British Labour Party

The British Labour Party took a radical, anti-austerity manifesto to last year’s general elections and, despite polls and media commentators expecting an unprecedented disaster, came close to winning, denying the ruling Conservatives a majority. Despite this success, attempts to attack and sabotage Labour’s socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the ranks that support his vision, have continued. Michael Calderbank takes a look at what took place and what it means for the party’s future.

Tory-supporting media have been portraying Britain’s socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a Soviet fellow-traveller. Meanwhile, Hilary Wainwright notes, Labour’s shadow chancellor and close Corbyn ally sets out a vision that breaks with the old bureaucratic state model.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell can usually barely breathe a word about nationalisation without setting off a media frenzy, so it’s strange that his most interesting comments yet on the subject passed with so little comment.

In 1792, pioneering British feminist and social justice activist Mary Wollstonecroft wrote in The Rights of Women: “It is justice, not charity that is wanting in the world.”

Now, 226 years later, Labour has anchored that fundamental truth in its vision for international development: A World for the Many, Not the Few.

Ever since his unexpected rise to British Labour Party leader, veteran socialist MP Jeremy Corbyn has faced sustained attacks and smears from the media, Tories and the right-wing of his own party. But over the past month, the attacks have become an unprecedented avalanche.

In the middle of the harshest winter for more than a decade, Britain finds itself still gripped by the icy fingers of neoliberal austerity.

Delegates to the recent Labour Party conference in the English seaside town of Brighton seemed not to notice a video playing in the main entrance. The world’s third biggest arms manufacturer, BAe Systems, supplier to Saudi Arabia, was promoting its guns, bombs, missiles, naval ships and fighter aircraft.  

It seemed a perfidious symbol of a party in which millions of Britons now invest their political hopes. Once the preserve of Tony Blair, it is now led by Jeremy Corbyn, whose career has been very different and is rare in British establishment politics.

Everyone sensed the new energy at this year’s Labour Party conference, held in Brighton from September 24-27.

The reality of the conference was something not seen in Britain for a long time: thousands of determined and self-confident members of a Labour Party that boldly stands for what they believe in.

The strike at two branches of McDonald’s in Britain was “just the start”, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on September 4. Speaking at a rally outside Parliament the day before, the shadow chancellor hailed the striking workers as an “absolute inspiration”.

Workers at the burger giant’s restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, south-east London, downed aprons in protest at the harassment of workers and the victimisation of union members.

In his September 2 article “Responding on Sanders and reforming the Democrats”, Barry Sheppard fundamentally mischaracterises the position I outlined in “Socialists and Bernie Sanders”. I specifically did not argue in favour of the far left in the US trying to “reform” the Democratic Party.

Disparaged and smeared by the Labour Party machine and corporate media for almost two years, Momentum — a grassroots group of Labour members committed to the socialist politics of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — came out fighting during the campaign for the June 8 general elections.

Spurred on by a sense of idealism, this campaign came close to sweeping Labour into government on the most transformative manifesto for a generation.

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