Corbyn: agitate, educate, debate, organise!

Submitted by AWL on 23 June, 2015 - 6:08 Author: Editorial

Many people not previously interested in the Labour Party want to support Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for Labour leader. That's good.

How can we build something solid out of it? Since the labour movement is generally at a political low, Corbyn won't win. A good vote for him will put pressure on the Labour leadership to oppose cuts and defend union rights. But that will be a slight and temporary affair unless we use the campaign to renew an organised left in the labour movement which keeps up the pressure.

Every socialist can campaign in her or his workplace (and in her or his local community, among her or his friends, etc.) to sign people up to vote in the leadership election. They can do that by registering as "supporters" (free if you're a member of an affiliated union, £3 otherwise) or by signing up as a full Labour Party member (cheap rates if you're young, or in an affiliated union, or working part-time). See here and here.

The number of members that affiliated unions now sign up as "supporters" may be very important for their future weight in the Labour Party. We should demand the leaders of affiliated unions run energetic sign-up campaigns and back Corbyn. The Bakers’ Union and ASLEF already back Corbyn.

In non-affiliated unions, too, like PCS, RMT, or NUT, we should argue for the union leaders to back Corbyn and publicise to their members how they can register to vote. In every union, we can join or set up networks of the "Railworkers for Corbyn" or "Teachers for Corbyn" type.

In every locality, we can join or set up a local vote-Corbyn network, and have it offer speakers and information to local union branches and community groups. "Students for Corbyn"? "Artists for Corbyn"? "Disabled People for Corbyn"? The possibilities are many.

But each individual's vote is just a mark on a ballot-paper. (The ballot will run from 14 August to 10 September). It has weight only if followed up with organisation.

So we should argue against those who say they'll vote for Corbyn, but give up on the Labour Party if he doesn't win. The lasting gain from the leadership contest will be the connections established to build a better left in the labour movement.

And that left will need politics very different on many issues from Corbyn's, which in international politics are mostly close to the Morning Star (albeit better on Tibet). Part of the lasting gain, then, is the discussions and debates, in workplaces and elsewhere, about politics.

It is impossible, and rightly so, to build a solid left in the labour movement on the basis of "our enemy's enemy is our friend". The basis must be support for the democratic rights of all peoples and opposition to predators both big and smaller.

The battle over the Labour Party will not end, one way or the other, with the Corbyn campaign. Because of the Labour Party’s mass support and its links to bedrock workers’ movement through trade union affiliation, activity in it, or connected to it, makes sense for socialists and labour movement militants, if we organise.

More generally, to achieve radical social change, and certainly to get rid of capitalism, we need to transform and renew the labour movement.

Against the power of the capitalist class, we should aim for the strongest and most responsive organisation of the exploited. At the core is a fight to transform our trade unions, on every level - including their representation and intervention in politics. The battle in the Labour Party is part of that, and the leadership campaign can help us step up the fight.

Our aim in the campaign is to have the socialist left emerge from it bigger, more confident, more embedded in the labour movement, and clearer about what do next.

Since the announcement that Jeremy Corbyn was standing for leader of the Labour Party, there has been a lot of criticism, including from many who see themselves on the left, over Corbyn’s views on international questions.

It is worth setting out Corbyn's views, and why, in spite of these views, we still back Corbyn.

Corbyn is a staunch ally of the Stop the War Coalition which has, at least implicitly, backed Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria, was in the past eager to work with the reactionary Islamist Muslim Association of Britain (allied to the Muslim Brotherhood) and refused to allow socialist critics (including those of a Middle Eastern background) to get a hearing within the campaign.

Corbyn has supported groups like Hamas and Hezbollah (inviting representatives of both to speak in the House of Commons). He backs them as an automatic extension of his support for the Palestinian cause. But it is not necessary to give political support to these two reactionary Islamist forces, both of which want to see the destruction of Israel, in order to back the Palestinian cause!

Corbyn has also been a supporter of the populist, and authoritarian, government in Venezuela.

We have long criticised the politics Corbyn shares with many on the left, one which takes up causes on the basis of “the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend”. Hamas and Hezbollah are bombed by the Israeli government, therefore I do more than oppose that bombing (as we would), I also back Hamas and Hezbollah.

As revolutionary socialists, we do not have illusions in regimes that make anti-imperialist rhetoric — as Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela. We look instead to the working-class organisations to make democratic, anti-imperialist and socialist revolutions.

Unfortunately Corbyn's views are what has come to be the consensus on the left and have scarcely waned even as the people who most promoted those views, the Socialist Workers' Party and the George Galloway have waned in influence. But undoubtedly Corbyn's views will limit his support among those leftists who do not wish to attach themselves to these kinds of international politics. We understand their concerns.

But some critics of Corbyn have been too simplistic. For instance they put an equals sign between Hamas and fascistic organisations. The context for the rise of Hamas, though not purely down to the occupation of Palestine, is completely different to that of other reactionary groups like European fascist parties. It is partly down to the occupation of Palestine.

However by standing aside from the campaign around Corbyn those leftists will not be able to fight for a better politics for the left.

People will come to who are not signed up to his international politics, but want to fight the Tories, and the cuts. Surely we can all explain why Hamas is not a friend of democracy and socialism. And for ourselves we will fight for third camp, working-class socialist ideas with those people.

Also Jeremy Corbyn is not George Galloway. He is not a cynical professional “lefty” politician who bases his career on self promotion who routinely shuts down debate wherever he holds sway.

Workers’ Liberty criticise Corbyn’s politics as part of a general effort to change the politics of the left and build a better left. A left which is consistently for working-class politics all over the world.

Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader

• If you would like to discuss our perpective on the campaign, email us

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