The ballot for Labour leader has ended. The result will be announced tomorrow at 12 noon. Barring a nuclear attack, all the indications are that Jeremy Corbyn will win convincingly against his challenger Owen Smith, probably with a bigger mandate.
Without the purge and dirty tricks campaign waged by Labour HQ against Corbyn supporters, his margin of victory would be even bigger. He has faced an absolute barrage from the right wing and their media. They have thrown everything against him, bar the kitchen sink. First of all, our right-wing “democrats” tried to keep him off the ballot paper, but failed. Then they blocked some 130,000 new members from voting, as they had been members of the Party for less than six months. Other sabotage included closing down Labour Party meetings to prevent them endorsing Corbyn, under the spurious pretext of a threat of intimidation, violence and abuse. They then used the “Compliance Unit”, a right-wing Star Chamber, to purge left-wing members for all kinds of reasons, after weeks of trolling social media for incriminating “evidence”. Many left-wingers have been “fingered” by right-wing MPs and local officials and then suspended. Some members were even expelled, such as supporters of Socialist Appeal and the Marxist Student Federation, for supposedly not supporting Labour “principles”. Any excuse was used to whittle down Corbyn’s support. Added to this was the scandal of tens of thousands of members who simply did not receive a ballot paper. In the meantime, right-wingers could act with complete impunity.
The right-wing Establishment threw its entire weight against Corbyn. Panorama and Dispatches ran programmes shortly before the deadline for voting which were simply hatchet jobs. One portrayed the party as completely unelectable under Corbyn, while a six-month undercover investigation by the other into Momentum revealed the horror story of Trotskyist “infiltration” and double-dealing. It was the worst kind of innuendo and hack journalism, all intended to undermine Corbyn.
Even Owen Jones, the Guardian commentator, shifted to the right. He wants Labour to win, you see, but believes Corbyn is too radical so he even contemplated voting for Owen Smith, if only he could win a general election! He is like the man who said “if you don’t like my principles, then I will change them!”
However, these shenanigans will not succeed. Corbyn is on course to victory. The whole party has been completely transformed into the biggest left party in Europe. From under 180,000 in May 2015, it now has around 650,000 members, the vast majority of whom joined to support Jeremy Corbyn. Some 70,000 turned out to rallies up and down the country. They are getting involved and getting enthused and will not put up with this bureaucratic purge.
Joanne Taylor expressed their feeling in an email to the Metro: “I represent the grassroots membership of the Labour Party and we do not want New Labour or any other Labour Party leader, we want Jeremy Corbyn. All the Conservative wannabes within the Labour Party forget the true meaning of Labour. It’s not about smug, blue collar, nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday office workers but hard grafters – factory workers, cleaners, zero hours workers, labourers and those needing to work six days a week just to pay the bills.”
Unlike King Canute, they refuse to recognise that they cannot stop the new wave of radicalisation. They are desperately clinging to the past, the “golden age of Blairism”, where they had complete domination of the party. When they ruled the roost, they had no compunction in excluding and expelling left-wingers and imposing right-wing candidates on constituency parties. These bureaucratic methods were cheered on by the capitalist press and media as a way to “modernise” the party. They used any unscrupulous means to drive out the left and consolidate the Labour Party as a party for big business.
The right wing, who are completely dominant in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), have the cheek of the devil. These hypocrites tried every means possible to make Corbyn’s life hell as soon as he was elected. The PLP meetings were a bear pit of intimidation against Corbyn and his small group of supporters. These careerists used every means to drive him out. He was repeatedly stabbed in the back by these “democrats”. Then they tried to destroy and humiliate him by mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and then a massive vote of no confidence. This they believed was the coup de grace. No other Labour leader in history has been subjected to such betrayal. But Corbyn refused to resign and they forced a leadership challenge. But there was one problem: the membership of the Party, which still supported Jeremy Corbyn! This support gave him the confidence to resist these dirty attacks.
The leadership election was seen by the Establishment as the last throw of the dice. All the old hacks of the past were wheeled out, one after the other, to attack Corbyn, starting with our beloved Lord Kinnock, the man who lost Labour two general elections in a row. A Corbyn victory, they warned, would bring hellfire and damnation on the Labour Party. He could never win an election! He would destroy the party! The Tories would be in power for generations to come, or even longer!
Even after the poll had closed, they could not resist attacking him. David Miliband, who was defeated for the leadership by his own brother, chimed in from New York, saying Labour has not been so far from power since the 1930s. He then went on to attack Corbyn’s policies, which Owen Smith avoided doing: “Nationalisation cannot be the answer to everything; anti-austerity speeches cannot explain everything; corporate taxation cannot pay for everything. It doesn’t add up. It wouldn’t work. People are not stupid.”
Of course, Miliband is arguing for the Labour Party to remain on a capitalist path. Labour must not in any way challenge big business. On the contrary, he wants us to bow down before the bankers and capitalists and do their bidding.
