In a massive blow for the political establishment, Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as the leader of the Labour Party by a huge margin (61.8%). The die was not loaded in his favour either. Corbyn and his supporters have been subjected to months of unrelenting abuse from the media, big business, and the right wing of the Labour Party, including 172 MPs and many of Labour’s 7,000 councillors.
Corbyn’s decisive victory also comes in spite of what John McDonnell called the “rigged purge of Corbyn supporters”, which saw tens of thousands of members suspended or denied the right to vote. Had these votes been counted, Corbyn’s mandate would now be closer to 80% than 60%.
But the project to reclaim Labour is far from over. The transformation of the Labour Party into New Labour was not one act but a process consolidated over years. The reversal of that transformation, therefore, will not be accomplished by one act but will require the organisation of a mass movement consciously aiming to overturn New Labour’s political and organisational legacy.
Before Labour can become a truly socialist party again, many issues will need to be addressed. In particular, the restoration of trade union voting power commensurate with their size; the abolishment of secretive decision making bodies such as the National Policy Forum, and the return of real decision making to the party Conference; the reimplementation of Clause 4, which commits Labour to “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange” (this was removed by Tony Blair in 1995 and replaced with a commitment to the dynamic “enterprise of the market”, “the rigor of competition”, and “a thriving private sector”); and the reintroduction of mandatory reselection and right of recall of MPs.
This latter policy in particular will go some way to restoring democracy to the Labour Party by putting pressure on, or potentially replacing, MPs and councillors who fail to respect the now anti-austerity character of the party membership.
Labour right wingers also understand that the fight is not over which is why they are now manoeuvring, again, to isolate Corbyn. This time they are demanding that Corbyn give up his right to choose his Shadow Cabinet, instead allowing it to be elected by the right wing Parliamentary Labour Party.
This policy would effectively neuter Corbyn’s leadership.
Simultaneously, however, these same MPs now pay lip service to unity. Yvette Cooper, Sadiq Khan, Jess Phillips… all are now publicly calling for peace, even as they continue to connive against Corbyn. In order to bring these, and other, MPs into line with the membership, it is vital that Corbyn’s supporters raise motions to back mandatory reselection at their local Labour branches.
Although Labour right wingers continue to describe Corbyn as unelectable, what they mean is that they will not allow Corbyn to be elected. In truth, they fear that Corbyn, and the socialist program on which he stands, is electable and would pose a threat to the political-economic system which they represent.
In a recent article for The Telegraph entitled “Don’t be afraid of Jeremy Corbyn, be afraid of what comes after him”, James Kirkup rightly asks whether “the Corbyn movement [might] be creating the conditions for… a real challenge to Britain’s status as a free market economy…?”
This is what the Blairites and the Tories fear, and this is what we must make a reality.