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It’s class struggle, not obsession over Labour’s next leader, that will build socialism

No individual or ‘left collective’ can withstand a sustained ruling-class war of annihilation – which is why we must gain strength by organising in our workplaces and communities, writes BILL GREENSHIELDS

ONE of the illusions peddled by every ruling class that’s ever existed is that politics is all about “strong leaders” and “great men.” Now and then they might grudgingly allow for a “great woman”…

But the capitalist class knows this is just window dressing. They know that power is class based — won (or lost) by the comparative level of determination, organisation and willingness of the contending classes to fight . 

Their level of class consciousness is high. They dominate and control their party of choice, the Tory Party.

So why is the Labour Party so obsessed with its leadership contest? It lost the election over its Brexit position, not “leadership quality” as the pundits want us to believe. 

Workers don’t trust parties that lie to them — which appeared to be all parliamentary-based parties as Labour moved increasingly into the Remain camp. 

Political organisation across the working class is low — in workplaces, trade unions, local communities and culturally. 

So the working class clearly doesn’t dominate and control the Labour Party — or want to — and many leading Labourites work hard to keep it that way. 

Working-class identity and pride stay high, but class political consciousness is generally low.  

But this isn’t a “natural” state for workers. It’s the result of four decades of harsh lessons heaped on us daily — from the defeat inflicted by Thatcher in the attacks of the ’80s, in response to our struggles of the ’70s. 

Forty years of fragmentation of our movement brought about by de-industrialisation, public spending cuts and privatisation, the debilitating effect of the anti-union laws, the unions’ retreat from collective bargaining, and the turn of many from fighting organisations to service providers, the gig economy and precarious working, the destruction and gentrification of working-class communities and the siren call of the EU to accept its illusory “protections.” 

You can add to the list of how working-class confidence, unity, determination and organisation have been deliberately and systematically undermined — including of course the class treachery of New Labour, still very much alive.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of activists who joined the Labour Party as a vehicle for change had no intention of developing working-class participation — the real vehicle for change. 

Many sought a class cuddle rather than struggle. They put Corbyn in as socialist leader of a largely unreconstructed Blairite neoliberal party — wishful thinking at best — and then tied him to the EU’s institutions of capitalism. 

Many treated the Labour Party as though it was the property of the most shallow, self-opinionated, Guardian pundit and podcaster. 

They’re still doing it, regardless of the alienation of the working class. This, if anything, is what makes Labour “unelectable.”

The Labour Party seems to be playing a competitive game of “follow my leader,” with the Tories apparently accepting that the leader is all-important. 

This game ignores the fact that the Labour Party, if it is not led politically, organisationally and practically by the organised working class, is not capable of achieving even reformist change — let alone socialism. 

No individual or “left collective” can substitute or withstand a sustained capitalist ruling-class war of annihilation against even the sniff of a possible left government, such as that we saw in embryonic form in the run-up to the election. 

Whoever is the “Corbyn continuity” figure would be subject to “continuity” character-assassination, lies, smears and libels — and if and when necessary, “anti-extremist” legislation, including those of treachery and sedition. 

Wherever British ruling-class economic or political authority is threatened anywhere in the world, it has responded in this way — and with the use of varying degrees of force and violence. 

Why assume they would act any differently at home from how they act abroad?

Which individual Labour leader could fend all this off? With what clever manoeuvre? Using what parliamentary procedure? Which debating device? Which smart parliamentary answers? Which well-drafted white paper? What kind of self-righteous cross-parliamentary group? Which media intervention? What unexpected twist in the Commons timetable would be the thing upon which the entire capitalist class and state machine would founder and die? 

There is no such thing of course.

That’s why Tony Blair won the “If you can’t beat them…” neoliberal line in the PLP and much of the Labour Party. 

He certainly believed he was a “great man,” but knew he needed the capitalist class — and they needed him at the time. He despised the working class.

Some of the would-be leaders don’t despise us, though. In fact, some of their best friends are working class. 

But do they see that the future of socialism in Britain lies in the hands of the working class — not those of parliamentary leftists? 

The only possible socialist leadership is a class-conscious, united, organised and determined working class. 

As conscious, organised and determined as the capitalist class is to destroy socialist politics and economics — in or outside Parliament, in Britain or anywhere else. 

The job of any Labour leader should be to support the organised working class and to encourage its political dominance — not just to expect its compliance with whatever the Labour Party says.

It is the challenge of our time to build such a movement — and it can be done. 

It doesn’t need some clever academic treatise. It’s just this: the hundreds of thousands of socialists in the movement need to stop looking inwards at ourselves, to stop being obsesses with leaders and factions, and turn outwards to the people who have been long alienated and deliberately isolated by the political system. 

To hear their real fears, ambitions, needs, wants and demands and put them in the driving seat to pull those demands together — developing real class strategy and action for achieving them, both inside and, even more importantly, outside of Parliament

We need to turn all our efforts to building in workplaces and in whatever collectives of the gig economy we can muster, and in our cash-strapped communities — putting down deep roots in every village, town and city, and in all trade-union memberships, and recruiting people mentally and physically to the working-class movement.

We need to declare war on the symptoms and causes of exploitation, poverty and oppression and sheer bloody murder however and wherever it is — and not just in articles and podcasts, but physically in and among the communities worst affected, encouraging mass action and new working-class leaders. 

And our message must be the class message expressed in the words of our class — not filtered through some Parliament-speak language code.

It’s not rocket science — just bloody hard work and determination, and a refusal to let “great men,” faint-hearts, self-seekers and class traitors derail us.


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