Notes from the front – of the week 25/8/2015

Get the remaining votes out for Jeremy and Diane!

With Jeremy Corbyn the clear favourite to win Labour’s Leadership election in under three weeks’ time, Labour’s right-wing, heavily backed by the media, is stepping up the assault on his policies and trying to discredit Labour’s election process.

By the 12 August deadline the Labour Party was reporting that over 610,000 people were eligible to vote in the election. The 200,000 Members at the time of the General Election had been joined by an addition 100,000 new Members, plus 190,000 trade union Affiliated Supporters and 120,000 Registered Supporters paying £3. Less than 1 in 10 of all of these had been members at the time of the 2010 Leadership election. There is no doubt that the bulk of the new 400,000 people are a ‘Corbyn surge’, and this broad vanguard has overwhelmingly signed up in order to vote for him.

Just before the deadline a YouGov poll of those entitled to vote reported that Corbyn was winning outright with 53% of first preference support. When reweighted to take account of the relative balance between Members, Registered and Affiliated Supporters, this lead expanded to 57%, according to YouGov. On this basis no second preference votes at all would need to be counted.

YouGov’s poll had found first preference support for Corbyn running at 49% amongst Members, 67% trade union Affiliated Supporters and 55% amongst Registered Supporters. The relative proportion of the three types of voters is respectively 49%, 31% and 20% of the overall electorate.

The right-wing’s mantra is that Corbyn’s policies are extreme, that he is unelectable and that the party will split if he his elected Leader. The ground is being prepared for a huge fight inside the Labour Party after the result is declared.

Fundamentally the Labour right agrees with the Tories’ austerity policies and is adamantly opposed to the state becoming an engine for investment. They accept the framework that gives the private sector a veto over economic policy, even when the latter does not wish to promote economic growth. Additionally they want Britain to increase its role as a junior partner of US military deployments in the Middle East and central Europe.

Corbyn’s proposal to end austerity would assist growth, which is why a number of economists consider his approach a serious alternative.

On foreign policy Corbyn proposes Britain stops attacking other countries to assist the US gain control and seize resources. A formal apology for the Iraq war and the immense suffering and deception the Labour government was responsible for will be an important step in setting out a new direction. Corbyn’s opposition to Britain officially joining the US military inside Syria has forced Cameron to put off a parliamentary vote on the issue. The US aims to overthrow the Assad government and its intervention in this sovereign state is an act of war.

Contrary to the right’s claim that Corbyn cannot win a general election for Labour, there is growing polling evidence that he is the best placed of the four Leadership candidates to deliver a Labour government. This month Survation found voters are more likely to back a Labour Party led by Corbyn than the other leadership candidates, whilst Opinium reported Corbyn is the most popular candidate with Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green and UKIP voters as well as with non-voters.

The media attacks on Corbyn are relentless. The main newspapers are concerned at how weak the Tory party is, with its 36.8% share of the vote and only 11 MPs parliamentary majority. They badly need a pliant Labour opposition that capitulates to the Tories.

In general the right-wing has been taken by surprise. There was no real understanding of how unpopular austerity has become amongst Labour supporters. On the Labour right and in the Tory media Corbyn’s candidature was not taken seriously, and some argued he should be assisted on to Labour’s ballot paper precisely so that the left could be decisively defeated. The Telegraph for example has switched from jokingly supporting Corbyn to now warning of impending danger if he is elected.

If Corbyn is elected the right-wing will seek to overturn his victory as soon as possible. Labour’s various hard right factions are preparing for battle. False claims of widespread infiltration have been whipped up and some on the right are suggesting a legal challenge to the result. The Blairites are establishing a new front they call ‘Labour Group For The Common Good’, whilst in general the right will try to discredit the new Labour leader. Such forces have no intention of respecting a democratic decision. The right does not intend to help a Corbyn leadership build Labour’s electoral support, some will even assist rehabilitate the Lib Dems.

Already smears against Corbyn are intensifying, particularly those orchestrated by the pro-Israel lobby that wants Corbyn smashed because of his support for Palestine. They promote the entirely fake claim that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. A number of progressive British Jews, among others, have stepped in to denounce this vile campaign.

In Labour’s London Mayoral selection the huge influx of new left-wing members and supporters could potentially determine the outcome of that contest too. Unlike the leadership contest there are no recent published opinion polls. So the media is speculating that Diane Abbott on the left, who is one of Corbyn’s principal backers, as well as Sadiq Khan on the centre, who has significant trade union support, will be the main beneficiaries of the ‘Corbyn surge’.

Abbott has been further spelling out her radical agenda for London Mayor, including her pledges to use compulsory purchase orders to tackle developers who just sit on land and vacant property, plus her plan to introduce free school meals for 200,000 primary school children.

