The Labour Party Crisis is a Crisis of the Capitalist Class

For decades the British ruling class used a system involving two main political parties as the democratic frontage behind which they maintained their social and economic control. The traditional role of the Labour Party has been to act as a machine to cajole working class people into the electoral circus with the illusory temptation that they had “their” party.

A crucial part of this deception has been the structure of the Labour Party whereby significant numbers of people, including many working class people, were allowed to participate either as individuals in local party branches or through local Trade Unions. Amongst other things, the Labour Movement provided a career path to elected or unelected office in the Unions, Councils and at the pinnacle, Parliament. More recently the European Parliament and the EU institutions/quangos were added to the list.

Those who achieved such office became participants in the political superstructure which both masks and supports the embedded power of the capitalist class. The further the Labour activists move up the structure the more tightly are they enmeshed.

Sociologically, more and more of those finding positions in or around the Parliamentary structures have not “risen through the ranks”. This is unsurprising in that the previous social structures of the industrial working-class communities have been decimated in the last forty years.

Instead of people having origins in the big workplaces and related communities the new generations of Labour MPs are predominantly recruited from the ranks of the “meritocracy”. Their career paths are much more likely to be via a University education followed by employment within or around the Labour Movement (i.e. Labour Party and Trade Unions).

Meanwhile, to “modernise” the Party, the Labour Party establishment decided to make it easier for new layers to be drawn into their orbit. This was necessary precisely because the old base structures of the Party had been destroyed by de-industrialisation and membership was falling. These changes included “the £3 membership” (with instant voting rights) and basing the election of the Leader and Deputy on “One Member One Vote”.

In that case, as religious types might have said “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do”!

A massive chasm had opened up between what the mass of members wanted – some protection against the ravages of the crisis – and what their “representatives” were able to deliver.

The Parliamentarians may have been a tad unhappy that the working class voters were choosing to vote for SNP or UKIP charlatans rather than Labour worthies but the democratic gravy train would still keep them satisfied. However, the fact that the Labour Party membership massively preferred a new Leader who had only been nominated as a sop to the left of the party opened up the previously hidden massive fissure.

During June and July the Parliamentary Labour Party, as loyal agents of capitalism, tried to solve the problem.

Corbyn’s Election – Unplanned and Unwelcome

Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party in September 2015. It was clear that this was not part of the plans of the Labour Party establishment.

The intention of the MPs and their supporters was simply to maintain the Labour Party’s brand as a “broad church”. After 20 years when the traditional commitment to state intervention and a “welfare state” had been ditched in favour of cutbacks and austerity it was still necessary to present the left with options safely in the fold of Labourism. 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”.

However, the ingrained smugness of the MPs was blown apart. After decades of believing their own propaganda about the politics of “opportunity” i.e. unbridled exploitation, now “austerity lite”, they discovered the limits of their self-deception. Fundamentally, they had misunderstood, or quite likely ignored, the changes in the internal Labour Party voting system which Dyjbas refers to in the previous article [see].

A Year is a Very Short Time for the Labour Party!1

Since Corbyn’s election the Labour Party, by its own yardsticks has had reasonable results in its electoral activities in England and Wales2. They have won mayoral elections, Parliamentary by-elections and achieved reasonable results in Council elections. If a Leader acceptable to the Labour establishment (or the bourgeois order as a whole) had such a record it is inconceivable that they would have sought to oust her/him.

Similarly, the Brexit vote3 offered the flimsiest cover for the moves against Corbyn. The idea that Corbyn, personally, was responsible for Brexit is palpable nonsense. The idea that the corrective for Brexit is the replacement of the leader of the Labour Party is, in the words of Jeremy Bentham4, “nonsense on stilts”.

As we have repeatedly made clear, project Corbyn is not our project. It could, at best, only confuse and reinforce confusions about the meaning of socialism, the role of the Labour Party and the limits of the left reformist aspirations embodied in a “decent man”5.

