|As we go to press, the gang of right social democrats who make up the majority of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) have put forward a fresh candidate for a leadership challenge in a bid to unseat the present incumbent, Jeremy Corbyn.
As a justification, they are claiming to hold Corbyn responsible for the outcome of the Brexit vote, but the truth is that they have been desperate to ditch him ever since they slipped up and allowed him onto the ballot paper for the leadership contest that he went on to win by a landslide last September.
The previous leader, Ed Miliband, had overseen a big change within the party’s electoral college, which had the effect of diminishing the power of both MPs and the trade union leaderships. Formerly, those two groups would have effectively decided between themselves who the new leader would be, but now the strength of the individual members and registered supporters has become paramount in leadership contests (notwithstanding the sway that the bourgeois media holds over the ‘thoughts’ of many of those individual members).
After huge media speculation, a vote of no confidence from his own MPs and an attempt by the right social democrats to misinterpret the party rules on leadership challenges (by which underhand means, it was hoped that the popular Mr Corbyn would be excluded from the contest altogether), Angela Eagle MP meekly stepped forward – accompanied by pink banners, uninterested journalists and the howls of indignation from her own constituency party members – to proclaim her candidature, which seemed to last only a matter of minutes before she far more hastily stepped back into the media shadows (or more properly was ignored as being patently not up to the job of de-throning Corbyn).
Enter Owen Smith MP, talking like a leftist (when he was not boasting about his preparedness to unleash imperialist nuclear war), and using the excuse of his leader’s lacklustre performance during the EU referendum campaign, during which Corbyn is accused of having failed to show sufficient enthusiasm for the imperialist exploiters club.
Owen Smith’s leftist façade is being heavily promoted by his fellow right social democrats because Corbyn’s election proved that the majority of the party’s supporters really are looking for a left alternative (whether Corbyn deserves the title of leftist or not, he is certainly on the left of social democracy). This means that anybody who seriously hopes to replace him as leader through the process of a leadership election is forced to resort to some left phraseology.
The focus on the Brexit vote by the right social democrats takes into account the fact that the majority of Labour members voted to remain and Corbyn, who hitherto had always supported leaving the EU, abandoned that position – ostensibly to achieve ‘unity’ with those who hate him in the party, but also because his former ‘principles’ are no longer available to him as the leader of one of Britain’s two main imperialist parties.
The result was not only the delivering up of many of the Labour-voting working class to the campaign to stay in the EU bosses club but also the exposing of himself to the accusation of opportunism. In fact, his pro-remain performance really was poor and, taken together, the two things left him open to criticism from both sides.
But what of this latest pretender, Owen Smith? Having spent 10 years working at the BBC as a producer on Radio 4’s Today programme and the Welsh political show Dragon’s Eye, he moved on to a three-year spell as a special adviser to Paul Murphy, the former northern Ireland secretary.
Smith then transformed himself into a political lobbyist and public relations specialist for the pharmaceuticals industry. After working for the US giant Pfizer, Smith secured a job with controversial biotech firm Amgen in 2008. This was at the time when Amgen was battling an investigation into one of its most financially successful anaemia drugs, Aranesp. This blood-sucking company that lives off of the ill and dying was fined $762m for illegally promoting its drug to cancer patients in a way that increased the likelihood of their deaths!
Perhaps his conscience bothered him, or more likely his stint there was merely a stepping stone. Either way, two years after joining Amgen as a pusher of their drugs and apologiser for their crimes (he was in charge of corporate affairs, corporate and internal communications and public affairs at the British division while the company was being investigated), he climbed aboard the parliamentary gravy train, getting himself elected as MP for the safe Labour seat of Pontypridd in 2010.
In the six years since then he has shot through the Labour party ranks at a vertiginous speed, serving as shadow Welsh secretary under Ed Miliband from 2012-15, then becoming the shadow work and pensions secretary in the first months of Corbyn’s leadership. Along with many others in the PLP cabal, he resigned in the aftermath of the EU referendum, hoping to force Corbyn out. Even among his ‘friends’, Smith is reckoned to have an ego bigger than Yorkshire and believes himself to be untouchable when it comes to saying and doing as he likes (this belief is so prevalent in the House of Commons that for his ego and arrogance to be noticeable it must be truly Titanic!)
Smith has been declaring to colleagues for months now – since long before the referendum, apparently – that he would replace Corbyn as party leader, and his arrogance was on public show again when he described himself as ‘normal’. “I am normal. I grew up in a normal household. I’ve got a wife and three children. My wife is a primary school teacher.” This was interpreted as a dismissive swipe at Angela Eagle, who lives in a lesbian civil partnership, while he was obviously trying to bully her into standing aside to leave him as the single ‘unity’, ‘soft-left’ candidate.
A few salient facts are worth bearing in mind about the ‘left’ credentials of Mr Smith:
- In 2011, he voted to support the establishment of the notorious ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, paving the way for a brutal Nato bombardment that wiped out the country’s infrastructure, destroyed forty years of progress and set in motion racist pogroms and a bloody civil war that continues to this day.
- In 2014, he voted for British air strikes in Iraq – officially aimed at ‘curtailing Islamic State’, but in reality sending a warning to the Iraqi government not to stray from western ‘protection’ and not to ally with Iran and Russia.
- In 2015, Smith voted in favour of renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons programme.
The Labour party is still the same anti-working class, pro-imperialist gang of racists and warmongers it always was and nothing Corbyn can do will make any significant difference to this. However, to the extent that there is still widespread illusion in working-class political circles that Labour is the party of the working class and that it is capable of being ‘reclaimed’ to serve working-class interests, it is most important for workers to see in practice what happens when somebody actually does try to ‘reclaim’ the Labour party in order to promote at least some progressive policies.
We have already seen Corbyn backtrack on many of his long-held political beliefs, and yet still the long knives are out after him. The party that lauded the arch war criminal Tony Blair cannot bear to let itself be led even for a short while by someone who opposes war, even in the mildest of ways (ie, in words, not deeds) – not even when such a stance is popular with members and voters alike! Imperialism means war, imperialism in crisis is driven to more and more war, and the Labour party serves imperialism above all. For all its ill-deserved reputation as ‘the party of the working class’, a look at its real history over the last hundred years reveals that it is as blood-soaked as the Conservatives.
Every day of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership can be expected to deliver lesson after lesson to drive home into the minds of even the most bone-headed that the Labour party is an imperialist party, which cannot be transformed into anything else; that it is a party at the service of the British ruling class against the interests of the working class.
All we can say is: Thank you, Jeremy, for offering yourself as a guinea pig in this hair-raising experiment to prove otherwise. This is a lesson that the working class badly needs to learn and to learn well, and you are proving a most excellent teacher.