While the other candidates for the leadership were all ministers in Gordon Brown’s government, Diane Abbott did not support his, or Blair’s, neoliberal attacks or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She wants to control the banks with a ‘Tobin Tax’ on financial speculation and a higher bank levy. She is the only candidate who wants to reverse anti-trade union laws by supporting John McDonnell’s Trade Union Freedom Bill, who opposes further privatisation, calls for the renationalisation of the railways or calls for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. She opposes the replacement for Trident.
In endorsing the Coalition of Resistance statement, she is backing the most forthright Labour movement manifesto for change since ‘Another World is Possible’, the Respect manifesto in 2005. Despite that, Abbott is polling around 17% of the vote in the unions and societies affiliated to the Labour party. She is a popular candidate amongst Labour voters.
Most union members eligible to vote in the election are not Labour members. Many will wonder if they should bother voting. We think they should. The election campaign is not only a vote for which liar sits on the front bench, but an opportunity for a real debate about the choice before the labour movement as a whole: whether should it passively defend the Brown government’s record, or take the active and campaigning role in fighting the cuts.
Many will object that Abbott’s support for the progressive demands she champions is not deep enough, or that she is not consistent enough in her socialism. We preferred John McDonnell who, despite his record of solidarity and activism, did got gether enough nominations to take part in the election. The Labour Representation Committee, which is also supporting Abbott’s campaign, makes criticisms Of Diane Abbott we share. Furthermore, she has said and done nothing to challenge the NHS White Paper which, as Andy Burnham has correctly pointed out, threatens the end of the NHS as we know it and the biggest privatisation in any health care system, ever. A willingness to defend the NHS among the criteria that we apply, and we point out that on this she is deficient. These objections do not change the reality that she is the only socialist candidate in an election from which socialists must not abstain.
However, the struggle for the new leadership in the labour movement will not unfold in this election, but in the grass roots struggle against the Tories. Voting for Diane should also mean building up a movement for the socialist policies she endorses jointly with progressives outside the Labour party. More than anything that means joining up with the diverse and local anti-cuts campaigns which the Coalition of Resistance aims to support. But it also means developing a coherent strategy for building unity against the cuts. That is the key discussion at the Convention of the Left, in Manchester on September 25th, and we think every supporter of Diane’s campaign should organise a local report-back meeting from the Convention.
The Socialist Resistance national committee made this statement on September 12th.