Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Corbyn: A Partisan Revolution?
Best of luck to the 'non-partisan' Matt McCarten in revving-up the 'missing million' in NZ, he will need it. If there was any message in Corbyn's revival of the British Labour party it is his 'partisan' democratic socialist stand. Much has been made of the 'lessons' for NZ. Veteran class fighters Mike Treen and John Minto see the need to get rid of the Blairites. Most others seem to think it wasn't Corbyn's program that worked wonders but his appeal to non-voting youth. Bomber Bradbury even ranks all the political parties on their ‘youth appeal’ as if missing youth are a mere segment in the political marketplace. That is what happens when you replace class with generation as your main political motivator. Social class disappears and ‘youth appeal’ becomes the cue for the Blairites to once again accuse Corbyn of splitting the Labour Party.
It’s all about class
Speaking for the NZ Labour Party Blairites in the NZ Herald, Josie Pagani complains that Corbyn could have won a majority had he united with the hostile Blairites behind a more moderate program. These same Blairites who rejected Corbyn and his program as 'their' leader! And for Pagani, obviously NZ Labour's current centrist tack to reclaim the ‘middle ground’ from National is the way to go. And the 'non-partisan' Labour caucus endorses it. Here we can see how the fixation on youth appeal at the expense of socialist program leads to cross-class identity politics displacing working class politics.
The reason that thousands of young people flocked to Corbyn's 'parliamentary socialist' program was because they were inspired by it. As were many die-hard older Labour supporters despite decades of Blairism, and before that, decades of Labourite attacks on the working class. Why? British Labour, like NZ Labour is a class divided party. They were both created by the conservative trades union bureaucracy in the early 1900s to divert the class struggle from the workplaces into parliament when the unions found that their ability to fight for wages and conditions came up against the bosses' cops and Cossacks and when they really pushed hard, the military. Because...they were breaking the law.
When communists said there is one law for the boss and one for workers (Labour's leg-iron), the union leaders said, no, we are all subject to the one 'non-partisan' law for all so we have to obey the Labour Law and take the fight to parliament to reform the glorious law. So Labour Parties have in their DNA a class contradiction between workers who want Labour to advance their interests, and their leadership that has signed up to the bosses' law. This was true at the beginning of the 20th century and it remains true well into the 21st century.
That means there can be no 'unity' within Labour parties unless one or other class wins. Either the workers take their demands to parliament and get them all voted in because they have turned Labour into a mass workers party capable of leading a general strike. Or, the bureaucratic Labourite leadership suppresses workers’ demands and imposes the bosses' program of more austerity. Historically, the Labour 'left' has been confined to relatively small groups who have battled away against the bosses' program to make profits at the expense of workers living standards. Labour parties have been able to suppress the class struggle inside the party and divide and rule the class struggle outside. So long as the left inside Labour plays by these rules then there will always be the 'hope' of winning reforms in parliament and delivering the holy grail of parliamentary socialism.
This is the meaning of Corbyn's victory. It's all about class partisanship. Corbyn found his “missing million” by standing on a mild anti-austerity program. If he had stood on a full-on parliamentary socialist program, might he have won a majority? After decades of Blairism (both socialism and conservatism have failed, we need a new middle) Corbyn, who after a career as a backbench rebel was fortuitously (against resistance of the party establishment) propelled into the leadership. Then it exploded into a major revival of the disenfranchised left who could see the program working for them all, young (education, housing) and old (NHS, pensions etc) and all those in between (make rail run on time!). The disproportionate rise of disenfranchised youth was not a function of age but of a youth wasted by the decades of Blairite and Tory austerity. But the youth were not totally wasted and rose up in response to the hope of socialist reforms.
Against Josie Pagani, and all the 'non-partisans' in the NZ Labour Party, it was not the failure of unity in UK Labour that lost the election but the partisan class stand of Corbyn that won the seats of hundreds of Blairite MPs! Yes, had Corbyn not been already moderating his program (ignoring Brexit, voting for Trident, etc) to pacify his enemies in the party, and stood on a full blooded socialist program, Labour could have won and put the Blairites on notice. "Get behind our program or get out!" This would be the first step towards throwing them out and replacing them with MPs that represent the interests of the massive activist membership of around 800,000 - and rising.
Where to from Here
The Blairites will pull their collective head in, but continue to undermine and water down any Corbynite policies. They will claim his victory and their seats but conspire to dump him from the leadership. But first they have to remove the election of leader by the membership which was the only thing that kept Corbyn as leader. It remains to be seen how Corbyn will move from here. Will he become that Labour rebel who now fights to remove the bourgeois leadership and turns Labour into a mass democratic workers party? Or will he act as the Pied Piper who takes a new generation of young idealists into parliament only to destroy their hopes as he pulls back from a genuine working-class program?
Even if we assume the former, Corbyn cannot deliver what workers need without putting workers into power. Capitalism cannot deliver reforms when its terminal crisis demands the destruction of workers as a class. There is no way out on the parliamentary road. Corbyn can play a role in breaking the working class from bourgeois parliamentarism only if he empowers the Labour membership and turns Labour into a mass workers party. If he tries to form a minority government with the Scottish National Party and the Social Democrats he would be already selling his supporters out to a multi-class, non-partisan popular front with bourgeois nationalist parties to suppress the partisan membership.
However, if Corbyn now realises that he could have won had he stood for a red-blooded socialism, and if he mobilises his 100,000s of left wing supporters to take control of the Party, he can fight to bring down the Tories over their hard Brexit, rabid austerity and police state plans, and go to another election on a platform for a Socialist Britain in a Socialist Europe.
But to make this a reality, and withstand a Tory coup, Labour would have to be an openly partisan working-class party that has the strength to mobilise the masses outside parliament, reviving the unions as democratic fighting unions, and creating workers councils or soviets everywhere as the basis for a socialist revolution and a Workers' Government!