In his first week as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has faced an onslaught of attacks from the media, Tories, and Blairites, all intent on discrediting the newly elected leader and destablising the Corbyn-led Labour Party. Corbyn's supports must rally to his defence!
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is one of the most significant events in the history of British politics. Millions who are fed up with austerity are finally to be given a political voice. At the same time, his landslide victory represents a blow to Establishment, and to the Blairite wing in the party, who for decades have attempted to imitate the Tories in a bid to make Labour safe for big business and the banks.
Hundreds of thousands have been mobilised into political activity around Corbyn’s leadership campaign, and are now looking for a way forward. This is enormous step forward for the working class.
Right wing intrigues
The right wing in the Labour Party is hopelessly out of touch with the vast majority of working people. They seriously believed their own propaganda that “socialism is dead”, that people want Tory-lite policies, and that young people are apathetic. Hence the “lending” of nominations by MPs to put Corbyn on the ballot. They believed Corbyn would be smashed at the first round, conclusively proving that the left was finished. How wrong they were!
Initially dismissing Corbyn as a no-hoper, the right wing were confident in their own success. Once it became apparent that Corbyn might win the leadership election, ridicule against Jeremy turned into vitriol, and the Blairites began their campaign of attacks on Corbyn. At first they mocked his policies, saying that he was a throwback to the 1980s. However, for many ordinary people, this was translated as, “a return of the party to its principles before New Labour? – yes please!” Rather than championing the “free market” and private ownership, Corbyn raised the idea of the nationalisation of key utilities. This is a significant factor to his popularity.
Next, MPs came out to attack him personally, highlighting his lack of experience in high office, his rebellious nature when it came to votes, and even his “scruffy” appearance. “Yes!”, people thought, “finally someone who doesn’t look and sound like the identikit Westminster elite, who care only for their own careers. The personal attacks in the press then multiplied, including accusations of anti-Semitism. Even these backfired, as they were found to be baseless, and it became apparent that the media was lined up in a campaign of victimisation.
As the Corbyn campaign gathered momentum, a layer of right-wing Labour MPs, led by Chukka Umunna and Tristram Hunt, began to discuss how to sabotage a Corbyn-led party, and “restore order” to the “moderates”, i.e. the Blairites. All options were considered, including the cancelling of the election, changing the party constitution to give the shadow cabinet more power over policy, and even the idea of a party coup. However, as the scale of the upcoming Corbyn victory became apparent, their tactics began to change.
Corbyn to victory!
Despite the full force of the media and the Labour Party machine being thrown against him, Corbyn won a resounding victory. This is a result of the same process of radicalisation that has affected the world since the capitalist crisis erupted in 2008. Ordinary people are sick of being forced to pay for the crisis of the bankers and billionaires, and an anti-establishment mood has deepened as a result of one scandal after another. On top of this, people are fed up with slick politicians who are elected to fight for their interests, but who then do the opposite by supporting austerity and privatisations. Corbyn connected with this mood of radicalisation, as the right wing fell over themselves in despair as their support collapsed.
Corbyn’s victory was unprecedented in the whole history of the Labour Party. Despite the purge of thousands of members and registered supporters, Corbyn took nearly 60% of the total vote. This included just under 50% of the Labour Party members, and almost 84% of “registered supporters”. In stark contrast, Liz Kendall, the Blairite favourite, received only 4.5% of the vote overall, with 5.5% of the members, and just 2.4% of registered supporters. So much for the popularity of Tory-lite policies!
It is the strength of Corbyn’s mandate, and the weakness of enthusiasm for the right wing that has determined the Blairite’s tactics in the short term. Although some of the worst elements in the party have immediately declared their resignation or refusal to serve in the shadow cabinet, the majority are playing the long game. They are seeking to whittle him down slowly, forcing him to compromise on one issue after another, such as support for NATO or the EU. In doing so they are seeking to discredit him against the left, with the idea of demoralising and wearing out his supporters. Only then, will they openly move against him and seek to remove him.
It has therefore fallen to the Tories, and their stooges in the bourgeois media to lead the assault against Corbyn. If the idea of a Miliband government upset the ruling class, a Corbyn-led Labour party, including a programme of nationalisations, has them in a state of complete panic and hysteria.
What’s more, Corbyn’s campaign has energised a whole layer of people into political activity, particularly the youth. It is this that the capitalists fear the most – that an active, youthful and leftwing anti-austerity movement will develop in Britain, which has the potential to move far to the left of the current Corbyn programme, and which could represent a serious challenge to their whole system. The most far-sighted bourgeois can see the revolutionary implications of this. This growing movement, therefore, they think, must be nipped in the bud.
Media attacks increase
The mainstream media faithfully took up this crusade of the ruling class. The attacks ranged from the subtle (“he’s a nice guy, but just not electable”), to the extreme (“a threat to national security and your family”). A chorus of slanders was written about his every move; he simply couldn’t put a foot right! Every word written was designed to discredit Corbyn in the eyes of the public.
The ruling class used every dirty trick known to the press. Quotes taken out of context? No problem! Unflattering photographs? Stick them in! Printing complete lies? Go for it! After all, who checks the facts anyway!?
