It can hardly have escaped our readers’ notice that a relentless campaign is being waged to discredit Jeremy Corbyn, with the ultimate aim of removing him as the leader of the Labour party.
Not a day goes by without some fresh allegation against him of racism, extremism, fraternisation with terrorists, etc. As papers like the Times, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail combined with right-wing Labour MPs, BBC anchors and self-appointed ‘jewish community leaders’ (as if there were actually such a thing as the ‘jewish community’) this summer, the levels of media hysteria over the fabricated issue of Mr Corbyn’s supposed ‘antisemitism’ reached fever pitch.
Even after Labour’s NEC buckled to the pressure of the zionist lobby and accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA, a zionist lobby group) ‘definition’ of antisemitism (which brands legitimate criticism of Israel as criminal ‘hate speech’), we were told ominously by former Blairite minister and frontline anti-Corbyn crusader Dame Margaret Hodge that this was “not the end”.
The question we must ask ourselves is: Why? Why all this evident fury over the possibility that a left-Labour candidate just might become prime minister? After all, judging by his programme, Mr Corbyn wouldn’t be the most left-wing Labour prime minister Britain has ever had, nor is his agenda more radical than that of all previous Labour governments.
Members of Momentum, the left-Labour grassroots organisation that backed his campaign to become leader and is a prime mover in pushing for a more left-wing direction in the party, will tell us that it is because Jeremy represents hope; that his election would bring about the restoration of Britain’s welfare state to its former glory, bring back jobs and security to all the workers who have lost it over the last few decades of deepening economic crisis, and would end British involvement in imperialist war abroad.
But is this true? Certainly people would like it to be. There is indeed a great feeling of hope amongst his supporters. But beyond all the emotional hyperbole about social justice and peace, what are the key points of Labour’s programme, and do they really represent such a threat to the ruling class as might justify this present level of ruling-class outrage?
Corbyn’s Labour has gained huge popularity among voters on the basis of some key promises, which would certainly bring a material improvement to the life of many workers.
1. Renationalisation of the railways, the postal service, the national grid and the water companies. This measure is popular not only with workers but also with a growing section of the bourgeoisie, whose businesses are increasingly inconvenienced by the expense and inefficiency of these essential utilities, and by the blatant kleptomania of the corporations that run them. Labour has promised to pay market value for the companies’ shares and to wait til the various franchises are up for renewal, so no property rights will be violated if it is carried out, and all expense will be borne by the masses.
2. The abolition of tuition fees for students and the reintroduction of maintenance grants. This policy is hugely popular with privileged workers (aka the ‘middle class’), and is likewise seen as a sound one by some members of the ruling class, who understand that completely pricing poorer workers out of university and massively indebting the better-off ones who do go is producing too many angry and disillusioned young people, with little or no hope of building a decent future for themselves, especially when combined with the soaring price of housing.
3. The building of 100,000 council and housing association homes every year. It has been admitted even by the Conservatives that the housing crisis cannot be addressed without building more social housing. Hence Prime Minister May’s recent statement that workers should be “proud of their council houses” and the Tory pledge to build more of them. Labour has not promised to organise the building directly, so presumably this would create a further bonanza for Britain’s already bloated construction monopolies.
4. The lifting of the public sector pay cap, introduction of a living wage of £10 per hour by 2020 and the banning of zero-hour contracts and unpaid internships. The minimum wage and zero-hours promises will certainly worry many employers, but the public sector pay cap is already being lifted by Theresa May’s Tory government as it is clear that the mass of the low-paid nurses, firefighters, council workers etc simply cannot be squeezed any more after 10 years of real-terms pay cuts. Again, a growing section of the ruling class supports this policy, since it is hardly desirable that nurses should be under such financial strain that they are forced to visit foodbanks to feed their families.
5. A cash injection for the NHS and for social care. This policy has also already been adopted by the Conservatives and is not a controversial one, particularly as there is no commitment to reversing privatisation or abolishing the layers of management that have been introduced to facilitate profit-taking in the health service. Indeed, it is perfectly possible that much of the increased funding promised by both parties could end up funnelled straight into the pockets of the privateers.
6. Tax raises for people earning over £80,000, a rise in corporation tax to 26 percent, more money for local councils, the reformation of council tax and business rates, and the possibility of a new land value tax. This is potentially more worrying to the ruling class, but the proposals are actually fairly restrained. There’s no talk, for instance, of reintroducing the 90 percent tax band for top earners that existed in the 1950s and 60s. Moreover, even Theresa May has been forced to promise that “austerity is over”. There are plenty among the bourgeois class who recognise that the complete scrapping or privatising of all public services and infrastructure could undermine social peace to an unmanageable extent.
