Notes from the front – of 1/7/2016

The right wing’s war on the Labour leadership

Following the victory of the Brexit side in its EU referendum Britain has entered its biggest political crisis since 1945. The Tories on both sides of the EU argument do not have a clear proposal on how to proceed. The leadership team of the official Brexit campaign, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, has already imploded and internal fighting between pro- and anti-EU Tories can be expected to intensify.

The impact of the crisis will affect a wide range of social and economic policies in Britain, that are currently decided at the level of the EU. A complex interrelationship has been built up this past 40 years. Any EU withdrawal will be a huge upheaval and there will be conflict over what to negotiate with the EU. The other EU states have already indicated they will not agree to continue with the free movement of all British capital, goods and services without the free movement of labour. The right wing’s idea of ‘free trade with the EU’ is a nonsense as it is a customs union with protective tariffs. Trade terms therefore have to be negotiated to get these tariffs lowered or eliminated, which may not be possible.

Big business in Britain does not favour a general election in the current turmoil, particularly with Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour. Labour’s electoral advance since 2015, combined with the weakened Tory party engaging in internal battles, could result in the left gaining office on an anti-austerity agenda. Capital is determined this does not happen. In response to the unfolding Brexit crisis and how it is playing out within their party some Tories are considering an early general election. The danger for capital is that a Corbyn-led Labour Party might win. Hence the urgency with which the right wing is proceeding with organising a coup within Labour.

All the main capitalist-owned press and leading right wing politicians are calling for Corbyn’s urgent removal. Inside Labour, right wing MPs have in effect declared war on Corbyn and the membership that elected him. Their number one priority is this coup. They have no intention of exploiting the Tories’ current crisis and have withdrawn from acting as spokespeople providing opposition to the government.

The 170 plus MPs voting ‘No Confidence’ and the front bench resignations were to be expected at some point. The Labour right has never agreed with the political direction of Labour under Corbyn and the fight he wants to lead against Tory policies on austerity, racism and war.

Since Corbyn’s election as leader right wing MPs who did not vote for him, MPs who would not even vote against the Tories’ Welfare Bill, have been preparing this attempted coup.

The defeat of the Remain side in the referendum has made Corbyn vulnerable, because he is a party leader on the losing side of the referendum. The disappointment of Labour’s membership with the Brexit vote, as members overwhelmingly back Remain, is being exploited to try and lay the blame on Corbyn. As Professor John Curtice points out here, the referendum outcome looks more like a pretext for ‘an attempt to secure Mr Corbyn’s removal than a reason.’

A right wing anti-immigrant agenda significantly advanced during the EU referendum campaign, including within Labour. The shift of the political agenda from austerity onto the right wing’s favoured terrain of immigration also aids Labour’s coup plotters.

Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, should pledge now to fight for a referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal agreed with the EU. These terms were not known at the 23 June vote. Instead a whole range of contradictory claims were made about what the final deal would be, much was simply lies. This would not be a rerun of this year’s referendum but a referendum on an actual proposed agreement with the EU. It is would be genuinely democratic to put this deal to the country. Making this pledge would help shore up Corbyn and the left within Labour.

Corbyn still commands the backing of Labour’s membership according to this week’s YouGov/Times poll, with a ten-point lead over Angela Eagle, 11 over Tom Watson and 17 over Dan Jarvis. So the right wing is focussed on its campaign to undermine Corbyn’s support.

The delay in formally launching a leadership challenge is a sign of weakness, because the right are not confident of winning a vote amongst the membership. Hence the efforts to intimidate Corbyn into standing down. In the meantime they are maintaining the barrage aimed at persuading Labour members to give up on the current party leadership. The message is clear to those who support Corbyn’s political agenda: right wing MPs will not cooperate with him to defeat the Tories. The threats, including talk of possible splits, are aimed at Labour loyalists who want a left wing agenda and see Labour unity as a prerequisite of removing the Tories.

This war being waged should be resolutely opposed. The right wing’s Labour agenda is pro-austerity, concessions to racism and more wars in the Middle East. It’s anti-immigrant concession on free movement of labour compounds the problems created by the Brexit vote.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership provides the best prospect of a route through Britain’s political crisis. It is a framework that can restore economic growth and combat the increasing racism, whilst focussing resources on raising living standards instead of wasting them on military adventures.