At the time of writing the outcome of the crisis in the Labour Party is far from resolved. A decision to remove Corbyn could yet result in a significant split in one of the big two parties in British capitalist politics. That aspect of the future is as yet unknown but we need to repeat our arguments that, whatever convulsions happen in the Labour Party, are entirely within the capitalist framework.

Labour Party Demystified

The holding of elections in a constitutional framework that guarantees and maintains numerous layers of elected “representatives” is central to the “smoke and mirrors” of the democratic conjuring show. It is the preferred format of all the bourgeoisies in the vast majority of leading states in the globalised world economy that advanced imperialism has generated.6 Exceptions exist, such as in the oil-rich Gulf states where a capitalist elite emerged from the feudal royal clans and in China, where the bourgeoisie grew around the heavily-misnamed Communist Party during the period when the Stalinist state totally dominated economic development. Those exceptions only serve to prove the general rule, particularly taking into account the frequent need of the local capitalists to at least pay lip-service to democratic practice and ideology.

The Labour Party, in common with the other parties in the Second International7 tradition and parties such as the Democrats in the USA play a crucial role in the democratic mystification. They exist to offer the illusion of a “left-wing” approach to running capitalism. At periods when capitalism is sufficiently profitable to allow choices then the left and right parties can offer different meals from the capitalist menu. The options will involve, for example, the degree of state ownership, state-provided welfare, levels of wages protection etc. In periods when the declining rate of profit reduces options then the differences between the Left and Right “set menus” become less and less meaningful. In Britain, the Labour Governments from 1997-2010 were a good example of the latter situation with Blairism and Thatcherism sharing essential approaches to the deepening crisis.

For the last hundred years the Labour Party has indisputably been part of the political apparatus which supports and reinforces capitalist power – the dictatorship of one class, the bourgeoisie, over the far more numerous working class. It is a very straightforward conclusion that therefore the Labour Party is in class terms a bourgeois party. Crucially its existence and activity supports the capitalist status quo and it has played a crucial role in maintaining the charade of democracy within capitalism.

Entire articles could be, and have been, written to illustrate the final point in the above paragraph8. However, the 57 varieties of leftism that emerged from the Stalinist or Trotskyist camps propagandise and encourage practice that denies that basic reality and sows confusion amongst working-class militants who come into contact with them.

One of their favourite techniques of misrepresentation is to distort Lenin’s positions, in reply to the Left Communist opponents, at the 2nd Congress of the Communist International9 in 1920. Relying on a weak and ill-informed description used by Lenin the epigones10 often rely on using a description of the Labour Party as a “Bourgeois Workers Party”. Denying the historic experience since Lenin advocated such formulations, the Stalinists and Trotskyists and many newcomers persuade their followers to engage in Labour Party organisation and politics11.

These self-styled but fraudulent Socialists or Communists have to consciously blur the real class nature of the Labour Party to carry out their strategic approach. They need to sow confusion about both the reality of the nature of socialism and the intertwined questions about the necessary path to achieve the overthrow of capitalism.

On both aspects they have to pretend that there is a continuum between capitalist political and economic organisation and the needs of the working class. By necessity, they argue that state capitalist initiatives which are achievable by a Parliamentary decree e.g. nationalisation are steps towards Socialism. On a more local level, a Labour Council that, like Liverpool in the 1980s, builds Council Houses is praised as “Socialism in action”.

To summarise, the radical Labourist programme of state intervention, state ownership, more generous welfare payments and legislation to equalise exploitation across all workers is a programme for the maintenance of capitalism12. Since real socialism can’t be achieved by a Parliamentary majority or elected politicians then the whole Labourist project is clearly an activity within, and for, capitalism.

By contrast, the programme of communism (or “socialism” - Marx used the words interchangeably) is the programme of working class self-emancipation, the negation of capitalism.