Miliband went on to say that it was “disastrous” that people were labelled “closet Tories” or “Tory Lite” if they disagreed with Corbyn. But such labels simply tell the truth. Labour’s right-wingers are little different from the Tories in their ideas, the way they speak and the way they dress. Under New Labour there was little difference between Labour and the Tories. That explains the massive rejection of Blairism and his Tory policies and the surge towards Jeremy Corbyn and what he stands for.
The situation has pushed the right wing into despair. They have lost hope. It will take a miracle for them to regain their position. But there are no miracles. There is talk of splits and wars of attrition. John McTernan, former adviser to Tony Blair described Corbyn as “most unpleasant” and “most dangerous”. He stated unequivocally that “I am absolutely in favour of a split in the Labour Party. Corbyn and his people should go!” This is the real language of the right wing.
Tom Watson, the deputy Leader, who has worked hand in glove with the right wing, now calls for “reconciliation”. He proposes to bring back elections to the Shadow Cabinet in order to clip Corbyn’s wings. Only then can we “put the band together”, he said. McNicol, the general secretary and open tool of the right wing, also urged compromise. But Corbyn replied that if elections to the Shadow Cabinet are to take be reinstated, then the membership should be involved. “I think we have to stick with one member, one vote,” he said. But the right wing opposes this idea tooth and nail. They have contempt for the rank and file. Being too “Corbynite”, Watson now wants to scrap Labour supporters introduced under Miliband.
But what is this “band” anyway? Not a “band of fellows”, but the PLP which is hostile to Corbyn. Corbyn has put out an olive branch to them, asking the right wing to accept his expected overwhelming mandate. While some will come back into the Shadow Cabinet, thinking of their future careers, others will remain in permanent opposition.
Owen Smith has said he will not serve, as have Hilary Benn, Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper. The right are divided but not reconciled. They will bide their time. Some have already talked of further leadership challenges. Whatever happens, the fault lines are there for a split. It is no accident that Tim Farron, the leader of the Lib Dems, has been busy wooing them to join him. Mr Farron has in particular praised Tony Blair and is “reaching out” to those dissatisfied by Labour to come and join him on his Lib Dem life-boat, which has been holed below the waterline. The 8-strong Lib Dems do not offer much of a hope. Nevertheless, his appeal does illustrate where the interests of Labour’s right wing really lay.
In reality, the right wing do not accept Corbyn and never will. It seems they are prepared to bide their time, but that is all. In the meantime, they are organising through the mis-named “Progress” and “Labour First” organisations, the real “party within a party”. Typically, they attack Momentum - or Socialist Appeal - and the whole of the left for organising their supporters, although it is perfectly fine for them to do so. These organisations, with their own membership, programme and structures, get their funding from shadowy sources linked to big business and their rich friends. The right wing act directly as a capitalist Trojan Horse within the Labour Party, promoting the interests of the “market economy” and capitalism. This is their function.
“Progress”, which is chaired by Wirral South MP Alison McGovern, published a strongly worded editorial in its magazine, urging anti-Corbyn MPs to remain in the party and fight for “clause one socialism”. This clause in Labour’s constitution refers to maintaining a Labour Party in Parliament, as if Corbyn and the mass of his supporters don’t want such a presence! It is not enough to simply state the need for Labour to be in parliament. That on its own is hardly a battle-cry of the oppressed. What is required is Labour Party in parliament that is prepared to fight to defend working class people and change society. By referring to clause one, they are simply trying to defend the right wing’s control of the leadership, presenting themselves as the only ones who can win elections.
Their attempt to stop the unstoppable wave of radicalisation to the left is a lost cause. The leadership of the party, including all the MPs, must be chosen by the rank and file and be under its democratic control. We must put an end to this careerism at the top. Parties must have the automatic right to choose who its candidates are. There must be no bans and proscriptions. As expected, the right-wing “democrats” have threatened to fight any threat of deselection. They have no loyalty to the party but every loyalty to their own careers. That is why they have threatened to split from the party. Such threats must be countered by the will of the majority. We will not be blackmailed by the Tory press or threats to split the party.
The left should counter the campaign of the right with a mass campaign to reach a million members, restore party democracy and reinstate Clause Four, which was ditched by Tony Blair. Jeremy raised this question of Clause Four last year. This clause defined Labour’s commitment to socialism by abolishing capitalism: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”
The essence of the old clause four was that Labour should not patch up or reform capitalism, which is in deep crisis, but take over the “commanding heights of the economy”, the banks and major industries under democratic workers’ control and management. The introduction of a socialist plan of production would end the anarchy of capitalism and allow Labour to transform the lives of millions by organising the economy not on the basis of profit, but on the basis of need.
The task before us is to bring the Labour Party back in line with its socialist founding principles. The years of New Labour and support for capitalism must be put where they belong, in the dustbin of history. The party must once more represent the interests not of the “market”, but the working class. The victory of Jeremy Corbyn is a step towards this. It is the beginning of the socialist regeneration of the Party. This “Corbyn Revolution” must be completed with the adoption of a bold socialist programme that will put an end to this system once and for all. Faced with such a determined turn to genuine socialist policies, the right wing will join their real friends in the Tory party, where they belong. On this basis,a rearmed and renewed Labour Party could win a massive majority and transform the entire situation in Britain and internationally.