They’re coming out of the woodwork. Emboldened by the surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn, radical left-wing parties have reappeared on our political scene. After plodding along for decades while society moved on, these minor organisations are getting attention beyond living memory of all but the crustiest Trotskyites. ‘Woke’ is the internet meme for the election in which the young got up to vote and changed the course of British politics. But the Labour Party will not necessarily continue to reap the harvest of youth.
Recently, a new student, declaring his ideological stance by sweatshirt slogan and multiple badges, surprised me on replying to my remark that he must be a keen Corbynite. ‘No, he’s too soft’. Consider the Socialist Workers Party and the Morning Star extreme? Think again. With stalls at festivals and demonstrations, the really hard Left is luring a fresh crop of students, who are graduating from bland political marijuana to the opium for mass revolt.
Exhibit A is the bimonthly bulletin of the Revolutionary Communist Group, stridently titled Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! For 80p, (50p for the unwaged, £1 ‘solidarity price’), you know what you’re getting. The quality of writing is surprisingly high, and likely to impress students. Despite the delusional narratives of capitalist evil and conspiracy theories, there is always a smidgeon of fact to support the reasoning. Let’s look at two stories in the June-July edition.
First, the new president of France, Emmanuel Macron. Fêted by The Guardian as a beacon of hope for a troubled continent, to the Revolutionary Communists he is an ‘EU imperialist’ (as naïve students are discovering, there is no love for neoliberal Europe on the true Left). Macron, allegedly, has two aims: to defend the euro at all costs, and to attack the working class. Perhaps they have got this right. I have just read some guff in The Times about wealthy Brits migrating to Paris following Brexit, but let’s review this after the likely winter of discontent. Comrade Melenchon will appeal to the masses at the barricades as the heavily unionised French labour force shows who’s really in charge. While their cars are torched, the unpatriotic Europhiles might wish they had stayed in Blandford.
Revolutionary Communists 1, Guardian 0.
Secondly, a report on the thwarted socialist utopia of Venezuela. A huddle with placards is shown outside The Guardian office, accusing that newspaper of ‘spreading lies’ about the great Bolivarian revolution. Correcting the fake news of hunger, strikes, dissidents jailed and beaten, and protestors killed by Maduro’s armed police, the Revolutionary Communists explain that reported deaths have mostly been of trade unionists at the hands of US-funded fascists, who want to overthrow the Chavista communards to revive a bourgeois parliamentary system. But this is not convincing: the evidence from troubled Caracas cannot all be attributed to right-wing propaganda.
Revolutionary Communists 1, Guardian 1.
The prime target of this shady group, however, is the Labour Party. The headline ‘Ruling class divided’ tars Labour with the same brush as the Tories, and attacks supposedly socialist parties for treachery in standing aside for Corbyn’s ‘social democrats’ at the recent election. Yes, you read that right – Corbyn and Labour are part of the hated establishment. The leading letter, ‘Shame-faced socialists’, from an activist in Dundee, denounced those who claim to be anti-austerity while lending support to a mainstream party that imposes local authority budget cuts. One is reminded of the Monty Python sketch of the Popular Front of Judea and its rival the Judea Popular Front, which expend as much energy on battling each other as vilifying the ancien regime. The writer recalled: -
‘We have been here afore; in 1979 low paid Black and Irish workers suffering under the Labour government’s wage policy quite rightly booed and heckled Tony Benn as he shamelessly tried to get support for Labour in another election’.
The paper came out before the Grenfell Tower fire, but undoubtedly it would have accused Labour of having blood on its hands. A page is devoted to naming and shaming urban councils for selling off public assets, palms having been greased by profiteers.
Exhibit B is the bulletin of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant). In the latest edition of Socialism Today, Corbyn’s success is celebrated, but with words of caution. The leading article ‘Consolidating the Corbyn revolution’ notes the nauseating mea culpa of his detractors, such as Polly Toynbee. There are two Labour parties (in my view, there are three, as suggested recently), and the Left must be on guard for the regrouping of the fifth column. Red Tories should be thrown overboard, taking their ‘progressive alliance’ with them.
Fortified by people power, Corbyn has sacked rebellious Remainers on his shadow cabinet, and neoliberal Blairites appear seriously weakened. Nonetheless, the moderate Left is numerically strong in the parliamentary party, where comfortable accommodation seems unlikely in the months ahead. It is possible that the heat will be too much for one or two MPs, who might go independent or defect. Or McDonnell’s henchmen could remove the whip and demand a by-election. The turmoil might not be in May’s ‘just about managing’ government, but in the battle for the soul on the Opposition benches.
Outside Westminster, Corbyn is unassailable. Yet the ever-growing rallies are not to everyone’s taste, and the democratic threshold is still a difficult reach. Unless the Government flounders soon, impatience will grow, leading to direct action. Realising that the middle class cannot be trusted, the Revolutionary Communists urge: ‘Don’t vote – revolt’.
Divide and rule is the long-despised tactic of the establishment, because it works. The most promising tactic of centre-right politics is not to attack the hard Left, but to magnify it. Let Corbyn’s Labour face the reality of a membership with diametrically-opposed beliefs. As for the Revolutionary Communists, a left-wing party that attacks Corbyn, the Guardian and the Hampstead sect – what’s not to like?