Corbyn has to get rid of the fanatics mistakenly called 'realists' and 'moderates'
Ein Gastbeitrag von Will Denayer
Anmerkung Heiner Flassbeck: Wie nicht anders zu erwarten, formiert sich bei den Funktionären der Labour-Partei in England massiver Widerstand gegen Jeremy Corbyn, den von der Basis gewählten neuen Vorsitzenden. Will Denayer beschreibt die Stimmung in England sehr gut und zeigt das typische Dilemma auf, in dem sich sozialdemokratische Parteien wiederfinden, die nicht bereit sind, gesamtwirtschaftliche Überlegungen zur Basis ihres Handelns zu machen. Auch in Deutschland kennt man das zur Genüge.
For many months, it was a shameful and despicable spectacle to see the Labour bosses mount an attack of the lowest kind imaginable on a candidate for the leadership of their party because he is a socialist. Or perhaps he’s just a social-democrat. The fear that the Labour party could fall into the hands of a social-democrat was too much for them to bear, so the political and media elite concocted to character-assassinate Jeremy Corbyn. Hundreds of vile articles were produced: Corbyn is an anti-Semite, a sexist, he is friends with the IRA, he is a pacifist, an old hippie, an ideological fossil from a bygone age, he is against the monarchy, with Corbyn we can’t win the 2020 elections. The labour bosses expelled thousands from the party on the flimsiest of excuses: they were ‚infiltrators‘ from the left or from the right. Corbyn received more criticism from the press than any other politician in living memory – and not only from tabloids such as The Sun or The Daily Mail. The liberal The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC gave Corbyn more contempt in a mere couple of months than Cameron suffered in years (see here for the last one of today). According to Jonathan Cook this highlights that, since Blair, both Labour and the Tories have been equally committed to upholding neoliberalism. You can have either hardcore neoliberalism or slightly more softcore neoliberalism, but that is it (see also here). That is the horizon of British politics.
The assassination hasn’t worked. During the campaign, hundreds of thousands joined the Labour party. It was gigantic. The number of party members tripled. Something big was happening. Blair wrote two articles for The Guardian, begging not to vote for Corbyn’s Alice in Wonderland policies. People told him to go to The Hague. Gordon Brown produced a long diatribe. No one listened. The reason was simple: here is a man that the social base of Labour believes in, a man who speaks their language and defends their interests. Corbyn won by an enormous landslide: he got 59.5 % of the votes. Burnham got 19%, Cooper 17%, Kendall 4.5%.
The people had spoken, but in an oligarchy that does not count. The anti-Corbyn campaign intensified. When Corbyn said that he opposes modernising Trident, rebellion within the party and the shadow cabinet broke out, never mind that military experts and even generals say that he is right. And now, there is the issue of bombing IS. It is not important that a large majority of the population backs Corbyn. The crisis is so acute that many ‚moderates‘ are leaving the party. Barbara Ellen explained her motives in The Guardian. She thinks that her party has been taken over by ‚a bunch of conceited hippies refusing to budge from their favourite beanbags.‘ As she explains, ‚the terrible abyss of the Corbyn problem‘ is how to deal with ‚politicians who think that looking electable is beneath them.‘ And the term moderate became an insult: ‚it is considered too centrist, restrained, temperate, cautious.‘
If Corbyn wants to survive, he has to get rid of these ‚moderates‘ because they are fanatics. If Corbyn cannot win the 2020 election without the moderates, he cannot win the election with them either. Here’s why. Have a look at policy and what the moderates stand for. It is ideological garbage to portray these people as ‚moderates.‘ There is nothing moderate about them and nothing social-democratic either.
The Tories claim that there is enormous benefit fraud in the country: 28% to 30% of all social welfare claims may be fraudulent. They cite it as one of the reasons why ‚welfare reform‘ is necessary. The real fraud in benefit claims is 0.3–0.5%. As Owen Jones explains in Chav. The Demonization of the Working Class, that is far from the whole picture: many people abstain from benefits because they are afraid of getting in problems with the Department of Work or with Immigration. Of course, some people’s lives literally depend on benefits. Lose your benefits and you are done. The moderates know about these problems – everybody knows it. According to Lansley and Mack, who wrote Breadline Britain, twenty million people in the UK are living in poverty. Three and a half million adults go hungry so they can feed their children. Energy prices doubled over the last decade, while average wages fell and benefit cuts push more people in poverty. More than half of those in poverty are in employment, so it is hard to say that poverty is caused by the fickleness of those who are unwilling to work (see also here). Epidemiological research established a link between the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and suicide (see also here). This was the reason for an expert group of the UN to step in. The research found that every 10,000 assessments led to around six suicides. Since there have been more than 1 million assessments, there may be more than 600 people who have taken their own lives who would otherwise have not. The truth of the matter is that both the Conservatives and the Labour moderates have responded with utter indifference to these outright scandalous figures. Kittys Jones also refers to a study from Durham University that puts austerity in historical perspective. As a result of unnecessary recession, planned de-industrialisation to break the unions and the Labour opposition, unemployment, welfare cuts and housing policies, Thatcher’s legacy includes the premature death of many British citizens, together with a substantial and continuing intergenerational burden of suffering and loss of wellbeing. The research shows that the massive increase in income inequality under Thatcher – the richest 0.01 per cent of society had 28 times the mean national average income in 1978. By 1990, this was 70 times. But Cameron has gone much further than Thatcher ever did in cutting essential support and services for protected social groups, such as sick and disabled people and poor citizens. What did the ‚moderates‘ of Labour ever do about any of it, except giving speeches about a deserving society? Speaking of Alice in Wonderland: Blair asked Labour party members to vote against a social democrat, so that Labour could remain functional in implementing austerity of a degree that was even never seen under Thatcher.
