“The idea that all Britain’s Labour party needs to do to win is offer true socialism has been tested to destruction.” (Financial Times)
News of the British election result was greeted by jubilation on the stock markets of the world. The pound sterling soared, and Donald J. Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great WIN!”
But all history shows that a rise in the stock market does not necessarily signify anything positive for the working class. Rather, the opposite is the truth. And what pleases the present occupant of the White House will not necessarily be to the liking of the working people of Britain.
Meanwhile, the mood of many activists in the Labour Party will be sombre and reflective, if not downright depressed. The prospect of five more years of Tory rule, following 10 years of brutal austerity and attacks on living standards, fills many people with despair.
But it is necessary to look beyond the immediate facts, and examine the deeper processes, in order to understand where Britain is going. And a serious examination of the facts does not in any way substantiate the short-term triumphalism of the bankers and capitalists and their political agents.
It is said that defeated armies learn well. It is essential that conscious workers and youth should set aside their emotions, and coldly examine the facts of the case. The question must be asked: why did Labour lose? And the answer to that question does not correspond in the slightest degree to the false and lying arguments that have been repeatedly advanced by the mass media.
A dirty election
The 2019 general election was the dirtiest in modern times. That is a matter of public record. Nearly 90 percent of Facebook ads paid for by the Conservative Party in the first few days of December contained misleading claims, an investigation has found. First Draft – a non-profit organisation which works on debunking fake news – analysed every ad promoted by the UK’s three main political parties on the social media giant in the first four days of December.
It found 88 percent of the Conservative’s Facebook campaigning pushed figures challenged by Full Fact, the UK’s leading fact-checking organisation. By comparison, First Draft said that it could not find any misleading claims in ads run by Labour on Facebook over the same period.
But it was not just a question of misrepresentation, or even telling lies (an art in which Boris Johnson, like his mentor in the White House, is admirably versed). This campaign was characterised by a flood of slander and character assassination, which was only directed at one man: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
To find a parallel, one would have to go back to 1924, when the ruling class used a forged letter, allegedly written by Zinoviev, advocating socialist revolution in Britain and the Labour Party, to whip up anti-socialist hysteria, leading to the defeat of the minority Labour government. But even that monstrous smear campaign pales in insignificance beside the avalanche of lies, vitriol, poison and slander that characterised this election.
The mass media were mobilised with only one end in mind: the political and personal destruction of Jeremy Corbyn. Day in and day out, the newspapers, radio and television repeated the same monotonous message. The services of the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury were enlisted for this noisy campaign of character assassination. They repeated the shameless lie about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party at every opportunity. It was crude and blatant, but it was effective, influencing a sizeable section of the electorate, especially the more backward layers.
Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who was also an expert in telling lies, once said that, if you’re going to tell a lie, do not tell a small one. One must tell a big lie – the most blatant, absurd and improbable, the better. And if you repeat this lie sooner or later, people will believe it. An excellent example of this black propaganda was the smear of Labour’s anti-Semitism that has been systematically utilised in what was clearly an orchestrated campaign for the last couple of years, without a shred of evidence ever being produced to back it up.
The constant repetition of smears against the Labour leader undoubtedly played a role in this election. One frequently saw how in news programmes in which members of the public, allegedly chosen “at random”, but who invariably turned out to be either market traders or old-age pensioners (hardly ever a person under 40 years of age), who, when asked their opinion of Jeremy Corbyn, unfailingly answered: “Oh, I don’t like him.” But on the rare occasions when they were asked the reason for the dislike, they invariably answered: “I don’t know”.
This same stupid farce was repeated every morning, afternoon, evening and night. How could it not have an effect? Channel 4, which, despite its “liberal” image, has become the most reactionary of all television news programmes, was particularly guilty. But all the others participated in this shameful performance. That includes the BBC, which, as a public broadcasting service, is supposed to be politically neutral, but in reality, always shows a clear bias in favour of the Conservative cause.
Alas! There is no gratitude in politics. The master rewarded his faithful dog by giving it a kick in the teeth. No sooner had Mr Johnson entered the door of Number 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister's residence) than he announced his intention, in effect, to abolish the BBC’s licence. Evidently, the servility of the BBC was not sufficiently servile. And in any case, it is well-known that the Tory party is opposed to anything that is publicly owned and wants to privatise everything that is not nailed to the floor. Today the BBC, tomorrow the NHS. But Boris said he would never, ever, ever… To which we will answer with the words of the poet Omar Khayyám:
“I swore. But was I sober when I swore?”
