After 12 December, what?

Submitted by AWL on 4 December, 2019 - 6:36

If Labour wins a majority government, some activists will think or semi-think “job done”.

There will be a feeling we have navigated deadly rapids to a place of a safety. But in fact the struggle will likely intensify, and become harder.

Labour’s manifesto only moderate higher taxes on the best-off, and nationalisation with compensation of selected sectors, not a democratic seizure of the productive wealth currently held by the plutocrats. But we should not assume Labour’s manifesto will be implemented easily.

There will be many Labour MPs and leading party figures hesitant about or hostile to carrying out left-wing policies. The capitalist class, after decades having had almost everything its own way, will be in no mood to concede. The media, the courts, sheer economic power, will be used to obstruct and resist.

Anyone who doubts that is ignoring not only world and British history, but the way capital and its political representatives have related to Corbyn’s Labour Party over more than four years.

With a hung Parliament and a minority Labour government, the difficulties passing and implementing left-wing policies, and the pressure for Labour to retreat, will be greater. Despite what all sides are saying now, there will surely be pressure for a coalition with the Lib Dems and/or the SNP.

A coalition government with more right-wing, more bourgeois parties would mean Labour abandoning its more left-wing policies from the start; and wall off the leadership from party members’ and the labour movement’s pressure. Socialists must argue and rally the movement to oppose a coalition.

If both main parties fail to get a majority, Labour should seek to form a minority government and call for the other anti-Tory parties to vote for its policies. We should fight to make as much headway as possible, while preparing for another election in which Labour seeks a majority as the way out of the deadlock.

All cases of a hung Parliament, however, will give openings for forcing a referendum on the Tories’ Brexit deal, and for winning that referendum. Solidarity will continue our fight in the labour movement to ensure Labour backs a new public vote and to commit the party to a real campaign for Remain – not the kind of pale effort, completely overshadowed by the noxiously smug “official” Remain campaign, that we had in 2016.

If the Tories win a majority, there is a danger of the left and labour movement slumping in shock, thinking or at least feeling it means the fight is over for some time.

Something like that happened after the last time the Tories won four elections in a row, in 1992. Then, only five months later, in September 1992, the Tories were discredited and had their confidence shattered by an economic crisis (the ERM crash).

Johnson’s Tories lack clear ideas: Johnson has u-turned already on Brexit, dumping the DUP opposition on the back of which he ousted May. Their manifesto contains relatively little (though that little is extremely unpleasant) beyond “get Brexit done”, and even there they won’t be able to do their promised trade deals with the EU and the USA as quickly as they claim.

So they will face all kinds of difficulties. Labour will have opportunities to defeat them and begin to turn the tide.

We need to push for maximum resistance to every attack, most glaringly in terms of migrants’ rights and their proposals to curb strikes on the railways.

The bad thing after 1992 was not that the Tories could ride roughshod, but that the labour movement’s ambitions collapsed. The road opened further and faster towards Blairism.

If we lose the election, there will be voices saying the problem was too much radicalism. The limited and patchy political boldness of Corbynism – the manifesto contains many good policies that have suddenly appeared from above, when they should have been properly debated and campaigned for – increases the danger.

It does not follow, however, that if Jeremy Corbyn retires in the months following the election, then the left should back whomever is “anointed” by the Leader’s Office as successor.

There may be little difference between leader candidates on social issues, and we should not back candidates with bad or evasive records on Brexit and antisemitism just because the Leader’s Office promotes them.

In all circumstances, we will need to push to build up and strengthen the labour movement, building organisations in workplaces and communities that can effectively resist the forces of capital, win a majority for Labour’s manifesto policies and go beyond them.

We must fight to transform the Labour Party and trade unions to put them in better shape for the struggle.

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