The Labour Party bureaucracy, the big business media and the entire establishment have been shocked by the momentum developing behind Corbyn’s campaign. Supporters of the other three candidates have been urged to transfer to each other to try to block a left-wing leadership. Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock were wheeled out to warn against a Corbyn victory. Wringing their hands, they conjure up the spectre of Militant – the forerunner of the Socialist Party – which led the Poll Tax struggle and toppled Thatcher, in opposition to the right-wing Labour leadership. The press constantly repeats the mantra that a swing to the left will mean irrelevance for Labour as parties must appeal to the mythical ‘centre ground’ to win elections.
Of course, Corbyn’s unexpected success itself demonstrates that this is entirely false. Poll after poll shows that the general public is well to the left of all the main parties on most issues. People want an alternative to the austerity consensus and to the bland monotony of corporate politics. Labour did not lose the recent election because they were too left-wing. They lost because they were barely distinguishable from the Tories, who won with the support of only 24% of the electorate. Millions of working class voters simply stayed at home, seeing no credible force worth voting for. Others voted for the right-wing, xenophobic UKIP to give two fingers to the political establishment. The fact that this party of lunatics led by an ex-banker has become the key voice of protest speaks volumes about the failure of the New Labour project.
Wave of enthusiasm for left alternative
In Scotland, the independence referendum saw a re-emergence of mass political engagement not seen in generations. This was not primarily because people were gripped by a narrow, inward-looking nationalism but because workers and young people saw it as a way of breaking free from Tory rule and austerity. While perhaps not on the same scale, Corbyn’s campaign has had a similar impact across England and Wales. Thousands of young people have joined Labour specifically to vote for him. Feeling the groundswell beneath their feet, the leaderships of the big three trade unions – Unite, GMB and Unison – have been pushed to back him, abandoning Andy Burnham, who had been all but christened the “trade union candidate”.
Right will not accept Corbyn leadership
If Corbyn wins, a split in Labour is almost certain. The apparatus and upper echelons of the party are ideologically bound to neo-liberalism. They will not tolerate a left-wing leadership. Only 9 of Labour’s 232 MPs belong to the Socialist Campaign Group of which Corbyn is a member. Plans are already being formed to oust him within months. The momentum and enthusiasm which has been built must not be squandered. If Corbyn and his supporters are forced out or the right-wing manage to marshall their forces to defeat him in the election, Corbyn should immediately call a major conference to discuss launching a new party which will really fight for the interests of the working class, young people and oppressed sections of society. All the evidence suggests this would get a phenomenal response.
Fight Stormont’s austerity and sectarianism!
Here in the North, we also urgently need to build a new, anti-sectarian voice for working class people if we are going to end the suffering inflicted by austerity. All the five main parties signed up to brutal attacks on the public sector in the Stormont House Agreement – 20,000 job losses as well as cuts and privatisation of vital services. The Assembly Executive parties – not the Tories – have campaigned for a cut in corporation tax which will transfer hundreds of millions every year directly from public services to the profits of big business. At the same time, Orange and Green politicians use issues like flags, parades and the past to whip up division and maintain the political power.
A growing layer – particularly of young people – are completely turned off by the sectarianism, backwardness and pro-austerity consensus which dominate politics here and are looking for an alternative. The Socialist Party seeks to work with trade unionists, student activists and those fighting for LGBT equality and women’s rights to build a force which can fill that vacuum and unite ordinary people to fight for their common interests.
Break with the capitalist system!
While Corbyn’s campaign has had a massive impact, changing society in the interests of the 99% will require going much further than his relatively limited programme of reforms. The experience of Syriza’s humiliation by the Troika shows that the representatives of capitalism will use every tool at their disposal to defend their interests. Instead, we need to break with this rotten system and fight for a socialist future where society’s wealth is taken out of the hands of the super-rich elite and used in a planned and democratic way to provide a decent life for all, free from poverty, exploitation and division.