The Night of the Living Dead
The mass media, having played a scandalous role in sabotaging Labour’s election campaign and demonising Jeremy Corbyn, lost no time in stepping up the same campaign even before the results of the election had been declared. Minutes after the exit poll was announced, they began banging the drum, demanding the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn.
The television screens began to resemble a scene from the old horror film, The Night of the Living Dead, as long forgotten political corpses from the Blairite past were summoned from their graves to pronounce their verdict on the present Labour leadership. Ed Balls, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw – a real rogues’ gallery of old Labour renegades lined up to issue their condemnation.
On every face of these creatures one could read a mixture of extreme spitefulness and hatred, mingled with a cynical satisfaction that at last Corbyn had suffered defeat. All the accumulated rage and frustration that they were unable to express in 2017 now burst out in a torrent of venomous bile. The television interviewers sat and smiled with undisguised pleasure at this unedifying spectacle.
Alan Johnson informed John Lansman that Momentum was a party within a party, and he wanted them out of the Labour Party. Then the orgy of denunciations began in earnest. One right-wing Labour MP after another was presented before the television screens, each one solemnly declaring that the sole author of all their woes was one Jeremy Corbyn: nobody and nothing else was to blame for Labour’s defeat that night, but only this detestable and detested individual.
The same theme was taken up, developed, expanded and magnified to the Nth degree, when the election results were declared. Now a new theme suddenly emerged. The TV pundits announced that “many, many Labour MPs and candidates” were demanding the immediate resignation of Jeremy Corbyn, and all who sailed with him.
In fact, the “many, many” turned out to be a few, highly selected individuals who were paraded before the cameras, invariably selected from the extreme right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Well-known closet conservatives, such as Margaret Hodge, raised their voices in a truly demonic chorus of denunciation. This political witches’ Sabbath would have been more appropriate to be screened on Halloween, rather than this season of peace on Earth and good will to all men.
A seismic change
How can one explain the unique hatred that the establishment has for Jeremy Corbyn? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand the profound changes that have taken place in British society and politics over the past few years. These changes are in fact a reflection of the general crisis of capitalism on a world scale, and in Britain.
Four years ago, the referendum on EU membership produced a result that shocked the Establishment to the core. Since then, Britain has been in a state of unparalleled political and social turmoil. The new element in the equation is the fact that the ruling class was losing control of the situation. Ever since then, it has been struggling to regain control.
In the past, running the system was not such a difficult task. The Conservative party (the Tories), the main party of the bourgeoisie, was controlled by a small group of aristocratic grandees who ruled over a mass of reactionary small shopkeepers, farmers, stockbrokers and the like. On the other hand, the Labour Party was led by respectable middle-class ladies and gentlemen who could be relied upon to handle things. And when the masses got tired of them, they could bring the Tories back in again.
However, in the last few years the equation has been disturbed, reflecting the destruction of the social and political equilibrium that flowed from the economic collapse in 2008. This has been reflected in the sharp polarisation to the right and to the left. The Labour Party swung sharply to the left after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Party leader, whereas the leadership of the Tory party fell into the hands of extreme right-wing chauvinists and English nationalists (the anti-European “Brexiteers”).
In effect, the British ruling class lost control of both the Tory Party and the Labour Party. The right-wing Brexiteer clique that now controls the Tory Party carried out a purge of the moderate wing, who were the real representatives of big business in the party. They went so far as to expel 21 prominent Tory MPs, including the grandson of Winston Churchill.
This has very serious consequences, as the ruling class clearly understands. Following this purge, The Economist moaned: “Those who demand free-spending authoritarianism and a ‘do-or-die’ escape from the yoke of Brussels are ascendant”. Conservative Home, a blog for party activists, described this week as "the end of the Conservative Party as we have known it”. (Emphasis added)
The bourgeois in Britain were alarmed at these developments in the Conservative Party, over which they have little or no control. But they were even more terrified by developments in the Labour Party.
