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We need to unite and stand by Corbyn and his leadership team to win the change we want to see

It has never been more important to back Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour, writes MATT WILLGRESS

ON July 13, less than a month ago, Jeremy Corbyn spoke to over 250,000 people at the Together Against Trump demo in Trafalgar Square. 

This was not some opportunist manoeuvre — Corbyn had opposed Theresa May’s kow-towing to Donald Trump since the president’s election and has been a stalwart of many of the movements that called the demonstration, including movements against racism and for refugees’ rights. 

Indeed, Corbyn’s first act as Labour leader was to speak at a national demonstration in favour of the rights of refugees. 

As on his position of 100 per cent opposition to the “dementia tax” proposals during the last general election or previous opposition to tax credit changes, at the Trump demonstration Corbyn spoke for millions and put the government on the back foot.

It is because of Corbyn and his leadership team’s clear anti-austerity stance and ability to give a voice to millions of people on issues such as these — including a willingness to speak up on difficult issues such as the disastrous consequences of outsourcing our foreign policy to the US — that Labour has not faced the collapse in support many of its sister parties in Europe have seen.

It is also because of Corbyn’s history of principled support for genuinely transformative politics — and belief in a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people — that the political and economic Establishment will again and again pull out all the stops to stop a Corbyn-led government. 

It is also why many, both outside and sadly within the Labour Party, have never ceased in their wish to remove Corbyn as leader ever since his landslide election shook up politics in 2015.

During a media offensive against Corbyn just before the general election, John McDonnell wrote that “in no way will the elite Establishment tolerate the popular election of a socialist leader without a bitter fight,” and we should remind ourselves of these words again and again.

Those who are part of what McDonnell termed the elite Establishment are also petrified of how Corbyn is unafraid to ally with, and help build, the movements in civil society that are a key part of opposing the Tory government — which explains the attacks on campaigns such as the Stop the War Coalition and People’s Assembly we have seen from the Tory media during his leadership.

We should also be clear that within Labour there are still those who would like to see an end to radical, anti-austerity politics. 

Indeed, this week saw reports of a potential coup-plotters’ away-day — and those reported as involved have a very different voting record from Corbyn on a range of issues.

From opposing Tory cuts to standing up to the failed “hostile environment” approach to immigration, to standing up to disastrous US wars, it is Corbyn and Labour’s left who have been on the right side of history again and again.

We should be proud of this record and we also need to expose how electorally damaging replacing our anti-austerity leadership would be. 

Of those critical of Corbyn on the question of Brexit in particular, the implication is often that Labour needs a Emmanuel Macron type figure if it is to improve its position and make the decisive breakthrough to get clearly ahead of the Conservatives — perhaps combining a more “moderate” (for that read austerity-lite) economic programme and a shift in the party’s stance on Brexit to one more akin to the Liberal Democrats, with the latter being the often repeated position of Tony Blair himself.

Yet a quick look at the performances of Labour’s sister parties across Europe shows the extent of what Corbyn’s leadership has already achieved, as parties that have failed to stand up to austerity have got electorally hammered all over the continent.

In the Netherlands general election in March 2017 the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) secured only 5.7 per cent of the vote — down from 24.8 per cent in 2012. The French Socialist Party, having implemented austerity under Francoise Hollande, secured only 6.4 per cent of the vote in the first round of the April 2017 presidential election — down from 28.6 per cent in the first round vote in 2012.

This follows a pattern since the financial crash of 2008, when parties of the liberal centre or social democratic variety which have endorsed austerity have seen their support plummet, with the example of Pasok in Greece perhaps the most dramatic.

A reason Labour in Britain is not facing these disastrous results is precisely because the base of the movement elected — and then, despite enormous pressure from the bulk of the parliamentary party, the media and the Establishment, kept — Corbyn as leader.

The key pledges with a clear anti-austerity, pro-investment, programme in the For the Many, Not the Few general election manifesto outlined how the agenda of Corbyn’s Labour could improve the living standards of the majority.

To make further advances electorally Labour must build on this programme, not abandon it or the leadership that crafted it.

It has been a difficult few weeks for the hundreds of thousands of Labour members who have been working tirelessly against the Tories and for a Corbyn-led government.

Now we must stand by him and his leadership team again and there is no room for complacency. Every Morning Star reader must get behind Corbyn in the months ahead and build the maximum opposition to the Tories and their failed policies of austerity. 

Divisions on the left in this unprecedented situation of having a socialist leader of Labour are perhaps inevitable, but no-one should let disagreements on particular issues get in the way of working together towards this fundamental priority.

A Corbyn-led government can transform and rebuild Britain for the majority — let’s do all we can to make it happen.

 

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