Labour changes track

Felicity Dowling writes: Jeremy Corbyn represented a clear break with the pro-austerity, pro-war, anti-immigrant, anti-working-class elements of Labour’s recent past even though he was not always able to win those points within the Labour Party. His message galvanised tens of thousands of people to join the party, 12 million to vote Labour in 2017, and 10.3 million people to vote Labour in 2019. (Only 8,609,527 had voted Labour in 2010.)

The manifesto in 2019 was radical and pro-working-class and proposed some significant changes.

The election of Keir Starmer and his selection of pro-austerity cabinet members signals the end of the Corbyn era.

Left Unity had significant differences with Labour even under the Corbyn era over nuclear weapons, the attitude to migration, the nature of the Brexit project, the situation of EU migrants, and how to transform society. Nevertheless, we recognised how important Corbyn was in bringing thousands more people, and especially young people, into the struggle for a better world.

Keir Starmer said he will not demand the impossible, but if people are to survive the coronavirus crisis, its economic social and political aftermath, the ‘impossible’ – or what was previously seen to be impossible – is what is now needed. There must be no going back to the status quo ante, to the way things were before coronavirus.

The coronavirus crisis has exposed the depleted and underfunded state of the NHS, with too few doctors, too few nurses, too few midwives, associated professions and inadequate physical resources. The Conservative government’s cruel and stupid “herd immunity” policy has not been adequately challenged and the failure to ‘test, test, test’, map, identify and isolate” will cost huge numbers of lives. Indeed the lack of testing is still causing major problems.

The Conservatives’ work is exposed. Three million of the key workers keeping us all alive earn less than a living wage. Poverty is rife, public services damaged, millions working on so-called self-employment. The extent of hunger and of how limited ordinary families’ savings are is laid bare for all to see, and all before this virus really hit.

The 2016 work to prepare for a pandemic was not followed through, on cost grounds.

The immediate crisis will present Labour with an immediate challenge. While Corbyn challenged the government effectively in his last speech as leader in the House of Commons, Labour’s overall response is muted.

It will be disastrous and unforgivable if the government is not held to account. Disastrous for both Labour and the people if either formal or informal coalitions or national governments are agreed.

We need a better world, and a better world is clearly possible. We can have a good NHS, decent wages, a viable environment, good education, decent public transport and a green new deal where factories make socially useful goods and people work much shorter hours. We can work to consign racism, homophobia and transphobia to the dustbin. The very grim, very real alternative, the ‘normal’, would be 1930s style depression and far greater repression.

The demand for a better world has to be loud and clear. We have to support all the key workers hauling us through this health crisis with great difficulty and huge sacrifice. It has to be the focus of our work, both in what we publish, and what we do in the communities. The ruling class will be happy to use this as another chapter of disaster capitalism. The resistance must be uncompromising in denying any return to austerity, any acceptance of continuing poverty, and further destruction of public services

This is a world struggle. The situation in Italy, Spain, Iran, the USA, India, Pakistan, South Africa, is as bad as here or worse. The crisis of the virus and the crisis of capitalism have coincided and fed off each other.

If you agree with us, please join us in these tasks.

Left Unity will be happy to work with all socialists prepared to oppose the Conservatives and their international political allies. Happy to build solidarity within our communities, to stand with the migrant and the refugee, to oppose repression, to fight with and alongside women fighting violence against women and for women’s rights, to fight for a decent life for all our children and elders, to fight alongside disabled people for their rights. Happy to work with all who see these struggles as international.

We are happy to include those who wish to stay in Labour, but Left Unity will as necessary criticise and oppose Labour policies, local and national which are anti-working-class, anti-migrant, anti-peace and anti the environment.

Alongside many others across the world, and together with the European Left, we pay tribute to the work of Jeremy Corbyn whose ideas have inspired young people across Europe and beyond – ideas which remain part of what needs to be won.


6 responses to “Labour changes track”

  1. alexdroupin says:

    A sad day for me i feel personally numb from the election. The new leader is obviously a return to new labour. It shows me the possibility the parlimenatery road to socialism is completelyl lost. Only through local community activism can we build a better future.P.S iam a member of leftunitya

  2. Clive says:

    From what I can make of it, from reading, both, biological journal research papers (which I can usually understand, having studied biological sciences, including microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry, both, at two universities, and independently ) and public health epidemiology reports ( a subject that I admit I have not formally studied). We are likely to be in ‘self-isolation’ for the long haul. Or else, as suggested in at least one public health report, the government might lift the restrictions at some point, then there will probably be a second wave of infection, which will have been predicted by the government epidemiologists. They will probably, then, reimpose restrictions. They have no viable exit strategy.

    The government may still be, basically, following a ‘herd immunity’ strategy. Or they may simply not have a long term strategy. But there seems, so far, to be no evidence that those who survive covid-19 will develop immunity, or how long the immunity will last, if they do acquire it..

    This epidemic is very dangerous. It is not a hoax, or a government conspiracy. We do need to take it seriously, of course.

    The May local elections have been cancelled. We are not due for another general election for several years, anyway. But, I believe, now is the time that Left Unity should be considering aiming to put up candidates in future elections.

    The Labour Party is DEAD. They had their last chance when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader with overwhelming grassy-roots Party support, twice. Then they blew it because they weren’t allowed to follow their leader.

    There will probably be an outburst of public anger if the lock-down goes on for a long time, or after it is lifted.

    The Labour leadership will now join the parliamentary stampede to the middle-of-the-road. It seems unlikely that Labour will ever win another general election, anyway. They still can’t win back seats taken from them by the SNP in Scotland. Scottish people, and many English and Welsh people, will be even more angry after this.

    It is about time Left Unity reconsidered putting up candidates, so that those of us who hold the same, or similar, views to those of Left Unity could actually have candidates to vote for, in elections, who might actually be capable of representing our political and economic views, for once in our lives.

  3. Ken King says:

    I voted labour in 1992, but not again until 2017 – because under Blair and Brown there was no ideological difference between the two main parties. I voted for labour under Corbyn in the last two elections (I even went out lefletting with them last time). But we shall see about the future.
    Of course we can continue to work with labour people in campaigns in a comradely fashion. But surely, the failure of both the Benn and Corbyn projects has illustrated clearly that the LP does not – and cannot – offer any hope of any form of socialist government – no matter how mild. History has demonstrated that it is incapable of delivering on its left promises.
    In any event, I’m not waiting another 40-50 years before labour has another left leader, we who are not in the LP should really be doing all we can to build a left alternative- no matter how arduous the task.

  4. Samuel says:

    If the ‘left’ under Corbyn could not achieve what was a very sensible and moderate set of policies there is ZERO chance of achieving them now. The party really doesn’t like or need you unless its election time. Some of them if we are to believe the leaked report did not want a Corbyn Government BUT many do not want any Labour Government just a tame opposition. Lots of people joined or rejoined Labour in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. They will leave the party now. Whether they drift away or leave En Mass we don’t know. If people stay in the Labour Party it would be sensible of them to ensure there are sufficient lifeboats in case the ship sinks Left Unity etc.

    • Clive says:

      I have read the whole of the 851 page Labour Party report. I have also noticed that, in several places in that report, the same people who made it clear (without knowing that their emails would, later, become public) that they would rather lose the 2017 and 2019 general elections to the Tories, and were calling anyone to the left of Gordon Brown “trots”, and issuing death threats against them, also said that they regard it as a part of their mission to “police the wider left”, outside the Labour Party.

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