The leaked Labour Party Manifesto for the 2017 election caused a huge amount of excitement on the left of the party. It was a solid social democratic list of policies that — if implemented — would herald a decisive break from neo-liberalism in Britain, writes Simon Hannah.
Now it is clear what the dividing lines are in this election. They are battle lines that cut through history, that cut through society that cut through the Labour Party itself. Do we stick with the disaster that is neo-liberalism and the constant drift (sometimes gallop) to the right, or do we forge a new path? If globalisation is breaking down internationally, to we work to secure the best conditions that we can whilst reorganising society along more egalitarian lines? Or do we allow the 1% to rule, to suck the life from the poor and enrich themselves whilst the rest of us slave away on declining wages and longer working hours? It is without a shade of doubt which side Corbyn is on, and the bulk of the Labour Party. The question is now whether it can be translated into an electoral victory.
But even if Labour wins this election then we have a manifesto that is a solid base to build on (though there must be a fight over British militarism and compromises on immigration at conference).
Inevitably of course if Labour loses then the right will launch another “longest suicide note in history” counter-attack. They will blame Corbyn, blame the ‘loony left’, blame Momentum and blame the unions for any defeat. They will ignore their own role in undermining Labour’s chances and call for more “moderation” and more “common sense policies” — as if ending food banks and questioning the use of nuclear weapons isn’t common sense.
The Labour right start from the position of the British ruling class and their lackeys in the media; “what will they accept?”, “We cannot get our message across in the media!” etc. No shit sherlock, it is the first salve in a fight against the power and privileges of the British ruling elite. No wonder Corbyn is getting slammed in the media.
The Labour right also start from the assumption that the electorate is automatically right wing and therefore Labour must reflect their right wing policies back on them to win elections. Of course there is some truth in that — but only if you want a right wing party. If you are on the left you want a party that can have the argument, that can win over layers of people, make them question their assumptions, mobilise them around key issues we can agree on. Labour could and should be such a party, not a hollow vote gathering machine that panders to people’s prejudices.
Neo-liberalism is wrecking this country like it is in other places. It is what has led to the rise of Trump, Le Pen and all those other reactionaries as desperate people turn to the far right for solutions. Labour is at least offering a beacon of hope in these terrifying times. It at least holds on the possibility of a change in the direction of history, to defy the rightward surge. Not with appeals to a centre that is eating away at its own social base (à la Macron) but with a full blooded challenge to the orthodoxy of the free market and the right of the rich to laud their power over the rest of us.
Even if Labour can’t win this election, we must win the next on such a basis (at least). Otherwise — what is the point?
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