Linked to that first deception is an obsessive desire to choose representatives of “the left” to take paid and unpaid positions in the Labour Movement (Labour Party and Trade Unions). Once again, a core misunderstanding, is being maintained that workers should have confidence that those organisations would be capable or willing of abolishing capitalism if only they had the right leaders ... or that, more honestly, the task is to elect people who will implement reforms and that workers should look no further.

These politics which have confused and demoralised generations of aspiring militants were transformed from the realm of ideas to the material world with Corbyn’s election. Sadly, for the peddlers of left reformist snake oil, the reality of class antagonism rather than the sincerity or otherwise of those with left-wing credentials is the real motor force behind capitalism, whatever political forms it may choose.

Where Eagles Dare

It is not our intention to speculate on the precise eddies that take place in and around the various layers of the Labour Party although, for example, a fraction of the previous involvement of MI513 is now public knowledge. We do not have the resources or ability to fully explore the detail of such matters but two facts are worth mentioning.

Firstly, if Corbyn had resigned when the coup was first launched, then a different “acting leader” would have responded to the Chilcot Report14. That coup appeared to be headed by Hilary Benn, who had already made clear that he is prepared to advocate and defend military adventures in the Middle East. As the Independent headlined on 2nd December, 2015 – “Syria air strikes: Labour shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn makes impassioned speech supporting intervention. The MP defied his own leader [Corbyn - KT] to speak in favour of British intervention in Syria”.15

The fact that Corbyn was still in place, at least for the initial release of the report, was undoubtedly a blow to the Blair/Mandelson/Campbell faction in the British “body politic”. It allowed Corbyn and his supporters to re-establish their credentials as a voice of the “Anti-War Coalition”. They also reaped a quick bonus with the likelihood that more of the supporters of the ragbag (SWP and other leftists, Arab nationalists, liberal pacifists, families of combatants etc.) may be persuaded to part with £3 to see their figurehead kept in place for the next period.

Secondly, it is worth taking a glance at Angela Eagle who, in the best traditions of establishment machinations, has emerged as the favoured replacement. Eagle’s supporters represent her as a radical but a brief examination shows some interesting wrinkles in the background of the Oxford graduate whose first job was with the CBI before becoming a Trade Union bureaucrat. In 2003 Eagle, unlike Corbyn, voted for the invasion of Iraq, but her “peculiar brand” of radicalism predates that issue.

Less than 10 years after her graduation and employment by the CBI, Eagle had an earlier “emergence”. In 1992, Eagle was shoehorned in as the successful Labour Party candidate in Wallasey, Merseyside. That first iteration as a “radical” favoured by the establishment came following the active intervention of the neighbouring MP, the equally “unique” Frank Field. Working with the Labour Party establishment under Neil Kinnock’s regime, Eagle was “in the right place, at the right time” to help the purge of the left in the Labour Party and start her quarter of a century as an MP. The Labour Party machine allowed her to replace the Trotskyist, Lol Duffy, who had stood as the Labour Party candidate in the previous election and come within 300 votes of beating the Tory Minister, Lynda Chalker.

However, such issues need to be left to one side. The “hidden state” (aka, the Department of Dirty Tricks) will continue until the working class revolution when the archives will hopefully be uncovered. In the meantime, the aim of Communists is to maintain the clarity of vision about what real socialism is about and to fight for it within the working class in order to contribute to the destruction of capitalism.

Break with Capitalism, Left and Right

Capitalism has been in crisis for nearly fifty years. This is a crisis which capital itself cannot solve, but only try to offset at the expense of the working class. Since the current phase of the crisis opened in 2008, workers have suffered “austerity” and hardship throughout the “advanced” countries. In Britain, the Brexit referendum vote is simply another moment in that assault – one which has already ushered in threats of further attacks on our living standards as well as an upsurge in generalised and foul racism and xenophobia.

