In the run-up to to next month’s crucial standoff against the Tories in Birmingham, Mick Wattam assesses the balance of forces
The Tories are pressing ahead with their plans to reintroduce a 2-tier education system that favours kids from wealthier backgrounds, enforce new contracts on junior doctors, which will bring the end of the NHS so much closer, and to scrap the Human Rights Act - all part of Theresa May's agenda to strengthen the power of the rich to run society solely for their benefit. To call it a major onslaught against our side is a gross understatement, yet the internal battle taking place within the Labour Party over its leadership is diverting the attention of much of our movement away from this.
Corbyn and his supporters were forced into this unnecessary contest at the very moment when the Tories were in disarray over the Brexit vote, and the right wing in the Labour Party, who would rather fight for what they see as their right to lead Labour than stand up to the Tories, should be ashamed of what they have done.
It is true that the leadership battle needs to be fought, as the outcome could have far reaching repercussions. Apart from the benefit of having a socialist at the helm of the Labour Party, the arguments and issues raised by the Corbyn campaign are being discussed widely throughout the movement and are transforming it in the process. If Corbyn wins, we are more likely to see this transformation continue which will hopefully lead to a far more combative stance by our trade unions in the future.
It seems at the moment that Corbyn will be re-elected leader and the Labour right will have to resort to other ways of undermining his leadership, but that will only be the start of a much longer and harder battle between the ruling elite and the working class over political representation. Although Corbynism threatens to destabilise the way the political system has worked for a long time, with its reliance on a muted opposition from Labour, we will need a much bigger and more inclusive struggle to bring about real change.
Real democracy is not something the very rich will ever accept willingly, and they will naturally fight against it whenever it is called for. They believe justice is their right to call and something they need to keep control of, through their courts, the police, the Westminster "democratic" charade, the civil service, the armed forces and a compliant media. And of course they do need to control it if they are to preserve their privileged position at the top of society.
For multi billionaires like Sir Philip Green and sir Richard Branson to continue their exuberant lifestyles while the majority of people get financially poorer, suffer the consequences of the destruction of the welfare state, and fight and die in the wars which are waged around the world for and on behalf of their privileges, they must be prepared to go to great lengths to keep us in our place and deny us a voice.
So any challenge to their power through Westminster will activate all the defence mechanisms which have been tried, tested and used time over to protect their privileged system.
The new politics spearheaded by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are certainly worth fighting for, and call for a revolutionary change in how our society is run. But if it is limited to participating in wards and constituencies in order to win positions in the Labour machine, the energy will soon dissipate. There has to be a call for action in the trade union movement where the thousands of new people inspired by Corbyn can make a difference. Opposition to Trident and the UK’s roll in the 15 years of continuous war also needs to be built.
The fight has to be taken to the Tories and must manifest itself in mass support for the strikes called by the BMA in defence of the NHS. The right to the best education possible for all our children must be defended, and the NUT’s campaign for social trade unionism, uniting parents, teachers and communities in defence of education must become widespread reality. If we lose on either of these issues, the fight for the new politics will be harder. The People’s Assembly will undoubtedly do all it can to galvanise support for these key disputes, but the leaders of the official movement have a responsibility to do all they can to mobilise as many people as possible.
If the Tories are able to stack up the victories through this new government which has not even won an election, then they and the people they represent will be jubilant. They will be invigorated by their reversal of the major achievements of our labour movement in the 20th century, which were won through the culmination of long and bitter struggles over many years.
Although the consequences of such Tory victories will inevitably lead to less opportunity and more misery for ordinary people, this may not necessarily lead to a growth of support for the left and Corbyn. It could easily lead to more support for the right within Labour under the guise of unity at all cost against Tory attacks.
The only way of propelling forward the Corbyn revolution is to build the movement on the streets and support for the important strikes due to take place in the coming weeks and months. The defeat of the Tories cannot come too soon, and it can only come from our actions.
The demonstration at the Tory Party conference on Sunday 2 October, called by the People’s Assembly, has to be a huge rally in support of the Junior Doctors, against the reintroduction of grammar schools, and a loud and united notice from all sections of our movement to Theresa May’s government that we are determined to kick them out of office
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