After weeks of dreary boredom over the endless jostling by assorted Blairite candidates to get on the ballot paper for the labour leadership election, some life has been injected into the campaign by the announcement that the veteran left wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has declared that he is putting himself forward to go on the ballot paper. Within hours thousands of “likes” had appeared on Facebook pages and thousands have now signed an online petition, as reported in the Daily Mirror, demanding that MPs nominate him to go on the ballot paper.
Stiched up at the top
The problem is actually getting on the ballot paper. At least 35 Labour MPs need to declare support for Corbyn to make it. Given the rush by career-minded Labour MPs to declare undying support and love for the “frontrunners” in order to boost their future job prospects, and given the extreme shortage of decent left-wingers in the parliamentary party, the chances of passing the 35-vote barrier are not good.
In fact the only reason the nomination barrier is so low is because of the massacre of Labour in Scotland this May. The plan always was to have a system which seemed very democratic on paper but in reality would be nothing of the sort. The barrier by which any candidate would have to get quite a sizeable number of nominations from Labour MPs – and only the MPs – was intended to ensure that the options on any ballot paper would be strictly controlled from the outset.
Hence the grim fact that, to date, all the declared candidates likely to make it onto the ballot all represent various shades of rightwinger.
They have all blamed the election defeat on a so-called “shift to the Left” and demanded more business-friendly, Tory-lite policies as the way forward for Labour. In reality this is the way forward to the graveyard. It is a disgrace that local parties and trade unions do not have the right to nominate candidates independently of the parliamentary Labour Party.
Fight the Tories with socialist policies!
As we have explained many times, Labour’s failure to beat let alone smash the Tories at the last election is rooted in its compliance with the demands of capitalism, its acceptance of cuts and pay restraint, and its miserable failure to offer any real clear alternative. Such an approach played into the Tories’ hands, demoralised workers in the industrial (or rather former industrial) heartlands, and failed to provide any poles of attraction to the youth and those facing severe economic attacks – precisely those layers who in previous decades would have been the bedrock of Labour’s support.
Tellingly, whereas the Blairites (who in reality celebrated Labour’s defeat just as much as the Tories did) are demanding a capitulation to the line of big business, layers of youth, far from being defeated, are rising up in ad-hoc protests and meetings, demanding a fightback and discussing revolutionary politics. They, joined by thousands of workers, pensioners, unemployed and others, will be marching on June 20th in London, Glasgow and elsewhere against austerity and the attacks of the Tories. A few weeks later, many thousands will again be protesting over Osborne’s July budget.
Behind these layers are many more, millions more, who are angry and ready to be raised from their slumbers to join the fight. All that is required is a clear bold lead. The unions and the organisations of the class could provide that lead and set about a mass mobilisation of the class which could set this country afire. The TUC, a body which seems to have become invisible in recent weeks, could set the tone with a call for a one-day general strike against austerity. If they won’t do it, then individual unions – linking up with other working class organisations, tenants groups, etc. – should take a lead on this.
Worry for the Establishment
In this context, the election of someone like Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader could transform the situation. For that reason the ruling class will not want him on the ballot. Even then, given the dismal state of the Labour left and the party itself, there is little evidence that he could win or even get close. In that sense, the overwhelming election of Murphy as Scottish Labour leader last year must be seen as an indication of how things could go.
However, some in the party hierarchy may be worried that the lack of choice on offer may undermine the leadership election, and for that reason (as they tried with Diane Abbott in 2010) they may engineer things to get Corbyn onto the ballot as a token Left. The danger is that whereas Abbott, a very-soft Left, did not do very well in 2010, Corbyn – who is made of sterner stuff – may do a lot better and expose the lack of real solid support for the Blairites inside the movement.
One worry for the establishment is that they no longer have the backup of the college voting system, so that, although the union vote has been diluted, so too has the MPs vote, which used to count for a third of the total and has been overwhelmingly right wing in nature.
So this is the dilemma that the party bosses face and they will have to decide soon what to do. They had not expected any challenge from the Left and will have been surprised by Corbyn’s announcement. The likehood is that they will choose to keep him off the ballot out of fear of what might happen, but in doing so will further expose the sham of this leadership election.
Back Corbyn! Fight for a socialist programme!
Corbyn, if he makes it, however, will stand as the anti-austerity candidate and should be backed by all those with a vote.
However, we will also see the weakness of his campaign, in that he would likely be standing on a left-reformist programme that does not clearly explain the need to transform society by means of a socialist programme, to put an end to the cause of this crisis and austerity: the capitalist system.
Such a programme, if boldly presented, could have enabled Corbyn to properly answer the line and lies of the Labour right-wingers and pull behind him millions of workers and youth who are looking for a way out of this austerity nightmare. In doing so, he could expose the deep decay at the heart of this system.
However this new development plays out, the masses need to prepare to fightback against this rotten system and show the Tories and the bosses the one thing they really fear: the power of the working class. This is where the real fight will be, not in the corridors of Westminster – for we are many and they are few.
This article first appeared on the website of Socialist Appeal
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This post was written by Steve Jones