Notes from the front of 23-09-16
Jeremy Corbyn is widely expected to win Labour’s leadership election when the result is announced on Saturday 24 September. His opponent Owen Smith has effectively conceded defeat.
This will be a victory for the left, but with no honeymoon period. The right is intensifying its fight inside and outside the Labour Party.
The majority Labour’s membership will want the party to unite and oppose the Tory government, but the priority of the right remains the ousting Corbyn. Key Labour figures have stepped up the public attacks with claims that Labour under Corbyn is unelectable.
Inside the party its right wing is fighting to take away the leader’s powers, so it wants to take control of Labour’s front bench and gerrymander Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to give it an anti-Corbyn majority. This struggle will be the focus of Labour’s annual conference that starts on 24 September.
At the Labour NEC on 20 September various proposals were put forward by Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson. These included the creation of new NEC seats for representatives of both the Scottish and Welsh Labour front benches and that Labour MPs elect the Shadow Cabinet. The former proposal was agreed by 16 to 14 votes, so will be discussed at this year’s conference and if agreed would eliminate Corbyn’s NEC majority on many issues. The later proposal was not agreed, but the right are still pursuing it. A right-wing Shadow Cabinet would purge Corbyn’s allies from the front bench plus seek to establish control over the three front bench seats on Labour’s NEC, currently nominated by the Leader.
Further proposals to create even more potential right wing held NEC seats plus changing the leadership election rules are issues due to be discussed by Labour’s NEC later this year. The aim of such proposals would be to stop the party’s membership from determining the outcome of the next leadership challenge, which is already being planned by the right.
Negotiations between the British government and the EU over possible exit terms have not even started, but the Brexit vote is already adversely affecting living standards. The initial devaluation of the pound is working its way through to inflation and lower interest rates are robbing pensioners of their savings.
Much more is at stake when the negotiations take place. The British economy is dependent on its engagement with the international division of labour. If restrictions are placed on the mobility of labour and products economic growth, and in turn living standards, will be harmed.
As pointed out here, the UK, with its $2.7 trillion economy, is in no position to dictate terms to the EU, which has a $19 trillion economy. The EU is by far the more powerful force and within it Germany will play a determining role in the negotiations.
The European Commission President and other senior EU politicians have made clear if Britain wishes to retain access to the single market then it will have to adhere to the market’s basic principles, including the free movement of workers. Huge numbers of jobs in Britain, in manufacturing and services, are dependent on access to this market.
An economy’s participation in the international division of labour is fundamental for achieving growth. At a minimum, Britain needs to sustain its current trading and migration links. From a political point of view the scapegoating agenda serves to divide the working class and weaken opposition to austerity. It also strengthens the parties of the right and far right and helps undermine support for Labour.
UKIP and hard-Brexit Tory ministers, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis, are pushing for Britain to leave the single market, so that restrictions can be imposed on EU immigration. It appears that Theresa May wants to try to negotiate remaining in the single market but without the free movement of people – an option the EU is saying is not available.
On Labour’s right wing significant elements are echoing the Tories and opposing free movement of people. The Fabian Society has recently published a pamphlet setting out an anti-migrant framework for Labour. Three MPs, Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds and Stephen Kinnock call for immigration controls and the ending of free movement of people, even if that means leaving the single market.
This emphasis on curbing EU migrants in effect places hostility to foreigners above the population’s need for economic growth. It can only result in working people being made poorer.
Support for this reactionary politics has grown since the referendum and encouraged a rise in racist and xenophobic violence. Whilst the police and government are now playing down the scale of attacks, some individual assaults are reported in the media. In one such recent incident a student was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle just because he was speaking Polish.
The forthcoming conference, ‘Confronting the rise in racism’, will provide an opportunity to discuss this reactionary offensive. It will be addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Kate Osamor and takes place on Saturday 8 October (10.30am-4.30pm) at Friends Meeting House, Euston Rd, London NW1 2BJ. Hosted by Stand up to Racism, more details can be found here.
On 14 September former Brazillian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was charged with corruption and money laundering. This is a further part of the coup taking place against the Workers’ Party (PT), following the removal of President Dilma Rousseff from office. The aim is to stop Lula from being able to run again for President in 2018. The right wing, backed by the US, are pursuing Lula because he is still Brazil’s most popular politician. Both he and his wife who has also been charged deny any wrongdoing.
The bourgeoisie wants to reverse the redistribution policies pursued by the PT over 13 years.
Inside Brazil there been huge street protests in support of the PT. There has also been international solidarity with trade unions denouncing the charges against Lula at an event in New York on 20 September. The US AFL-CIO and the ITUC have attacked the charges against Lula.
In Britain there is also solidarity with the left in Latin America and its current struggles. These issues will be discussed at the forthcoming Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Annual General Meeting on 15 October. The event will hear from speakers including Jacobo Torres, CSBT (Venezuelan TUC equivalent) International Officer. ‘After Chavez, the Empire Strikes Back- Building Solidarity Against U.S Intervention & Anti-democratic Destabilisation in Latin America‘ is from 10am – 3pm and takes place in the Discus Room, Unite House, 128 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8TN.