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- Editorial of the Socialist issue 1068
Labour leadership: Commitment to socialist policies and democratic party needed
The nomination process for the Labour Party's leadership and deputy leadership contests has begun, with the ballot to take place from 21 February to 2 April.
After doing its best over years to denigrate Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the capitalist media is now striving to influence the voting process, giving credence to candidates who will steer the party back towards the right.
Candidates from the right, on their part, however, have from the outset been trying to avoid any direct association with the legacy of Tony Blair, following the surge of support that took Corbyn to the leadership, which was inspired by Corbyn's anti-austerity, anti-war standpoint. Any of them winning would nonetheless return Labour to a path of declining membership and pro-big business policies, alienating and pushing away working-class and young people.
If a left-wing candidate is to pick up the mantle laid down by Corbyn and build on it, it's essential they don't retreat from any of his pledges on nationalisation, workers' rights, housing, abolition of student fees and all the other urgently needed steps in the manifesto he spearheaded.
It was not those policies that lost the election, rather it was other factors as explained in the Socialist's post-election supplement (see 'Stand firm for socialist policies to stop Tory attacks' at socialistparty.org.uk). In particular, compromises made with the party's right wing over Brexit and the continuation of cuts by Labour councils. Many of Labour's parliamentary candidates refused to even promote Corbyn's manifesto, rejecting it themselves and not wanting Corbyn to be boosted by it.
However, Labour, as a result of the attraction of Corbyn's policies, still has over half a million members, and according to a YouGov poll received the votes of over half of under-30s who voted in the general election. If the party is to continue to be attractive to young people, and at the same time win back the votes of working-class people who temporarily voted Tory, pushing forward with socialist policies and party democratisation is vital.
Discussion and debate on the leadership candidates' policies and the way forward for the party cannot be left to the forums of the establishment media but needs to be organised within the labour and trade union movement, with the holding of meetings and rallies in every area, including events open to everyone.
The executive committees of the Labour-affiliated trade unions should invite the candidates seeking nomination for the party leadership positions to a meeting to question them on crucial issues.
Are they committed to Corbyn's nationalisation pledges, or do they reject them as some have? Would they call on Labour councils to defy Tory cuts to public services and would they help lead a mass campaign in support of such a stand? Do they support mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates, enabling local parties to democratically deselect Blairites?
These are among the questions that need to be asked when deciding nominations and voting recommendations. Labour, which under Corbyn has been 'two parties in one', will still need a thoroughgoing transformation, politically and organisationally, to become a party that can truly represent the working class against capitalism.
It is not primarily a question of the next leader's individual attributes or location, but of whether any will commit to socialist policies and be accountable to the rank and file of the party.
Solidifying and taking forward what Corbyn began requires a refoundation of the party, drawing in trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners and socialists from across the workers' movement, and mobilising a mass struggle against the attacks of the Tory government in preparation for replacing it.
In The Socialist 8 January 2020:
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