Labour’s socialist base is increasingly split over whether to now abandon the Party following the decision by front-running leadership candidates to accept the Board of Deputies ten outrageous demands.
The demands, which will commit Labour to supporting the apartheid state of Israel, has been soundly rejected by Labour’s grassroots members while being accepted by pragmatic leadership candidates. In accepting the demands, all have shown a failure in character and willingness to stand in solidarity with Palestinian activists and the struggles against human rights abuses, genocide, racism and Islamophobia. For the want of an easy life and their own careers, all the candidates have sold their principles down the river.
It is unacceptable and it should be the end of the Labour Party.
Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, the most successful political movement in Britain over the past ten years has been UKIP/The Brexit Party. Similarly, in the United States, Donald Trump and his MAGA movement have changed the political discourse on a worldwide scale. These far-right movements have successfully weaponised widespread dissatisfaction against neoliberalism and existing political ideology and parties, shifting the national feeling toward their brand of nationalism and opening the door to even more hardline fascism in the future. The influence of UKIP on the current Conservative Party programme is clear for all to see and, likewise, whether Donald Trump loses the 2020 American election or not his MAGA ideology will be here to stay.
However, these groups have only been such a success because of a lack of left-wing socialism to represent disaffected communities. The vacuum on the left has, as always, allowed the far-right to move into the void.
Across the globe the working class have had enough of austerity, corruption and toxic capitalism, taking to the streets in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the Middle East and, of course, France. Clinging to the dying ideology of centrism is a recipe for disaster, just ask Hilary Clinton and Ed Miliband. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour socialist manifesto achieved a higher share of the vote than at any election since 2001, almost surpassing even that. While the Liberal Democrats completely collapsed, the desire and willingness to vote for socialism was made abundantly clear.
What is also abundantly clear, however, is that the socialist project inside the Labour Party is now dead.
In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn and the possibility of a better future inspired millions of voters, bringing thousands into the party and making Labour the biggest political movement in Europe. This energy was inspiring and infectious, bringing back those disaffected by the Blairite years and winning over thousands of new members across the country, many of them amongst the youth.
Instead of backing this movement for change and riding it to victory, Tony Blair loyalists in the Party undermined Corbyn and his supporters at every turn, seeking to quell the democratic revolution going on amongst the grassroots. This suppression of rising socialism was aided willingly by a biased media and opponents of an ethical and human rights-based foreign policy.
After rejecting open selection, the writing was always on the wall for the socialist project inside Labour, the PLP remaining steadfastly neoliberal and unrepresentative. With Keir Starmer increasingly surrounding himself with Blairites who worked on the Owen Smith campaign and Rebecca Long-Bailey already capitulating to the Israeli lobby, it is increasingly obvious that Labour will now be run either by an outright centrist or one who pays lip-service to socialism but has neither the solidarity or character to actually implement it.
Many who state that members should remain inside the Labour Party to “fight” against what is happening lack vision and are beholden to sentimentality, willing to wait to be suspended or swamped by the ongoing storm against them. They seem convinced that quitting the Party means that members will suddenly surrender socialism and do nothing to replace what has now been lost.
Why must we remain beholden to Labour? For tradition? For their bank account? For their name? Labour members must realise that while socialism is lost within the Labour Party, the cause is certainly not. Socialism is about the people, not the party. A socialist future for Great Britain does not need the Labour Party to be a success.
The voting public is sick and tired of existing parties and the so-called rigged system, the success of outsiders such as Trump, Sanders and Corbyn shows that they are willing to try something different and look beyond the existing political orthodoxy. The success of Extinction Rebellion and France’s Gilets Jaunes show there is a willingness to protest and take direct action to bring about positive change.
The energy and commitment of 2015 have not gone away, nor will it. The genie is out of the bottle.
Socialists should seize the moment to form a new party of the left, one dedicated to socialism from the outset.
In 2014, just six years ago, Podemos was formed in Spain. Populist, anti-establishment and dedicated to ending austerity, the party became the third-largest party in the country within its first 20 days, over 100,000 signing up in that period alone. By the end of 2014, they were the second-largest political party in Spain. Podemos is inspired by Latin America’s so-called pink-tide and socialists such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales and far from being ostracised or unsuccessful, they currently sit in government.
In Greece, Syriza became a political party just 8 years ago and is now the second-largest party in the Hellenic Parliament. Leader Alexis Tsipras has served as Prime Minister twice, as recently as last year.
While both these examples are unique to Spain and Greece, the political systems of those countries allowing access to new parties much easier, the fact remains that there is no reason that a new party cannot be an immense success inside a failing capitalist political system. What both these movements did so successfully was capture the same energy and vitality that Jeremy Corbyn did, uniting the poor and working-class with the youth, BAME communities, feminists, green activists and other social movements. Without the presence of neoliberal wreckers in their own parties, this socialist message was allowed to continue unimpeded.
This new party must be a populist socialist movement dedicated to bringing an end to the establishment cabal that has brought the British people back to 1950s levels of poverty. It must be anti-imperialist and condemn Labour’s role in the Iraq War and American imperialism. It must stand for an ethical foreign policy that rejects weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the criminal apartheid policies of the state of Israel that has led it to the International Criminal Court.
A new party must be a “broad church” coalition, not of socialists and neoliberal capitalists, but of the rich diversity of British life in 2020. By 2051 ethnic minorities will make up 20% of the British population, a growth from 8% in 2001. Research shows that those defined as white British will shrink from 87.1% to 67.1%, with white Irish shrinking from 2.5% to 2.1%. Asian groups will grow by three percentage points, black groups by two percentage points and Chinese and other ethnic groups by 2.6 percentage points. With disproportionate levels of marginalisation, poverty and disenfranchisement, socialism is uniquely placed to support BAME communities and amplify their voice in British politics.
A new party must be international, not closed to the world around it. It must give support to socialist and anti-neoliberal movements in places such as Chile and France, it must share ideas and collaborate with the campaigns of Bernie Sanders in America and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France. A new party must be unequivocal in its support for the deposed Evo Morales, for Cuba and Venezuela.
A new party must be vibrant and technological and must harness the energy of the youth movements that have backed it en masse at the last two elections, replacing Momentum with a new democratic movement and be willing to take to the streets in the same manner as Extinction Rebellion and the Yellow Vests. It must speak to every corner of the country and seize the mantra of “the will of the people”, speaking to the working class of the north, the unions, BAME communities and the youth alike.
Staying within the Labour Party will bring five more years of infighting and defeat. Accepting that the socialist project within Labour is over is not admitting to the defeat of socialism, rather it is accepting that the time is now right to move to a new stage of the project, one free entirely from the influence of neoliberalism. 10 million voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto and it is time for those ideas to be unshackled from the malign influence of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have proven that a 21st-century socialism that is free from the shackles of the past can be an immense success. The success of UKIP in the UK and the Gilets Jaunes in France proves that the nature of successful political movements has now changed as the public seek an end to the establishment. While neither have any MPs they have undoubtedly changed the political narrative on a major scale.
It will not be easy and there will be a million obstacles placed in the socialist path to victory, but the left is familiar with struggle and familiar with graft. It will not be easy to persuade thousands to walk away from what many have committed to for a lifetime, nor will it be easy to persuade the youth movement and unions to walk away. But if socialism is to have a future in Britain, they must do. Our ideology no longer has a role in the coming return of New Labour.
So, let us now ask one question… who will step up and be the next Keir Hardie?