In backing the dissolution of Parliament and an election, Jeremy Corbyn promised: “We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
Every socialist, every labour movement activist, everyone who cares about equality and human rights, should throw themselves into the fight to kick out Boris Johnson and win a Labour government. We should simultaneously organise to hold Corbyn and the Labour leadership to that pitch.
How? In 2017, Labour’s message – taxing the rich to reverse a substantial number of cuts – contrasted clearly to the Tories’. It tapped into widespread “anti-austerity” opinion. With the Tories now posing as “post-austerity”, that may no longer cut through in the same way. If Labour continues its drift into focusing its opposition to cuts on the police, that will be both ineffective and politically harmful.
For sure saying that cuts are bad will not be enough for an “ambitious and radical campaign for real change”.
September’s Labour Party conference passed a series of radical policies – on council housing, anti-union laws, climate change, migrants’ rights and other issues (see labourcampaignstogether.com) – that we should demand the party takes up, includes in the manifesto and argues vocally for. Local Labour Parties should do the maximum they can to promote these demands.
However, the election will be in large part defined by Brexit. We can emphasise the positive in Labour’s policy and point out the real difference with the Tories – the difference between a guaranteed very hard, possibly No Deal, Brexit and a new referendum with an option to Remain. Nonetheless, the Labour message will clearly not be adequate. There will be a push from many in the apparatus to make it as inadequate as possible.
The class struggle, internationalist left organised around Labour for a Socialist Europe will be running a campaign within but politically distinct from the official Labour campaign. It will seek to integrate the kind of left-wing demands pushed by Labour conference, and more, with a clear anti-Brexit and internationalist message, emphasising migrants’ rights and freedom of movement. It will be producing materials and organising activities to help create a clearly left and clearly anti-Brexit pole within the push for a Labour government.
Everyone who wants to stop Brexit and win a radical Labour government should support the L4SE campaign and get involved.
It is important that we approach this election campaign, our fight within it and whatever comes after with determination.
The stakes are high and the task is daunting. We face difficulties we did not in 2017. But 2017 still has lessons. Things can move very fast. The Tories are very far from unbeatable. Even if they do win, we must continue the struggle with energy. There will be a lot to fight for, over immediate issues, over Brexit and over the future direction of our labour movement and society.
If the Tories win, Labour should not – whatever the tactical issues – declare Brexit a permanently settled question. It should commit to a referendum on EU membership under the next Labour government – and to fight in that referendum for the UK to rejoin.
The stronger the clear and radical left-wing, anti-Brexit voice and network we build in the election the better position we’ll be in to continue all the fights, whatever the outcome.