Fear of a Corbyn government
The election of Jeremy Corbyn represented a profound change in the direction of the party. Despite its limited left reformist character, his programme represented a sharp turn to the left. It aroused hundreds of thousands of people – especially the youth – into political life.
New recruits flooded into the party, leading to a profound transformation. The Blairite right wing has been shattered. The big majority of local parties have moved sharply to the left and some right-wing councillors and officials have been removed. The change has extended to many parts of the party apparatus. The witch-hunt against the left was halted and many former left-wing members returned.
The party conference is now dominated by the left, with only the trade union bureaucracy left to prevent it from “going too far”. The influence of the right wing is now reduced to its last bastions, the Parliamentary Labour Party, where it continues to fight a desperate rear-guard action against the Corbynistas.
These developments produced something akin to panic in the ruling class. The prospect of a Corbyn Labour government filled them with anxiety. Given the depth of the crisis, such a government would have represented a serious threat to the bourgeoisie. It would have prepared the way for an enormous swing to the left within the Labour Party that would have put pressure on the government to carry out radical policies.
Under these conditions, the possibility that Labour might win the general election filled the ruling class with alarm. Together with the right wing in the Labour Party, they did everything possible to stop it. The Blairites in the Parliamentary Labour Party were already preparing to split the party if Corbyn won the election. They actively worked behind-the-scenes for the Labour defeat. Now they have got the result they fervently desired.
There is no need here to go into details about the reasons for the election result. They are very clear. The ruling class mobilised all the resources to crush Jeremy Corbyn and prevent a Labour victory. Although they were distinctly unenthusiastic about the prospect of a Conservative government composed of rabid English chauvinists and led by an unprincipled and unpredictable opportunist like Boris Johnson, they feared a Corbyn government above all else.
Predictably, the day after the election, all the newspapers and television news programmes were mobilised in a ferocious attempt to overthrow Corbyn. This vicious campaign achieved its objective – at least partially – when Corbyn and McDonnell announced that they would be standing down, although not immediately.
The smears against Corbyn played a big role. But the decisive element was undoubtedly Brexit. Ever since 2016, this issue has been poisoning British political life, dividing society, not on class lines, but in an entirely reactionary way. Basically, this was a split between two factions of the ruling class. The class interests of the proletariat cannot be served by supporting either of the two. On a capitalist basis, there is no future for the British working class, either inside or outside of the capitalist European Union.
Even before the result of the election was announced, the campaign against Corbyn was intensified to the Nth degree. Right-wing Labour MPs were queueing up to pour dirt and bile over the head of the Labour leader. They overlook the little detail that, by pushing the Labour Party behind the Remain camp, they themselves played a very important role in ensuring Labour’s defeat.
In the ranks of the Brexiteers we find the most reactionary elements in society: the extreme right of the Conservative party, chauvinists, racists and all the anti-immigration riffraff. But on the other side, we have the majority of the bankers and capitalists, enthusiastically supported by the Blairite right-wing of the Labour Party, which, as always, is the faithful mouthpiece of the capitalist class.
There is absolutely nothing to choose between these two reactionary gangs. Our task is to relentlessly denounce and expose them, pointing to their real class content and aims. It is also important to realise that the 2016 Brexit vote was, to a large extent, a protest vote by people in the poorest and most deprived areas of Wales and the north-east of England, who have suffered decades of neglect, unemployment, poverty and deprivation.
The mines have been closed and industry decimated. And since these areas are far from the European market, they have not received the benefits of EU membership. They feel neglected, left behind and forgotten by the privileged elite in Westminster. They blame all the political parties, but especially the Labour Party which, after decades of right-wing control, had systematically betrayed their aspirations.
Many people in these areas are desperate to find a solution to their problems. They were easily seduced by the simple idea that leaving the EU, and “getting our country back”, would lead to a bright future of prosperity. They consequently voted for the change in 2016, and were bitterly disappointed when this change did not materialise.
The so-called Remainers of all parties foolishly underestimated the depth of feeling in a society that has suffered years of deprivation and desperately seeks change. Their empty propaganda in favour of a second referendum – with the clear intention of overturning the first one – antagonised millions of people who saw it as an attempt to thwart the democratic decision taken in 2016. In fact, there is every reason to believe that, had such a referendum been held, the result would have been just the same, or even with a bigger majority to leave the EU.
