The way out of this crisis is to keep left, fight for Corbyn and stay on the streets, argues Chris Nineham
Boris Johnson’s government is in meltdown. Johnson’s move to suspend parliament has been ruled illegal. He has no parliamentary majority. Most of his policies are deeply unpopular. He is trying to use Brexit to pose as a people’s champion, painting Labour as a party of the establishment. Labour must not fall into this trap. It needs to be radical. This is a moment for the left to go on the offensive.
Johnson was weak even before the Supreme Court ruling. Unlike every other Tory Prime minister, Johnson doesn’t have the full support of the British ruling class. The vast bulk of British business and banking wants to stay in the EU and are appalled at the prospect of a no deal Brexit.
Crucially there is mass opposition to the social and economic programme of Johnson and his hard right clique. Every time Johnson has blundered out of the Westminster bubble he has been confronted by voters angry at cutbacks, privatisation and austerity. The reason Johnson closed down parliament in the first place was because he doesn’t have a majority there. The reason for that in turn was that the 2017 Corbyn surge channelled widespread anger against the neoliberal status quo.
The first thing the left needs to do is to call for a general election. The only electorate Johnson has faced is a few tens of thousands of mainly rich white men that constitute the crumbling Tory Party. At a time of deep political crisis, it is utterly unacceptable that the country has not chosen the government. When a Tory government is in such disarray, removing them has to be our first priority.
Any moves towards a national government must be resisted, not only because they would be deeply undemocratic, but also because they would trap Labour in an alliance with forces of the centre ground that have backed neoliberalism to the hilt.
The second thing that is needed is a radical left programme for government. Some of the policies adopted at Labour’s conference; the green industrial revolution, the abolition of public schools, a massive expansion in social care, point the way. Labour should go further amongst other things. It is high time the left started challenging the deeply undemocratic nature of our constitution including the role of the House of Lords or the absurd anachronism of the Queen’s assent. New forms of democracy need to be developed that can massively widen popular participation and open up the question of popular control of the economy. The 2017 election showed that Labour can inspire millions if it is prepared to confront the neoliberal regime that has caused such misery for millions with a radical manifesto.
We also need to be prepared to take to the streets. The Supreme Court ruling has exposed and deepened splits in the establishment. This has given us a big opportunity. But we cannot rely on unelected judges or any other institution of the state to solve the current crisis. Most of the time the Supreme Court fully backs the establishment. There is every danger it could be used against a Corbyn government.
In an election, Corbyn needs to get around the country and speak at the kind of massive rallies that helped get his message out in 2017. If we do get a Corbyn government it will face all sorts of sabotage and subversion from state institutions and from forces of the right, including the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party who still have enormous power and zero loyalty to Corbyn. In order to push them back, the movement needs to be able to mobilise outside parliament on a massive scale. The school students have showed there is a big appetite for protest politics. Their tremendous mobilisations have made the issue of climate change politically central in Britain and many other places. The left needs to be mobilising in a similar way on every front.
We also need to resist the pressure for Labour to become a Remain Party. Johnson’s one hope of victory is to be able to channel discontent with the current regime through the question of Brexit. Backing Remain would play into his hands. The real question is how to get back to the key issues that effect the lives of millions; housing, jobs, climate and war. That means keeping left, fighting for Corbyn and staying in the streets.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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