New Leader – Same Labour

Ever since the bail-out of the banks the injustice of capitalism has been impossible to deny. The victory of Jeremy Corbyn shows a groundswell of opposition to the massive attacks that European governments of all shades have implemented in the name of ‘austerity’. Students forced to take out life-burdening loans; workers obliged to accept low paid precarious jobs; crumbling health services forced to farm out services to boost profits of private companies; cuts to unemployment and welfare benefits with claimants being tarnished as ‘scroungers’ while facing humiliation to avoid being ‘sanctioned’… The list is endless.

Elsewhere in Europe, in Spain, Greece and Italy, the growth of populist parties has channelled working class anger and given false hope that the answer is a more democratic capitalism. In Britain though, the gradual, sector by sector attacks from a coalition government proclaiming that “we are all in this together” combined with a popular press targeting ‘benefit scroungers’ which sets worker against worker, have meant a more fractured resistance. Single issue campaign groups, isolated local battles, have sprung up in their hundreds and thousands.

It did not take long before that infinitely flexible, tried and tested weapon for diverting working class discontent onto safe ground for capitalism – the left wing of the ‘Labour movement’ – stepped in. When this happens genuine grass roots struggles are directed towards a sometimes hidden, sometimes clear left Labour agenda. The unions, particularly Unite and Unison have created paid full-time ‘campaigner’ posts in order to stretch their tentacles outside of the workplace and ensure they have a prime role in local protest actions.

At least one union, Unite, offers £5 to anyone who can recruit a new member for the union. These prominent public sector unions have also notoriously been responsible for energy-sapping sectional ‘days of action’ and A to B marches which drained any confidence workers might have in their power to fight back as a unified class force. Instead, behind the scenes, these unions were working for a revival of an old-style, pre-Blair, pro-Keynesian Labour left. They were prepared to back whoever emerged as the Left candidate in the Labour leadership election.

A Saviour for Capitalist Democracy?

On the more strictly political level, a common thread running through the left is the need for greater democracy. They might talk about greedy bankers, but they are not talking about getting rid of parliament and overthrowing capitalism in favour of the direct democracy of workers’ assemblies. This is all too utopian for them. They see the sclerosis of parliamentary democracy (12 million people did not vote in the general election) and imagine that with a more responsive, caring, return to something like (mythical) old Labour there can also be a return to something like the heady days of full employment, a cradle to grave NHS and welfare system … as if after forty years of deepening crisis for world capitalism returning to the post-war boom was a policy option. Groupings like Counterfire and the People’s Assemblies are heavily involved in the Labour Party left. Since they also overlap with the Stop the War Coalition, chaired until now by Jeremy Corbyn, this explains their backing for Corbyn as left Labour leadership candidate when Ed Miliband abruptly threw in the towel after Labour’s election defeat.

Of course, this doesn’t explain how Corbyn came to be the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. Inside the Labour Party there have always been left-wing factions calling for programmes based on state ownership and intervention. During the ‘70s and early ‘80s they were prominent in Labour Councils like Lambeth, Islington, Greater London and Liverpool, with leaders such as Ken Livingstone advocating “left-wing” policies. One of the high points was when Tony Benn came close to being elected as Deputy Leader in ‘81. Meanwhile the ‘free market’ economy appeared based on brutal restructuring and the decimation of the industrial working class.

Following Kinnock’s clampdown on Trotskyist ‘entryism’ and the rise of ‘Blairism’ many of the advocates of state intervention became marginalised or chose to organise outside the Labour Party. This included the many political factions and organisations which emerged from the Trotskyist and Stalinist camp. These have always passed off state intervention in the economy via existing institutions with a left leadership, as a step towards socialism. A remnant of that left wing has continued in the Parliamentary Labour Party organised in and around the Campaign Group. Their presence has always been tolerated by the Labour Party establishment. In fact, they were a vital part of keeping together the Labour Party “broad church” – a way of making sure that generations of emerging activists can be corralled into the Labourist prison, an entirely safe situation for the capitalist system.

And so the New Labour establishment felt no threat by including Corbyn on the list of candidates. He was included at the last minute to give the illusion of choice. (The other three all stood somewhere in the “more of the same” mould, presenting varieties of “Austerity Lite” but all ready to balance the books.) As we say on our website – Corbyn was intended to be an Aunt Sally radical to disappear in the first round or two of voting with a slap on the back and wishes for “Better luck next time”.

