The result of the June 8 parliamentary elections has left the British bosses stunned. Labour party won 40% of the votes to the Conservatives 43%, but this represents a victory for the anti-austerity agenda which Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist leader of Labour stands for. The Tories have been thrown into confusion.
When Prime Minister Theresa May called the snap elections six weeks earlier, instead of waiting till 20120 as earlier scheduled, she claimed it was all about strengthening her hand for the best “Brexit deal”. This Brexit focus was only partially true. On one hand, really, she was playing up concern for the “nation”, to divert attention from the social questions of class: inequality and worsening conditions of life and work for working-class people, for example.
On the other hand, she and her party saw an opportunity to bury Labour, by having a massive increase of the Tories parliamentary majority. Corbyn would have had to resign as Labour party leader and the viability of a socialist platform for the party discredited, probably for generations.
For years, particularly since the period of Tony Blair, Labour had moved further and further away from even the slightest consideration of socialism as anything but an irritable utopia which no sane person in Britain would ever support. When against all odds, Jeremy Corbyn became party leader two years back, there was a revolt of “Blairites” against him. The Labour MPs passed a vote of no confidence in him and another leadership election was held. He won again, with an even wider margin.
Despite this, he was described as “unelectable”, even by some people on the left within Labour such as The Guardian columnist, Owen Jones. British people, they insisted would never vote for a socialist agenda. Labour had to present a moderate porgamme to win elections, they said.
In the run-up to the general elections, the mainstream media took up this chant. Even as opinion polls and the huge turnouts for Corbyn’s rallies began to show that the two parties were running neck-to-neck, editorial after editorial in the press and electronic media only poured scorn at the possibility of a socialist like Jeremy Corbyn being able to win the hearts and votes of the millions of voters.
But, the elections were not just about Corbyn as an individual. For once, in ages, Labour’s programme reflected the interests and inspirations of the many and not the few, working-class people including youth. Wealth redistribution by taxing the superrich, public ownership of transport infrastructure, enhanced job security, housing for the poor, action against sexism and all other forms of discrimination, ending austerity measures, education as a right and not a privilege, and forging a low-carbon economy to protect the environment.
This pro-working people platform inspired tens, if not hundreds of thousands of workers and youth to organise, taking the message to millions. The resounding result has discredited the Blairites. Labour won a higher percentage of the votes than any since the so-called “Third Way” of compromise and pro-bosses politics of Blairism was instituted.
The new, pro-poor spirit of Labour must build on the momentum of its popular support, within and more importantly beyond parliament. The Tories are in a state of confusion. They have run into the waiting hands of the reactionary Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to be able to constitute government. But this collaboration is highly unstable, it is starting already on wobbly grounds. Thrice in less than three days DUP has denied the Conservatives declaration of a working arrangement.
Within the same period, over 150,000 new members have joined Labour. A new era is opening for the flourishing of socialist ideas and organisation in Britain. This left blowing wind of change will come with its challenges. A very important one would be the illusion that parliamentary resolutions and legislations could bring about the transformation of society.
Working-class people could definitely improve their lot with a Labour government carrying out far-reaching reforms. And as socialists, we must defend progressive reforms such as those of the new Labour party manifesto. But, this is not enough. To win our self-emancipation, such victories as a Corbyn emerging as Prime Minister in the coming period, must be at best, a step towards seizing economic and political power from the bosses, across the world.
The Corbyn moment is part of the rising tide of working-people’s revolts against capitalism, internationally. This is not a linear march forward. Revolutionary activists must stand up against the distortive propaganda of the bosses which present capitalism as a system which cannot be supplanted, presenting alternative pro-working people agendas and organising around these.
A lesson for the Nigerian labour movement is the urgent need to seize the time and take bold steps. Now more than ever, the trade unions have to bring together all pro-working class parties and groups to build a working people’s party, based on a socialist programme. Winds of change are already blowing across the country. Rising discontent and the readiness of working-class people and youth to fight is very intense. But, we must set the sail for these winds to take the project of our self-liberation forward. Doing this requires the building of a socialist labour party.
by Baba Aye