Tory lies answered
“Under Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous leadership, armed with his 'radical and transformative' manifesto, the party sank to its lowest seat total since 1935.”
This was the verdict of today’s (15/12/19) edition of the Financial Times. Before we start, there are two glaring falsehoods here, which are being repeated ad nauseum by our “free press”. And the fact that an untrue statement is constantly repeated does not make it any less untrue.
Lie number one: this was Labour’s worst result since 1935.
That this was a bad result for Labour cannot be denied. But the mass media and its allies on the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party are trying to present this as an unprecedented electoral disaster. But it is contradicted by the facts.
Although the party has fewer seats now, Labour won a bigger vote share this time around than in 1982 and Corbyn won more votes than Tony Blair did in 2005. And even the Financial Times is grudgingly obliged to admit that “the party’s vote share of 32 per cent was higher than under Ed Miliband in 2015.”
Lie number two: this was an astounding victory for Boris Johnson and the Tories.
While it is a setback for Labour in terms of seats, the vote for the Tories can hardly be presented as an unprecedented vote of confidence in Boris Johnson or his party. In fact, the Conservative vote increased by a mere 300,000 compared to 2017.
Lie number three: this result was a crushing defeat for socialism and Corbyn’s left-wing policies.
The Financial Times says: “A manifesto of handouts and nationalisations was rejected by much of the British electorate. The public were fed up of austerity, but incredulous about a programme which promised everything from free broadband to a four-day week. Any successor will have to think more clearly about the limits of state intervention.”
As a matter of fact, Labour’s policies were well received by most people. The policy of nationalising the railways and big electrical companies got a responsive echo from millions of people who have come to understand that the privatisation of these sectors, and others, was a gigantic swindle, leading to higher prices and poor service.
Similarly, Labour’s commitment to invest heavily in the National Health Service and other public services, such as education, the abolition of student tuition fees, the payment of pensions to the WASPI women who were unjustly excluded, and other anti-austerity measures, met with very broad support. This is what the Economist – another prominent mouthpiece of the bankers and capitalists – tells us:
“Mr. McDonnell responded to the exit poll by saying that this was a Brexit election but that Labour’s policies went down well on the doorstep. There is more than a grain of truth in this. The British Election Study shows that most voters take ‘left-wing’ positions on questions such as whether society is rigged in favour of the rich.”
Collapse of the “Centre”
Lie number four: Labour must move back to the “Centre” in order to recover.
This lie was glaringly exposed by the election results themselves. The political “centre” in Britain collapsed utterly. The Economist complained bitterly that: “Britain’s one centrist party, the Liberal Democrats, had an even worse night than Labour.”
The collapse of the political centre is, in fact, an international phenomenon. It represents a growing polarisation in society, which, in essence, is an expression of class polarisation. That is what most worries the ruling class and its political representatives. They were encouraged by the electoral victory of Macron in France. But it did not take long for that bubble to burst.
Macron’s false promises were soon exposed, and the “Centre” turned out to be a gigantic zero. Boris Johnson’s so-called one nation conservatism will end up in exactly the same way. France is now in the grip of mass protests and a general strike. The same fate awaits the Johnson government in the future.
Lie number five: the Corbyn leadership has been a disaster and Labour must reject the left or face oblivion.
The Financial Times informs us: “Mr Corbyn, his leadership, and the hard-left cult who surround him, have alienated potential supporters across the board.”
What are the facts? Since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader, the Labour Party has experienced a complete revival. There has been a huge increase in its membership, which now stands at about half a million – the biggest political party in Europe. Everywhere, Jeremy Corbyn has been received with enthusiasm by big crowds, especially of young people.
Even the right-wing Economist is reluctantly compelled to admit this:
“Moreover, Labour’s intellectual and emotional energy is still on the left. Mr McDonnell has inspired a generation of think-tankers to ask fundamental questions about the machinery of capitalism. Protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion continue to radicalise the young.”
The great anti-Semitic swindle
Lie number six: Corbyn’s Labour Party is anti-Semitic and racist.
