The post-referendum crisis can only be resolved by the left, argues John Rees
Much more than the future of the Labour Party rests on what happens to the Labour leadership.
If the Labour right had forced Jeremy Corbyn to resign or if they now win a new leadership contest the impact on the post-referendum social crisis will be enormous.
A renewed right wing Labour leadership would immediately haemorrhage hundreds of thousands of new members of course. But that’s the least of it.
The old Blairite political consensus would be restored: neo-liberal, privatising, free market economics at home and imperial posturing abroad.
The entire political elite would have demonstrated in one single act that they had no interest in, or capacity for, addressing the anger that was so viscerally expressed in the referendum.
The generation or more long war on the poor would go on, the housing estates sink further into decay, more core jobs would be lost only to be replaced by even more McJobs, the NHS and other essential services face further demoralisation and under funding.
The boiling anger of working people would find no political representation other than populist demagogues. And the spike in racist attacks that we currently see would become institutionalised and permanent.
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour, alongside mass campaigns like the People’s Assembly and the trade unions, is the only chance the left has of reaching out to the core working class constituencies that so obviously detest the political elite and everything it stands for.
So far this has not been achieved, or only partially so. But it is clear from both the Labour election results under Corbyn and from his own personal popularity in working class areas that the potential exists for the left to win renewed support from swathes of working class people.
For this to happen a second victory for Jeremy Corbyn is essential. All else, including the continued success of all left campaigns, depends on it.
This victory will be all the greater if the Corbyn campaign and those forces around it win on the basis of a plan to confront the post referendum crisis.
The old order is in turmoil. The political elite never saw, and never cared about, the tinder that was building up at the base of society. Now it has caught fire. The political establishment has lost contact with the masses, now obviously so.
The Tory party is divided and, crucially, at 180 degree variance with the mainstream institutions of UK and global capitalism. In short, capital has no coherent political party representing its interests, for the moment.
Even more importantly this is not just a domestic political crisis. It is a crisis of the state system. The UK’s forty year-long alliance with Europe is gone, much to the dismay of US imperialism. Scotland is likely headed for a second independence referendum. Even the continued existence of the Irish border is being questioned.
The left has to address this crisis, recognising it as an intensification of class struggle. First and foremost economic regeneration, house building and defence of the NHS and welfare services are paramount demands. Jeremy Corbyn should return to his first campaign’s promise of a national investment bank which drives regeneration. An emergency house building plan should be enacted, and welfare spending guaranteed with revenue from the cancellation of Trident. We hear a lot about this being the greatest crisis the country had faced since the war. If that is true we need at least a 1945 scale government programme to meet it.
As part of intensified anti-racist campaigning, existing rights of migrants should be guaranteed and a Migrants and Refugees Charter issued which aims to both defend those here and those who want to come here. Moreover the only way to address that minority of workers concerned about immigration is to lift up the condition of all workers, including migrants. Migrants should, by law, have the same wages and conditions as everyone else, thus preventing bosses from exploiting them and undercutting existing wages and conditions.
The left of Labour needs less Keynesian and more directly socialist planning projects to meet this crisis. Half-hearted, ‘business friendly’ solutions will be neither adequate nor believed.
The Corbyn campaign alone, nor the Labour Party as presently constituted, cannot meet the needs of the hour. Much wider campaigning and trade union action will be necessity. But without a Jeremy Corbyn victory all this work will be immeasurably harder.
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) and ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German). He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.