On 4th April the result of the Labour Party leadership election was announced and true to form and the prediction of the bourgeois press, Sir Keir Starmer was announced as the new leader of the opposition. Starmer, the establishment stooge, has hammered the final nail into the coffin of the Corbyn project.
Corbyn’s leadership success in 2015 paved the way for the Labour Party to be dragged, albeit kicking and screaming, from the Blairites and over to the left of the political spectrum. The Party attracted a membership of over 560,000, making it the largest political party in Western Europe. These members brought in both class consciousness and hope of reform of the bourgeois political system in the interests of ‘the many, not the few’, which at one point seemed to promise real change. The political landscape in Britain had and still has changed, despite those hopes within the Labour Party being snuffed out by the bureaucratic layer at the top and within the trade unions, protecting ruling class interests. This hope suffered terminal damage with the devastation of the general election defeat in December 2019.
Corbyn’s capitulation to the Zionist smears by constantly apologising and throwing principled anti-racist comrades under the bus on spurious accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’, the adoption of the IHRA, and the treachery of Lansman, Hodge et al, doomed the Corbyn project. It exposed him as unprincipled and weak and was a major factor (amongst others) in Labour’s disastrous general election result.
A Neoliberal Stooge
The general election defeat was a major blow to the left, and it has left many members and voters completely disillusioned and looking for a new political home. Many of these people are left in the wilderness and considering their Labour Party allegiance, as the natural establishment heir to the throne emerges to be crowned. Starmer, a Knight of the Realm, was involved in the 2016 ‘chicken coup’ attempt to oust Corbyn. His establishment credentials include being in the role of Director of Public Prosecutions during the period (2003-2009) when infiltration of environmental and leftist groups was being carried out by the state, and in 2011 when a trial of environmental activists collapsed due to the CPS (of which he was the Head of and was present in court) covering up vital evidence.
He has been responsible for overseeing the criminal activity of his imperialist paymasters, including in 2012, when he announced that MI5 and MI6 agents would not face charges of torture and extraordinary rendition during the Iraq war, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. As an MP, he voted against an investigation into the Iraq war. He also fast tracked the extradition of Julian Assange, who as part of Wikileaks exposed imperialist crimes against the people of Iraq. He disregarded legal precedents by advising Swedish lawyers not to question Assange in the UK, and in so doing prolonged Assange’s legal purgatory, denied closure to his accusers in Sweden, and essentially ensured Assange would face the threat of extradition to a show trial in the US.
Starmer’s crowning is just a continuation of protecting the establishment under the pretext of being the leader of the ‘opposition’ in a ‘socialist’ party. His immediate olive branch to Johnson to work together in a ‘time of national crisis’ obfuscates his real purpose. Starmer immediately signed up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ 10 demands and declared his sympathy for Zionism. In February of this year he told the Jewish News that “I support Zionism without qualification.” He declared in his victory speech, “Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party” vowing to “tear out this poison by its roots.”
This is code for a purge of the left, of anti-racist campaigners and pro-Palestinian activists and supporters, on the basis of the far-right, Goebellsian blood libel that to condemn the racism of Zionism and the Israeli state is in some way a racialised attack on Jews. In fact Labour is now dominated by anti-Arab, Zionist racism and under Starmer’s leadership and the dictatorship of the IHRA fake-definition, should be considered an anti-Arab, racist party.
At all points of his career Starmer has put his ‘left credentials’ to use to ensure that the bourgeois state is protected at all costs, such as: altering legal guidelines so that those improperly claiming benefits could be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; removing the financial threshold for such cases, allowing the government to waste endless resources arresting and incarcerating people who had claimed minimal amounts of money; drawing up rules that gave police officers more power to arrest demonstrators, including vague guidelines allowing scarfs to be classed as ‘masks’ and placards classed as ‘weapons’; being found by a Parliamentary Select Committee to have restricted the scope of the tabloid phone hacking investigation; and having abstained on the Tory Welfare Bill in 2015, which introduced a series of drastic cuts to social spending that disproportionately affected women, children and the disabled.
He replaced ‘leftists’ Barry Gardiner and Ian Lavery and brought the likes of Rachel Reeves into the Shadow Cabinet. The same Reeves, who in 2013 as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, claimed that “Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits” and earlier as a Blairite minister called for the eviction of the unemployed from council housing. Expecting these careerists to have any sympathy with the working class in the current economic crash would be like inviting a fox into a hen house and hoping it will behave itself.
