On 5 January demonstrators wearing yellow vests assembled in London to demand a ‘hard’ Brexit that will fulfil their nationalist fantasies. In reality that will not happen because it runs so sharply against the interests of the ruling class both in Britain and elsewhere in the European Union.
The proclaimed "anti-establishment" nature of the Tommy Robinsons, UKIP and its splinters, EDL, "Democratic Football Lads Alliance" etc. is no threat whatsoever to those who possess most of the wealth and all of the control. In fact, their twisted world view connects them with the "right populist" forces which sustain the governing parties and cliques from Hungary to the USA, from Austria to Brazil. The rightist "yellow vests" are foot soldiers for right wing, democratic or authoritarian, political factions that the ruling class may choose to turn to, if and when, options run out as the economic crisis gets even worse.
Not to be outdone, activists at the service of the left wing political factions are due for their turn in yellow vests in London on 12 January. Whereas the rightist populists in Britain have been lacking a charismatic leader since Oswald Mosley, or perhaps Enoch Powell, the Left have their very own Messiah to glorify. The cult of Corbyn means that their opposition to the "establishment" boils down to one hope for salvation – Corbyn as Prime Minister.1 So, for these starry eyed devotees the path is clear: join the ragbag of Leftist parties and cliques, clustered behind the self-proclaimed "People's Assembly Against Austerity".2 The theme is simple. They note that "Britain is Broken" (Cameron’s slogan of 2010 and not that far from ‘Make Britain Great Again!) but they know the solution – "General Election Now".
The far right demonstrators on 5th did not start from a need to glorify the democratic form of capitalist domination. Not so the People's Assembly and their Stalinist and Trotskyist allies. Infected by "parliamentary cretinism"3 capitalism’s far Left wallow in their fantasy that an electoral success is what is needed to stop Britain "being broken".
The Pied Pipers4 of the left – playing the bosses' tune
We do not know how many will attend the event on 12 January. A good portion will do so believing that elections can solve the problems that they face and that the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour Government is an outcome for which they are prepared to give up their Saturday. Such are the myths peddled by the organisers, part of the left wing of the "Labour Movement", the Labour Party and Trades Unions and their various offshoots.
The myth that elections can lead to significant benefits for the working class is a key part of the ruling class's hold on power. In times of crisis the left wing parties are capitalism’s biggest defenders. Their essential purpose is to divert the working class into political frameworks that safely maintain the power of the bosses over every part of our lives. It is part of the stream of "bourgeois ideology" which any truly anti-capitalist, working class political organisation has to combat. Any working class political organisation worth its salt has to hold out another way to the minority of our class who can already see that a "better world is possible", a world which cannot be created while the majority of humanity remains in the role of a class of wage slaves.
Corbynism has provided a new mechanism to entice a fresh generation into the traps of Labour hangers-on, well within the frame of capitalism. As we have noted many times, the Corbynite project has been an obvious vehicle for the numerous well-established leftist groups to "throw in their tuppence worth". Hoping to make gains for their own organisations they happily perpetuate illusions in a Parliamentary Road to a better future.
If there was an I-Spy book of leftist confusionists it would be a best-seller for Saturday. In and around the event every shade of Stalinism, Trotskyism and radical social democracy will be shouting their slogans and selling their wares. The various Trades Unions will have their whistles to blow and uniquely coloured little pennants handed out for their supporters to wave.
None of that is a surprise. These organisations depend on drawing generation after generation into the orbit of Labour. Some do so for ideological reasons, clinging onto the notion that this is the way for ‘revolutionaries’ to keep in touch with the wider working class. This idea developed with the counter-revolution from the early 1920s once the bosses' had pushed back the revolutionary wave that ended the First World War and brought Soviets (Workers Councils) to power, most significantly but very briefly in Russia. The trouble is that the organisations keeping in touch through Labour also developed counter-revolutionary political ideas.
Other supporters of the march, more immediately self-serving but the boundaries are blurred and porous, depend for their living or part of their comforts on the position of the Labour Movement in capitalist society. In the latter camp are the MPs and Councillors, paid Trade Union officers and even the layer of shop stewards for whom Union activity provide perks and recognition. The network extends through the systems of patronage and employment and through the creation of institutions that have a "symbiotic" relationship with the core ‘Labour Movement’. This set-up exists not solely in Britain but also, with variations, in those other areas of the world where the bosses are able to, and choose to, rule using democratic methods.
