Beyond Corbyn: agitate, educate, organise

Submitted by Matthew on 19 August, 2015 - 10:39 Author: Editorial

The fact that Jeremy Corbyn has an excellent chance of becoming Labour Party leader should raise the confidence and courage of everyone who wants to see a fighting labour movement in Britain, and a revival of socialism.

Alongside mindless claims that Corbyn is “unelectable”, numerous senior Tories have started to express fear about what his election would mean for British politics.

If we are going to make the most of the opportunities that are opening up, this has to be about more than electing one person. The class-struggle left needs to get organised to change the Labour Party and transform the labour movement, and Marxists need to help create the strongest, clearest possible voice for socialist ideas within the left.

To fight on any front, the wonderful but rather formless movement that has swirled around the Corbyn campaign needs to develop organisation.

We need the most united, democratic organisation of the Labour left possible, bringing together the existing organisations and networks and many presently unaffiliated Corbyn supporters to work together after the election, win or lose. Without that, resisting the inevitable counter-attack by the right wing in the party and pushing forward the necessary changes will be impossible.

The Corbyn campaign, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Red Labour, the Labour Representation Committee, the Labour Campaign for Free Education , Scottish Labour Young Socialists and others should organise a conference to regroup and renew the Labour left. We should attempt to get pro-Corbyn unions, or at least groups of activists within them, on board too.

Within that left there will be many political differences, small and big – differences which should be debated in an open, comradely, manner. As a minimal united platform, we propose the adoption of a series of basic but radical class struggle demands we want carried out by a Labour government – demands like repealing all anti-union laws, taxing the rich and nationalising the banks – as well as the democratic reforms needed to carry out this program, including stronger rights for local parties to deselect MPs.

Another plank should be Labour support for grassroots working-class struggles.

If Corbyn wins, that does not mean we should wait for a Labour election victory to sort things out. If we wait, the Tories will crush us and almost certainly win the next election. We need to use the momentum from the campaign to step up working-class struggle on every front – in workplaces and industry, in communities, on campuses and on the streets. We should demand 100 percent support for these struggles from the Corbyn campaign and from a Labour Party Corbyn leads. In general Corbyn's record on such things is excellent, though during the campaign there has been a bit of mumbling – for instance around the last Tube strike.

Many hundreds of Labour councillors support Corbyn, more than any other candidate. Under a Corbyn leadership, will Labour councils continue to implement the Tories' cuts? Or will they stand with local communities and workers who want to fight them?

Key to all this is transforming our trade unions. The fact that the leaders of Unite, Unison and other unions decided or were bounced into supporting Corbyn is very welcome. It does not mean they have fundamentally changed their spots or can be allies in a serious political fight. These are the same people who have repeatedly undermined working-class struggles – including in the Labour Party – since the beginning of the crisis, and in many cases much longer. We need to transform the unions, from bottom to top, democratise them, push them into struggle and recruit a new generation of workers, all at the same time.

The super-rich and their lieutenants in Parliament, whether Tory, Lib Dem, UKIP or Blairite, have reduced political “debate” to minimal shifts within a supposedly unchallengeable technocratic worldview.

In fact, they are highly ideological; their views are inspired by “big ideas” about the world. The point is they do not want those ideas challenged. To gain ground in the long term, the labour movement needs its own vision of the future, and needs to be prepared to argue for it loudly. Otherwise we are arguing and fighting on the chosen ground of the ruling class and the establishment.

The vision of socialism which Corbyn and many of his supporters believe in is different in many respects from that of Workers' Liberty. Nonetheless, it would be a step forward if they argued openly for it, instead of keeping it for the most part on the bookshelf. Having “socialist values” and left-wing policies is good, but it is not a substitute for popularising socialism.

Workers' Liberty argues for a clear, sharp vision of how capitalist society works and how we can replace it with a better one. We insist society is divided into classes – the ruling minority which owns the means of producing wealth, and the majority who work for a living and who the minority employs and exploits.

This second class, the working class, is the only force that can challenge capitalism across the board and replace it. And it can only replace it with socialism: a system based on common ownership and production by the community for need instead of profit. From that other ideas follow: about the nature of the existing state; about the difference between capitalist nationalisation and genuine common ownership; about workers' control; about immigration controls; and about international politics and conflicts.

We will argue in this new movement for our revolutionary, class-based, Marxist ideas, seeking to convince people and to create new socialists — while encouraging our friends and allies in the movement to be true to and proud of their own socialist ideas too.

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