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Jeremy Corbyn: Thousands rally to anti-austerity appeal
Jeremy Corbyn's nomination for Labour leadership has transformed the contest. In contrast to the three varieties of Blairite 'austerity lite' on offer, he has captured a mood.
Large numbers of people young and old, many from outside the party, have been inspired by the anti-austerity message. This parallels the anti-austerity mood that developed around the Scottish independence referendum and the surge for the Scottish National Party, as well as the million people who voted Green in the general election.
Polls indicate that Jeremy Corbyn is currently in the lead. He got the most nominations from Constituency Labour Parties and also from a number of trade unions including the biggest two - Unison and Unite. Of course to nominate an anti-austerity candidate is good and reflects the pressure from below. In the case of Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the coming union leadership contest and the need to adopt a left pose undoubtedly played a role! But nominating Corbyn is not enough on its own. We also need to fight austerity before the next general election, with the unions taking the lead and organising coordinated strike action.
The Labour leadership election ends on 10 September and the right wing and media are already stepping up "project fear" trying to sway the vote, saying Labour would be unelectable under Jeremy Corbyn. Labour shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie had the cheek to claim Corbyn's economic programme would hit the poor. This comes after decades of the austerity policies Leslie supports, from all three main establishment parties, which have devastated the living standards of the poorest! He says a Corbyn led party "would not be the one he joined."
This raises the question - what will happen if Corbyn wins? He would begin as a prisoner of the right wing dominated Parliamentary Labour Party. Unfortunately he has said he would include even Blairites in his shadow cabinet. But they would move to oust him as soon as they could. The Socialist Party has called on him to organise against this by calling a conference of trade unions and supporters- both inside and outside the Labour Party to build a base for a socialist ideas. We would want to participate in that and encourage supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to do the same.
It is also possible that the right could be ejected from or leave the party - implicit in some of the comments such as Leslie's. This would transform the situation; the potential for a new anti-austerity alternative could be created.
If Corbyn loses the election, the need for that anti - austerity working class alternative remains. If he called for the creation of such an alternative outside the Labour Party it would gain significant support, as his campaign has shown. The Socialist Party is continuing to support and build TUSC as a step towards creating a new mass working class party. The route from which that will develop is as yet undecided, but the anger of young and working class people will find a way to gain its voice.
For more analysis of the Corbyn campaign, see the Socialist 865 and www.socialistparty.org.uk
Tumultuous applause for anti-austerity clarion call
Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool Socialist Party and Labour Councillor 1983-87
The Adelphi hotel had not seen the enormous rivers of people pouring through its doors for decades. This was the biggest political rally Liverpool has seen since the days when the socialist council fought Thatcher's attack on the city between 1983 and 1987.
Twelve hundred people crammed into the main hall with a further 600-700 locked out and listening in adjacent areas.
The composition of this rally made nonsense of Neil Kinnock's attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Corbyn's campaign. Kinnock, writing in the Observer, declared that Militant or Daily Telegraph infiltrators with 'malign' intentions were supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
This is insulting as well as wildly inaccurate, a stance not unusual for his lordship.
The rally was crammed with men, women and children from all walks of life. Some were political veterans, but hundreds had clearly never been to a political event nor were members of a political party, as shown by the number of newcomers who asked questions about Jeremy Corbyn's policies.
Young students outraged at the debts they faced, people on zero-hour contracts, local activists appalled at local library closures, people on rates of pay so low they had to be subsidised by the taxpayer, NHS workers worried about the service and ever-lasting wage freeze. They all perceived Jeremy Corbyn as a tribune who would represent them.
Jeremy Corbyn's wide-ranging speech included pledges to re-establish the NHS as fully publicly-owned, free at the point of use; renationalisation of rail and the post office; ending the public sector wage freeze; free education from cradle to grave; cancellation of Trident; repeal of the anti-trade union laws.
After decades of attacks on working class wages and social support, and on the trade unions, with no serious political opposition, this was language which received tumultuous applause.
The enthusiasm, energy and dynamism which were on display were a reminder of the power of the campaign led by the Liverpool 47 councillors in the 1980s.
Jeremy has provided a rallying point for all those who have seen stand-ards driven down while the hedge fund managers, bankers and other assorted financial spivs who caused the economic crisis and who bankroll the Tory Party have seen their fortunes increase spectacularly.
The volume of passion poured out in support of his clear anti-austerity clarion call was akin to a dam bursting under pressure from a boiling cauldron of anger felt by millions of working class people.
The message was clear: No more austerity from either the Bullingdon boys or Labour MPs masquerading as representatives of the working class while accepting the Tory spending cap.
Any mention of 'Blairism' was received with a loud noise of disgust.
A striking feature of the event is that it could not be described in any way as a Labour Party rally. This was a rally to support policies fundamentally different to those of New Labour.