Tactics and Strategy Toward the Labour left
For all the crowing of the right wing, the fact is that Keir Starmer has a much flimsier mandate as Labour leader than Corbyn had in 2015 and 2016. His supporters claim he has 56% of the vote, whereas in both earlier leadership contests, Corbyn received just shy of two thirds. Equally importantly, more Labour members did not vote at all in the 2020 leadership election than voted for Starmer. This has created a situation where a Scottish socialist, Sandy McBurney, who is often quite close to our comrades in terms of tactical understanding of the nuances of the Labour Party and its politics, projected:
“I think a future split of the Labour left is very much on the horizon. Sir Keir will be expelling many on the left and anyone who tries to organise against the expulsions. So we will have de facto an organisation that is mainly outside the Labour Party. Will our perspective just be to try to get back in? Or will it be trying to build a socialist current that stands for a mass socialist party and that calls a spade a spade i.e. that the Labour Party is led by an anti-socialist and the PLP is dominated by anti-working-class servants of capital. Look what has happened to social democracy in Europe? Should socialists be fighting to be in the French Italian, German or Spanish social democratic parties?
“Obviously not. Take the blinkers off. It is highly unlikely that the left will ever win over the Labour Party to socialism. Things are a lot later and have moved on from that. The Labour right and the capitalist class has shown it won’t accept even a mild left leadership of the LP. Are we not going to learn from that? A socialist takeover of the Labour Party is now ruled out. The right won’t make the same mistake again. But you can be sure that the Labour right is going to expel those socialists who won’t kowtow to their anti-working-class politics. They will try to integrate some as long as they keep their mouths shut but the right is out to purge the hard left with slanders about antisemitism etc.”
This has to be the tactical approach of Marxists to the radicalised and alienated, and quite massive Labour left, of maybe 200-250,000 militants or so. We need a lifeboat, an organising centre for the creation of a genuinely anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist mass workers party, and revolutionaries need to be sharpening up their programmatic approach to create a bridge between the alienated, but still to a very large degree left-reformist consciousness of this advanced layer, and the objective need for a revolutionary anti-capitalism, i.e. the programme of socialist revolution. This may involve blocs with principled left socialists of reformist or centrist consciousness, such as Chris Williamson and others, but our overall aim as revolutionaries must be to fight for a revolutionary programme among these vitally important vanguard layers of working class and allied militants.
The British road to socialism through the bourgeois parliamentary system is an illusion. The capitalist class will use all bureaucratic means necessary to frustrate, divert energy, and where necessary corrupt means with the support with their lackeys in the capitalist press to prevent any real change in the interests of workers. Crumbs will be given piecemeal here and there, some minor reforms, some concessions, but nothing substantial, to ensure that the working class are kept subdued and the protection of capital in the hands of the ruling class is kept in place.
The Labour Party has a track record of leading workers down a dead end and some of the most terrible of British imperialist crimes have happened during times of having a Labour government in power. However, the Tories response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the ruling class fear the class consciousness again developing within the masses. The majority now understand the importance of cleaners, nurses, delivery drivers, supermarket and factory workers and not the CEOs of large corporations that are now squealing to be bailed out.
The likes of Branson, the multi billionaire who evades taxes living on his own island, requesting government assistance while he lays off his workers is causing resentment amongst the masses, who now see the stinking hypocrisy very clearly. To placate the majority, financial promises and concessions have been made by Johnson and his Chancellor. The ruling class fear people on the streets as they have seen in France, the emergency powers rushed through Parliament, which were supported by Labour, show this.
If they believe that another round of austerity will solve the financial hole that they have now dug themselves into they are sorely mistaken. The genie will not go back into the bottle. The crisis has shown neoliberal economics has to be pulled out by its roots and the trunk and branches of capitalist system completely destroyed for humanity to have any chance of survival, and to realise its true potential to live in a more just and equal world; a world where capitalist class dictatorship is overcome and replaced with the class dictatorship of the working class and the oppressed, the great majority of humanity, as a bridge to a rational, sustainable and egalitarian world order, or world socialism to put it straightforwardly.