Only a mass popular movement can force the change needed
We have a once in a generation chance for change. The Tories’ disastrous conference revealed a party in meltdown. The average age of their dwindling membership is 71 and they have no credible leader. They are not just split over Brexit, they have no clue how to deal with a tanking economy. Austerity is discredited. It has caused misery for millions and it hasn’t solved Britain’s economic problems. Recent treasury figures show Britain has the lowest growth of the G7 leading countries and record levels of private debt.
Big majorities want to see renationalisation, redistribution of wealth and increased spending on homes and public services. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has surged precisely because it has offered a radical alternative to the free market and to the politics of privilege.
And working people are beginning to fight back. Workers at the Bank of England, British Airways, McDonalds, in hospitals, schools and councils have taken industrial action. There is growing demand for action against the public sector pay cap and the postal workers are on national strike for the first time since privatisation.
To seize this opportunity we need to develop a strategy for change. The first thing is we must drive the Tories out of office. Despite their mess, they will do everything they can to cling on and keep Corbyn out. And the way they go matters for another reason.
It is possible the Tories will implode. That would be fine. But how much better would it be if they are brought down by a popular movement?
The more victories we can win through strikes and protests the more we will weaken the government. But we need to make the end of the Tory government a central demand in all our campaigns. This should be elementary. We know there is no chance of fundamental change while the country is led by a cabinet of millionaires.
But there is another reason why strengthening extra parliamentary action and organisation is crucial. If and when we manage to get a Corbyn government elected there will be massive resistance from the establishment.
The Labour right has already tried to sabotage Corbyn. The media has actively tried to destroy his project. But a Corbyn government would face co-ordinated opposition from all sections of the establishment, the banks, corporate investors, the courts and the civil service.
This is why we must reject the idea that politics is only what happens in parliament. On its own, a left-led Labour government will come under massive pressure. Already concessions have been made, particularly on foreign policy. At Labour’s conference, shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry promised to support NATO and to maintain the current high levels of military spending - policies that run counter to Jeremy Corbyn’s principles. We need to prepare now for more pressure from the military, for the possibility of investment strikes, attacks on the pound and legal action.
At the huge People’s Assembly rally in Manchester Cathedral during the Tory Party conference John McDonnell said ‘when Labour goes into government we all go into government.’ He called on people to organise at the grassroots to implement change because ‘that is what will make change unstoppable.’
He is right. We need popular organisation in every town and city, workplace and college to defend the Corbyn project and to push it forward. We will need to be pushing from below for a programme that includes a massive roll out of council house building, requisition of empty properties to house the homeless, the nationalisation of railways and utilities, an immediate hike in the minimum wage, an end to zero hours contracts, above inflation pay rises across the board and real redistribution of wealth from the super rich to the mass of the population. We need a new foreign policy based on diplomacy not war and an end to the absurd waste of arms spending.
As well as getting Corbyn into Downing Street, it will take a mass popular movement to make this happen.
More articles from this author
- The left after lockdown - video
- This is profit before people: campaigning to save Brick Lane
- Capitalism and the climate emergency
- Labour's last chance: can the party recover? - video
- How feeding racism ultimately became the Home Office’s main plan
- Biden's big spend: is neoliberalism over? - video
- Women's liberation: a revolutionary history - video