Jeremy Corbyn recently introduced his ‘Project for Peace and Justice’, announced last Sunday with a video published across the former Labour leader’s social media platforms. With a website that proudly bears his name, the project launches globally on 17 January, following an online event featuring Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and left-wing Labour MP Zarah Sultana.
The project’s goal – as outlined in its mission statement – is “to bring people together for social and economic justice, peace, and human rights, in Britain and across the world”.
Building on Corbyn’s record of principled internationalism and anti-war campaigning, the organisation has already seen considerable support from grassroots members, prominent left-wing activists, and notable media figures.
I’m pleased to announce the new Peace and Justice Project, bringing people together for social and economic justice, peace, and human rights in Britain and across the world.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 13, 2020
Find out more in our video and sign up to our launch here 👉 https://t.co/RcnJE1kA6q pic.twitter.com/pyHpeHGa1S
The timing of the announcement, coming off the back of Corbyn’s suspension, raised speculation this may be a move to found a new party. However, the Islington North MP has been careful to stress this is not the case. In an interview with Jacobin magazine, Corbyn clarified that “[the project] isn’t a new political party, but a space in which people can come together”.
The project’s website echoes this sentiment, being careful not to take a political position. For example, there is no mention of socialism or (anti-)capitalism anywhere in the stated aims. Instead, Corbyn outlines how the focus will be on problems such as inequality, international peace, and democracy, to name a few.
Every socialist would surely agree that these are important and noble aims; key questions in the struggle for a better society. But it is naive to believe that these systemic issues can be dealt with outside of the realm of politics, or through individual actions and efforts.
Indeed by shying away from politics, the project seems to relegate itself to being a vague network for activists and academics to ‘generate ideas’. In other words, it essentially appears to be just a left-wing think tank.
Problems of capitalism
The issues that Corbyn wants to fight – and has fought for throughout his life – cannot be solved simply through networking together isolated campaigns or producing new policy documents.
Questions of war, poverty, and oppression are all issues that are in the very DNA of capitalism. They cannot be dealt with separately, or by attempting to tinker with the system. Instead, they must be tackled at their root.
Inequality and poverty are direct consequences of the capitalist system, which is inherently based on exploitation. Armed conflict and wars, meanwhile, are the means by which capitalists defend and expand their markets, with no regard for the human cost.
And democracy under capitalism is only a democracy of the rich – in reality a dictatorship of the bankers – which excludes the vast majority, designed to preserve and protect the property and profits of the ruling class.
The capitalists will never ‘see the light’ on any of these issues. Corbyn’s experience as Labour leader is a vindication of this fact; a clear example of the ruthlessness of the ruling class.
Throughout his tenure (and continuing through to this day), the establishment ran a vicious campaign of smears and lies against him. This opposition was not born from a moralistic disagreement with Corbyn’s policies, aimed at tackling social inequality and poverty. Instead, it came from the fact that fighting these issues poses a direct threat to the bosses and their profits.
These important issues can and must be fought on a political and class basis. The working class is larger than it has ever been in history. If organised and united, workers have the power to bring the bosses’ system to a grinding halt.
Through the hammer blow of events, in this period of deep crisis, workers and youth are becoming more and more conscious of the need to fight back. An eruption of anger can be seen across the world today: from the BLM movement internationally; to the Strajk Kobiet demonstrations in Poland; to the anti-monarchy protests in Thailand.
Here in Britain, this class anger has been expressed through the ongoing civil war within Labour. Turning away from this struggle against Starmer and the agents of capitalism in the party is not a step forward in the fight for socialism. At best, it is a sidestep; at worst, a retreat.
Corbyn’s meteoric rise to leader of the Labour Party in 2015 came off the back of hundreds of thousands of young and working-class members joining the party – signing up after being inspired by the socialist policies he stood for.
But Corbyn’s mistake while in power was to bow to pressure from the right of the party, rather than empowering this grassroots base through mandatory reselection and extending party democracy.
Now is not the time to pull this same base away and abandon the battlefield. The left does not need another think tank or NGO, no matter how well-intentioned.
What is needed is to enthuse and rally together Labour and trade union members in the struggle against the Blairites, the Tories, and capitalist class they represent, on the basis of bold socialist demands. It is only through the overthrow of capitalism that real peace and justice can be secured for our class.