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With the announcement of a snap general election earlier this week, it seems that the time is up for the Blairite plotters. Labour is heading into a general election with a socialist at the helm!
Rumours abound about why the Tories have chosen now to call a snap election. The mainstream media, and much of the left, claim that it is cynical attempt to exploit Labour’s current low polling. But this is only half the picture.
The main reason a general election has been called is because the Tories are hamstrung by a tiny parliamentary majority (just 4 MPs), and fear that they could be overwhelmed by forced U-turns. In their first year alone, the Tories were compelled to make eleven humiliating U-turns.
If they are going to plough ahead with a hard Brexit and yet more brutal austerity it is essential for them, therefore, to seek a firmer mandate on which to carry it out.
That said, the Tories are not necessarily approaching this election from a position of strength.
But this does not mean that a Labour victory will be in any way straightforward. It will be an uphill struggle, make no mistake. This is partly Corbyn’s own fault. Over the last two years, Corbyn has allowed the Blairites to wage a civil war against him and his supporters and he has barely raised a hand in defence. This has taken a toll on Labour’s electoral credibility.
But in spite of all this, Corbyn can still win.
The best thing Corbyn can do now is to silence the Blairites and campaign for a socialist program which turns the 2015 manifesto on its head. Such a program should include the renationalisation of the NHS, Royal Mail, and the railways, a £10 an hour living wage, free education for all, mass council housing building, repealing anti-trade union legislation, and kicking the privateers out of our public services.
These demands should be linked to the need for fundamental socialist change – for a society run in the interests of the majority instead of the few.
With an election looming, the Tory press now has a legal obligation to cover the policies that Corbyn’s Labour put forward – something which they have studiously avoided over the past two years. This technicality must be exploited ruthlessly!
But it is also essential that Corbyn’s election campaign is not defined by speeches and election broadcasts alone. The campaign to defend the NHS, for instance, should be linked to the mass movement which began with last month’s monumental national demonstration. Working alongside the trade union movement and health campaigners, Corbyn should now call a second demonstration, to be held during the election campaign. A mass fight to defend the NHS has the potential to unite millions of people against the Tories.
This would be immensely effective in cutting across media propaganda.
The trade union movement also has a significant role to play. Local strikes and demonstrations – against school cuts, for example – can be used to demonstrate the growing crisis in our public services.
Electoral coalitions with pro-austerity parties will not work
As for those who say that the timing of this election makes it impossible for Corbyn to win. What they misunderstand is that the timing will always be bad. Of course, Corbyn’s continued retreats in the face of the Blairites has not helped matters, but the project to get a socialist elected as PM in one of the world’s most powerful capitalist economies would always take place in a viciously unfavourable context.
This is the case now, it would have been the case in 2020, and it will remain the case whilst we continue to live in a capitalist society.
But the belief, held by some on the left, that Corbyn cannot win at this stage is not just pessimistic, it is toxic. It is this cynicism which is the driving force behind calls for Labour to seek electoral alliances with others on the “centre-left”, even including the treacherous Liberal Democrats in this category.
This strategy would be a massive mistake.
If people took one lesson from the EU referendum and the US elections it should be that, in today’s tumultuous political context, lining up with “establishment” figures is a sure-fire way to take a beating.
It is clear that voters want to show their anger against the establishment. Corbyn needs to show that he reflects that anger and build support from it. And Corbyn is potentially on a firm footing here because, unlike poseurs like May and Trump, he is genuinely anti-establishment.
Moreover, if Labour were successful in defeating the Tories only on the basis of a coalition, the first demand of the pro-austerity Lib Dems and SNP would undoubtedly be the removal of Corbyn as Labour leader.
Mélenchon’s rise in France shows Corbyn can turn the polls around here
If Corbyn fights, he can win. If he doesn’t fight, he will fail. The same goes for his supporters!
The surge in support for France’s left wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, demonstrates that it is possible for the polls to be turned around very quickly.
Mélenchon has campaigned on a program of massive social investment funded by a 100% tax on earnings over €400,000. He also plans to cut the working week from 35 to 32 hours with no loss of pay. His rallies have attracted tens of thousands of workers, furious at the austerity measures doled out by successive governments.
According to a poll by Ifop Fudicial, Mélenchon’s approval ratings have more than trebled over the last month, from 22% to 68%, and it cannot be ruled out that he will reach the final round of voting and go head to head with the far right Marine Le Pen. Corbyn can learn much from this development.
A fight for an anti-austerity mass workers’ party in the UK has the potential to end Tory rule. But even if Corbyn fails while fighting on such a program, his efforts could still lead to the founding of a genuine mass workers’ party. The process of building a socialist society does not just hinge on this election, but it is about developing the confidence of the working-class in the long term.
Defeatism – or worse, lesser evilism – would not take this process forward.
We would do well to remember that in 2015 the Tories were elected with the smallest mandate since universal suffrage was introduced. We would also do well to remember that the last time a snap general election was called by the Tories (1974) they ended up losing.
This snap general election is a big gamble for Theresa May. Let’s make her regret she decided to call it.