The results are in, and leftists across Britain are rightly ecstatic. May’s attempts to use a snap election to ambush all opposition (but in particular the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn) have backfired due in large part to the mass support for Corbyn’s principled opposition to austerity and a politics of fearmongering, as well as the Labour leadership’s articulation of a post-Brexit economic policy geared more towards the interests of the popular classes than the political and economic elite.
Corbyn, together with Momentum, has articulated a vision of a reformist party whose reforms are based on popular participation in politics and on the basis of their own problems, rather than a series of a priori assumptions about what the “least bad” deal the working class can get out of Westminster is; assumptions themselves dictated by Westminster elites, and all segments of the masses who fail to fall in line with the programme are duly condemned as lacking “class consciousness”, if not expressed in so many words.
This ignorant and arrogant perspective on electoral politics is reflected in the popular idea that those who failed, even this election, to vote for Labour, must simply be “stupid”. In fact, it is years of alienation from the Labour Party that have driven millions of people who suffer under the Westminster regime into the waiting arms of the Tories, who make the electorate they feel they belong not by proposing a politics based on a future they can picture themselves in, but by hammering on about a collective memory of a past which the Tories claim they will bring back (although naturally they cannot bring back the past, if the past Tories and their electorate imagine ever existed).
“So what? That’s all behind us now. Corbyn’s in charge, the Tories are on the run, and we’ll win the next General for sure. Onwards to victory and socialism, aye?”
While celebrations are certainly in order, we must be modest and self-critical above all else. While a new left is stronger in Britain than in most imperialist states, we must not overestimate our own strength or underestimate that of our enemy.
A significant part of the lead-up to this election was dominated by desperate attempts by the bourgeois media to paint Corbyn as “soft on terrorism”, all while Theresa May has been shown to have effectively allowed ISIS attacks to be carried out in England. Theresa May doubled down on this tactic of equating Corbyn’s empathy for “the other” days before the election by implying that British people (tacitly implying British Muslims) have too many human rights (!), a dog-whistle statement meant to convey that Muslims in Britain will have their civil rights further infringed upon in the days to come.
And we know that it is Muslim believers, and not Islamist terrorism, that are the real source of discomfort for Theresa May and her ilk, and the group on whom the public’s attention is meant to be fixed. In addition to their manifest failure in preventing (and tacit aid to) ISIS attacks in England, the Tories have no principled commitment to preventing terrorism as such: the Tories have wasted no time in reaching out to the DUP, who are unapologetic for British state terror and UDA “extra-state” terror against the Irish people in the North of Ireland, for her “strong and stable” coalition. There is no question that the UDA took more lives in trying to prevent civic and national rights for Irish people in their own land than the IRA took in trying to force the British state to accept those rights, and yet the bourgeois media treat Corbyn as if he is the one coddling “terrorists” for his principled defence of peace in the North of Ireland and his friendship with Gerry Adams.
Stormont and Westminster
Earlier in the night, Sky News went to Gerry Adams to get his views on the possibility of sitting in the Westminster parliament to keep Theresa May out, as a favour to his “old friend”. Adams responded that Sinn Féin had been elected on a platform of not standing in Westminster, representing the views of Republicans in the North of Ireland who reject the colonial Stormont regime. To compromise on this most basic political point to help out social democrats in England would throw away the very thing that made Sinn Féin and Corbyn distinct among parliamentary politicians: honesty.
If Westminster is to prop up its legitimacy on its colonial administration of the North of Ireland through the Stormont regime, this concerns every one of us, Irish or not. Irish Republicans, particularly dissident Republicans, are about to be targeted by a fiercer repression, not least of which through the so-called “PSNI” and their friends in Stormont. Stormont’s Unionist character is being strengthened by the very forces in Britain that we struggle against, who in turn are about to rely on them to rule through the Westminster parliament. They are two opposing sides of one unified trend, and we must likewise unite our struggle against austerity in Britain with the Irish struggle against Stormont.
Wales and Scotland
The news from Wales was extremely positive, with the Liberal Democrats losing their lone seat to Plaid Cymru, and Labour taking three Tory seats. This election shows that despite Wales’s reputation as a timid and easily ignored part of Britain, that both national and class consciousness are on the rise, particularly among younger Welsh, who with their votes show that they reject the alienation which has been imposed on them by Westminster and its capitalist-imperialist exploitation of Wales. While the Welsh struggle is still in its infancy, all gains represent a growing popularity of progressive reformist elements, and the nationalist Plaid Cymru’s left wing will be emboldened by Labour gains.
Sadly, Scotland represented an opposite trend. The SNP remains the largest party in Scotland with 35 seats, but most of the lost 21 went to reactionary parties (the Liberal Democrats and the Tories), with only a third going to the Labour Party, and while those seven seats were almost certainly won thanks to the “For the Many, Not the Few” manifesto, Blairite power is likely still especially strong within Scottish Labour. It is significant that Mhairi Black maintained her seat while Alex Salmond lost his. Further proof, if any was needed, that the SNP’s success in 2015 was built not on nationalism, but on progressive values which are national in form but quite universal in content.
As the SNP abandon their plan for a second independence referendum, we continue to hold that such a referendum would be desirable in any event, and call on all progressive Scottish elements to continue uniting the struggle against austerity with the struggle for full Scottish national rights, from language to culture to economy, and to unite both of these with all forms of progressive struggle, from women’s liberation and LGBT liberation to environmentalism and education.
Likewise, all progressive Welsh elements must raise higher the Welsh people’s struggle for self-determination in all forms, pouring themselves into local people’s resistance against neoliberalism, austerity, patriarchy, cultural genocide, and all other symptoms of capitalism-imperialism.
Corbyn and Organising
It is entirely likely that we will quickly be plunged into another election cycle, due to the resounding vote of no confidence in a Tory government that the June 8th vote represented, coupled with the fact that they will likely only rule due to support from collaborationist forces within the colonial Stormont statelet. In such an event, naturally all progressive forces will almost certainly find ourselves dedicating almost all of our time and energy to electoral struggle (as we have in the lead-up to the election on June 8th).
However, the elections, on their own, will never save us. Corbyn was not elected by our votes, but by our voices in the streets, on social media, in our workplaces and schools and homes. Corbyn is able to present himself as our hero and saviour because, through Momentum, he runs on a platform of popular participation in reshaping what the Labour Party is. For us, as revolutionaries and Marxist-Leninists, there can be no ignoring the masses themselves as the material basis for electoral struggle, and indeed, the electoral struggle as a means of agitation and propaganda and recruitment.
The time will come, sooner in the North of Ireland than in Britain, where elections will be rendered obsolete, even on a local level, by a crisis of the ruling classes who can no longer rule in the old way. We must prepare for that day using every method available to us.
Elections are part of this struggle, and are one of the clearest means of reaching the broadest masses with the broadest message. But we must also be constantly training cadre who are capable of intervening in every part of their own lives and social contexts, from strikes to student occupations to anti-fascist actions to community organising.
If Corbyn inspires you today, remember how he got where he was: this “great man” has built his career on being arrested and maligned for standing in solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world, for putting people before profits, and for declaring unapologetically that it was more important to build a party which reflected the interests of the people and lose elections than to win elections without principle. Such is our method of organisation. Such is the lesson we must draw from Corbyn in all our dealings with politics, at home and abroad!
Workers and oppressed peoples of the world – unite!