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Proletarian issue 68 (October 2015)
Jeremy Corbyn: The ‘resurgence’ of left social democracy is likely to be shortlived
Despite the hope of millions that his election will usher in a new, anti-austerity, anti-war, pro-people era, the new leader of the Labour party is already succumbing to the pressure to give up his former ‘principled’ stances on such questions as Britain’s membership of Nato and of the EU. The Labour party, it seems, is still the Labour party.
By the time 12 September arrived,it was not a surprise to most of us when Labour officially announced that Jeremy Corbyn was the new leader of the Labour party. After scraping onto the ballot paper to play the role of the constantly outvoted minority (to paraphrase Engels), Corbyn romped home in the first round, winning clear majorities in all the various sections of the voting process to gather 59.5 percent of the total and beat his main rivals by a country mile.

Calls for party unity from Ed Miliband and others quickly followed the resignations from shadow cabinet positions of key Labour parliamentarians, and, within days, a hodgepodge shadow cabinet had been formed featuring well known left luminaries such as John McDonnell and Diane Abbott alongside an assortment of the usual disciples of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

It must be said that, despite everything, the election of Jeremy Corbyn was definitely not what the leaders of social democracy wanted. And yet, it is not a question of if Corbyn will betray his supposed proletarian class allegiances but when.

For all his ‘left’ credentials, Jeremy Corbyn has remained a member of a bloody, racist, warmongering party, which long ago showed its complete subservience to imperialism. He is already declaring his support for the EU, the imperialist character of which he doesn’t mention, on the grounds that it offers “protection” for European workers’ rights, and also because: “I do not want barriers to British lorries driven by British workers and British products made by British workers springing up, which would be one of the consequences of Britain leaving the EU as so many Tory MPs believe should happen.”

He prides himself on taking the same pro-EU stance as Pasok and Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain – what does it matter if we belong to a blood-thirsty imperialist bloc so long as our workers can say “I’m all right Jack”? Or even, it would seem, if they can’t, but are at least better off than workers in oppressed countries? (Leaked: Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on the EU referendum, Social Europe, 27 September 2015)

Even more than that, Corbyn has always enjoyed the reputation of being a principled and lifelong opponent of the warmongering neo-nazi Nato alliance, which is nothing less than one would expect of one of Stop the War’s star performers. And yet even on Nato he is backtracking fast: “When challenged by Andy Burnham on whether he would pull out of Nato, Mr Corbyn said he would have a ‘serious debate about the powers of Nato’, but abandoned previous calls for total withdrawal.

“Having called in the past for Britain’s withdrawal from Nato, he admitted there wasn’t ‘an appetite as a whole for people [which people does he mean?] to leave’ and so would argue for Nato to ‘restrict its role’.” (Jeremy Corbyn backtracks on calls for Britain to leave Nato by Laura Hughes, Daily Telegraph, 28 August 2015)

There are always well-meaning innocents by the bucket load in the working-class movement who never tire of telling us to that everybody on ‘the left’ should unite: let them understand once and for all that to unite with social democracy is to unite with defenders of the bourgeois system – something which should only be done in very exceptional circumstances, and even then with one’s eyes wide open as to the extreme danger that such a situation poses.

As long ago as the 1890s, one of the founding fathers of Marxism, Frederick Engels, characterised the Fabians, who were so instrumental in the formation of the reformist, social-chauvinist Labour party, as follows:

“This crowd is only too finished: a clique of bourgeois-socialists of diverse calibres, from careerists to sentimental socialists and philanthropists, united only by their fear of the threatening rule of the workers and doing all in their power to spike this danger by making their own leadership secure, the leadership exercised by the ‘eddicated’. If afterwards they admit a few workers into their central board in order that they may play there ... the role of a constantly outvoted minority, this should not deceive anyone.” (Letter to Kautsky,4 September 1892)

Many have played the role of the ‘principled’ yet constantly outvoted minority over the years for Labour. Jeremy Corbyn was expected by those who nominated him to ‘take his turn’ and perform it admirably – he has, after all, had decades of practice. Unfortunately, in a spectacular miscalculation, all their plans have gone awry.

Right-wing zealots attack a “national security threat”

So right-wing and reactionary has the British parliamentary scene become, that the election of a relatively liberal white, middle-class, vegetarian (not an untypical sight in our capital city)sent many of our insufferable Etonian schoolboy politicians into a rage. In the weeks that followed his election, Corbyn was labelled a “threat to national security”, was told that the military would stage a coup if he ever became prime minister, and was generally subjected to all manner of threats, criticisms and tantrums by Britain’s corporate media (egged on by said Etonians) for not singing the national anthem!