The Corbynite promised land is a mirage projected by the left-wing charlatans giving false hope to a younger generation looking for some future in a bleak capitalist landscape. Opposed to the realities of existing austerity and the hopeless calls for a kinder capitalism, Internationalists stand for the destruction of the rotten world-wide oppressive system. It’s a longer but surer road. The future of humanity will depend on the working-class organising to tear down the existing system and lay the basis for a “free association of producers” without states, boundaries or exploitation.

The Communist Workers Organisation and the Internationalist Communist Tendency are committed to deepening and sharing the Communist “praxis” to help in that historic task. More than ever – “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”.


July 13 2016



2 The current electoral hegemony of the SNP in Scotland set in several years before Corbyn’s election.

3 Apparently 62% of Labour voters and 85% of Labour Party members voted “Remain”. The fact the thousands who don’t normally vote because de-industrialisation under Thatcher and Blair has left them economically marginalised and ignored by the political parties is more the fault of New Labour than the Corbynites (who will be no better at winning their votes than the previous Labour leadership).

4 Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), philosopher, founder of the capitalist philosophy of utilitarianism

5 The epithet, a “decent man” has been extensively used by Corbyn’s allies and enemies during June and July

6 Imperialism is the system of class oppression that embraces the entire planet. The leftists’ nonsense about anti-imperialist states or would-be states is part of a political framework which shares nothing with a Marxist understanding of the current situation. Only working-class revolution, consciously aiming at world-wide revolutionary reconstitution of society, offers an authentic “anti-imperialist” strategy.

7 The Second International was the political organisation founded in 1889 that acted as a forum for those parties that referred to themselves as “Social Democrats”. For revolutionary Marxists the organisation died politically in 1914 when it failed to organise against the outbreak of the First World War and the large majority of the member parties joined their national ruling class’s war efforts. Those pro-capitalist parties, now calling themselves variously Labour, Socialist or Social-Democratic, currently liaise via a so-called “Socialist International” formed in 1951.

8 See for example and

9 The Communist International (CI) was founded in 1919 drawing together Socialists/Communists who had stood against “social patriotism” in 1914-1918 and rallied round the revolutionary wave heralded by the proletarian seizure of political power in Russia in 1917. That experience and the emergence of Soviets in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and elsewhere allowed revolutionaries to understand the organisational form whereby the Dictatorship of the Proletariat could be established. Only the first 2 Congresses, 1919 and 1920, reflected that revolutionary path. Thereafter, the CI was caught up in the ebbing away of the revolutionary wave and ended as a tool of the Stalinist state capitalist monstrosity which finally brought the organisation to an end in 1943 as part of a deal with their fellow imperialist Allies.

10 Epigone – a less distinguished follower or imitator of someone.

11 The roots of this strategy can be tracked to weak understandings and incorrect positions during the 1920s. In terms of a continuing strategic orientation, an ongoing thread can be seen from the 1930s. During that decade the Stalinist Parties adopted the Popular Front strategy to ally with Second International parties while the Trotskyists adopted a strategy based on their “French Turn” which involved their supporters joining Social Democratic and similar organisations.

12 The vociferous support of the Labour Left for the so-called Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the other left leaning regimes in South America is yet one more confirmation that these “socialists” do not know the meaning of the word. Socialism or communism is an entirely different mode of production and not capitalism with a more egalitarian system of distribution.

13 Many references can be found to this happening during the 1960s. For a history of Labour relations with the security services see, for example,

14 The Chilcot Report on the Iraq War was finally due out on July 6 and as expected condemned Blair’s role in the decision to go to war in 2003 but after 9 years of waiting and 2.6 million words we only “found out” what was known all along. Blair had put the UK at the disposal of the US and refused to listen to warnings by all “experts” on the Middle East (like Professor George Joffe) that it would unleash hell in Iraq. The attempt to prevent Corbyn being Labour leader and thus get to speak for the Labour Party was thus launched on June 25 by a PR agency (Portland Communications) funded and staffed by over 40 Blairites including lie master general, Alistair Campbell. The first step in this was Hilary Benn’s ultimatum to Corbyn on the same day.

15 For our comment on this event see

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

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