Oh What A Night!
I’ve waited thirty years for this election. Having sat up all night to watch the results, the lack of sleep has been worthwhile. As I said on Wednesday, I anticipated, against all the opinion polls and pundits that Labour would win. Gauging those undercurrents that Trotsky talks about, that flow like subterranean streams, listening to the way young people were talking and being enthused, via the channel of my sons and their friends, it was clear that all of the previous assumptions made by the elite and their bubble were going to be upset. Well not quite a victory, but certainly a moral victory, and most certainly a defeat for the Tories, and their plans for hard Brexit. It was 1983, when Labour last put forward a similar progressive social-democratic programme. The defeat that year was an aberration, or should have been. Labour had been at an all-time high in the polls, and looking certain to oust Thatcher at that election, were it not for the outright treachery of the Gang of Four, who split the anti-Tory vote, and were it not for the fact that Thatcher sent thousands of young working-class men to fight and die in a pointless war in the Falklands, solely in order to rally the people around the flag for narrow Conservative Party electoral advantage. But, she should never have been allowed to repeat that again, and the aberration should have ended in 1987. Instead, Neil Kinnock ensured it persisted, by creating a civil war inside the party, as he attempted to gut the party of its most determined, most conscientious activists, so as to shift the party further to the right. Jeremy Corbyn has put an end to that rot, but he has done so despite that attempts of the Right, the Blair-rights, Kinnockites, and soft-left to stop him. Had they known he would win the leadership election, they would never have allowed him to get on to the ballot, and when he did they then have used every minute, as Lord Mandelson advised them, to do everything they could to undermine him, including a blatant disregard of the party members, by organising the coup and second leadership bid against him. The last thing that Corbyn and his supporters should now do, is to offer any kind of olive branch to those wreckers. Without them, without their constant attempts to undermine him over the last two years, Labour would have won this election. If we want to win the next one, which may be just months away, Labour needs discipline, it needs a single clear message, and that means silencing all of those voices of the wreckers. It would have been preferable to have done it before this election, by introducing mandatory reselection of MP’s. That is now a priority, along with other measures to democratise the party. The McDonnell amendment needs to be pushed through, in fact, the party needs to go further, removing any privileges for MP’s and MEP’s in relation to the nomination of party leader etc. Any examination of history shows the way revolutions eat their children. In the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, it was the real revolutionaries who worked to bring it about, but who once the revolution was successful, were pushed aside by those who had been marked by their absence from view, their antipathy to the revolutionaries, and who then took credit for the heroism of others. The Corbynistas and the Left should ensure that such elements are allowed no breathing space within which to establish themselves, now that the hard work has been done. On the contrary, it is necessary now to consolidate, and to crush all those other diversionary elements such as the Liberals, Greens, Plaid etc. who will seek to ride on the back of the Corbyn wave, but who simply act to divide the forces of the working-class against the main enemy.
In fact, the result of a hung Parliament is the best outcome given the conditions. Without having gone through a process of mandatory reselection, to get rid of all the anti-Corbyn elements within the PLP, a Labour victory would have been a pyrrhic victory that would have led to failure down the road. The immediate consequence would have been a run on the Pound, and an attempt by the global financial elite to undermine the government. With few experienced Corbynite MP’s, Jeremy would have been led to bring back to his front bench a lot of the old Blair-right and soft-left MP’s, who not only would be glad to take up such positions, but who would then use those positions within Cabinet to hold him, McDonnell and their allies hostage. They would have made Corbyn simply a figurehead, useful as a scapegoat, until such time as they were able to undermine his wider base, and get rid of him. A casual reading of “The Prince”, by Machiavelli, shows how these machinations work.
The situation of a hung parliament gives Corbyn and his supporters a useful breathing space. I haven’t had time to analyse all the results yet, to know how many additional Corbynite MP’s have been elected, but they provide a basis for Jeremy to strengthen his support within the Shadow Cabinet, and to give supporters additional experience. It provides time for the Left in the party at large to consolidate, to start ensuring a tight grip over branches and constituencies, to ensure we have a majority of Conference delegates, and increased control of the NEC. It means we can start selecting Left-wing candidates for next years’ local council elections, and begin organising the necessary strategy to oppose austerity at a local level. We need to connect up LP organisations with workplaces through workplace LP branches, and by reuniting District Labour Parties with Trades Councils, as local organs of struggle. We need to develop innovative ways of drawing in Tenants and Residents Associations into party structures, and to build closer ties with the Co-op Party, and the Co-operative movement itself. The election result means that the dynamic of Brexit is reversed, if not stopped in its tracks. The Tories are having to rely on the bigots of the DUP to be able to form a government. But, the DUP will demand concessions from the Tories. The Tories will be unable to put major elements of their Manifesto into a Queen’s Speech, if they want it to pass. The DUP will insist that the Dementia Tax, the Pensions Triple Lock, and the cuts in the Winter Fuel Allowance are scrapped. But, apart from those specific proposals their was little else in the Tory Manifesto! But, more significantly, the DUP will insist that the Tories negotiate an open border with the Irish Republic, in return for their support. But, an open border can only happen if Britain remains inside the Customs Union. In turn, although its possible to be in the Customs Union, without being inside the single market, logically, for a country like Britain, the two things go together. But, if Britain is to be inside the Customs Union and single market, which also requires accepting free movement, and the role of the ECJ, as well as making payments to the EU, there is very little advantage in not being inside the EU itself, so as to at least have a say in the making of the decisions that you are going to be bound by.
Hard Brexit is dead, but as the EU negotiators pointed out from the beginning, there is only a choice between Hard Brexit and no Brexit. Brexit is effectively dead. Moreover, if Labour has any sense, it will welcome that fact. Labour’s success in this election comes down overwhelmingly to the mobilisation of the support of millions of young people. As I pointed out on Wednesday, those young people have been screwed by the older UKIP/Tory generation that voted for Brexit. Of the 18–30 year olds, around 75% voted for Remain. The BBC in its results analysis, showed that in Tory marginals, Labour had by far the best results, in those seats that voted Remain, even in those seats like Canterbury that were way down Labour’s list of target seats. Those seats were also the ones where a high percentage of young voters registered and turned out to vote Labour.
Labour failed to win over any significant of UKIP voters, by adopting a Brexit-lite strategy. In fact, in Stoke South, Labour lost to the Tories, in a heavily Leave supporting seat. As John Curtice pointed out some months ago, the rational strategy for Labour was not to run after these reactionary UKIP voters, but to hoover up all of the progressive elements that opposed Brexit. Labour should reject the reactionary backward looking, insular ideology, and instead put forward a programme of hope, based upon working with other social-democrats and socialists across EU, to transform the EU, and build a Workers Europe. It would be an act of treachery, if Labour now failed to support those millions of young people who oppose Brexit, and turned out to vote Labour, if Labour were to simply continue to put itself forward as merely a UKIP- lite party of Brexit, and restrictions on free movement. Labour should now commit itself not only to opposing Hard Brexit, which in any case is dead, but to providing an aspirational, forward looking agenda of building workers co-operation across the EU, of establishing EU wide workers organisations, a thorough democratisation of EU institutions, the harmonisation of taxes and benefits, the further integration of fiscal and monetary policies and institutions, and requirement for all to be within a single currency union, as part of the development of a federal United States of Europe. This is just the beginning. Workers of Europe Unite. Build a Workers Europe.
Originally published at boffyblog.blogspot.com on June 9, 2017.