This programme, in comparison with that of Clement Attlee’s Labour government of 1945, is extremely modest. It does not undo all the devastation wrought by decades of privatisation and austerity. How could it? The world today is not the world of 1945, when socialist revolution threatened capitalists across Europe and made them fear for the existence of their system.
At that time, the fear of the socialist example, the need to rebuild following the devastation of the second world war, and the intensified plunder by British imperialism of its colonies combined to bring tremendous prosperity to British workers, fooling them into believing they could have the benefits of socialism without the trouble of organising a revolution, and that things would only get better.
Meanwhile, the fear that Corbyn’s Stop the War and CND background might pose a serious threat to British imperialist warmongering has been somewhat mollified by Labour’s promise to renew Trident, retain membership of Nato and comply with the alliance’s membership criteria by allocating 2 percent of GDP to ‘defence’ spending.
Meanwhile, it is clear that for the dominant section of the ruling class that wishes to overturn the Brexit referendum, its best bet would be a Labour-led coalition, since not only most of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) MPs and most of the Labour party membership, but also all of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), LibDems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens are fervent remainers, ready to do whatever is necessary either to organise a second referendum or to negotiate a Brexit deal that keeps Britain inside the common market and following all the EU’s rules and regulations – ie, a deal that would deliver ‘Brexit’ in name only.
Corbyn himself is no remainer, but neither is he so attached to the idea of leaving the EU that he would stand in the way of his colleagues if he found himself in a minority.
So what exactly are those attacking Mr Corbyn afraid of? What prevents the neoliberal EU and Nato-backing sections of the ruling class doing what they can to help him into No 10 in order to carry out this plan?
It boils down to two things. The first is the chimera that the corporate media themselves have created. In their desire to prevent Corbyn becoming Labour leader in the first place, media and political commentators painted him in such monstrous colours that to stop attacking him now seems almost impossible.
Some saner voices have indeed backed away from the constant haranguing of their colleagues, pointing out Corbyn’s increased ‘professionalism’ and the clear sense in many of his policies, but journalists writing in papers like the Times seem almost to have painted themselves into a corner of vitriol and bile, constantly conjuring up a caricature of the Labour leader as an unrepentant Marxist, getting ready to pull down the pillars of capitalist rule around the ears of their masters.
More importantly, there is one principle, however politely expressed, that Mr Corbyn simply cannot walk away from – his commitment to ‘peace and justice’ for Palestine. Having been for some years the chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and an avowed and vocal anti-zionist, Corbyn could hardly do an about-turn on this particular issue even if he wanted to – and we have no reason to suppose that he does.
But the question of Israel/Palestine is not merely an academic one for the British ruling class – it is at the heart of British imperial policy in the middle east. The very same big bourgeois – particularly those involved in the interlocking interests of oil, arms and finance – who wish Britain to remain in the EU, remain in Nato, and continue to defend the neoliberal freemarket fundamentalist status quo of the last two-and-a-half decades are also those most determined to retain Britain’s connection with zionist Israel, which is their preferred tool for keeping control of the region’s oil and suppressing its national-liberation movements.
It is not the rights of jews or muslims, Israelis or Palestinians that get these liberal warmongers so worked up, but their own right to plunder and domination. This is the significance of Israel and Palestine, and the real reason for all the vilification of Mr Corbyn.
As a backbench MP, his position was a perfectly acceptable one, and his pacifistic concerns over the human rights of dispossessed Palestinians continue to be expressed by MPs across the bourgeois spectrum. This is an acceptable and necessary safety valve. But for a chief executive of British or US imperialism, unqualified support for zionism is an essential precondition.
This explains why Corbyn has come under such a sustained attack, and why a vocal and powerful section of our ruling class is so desperate to see him removed from office before the next general election.
But their very rage is a symptom of their impotence. Despite all their efforts, Corbyn remains in place and his grassroots supporters are not one whit abashed by the propaganda onslaught against him. And, in a further sign of the waning power of the corporate media, the public at large remains either unconvinced or indifferent to the storm that has been whipped up.
As with the election of Donald Trump and the outcome of the Brexit referendum, the failure of our rulers to get their way over Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party is one more sign of a ruling class in chaos and losing its grip on the popular consciousness.
For our part, we are very hopeful of Mr Corbyn’s remaining in place long enough to fight and win a general election, since it is clear that only direct experience of what a ‘left’ Labour government is actually able to do when in office in such times as these will open the eyes of the workers to the simple fact that no changing of the guard can fix the capitalist crisis or end imperialist war.
If we want the things that Corbyn’s Labour seems to promise: real jobs with living wages and pensions, decent homes, universal and free healthcare and education, freedom from poverty, insecurity and war, we will have to replace the entire economic system, not merely the politicians standing at its head.
It is not a new or nicer chief executive of British imperialism we need, but a socialist revolution.