The Labour Party

“As ideias do marxismo nunca foram mais relevantes. Enquanto enfrentamos a maior crise do capitalismo desde a Grande Depressão, as ideias de Marx, que desvelam as contradições insolúveis do capitalismo, oferecem o único caminho a seguir”.

Following the shock of Brexit, Britain has suffered another political earthquake. Theresa May is facing oblivion. A snap election has turned into a Tory disaster. The expected Tory landslide, which was supposed to usher in decades of Conservative rule, turned out to be a myth. Instead, we have seen the government’s majority wiped out by a resurgent Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

"The ideas of Marxism have never been more relevant. As we face the greatest crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression, the ideas of Marx, which reveal the insoluble contradictions of capitalism, offer the only real way forward."

On a rainy Monday evening, on the muddy banks of the Tyne, 10,000 people gathered to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak. The mood was optimistic and jubilant just three days ahead of the General Election, and a sense of the historic opportunity that lies ahead of us was not missed on the crowd.

Ken Livingstone’s suspension from standing for office or representing the Labour Party for a further year for “bringing the party into disrepute” has provoked a cacophony of protests from the party’s right wing, all demanding his immediate expulsion.

It is deeply ironic that those who have spent years ignoring the working class and trying to break the link between the trade unions and the Labour Party should now be taking such an intense interest in the future of Britain’s biggest union, Unite. And yet this is precisely what is happening at present, with the Blairite wing of the Labour Party going into overdrive in their attempts to kick out the incumbent, Len McCluskey, as ballots for the Unite leadership election arrive through the letterboxes of the union’s 1.4 million members.

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor and veteran of the Labour Left, has warned of a "soft coup" being orchestrated to undermine Corbyn's Labour leadership. Owen Jones, meanwhile, has called on Corbyn to stand down and "do a deal" with the Blairites in order to pass on the baton to a left successor. The only way forward for the Left, however, is to boldly go on the offensive.

Britain - The script was clearly written in advance by Jeremy Corbyn’s critics. After, Labour’s “humiliating” defeat in the Copeland by-election, surely Corbyn would “do the right thing” and step aside? Indeed, leading figures from the Blairite camp are likely feeling aggrieved that Labour actually won in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election – a victory that slightly ruins and contradicts their narrative about the “unelectable” Corbyn.

The resignation of Clive Lewis from the Labour front bench has dealt yet another blow to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, as Brexit continues to torment the Labour Party. But while last summer’s “Chicken Coup” may have seen a greater number of resignations, the public resignation of one of Corbyn’s most well known supporters in order to vote against the whip may prove even more damaging.

And so the Bonaparte of Momentum was born. At a stroke, Momentum’s democratic structures have been abolished; the tireless work of thousands of Corbyn supporters over the past year-and-a-half thrown out the window. Overnight, grassroots activists have been shunted to the side in what can only be described as a coup.

The focus of the class struggle in Britain is undoubtedly now centred on the battle inside the Labour Party between the Corbyn movement, on the one side, and the Blairites - backed by the entire Establishment - on the other. Any analysis regarding the tasks of the trade unions at this time must begin from this fact.

At a recent meeting of a local Labour Party Branch in Worcester, Britain, a slick high tech presentation was given by a group called Transition Worcester, who said they had the answer to the environmental crisis. It is to turn the clock back 200 years to a mythical age where all trade was local and people enjoyed the benefit of locally grown meat, fruit & veg. Within this presentation were ideas such as we should no longer trade with developing countries and we should therefore export our unemployment to the third world.

It is 100 years since the Labour Party first emerged as a force in parliament, and 100 since the Trades Dispute Acts granted British workers some basic rights against prosecution by employers in case of strike action. Today workers have fewer rights than they did then. Since 1906 the British ruling class have attempted to break the link between Labour and the unions, but have systematically failed.

Only a month ago Tony Blair pledged to resign if he became an electoral liability to Labour. The results of the triple elections held on Thursday June 10 confirm him, and more importantly his policies, as just that. In not one, not two, but three elections on the same day Blair was given his marching orders. Labour suffered their worst electoral defeats ever.

Barbara Humphries looks at the conflicting tendencies within the British Labour Party on the question of war. It is clear that the rank and file members of the party have always tended towards opposition to war, while the leadership has swung the other way. At times, however, the opposition has been so strong that it has limited the ability of the Labour leadership to put all its weight behind war efforts such as the US war on Vietnam.

This is the first of a series of articles on the history of the British Labour Party. These articles will help workers and youth to get a greater understanding of what the Labour Party is and what the attitude of Marxists to it should be. In this article we look at how the Party emerged from the struggles of the working class towards the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.

Barbara Humphries continues her series on the history of the Labour Party with a look at the experience of the first two Labour governments. This article was originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 49 March 1997.

Barbara Humphries continues her series on the history of the Labour Party. 1945 marked a watershed for Labour and for British society. The Labour Party won an historic victory, with a 146-seat majority over all other parties. It was won on the most radical election manifesto, before or since. This article was originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 50 April 1997.