corbyn is the nazz

With the polls offering little in the way of hope, Corbyn goes for broke
John Crace, Groon, Nov 21 2019

It’s almost as if Jeremy Corbyn functions best when he’s on the ropes. The opinion polls show the Tories are 10 points ahead? Not a big enough deficit to really get him out of bed. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The Labour leader needs to be at least 15 points behind to get motivated. So, for much of the campaign, Corbyn has seemed strangely underpowered. But now, three weeks before polling day, enough was enough. The polls were about as bad as they could possibly get. Time to start kicking ass. Two years ago it had been the manifesto launch at Bradford University that had seen the gap between Labour and the Conservatives begin to narrow. Now, in the atrium of Birmingham City University, Corbyn was hoping to go one better. In 2017, he had pulled his punches. Sure much of the media back then had described his manifesto as too radical, but he knew that the real problem was that it hadn’t been radical enough. If only he’d had the courage of his convictions, Labour could have won the last election. So this time he was going for broke.

After the shadow cabinet members, some with smiles more genuine than others, had taken their seats, Rebecca Long-Bailey, the current leadership team’s preferred successor to Corbyn should the unthinkable happen and Jeremy be forced to stand down, welcomed the Labour leader to the stage. The packed hall rose as one and isolated chants of “Oh Je-re-my Cor-byn” broke out. Corbyn beamed and gave a thumbs-up to the students in the galleries high above the weirdly sun-bleached banners saying “It’s Time for Change” that were draped across the walls. All was well. Corbyn is a much more complicated man than he sometimes appears. His message may be for the many, but he often seems most comfortable as a lightning rod for lost souls. But here he was in his element. Among his people. For a man who claims not to like the limelight and to have had greatness thrust upon him, Corbyn sure does love a large home crowd. And he works them like an old pro, with some sentences delivered almost at a shout and others fading away to little more than a whisper. he declared:

We are on your side!

The “you” being the 95% of the country who weren’t earning more than £80K. Which rather implied that he and others in the shadow cabinet were part of the problem. Though only a little bit. The real enemies were the billionaires, the bad bosses and the polluters. What’s more, he welcomed their hate. The more they hated what he was doing, the more he was certain he was right. There was none of the usual lip service to uniting the whole country. This was war on the elites who had nurtured inequality. He even cited FDR as a role model. Some Americans will be surprised to find their former president lauded as a socialist hero. A great deal of what followed was pretty much as had been trailed. Renationalisation of some public services, massive investment in affordable housing, renewable energies, free broadband, better schools, free child and social care. He had barely mentioned the NHS before the audience stood to chant:

NOT FOR SALE!

That campaign message, at least, seems to have cut through. There was rather more muted applause for his section on Brexit, as even his most loyal supporters recognise there is a fundamental problem with a leader who can’t say what side he would support in a second referendum. Corbyn ended by quoting the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:

You can cut all the flowers, but you can’t stop spring from coming.

It was intended as a message of hope, though some pessimists couldn’t help remembering that springs are often fairly cold and rainy in the UK and there was still a winter to endure first. Long-Bailey declared:

We’re going to take some questions now. And I want you to listen respectfully or else you’ll get my stern face.

Not everyone was that scared of her stern face as, no sooner was the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg called, than a section of the audience started booing. Corbyn said:

No, no, no, we don’t do that.

Except some people must clearly still think that’s precisely what the Labour leader does want them to do. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother. Corbyn fudged his way around Brexit but answered all other questions with confidence. Sure it was going to take a lot of money but radical change didn’t come on the cheap and the manifesto was at least as well-costed as anyone else’s was likely to be. There was a faint hint of wistfulness in his eyes when he promised we weren’t about to return to the 1970s, but he soon recovered his composure and even went on to add a commitment to offsetting student debt that hadn’t even been included in the original 106-page brochure. The launch ended with Corbyn posing for selfies and basking in the applause of the audience, while the shadow cabinet shuffled off in dribs and drabs. Not all of them looked as if they fully bought into their leader’s vision, but it was too late to back out. Labour had made its pitch, and it was over to the voters now. The pollsters gave the party no chance of winning the election, but stranger things had happened, though none immediately came to mind. Corbyn was merely content in the here and now. He had waited a lifetime for this. This was the dream, his dream. And if not now, then when?

UK Labour Party manifesto: A blueprint to save capitalism
Robert Stevens, WSWS. Nov 22 2019

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s general election manifesto Thursday, “It’s Time for Real Change.” The document was decried by the Financial Times as the “most left wing manifesto in a generation.” The Times of Rupert Murdoch said it represented “the most expensive prospectus in British political history.” The Guardian spoke of the “most radical Labour manifesto in decades.” Such has been the right-wing lurch in official politics ongoing for over three decades that politely putting forward the most limited reformist measures now qualifies as being dangerously “left-wing.” The media can only make such claims as the “generation” they reference covers the right-wing Tory governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, those of Labour’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and then David Cameron and Boris Johnson, who collectively presided over an unprecedented transfer of wealth away from working people to the super-rich. The manifesto contains the following proposals:

  • Building by the end of its first term in office, 100,000 council homes a year and 50,000 housing association properties;
  • Bringing the privatised rail network, postal service, water and energy firms back into public ownership;
  • A “Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour;
  • All pay rise of 5% for all public-sector workers, an average of £1,643, from April 2020;
  • Extra money for the NHS, social care (“increase expenditure across the health sector by an average 4.3%/yr”) and schools;
  • The scrapping of university tuition fees;
  • Free full-fibre broadband;
  • Free dental check-ups (not treatment);
  • Free bus travel for under-25s;
  • free TV licences for the over-75s.

