Statement from Socialist Party Scotland
Socialist Party Scotland welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s emphatic victory in the Labour leadership contest. The defeat of Owen Smith, although not unexpected, is a significant blow to the capitalist establishment in Britain and their own “Blairite tendency” that still dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
The Financial Times’ headline summed up the significance of the outcome: “Corbyn victory bolsters power of the anti-austerity movement”
Jeremy’s success will therefore be welcomed by millions of workers and trade unionists across Britain who are looking for an alternative to austerity.
With this victory, his second in 12 months but this time with an even larger majority, the opportunity to create a real anti-austerity and socialist Labour Party for the 99% can be posed.
The scale of Corbyn’s victory is all the more remarkable given the fact that at least 150,000 Labour members and supporters were refused the right to vote by the Blairite machine.
However, no matter the scale of the Jeremy Corbyn’s achievement, there is zero possibility of the Labour right accepting the result. On the contrary they are already preparing to fire the starting pistol on the next phase of the civil war inside the Labour Party.
In this they will have the full support of the bosses’ media, the billionaire elite and all the enemies of the working class and socialism.
Labour is, as we have consistently explained, two mutually exclusive parties coexisting within the same formation. This reality was underscored by the result in which Owen Smith won almost two thirds of the votes of those who had been Labour Party members before 2015, according to YouGov’s “exit poll”. Jeremy Corbyn won the support of 80% of those who joined after the 2015 general election.
Defeat the Blairites
It is clear that the Labour right and the capitalist elite they represent intend to fight on to try and regain their formerly unchallenged control of the Labour Party. The issue of what needs to be done to consolidate Jeremy Corbyn‘s victory – by really transforming Labour into an anti-austerity, socialist, working-class mass movement – is the critical question facing socialists today.
To counter the threat of a new onslaught against him and his anti-austerity platform, Jeremy Corbyn must end any attempts at conciliation and compromise with the Blairites. Urgent rule changes to return democracy to the Labour Party membership are vital.
Central to this must be the right of party members to select, and if necessary deselect, Labour MPs, councillors and MSPs.
In addition, Corbyn should draw up a code of conduct for all Labour MPs that would insist on their signing up to an anti-austerity platform that means opposing cuts, privatisation and war. If they do not do this they must have the Labour whip removed and face reselection by their local party. Labour councillors who continually vote through cuts in services must also face challenge by the ranks of the party to create a real anti-austerity movement.
Democracy and the rights of party members and trade unions to decide policy and control over their elected representatives is vital. It is therefore a major mistake that initially following the leadership election Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are seeking a compromise with the right.
They have claimed that the “vast majority of MPs” should have no concerns about deselection. Pressure to allow the PLP to elect Corbyn’s shadow cabinet must be resisted in favour of direct elections by the membership, including the trade unions.
While the Blairites should be removed from Labour, all anti-cuts forces – including the Socialist Party – should be welcomed into a reconstituted federal Labour Party.
At this stage the right wing are still in the leadership of Scottish Labour. Kezia Dugdale openly come out against Corbyn and backed Owen Smith. She is also working hand-in-glove with Labour’s only MP in Scotland Ian Murray, one of the coup plotters who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and who was given a post in Dugdale’s shadow cabinet as a reward.
It is vital that the Corbyn-supporting left challenge for the Scottish leadership, in addition to drawing up proposals for the democratisation of the party. The overwhelming majority of Labour councillors in Scotland are also opposed to Corbyn and have voted through cuts at a local level.
The catastrophic impact of years of right-wing Blairite control combined with its role in opposition to Scottish independence has shattered the electoral and activist base of the Labour Party in Scotland.
Reflecting this weakened position, the Corbyn surge has had a muted echo in Scotland. Owen Smith won a majority of the votes from Scottish Labour members, according to the YouGov poll. Although this has been disputed by Corbyn supporters, it’s clear that the balance of forces in Scottish Labour is not so favourable towards the left at this stage.
This is because Labour’s membership has only increased by a modest 8,000 since the 2015 general election. This compares poorly with the hundreds of thousands who have joined in England and the 80,000 plus who joined the SNP in the surge after the 2014 independence referendum.
Changing this position would require the Corbyn left in Scottish Labour to fight for an anti-austerity policy based on a refusal by Labour councillors and MSPs to implement cuts as well as a clear policy in favour of public ownership and opposition to all forms of privatisation
In addition, the blanket opposition to Scottish independence must be re-thought. A socialist policy on the national question in favour of independence, while opposing the SNP and their pro-big business polices, is essential.
The democratisation of Scottish Labour based on a federal structure that allows affiliation by socialist and anti-austerity organisations and a real say for the trade unions would represent a big step forward.
As our sister party, the Socialist Party England and Wales has explained, “The transformation of the Labour Party into New Labour was not one act but a process consolidated over years. To reverse that transformation will also not be accomplished by one act but will require the organisation of a mass movement consciously aiming to overturn New Labour’s legacy, politically and organisationally. Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election is another big step on that road – but it must be built upon urgently.”