Of all the blatant lies vomited out by the yellow press, this is undoubtedly the most scandalous. Without a shred of evidence, they have been banging on about this for the last couple of years. This filthy campaign reached its apogee – or rather, nadir – during the election campaign, when the services of the Chief Rabbi were elicited to smear Jeremy Corbyn in the vilest manner.
The Labour Party has always been opposed to racism of any kind, and Jeremy Corbyn’s record in this respect is impeccable. The same cannot be said of Boris Johnson and the other leaders of the Tory party, who have not hesitated to appeal to the racist prejudices of backward sections of the population by playing the anti-immigration card both before and during the election campaign.
The Tory party stands convicted of widespread Islamophobia, as illustrated in the notorious statements of Boris Johnson comparing Muslim women to bank robbers and letterboxes. It also has a long and notorious history of anti-Semitism, as I showed in a recent article.
But nothing is ever said about this. Only Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are singled out for special treatment in this vicious campaign of lies. The target here is not racism or anti-Semitism. It is an orchestrated campaign of abuse, designed to blacken the name of Jeremy Corbyn on the left.
And because it has not been effectively answered, it has had some success. Of course! If you throw enough mud (and tons of it has been thrown by the mass media on a daily basis), some of it is bound to stick.
Lie number seven: “Traditional Labour voters were turned off by [Corbyn's] leadership style and personal failings. His support for unsavoury authoritarian regimes and his grossly inadequate response to anti-Semitism in Labour’s ranks added to the sense that he was unfit to be prime minister.” (the FT)
We do not know what authoritarian regimes Corbyn is supposed to have supported. What we do know is that the Conservatives and the entire British establishment has consistently supported vicious reactionary regimes like that of Saudi Arabia, which routinely imprisons, tortures and murders political opponents, as was exposed by the case of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
On Boris Johnson’s watch, a secret document about terrorism was deliberately suppressed and has never been revealed to the British public, because it exposed the criminal role of the Saudi regime. And the Conservative government continues to support the genocidal war waged by Saudi Arabia against the people of Yemen.
Whilst we are on the subject of anti-Semitism and support for reactionary regimes, why has this government never uttered a word of condemnation of the brutal suppression of the Palestinians by the reactionary government of Israel? Why has nobody asked Boris Johnson or, if it comes to that, the Chief Rabbi, for their position in relation to the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands? This was recently approved as legitimate by President Trump, whose close links to Israel and Saudi Arabia are well known. But if anyone asks a question about these things in Britain, they will inevitably be accused of “anti-Semitism”!
Leave or Remain?
Lie number eight: Mr Corbyn’s personal equivocation, refusing to say whether he would back Leave or Remain in a second referendum, further damaged his credibility.
There is no doubt that Brexit was a decisive factor in this election. Boris Johnson demagogically used the slogan “get Brexit done”, which was repeated with monotonous regularity by the media, morning, afternoon and night. This undoubtedly had an effect in shaping the way many people voted.
The Tories did not hesitate to whip up the crudest chauvinist prejudices to win votes. They spread the lie that simply by leaving the EU, poor, deprived areas in the north-east of England and Wales would recover prosperity. That was a powerful message that appealed to millions of people who felt discriminated against, neglected and forgotten.
This whole issue has been extremely divisive, confusing issues in people’s minds and cutting across traditional class loyalties. The deliberate sowing of differences suited the reactionary Tories down to the ground. It placed the Labour Party in a difficult situation. But it was not an impossible situation, and could have been dealt with.
That was clearly shown by the result of the 2017 election. At that time, the Labour Party, with Corbyn as leader, accepted the result of the 2016 referendum on the EU and fought the election on a radical manifesto. That campaign achieved the biggest rise in the Labour vote since 1945, despite the fact that all the polls had given the Tories a lead of 20 percent.
Labour’s programme of radical social reform won over many Leave voters then. Why has it lost them now? The answer is very clear. The anti-Corbyn right-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party went on to the offensive, banging the drum in favour of Remain and loudly demanding a new referendum on the question of the EU (a “People’s vote”).
This demand was insistently put forward by Tony Blair himself, and received the backing of big business, which has always wanted to remain in the EU. And since the Blairites have always been the champions of big business, they naturally became its fervent advocates.
