Notes from the front – of the week 17/6/2015

Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott – challenging Labour’s rightward shift

Jeremy Corbyn’s success in securing sufficient nominations to contest the Labour leadership election has galvanised the left of the party. The notion that Labour lost May’s General Election because it was too ‘left’ will now be challenged in the contest. Corbyn will campaign for Labour to break with austerity and for a foreign policy independent of US diktats.

At the 15 June noon deadline Corbyn had 36 MP nominations, one above the threshold, so he will be on the ballot paper this summer.

The other candidates for leader have pushed Labour’s discussion rightwards. The Blairite Liz Kendall is echoing the Tories and joined the racist bandwagon that promotes a focus on the ‘white working-class’. The other two candidates, Andy Burham and Yvette Cooper, both support the current austerity economic policy and deny the fact that this policy ensured Labour’s defeat in May.

A significant part of Labour’s left and centre felt disenfranchised by the right-wing agenda being set in the leadership contest, so a grassroots campaign was waged to persuade MPs to nominate Corbyn.

Corbyn was the favourite candidate of the LabourList survey reported on 12 June. Despite not being a left website, its readers overwhelming chose Corbyn (47%). Burnham only received 13%, Kendall 11% and Cooper 9%.

In less than two weeks more than 20,000 people joined a Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader Facebook Group and the hash tag ‘#Jeremy4Leader’ trended on twitter at number one on 13 June as 22,500 tweets supported his campaign.

The Guardian ran an editorial calling for Corbyn’s inclusion in the contest and his campaign was positively covered by the Mirror.

With Corbyn included in the discussion progressive reforms will be aired, including: defending public services and welfare, ending privatisation and not renewing the Trident nuclear system.

Also on 13 June Diane Abbott secured a place in Labour’s ballot for its London Mayoral candidate. Like Corbyn, Abbott is fighting for a Labour Party that defends peoples’ living standards. She is the only candidate in the Mayoral contest that rejects the government’s austerity framework and has long fought against Labour scape-goating migrants.

Long-standing Blairite Tessa Jowell, backed by huge resources, is the right wing’s main London candidate. The politics of this current are well documented; including support for privatisation, deregulation, charges for education and health, plus military interventions and backing of Israel. Jowell’s key policy announcement of building homes on TfL land would most likely result in publicly-held assets being handed to private developers and little, if any, genuinely affordable housing. If Jowell is selected Labour will be offering voters similar policies to the Tories in 2016, making it less likely Labour can win against Zac Goldsmith, the likely Tory candidate.

Ballot papers for both contests are being sent out on 14 August with the elections closing on 10 September. Entitled to vote will be Labour Party members plus Affiliated Supporters (who sign up via their Labour affiliated trade union) and Registered Supporters (who can register and vote for £3).

These two battles are spurring the Labour left into activity, drawing together activists who want Labour to oppose the Tories’ agenda.

Public Meeting: Opposing Osborne’s budget – why cuts fail and public spending works
7pm Tuesday 30 June
Houses of Parliament London
Speakers including:
Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott
Organised by Labour Assembly Against Austerity


ECB, IMF and EU aiming to overthrow Syriza

The approach of what could possibly be the final deadline at the end of June has clarified key aspects of the Greek crisis.

The EU’s empty propaganda that there would be no ‘contagion’ from Greece has been exposed with the rise in yields on government bonds, especially in the crisis-hit countries. Underpinning this is that EU governments are owed €322bn following the bailout of Greece’s creditors – half of that is owed to Germany and France alone.

None of the international institutions and the governments they represent can afford a Grexit, and even the IMF only supports a Greek debt restructuring because US banks and the US government will not be hit. But, like the rest, the IMF is completely committed to austerity, as a recent blog by chief economist Olivier Blanchard makes clear.

Instead, the institutions already have a model for how they want to resolve the crisis. In 2012 the ECB engineered a run on the Cypriot banks by refusing to provide liquidity. The consequent implosion of the banking system led to the collapse of the government, default on bank savers, the imposition of austerity measures and capital controls (which breached EU treaties).

Reports suggest that a re-run is now being planned for Greece. The institutions claim that there is a need for higher and more extensive VAT and cuts in pensions are policies that have already failed elsewhere. VAT has been increased repeatedly, yet VAT revenues have slumped along with the economy. The real purpose is to be to break the will to oppose austerity of the Syriza-led government.

The need for radical contingency measures is pressing, although many of these should not be disclosed to Syriza’s enemies. Measures to protect bank deposits from the ECB, capital controls, taking direction over the banks and taking some of the assets owed by the oligarchs are all required. The purpose is to protect the Greek economy from being crashed in the way the Troika did with Cyprus. That led to the overthrow of the government in Nicosia, a permanent loss if wealth and economic disaster. As Syriza leads the first anti-austerity government in Europe the stakes are even higher.


Violent right-wing protest against Correa in Ecuador

On 12 June 1,000 opposition demonstrators in Quito attacked the police and threatened to storm the headquarters of PAIS Alliance, Ecuador’s governing party.

The protests were initially called in response to President Correa’s announcement of increases to inheritance and capital gains taxes. But then the right-wing protesters changed to calling for the ousting of the elected president Rafael Correa and became violent. They threw bottles and other objects at the police and at supporters of the governing left-wing party. Several people were injured, including a former government minister.

A peaceful counter-demonstration, supporting the President, outnumbered the right-wing mobilisation.

To avoid further violence President Correa has now halted the National Assembly voting on two controversial tax bills. He has indicated if the opposition can show that these taxes would really affect the poorest of Ecuadoreans, he would abandon the proposals. They will not be able to do this because these proposed wealth taxes would only affect the wealthiest 2% of Ecuadorean society.

Latin America’s economies continue to slow, including Ecuador, whose economic policies correctly prioritise state investment. Ecuador has been affected by falling crude oil prices, so its economic growth slowed to 3.8% in 2014. GDP growth had been 7.9% in 2011, 5.2% in 2012 and 4.6% in 2013.

The US is actively engaged with the opposition movements across the sub-continent, taking advantage of any discontent to promote instability and undermine the region’s left-wing governments.