Unfortunately for the Labour MPs and functionaries they had no feel for the fact that those eligible to vote did not want more of the same. They failed to see that the unions had responded to the Party’s ending of the block union vote by encouraging their members to sign up for individual Party membership. Furthermore, when the Blairites copied the US primaries and made it easy for individuals to join and cheap to buy a vote (£3), they did not imagine that tens of thousands of people would do just that and vote for the token Left candidate. No doubt most of them want a return to the old Labour policies of state ownership, though many younger people have been attracted by Corbyn’s pledge to end student loans and bring back the student maintenance grant.

If this were the end of the story it would be a bit of a joke seeing the Blairites sidelined with egg on their faces. But the truth is ‘Corbynism’, is a very real obstacle in the way of the working class developing a serious, unified resistance to all that capitalism throws at them. Grass root struggles are going to be even more turned into recruiting grounds for JC, the new messiah who can perform the miracle of using the capitalist state in the interest of the working class. This, as the worst crisis in the history of global capitalism makes life unliveable for more and more people on the planet. Many new militants are beginning to turn towards Communism. Instead of the need for the working class to overthrow the capitalist state Corbynism provides a dead end alternative. It pretends that state intervention and ownership is socialism. In fact that approach is part of what Communists call state capitalism. The fact that resistance to austerity needs to happen in a wider fight against capitalism is being lost in the sea of Corbyn social democratic confusion.

State Capitalism is Not Socialism

Events in Greece show clearly what it means in reality to support a left wing government. As Syriza held their referendum we wrote:

Electing a Government while all the capitalist economic, political and state structures remain intact can offer no way forward. Syriza may have given lip service to fighting austerity but in reality it paved the way for the state to attack workers and make them pay for the crisis."

The Corbynite Labour leadership is not in the same exposed position as Syriza, but already Corbyn has backed down on his left-wing symbolism around national Anthems, poppies and kissing parts of the monarch’s anatomy to enter her Privy Council. His long time ally, John McDonnell has had to renounce any association with “unpatriotic” Irish Nationalism. He accepts the need to ‘balance the books’ even if not as rapidly as the Tories. How this squares with Corbynomics – the policy of printing more money for investment in infrastructure and/or ‘people’s quantitative easing’ -– he does not need to explain. As for students’ hopes of a future without a debt load on their shoulders, Corbyn has already indicated he will not abolish student tuition fees. What chance the replacement of loans with maintenance grants?

Yet still the left-wing factions continue to be cheerleaders for the Labour leadership and all the evidence is that they’ll keep on doing so. Whether as members of the Labour Party, as “independent” parties or a mixture of the two, they’re taking the chance to strengthen themselves and recruit. They’ll peddle the myth that a left wing government can use the state to solve the crisis. But this is a lie, and a very dangerous one. The truth is that state capitalism isn’t socialism. Socialism is based on the working class forming its own mass organs of democracy outside of parliament and the state. Socialism can never be possible until the state is overthrown. Part of the Labour Party might be trying to become the acceptable face of capitalism, but this is a dead end and no way forward for workers today.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Normally readers have been given some indication as to who wrote an article, but not, so far, for this one.

Call it a collective effort as there were quite a few separate contributors. It is the front page article in the current Aurora 36

This is is a detailed look at a section of paragraph 10 in the excellent collaboratively written article above.

(1) Jeremy Corbyn...."the new messiah who can perform the miracle of using the capitalist state in the interest of the working class." Tee hee hee. A brilliant sentence and witty too!

(2) "This, as the worst crisis in the history of global capitalism makes life unliveable for more and more people on the planet." A beautiful plain factual statement of a terrible truth.

(3) "Many new militants are beginning to turn towards Communism." This of course is the solution to (2) above. Is it true though? I hope it's true! Is there any evidence for the claim however?

(4) "Instead of the need for the working class to overthrow the capitalist state Corbynism provides a dead end alternative." Yes indeed it does. It coughs up a totally bourgeois version of phoney socialism and smears this nauseous phlegm over everything in a thick coat of deadening slime. But how does it get away with this?