On 13 September, just one day after Corbyn took over the leadership, David Cameron declared that: “Labour are now a serious risk to our nation’s security, our economy’s security and your family’s security ... Whether it’s weakening our defences, raising taxes on jobs and earnings, racking up more debt and welfare or driving up the cost of living by printing money – Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party will hurt working people.” (David Cameron claims Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘threat to national security’ by Jon Stone, Independent, 13 September 2015)

Taking their cue from the prime minister, the press went into action as soon as the opportunities began to arise. At Corbyn’s first ceremonial event, which happened to fall in the week he took up the leadership, he failed to sing God Save the Queen at an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

“Corbyn snubs Queen and country” (Daily Telegraph); “Veterans open fire after Corbyn snubs anthem” (Times); “Corb snubs the Queen” (Sun); “Not Save the Queen” (Metro); “Shameful: Corbyn refuses to sing national anthem” (Daily Express); “Fury as Corbyn refuses to sing national anthem at Battle of Britain memorial” (Daily Mail); “Corby a zero: Leftie refuses to sing national anthem” (Daily Star). What a wide range of views there are to be found in our corporate media!

Lines of bourgeois war criminals (and grandsons of war criminals like Sir Nicholas Soames; one of Winston Churchill’s legitimate descendants) queued up to attack him for offending the monarch. The Guardian reported MP Soames as saying: “Not singing the anthem was ‘very rude and very disrespectful’ to the Queen and ‘the Battle of Britain pilots who gave their all’.

“It was an extremely disrespectful thing and I think he needs to make his mind up whether he is a grown-up or not [!]” (Corbyn stands silent for national anthem at Battle of Britain service by Caroline Davies, 15 September 2015)

Privileged right-winger Allison Pearson writing in the Telegraph declared: “The event, Jeremy, wasn’t about you and your ‘reform agenda’. It was about the sacrifice of thousands upon thousands of British people who did their duty ... Many of them were Labour voters who would expect their leader to show respect to the Queen and country they died for.” (Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest problem with women? We see right through him, 15 September 2015, our emphasis)

In amongst all this insanity, it was surprising to see an article in the New Statesman (of all places) reflecting upon the national anthem and a long tradition of opposition to it: “Then as now, public voices sought to intimidate those who would not toe the official line.

“In one Edinburgh theatre, a group of Irish medical students sung the Marseillaise instead of God Save the King. Outraged, the young Walter Scott armed a group of youths with clubs and attacked the opposition singers. Both factions were immediately banned from the theatre – but Scott and his friends were soon quietly readmitted.” (By refusing to sing the national anthem, Jeremy Corbyn joins a long tradition of respectful opposition by Oskar Cox Jensen, 16 September 2015)

So much for one of the darlings of Scottish nationalism! But, sadly, rather than openly challenge the validity of Britain’s feudal relic-adoring dirge of a national anthem, Corbyn chose to explain that he had spent the time reflecting upon his parents who had been in London during the Battle for Britain. Numerous Labour spokespeople were then quoted in the media reassuring us that Jeremy will be singing the national anthem in future, so ... panic over, revolution averted, the next headline looms!

Hot on the heels of this ‘scandal’, on Friday 18 September, the press ran stories on Corbyn’s newly-appointed shadow chancellor, John McDonnell – another long-term member of Labour’s club of perennially ‘principled’ but (alas!) outvoted minority.

Speaking on BBC’s Question Time, McDonnell apologised for having once expressed mild verbal support for the IRA, and went on to give his blessings to the singing of the national anthem. The Independent reported: “Mr McDonnell said of his remarks about the IRA: ‘If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise.’

“At a rally in London in 2003 to commemorate IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, the MP said that it was ‘about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle’.

“‘It was bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA,’ he added.

“On Thursday’s Question Time, he said that at the time he had been trying to help the peace process.

“‘I accept it was a mistake to use those words, but actually if it contributed towards saving one life, or preventing someone else being maimed, it was worth doing because we did hold onto the peace process,’ he said.

“‘There was a real risk of the republican movement splitting, and some continuing with the armed process. If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise.’”

Actually John – you were right the first time. But thanks for openly admitting that you’re a career politician whose alleged ‘principled stances’ are merely politically-expedient platitudes; your candid admission is duly noted.