However, in resurrecting such smear tactics, the press editors had not taken into account two things. Firstly, the internet and social media allow for people to easily check the accuracy of reports in the press, and quickly expose the lies to large audiences. Take for example the Sun’s front page, depicting Corbyn as a court “Jezter”, and accusing him of hypocrisy for supposedly accepting to kiss the Queen’s hand in exchange for receiving money. This was quickly exposed as false, even by the paper’s source for the article! Similarly, the Tories’ own smear video was quickly exposed as a series of quotes taken out of context, by someone at home simply finding the original videos and putting them together on YouTube.
Secondly, by unifying nearly the whole media against a leader who is enjoying massive popularity due to his anti-austerity stance, this pillar of the establishment - already in crisis over their own series of scandals - has further exposed itself for what it is: a tool of the ruling class in defence of the capitalist system. Even supposedly “neutral” or “lefty” elements of the media, such as the BBC or the Guardian, have shown themselves to in fact be firmly in the pocket of big business and the establishment.
The hypocrisy and double standards of the press were not lost on the public. Despite Corbyn’s shadow cabinet consisting of more than half women, sexist and misogynistic publications such as the Sun and the Daily Mail suddenly discovered their “feminism”, and united with the whole media in attacking Corbyn for a lack of women in the “top posts”. Those on social media were quick to point out the all-male board of directors of publications such as the Telegraph, who were leading the attacks. And where was the outrage over the overwhelmingly male Tory front bench?
The “mistake” of the right-wing MPs in allowing Corbyn onto the ballot was due to their massive disconnect with the real mood within society. It is the same disconnect, between the editors of the media, and the bitterness and rage felt within a wide layer of the working class and youth, which is resulting in the media losing the last reserves of trust it once enjoyed.
For example, the wholesale denunciation of Corbyn for refusing to sing “God Save the Queen” at a WWII memorial service massively missed the mark. A poll on the website of the Daily Mirror, found 78% of its readers actually supported Corbyn in not singing the anthem! Similarly, in a recent letters page of the Metro newspaper, when asked to send in their opinions about the Queen and her record-breaking reign, two-thirds of the letters published were hostile to the monarchy, highlighting the parasitic role they play whilst ordinary people suffer for the crisis of capitalism.
Workers and youth - who have faced years of attacks on their living standards have no time for such jingoistic patriotism and monarchism. Indeed, as the massive “Refugees Welcome” demonstrations across Europe have shown, the real mood amongst ordinary people is not one of racism and sympathy for right-wing ideas, but one of anger and frustration towards the establishment and the capitalist system.
This shows that although the media is still influential in shaping public opinion, it is not the omnipotent force that some people may think. In fact, it is increasingly seen as completely out of touch, and in the pocket of big-business and the capitalist class. Consciousness is changing rapidly on the basis of events. All the old ideas and traditions are now being questioned. The media is no longer the reliable tool for the ruling class that it is in so-called “normal” times.
Hands Off Corbyn!
Nevertheless, this vile smear-campaign must be resisted by all those supporting Corbyn as the way forward for the working class. These attacks are part of a coordinated attempt by the ruling class to discredit Corbyn and his ideas, with the long-term goal of seizing control of the party back for the right wing. We can expect these attacks to be stepped up in the coming period. This must be resisted at all levels, and requires people to get organised!
Corbyn remains isolated within the parliamentary Labour Party. Ninety per cent of his shadow cabinet did not support his election as leader. Only a tiny number of the 232 Labour MPs really back him. However, as shown by the leadership election, Corbyn has the support of half of the membership (indeed, much more than half, with 30,000 new members joining within days of Corbyn’s victory), and an enormous layer of supporters outside the party and in the trade unions.
If Corbyn is to be successful, this outside layer must join the party and become actively organised in his defence. A constituency based youth organisation - the Young Socialists - should be re-launched to harness the energy of the large layer of young people keen to change society. This should be based on organising around Corbyn’s defence, and the fight to win the Labour Party to a programme of bold socialist policies. At the heart of this must be a political fight to restore Labour to its true socialist values, as outlined in Clause IV.
MPs must be put on the spot. Emergency meetings should be convened, and those attempting to sabotage Corbyn be exposed. MPs refusing to respect the overwhelming majority of the party should be de-selected, and replaced by people who actually stand for the socialist values of the party. We are all for “unity” within the Labour Party; but this must be a unity around Corbyn and the programme that he was elected on. There can be no tolerance for sabotage from a fifth column of Blairites within the party.
Furthermore, those supporting Corbyn should also organise outside the party, in order to broaden the campaign for socialist policies. Trade unionists should pass model resolutions in support of Corbyn in their branches and trades councils. Public meetings can be called, to expose the right wing attacks in the media, and widen the base of the campaign. Corbyn should organise local assemblies and conferences of his supporters to discuss the way forward. Street stalls can be set up, to collect signatures for the Hands Off Corbyn petition, and to bring wider layers into the movement. Student groups, including those organised in the Marxist Student Federation, should similarly organise stalls on their campuses, and pass resolutions in their student unions.
The ruling class, including the Blairites and the media, are organised and on the offensive. The time for action is now! Politically, the right wing are on the back foot. We must organise a mass movement that will finally kick out the Blairite careerists and reclaim the Labour Party for the working class. The 16,000 that volunteered to help campaign for Corbyn’s election is just a taste of the movement that could be mobilised to his defence, if armed with a clear socialist programme. Let us seize the moment!