The character of Labour is summed up by Labour's shadow chancellor Chris Leslie. After losing his parliamentary seat in 2005, he became the director of the New Local Government Network, which was described by the Local Government Chronicle as a "Blairite think-tank".
He was originally elected to Parliament in 1997 on the anti-Tory surge from which Blair profited. He has an impeccable record of supporting Labour's austerity-lite stance.
He has declared he would not serve in a Corbyn-led cabinet as a Corbyn-led party would be "a very different political party" from the one he joined.
This encapsulates the degeneration of Labour into a haven of those who seek political careerism rather than people with a commitment to representing the working class.
The right wing and its media will do everything they can to sabotage the election and deprive Jeremy Corbyn of victory.
Whatever the outcome, the process has begun in the weeks and months which lie ahead for the building of a new mass party of the working class.
While maintaining its independent stance, the Socialist Party stands ready to assist in that objective.
'Rock star' reception in Camden
Helen Pattison, East London Socialist Party
"This isn't a rock concert" left wing writer Owen Jones exclaimed, obviously excited by the prospect of a queue that trailed round the block. When was the last time a politician in England had to speak to a packed rally of 1300, two overflow rooms and a crowd of 500 people stuck outside?
Waiting in the queue people were excited but measured, discussing what they would do in different possible outcomes of the election. Some were there to be convinced to pay their £3. Some would join the Labour Party if he won. Some still wouldn't but would vote for Labour again. People were upbeat and excited to hear Corbyn speak.
Former London Mayor Ken Livingston went through parts of Corbyn's manifesto. Quantitative easing (QE) under Brown and Cameron meant they created money that went to the bankers. But QE that doesn't go to the bankers, but on useful things instead, is apparently an 'un-electable' policy. He said we could get the money for schools, homes, jobs and transport from unpaid taxes of the rich.
The speeches were inspiring but they weren't about the rotten system of capitalism or fighting for an alternative. No one mentioned socialism.
Haringey Councillor and Unison branch secretary, Emine Ibrahim, admitted she had voted for cuts. With the current Labour leadership against them, she said councillors didn't feel able to challenge the devastating reductions in council budgets. With Corbyn as leader and the party behind them, councillors would now have the confidence to make legal challenges against the government.
But why not take the fight to the government anyway and oppose cuts now? A legal challenge isn't enough; councillors should build a campaign involving local people and unions around no cuts budgets.
Corbyn closing the rally to a standing ovation said that his candidacy was the opportunity for real debate about what kind of politics ordinary people in the country wanted to hear. His conclusion was clear - Labour lost the general election because they didn't offer enough. The people in that rally were after something different.
An overflow meeting of 200 had to be organised for Jeremy Corbyn's meeting in Birmingham. 800 people from all sections of the working class enthusiastically heard Jeremy make the case for bold anti-austerity policies and lambast the austerity consensus for blaming migrants and those at the bottom of the social ladder for the problems they're facing.
It was a breath of fresh air to hear a Labour politician put forward pro-working class solutions to our problems and calling for a crash house building programme, an increase in Corporation Tax to pay for free education for all university students and an end to the 'race to the bottom'.
Clive Walder, Birmingham Socialist Party
A rally for Diane Abbot's campaign to be Labour's London Mayoral candidate would not usually whip up huge amounts of enthusiasm, but something was different this time: One of the speakers was Jeremy Corbyn.
It was packed to the gills by 800 mainly young people. It was clear who they came to hear: Corbyn, arriving late from another meeting, was met with a standing ovation from the hall as he entered.
Platform speakers at the rally made no mention of the kind of movement we needed to beat the Tories. It seems that the only offer was to elect Jeremy and then beat the Tories in 2020. Socialist Party members were unable to get in to speak. We would have argued that we can't afford wait until 2020, we should be putting pressure on the union leaders for a 24-hour general strike to kick start the movement.
Jeremy Corbyn said that, win or lose, "we would meet again" after the vote to carry the movement on. We would wholeheartedly welcome such a move. Especially if it included all left organisations and trade unions.
When asked who was a Labour Party member, only around 50% of the room raised their hands. This shows that the current movement to get Corbyn elected is one that has come from outside the Labour Party.
Paul Callanan, London Socialist Party
"Dare we hope?" aptly summed up the mood of the 300 strong meeting to hear Jeremy Corbyn's socialist leadership campaign. I was speaking with Mary Higgins, a left wing Labour Party member of old, at the biggest gathering of socialists that Leicester has seen in a while.
Spirits were lifted as people listened to Jeremy's criticism of Labour's disastrous austerity lite election campaign and strength was gained by seeing so many looking for a socialist alternative to New Labour.
Two Socialist Party members asked questions from the floor and Jeremy's response was lengthy and fraternal.
Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Elections 2016 conference
In The Socialist 5 August 2015:
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