On the scandal over the singing of monarchist piffle God Save the Queen, McDonnell said: “that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn normally did sing the national anthem – despite not doing so at a recent ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

“‘It was quite a moving event and he was casting his mind back to the war ... the national anthem isn’t just for those who are monarchists, it’s for everyone and it represents the whole country and that’s why people sing it.’” (John McDonnell: Shadow Chancellor apologises for praising IRA and joke about murdering Margaret Thatcher by Ian Johnston)

Let us be the first to disassociate ourselves from such drivel and declare that God Save the Queen is no more our song than the Butcher’s Apron is our flag! Amen!

Just two days later, keeping to the theme of Corbyn and his pals being dangerous subversives,an anonymous senior-serving general in the British army announced via the pages of the Sunday Times that any attempt to interfere with Britain’s military machine would not be tolerated.

“The army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country, and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.

“There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny ...

“Many soldiers are disgusted by the comments of Corbyn and John McDonnell [about] the IRA – men who have not only murdered British soldiers but also hundreds of members of their own community.” (Corbyn hit by mutiny on airstrikes, 20 September 2015)

If nothing else, it should be said that if the election of Jeremy Corbyn continues to bring forth so many open and frank statements illustrating the naked reality of bourgeois dictatorship in Britain, then it will have provided many an excellent lesson in the Marxist teaching on the state!

Alas, whilst the corporate media were busy filling their pages with lies, nonsense and gibberish about the risk to national security and the revolutionary potential of Jeremy Corbyn, our friends in the Trotskyite and revisionist fraternity were doing the same!

Troto-revisionist fraternity hail the second coming

One of the most welcome side-effects of Jeremy Corbyn’s election will be the ongoing disintegration and destruction of the Trotskyite and revisionist rump in Britain.

With the election of a ‘real left socialist’ to the leadership to the Labour party, the wildest dreams of the Griffithses, Matgamnas, Reeses, Germans, Taaffes et al has come true. Almost all the members of Britain’s Troto-revisionist fellowship have hailed the election of Corbyn and the increase of Labour party membership as a sign that socialism is now the order of the day and that Labour has been transformed into an entirely new political party nearly overnight by the arrival of so many £3 members.

The leading light of social-fascist misfits the AWL (Alliance for Workers Liberty), Sean Matgamna, wrote: “There is nothing timid, half-hearted, or half-strangled about Jeremy Corbyn and his politics, or about John McDonnell, whom he has appointed as Labour’s shadow chancellor of the exchequer. To an enormous degree this is a new political party.” (After Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leader, rebuild the Labour movement, Solidarity, 16 September 2015, our emphasis)

You see, dear reader, take a party – let’s say Labour, a party of imperialism for over 100 years and a party with a long and proud history of racism, chauvinism and servility to the bourgeoisie. What happens when you take said party and place Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell at the top? Hey presto, a new party! It’s that easy.

The Socialist Party, another Trotskyite outfit, which, for the last ten years or so, has been campaigning for a ‘new workers’ party’ has now decided that such a party has appeared, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter!

“The lack of democracy in the Labour party and growing levels of working-class alienation from it meant a movement within the Labour party structures was not the most likely scenario. Nonetheless, we have no fetish about by what route the crisis of working-class political representation would be solved and have never excluded the possibility of Labour swinging left.

“As long ago as 2002 we argued that, ‘under the impact of great historic shocks – a serious economic crisis, mass social upheaval – the ex-social-democratic parties could move dramatically towards the left’.

“However, the reality is that the Corbyn surge has mainly not come from within the Labour party but from ‘outside’ – new members and registered supporters who were attracted by the hope of something different. This is a new party in the process of formation which will face relentless attack from the ‘old’ pro-capitalist New Labour.”

Despite the above, this ‘new party’ appears to be dominated by many of the ‘old’ characters. The Socialist Party has no problem later in the same article relating this fact: “The shadow justice secretary, the Blairite Lord Falconer, has a record of introducing draconian anti-democratic legislation.

“Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary, has previously supported privatisation and closure of hospitals. Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, showed how right-wing he is at the start of the leadership election campaign, supporting further benefit cuts and opposing the mansion tax as ‘the politics of envy’.” (Editorial: Corbyn’s leadership victory a new era for the 99 percent, 16 September 2015, our emphasis)

So desperate are the Trotskyites to return to the social-democratic bosom they were torn from in the early 1990s that they now openly advocate a return to factional struggle inside the Labour party, and, whilst it is some way off, we can only look forward to the organisational liquidation of these renegades.

