John Rees looks at the political calculation behind the Tories new attempt to get us into a bombing campaign in Syria
The Tories decision to go for a new parliamentary vote on attacking Syria is a dramatic bid to reverse the defeat the political elite suffered in August 2013 when Cameron lost the last vote on the same subject.
In September there will be a new vote and it will be held soon after the conclusion of Labour's leadership contest. The Tories are banking on a new Labour leader, whether it is Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall, rubber stamping a pro-war resolution.
As the Guardian explained today:
‘In what is being described as “pitch-rolling” – the buzz-phrase for the process of preparing the ground for a change in strategy – the prime minister will see if it is realistic to return to the Commons for a vote in the autumn after the election of a new Labour leader. Cameron will be unable to act without the support of the Labour frontbench because Tory rebels would cut his parliamentary majority on any military action’.
A Jeremy Corbyn victory would scupper that plan immediately. Even if Jeremy Corbyn doesn't win, the higher his vote the less room for manoeuvre a right-wing Llabour leader would have on this and many other issues.
Equally important is what happens to the enthusiasm and activism generated by the Corbyn campaign. To the extent that it feeds back into mass anti-war and anti-austerity movements it will have been successful. Jeremy himself has a long and admirable record of understanding this priority. Indeed it is the major factor in his ability to gather active support well beyond the diminished ranks of the existing Labour Party left.
But some in the Labour Party see this as a way of revitalising the project of reclaiming Labour for socialism. This has long been a dead end and will be all the more so if any of the terrible triplets win the leadership. If a pool of activists are to remain confident and active after the leadership election it will be in the social movements or not at all.
But, for now, there is a battle to be fought against a new disastrous bombing campaign in Syria. So we must now take these immediate steps:
1At every union and Labour Party hustings we must demand of all the candidates that they commit to voting against war.
2Lobby all MPs now.
3Request an immediate anti war commitment from the SNP who will have a vital parliamentary role to play.
4Organise meetings and hustings on this issue.
John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher), ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German) and The Leveller Revolution. He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.