Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary
The abolition of ‘Clause IV Part IV’ – the socialist clause in the Labour Party’s constitution introduced in the aftermath of the Russian revolution – was carried out by Tony Blair in 1995.
It symbolised his successful transformation of Labour into a pro-capitalist party that, as his partner in crime Peter Mandelson put it, was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.
In last year’s general election Labour put forward a programme which was a radical break from the relentless pro-business policies of the Blair era. As a result Labour’s vote increased by a massive 3.5 million.
However, when asked on the Andrew Marr show if his next step would be to reinstate the socialist ‘Clause IV Part IV’, Jeremy Corbyn brushed the question aside, saying it is ‘what we do that matters’.
Of course, that is true. If a Corbyn-led government implements socialist policies no-one will care what is written on the back of Labour membership cards.
And in the same interview he repeated and expanded on popular policies from the election manifesto including council house building and housing the homeless.
Nonetheless, Corbyn’s hesitation to change the wording of this symbolic clause is worrying, because it is absolutely clear that Labour is not yet a socialist party in constitution or more importantly deeds.
On the contrary, it remains two parties in one: an anti-austerity party in formation around Jeremy Corbyn, and a pro-capitalist Blairite party, which is fighting tooth and nail – with the full backing of the capitalist media – to prevent Labour moving to the left.
Every attempt by the Labour Party membership to exert democratic control over MPs and councillors is met with howls of outrage by the capitalist class.
For example, Haringey ‘Labour’ council has been carrying out a programme of brutal cuts and privatisation. Its latest outrage is the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) – a £2 billion privatisation of social housing, which would lead to the demolition and ‘regeneration’ of housing estates.
This plan has been opposed by the vast majority of Labour Party members, by the local Labour Party general committee meetings, and by a Labour Party conference resolution.
When Haringey Labour members successfully deselected a majority of pro-HDV councillors, instead choosing candidates whose stated views on the issue reflected those of the local Labour Party and community, the Labour council leader was outraged – and pledged to continue with HDV by signing a 20-year contract with the developers.
The Labour Party’s national executive committee (NEC) intervened in an excessively moderate way, only ‘urging’ the council to ‘pause’ the plans for HDV! In response it seems the council leader has now resigned (see below).
Of course, the likes of the Evening Standard, edited by George Osborne, have shrieked about ‘hard left officials’ organising a ‘radical takeover by the back door’.
What else could be expected from the architect of five years of austerity who praised Labour councils for being ‘responsible’ implementers of his savage policies ‘unlike the Militant in the 1980s’? Now he and his ilk are terrified that Labour councils may rebel against their designated role as privatisers and axe-wielders.
Unfortunately, the majority of them are doing the opposite – vociferously campaigning for their right to continue to do the Tories’ bidding! Following the Labour NEC decision on Haringey, 68 of the 123 Labour council leaders signed a joint letter, published in the Sunday Times, refuting the right of the Labour NEC to intervene in Haringey and describing the right-wing council leader as ‘inspirational’.
The same arguments were repeated in an article by arch-Blairite Alistair Campbell, in the Financial Times, which demands that no Labour MPs or councillors should face deselection, and fulminates that “never before has the NEC told an elected council what it can and cannot do”.
Nonsense! When the right wing was fighting to establish a stranglehold on Labour in the 1980s, councillors from Liverpool and Lambeth were not ‘urged’ to ‘pause’ their policies – they were expelled from the Labour Party! And their supposed crime – standing up to the Tories and, in the case of Liverpool, where Militant played a leading role, building over 5,000 council houses, plus council-built and run schools, colleges, nurseries and leisure centres.
More recently the handful of Labour councillors who refused to implement cuts have been summarily expelled from the party.
This is the real issue. In whose interests are councillors acting? Alistair Campbell makes all too clear what role he thinks Labour should play when he criticises Jeremy Corbyn for describing the collapse of Carillion as a “watershed moment” and says it is not honest to suggest that “all private sector outsourcing should be bought back in-house”.
Campbell and his ilk want a continuation of the endless privatisation policies implemented by Tories and New Labour over 30 years.
Unfortunately, it is clear that most Labour council candidates in the elections this May will be wholehearted supporters of the pro-austerity Blairites. In those areas the best way to strengthen Corbyn’s anti-austerity wing of the Labour Party will be by standing anti-austerity candidates against the Blairite cutters, putting a programme for opposition to all cuts and privatisation of local services.
The hundreds of thousands who joined the Labour Party in support of Jeremy Corbyn did so because they want to see something fundamentally different to Blairism.
It is urgent that Labour is democratised – including mandatory reselection of MPs, readmittance of expelled socialists, restoration of trade union rights and the adoption of a democratic federal structure. These measures would allow the members to determine who represents Labour at local and national level.
It is a serious mistake by Momentum’s leadership to continue to insist they do not support mandatory reselection, and to repeat endlessly that there is an unprecedented degree of unity in the Labour Party despite all the evidence to the contrary.
These recent events have shown beyond doubt that the pro-capitalist wing of the Labour Party has been humming ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn’ while biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to sabotage any attempt by Corbyn to implement policies that might threaten the gargantuan profits of big business.
All attempts to pacify them via compromise and flattery need to cease immediately and a campaign to defeat them be launched.
The hysteria in the right-wing press at the Labour Party NEC’s mild criticism of a Blairite council leader gives the tiniest glimpse of the avalanche of invective and the blatant sabotage that the capitalist class would attempt against a Jeremy Corbyn-led government trying to implement policies in the interests of the working and middle class.
No number of speeches by John McDonnell to Davos asking the global elite to pay more tax can prevent this.
What is required is mobilising a mass popular movement in support of those policies, linked to the need for the socialist transformation of society – taking the major banks and corporations into democratic public ownership – in order to really be able to build a society for the many not the few.
It is absolutely clear that, if you are preparing for a battle with the capitalist class, it does not make sense to have the majority of your MPs and councillors on their side! A campaign to democratise the Labour Party is essential to oppose local council cuts, but also to prepare for the future bigger battles to come.