Corbyn and Abbott are the Labour candidates who consistently oppose austerity, racism and war. From now till the ballot closes on 10 September left activists should do everything possible to help them win their respective contests. 10% of the voters are still to receive ballot papers and many others still have not voted so there is still a lot of campaigning to do.

Visit Corbyn’s campaign here and Abbott’s here to volunteer.

Update on 25/8/2015: Approximately 57,000 applications to vote have been ruled out from participating. The Labour Party is reporting that the basis of these exclusions is either that people are not on the electoral register, or are duplicate applications, or are in arrears, or are not supporters of the Labour Party. The bulk of the excluded will likely have joined to vote for Corbyn. The new electorate figures announced on 25 August were: 292,973 Members (of which 187,000 were paid up before the General Election and 105,973 have joined since), 148,182 Affiliated Supporters and 112,799 Registered Supporters, making a total electorate of 553,954). The Corbyn campaign is keen for the public agenda of the contest to focus on the real political issues at stake and not on issues of process and the right-wing’s claims of infiltration. So people who have been rejected as a Member, Affiliated or Registered Supporter are asked to contact the Corbyn campaign directly with their details.


China’s non-crash

China’s economy this year is set to grow by 6.5-7.0% – three times as fast as the US and four times faster than Europe or Japan. China’s growth rate so far this year is 7.0%. The bizarre conclusion of the Western media? China is in deep economic crisis!

This was the conclusion of the media after the falls on China’s stock market in August. But this ignores the fact that all the major studies carried out by the capitalist institutions themselves – such as Goldman Sachs – shows that the lower the long term economic growth of a country the better its share market performs and vice versa. In short the fall in China’s share market is no indicator whatever its economy will slow down.

The problems in Western financial markets in reality started at the end of last year when earnings growth by US companies started to slow. US data for the second quarter of 2015 then, logically, showed the rate of growth of US investment falling. In other words the motors of US economic growth were declining long before the falls in China’s share market.

China’s economic growth has slowed from ‘super-sensational’ (more than 10%) to ‘sensational’ (6.5-7.0%) due to objective factors such as the end to the growth in the working age population and the sluggish state of world trade, alongside some individual misjudgements in economic policy.

The idea China is suffering a ‘crash,’ when it has a growth rate several times higher than any Western economy, is pure Western propaganda.

A further suggestion from the Western media has been that the recent devaluation of the RMB indicates that China has embarked upon ‘currency wars’ in an attempt to boost its exports at the expense of others. This is a ridiculous claim given that the RMB has depreciated by 3% while the Japanese Yen has declined by 55% and the Euro by 27% from their peak levels after the global financial crisis. Of course, this means that RMB has actually been revalued sharply against these currencies. It is Japan and the Eurozone that have been ‘exporting deflation’. Even at a slower rate, China remains the main engine of world growth.

Discrediting China and seeking to undermine the case for its state-ownership led economic system is an entire industry in the Western media and many academic institutions. But it is disappointing to hear sections of the European left repeating this nonsense.

The split in Syriza

The ruling classes of Europe and beyond have achieved an important objective in engineering a split inside Syriza. This was a subsidiary aim, after the imposition of harsh austerity measures. But it was clear from the pronouncements of the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and others that it was very important to ditch the left wing and to achieve a more compliant governing party. This has now been achieved.

The split among the parliamentary representatives and the formation of the new Popular Unity followed the decision to call new elections (probably in September). The left Syriza MPs that had rejected the Memorandum faced the probability of being excluded from running again for Syriza, so the calling of the election by Tsipras propelled their departure, leaving Syriza itself in the hands of those who favoured signing the new Memorandum of Understanding.

The recomposition of the left is a consequence of the defeat imposed by Merkel and the Troika on the Syriza leadership, which will now mean renewed harsh austerity measures.

For the time being widespread reports suggest that Syriza maintains a strong lead in opinion polls. Popular sentiment recognises that the Syriza leadership wanted to end austerity and there is general relief that the country was not forced out of the Euro. This expresses the wide popular attachment to Europe and its institutions, which were largely responsible for the improvement in living standards before the crisis in 2007. But that period is over.

The leadership of Syriza headed by Alexis Tsipras will find itself, however reluctantly, having to justify the harsh measures resulting from the diktat of the Troika. Renewed austerity has yet to take effect and sentiment towards the government may sour.

Popular Unity rejects the Memorandum, but to move forward, it will need to develop a coherent alternative strategy on how to end austerity that can gain popular support.

Meanwhile, the Greek population will need increased solidarity as austerity begins to hit home once more.