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Editorial: Defending Corbyn must involve a political mobilisation of the left

PROTESTS and petitions demanding the reinstatement of Jeremy Corbyn as a member of the Labour Party are multiplying.

This is not an “internal disciplinary matter,” though some politicians will trot out this excuse to justify their lack of solidarity action. It is a political attack on the left.

The suspension of Corbyn cannot be challenged in a void. It is a key stage in a process by which Britain’s ruling class is reasserting control over the Labour Party. 

Five years in which the leadership of that party threatened Establishment interests by fighting for a fundamental redistribution of wealth and power to ordinary people and challenged British imperialism by arguing for a foreign policy based on peace and internationalism were a nightmare for our political class. 

Since winning the leadership on pledges to continue the party’s socialist direction, Keir Starmer has already largely abandoned it. He has dropped support for the Green New Deal and stopped talking about public ownership. He refused to support education unions whose concerns over school and university reopenings have proved more than justified. 

He has abstained rather than oppose dangerous Bills granting power to state agents to break the law. This ties in with a sharp shift in foreign policy, in which Labour exploits the conspiracy theory that Russia somehow intervened in the Brexit vote to call for authoritarian attacks on media freedom, and eggs the Conservatives on in slavish adherence to a damaging and reckless new cold war against China being directed by Donald Trump.

All changes are justified by the mantra that Labour lost the last election and has to change – without reference to the role of Starmer’s flagship policy under Corbyn, a commitment to force a second EU referendum, in that defeat.

Corbyn’s suspension on the flimsiest grounds has been compared to the restoration monarchy’s decision to dig up and hang Oliver Cromwell’s corpse, a ritualised warning to those who challenged those born to rule that they must never do so again.

That context is crucial to developing an effective defence. Corbyn has not been suspended because of what he said in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on anti-semitism. So there is no point in waiting on the outcome of any disciplinary process.

But while the commitment to “work tirelessly for his reinstatement” adopted by many supporters is essential, this cannot be seen as a lobbying process, in which MPs or Labour members simply register their displeasure.

Starmer is not such a fool that he will be taken aback by the scale of left outrage over the suspension of Britain’s most prominent socialist. He expected and probably welcomes it. 

And he knows he is winning plaudits in quarters he cares rather more about: with the exception of the Morning Star the entire daily press cheered his removal of the whip from Corbyn, and from the right he is being pushed to take further action, including against other socialist MPs.

This threat is no doubt why many Labour figures are so circumspect about the suspension, attacking it but not placing it in context as part of a wider assault on the left – because Starmer has made it clear that referring to the reality that the accusations against Corbyn are politically driven will be treated as denying Labour has an anti-semitism problem, which in turn will be treated as evidence that you are part of that problem.

This caution is understandable but misplaced. The war on the left within Labour cannot get much worse than it is already. Mobilising in defence of Corbyn must mean challenging the entire warped narrative that has developed over the socialist political project he led. 

And it must be accompanied by heightened campaigning for the causes of that project, which still has the only real answers to the terrible economic, social and now health crisis gripping Britain. The socialist left must make clear that we are not going away.

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