A very British coup? – UK editorial

With the UK Conservative Party engaged in fratricide over Brexit, there is talk on the Tory backbenches of a snap general election in the making. This is entirely possible given the mess they are in. We could therefore see Jeremy Corbyn heading for 10 Downing Street sooner rather than later.

Corbyn, a backbench rebel for decades, could lead the most radical government since 1945. “The prospect of a far-left government led by Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell is not a joke,” states the Economist. Above all, they fear the masses that stand behind Corbyn – a force which could push a Labour government further to the left.

A Corbyn-led Labour government would face an onslaught from big business, with threats of a ‘strike of capital’, a run on the pound, billions being shipped abroad, etc. All of this will be used to whip up an atmosphere of crisis. The Tory press would also launch a hysterical campaign against Labour.

Would the Establishment be prepared to go even further?

History repeats itself

It is 50 years ago this month that a plot was hatched to stage a coup against the then Labour government under Harold Wilson.

On 8th May 1968, Earl Mountbatten of Burma hosted an extraordinary gathering at his London home in Belgravia. Those present were Cecil King, chairman of the International Publishing Corporation and owner of the Daily Mirror; its editor, Hugh Cudlipp; and Mountbatten’s associate, Sir Solly Zuckerman, the government’s chief scientific adviser.

Lord Mountbatten50 years ago Lord Mountbatten hatched a plot to stage a coup against the Wilson government / Image: public domain

The 68-year-old Mountbatten was invited by King to head up a government of “national emergency”, where the tops of the armed forces, businessmen and other City figures would take over the government. But the plan fell apart after Zuckerman objected.

So could history repeat itself under a Jeremy Corbyn premiership?

The Daily Telegraph suggests that it could, recently publishing an article with the heading “Could the same thing happen today?”

The article reminded us that, “only one week after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, a serving general of the Army warned of a direct and public challenge if a future Prime Minister Corbyn jeopardised the country’s security.”

Closing ranks

The coup plotters of 1968 were convinced that Britain was heading for catastrophe. Many today in the British establishment hold a similar view regarding a possible Corbyn government. They see radical left policies as a disaster.

WestminsterBetterWorldThe British ruling class will not give up its position without a struggle / Image: Socialist Appeal

But with a Tory party split and in crisis, “other forces” would need to replace a left-wing Labour government. Here is where the “state within a state” comes in, with their undercover operations and “black ops” to discredit the left. They would be supportive of a coup.

They could engineer a constitutional crisis, where the Blairites in the Parliamentary Labour Party could be used to bring down a Labour government “in the national interest”.

The monarchy could also be used in such a crisis, as happened in 1931, when they assisted the collapse of the Labour government and its replacement with a national government. Bear in mind, also, that the army does not swear its allegiance to government or parliament but to the Crown.

The top judges, police chiefs, heads of military, heads of civil service, etc., are all part of a British establishment which is determined to defend the capitalist system.

The British ruling class, that tiny handful of people, bankers, financiers, capitalists, who own and control the economy, will do anything, including closing down parliamentary democracy, to hold on to its power, wealth and prestige.

This is no idle threat. The British ruling class has been one of the most ruthless in the world. It will not give up its position without a struggle.

In fact, Sir Ian Gilmore, who was a top ranking Tory theoretician, once wrote:

“Conservatives do not worship democracy. For them majority rule is a device … majorities do not always see where their best interests lie … For Conservatives, therefore, democracy is a means to an end and not an end in itself… And if it is leading to an end that is undesirable or is inconsistent with itself, then there is a theoretical case for ending it.” (Inside Right, 1977)

Defeat the establishment

A Corbyn government will face the full force of these class interests. The only way to foil their plots and sabotage is to expose what is going on and mobilise the working class in defence of the Labour government.

CorbyntoPowerThe only way to defeat the Establishment will be to take economic power out of the hands of the capitalists and put it in the hands of working people / Image: Socialist Appeal

Even Clement Attlee before the war raised the question of extra-parliamentary action in his book Labour in Perspective, which said there are those who,

“[B]elieve, as soon as it is found that democracy is no longer prepared to be the handmaid of Capitalism, the supporters of the present system will reject it. They think that any attempt to deal with fundamentals will be met by forcible resistance… It is idle to deny that there is a possibility.”

A Labour government cannot simply wait on the inevitable. It would need to purge the armed forces, civil service and the judiciary, who are there to serve the Establishment. It would need to sack the judges, generals and police chiefs, and elect in their place those committed to socialist change, while placing them under the control of working people.

Above all, it should take immediate steps to introduce an Enabling Act to allow it to take over the 150 monopolies, banks and insurance companies that dominate the British economy. This will take economic power out of the hands of the capitalists and put it in the hands of working people – the people who create the wealth of this country.

This is the only way to defeat the Establishment.