“Call a conference of all anti-austerity forces which can elaborate a clear programme of no cuts, and the necessary action at local and national level to implement this! It is also necessary at the same time to create a parallel organised framework around Corbyn, which could organise the campaign to involve all anti-austerity and socialist forces in a new mass movement.

“The Socialist Party and TUSC will be part of such a movement ... the conclusions to draw from Corbyn’s victory should be: no prevarication, no retreats, no bending to the scheming splitters in the right-wing PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] or to the ‘constitutional requirements’ of the current Labour party structures ... We are now presented with a new opportunity which must not be lost!” (A political earthquake by Peter Taaffe, Socialist World, 18 September 2015)

In harmony with the position of the Trots are our old friends in the Communist Party of Britain (CPB). The revisionist clique running the Morning Star and the CPB are equally gleeful about the prospect of better relations with social democracy. Morning Star editor Ben Chacko, whilst reviewing the Sunday morning papers on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, was pleased to note that “socialism” was now “back on the agenda”!

In a ‘political report’ entitled ‘Corbyn victory! – Rebuilding the force for change’, the CPB’s leadership declared enthusiastically: “Corbyn’s campaign has enthused many thousands of people to see new hope in the Labour party”. (Our emphasis)

Rather than celebrating the strengthening of the ties of the workers to social democracy, however, true communists should be doing everything to expose social democrats (who want to keep us loyal to imperialism) and to show the way forward to socialism. But the CPB celebrates all that is backward in the labour movement and strives to further strengthen the illusions that keep us tied to the British ruling class’s coat tails!

All of the Trotskyite-revisionist gang are now praying for a return to some form of federal Labour party – a structure within which they hope to carve out some cushy jobs helping to keep British workers on our own unique and neverending ‘British Road to Socialism’ – one where social-democratic parties can change overnight into “new forces for change”, and the march to socialism is exceedingly long!

In his article ‘One of the fundamental questions of the revolution’, written in September 1917, Lenin spoke about the role that is played by social democrats and reformists who pretend to ‘fight for socialism’ through parliamentary means alone.

“The entire history of the bourgeois-parliamentary, and also, to a considerable extent, of the bourgeois-constitutional, countries shows that a change of ministers means very little, for the real work of administration is in the hands of an enormous army of officials.

“This army, however, is undemocratic through and through; it is connected by thousands and millions of threads with the landowners and the bourgeoisie and is completely dependent on them. This army is surrounded by an atmosphere of bourgeois relations, and breathes nothing but this atmosphere.

“It is set in its ways, petrified, stagnant, and is powerless to break free of this atmosphere. It can only think, feel, or act in the old way. This army is bound by servility to rank, by certain privileges of ‘civil’ service; the upper ranks of this army are, through the medium of shares and banks, entirely enslaved by finance capital, being to a certain extent its agent and a vehicle of its interests and influence ...

“That is why it always happens, under all sorts of ‘coalition’ cabinets that include ‘socialists’, that these socialists, even when individuals among them are perfectly honest, in reality turn out to be either a useless ornament of or a screen for the bourgeois government, a sort of lightning conductor to divert the people’s indignation from the government, a tool for the government to deceive the people.

“This was the case with Louis Blanc in 1848, and dozens of times in Britain and France, when socialists participated in cabinets. This is also the case with the Chernovs and Tseretelis in 1917. So it has been and so it will be as long as the bourgeois system exists and as long as the old bourgeois, bureaucratic state apparatus remains intact.”

Let workers in Britain take heed of these wise words. Whilst Corbyn is today merely the leader of the opposition, it is now quite possible that in the future he may become prime minister, and it is therefore the job of communists to warn the working class about the true nature of such sham ‘socialists’.

As our comrades wrote in Lalkar recently: “No matter who leads the Labour party (‘new’ or ‘old’), and no matter how decent and well-intentioned such a leader may be, he could never change the basic nature of the Labour party, which has never been, is not now, and will never in the future be, a party of the British proletariat; which has always been, is now, and will always in the future be, a party of British imperialism.

“The only thing to do with it is to work towards its disintegration, so as to rescue the working class from its deadly embrace, and build a truly revolutionary party of the British proletariat that is capable of storming the citadels of British imperialism and replacing it with the dictatorship of the proletariat so as to usher in an era of real prosperity for working people at home and an end to Britain’s imperialist wars abroad.

“And, if achieving that end requires the disillusionment of the working class through the experience of yet another Labour government headed by a left-wing social democrat like Mr Corbyn, then so be it.” (The Labour leadership contest and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, September 2015)
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