For those not fortunate to have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth and happy with the status quo, who want to see change, the task of finding a political home is no mean feat. For many the answer is obvious enough. It may be a simple ”Leave the EU” or “Get the Tories out”. But for many workers, Corbyn and his Labour Party represent the way out.
Indeed, Corbyn is painted by the billionaire and state-owned media alike as a man of the left, the far left even, a self-confessed Marxist, fan of “Marxist economics” and long term opponent of the Labour right which led the discredited New Labour project away from its traditional (if false) image as a friend of the working class. Multifarious, apparently radical, groups urge support for Corbyn as a step towards the classless society that we too want in order to replace the present unequal society which is ever more divided between haves and have-nots; Socialist this and Workers that all advocate with greater or less caution, however critically, a vote for Corbyn-led Labour.
We do not share this enthusiasm, critical or otherwise. For us in the ICT, Labour undermines support for the emergence of a real socialist party in the working class which would advocate revolution; the abolition of capitalism and its class divisions.
Anyone with a little effort can find the reality of Labour’s record. Most Labourites supported WWI whilst its unions suspended all strikes during the war; Labour sabotaged the 1926 general strike, imposed the hated Means Test in the 30s cutting benefits to the unemployed, used troops to break strikes on multiple occasions post WWII, and when the crisis returned after the boom of the sixties, Labour was brought back to power to try to sell the cuts to the working class who would have none of it. Labour then found itself out of power as the Thatcher project’s cruelty was unleashed. During the miners’ strike of 84/85 Kinnock and the TUC refused to support strikers and refused to instruct workers not to cross picket lines. Supporting the neo-liberal agenda they thus quashed a major opponent, inflicting enormous suffering on communities which never recovered. Under Blair, New Labour emerged as an openly nationalist and capitalist party, abandoning Clause 4 (Clause 4 was adopted in 1918 out of fear of the revolutionary upsurge of 1917, it only called for nationalisation of key features of the capitalist economy, not its overthrow).
With both New Labour and the Tory parties singing the praises of neo-liberal capitalist globalisation and overseeing the inch by inch erosion of working class conditions, the victims of the process eventually have rallied around Jeremy Corbyn who seems to be saying something different.
But Corbyn, and all the leftist hangers on – the Morning Star, a whole spectrum of Trotskyist outfits, even some anarchists – are selling a deception, a dangerous illusion. The fantasy that capitalism can be reformed for the benefit of the majority. Hope for the hopeless. This reformed capitalism, they say, can serve as a stepping stone to further gains, all the way to socialism which will be an easy leap once the groundwork has been laid by radical reforms.
This is obvious nonsense. Not only is this not what we are being promised in the new Labour Manifesto (the times when social democracy offered both a “minimum” and a “maximum” programme are long gone), it ignores the actual state of capitalism which has nothing in common with the days when serious reform could be granted to the working class, albeit to prevent revolution rather than a step to a post-capitalist society. Capitalism today is not attacking the conditions of the majority and transferring ever more wealth to a tiny minority because the wrong party sits in parliament or its equivalents worldwide. It is doing so because that is the only way capitalism can maintain profitability, the only way it can squeeze enough profits to carry on functioning. The capitalist system of competition between economic entities ensures that workers are able to process ever more materials via improved technology, machinery, robots, computers. The end result is that an ever-greater share of capital invested pays for factors of production other than paying workers. But since there is no source of profit other than those acquired by the exploitation of labour (i.e. the value of wages is far less than the value the worker adds, hence the possibility of profit) the rate of profit is constantly being pressured down and capitalists compensate this at least in part by exploiting workers more. This includes paying less tax for the various services and benefits workers won in the past as well as holding down wages.
The reality is not that capitalism can be directed to serving the community in general, but that its survival depends on an ever-greater attack on workers’ conditions and even that will not be enough to keep the system going. It has no answer to a climate crisis which it created and which is becoming ever more critical. Meanwhile, around the world, the great powers are ever more aggressively confronting their rivals, threatening more war.
Workers cannot emulate the capitalist class. It came to power through a lengthy process of building economic power under the previous regime, the feudal regime of aristocrats, monarchy and peasants. The working class can do nothing of the sort. Its fate rises and falls with the capitalist cycle and that has now entered the phase of crisis with no solution (outside of the devastation of another round of generalised imperialist war which would likely mean extinction). The working class can only come to power by an understanding of its general situation as a global class (class consciousness) and creating an alternative social organisation based on its own independent bodies to supersede capitalism’s economic and political structures.
An essential tool in that process is an international revolutionary party which is not a government in waiting and does not act as a false guide, channelling workers into capitalism’s electoral charades, fostering illusions in a brighter, better day under capitalism if only the “good people” provide the window dressing in the parliamentary charade. Creating that revolutionary party, a global organisation independent of capitalism, is our goal. We have to free ourselves from the illusions that the capitalist system can be reformed for the benefit of the majority. The reality is not gradual improvement, that “things can only get better” if only we rally around Corbyn or equivalent figures home or abroad. The reality is either humanity takes down capitalism, or capitalism takes down humanity, with no better day this side of an international working class revolution.