Fight for a Labour government

What follows is a statement from the rs21 Steering Group. We call on all our members, our readers and our supporters to mobilise energetically against the Conservative Party and for the election of a Corbyn government.

Over 400 people took to the streets in Chingford and Woodford to campaign for a Labour government on Saturday 2 November, and another 200 were out the next day. Pictured: Labour candidate Faiza Shaheen)

The Conservatives have called this election because they have failed to deliver Brexit and hope to use frustration over this to secure a mandate to pursue the interests of the rich across the full range of issues. 

Although the election has been called because of the Brexit crisis, the election gives us the opportunity to campaign for a transformative Labour government and to argue for our vision of a socialist society.

The Tory Party has been furiously divided over Brexit; that they have lasted this long in government has been due to their fear of the threat that a Corbyn-led government  could pose to ruling class interests.

We now have the chance to make those Tory fears come true. Their crisis presents an opportunity we should seize. We need to take to the streets in our communities, involving ourselves in voter registration drives and campaigning against Tory policies and for the election of a Labour government.

Every day of Tory rule for the last nine years has been a crisis for the working class. The Tories have blood on their hands. They are responsible for every life taken by their ‘hostile environment’, for the growth in Islamophobic attacks, for the humiliations heaped on welfare claimants, leading to destitution. They have cut funding for refuge services. Life expectancy has been falling under the Tories – every life lost has been stolen by their policies. They have caused an explosion in homelessness, failing to tackle the housing crisis even after Grenfell. They have cut NHS spending by 25%, attacking staff and opening it to predatory private interests. They have taken us into more wars and supplied arms to conflict zones. They have opposed measures to deal with a climate emergency that is claiming lives around the world, and they have ratcheted up repression against trade unions and other working class people trying to defend themselves from their policies. The Tories are guilty of murder – every single one of them, including the anti-Brexit ‘rebels’ celebrated by much of the media.

While the EU is no ally of the working class, a Tory Brexit would be used to accelerate attacks on migrants, workers, public services, consumers and the environment. A Trans-Atlantic ‘trade deal’ with Donald Trump’s far-right US administration, would open the NHS up to the attacks, including increased drug prices from pharmaceutical companies.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto offered a significant break with years of accommodation to neoliberalism and helped inspire an insurgent campaign that took the Tories by surprise. Policies such as a Green New Deal, policy on freedom of movement and repealing all the anti-union laws, as agreed at Labour Conference, create the potential for an even more radical election campaign. But none of this is automatic.

We have been critical of many aspects of Corbynism in recent years, and continue to be so. We abhor the concessions that the Labour leadership has made to xenophobia, through support for border controls, backtracking on the abolition of Prevent, as well as Labour’s risible and self-defeating appeals for greater police numbers. The leadership has also talked about reforming rather than scrapping universal credit. Corbyn needlessly retreated on his historic support for Palestine, just as the Netanyahu government and its far-right international backers have intensified Israel’s murderous colonial project. 

All of this has real consequences for how we engage with the Corbyn project – we intend to support the Corbyn leadership from a principled internationalist left-wing position, and be open about disagreements. We want to ensure that good conference policies are reflected in the manifesto. People should respond to the consultation, but the nature of the campaign and any future Corbyn government will also depend on people actually fighting for the policies that we need. A Corbyn government will be confronted by the class nature of the British state and we need to be ready.

The campaigning we do and the networks we build will also provide the basis for resistance if Johnson wins despite all our efforts. If he does win we know that he will claim a mandate for the kind of Brexit that the hard right of the Tory Party has been dreaming of – and for a wider Tory programme against the interests of the working class, oppressed people, and the urgent need to mitigate the climate catastrophe. We simply cannot afford to let this agenda prevail.

For these reasons, we cannot subordinate all other activity to the electoral campaign. We will continue to support strikes, like that of the CWU, however fierce the opposition they are met with in an election period. We will focus on campaigning where we are involving people in taking control of their future. Voting alone is not sufficient. There is an international context for our activism, both against the rise of the far right and in solidarity with insurgent movements emerging everywhere from Chile, to Ecuador, to Lebanon.

Everyone should work for the election of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn. That does not simply mean following the Labour lead. The Tories are taking a huge gamble. It’s up to all of us to make sure they lose. Everything we do helps create a more favourable terrain for the struggles ahead. The fight will, and must, go on until we have not just got rid of a Tory government, but dealt with the climate emergency and ended capitalism and oppression in all its forms.

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