May and the Tories are seeking a bigger parliamentary majority – “a strong and stable government” – to take on the EU leaders abroad and the working class at home. Corbyn has correctly responded by promising to fight against the “broken Westminster system” and “rigged economy”. Labour must go on the offensive with a bold socialist programme.
Theresa May and the Tories are staking everything on this general election. This means they are prepared to scrape the bottom of the barrel, in the hope of securing a bigger majority as they face the prospect of a Brexit train crash.
A prime example of this was Theresa May wrapping herself in the Union Jack and launching an attack on Brussels, accusing EU leaders of trying to sabotage the upcoming British general election. This was nothing more than a crude and calculated move to whip up English chauvinism and appeal to the prejudices of the most backward sections of society, not least within her own party.
The Tory press were over the moon. It was “almost declaration-of-war 1939”, stated the jingoist Daily Mail. “Brussels more than had it coming”, said The Sun, adding that May had gone “ballistic” and was speaking “for millions of us”.
More serious commentators were aghast at this hysteria, which is poisoning the Brexit negotiations before they have even begun. There has been nothing like this war of words since 1924 and the Zinoviev Letter forgery, when the Soviet government was accused by the press of interfering in the general election, part of a red scare that helped bring down the first Labour government.
Theresa May’s attack on Brussels and her promise to secure a hard Brexit is being used to successfully undermine UKIP, as well as eat into Labour’s support in Leave-voting areas of the north.
This is a dangerous strategy for the Tories, however. To win an election on this basis will cause ructions if they attempt to make even the slightest concession or backslide in anyway on a hard Brexit. The Tories, however, are not concerned about future consequences but only about winning a bigger parliamentary majority – “a strong and stable government” – with which to take on the EU leaders abroad and the working class at home. They have never been able to think further than the next week.
The Tory media, including the BBC, is playing a treacherous role. They have continually promoted Theresa May at every opportunity and treated her with kid gloves, while Jeremy Corbyn is undermined and criticised in the most blatant fashion.
With Theresa May and the Tories reverting to such scaremongering tactics, then Labour, if it wants to win the election, cannot simply play by the rules. The local elections, although not completely disastrous, were a warning to Labour. There was little enthusiasm in voting Labour when supporting “Labour values” means electing right-wing Labour councillors to carry through the cuts and act locally as willing handmaidens to a vicious Tory government.
Scandalously, right-wing council leaders and mayoral candidates who lost their positions have come out attacking Corbyn as the reason for their defeat. Even the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock joined in, apparently oblivious to the fact that his father, Lord Kinnock (another Corbyn critic), lost two general elections in a row! This is nothing more than Blairite sabotage in the middle of the election campaign.
A world to win
Of course, this situation can be turned around, as Jeremy Corbyn has said. But this can only be done by Labour coming out of its corner fighting. Jeremy has nothing to lose and everything to gain from a stand up, knock ’em down fight.
Yesterday’s leaked manifesto – along with other recent barnstorming speeches – have set the correct tone. The manifesto is a clean break with the failed Tory-lite promises of Corbyn’s predecessors: Miliband, Brown, and Blair. It is a clear anti-austerity programme, with promises to reverse Tory cuts, fully-fund the NHS and education, scrap tuition fees, build 100,000 council homes a year, and re-nationalise Royal Mail and the railways. All of this is to be paid for by taxing big business and the richest 5% of earners.
Such demands – unsurprisingly scorned by capitalist commentators – will embolden workers and youth to come out in support of Corbyn and Labour. The task now is to build on this platform and go on the offensive against the Tories.
Launching the Labour Party’s election campaign this week, Corbyn correctly attacked the rich – and the Tories for presiding over this “rigged system”. “Our Westminster system is broken and our economy is rigged,” the Labour leader correctly asserted. “Both are run in the interests of the few…So today, I say to the tax cheats, the rip off bosses, the greedy bankers; enough is enough.”
This is the kind of message that needs to be shouted from the rooftops and taken onto the streets by organising and mobilising Labour’s hundreds-of-thousands of members from the bottom-up. In his opening election speech a few weeks ago, Corbyn promised not to “play by their rules” – and that is the only way he is going to win.
Overturn the rigged system
The bolder Jeremy Corbyn is, the better the response will be. He must set the agenda, not the Tories. Regardless of who leaked the manifesto yesterday, it has helped Corbyn and the Left by placed the Tories and the Labour right wing on the back foot, putting the ball in their court in terms of having to defend cuts and austerity.
Corbyn should now utilise this momentum in order to increase the pressure on May and the Tories. He should say that a Labour government will not only guarantee a £10 per hour minimum wage, but will introduce a 35-hour week with no loss of pay. Instead of piecemeal and partial renationalisation, Corbyn should announce the immediate renationalisation of the railways, Royal Mail, public utilities, energy firms, and other privatised companies – all without compensation.
Corbyn has correctly promised to fight the establishment; to represent “the many not the few”. But the right wing within the party is still pushing him to conform. These respectable ladies and gentlemen do not speak for the many, but reliably represent the establishment inside the Labour Party. Corbyn’s idea of ending Trident was slapped down, for example. Instead, support for Trident’s renewal has found its way into the draft manifesto as an appeasement to the Blairites, along with a commitment to the NATO target of 2% GDP military spending.
Similarly, Labour must not paint itself into a corner about being “fiscally responsible”, with constant reassurances that its policies are “fully costed”. Labour is only offering “modest” tax rises for the rich – this when the billionaires have increased their wealth by a quarter over the last year! Even Labour right-winger Dennis Healey said he would have taxed the rich “until the pips squeak” in the 1970s. Timidity has never inspired anyone – least of all Labour supporters – and simply plays into the hands of the Tories.
Rather than wasting time offering support for colleagues who hate him, Corbyn should step up his tub-thumping speeches, as seen recently in London and Leicester, where he has attacked the rich and the establishment.
Fight the Tories with socialist policies!
Corbyn needs to take a leaf out of the campaigns by Bernie Sanders in the USA and – more recently – Melenchon in France. Sanders called for a “political revolution against the billionaire class”, inspiring millions of Americans who were fed up with the status quo. Melenchon, similarly, almost progressed through to the second round of the French presidential elections with his militant rhetoric about “kicking out” the bankers and the political elites.
Corbyn should not only attack the capitalist establishment and their rigged market economy, but also explain that this can only be solved by Labour taking over the commanding heights of the economy and introducing a democratic socialist plan of production. The banks and major monopolies should be nationalised without compensation and placed under democratic workers’ control and management.
Only in this way can we inspire millions to vote Labour. And only then will we have the resources in our hands to transform the lives of working people.