As Clive Lewis says (in Solidarity 388) there are many definitions of socialism. That makes it all the more important for socialists to debate ideas.
Lewis says a shift from austerity and neoliberal capitalism to (or a return to) welfare-state capitalism would be a gain for the working class. Indeed, taxing the rich, free education, a NHS, well-funded schools, social housing, higher wages, public services would be real and important improvements, for the working class as opposed to the Tories dark, dystopian future.
However all of these things can only be won, or re-won as a result of class struggle, by workers fighting against capitalism. In fact some were concessions by the capitalists attempting to prevent workers struggles against capitalism developing further.
Workers′ interests are fundamentally incompatible with capitalism. There is an inherent confict of interests between workers and their bosses. Sometimes the balance of forces in that battle is tipped in our favour when workers win higher wages or increased taxation to fund public services. Even the much-lauded 1945 Labour government did not erase our inherent conflict with the bosses. As well as important advances for the working class, that government also kept anti-trade union laws in place, imposed a wage freeze, kept private managers in place in nationalised industries. The guiding principle remained capitalist profit.
We do not have to look far to see evidence of what lengths capitalists will go to defend the principle of profit against even a mildly reformist government. The way Corbyn is treated by the press is not simply a case of journalists being mean. British army generals openly considered a coup against the not-at-all-left-wing Wilson government; in 1975 the Queen′s Governor General in Australia deposed a reforming Labour prime minister.
You may wish to be a pragmatist, as Lewis is, to have an honest assessment of public opinion and recognise that there are not millions of workers on the streets ready to take over their workplaces and run them for themselves. However to take that as a measure of what is possible (and indeed right) is to forget that public opinion has been different at different points in history, and misunderstands how people’s ideas are formed.
Ideas can be changed, but won′t change without agitators who argue for a different world and a different way of looking at the world. In the run up to the general election polls indicated a big majority of people thought budget deficits needed to be reduced, and had right-wing views of benefits, migrants and other issues.
But it is wrong for the Labour Party to allow itself to be pulled to the right by these opinions. By being bold in your politics and arguing for them publicly you can change opinions.
Corbyn and Momentum is not currently being bold; we all urgently need to start being bold so we can change Labour. We are glad that Clive thinks Marxists should be able to be in the Labour Party, but we can′t have any trust in the party’s system that expelled them, or rely on it to reinstate them. The compliance unit (Labour Party section which has been handling expulsions) and the rules are the same as those put in place by the Blairites. They must be challenged if the party is to be changed.
The furore in the press about mandatory reselection hasn′t actually been about mandatory reselection. In fact right-wingers have been taking issue with trigger ballots so that they can to replace them. Left-wingers should openly condemn these moves, rather than pandering to it by saying they won′t push for mandatory reselection. Trigger ballots are a very high hurdle to be crossed to hold an MP accountable, it has been known for MPs to pack ballots with delegates who have rarely been seen before in local Parties. Every other area of labour movement selection, from councils to union general secretaries, are subject to mandatory reselection. Why not MPs?
Whatever we do will encounter a backlash from the right; we must step up to that fight rather than seek to avoid it.