist programme. But mandatory reselection of MPs was not introduced, and the democratisation of the party, including the restoration of the trade unions to their central role under the control of the members, was never carried out.
‘Clean bill of health’
Starmer used the announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), that Labour now has a ‘clean bill of health’ with regards to antisemitism, as the opportunity to announce that Corbyn is banned from standing as a Labour candidate in the general election that will take place before the end of 2024. The EHRC was not some independent body, but part and parcel of the ferocious campaign by the capitalist class to sabotage Corbyn and remove him from Labour’s leadership.
Antisemitism must of course be taken seriously and combated. This, however, has been a cynical attempt to use false accusations of antisemitism to attack the left. As the Blairite shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Kyle, said: “If you’re antisemitic or you don’t agree with support for business … then this isn’t the party for you.”
Big business bosses recognise that Starmer’s Labour is a reliable party for them. Writing in The Independent, former head of the Confederation of British Industry Paul Drechsler said: “Labour have set about convincing business that they are encouraging entrepreneurs and enterprise (and, whisper it quietly: profit).”
Rachel Reeves proudly tweeted that article, saying: “The Labour Party is pro-worker and pro-business.” But representing these diametrically opposite interests is impossible. Between 1937 and 1979, union membership in Britain doubled while the share of income going to the top 1% fell by two-thirds. Between 1979 and 2014, membership of unions fell by a half and the share of income for the richest 1% more than doubled. It is the latter that Starmer’s Labour serves. Hence the banning of Labour frontbenchers from picket lines, including the sacking of Sam Tarry.
These figures show the importance of working-class organisation. That is why the Tories push their anti-union laws — which Blair maintained. As well as organising in the workplaces against the bosses, workers also need an independent voice in politics.
Jeremy Corbyn has responded to say that Starmer’s announcement is an attack on democracy within the party. However, Labour today is not a party where the workers’ movement has influence, or where socialists are welcome as members — and conclusions must be drawn from that.
So, while opposing the attacks on democratic rights, Jeremy should also mobilise support for a bold socialist challenge in Islington North, calling on strikers, students in defence of free education, gig economy workers, everyone affected by the cost-of-living crisis! The mass rallies Jeremy’s anti-austerity programme in the 2017 general election mobilised indicate the very enthusiastic response this stand would get. The massive responses in reballots of striking workers and votes by new sections to join the strike wave indicate a deep determination to fight the bosses.
But it would be a waste to make this only about defending Islington North from the neo-Blairites. If Jeremy put out a call for support in Islington North and for trade unionists and socialists to also organise challenges to the two pro-capitalist parties in their own areas, it could have an electrifying effect.
According to journalist Michael Crick, around two-thirds of Labour candidates for “winnable seats” so far are, or have been, councillors who have presided over the destruction of youth services, closure of domestic violence services, evictions, and misery, with roughly a quarter serving as council leaders or deputy leaders. Let’s challenge them.
Workers’ election list
The Socialist Party calls for trade unions to organise their own workers’ list for the election, including debarred left Labour MPs. Instead of being silenced by Starmer in the hope of remaining in the party, the left in Labour should fight him. Such a list could succeed in getting at least a bloc of MPs elected at the general election, which could quite rapidly become a pole of parliamentary opposition to an incoming Starmer-led government.
But whatever happens next, there should be the biggest possible trade union, socialist, environmentalist and anti-austerity election challenge mounted. This is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is hosting local meetings to discuss what needs to be done, including, should that workers’ list not be realised in time, standing trade unionists and socialists as TUSC candidates.
Imagine if every election became a contest between the Tory and Starmerite defenders of a rigged system that is responsible for the cost-of-living and other crises facing us — and us, the working class, the youth, the socialists. In addition to the general election, the local government elections on 4 May offer this opportunity in hundreds of areas. Why not respond to Starmer’s announcement by organising a discussion in your trade union branch, food bank, student society, or picket line about standing candidates in those elections who stand for us.