Corbyn has support amongst the members, continued backing from a group of loyal Labour MPs and from within the trade unions. As the right wing coup attempt unfolds, progressive people should actively support the campaigns being waged by Momentum, CLPD and others to defend Labour’s internal democracy and the Corbyn leadership.

Stand up to Racism!

The referendum result has unleashed a wave of racism, significantly turning the clock back on race relations.

Ashcroft polling analysis of the vote reveals a sharp polarisation on issues such as multiculturalism, immigration and social liberalism, revealing a significantly higher level of racism and bigotry in the leave vote. The poll’s findings included the following.

81% of people who consider multiculturalism a force for ill voted leave and 19% remain, compared to 71% of people who consider multiculturalism a force for good voted remain and 29% leave.

Similarly 80% of people who consider immigration a force for ill voted leave and 20% remain, in contrast to 79% of people who consider immigration a force for good voted remain and 21% leave.

A similar pattern is revealed on social liberalism and feminism. 74% of people who consider social liberalism as a force for ill voted leave and 26% remain, compared to 60% of people who consider social liberalism as a force for good voted remain and 40% leave. 78% of people who consider feminism as a force for ill voted leave and 22% remain, whilst 62% of people who consider feminism as a force for good voted remain and 38% leave.

In addition 68% of BAME voters voted remain.

Since the referendum result there has been a spike in racist attacks and hate crimes. Reports of hate crime have risen 57 per cent in the aftermath of the EU referendum vote, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The Muslim Council of Britain has compiled over 100 hate incidents that has taken place since the results of the European Referendum were announced on Friday 24 June.

The most serious incident so far reported is a petrol bomb attack at Kashmir Meat & Poultry in Pleck, Walsall on Monday 27 June. This incident took place yards away from the attack on a Mosque in 2013 by Pavlo Lapshyn the person charged with the murder of Mohammed Saleem. The incident ought to be investigated as a terrorist incident.

The Polish embassy has received numerous reports of hate crimes against Polish communities, including abusive graffiti on the Polish Social and Cultural (POSK) Centre in Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith. Also Cambridgeshire Police is investigating hateful notes which were posted through letterboxes of Polish residents in the UK. Police say the leaflets, which read ‘Leave the EU. No more Polish vermin’ were found in Huntingdon on Friday 24 June.

In response to this wave of racism Stand up to Racism with the People’s Assembly Against Austerity has called an emergency demonstration on Saturday 16 July, under the slogan ‘No more austerity – no to racism – Tories out’. For further information visit here.

PSOE set to hand power to Spanish right

The latest Spanish general election on 26 June was hardly more conclusive than the previous one held in December 2015, which had left no party able to form a coalition government or even a minority administration. In the latest poll the main party of the right the Partido Popular gained 4 per cent to win 33 per cent overall. They gained 14 seats but this left them 39 seats from a bare overall majority.

PSOE (the Socialist Workers’ Party of Spain), a Blairite party gained less than one per cent in votes but lost 5 seats, leaving them as the second party overall. There is no realistic combination of forces which could form a government that does not include these two traditional parties of government ever since the end of the Franco dictatorship.

While they fundamentally agree on austerity, PSOE will not want to be seen propping up PP, the party of Franco’s heirs. But they will come under intense pressure from the ruling class in Spain and the EU to do so and the most likely outcome is some form of disguised deal to help PP into office.

There had been hopes of a breakthrough for Unidos Podemos, a new coalition of the radical Podemos, the more traditional left Izquierda Unida (United left) and Equo who are radical Greens, and that they might surpass PSOE. Instead, they lost 3 per cent and were 1 per cent behind. This may have represented the desire for some form of stable government and an end to political paralysis.

But the formation of Unidos Podemos is itself a breakthrough, reuniting communists, trade union militants and mass radical youth forces while adding Green movement activists. This is precisely the political coalition of forces required to challenge the twins of Spanish austerity politics.