Corbyn and Labour: Parliamentary “Socialism” or Class Struggle?
18-05-2017 – On the face of it, it’s an impressive list. In the United Kingdom, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s platform for the June 8 elections include sweet sounding promises, as far as working people are concerned. Renationalising the railways, a 10 pound minimum wage, abolishing University tuition fees, free school meals, ending “zero hours” contracts, the right to trade union representation and much more. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has reportedly led to thousands of people joining the Labour Party; it has drawn in young people previously not involved with politics, and has even put a semblance of an anti-war agenda back into “mainstream” politics.
Yet Jeremy Corbyn is far from the “real deal”. He has been a Labour Party MP in the UK for around 30 years. Many have commented that he has spent his life campaigning against what his own party enforces. And there are glaring inconsistencies in a reliable left wing, much less “socialist”, agenda. For example, Corbyn has previously instructed Labour dominated councils in the UK to refrain from passing “no cuts” budgets. That is, despite all his words against “austerity”, Corbyn directs Labour Councils to pass austerity budgets. Also, for all of his former leadership of the Stop the War Coalition, when it came to the crunch, Corbyn allowed Labour MPs a “conscience” vote on whether or not to bomb Syria! 
We will leave it to the socialist parties and workers’ organisations in the UK to determine which is the best path for them, based as we are in Australia. However, we make the general point that continually trying to replace the leadership of the Labour Party with someone more “left” or even more “socialist” has failed time and time again. Tony Blair was replaced with Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown was replaced with Ed Miliband. Ed Miliband was replaced with Jeremy Corbyn. Has the result improved for working people? Overall, things may have even become worse.
Reducing huge political issues to individuals is a huge problem. It becomes not about classes but personalities. For his part, and for all of his activism, and for all of his stated policies, Jeremy Corbyn is committed to the Labour Party, i.e. the system of capitalism and Britain’s role in US led imperialism. This will remain the case no matter how many people join the Labour Party, and no matter how many votes the Labour party receives. The Labour Party strengthens the parliament, and thus strengthens capitalism as a system, despite any “socialist” rhetoric.
In the UK, and here in Australia, what is desperately needed is working class struggle – the ultimate product of which is the replacement of the capitalist system with a socialist one. Yet this struggle for socialism cannot begin until working people break from social-democracy, whether that is in the form of the Labour Party in the UK, or the Labor Party in Oz. This requires most political efforts to be directed towards building a workers’ party completely devoted to the overthrow of the rule of capital.
Of course we can recognise that Jeremy Corbyn is potentially drawing in thousands new people, and thousands of young people, into political action, and into some vague support for “socialism” – in reality, social-democracy. In itself, this can only be welcomed by working people. Yet it is an entirely different thing for the left to then go onto to urge workers to join, vote and campaign for the Labour Party. For one thing, this process does not distinguish oneself from the pro-Tony Blair right wing of the Labour Party. Secondly, this delays the urgent task of attempting to win working people to the only thing which can win lasting gains for them – class struggle, up to and including the seizure of political power by the workers. In fact, it pushes this task off into a day which will never come.
It is a deception of the highest order to claim, as some on the left do, that by urging workers to vote and/or join the Labour/Labor Party, they are working with people to bring them closer to socialist conclusions. On the contrary, joining the Corbyn “movement”, and urging other workers to join and be a part of the Labour Party takes people further away from socialism, no matter how radical their rhetoric. In fact, it is not radical at all. Strengthening the “left” wing of the entire edifice of corporate rule strengthens corporate rule itself. More people in the Labour Party means more people campaigning for the Labour Party. This is hardly going to approach the serious change working people need.
Humanity is running out of time. The possibility of nuclear war and the inevitability of uncontrollable climate change are bearing down on all of us. The left’s basic answer is that these problems, and many more, can only begin to be addressed with the triumph of socialism. Yet the left needs to emphasise that socialism begins with a successful struggle for state power, that is, the victory over the former ruling class and the founding of a workers’ republic. It will entail the seizure of the major means of production, communication, electricity, banking, finance, transport, at the least. A series of elected workers councils will then administer a nationalised, planned economy, which will aim to eliminate the scourge of unemployment, poverty, homelessness and underdevelopment. Those who used to be first, will be last, and those who were formerly last, will come first. A Labour Party is part of the old world. Only a workers vanguard party has a chance of leading us to the new. Our task is to build it.
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