Corbyn: A Partisan Revolution?
Partisans for ‘youth’
Best of luck to the ‘non-partisan’ Matt McCarten in revving-up the ‘missing million’. That’s the problem though. If there was any message in Corbyn’s revival of the British Labour party is it his ‘partisan’ democratic socialist stand. I have been looking over the blogs on The Daily Blog to see what they say about ‘lessons’ for NZ. Only the veteran class fighters Mike Treen and John Minto see the need to get rid of the Blairites. The rest seem to think it wasn’t Corbyn’s program that worked wonders but his appeal to non-voting youth. Bomber even ranks all the 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.
Speaking for the Labour Party Right in the NZ Herald, Josie Pagani goes so far as to say Corbyn could have won 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. But the fixation on youth appeal at the expense of program is a reactionary consequence of identity politics displacing class politics.
It’s all about class
The reason that thousands of young people flocked to Corbyn’s program was because they agreed with it. As did many die hard older Labour supporters despite decades of Blairism, and before that, decades of Labourite attacks on the working class. You see, 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 it into a mass workers party capable of winning a general strike. Or, the bureaucratic Labourite leadership suppresses workers’ demands and imposes the bosses’ program of more profits. 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 divide and rule the class struggle outside. So long as the left inside Labour plays by these rules then there will always be hope of winning reforms in parliament delivering the holy grail of parliamentary socialism.
This is the meaning of Corbyn’s victory. It’s all about class partisanship. If he had stood on a red-blooded 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 for decades as a backbench rebel was fortuitously (against resistance of the party establishment) propelled into the leadership. There 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 these 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 Party, it was not the failure of unity in 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. This would be the first step towards deselecting them and replacing them with MPs that represent the interests of the massive membership, at 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 it into a mass workers party. If he tries to form a minority government with the Scottish National Party and the Social Democrats he would he 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 bases himself on his 100,000s of left wing supporters, 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!