With “Corbyn-mania” sweeping the country, the whole political climate in Britain is going through a massive transformation. To the horror of the establishment, the ideas of socialism and public ownership are firmly back on the table.
Furthermore, the Tory government, which seemed almost unassailable not so long ago, is now weak and unstable, without a majority at Westminster after the June election. In fact the Tories are now staring into an abyss with Theresa May only holding on to her premiership by the skin of her teeth.
Shed a tear
May recently revealed that she shed a few tears on election night over the loss of her majority. Few will feel sorry for such a hard-hearted "bloody difficult woman", however, who only believes in the power of the establishment. Let us recall, she showed little compassion over the Grenfell tower tragedy. Like her Tory counterpart on Kensington and Chelsea council, Elizabeth Campbell, she has probably never set foot in a council tower block.
Campbell had the cheek recently to protest against the notion that “because we have people in the borough who are wealthy and people who are not wealthy, the wealthy don't care”. Of course she would say that! The wealthy live in a completely different world, namely, the world of the elite, who view ordinary people with contempt. They have never shed a single tear over all the damage their policies and system have inflicted on the mass of people. There is a whiff of the Marie Antoinette about them. But as with the French aristocracy, they are a doomed class defending a doomed system.
Likewise, so is the present Tory government. It is a government of crisis, wracked by divisions and leaks. So discredited is the prime minister that rumours of a palace coup continue to infest Westminster and the press. Andrew Mitchell, the former Tory chief whip, recently told a private dinner that Mrs May was “dead in the water”.
Tory civil war
Europe has again become a major faultline inside the Tory party. An article in the Financial Times (4th July 2017) reveals the real discord: “‘We can work with half the Labour party and crush the fuckers,’ says one Conservative MP, referring to his Eurosceptic colleagues. A leading pro-Brexit MP says he would not tolerate threats from the ‘wankers’ on his party’s pro-European wing.”
Such infighting and backstabbing could easily spiral out of control, forcing May to resign and plunging the Tory party into an open civil war. The pressure for an election could become irresistible and Jeremy Corbyn could well end up in Number Ten sooner than expected.
That is why the Tory grandees are so desperate to hold the line for now and prevent a bloody leadership contest. But this cannot last. These are certainly not normal political times. We are in a period of sharp and sudden changes. We must expect the unexpected.
Brexit over a cliff
In addition there is the looming calamity over Brexit, where negotiations are in danger of becoming so poisoned that Britain is forcibly ejected from the EU without a deal. Astonishingly, Eurosceptic Cabinet ministers are openly briefing against the Chancellor, who favours a “soft” Brexit. The head of the National Audit Office has said things are so fragile that it resembles a chocolate orange, which falls apart at the first tap. Such a collapse in negotiations would certainly plunge the economy into a deep recession.
Even without this, the UK economy is deteriorating fast, with industrial production down and real wages falling. The Office for Budget Responsibility – the UK’s fiscal watchdog – has stated that another recession is inevitable and public finances are more vulnerable than they were in 2007. This means that, despite years of grinding austerity cuts, Britain’s public finances are now in a worse shape to withstand a slump than they were on the eve of the 2007 financial crash.
A stress test of the government’s plans to manage the public finances revealed that the annual deficit could rocket back to 8.1% and the debt to GDP ratio could match Italy’s at 114%.
Ruling class in panic
Facing such a dire situation, everything now points towards the election of Labour government in the short run.
But Labour's success in June and the current opinion poll lead has done nothing to mend the deep fault lines also running through Labour at Westminster. Nearly 50 Labour MPs, led by Chuka Umunna, defied the Labour whip to abstain in a vote over staying in the single market. Corbyn was forced to sack three frontbenchers for their defiance, while a fourth resigned.
The anti-Labour London Evening Standard has published articles “exposing” a Corbyn take-over of the Labour Party. "As one smart political commentator noted earlier this week," explained the paper, "many still naively believe that Mr Corbyn seeks his inspiration from John Lennon when in fact he has always been a follower of Vladimir Lenin."
This red-baiting is what you would expect from a Tory rag. However, behind the rhetoric is the alarm of the ruling class that the Labour Party will no longer defend the “market economy”, as under previous Labour leaders, but will move in a much more radical direction.
Right wing demoralised
Labour's right wing seems to be in a demoralised state, fearing that automatic re-selection will be introduced and that their fate now lies with the new radicalised party membership.
The comment by Ian Lavery, the new chair of the Labour Party, that Labour was now “too broad a church” and that the process for MP selection should be changed, sent shockwaves through the ranks of right-wing Labour MPs.
This point was emphasised by Chris Williamson, a shadow minister, who said there were “interest groups and individual MPs in this party who think it’s their God-given right to rule.”
He added: “Yes, Labour is a big church but we currently have a large bulk of MPs who represent one relatively small tendency in the congregation. To keep Labour fresh and updated we need MPs who can win the support of the mass membership…Those MPs who are popular with their members, which may well be the vast majority, should have no problem getting reselected. But it’s unreasonable to think we as MPs can avoid any contest.”
This has put Labour’s right wing on the back foot, uncertain what to do. Talk of a split has been reduced to a whisper - for now. But the ruling class, having seemingly lost control of the Labour Party, are increasingly in favour of creating a “Centre” Party from “moderate” split-offs from Labour and the Tories. But this is a weak branch to be resting on at the moment. However, they will come back to this idea in the future, which is a clear warning to Labour.
For a socialist Labour government
Rather than a “broad church”, Labour needs to become a fully-fledged socialist party, representative of the working class. It should put an end to careerism at Westminster and elsewhere. As part of this, Labour must campaign on a socialist programme and be ready to carry it out in office, backed by the power of the working class.
With Britain and the world economy heading for a deep slump on the lines of 2008, Labour must not “nationalise the losses and privatise the profits” as has happened before. Labour must not submit to the blackmail of the bankers and capitalists but should take emergency measures to make the capitalists pay for their own crisis.
This must mean taking over the commanding heights of the economy – the 150 or so giant monopolies, banks and insurance companies that control the economy – under workers’ control and management and without compensation. Britain’s wealthy elite have got richer while workers have suffered cuts and pay restraint. They should not get a single penny from us.
This programme would allow the economy to be planned and run in the interests of the majority, rather than be ruled by the anarchy of capitalism. Then all the ills of capitalism: unemployment, poverty, homelessness and periodic crises can be eliminated. The resources of society will be used by all to raise our living standards and put an end to the miseries of the “market economy”.
In this way, Labour will be able to carry out its reforms – and far more – and implement its historic task of transforming society on socialist lines, based upon the principle from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs. Another world is possible. Let us fight for it!