Corbyn declared:

The billionaires and the super-rich, the tax dodgers, the bad bosses and the big polluters, they own the Conservative Party. But they don’t own us. They don’t own the Labour Party. The people own the Labour Party. That’s why the billionaires attack us.

Workers must look past such hyperbole. The last four decades includes 13 years of Labour governments carrying out policies based on Thatcher’s mantra that “there is no alternative” to capitalist “free markets.” They have witnessed an unrelenting assault on the social position of the working class and the destruction of gains built up in over a century of struggle. Yet Corbyn’s answer to this social counter-revolution is a handful of mild reforms. His palliatives have nothing to do with a genuine socialist programme, which requires the expropriation of the wealth of the corporations and banks and ending their strangle-hold over society for good, through a workers’ government. It is extraordinary that under conditions where millions of young people are seeking a socialist alternative, neither Corbyn’s foreword to the manifesto or the actual text of the 107-page document mentions the word “socialism.” Its sole reference is as a lonely bullet point describing the NHS as “socialism in action.” All talk about opposing the billionaires and welcoming their hostility is so much hot air. The rebuttal of all claims of “radicalism” is in the manifesto itself. It declares:

Businesses are the heartbeat of our economy, creating jobs, wealth and innovations.

Far from taking on the billionaires, it states in language that could have come from Blair himself:

Social justice also means levelling the playing field between small and big business.

If Corbyn were elected, Labour will pay for public services thus:

Labour will pay for public services by creating a fairer taxation system, asking for a little more from those with the broadest shoulders, and making sure that everyone pays what they owe. We will reverse some of the Tories’ cuts to corporation tax while keeping rates lower than in 2010.

This would take Corporation Tax to 26%, still one of the lowest rates in Europe. It continues:

We’ll ask those who earn more than £80k/yr to pay a little more income tax, while freezing National Insurance and income tax rates for everyone else.

The right-wing media singled out one proposal, for a one-off tax worth £11b on UK-based North Sea oil and gas corporations, as if it were the equivalent to storming the Winter Palace, yet companies would be consulted on what they could pay, and have years to pay it off. The tax is a pittance compared to the vast tax breaks granted to them by previous Labour and Tory governments. The FT cited a Labour official explaining:

Had the UK charged the same effective tax rate as the average rate charged by North Sea countries from 1992 to the present day, it would have collected an additional £117b in taxes.

There will be no sanctions against corporate executives receiving millions in pay in the private sector, despite CEOs of the largest listed 100 companies taking home an average of £3.5m/yr, which is 117 times more than the average UK full-time worker. In the public sector, the manifesto promises to enforce a “maximum pay ratios of 20:1,” a policy first put forward by Tory prime minister David Cameron and on companies bidding for government contracts. Labour has reassured public sector bosses the policy would mean a worker could be paid just £16k/yr under Labour’s “Real Living Wage” while they rake in as much as £350k/yr. Everything in the manifesto is at one with the reassurances that Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made in 2017 that their mission is to “stabilise capitalism.” A few months after the election of Theresa May’s crisis-ridden Tory government in the 2017 general election, McDonnell said of his talks with big business and the City of London:

In some ways, it’s a bizarre situation. They are coming to us for reassurance against a government that is falling apart, so Jeremy Corbyn and I are the stabilisers of capitalism.

The manifesto is an offer of a trusted party of state to British imperialism that it will defend the interests of the ruling elite in turbulent times ahead.
Since his election as leader four years ago, Corbyn has done nothing but capitulate to the Blairite right wing of his party. In Labour’s 2017 manifesto, they insisted that Corbyn and McDonnell drop any pretence of opposing NATO, the renewal of the UK’s Trident missile system and the defence industry. The 2019 manifesto proudly asserts a militarist agenda, this time framed as part of the war drive of the western imperialist powers against Russia, implying that the Johnson government is in the pocket of Putin. It attacks Johnson for refusing to “publish the report into possible foreign interference by Russia in UK democracy,” and declares:

Labour government will undertake a Strategic Defence and Security Review to assess the security challenges facing Britain, including new forms of hybrid, cyber and remote warfare. Under the Tories, trained army personnel have been cut from 102,000 to just over 74,000. We will maintain our commitment to NATO and our close relationship with our Euro partners. We will spend at least 2% of GDP on defence, guaranteeing that our armed forces are versatile and capable of fulfilling the full range of roles and obligations. The security challenges we face know no borders. Labour will increase funding for UN peacekeeping operations to £100m.

The manifesto states that if Britain leaves the EU, freedom of movement for EU citizens “will be subject to negotiations,” ie ended. Without defining it as a “points-based” immigration system, the manifesto states that all immigration will be based on the requirements of the economy:

Our work visa system must fill any skills or labour shortages that arise.

Whereas socialism is the great unmentionable, pages of the manifesto are dedicated to beefing up “police and security.” The police get no less than 28 mentions. The manifesto complains and pledges:

The Conservatives took 21,000 police officers off our streets. We will rebuild the whole police workforce, recruiting more police officers, police community support officers and police staff. We will re-establish neighbourhood policing and recruit 2,000 more frontline officers than have been planned for by the Conservatives.

The manifesto is an exercise in rank duplicity. This is epitomised by its calls for “Strengthening protections for whistleblowers” in the workplace and backing “a legal right of public interest defence for journalists.” It fails to mention the decade-long arbitrary detention in the UK of WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange, currently being held in solitary confinement and tortured in London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison, with the British state working to secure his extradition to Pindostan to face 175 years in prison for exposing the war crimes of the imperialist powers. The SEP alone is standing in the 2019 general election on a socialist programme representing the interests of working people. A central demand of our campaign is for the freedom of Julian Assange.

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