CORBYN AND PRAGMATISM
Because of the Labour Party apparatus ruled by the Blairites, Corbyn had to shift his political positions, at least publicly. An opponent of immigration controls, at the last election he promised the most right-wing Labour policy on immigration in over 30 years. An opponent of NATO, he regarded it as a “danger to world peace” and socialists had to campaign against it. He has now embraced NATO, saying that “ I want to work within NATO to achieve stability”. A life-long opponent of the monarchy, Corbyn now states that the abolition of the monarchy “is not on my agenda. A critic of the police and its shoot-to-kill policy he once laid a wreath to victims of police violence at the Cenotaph. He now says that the police should use “whatever force is necessary to protect and save life.” Labour pledges to increase the number of police by 10,000 and the number of prison warders by 3,000 and border guards by 500.
How much more would Corbyn turn to the right if he were Prime Minister? Look at Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza in Greece. In January 2015 Syriza came to power on a strong anti-austerity programme. Within a year Tsipras had done a deal with the IMF that imposed the harshest austerity programme in Greece, far west than that imposed by previous governments.
Again we repeat that we must not let the new social movements currently mobilising around housing, against austerity and against racism and police brutality, become tools of Labour. Corbyn’s lieutenant McDonnell in particular has a on several occasions hinted at such a scenario, talking of transforming “the party from the traditional centralised party into something more akin to a mass social movement, responding to the rising demand for greater activist engagement.” By this he means cooption of the currently existing social movements as auxiliaries to the Labour electoral machine.” More recently he affirmed that Labour is “changing into a social movement”. But whilst Labour is able to organise mass triumphalist rallies it has failed to go beyond that, to massively engage its members in social action. Corbyn and McDonnell would like to capture the social movements for their own ends. It is up to those of us active in the social movements and in grassroots workplace struggles to develop a truly mass social movement, one that is autonomous and independent of political parties including Labour so that it can set its own objectives and aims.