Supporters at Momentum event greet announcement of Corbyn’s victory
The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn is an historic defeat for Labour’s right wing, the mainstream media and the political establishment. Now, the social movement behind his resounding victory can inspire the defeat of the Tories well before 2020.
We cannot wait until the next scheduled general election. By then, the NHS will be in pieces, public services cut to the bone and schools turned en masse into privately-run academies or grammars. Inequality is certain to widen and planned boundary changes will work against Labour.
The democratic revolution that Jeremy Corbyn hopes for will, in any case, require more than victory at a general election. For the existing political-state system is inherently hostile to any whiff of substantial change that might threaten the status quo.
Sovereignty lies not with Parliament but with extra-parliamentary forces. Parliament is essentially a fig-leaf for the real power in society – the corporations, financial markets and global investment banks. They wield their power through governments and state institutions, through Westminster and the White House, though the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. That is the lesson of Greece and other countries which have been compelled to impose the harshest of austerity measures.
Breaking up this political-corporate monolith by the creation of democratic alternatives is absolutely necessary if we are to build an equal society. How do we move from representation without power to a more direct democracy that expresses the power of the people? That is the challenge ahead.
Since Labour’s first constitution was adopted in 1918, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has claimed the right to decide what’s best, ignoring conference decisions when it wanted to and generally ruling the roost. This uneasy, century-long compromise between the membership and the PLP is now broken by the rank-and-file’s rejection of the anti-Corbyn coup. The old order within Labour has broken down and the party is effectively split in all but name. Whether the PLP majority make a formal separation or not is speculation. However, whatever future they have clearly lies outside of the present Labour Party, which is now a movement for change in and outside of Parliament.
Corbynism is a continuation of the social movement that arose during the referendum campaign for Scottish independence and the vote to leave the European Union by millions of workers pushed towards the poverty line by corporate-driven globalisation.
The movement to re-elect Corbyn is also about the death of two-party Tweedledum and Tweedledee politics, whereby one party takes over the management of capitalism from the other. The rise of UKIP and the SNP leading to a crisis of working class representation in northern England, Scotland and Wales, confirms this.
This is the essence of the crisis of democracy which has driven the movement to re-elect Corbyn. So it’s heartening that in a statement as voting began, Corbyn pledged to ‘extend democracy across Britain’, including a commitment to a ‘radical overhaul of the constitution’.
He said he wanted to ‘create a new role for citizens’ assemblies in shaping political accountability for the future’, adding: ‘We need nothing less than a democratic revolution in our politics, communities and workplaces’.
How is this revolution to be carried through?
What is needed in this situation, irrespective of what the right-wing chooses/is forced to do? Inequality is not simply the result of the policies of successive governments. It is a consequence of the demands of the system itself, which calls the political tune. This system is in a global crisis and there is no return to pre-crash growth levels as the basis for state spending on a massive scale.
The Real Democracy Movement, which is in the process of formation, will actively support those in and around the Labour Party who back Corbyn and John McDonnell. Ultimately, however, we cannot succeed without a perspective for transcending the present state and re-imagining democracy in new ways that take us beyond capitalism. The impressive movement mobilised for Corbyn’s re-election should now be encouraged to mount sustained actions and campaigns that can raise the UK’s social temperature as a basis for sweeping the Tories from power.
That’s the basis for a successful 21st century democratic revolution and is what the Real Democracy Movement is campaigning for. Many of our supporters are also active in Labour behind Corbyn.
Under Corbyn’s leadership Labour could:
* Develop an economic strategy to address the fact that there will be no ‘return to growth’. In any case, the ‘growth imperative’ has had disastrous ecological and social consequences.
* Assess the present state of capitalism and open up a discussion on alternative economic models based on co-ownership and control to generate resources for public spending.
* Use the Brexit process to advocate new economic structures and solutions.
* Outline strategies for new forms of democracy to include local assemblies and a participatory approach. Work towards a constitutional convention to develop an alternative democratic power to the capitalist state.
* Devolve power to local people – not council bureaucracies or new layers of local government; democratic control of resources; local people to take control and decide what’s best for their area to deal with inequality and inadequate resources for housing, education and services.
* Develop a sustainable green policy to address ecological issues such as fracking and climate change.
* Propose a modern welfare system with resourced social care and health, ending PFI and the NHS markets.
* Re-connect with Scottish voters by supporting their right to self-determination and democratic control of resources.
* Restructure the Labour Party to accommodate a mass membership and the social movement that Corbyn has inspired.
* Turn Momentum towards these policies with the aim of removing the Tories sooner rather than later.