The labour movement must launch a counter-offensive against the Tory government. We have been defeated badly by Johnson who won over millions of workers to vote for him, workers who were often persuaded to vote Tory for the first time in their lives by the Brexiteers’ xenophobic demagogy.
We need to rally and mobilise the working class. We need to win those workers back to the labour movement. We need to stand up and fight back. But politically, what should that fightback consist of? What will be effective? What do we need to say and do?
Whoever wins the Labour Party leadership must be kept to a programme of radical reforms to capitalism by our pressure. But the new leadership, and Labour’s activists, must also recognise that one of the key lessons from the last election campaign is that dropping a series of left-wing initiatives in front of voters, by television sound-bites and through social media, a few weeks before a vote, is not effective.
Radical policies are not enough. We need to win over, and persuade, and organise workers. And that takes time and a particular type of effort.
The next general election campaign should start now. And it should be conceived of in a different way to previous campaigns.
Labour should start by calling a mass national protest march on focused, clearly-understood, popular demands with a wide reach: maybe — well-funded health and education.
We should positively demand well-paid, highly-qualified staff in our hospitals and schools, paid for by taxing the rich. The market should be abolished in the NHS, and free education introduced in our colleges. We should demand the nationalisation of the drug companies, so the NHS is not robbed by the pharmaceutical bosses. Academies and public schools should be abolished by reintegrated into the local-authority school system.
Labour should declare it will restore benefits, build council homes with genuinely affordable rents, nationalise rail, energy and the banks. We should abolish all the union laws. And we should explain why and how we will do this, in detail, week-in-week-out, face-to-face.
We should put Labour’s half-million members onto the streets and demand the unions take up the call, too.
This proposal is not for a one-off march. We need to give ourselves time to work steadily on each estate and in every workplace. We need local marches, public meetings and street protests in every area. We need to put the labour movement on a war footing.
Unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn allowed himself to be backed into losing his understanding the need for mass street campaigning. He failed to lead mass actions against the Tories. As Labour Party membership grew after 2015, paradoxically, street demonstrations, except the anti-Brexit ones which Labour didn’t support, became smaller.
Now, having seen the practical results of leaving politics to professional politicians and media pundits, we should judge candidates for the Labour leadership by their willingness to launch mass, sustained action in defence of the NHS and for free and state-run education for all.
All the candidates have put on their “left face”, but none has talked about the need to mobilise and protest in our thousands and millions, across the country.
That needs to be done. Labour and the unions, onto the streets!