(5) "It pretends that state intervention and ownership is socialism." But isn't this what that great commie Stalin did? Isn't this the greatest lie in history that Stalinist Russia was both a paradise and a workers' state? Everyone knows that as workers we will do away with the state when we win power. So how can state intervention produce socialism?

(6) "In fact that approach is part of what Communists call state capitalism." And Communists call it "state capitalism" because that's what it actually is. Because capitalism remains its basis but under a thin and reddish disguise.

(7) "The fact that resistance to austerity needs to happen in a wider fight against capitalism is being lost in the sea of Corbyn social democratic confusion." But not lost for ever let's hope. After all we've had our Corbyns before in the shape of Wedgewood Benn and Michael Foot and that's just in the UK. We might mention Chavez in Venezuela, the Castro Bros in Cuba and Mao and his successors in China. All of these were ardent socialists who sucked the working class dry while lying through their teeth about the commie love they felt for those they were exploiting. Let's hope the working class isn't going to fall for all this particular type of lying shit ever again, and developes enough class consciousness to stand on its own feet.

Charlie says "Everyone knows that as workers we will do away with the state when we win power.". On the contrary, it seems more likely that very few workers think so. If there is no credible workers' equivalent of a state, then it is not at all clear how power would be won, secured and operated.

Doesn't the ICT have an article about the state in the period of transition to which comrade T 34 may be referred? It is much too big of a subject for me to take on with my meagre resources in a post.

There is a button on the side panel "Discussion on Socialism" where we put the various documents which comrades have submitted. I doubt though it will answer T34's issues though since a) it is a discussion and b) he assumes that class consciousness today is fixed for all time but then he has always been a comrade in a hurry!

I don't know what makes you imagine that I assume that class consciousness is fixed for all time. Obviously it grows to some extent as does the growth of the class worldwide. As for your saying that I am always in hurry, should readers conclude that you are not and/or that there is no urgency? According to one website, which I won't upset you by naming, Nato has begun a dress rehearsal for Europe-wide war. As I live only two miles from GCHQ, no doubt a prime target, some urgency in noting the implications of Lenin's 'Imperialism, the Highest stage of Capitalism' seems advisable.

T34 Your own comment that "very few workers think so" seems evidence enough unless you meant something else. The comment re "in a hurry" was tongue-in-cheek but you have frequently called upon us to declare the party formed now when the conditions for it (i.e a real class movement) do not yet exist. Or have we been mistaken all these years?

Whatever ! But how long is it likely to take until you can ascertain that 'a real class movement' exists? What sort of evidence for that would be required, in your opinion ? Being mistaken about the past is as may be, but being mistaken about the future is always more serious.

The conversation with T34 highlights a key feature of this epoch. Late capitalism is indeed "over-ripe" to be overthrown but the working-class does not currently see clearly its role as a class "for itself" - as the grave digger of capitalism. That has been the situation for many decades.

Yes, there is an increasing urgency and our slogan of "Socialism or Barbarism" becomes more material with every new abomination flowing from the capitalist crisis. However, we cannot be like the leftist group who had the clock in their headquarters permanently set at 11.55! The concrete reality is that no amount of correct analysis can simply alter the state of working class consciousness.

Certainly we are always looking for each Iskra (spark). As revolutionaries we also have a duty to analyse and learn the lessons until our class lights the "Big Flame". Clearly the emergence of workers assembles whether based in the workplace or in communities will be critical with their spreading and linking geographically being a crucial next step. However, we also take heart from more limited developments such as the increasing appearance of strikes beyond the Trade Unions (meaning the control of the bourgeoisie). We are also hearing of sharply formulated declarations of class identity and struggle from rank and file soldiers in the Greek Army. If authentic, this is another big advance for our class in a situation where bourgeois manoeuvres have temporarily exhausted much of the working class in that area.

Class consciousness has ebbed away since the defeat of the revolutionary wave in the years immediately after the Russian revolution. As communists we identify our role in helping to reverse that process. And yes, we do have to look for and study material "signs and portents". However we cannot afford to be proletarian "Jehovah's Witnesses" forever proclaiming the second coming to be nigh and then developing another piece of drivel to explain why it hasn't happened. The communist project, the material path to a human future, demands a patient response to the developing struggle between classes.

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.