Inside Labour is the heart of the class struggle

Andy Stowe writes about Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory  for leader and the process of change of the Labour Party.


The Labour right, its friends in the press, the commentariat and their allies threw everything they had at Jeremy Corbyn and he trounced them. He and his supporters were accused of antisemitism, intimidation and misogyny on the basis of nothing approximating to evidence and the charges were repeated endlessly throughout the mainstream media. Rarely has such a mendacious and well-resourced disinformation campaign been so utterly rejected by its intended audience. Corbyn increased his share of the vote to 62% from last year when he got 59.5%. He won support from 59% of party members, 70% of registered supporters and 60% of affiliated supporters. And that is despite a purge of many tens of thousands who would have voted for him.

Not just that. More than 183,000 people paid £25 over two days in July so that they could vote. About 128,000 joined in the two weeks after the EU referendum and the party has increased from 200,000 members to an estimated 515,000 since the 2015 general election. So when Corbyn said in his victory speech that he wants a membership of one million to go out to campaign for a change in British politics he was setting an achievable ambitious target rather than idly daydreaming.

He also committed the membership to street campaigning activity against Tory plans to extend selective education. He intends to shape Labour into a social movement with deep roots in communities to change the political situation. That is something that his opponents among Labour MPs, the party machine and the hostile union leaderships just don’t seem to understand, no matter how many times it’s explained to them.

This rapid transformation of the Labour Party is taking place at a time when organised industrial action is at an historically low level. What we are seeing instead is a huge influx of working class people, including many tens of thousands of young people into a party many of them had begun to despair of. And the struggle between these newly organised hundreds of thousands and the demoralised, self-satisfied Labour right is now the centre of the class struggle in England. (Wales, and particularly Scotland are rather different.)

The Labour right is still clinging to its Blair period shibboleths but it showed during the election campaign that it knows how to fight dirty and to use its control of the party machine. The next big battle will be over the attempt to hobble the Corbyn leadership by enabling the MPs to elect the shadow cabinet. That can’t be allowed to happen and we are confident that it will be resisted every step of the way on the basis of the resounding mandate the new leader has received.

Owen Smith, the defeated challenger, was an empty vessel. He pulled together a ragbag of left policy ideas for which he’d not previously shown any enthusiasm. His major contribution to the process was that his egregiously inept challenge has made it much harder for another opponent to enter the ring against Corbyn before the election. For that alone he should be thanked.

Socialist Resistance enthusiastically welcomes the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a massive victory for socialist and progressive politics. It demonstrates that a real mass movement can overcome even the most determined, well-connected and deep pocketed opponents. Everyone who supports him and is able should take up his invitation to hit the streets next weekend to campaign with Labour against selective education. We encourage our readers to get involved with Momentum’s campaigning activities.

The Labour Party is now on the road to becoming a mass social movement. Socialists can no longer watch that from the sidelines.


    • I think in certain areas, say in London Wales & probably West Country LU can still be used as a vehicle for political campaigning, support for industrial struggles and generally people who we can find affinity with and network.
      However nationally and in many regions towns cities etc. agree, whatever role and function it may have played it has now been outmoded by current events, movements and current situation !

  1. It’s good, thanks. The 150 people or so that turned out in Manchester today for the celebration was quite a muted as well as small crowd. There was sense of relief, and also talk of the right of Labour and the media eventually succeeding. And there is talk inside Manchester Momentum of getting ready for the next best candidate, and of a grim struggle in traditional LP branches. This article is right to emphasise the enthusiasm and dynamic of the challenge, and to work with Momentum, while also keeping space for independent organisation. Left Unity is one such space still, and may be crucial if the LP activists lose heart, think they have to settle for second best option, slow down or, worst, settle into what some are once again calling the ‘long haul’ inside the party apparatus.

  2. Interesting article from Andy Stowe though I don’t think I fully agree with the penultimate sentence. I’m not sure the Labour Party is being transformed into a social movement, though clearly it has the potential to do so. Rather I think that what we are seeing is the development of a new social movement against austerity (which has found a focus in Corbyn’s two successful leadership campaigns) going into and inhabiting the hollow shell of what is or was the Labour Party – though maybe that’s just a question of nuance. But the traditional (Old) Labour right, New Labour Blairites etc are also inside that hollow shell and whilst they are down they are still not out. The Labour Party as a political party doesn’t really exist in any meaningful sense of the term, obviously it exists as a bureaucratic and organisational apparatus and within that apparatus really exists two political parties – an anti-austerity party led by Corbyn and a Tory-lite pro-austerity party which may be badly divided but which is united only in its opposition to and desire to overthrow Corbyn’s leadership – but self-evidently they can’t co-exist in this way for any great length of time.

    In terms of what we should do next. Left Unity can’t be sustained in its present form, if it is to continue it should de-register as a political party which in principle at least allow those Left Unity members who wished to do so to join the Labour Party.

    Just looking at some interesting facts from the election results. 116,960 Labour Party members voted for Owen Smith; in 2015 the combined total of members voting for Burnham/Cooper/Kendall was 123,769 so the anti-Corbyn vote amongst members decreased. The number of anti-Corbyn votes though increased amongst registered supporters (36,599 up from 17,1490) and affiliates (39,670 up from 30,329). The numbers voting for Jeremy Corbyn increased amongst Labour Party members (168,216 up from 121,751) and affiliates (60,075 up from 41,217) but slightly decreased amongst registered supporters (84,918 down from 88,449), though I’m sure that’s because many registered supporters who voted for Corbyn in 2015 have since joined the party.

  3. Great news that comrades from SR will be seeking to join the LP, however a real battle is taking place in the LP and we have a real struggle to gain the initiative. Welcome comrades. Why has it taken you so long to read the writing on the wall?

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