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The Strange Death of Jeremy Corbyn

Report on two recent public meetings on the failure of the Corbyn project

12 March 2020

Socialist Democracy hosted two public meetings in Belfast and Dublin in February. Liam McQuaid, a member of Bethnal Green branch of the British Labour Party, delivered a presentation on the party's poor performance in the General Election of December 12th and presented his analysis of the main factors behind it.

Liam argued that the loss of the so called "Red Wall" seats in the North of England reflected a deep rooted demographic shift and the gradual loss of Labour support had been a much longer term trend than that just experienced during Labour's internal crisis over Brexit over the last two years.

The Brexit campaign itself had been tailored by the Tories around their intention to rush Brexit through as a means of class war, focusing their attack on the Labour Left by pouring scorn on Corbyn as a threat to 'national security' and as an 'apologist for anti semitism'. These attacks, coordinated with the mainstream media, were effective with Corbyn, according to polls, being seen as less trustworthy than Boris Johnson.

The Tory attacks were not the whole story. The constant false allegations of anti-semitism levelled at Labour Left activists provoked only a pathetic refusal to defend them by both the Momentum leadership and Corbyn. The repeated apologies from Corbyn and McDonald, practically admitting that the Labour Party was institutionally racist, helped the Tories undermine confidence in their leadership. One speaker at the meeting commented that this climate of exaggerated apology signalled a weakness which only emboldened the Right and increased the attacks further.

Left recovery

There was general agreement with Liam's analysis that the 'Corbyn wave' has subsided and there is now a collapse to the right taking place in the British Labour party. It was further noted that the Great British chauvinism around Brexit and Corbynís failure to oppose it was the Achilles heel of his election campaign. The British nationalism and the fake anti semitism campaigns, the means by which the Right achieved their victory, still remain as potent tools in the hands of the Right; predominantly the former for the Tories and the latter for Labour Right.

Liam commented that in retrospect we can see that Labour would have done better in the election if they had all-out campaigned for an internationalist 'remain' position. On the prospects for a Left recovery in the Party the nature of the Party as a bourgeois workers party and an electoral machine, divorced from grass roots activism, takes over. With the Corbyn wave suppressed and subsided it is clear now that the Labour Party will return to a more business as usual approach, uniting behind a bourgeois leadership which Keir Starmer is seen as the embodiment of.

Positive message

There was general agreement with the message that despite the setbacks the Corbyn era has positively demonstrated that there is widespread support for a radical redistribution of wealth in Britain which in this instance tried to express itself through the traditional reformist left wing of the Labour Party.

The meetings were given an added dimension by the results of the general election in the South, in which Sinn Fein received the highest percentage of the vote.This spontaneous surge, a late example of the Syriza, Podemos or Corbyn phenomena, is similar in nature to previous attempts by the European working class to resist austerity. It comes against a background dominated by Brexit, Trump, Erdogan and Orban and a tendency towards the Right and authoritarianism. It indicates increasing class polarisation and the attempts by the working class to find a way of fighting back. Most importantly it re-emphasises the fundamental necessity of building the foundations of revolutionary working class organisations that can face the tasks ahead.

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