“Courage is of two kinds: first, physical courage, or courage in the presence of danger to the person; and next, moral courage, or courage before responsibility…” (Clausewitz, On War)
It is evident that the Johnson government is in a state of deep crisis. They have made one blunder after another; forced into making a string of U-turns.
The imposition of a new national lockdown has created a ferocious backlash among Tory MPs and the party’s ‘luny’ membership. The ruling class, who are desperate for some stability, are alarmed by the turmoil within the higher echelons of government.
Against this chaotic backdrop, in rides Sir Keir Starmer. The Labour leader has fallen over himself to offer his services to the ruling elite as a loyal and ‘umble servant of capitalism.
To prove his credentials, he has limited himself to providing ‘constructive’ opposition to the Tories – that is, no opposition at all.
Yet whilst going soft on the Tories, Starmer has predictably come down hard on the left within his own party. He lied to get elected, promising ‘unity’ and an ‘end to factionalism’. But then again, the right wing has never had any scruples about such dishonesty.
The Corbynites have been unceremoniously cast aside like a dirty dish cloth, with Starmer declaring that the Labour Party is under “new management”. He has proudly announced that the right wing is back in the saddle!
With the Tories in serious trouble, Starmer is preparing to throw them a lifeline. When asked directly on the Andrew Marr programme if he would serve along with Johnson in a national ‘unity’ government, he deliberately refused to rule this out. Instead, he only stated that he was prepared to support Boris if he did the right thing.
It is clear that Starmer will jump at this idea when the offer presents itself. And given the deepening crisis consuming the Tory government, this is something the ruling class is seriously considering.
But before entering a National Government, Starmer will need to clear out any potential opposition from the Corbynite left. He made a start as soon as he was elected Labour leader, pushing the lefts out of the shadow cabinet, and then later by sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Now he has suspended Jeremy Corbyn from the party. This is clearly the opening shot for a wider purge of the left.
This war on the Labour left has the full support of the ruling class, who have compared it to Kinnock’s attacks on Liverpool and the Militant Tendency, and also to Tony Blair’s move to remove Clause 4.
It is precisely this backing from the capitalist establishment that bolsters Starmer and the right-wing leadership, pushing them to act decisively and ruthlessly against the left.
Question of leadership
Unfortunately, in face of this aggression, the response of the Labour left has been lamentable to say the least. The right wing spit in their face and they simply wipe it off. They are slapped viciously, only to then piously turn the other cheek. There seems to be more fight in a paper bag. Unfortunately this is not a new thing.
Instead of going onto the offensive, the left leaders plead with the right wing to play fair, talking about a lack of ‘due process’ in suspending Corbyn. As if those conducting a witch hunt care about the rulebook!
The left constantly talk of the need for party ‘unity’, just as they are being kicked all round the houses. It is about time they stood up and fought back with the same determination and audacity as the right wing.
Such pleading only adds to the confusion and demoralisation amongst the party’s mass membership, who are desperately looking for a lead. Many are understandably leaving the party out of despair.
Incredibly, some left-wing sceptics argue that we shouldn’t go too far in our opposition, for fear that this will lead to expulsions or local Labour parties being closed down. Comrades, it is precisely being cowed that will encourage the right wing – on any pretext they choose – to suspend, expel, or close down parties. Have we forgotten the years under Kinnock and Blair?
Our task is not to take the line of least resistance, but to tell the truth, no matter how bitter it may be.
Weakness invites aggression
To begin with, it is a serious mistake to believe the right wing are people you can reason with. They have their agenda set out by the ruling class: to make Labour a ‘safe pair of hands’ for capitalism, even if that risks destroying the party.
“We do not want a civil war,” says the left, precisely when the right is conducting a one-sided civil war against us.
At least Howard Beckett from Unite the Union had the guts to warn Starmer that if he wants a civil war, there are plenty of Corbyn supporters who will be prepared to fight it. These comments are a step forward. But Beckett is still an isolated case. In fact, some weak-kneed people have even criticised him for using such provocative language!
The Labour and trade union lefts have been thrown into disarray by this attack. They are like rabbits caught in the headlights. They urgently need to step up to the mark and launch a counter-offensive.
Unfortunately, their track record on facing up to the right has not been great. When the left dominated the Labour Party between 2015-19, they consistently refused to confront the right wing. Even when faced with the ‘chicken coup’ in 2016, it was the movement from below that saved the day.
When a golden opportunity presented itself to introduce mandatory reselection at the 2018 Labour conference, they buckled. As well as opposing open selection, they also blocked the reintroduction of Clause 4.
Both of these were overwhelmingly supported by the membership, but were thwarted by the left leaders, for fear of provoking the right wing and leading to a split. They wanted to avoid this at all costs. But as we know, weakness invites aggression.
The call for party ‘unity’ is false from beginning to end. Unity, of course, can be a very fine thing. Unity of the working class in the face of the employers, for instance, is essential.
But appeals for a fake unity with your class enemy is the worst of all possible worlds. It is the unity of the horse and the rider. Such pleas only sow illusions in your enemy, creating confusion in your own camp, and playing into the hands of your opponents.
This attempt to put ‘unity’ with the Blairites above all else has only served to embolden the right, giving them confidence to step up their attacks and sabotage. “Nicer, kinder politics” did not cut any ice with these people, who are only interested in serving capitalism. In fact they became even more aggressive.
Remember Lord Mandelson when he said he woke up everyday thinking of how to get rid of Corbyn; or Jess Phillips, who said that she wanted to stab Corbyn in the front.
The right wing are steadfast and are not prepared to give an inch. But if you give them an inch – and the left gave them a lot more – they will happily take a mile.
The right wing are not ‘comrades’; they are agents of capitalism within the workers’ movement. They are the ‘enemy within’. They are big business infiltrators, whose job it is to keep the party safe for capitalism. This is what guides their actions, nothing more.
That is why they sabotaged the last two elections, and it is why they have weaponised anti-semitism for their own ends. If we do not understand this, then we have understood nothing from the past five years.
The reason why the Labour and trade union lefts seek compromise at every opportunity is a political question. They are guided by their wooly politics. No doubt they are well meaning – but the road to a very warm place is paved with good intentions.
While the lefts mention ‘socialism’ in words, in practise they accept the capitalist system and seek to work within its confines. They are prepared to nationalise a few utilities, but wish to leave the decisive levers of the economy in the hands of big business.
What they stand for is a ‘nicer’ capitalism; a ‘mixed’ (capitalist) economy; or welfare capitalism. They hark back to the Keynesianism of the 1950s, when capitalism could afford to give some reforms. But that era is long gone. Today capitalism is in a deep crisis – the deepest for 300 years – and can no longer offer welfare or reforms, only vicious counter-reforms.
The only real solution to the capitalist crisis for the working class is to fight for a socialist planned economy, where the giant monopolies and banks are nationalised under workers’ control and management. This means putting an end to capitalism once and for all, something the left reformists regard as utopian.
What is required is not capitulation and retreat in an attempt to appease the right wing. Rather, we need to launch an all-out offensive to expose their real pro-capitalist agenda, and to get rid of them from the party.
An all-inclusive ‘broad church’ is a recipe for capitulation. Instead, we must fight for a real socialist Labour Party – one that is prepared to change society. This means abandoning the idea of reforming capitalism and adopting a bold socialist programme.
This is what the Marxist tendency around Socialist Appeal is fighting for. We remain firm in our conviction in fighting for socialist revolution.
No compromise with capitalism! No compromise with the Labour right wing!
Cleanse the movement of careerism!
Forward to socialism! Join us in this fight!