It gets worse. I present the argument that the lack of any concrete reaction and outcry from Labour to the persecution (yes, persecution!) of the unemployed, the sick, the disabled and the poorest as undeserving scroungers cost Labour the election last May. The rhetoric of Labour is all about improving lives for hard working people, damn those without a job. Labour completely bowed to the ideology, which became, in effect the centre piece of New Labour, that the unemployed had to be made responsible, with an iron fist if necessary, that they had to be activated. To those who say that Corbyn cannot win an election, the answer is that they lost one. It is clear that Labour lost the elections in last May because it alienated a large part of its traditional base (see here for analysis). And they went on after the elections. When the Tories passed the new welfare reform bill – more austerity, more cuts in welfare and in services, more privatisations, more workfare and more exclusion – many Labour moderates voted in favour of the bill.
The Tories pledged to give the NHS, the National Health Service, an extra £8 billion funding, but the reality is that cancer patients are being denied treatment because of lack of NHS funds. ‚The NHS is safe in our hands’ promised Cameron, but in the meantime private firms have been handed 41% of the NHS, close to 10,000 NHS beds have been shut, close to 7,500 specialist nurses have been axed, ambulance stations have been closed, unfilled general practitioner posts quadrupled in the last 4 years and the NHS budget saw the worst real-term cut since 1973. Apart from delivering carefully crafted speeches, the Labour moderates did nothing.
Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, created more debt than Labour did in 13 years, indeed, he oversaw the biggest rise in national debt since World War II. According to a City University Report, the budget deficit that Osborne wanted to cut to zero will rise to £40 billion by 2020. The main reason is that the treasury has underestimated the impact of welfare and departmental spending cuts on the broader economy and especially cuts to public sector investment (oh surprise!). The great majority of the public is, of course, opposed to the tornado of privatisations (see graph), but that is no reason to not go ahead with it. Still, I know of no example – not a single one – of the Labour moderates opposing the privatisations.
The Tory government oversaw the longest sustained decline in average wages since records began, while, in the same period, the average FTSE100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange 100) executive saw a 151% pay rise. Again, not one word from the moderates. Comedian Chris Purchase made a completely valid point: even if people on benefits do nothing else than drink and smoke (as common hallucination and prejudice go), they would still be paying more tax in the UK individually than Amazon. Did the moderates ever come up with a concrete policy measure that tackles tax evasion? Experts estimate that tax evasion costs the UK economy £25 billion every year, although Lansley and Mack think that the true figure is likely to be far higher: up to a quarter of the world’s wealth is held in offshore accounts.
If the moderates did not do any of this, what did they do? They made £800 billion available to the bankers. Blair and Brown took the country to war. They introduced fees for students. In the meantime undergraduate student’s fees became the highest in the industrialised world (see here). They committed to austerity and fully accepted the ideology of welfare reform. They deregulated the financial economy and cut public services. The Labour moderates are pro TTIP. In what is still the fourth richest country on earth, close to 7,500 people were admitted to hospital because of malnutrition. Scurvy, scarlet fever, cholera and whooping cough have been increaing since 2010, but when is the last time that you heard a Labour moderate address homelessness or evictions? This is why Corbyn rose to power. Corbyn won on the basis of an authentic popular revolt of the population against austerity and neoliberalism, be it blue or red. People have enough.
But last week, Corbyn went too far. He opposes Cameron’s plan to bomb IS. Perhaps even more than 100 Labour MPs plan to defy him over the Syria air strikes. This is a real crisis. Twelve years after the moderates took the UK into an illegal war in which ca. 1.3 million Iraqis died, they do it again. This time the pretext is that there is an immanent threat and that an attack will make the UK safer. This is nonsense. As Todhunter writes in Counterpunch, in the 12 years that preceded the invasion of Iraq, 65 people in Europe died by various terrorist attacks. In the 12 years since the invasion, the terrorist kill rate increased by nearly 600%. Apart from being utterly counterproductive (a point also made by Sahra Wagenknecht in the Tagesschau), bombing IS is illegal: there is no UN mandate for such action, no authorisation from Syria. And who’s paying? Defence Secretary Fallon defends the need ‘to spend less on some things like the welfare system and to spend more on things that really matter to keep our country safe’ (see here). As Todhunter says, with a £12 billion saving on cuts to the welfare budget, Fallon attempts to justify a £12 billion increase to the military budget to help pay for warships, Boeing maritime patrol crafts, surveillance drones and Lockheed Martin jets. The Labour moderates are losing their mind over the fact that Corbyn has the temerity to disagree.
There is only one reason why Labour cannot win an election under Corbyn on a left social democratic platform. Millions have been hammered by Tory austerity. Corbyn can win. The problem is that the Labour bosses want him gone. Corbyn’s policies are not their policies. It is very well possible that Corbyn will be ousted. It would prove that democracy and decency are gone. Frankly, the odds are against him.