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The fall of Corbyn

Lesson for the socialists: no more Mr Nice Guy!

8 May 2020

Recently a major report into anti-semitism in the Labour Party has been leaked to the Press. In response the Labour leadership announced an inquiry into the leak and that the report would not now be sent to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. There is no suggestion of any action against senior figures in the Labour Party who are reported as plotting to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters and were willing to see Labour lose the election in order to achieve that aim.

The report states that on the main issue of anti-semitism there is no evidence that the investigation was improperly conducted. In fact the actual evidence indicates very strongly that the administration were willing to use dubious and fabricated evidence against their enemies, relied very heavily on an interpretation of anti-semitism that boiled down to any opposition to Israeli policy and collaborated with groups that were associated with Zionism and with the Israeli embassy. Again and again blatant examples of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and even direct hard core anti semitism by their allies were ignored by the labour party bureaucracy as they attempted to destroy Corbyn.

The report has disappeared from the news without trace. That's hardly surprising. The campaign against Corbyn inside the Labour party was reinforced and massively amplified by the British media, led by a systematic and open campaign by the BBC that began immediately following his arrival in the leadership of the party and reaching an hysterical crescendo during the last election. Leading journalists and politicians, often with a personal history of anti-semitism, were given a free hand to savage Corbyn. Such was the hysteria that a leading figure in the British Board of Deputies who was also a close personal friend of Boris Johnson was able break all the supposed rules separating churches from the State and personally intervene to attack Corbyn in the midst of an election campaign.

An earlier example of amnesia in the British press came when an investigation by Al Jazeera TV uncovered the activities of an officer in the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, in Britain. The officer was filmed boasting of controlling front structures in both the Tory and Labour Parties but, when the report appeared, he was recalled to Israel and the matter was quickly forgotten. Links between Labour and Tory MPs who attacked Corbyn and the Israeli State were ignored on the grounds that acknowledgement of these links would in itself be anti-semitic.

What happened was that global politics involving Israel intersected with the struggle in the Labour Party. Israel for many years projected an impression of itself as a beleaguered State. Its ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people and its militarist interventions in neighbouring States wore away its popular support base as a large international boycott movement gained ground and many younger people within the Jewish community repudiated Zionism.

But the balance of forces changed. Reactionary Arab regimes more and more openly supported Israel and it in turn stepped up the drive for seizure of Palestinian land. US policy had been draped around an imaginary "two state solution" as a way of providing cover to Arab collaborators, but it now rests on a policy of outright support of Israel, sponsorship of Saudi reaction and the strangulation of Iran while Europe has abandoned its treaty obligations to Iran and swung in behind the US.

Britain has a special role in this shift, both as the original imperial power in the region and in its present role as supporter of the US. The drive by the US and Israel is to outlaw criticism and criminalise opposition to imperialist designs as anti-semitic and this policy has been seized upon by the British State. In the Tory Party Priti Patel is a senior member of the Johnson cabinet despite having been forced out of government in 2017 following secret meetings with the Israeli army in occupied territory. The British Labour Party leadership also has a long history as agents of British imperialism and supporters of Israel, Labour friends of Israel rushed to justify the bloody Israeli terror against Gaza in operation "Cast Lead".

The result is that anti-semitism, always the politics of the socialist movement in its opposition to racist currents in the working class, has now been distorted to mean pro Zionism and this new 'anti semitism' is claimed as the provinance of the State, the far right and fascists, to be used as a weapon against the working class and the left. The most extreme version of this being the 10 commandments imposed on the contenders in the Labour leadership election by the British board of deputies calling for slavish support for Israel and Zionism.

However the central lesson to be drawn from the report is the weakness of Corbynism itself. Not only did his group not challenge the onslaught against them but, with long histories of anti-racism behind them, they constantly apologised for their “faults”, caved in to every right wing attack and abandoned leading leftists to the right wing mob.

