Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning victory in the Labour leadership election has dealt a decisive blow to the right-wing of the party. Ben Gliniecki looks ahead to what kind of movement needs to be built now, and the role that young people can play in defending Corbyn and fighting for socialism.
Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning victory in the Labour leadership election has dealt a decisive blow to the right-wing of the party. It has exposed as false the empty Blairite rhetoric about the importance of the “middle ground” and is a denunciation of the abandonment of Labour’s socialist policies in the New Labour years.
One of the biggest strengths of Corbyn’s campaign has been its ability to engage young people. Millions of young people look at the political establishment and the capitalist economic system it serves and see no future for themselves. Our generation faces a worse standard of living than that of our parents. For these people, Corbyn offers some hope of change – he openly talks about socialism and promises to fight austerity, the Tories and the bosses.
In the first 24 hours after Corbyn was elected 15,000 people joined the Labour Party; as long as Corbyn continues to fight austerity with socialist policies, this flood into the party will continue. Many of those joining up will be young people, enthused by the prospect of fighting for an alternative to capitalism.
Contrary to Tory propaganda, it is his radical ideas and image that makes Corbyn so attractive to young people, and it will be this that will enable Corbyn to lead Labour to power on a socialist programme at the next election. Young members and supporters of the party must throw their weight behind Corbyn and join the fight for his socialist policies. We should be arguing, as Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell have done, for the renationalisation of the railways and energy companies without compensation. This is so that these vital industries can be run for the public good, instead of for profit.
But Corbyn must go further than this. We are in the deepest crisis of capitalism we have ever faced, and politicians who try to find a solution to our problems within the capitalist system will find themselves in an insoluble contradiction, just like Syriza in Greece. To really end austerity Corbyn must strike fundamental blows at the capitalist system itself. This requires the nationalisation, not just of the railways and energy sector, but of the land, the banks and the 150 largest companies in the country, all without compensation. Corbyn needs to make the point that you cannot control what you do not own. If we want an economy that works for all of us then we need it to be planned under democratic public ownership.
Radical, bold, socialist policies like this, if argued coherently and patiently, have the potential to engage millions of people in the struggle for a better world. Faced with a choice between a socialist Labour party that offers an end to poverty and a future for young people, as against the Tories who offer more cuts, misery and inequality, a Labour electoral victory would be assured.
Naturally, the Tories and their fat-cat paymasters, including the capitalist media, are terrified by such a prospect. Their campaign against Corbyn has begun already and will intensify as Corbyn’s popularity grows.
But scandalously there are also those within the Labour Party itself who are openly seeking to sabotage Corbyn’s plans, despite his landslide victory and popularity with members of the party. Figures such as Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt describe themselves as “modernisers”, but in fact want to take the party back to the days of Tony Blair – illegal wars, privatisations and Tory-lite policies. Such MPs have, in the past, been undemocratically parachuted into safe Labour seats and now, using their undeserved positions in the party, are already waging a fierce campaign to undermine Corbyn. Unity within the party is the last thing on any of these people’s minds.
If we want to beat the Tories, end austerity and fight for socialism Corbyn must be defended against these attacks from the right-wing of the Labour Party, before they try to unseat him and smash our movement. Young Labour can play a major role in this, given the enormous support for Corbyn’s policies among young people. Young members and supporters of the party must demand complete independence from the party structures that have long been dominated by right-wing bureaucrats and careerists. We have to adopt policy, at local, regional and national level, that commits Young Labour to defending Corbyn and fighting for socialism.
We need to launch campaigns to bring back proper democracy in Young Labour and the party as a whole, with annual party conferences being the supreme policy making bodies. We need to end careerism and bureaucracy in Young Labour by holding our elected leaders to account. In Young Labour we should demand an immediate right of recall of any representative who does not work to implement Young Labour policies.
We need to be bold about making the argument for free education, something that Corbyn has said he stands for and which is of vital importance for young people currently drowning in debt. We have to point out that this can only be financed through expropriating the rich and planning the economy in a socialist way.
Young people are also facing enormous housing difficulties and a lack of decent jobs. Young Labour needs to campaign to expropriate the land and biggest construction companies so that we can democratically plan housebuilding to meet our needs. The biggest employers should also be taken into public ownership so that everyone can work, and any employer who uses zero-hours contracts or pays below the living wage should also be expropriated, as they are clearly unfit to manage a business.
By adopting radical policies and campaigns, backed up by genuine democracy, Young Labour could be a base of support for Corbyn in his battle with the Tories and the Blairites. We cannot stand on the sidelines in this fight, it is up to us to defend Corbyn and fight for socialism.