Regrettably, there will be a layer attracted to this carnival who will present some shreds of revolutionary awareness but will play into the hands of the left, and ultimately the capitalists, by granting the event some sort of "critical support".
Anarcho-Corbynism and other strange entities
In recent years a new wave of militants have emerged displaying some confused critique of the effects of the latest stage in imperialism's crisis. The "Occupy" movement starting in 2011 was one milestone in this while the Gilets Jaunes (or some elements of them) are the latest emanation. In Britain we have direct contact with a number of individuals and organisations from that "milieu". Some have apparently got lost in the social network labyrinth, while others have shown an understanding that only proletarian struggle can point the way to a communist future, that is a sustainable society based on a free association of producers. The response to events such as 12 January and attitude towards Corbynism in general is an acid test for these nuclei and individuals.
To date the siren call of Corbynism has proved attractive to many inhabitants of this swamp. Scratch not far below the surface of the Communising-influenced Plan C and it is clear that even if not originally intended the "C" may well mean "Corbynism". At their gathering in Derbyshire in 2018 a speaker arguing for a reformist/utopian perspective based on the growth of co-ops openly referred to talks with the Corbyn faction, referring approvingly to commitments to increased funding to that sector.
A further case worthy of mention is the CPGB, publishers of "Weekly Worker" who have shown a certain openness to Left Communist ideas but such interest is entirely abstract with their day-to-day practice in the classic mould of the Stalinist and Trotskyist fragments. Their role as a group of "Corbyn's Little Helpers" is encapsulated in their bizarrely Stalinoid heading before the 2017 General Election. "June 8: Vote Labour and then crush the saboteurs!" makes clear their relish for both involvement in bourgeois elections and also immersing their supporters in Labour Party faction fights.
Those in any doubt about the CPGB, should also take into account the existence of their "fellow travellers" calling themselves "Labour Party Marxists". Sadly such exercises in sowing illusions in the Labour Party "from within" are no novelty for those who present as "Communists" but act as props for the capitalist left wing.
In terms of bizarre inconsistency the strand of "Anarcho Corbynism" must be mentioned. Most self-styled Anarchists in Britain reacted with derision to Class War's decision to register as a political party with the state and stand candidates in the 2015 general election. Having rejected the absurd contradiction of Anarchists standing in elections to a capitalist parliament, a number of the Anarchist camp have however been unable to resist the attraction of the supposed Corbynite "mass movement". They are unable or unwilling to distinguish between revolutionary proletarian positions and the capitalist left. Before the 2017 General Election we quoted Freedom News stating that "lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories".5
Political fragments and organisations evolve. Even so, the attitude to the January 12th carnival is not one that erstwhile militants should take lightly. On such occasions a crude but relevant assessment is "By their friends you shall know them".
Communism or Corbynism
For many decades Trotskyist and Stalinists have supported the Labour Party either from within or without. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader breathed life into those organisations and saw them and their camp followers sucked into vocal support and often membership of the party that is "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition".
The 12 January event has been called by forces who nurture illusions in the electoral smokescreen and false hopes that the position of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters makes a significant, indeed qualitative, difference.
There is no Communist neutral attitude to the event. Unequivocally, we denounce the organisers of this farce as agents of the capitalist system. Their existence and credibility stems from and in turn supports the capitalist structures that reduce the working class to a permanent class of exploited wage slaves.
Instead of involvement in the bosses' political machinations we look towards our class recovering its willingness and ability to struggle. We call on those who share that perspective to join us.
Generalised struggle not General Elections!
Communism not Corbynism!
- 1We have commented on Corbynism many times. Examples include: 1, 2, 3, 4
- 3"'Parliamentary cretinism' is an incurable disease, an ailment whose unfortunate victims are permeated by the lofty conviction that the whole world, its history and its future are directed and determined by a majority of votes of just that very representative institution that has the honour of having them in the capacity of its members". (Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)