Their real intention all along was to pressurise, bully and undermine the position of Jeremy Corbyn. In the end, they pushed the Labour Party into an ambiguous position (“equivocation”), which confused and alienated many voters, especially in the working-class areas that had voted to leave. Labour was presented by the Tories as the party that wanted to block Brexit and defy the will of the majority who had voted to leave.
This undoubtedly caused serious damage to the Labour Party, and was the main reason why many traditional Labour voters in areas like the North-East and Wales withdrew their support. But for the Blairites to argue now that Jeremy Corbyn was responsible for this disastrous policy is the height of hypocrisy. In reality, it was Blairite Remainers in the Parliamentary Labour Party that were responsible for pushing the party down this road that led to electoral defeat.
Lie number nine: many people in the Labour Party are demanding that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell must resign immediately.
The Financial Times, which as everybody knows, has always been a lifelong friend of the working class and the Labour Party, is kind enough to deliver the following friendly advice: “Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell should step aside from the process of finding a new leader. Removing the party from the grip of the far-left is essential.”
We are entitled to ask the question: essential for whom? To reverse the Labour Party’s move to the left, to undo what is known as the Corbyn revolution, to go back to the years of Blairism (that is to say, Toryism under another name), is indeed essential – to the British ruling class. But is it true to say that there is widespread support in the ranks of Labour for such a move?
Is there really a massive revolt in Labour’s ranks against Jeremy Corbyn? This is the invention of a fevered brain, or rather, a piece of wish fulfilment on the part of the establishment and its agents in the Parliamentary Labour Party. A more sober-minded judgement was made by the Economist:
“Mr Corbyn attacked the press and said that, though he will not lead the party into the next election, he will stay on for an interim period while it sorts out its future, probably in alliance with John McDonnell, his shadow chancellor. More important, Corbynism as a philosophy is probably here to stay for some time to come; Labour’s ideas were “eternal”, Mr Corbyn said. Potential successors will blame the messenger rather than the message. Blairism will remain in the grave.” (Emphasis added)
Amen to that!
Did Corbyn make mistakes?
They say that defeated armies learn well, a process of internal debate and reflection on this election will now begin but it is necessary to draw all the correct conclusions. The attempt to blame the defeat on Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing policies is false from start to finish and must be exposed as a lie. But did Corbyn make mistakes? In our opinion, he did indeed. But they were not the mistakes attributed to him by Labour’s enemies, and their agents in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Rather, they are the exact opposite.
The Marxist tendency in the Labour Party has always supported Jeremy Corbyn against the right wing. We considered, and still consider, his election as party leader to have been a very important step forward for socialists in the Labour Party. He has shown great personal courage and steadfastness in standing up to the vicious attacks against him, which would undoubtedly have destroyed most other people in his position.
We consider his resignation to be a serious blow to the left in the Labour Party. But we must also point out that there is a fundamental difference between Marxism and the kind of left reformism that Jeremy represents. And the fall of Jeremy Corbyn serves to expose the weaknesses and limitations of left reformism.
It must be admitted that the right-wing reformists have shown themselves to be far more determined and audacious than the Left. They have shown that they are prepared to go to any lengths to win the battle for the Labour Party. The Left, on the other hand, tends to vacillate, avoid conflict and compromise. That is a very serious mistake, and one that leads inevitably to retreat after retreat. And for every step back that is made, the right will demand ten more!
In our opinion, Corbyn’s serious mistake was not to move immediately after his election to purge the party of the right-wing Trojan horse in the parliamentary Labour Party. Boris Johnson showed no such hesitation in expelling his critics in the parliamentary Tory Party, and from his point of view, that was quite correct.
It may be objected that such drastic measures would be considered undemocratic and authoritarian. In the case of the Labour Party, there was a perfectly democratic method of removing disloyal MPs who were continually sabotaging and undermining the democratically elected party leader. That mechanism is called deselection.
The rank-and-file of the Labour Party was overwhelmingly in favour of deselection, which was their democratic right. But they were prevented from exercising this right by the vacillating policies of Momentum and the opposition of the trade union bureaucracy. The Blairites were allowed to continue with their systematic policy of sabotage, with disastrous results.
