by Robert Griffiths
MOST CONTENDERS for the Labour Party leadership are falling over each other in their rush to disown the mansion tax and sing the praises of big business, the European Union, military spending and a new Trident nuclear weapons system.
One could be forgiven for thinking they are running for a seat in the Tory Cabinet. Only Jeremy Corbyn is putting the case for taxing the rich and the capitalist monopolies, investing in public services instead of privatising them, building more council housing, taking energy and the railways back into public ownership, repealing anti-trade union laws and rejecting Britain’s costly, immoral and useless weapons of mass destruction. He also takes a more sceptical view of the anti-democratic, pro-austerity, pro-privatisation, anti-trade union and increasingly militaristic EU.
A Labour Party campaigning for these kinds of policies would enthuse not only many of its core, loyal supporters. It could also begin to attract back some of the four-plus million Labour voters lost since 1997.
Although Labour’s share of the vote actually increased by more than the Tory share at the 2015 General Election, including in England, it represented only 21 per cent of all those on Britain’s electoral registers, and fewer than one in five (19 per cent) of the adult population as a whole. Eighteen million people in Britain either refused to vote on 7 May or failed to register in the first place. Most were either young people, housing tenants, immigrants or from particular ethnic minorities. These are people Labour needs to motivate, enthuse and inspire. They might have aspirations, too – for a job, a house, for social justice and a decent future.
When 13.5 million people voted Labour in 1997, they wanted a government that would halt privatisation, introduce a minimum wage, extend rights for people at work, invest in our public services and Welfare State, renationalise the railways and give real powers to the peoples of Scotland and Wales. Labour delivered most of those pledges in its first term of office. Since then, it has embraced privatisation, the City, big business and militarism – with the exception of Syria, thanks to the anti-war movement.
Unless Labour changes course, there is no reason to believe that it will turn back the SNP or UKIP, let alone defeat the Tories in 2020. That’s why the Communist Party urges trade unionists, socialists and social democrats in the Labour Party – many of whom we work closely with across a range of issues – to do all in their power to win back the party from the New Labourites. They will receive support from the Morning Star and many other socialists and Communists when doing so.
The proposal at last year’s Campaign for Labour Party Democracy conference for a trade union party, affiliated to Labour at least initially, would improve the prospects for advance. But if no significant progress is made by next year’s Labour Party conference, the whole of the left and the labour movement should face that reality. In particular, affiliated unions will have to consider what steps would be necessary to re-establish a mass party of labour, one capable of winning a General Election and enacting policies that benefit the millions of people, not the multimillionaires.
Robert Griffiths is the Communist Party’s general secretary and a contributor to 21 centurymanifesto