We are in a period when the Labour Party is, again, pretending that it can protect people in Britain from the ravages of a crisis-ridden capitalist system. The best arguments against the Labour Party will arise when strikes, occupations and street protests take place and then the Labour Party denounces them. But until then, here are some arguments from history:
1. In 1914, The Labour Party actively supported the First World War, encouraging millions to fight in a bloodbath that led directly to the horrors of Stalinism, fascism and then another World War.
2. In 1929, the Labour Government introduced labour camps for the unemployed.
3. In 1945, the Labour Government did introduce the welfare state. But many capitalists also advocated a welfare state at this time. This was not because they were influenced by the Labour Party but because they required a healthy workforce – and because they feared a workers’ revolution. As the influential Tory, Quintin Hogg, said, ‘If you do not give the people social reform they will give you social revolution.’
4. The leader of the 1945 Labour Government, Clement Attlee, authorised the dropping of atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Labour government then manufactured the first British atom bombs and set up NATO. (F.Williams, ‘Twilight of Empire’ p71-4.)
5. In the 1974 election, the Labour Party not only said that it would endeavour to ‘eliminate poverty’, it also promised to bring about an ‘irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people.’ However, as the economic crisis deepened and as capitalists stopped investing or lending their capital, the Labour Government soon capitulated. It then began imposing unprecedented cuts in both real wages and welfare while overseeing a return to mass unemployment. In 1981, the French Socialist Party made even more radical promises, only to end up imposing similar austerity once it was in power. In fact, these 1970s and 1980s ‘socialist’ governments that were the original pioneers of the ‘neoliberal’ austerity that continues until today across Europe.
6. Some claim that because Jeremy Corbyn voted against Blair in Parliament on numerous occasions, this shows he will be different from previous Labour leaders. But, in the 1970s, Neil Kinnock voted against his party leadership 84 times, yet he still pushed Labour to the right when he became leader. Indeed, even the Tory stalwart, Ken Clarke, says that Corbyn is no more left wing than Kinnock’s predecessor, Michael Foot.
7. Others claim that a Corbyn-led Labour Party will energise people and create ‘space’ for activists to organise. But the reality is more likely to be comparable to what happened in London in the 1980s when people kept looking to Ken Livingstone’s GLC rather than taking action themselves. This resulted in serious demoralisation when Livingstone backed down from confronting Thatcher over tube fares and local rates. Then, later, when Livingstone became Mayor, he did everything the City of London wanted, including opposing tube strikes and repressing street protests. Significantly, Corbyn has now employed the same spin-doctor as Livingstone.
8. It has even been claimed that the Labour Party could become the new Syriza. This is a more likely outcome but hardly a good one. Like Labour, Syriza persuaded people not to take action themselves but to look to politicians to protect them from capitalist austerity. These politicians then betrayed virtually all of their promises. As the former Syriza leftist, Stathis Kouvelakis, now admits: ‘The whole negotiation process [with the EU] by itself triggered passivity and anxiety among the people and the most combative sectors of society, leading them to exhaustion.’ Unfortunately, similar passivity and exhaustion is the most likely outcome from any revival of the Labour Party.
9. Perhaps, by some miracle, a Corbyn-led government will be able to coordinate international state investment to revive the world economy and so restore full employment and welfare provision – maybe even relaunching such provision as a ‘Basic Income’. But this would just create a level of job security that would encourage people to demand more money and less work so pushing capitalism back into a repeat of the economic crises of the 1970s. And if, as in the 1970s, people had got into the habit of looking to Labour governments to protect them, they would be in no position to defend themselves from another round of austerity and demoralisation, as in the 1980s.
The only way to prevent history repeating itself is for people to organise an anti-capitalist movement outside the control of any political party and then to replace the whole money system with a genuinely human society. No matter how ‘principled’ Jeremy Corbyn is, he and his Labour Party can only hold back the development of such a revolutionary movement.
by Anti War
See the version of this article at https://libcom.org/library/arguments-against-jeremy-corbyn-labour-party for links to a fascinating video on the 1929 labour camps and for more arguments against the Labour Party.