The handling of the anti-Semitic smear campaign was equally disastrous. It is perfectly clear that the whole thing was cooked up by the right wing in order to discredit Jeremy Corbyn. They launched this vile campaign of slander, which was eagerly taken up and magnified a thousand times by the Tory-controlled mass media.
Instead of going onto the offensive, pointing out that criticism of the reactionary Israeli state cannot be equated with anti-Semitism, the Labour leadership retreated and made concessions that should never have been made, allowing disciplinary action to be taken against left-wingers on spurious grounds, while the right-wing chorus remained unsatisfied and constantly bellowed for more.
Finally, on the question of Brexit, Corbyn and McDonnell allowed themselves to be pressurised by the noisy campaign of the Blairites to bend to the Remain camp and accept a second referendum. That was a red rag to a bull to working class areas in the North who had voted to leave the EU. As a result, they turned against Labour and voted for Boris Johnson.
What is the main problem here? The left reformists were afraid to carry the struggle against the right wing to the end, for fear of a split. But the split is absolutely inevitable. The right wing in the Parliamentary Labour Party have been preparing for it for a long time. They have declared war against the membership of the Labour Party and its democratically elected leadership. They spit in the face of the Left, and the Left just wipes its face and pleads for unity. That shows weakness, and weakness invites aggression.
It is time to call a halt to this policy of conciliation and retreat! All those right-wing Labour MPs who have conducted a deliberate policy of sabotage that contributed massively to Labour’s electoral defeat should, and must, be shown the door. They must be removed from their positions before they do irremediable damage to the Labour Party. Let the rank-and-file decide who they want to represent them. For deselection of the right wing! Let that be our fighting slogan from now on.
A perspective of struggle
The Labour Party is already in a state of open civil war. It seems likely that it will eventually mirror developments in the Tory Party. The Blairite wing is more isolated than ever. A large number of those MPs who lost their seats in these elections were Blairites. Election defeats have weakened them still further, nor will the noisy campaign in the media help their cause. On the contrary, the viciousness of the campaign against Corbyn will enrage the rank-and-file, opening up the prospect of further moves to deselect unpopular right-wing MPs.
The resignation of Corbyn is a blow to the Left, as it was intended to be. But the attempts of the ruling class to reverse the swing to the Left in the Labour Party will not be so easy, as the more sober minded bourgeois analysts have understood.
The struggle in the Labour Party will assume ever-sharper and more bitter character. A process of internal debate and reflection on this election will now begin. The provocations of the Blairites will provoke a wave of anger and indignation in the ranks. The Economist is right to say that the changes that have taken place in Labour under Corbyn cannot be reversed very easily. The changes are very far-reaching, especially at rank-and-file level, but also to a large extent within the party apparatus.
As we have seen, Boris Johnson’s election victory was not so resounding as it has been presented. Nor is the result in the working-class areas of the North-East of England as encouraging as what they would like us to believe. Most of those who voted for Johnson say that they have merely “lent” him their support. They expect him to deliver on his promises, and if he does not do so, that support will be withdrawn.
But Johnson will not be able to deliver on his promises. Britain’s departure from the EU, far from leading to a new era of prosperity and economic growth, will have very negative consequences for the British economy. If – which is still possible – Britain leaves the EU without a deal, it will spell an absolute catastrophe. But even in the best variant, Brexit will lead to a contraction of the economy, loss of jobs and falling living standards.
As in other countries, the present period is characterised by violent swings of public opinion, both to the left and to the right. The 2019 election in Britain is only one more example of this process. It will usher in a new period of social conflict, class struggle and political upheavals that will dwarf anything we have seen heretofore, with profound political consequences.
The prostituted media tries to present this setback as the beginning of the end for Labour. In retrospect it will be seen merely as an episodic development, which will turn into its opposite. When the reality of Brexit finally dawns on people, there will be a violent reaction against Boris Johnson and all his works. His government will be the most-unpopular government in recent history. The inevitable attacks on living standards and services will result in an outburst of strikes, protests and mass demonstrations on a scale not seen in Britain since the 1970s. The Labour Party will be in a state of intense ferment, as the Blairites make a last desperate attempt at regaining control. At a certain point, the right wing will either split, or be vomited out. This will push Labour far to the left, opening up serious possibilities for the Marxist tendency.
London, 16 December