Neoliberalism has devastated Britain — but Corbyn is leading the push back

August 21, 2016
Jeremy Corbyn addressing supporters
Jeremy Corbyn addressing supporters.

Despite a range of undemocratic measures by the Labour Party establishment in the face of hundreds of thousands of new members enthused by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing politics, Corby n looks set to win Labour leadership elections that finish on September 21.

Below, an abridged editorial from British left-wing paper Morning Star looks at the impact of Corbyn's rise to leadership on British politics and the struggle the rights of the poor and working people.

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The arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader last year has marked the first time in 40 years that Britain's main social democratic party has seriously pushed back against the neoliberal tide. Corbyn's re-election in Labour's new leadership poll can ensure that the process continues.

Britain's political agenda has been drifting steadily rightward for the best part of the past 40 years — ever since Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979.

During that time, a succession of governments — both Labour and Conservative — have continued the rightward movement of Thatcher's agenda.

The Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown gave social justice a bit more of a priority, bringing in measures such as the minimum wage and trade union organising legislation. But these were only token offerings falling from the neoliberal table, rather than the fundamental program of needed change.

Indeed, the most radical moves from those Labour governments came after the 2008 crash, when the wheels fell off the neoliberal bandwagon. This led to measures like taking several of the banks into public ownership.

However, rather than look to change the neoliberal system entirely, governments worldwide simply sought to put the wheels back on. They have made those who had nothing to do with causing the crash — the poor and working people — pay the price via austerity measures aimed at destroying public services.

The bankers who caused the crisis were never seriously affected. They continued with business as usual, operating in a largely insulated bubble of immunity.

The corporations saw the chance to make profit out of the crisis. They managed to nationalise the losses while privatising the profits. They also saw the chance to widen their remit into other areas in the public sector that had previously been sealed off.

As Polly Jones, head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, recently highlighted, big corporations now say that in order to get the growth needed to boost the world economy, they should be allowed into previously restricted areas.

This has led to trade agreements being negotiated that allow private companies virtually limitless power to intervene in the public sphere. The most recent form of this has been the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed deal between the European Union and United States that is being pushed through at the moment.

If made law, the TTIP would enable companies to sue governments if anything they did infringed on the corporations' ability to make profit.

In a case being taken under a similar type of agreement already in force, a private company has taken the Egyptian government to court for its action in raising the minimum wage. The company claims this has restricted its profits.

There have been concerns voiced about what would happen to Britain's National Health Service were TTIP to come into force.

Fortunately, there has been growing international opposition to the implementation of TTIP in its most parasitic form. The Corbyn-led Labour Party recently announced that it would veto TTIP as it stands. Previously, Labour had been supportive of TTIP.

The Conservative government is broadly supportive of the deal, enshrining as it does private sector involvement in the public sector.

The new Labour stance on TTIP is just one example of the party taking a radically different line from the government. The party under Corbyn's leadership has started mapping out a whole raft of policies across government. When enacted, they will mark the start of the turning of the neoliberal tide that has been coming in for the past 40 years.

Video: Jeremy Corbyn - Sheffield Rally. Official Jeremy Corbyn Channel.

It would not be over-exaggerating to say the election of Corbyn as leader in August last year marked the moment when the labour movement really began pushing to reverse much of the damage that has been done by neoliberalism over recent times.

There is still much to do. Policy positions have not advanced very far in Britain — in no small part due to the ongoing efforts of a number of Labour MPs to undermine Corbyn since he became leader.

Many of these individuals seem totally wedded to the neoliberal dogma that has seen so much of the wealth accrue to a very small number of people. Meanwhile, the mass of people have continued to struggle along on stagnating incomes, while public services have been stripped away in the name of austerity.

The time for change is now at hand. Tony Benn said that there was a major shift in the political configuration every 40 years, pointing to the Attlee government of 1945 and the reforming Liberal government of four decades earlier.

It is a sobering thought that the policies on offer across the mainstream parties today are all well to the right of those operated by governments of the 1960s and '70s. Corbyn marks the start of the fightback.

His opponents in the Parliamentary Labour Party seem to favour the continuation of the neoliberal project, happy to post up the odd crumb of gain from the rich man's table.

What is needed is fundamental change across the board to bring policies that serve the many not the few. It is high time that the politicians across the spectrum began to listen to what the many are saying.

Corbyn has begun the process that could lead to the rolling back of the present unjust economic and political system. If he wins re-election, it will be a mandate to continue this process, which will lead to a more socially just and safer society for all.

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