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Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech was a call to arms for the labour movement, a clear challenge to all those who oppose Tory austerity to unite and bring an end to it for once and for all.
Unity and diversity were key themes throughout the speech, as Corbyn drew attention to the great variety that makes up the labour movement and the way in which that is reflected in Labour’s new, increased membership.
Similarly, there was a call for a much greater culture of tolerance and the freedom to disagree and debate, then come together around democratic decisions. Anyone who has a genuine interest in standing up for working people and getting the Tories out of power cannot fail to respond positively.
And yet, in spite of his plea for party members to listen a bit more and shout a bit less, his message was certainly not lacking in the fire that has characterised his previous conference speeches.
The abuse of our so-called “free” press by the media monopolies rightly came in for round condemnation, with Jeremy pulling no punches about where their loyalties lie and why they oppose the growth of a politics which empowers the working class and threatens the profits of tax-shy billionaires.
With big-business media using every opportunity to smear the left in general, and Jeremy personally, whether as unpatriotic, anti-semitic or any other nonsense, we should call out their vested interests at any and all opportunities.
Rather than avoid the issue of anti-semitism, which has been cynically whipped up by the media, as a number of commentators thought he might, Jeremy took the Tories head on for their cynical hypocrisy, citing their support for Viktor Orban’s anti-semitic, Islamophobic, far-right government, Boris Johnson’s dog-whistle racism and the “hostile environment” that was intentionally created to target the Windrush generation and other migrants.
He went on to reiterate Labour’s commitment to opposing racism in all its forms.
This achieves greater significance with the growth of the far right, both internationally and in Britain, and key Labour figures, such as John McDonnell, have been at the heart of calls for a united response from the Labour movement.
Similarly, there was no holding back in the attacks on the failure of austerity, privatisation and outsourcing, with clear alternatives proposed in the form of nationalisation and the rebuilding of public services. This is a welcome reminder of some of the key policies on which Jeremy stood as leader and which have proved so popular with the electorate.
The concept of public ownership, so long excluded from national political dialogue, with New Labour and the Tories equally committed to privatisation and outsourcing, has truly made a welcome comeback.
However, as this paper has argued on many occasions, public ownership is in itself not enough. The previous model of publicly owned companies that operate like private enterprises within a market system, constrained by rules to prevent them from interfering with the profitability of the private sector, will do nothing to change the position of working people.
Public ownership in name must be combined with the reality of public control, with workers and service-users having a genuine say in the way in which publicly owned companies are run for public benefit.
And in the long run, this must be the first step in a change to the way our economic system is run, to put the needs of people before profit and ensure that the interests of the many, not the few, are the guiding principle in our economy.
That is why the clear statement by Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the opposition, that we need to democratise public services, give workers the right to representation at board level and, ultimately to change our economic system to run in the interests of the majority, is so crucial.
Jeremy has given a rallying to the movement. Now we need to mobilise to realise it.
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