It's worth looking back at the entirety of the Corbyn project, which was to enter government with a relatively modest left reformist programme. In order to do so he had to preserve unity with a Labour right which was determined to destroy him and would only agree an electoral programme which was subject to costing - that is, one that the banks would accept. The project was totally unrealistic. The right were willing to scupper the election to lose Corbyn. He was unable to face them down and would have been even less able to face down the banks.

But what sunk the project was Brexit. The conviction was that workers only cared about bread and butter politics. In reality they wanted Labour to spell out a policy on Europe and this he was totally unable to do. This evasion was seen as dishonesty and support ebbed away.

None of the organised factions in the party were able to deal with Brexit. The Blairites simply wanted to support European capitalism and its austerity agenda. Much of the left in the unions and those around momentum were anti-migrant, with a "British jobs for British workers" mentality. Corbyn's left nationalism and his desire to preserve unity left him incoherent.

The only force to link remain with defence of migrants, with democratic rights and with solidarity in Europe were the youth who joined Labour to support Corbyn. He was unable to give expression to that current. Not only that, he remained within the parliamentary and party structures, where his supporters were weakest, and constantly gave ground there, blunting a drive that would have deselected the more rabid figures on the right. The youth needed a genuine fight inside Labour, a political programme based on worker's solidarity across Europe and organisation and activities in the community. Corbyn provided none of this.

There was an opportunity, but the Socialist groups were unable to take advantage of it. They were divided on Europe, with many conceding to the shift to the right in society with their own "Lexit" fantasy. Those that avoided Lexit contented themselves with the slogan "Yo Jeremy" and tended

towards a tailending of the reformist programme meaning that the union leaders avoided any consistent criticism despite their reactionary role. Advancing a socialist policy was seen as unrealistic, but a clearer political position would have preserved at least a small cadre from the Corbyn collapse.

The left remains extremely weak. The big debate now is "in or out?" This purely tactical question of remaining inside the Labour party or organising outside it is taking precedence over any debate on a political programme for the left. The assumption is that the political battle over Corbynism and Europe is over for now.

But the Labour right will not throw away their bludgeon against the left. Sir Keir has decimated the Corbyn group inside the cabinet and apparatus and many of his supporters have simply slipped quietly away. An online meeting to discuss left organisation led to reprimands for MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Their crime? Appearing on the same Zoom video call as suspended Labour Party members accused of anti-semitism, therefore making them, according to the board of deputies 10 commandments, anti-semites themselves.

And yet the victims still do not fight back. The only response was the feeble plea that it was an open meeting, not exactly a robust rebuttal of Zionist reaction and its lying misuse of the antisemitism card.

The Labour right are on the offensive. The role now is to be a loyal opposition to an increasingly right wing Tory government which is relying on the most risible propaganda about a 'Dunkirk spirit' as a political crutch. The enthusiastic circulation of the Tory Party line by the British media means they don't face even the semblance of the mildest level of accountability for their criminal behaviour in the run up to the Covid 19 epidemic, and their constant lying since, as they wrap themselves in the flag of an NHS that they have left in tatters.

Brexit hasn't gone away. Pressing ahead with immediate exit will add enormously to the financial damage of the epidemic, but all the signs are that the Tories will press ahead to strengthen their reactionary base. Johnson has no intention of keeping his word on the Irish border, so the Irish question will go live again.

The Brexiteers know the catastrophe ahead, but believe that it will be the prefect opportunity to drive down workers rights and restore labour productivity - making Britain "great" again.

Workers must and will fight as a war to deprive them of rights unfolds. That's not the issue. The issue is to use the Corbyn debacle to call for a party of the working class. The fight will be inside and outside Labour, but there must be a line in the sand between the workers and the reactionaries who control Labour. In the words of Lenin, we support Labour “as the rope supports the hanged man”.

That fight must be internationalist. The British left have been mired in the nationalist illusion of building socialism in isolation. The only socialist response to Brexit is the call for a United Socialist States of Europe.


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