Where now for the Left after the General Election?

Jeremy Corbyn, newly elected Independent MP for Islington North, lambasts Starmer at Palestine Solidarity demo on 6 July

This is the text of the presentation today at our forum on the result of the General Election on July 4th.

The presentation and extensive discussion can also be listened to as a podcast here.

The headlines of our leaflet read:

“Starmer’s Regime has NO MANDATE for its Genocidal Neoliberalism!  Independent Working-Class Forces promise Challenge to Zionist New Labour.”

This talk is based on that but expanded.

Media and conventional wisdom have it that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party won the July 2024 General Election by a ‘landslide’, with its overall majority of 174, and therefore has a strong mandate to rule, having supposedly ‘changed’ the Labour Party to make it ‘fit to govern’ by driving out the ‘unelectable’ Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing followers.

But the ‘landslide’ is a myth. Starmer got fewer votes absolutely than Corbyn’s Labour got in in the General Election of December 2019, which Labour lost by a considerable margin in terms of seats, producing an overall majority for Johnson’s Tories of 80. The Corbyn-led Labour Party got 10.29 million votes in 2019, whereas Starmer’s tally is well below 10 million. In percentage terms, Starmer’s Labour has 33.8%, not much higher than under Corbyn in 2019 (32.1%).

This is not the product of a surge of votes for Starmer’s Labour, but a much lower turnout, only 59.9%, the lowest since 2001. Caused by the well-known similarity between the main parties – “two cheeks of the same backside” as George Galloway put it. Over 19.5 million eligible voters did not vote. It is the undemocratic ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system yet again that produced this anomaly. In this case it was fuelled by the splintering and near–disintegration of the Tories. This has nothing to with any ‘achievements’ of Keir Starmer’s leadership, which is characterised by many of the same odious neoliberal, chauvinist and Zionist vices as the Tories.

In 2017, in a General Election that took on the character of a class confrontation between the Tories led by Theresa May and a resurgent left-led Labour Party led by Corbyn, Labour got 12.87 million votes and 40% of the vote. The Tories got only slightly more, and the result was a hung parliament where the Tories were forced to rely on the very right-wing Democratic Unionists in the North of Ireland to get their measures approved in parliament.

But in 2024 Starmer won precisely because the Labour vote was NOT a class vote, by virtue of the anti-democratic electoral system and the splintering and collapse of the Tories. Reform played a similar role in screwing the Tories as the Social Democratic Party did with Labour in the 1983 election. Though that was not as extreme a manifestation as today’s result, as in 1983, Thatcher’s Tories got nearly 44% of the vote – a genuine landslide.

Since the election Sunak announced his resignation. A leadership election process for the Tories has begun. Farage’s Reform Party is hopeful of either replacing, or taking over the Tories for a more consistent, xenophobic far right type of politics. More on this later.

Starmer today actually achieved a bigger majority than Thatcher with only 33%.    Blair in 1997 got a slightly larger majority than Starmer, but he won 43.3% of the vote. That was also a genuine landslide, whereas this is not at all. Starmer has no real mandate. He will be a weak and likely vicious PM. Even before he took office, a warning sign was decision of the police to refuse to allow the Palestine Solidarity movement to march on July 6th in Parliament Square and Whitehall. The police by then knew full well that the Tories were finished and it’s obvious that they would consult and take note of the views of the Zionist clique around Starmer in deciding what would be allowed. This is a sign of weakness, not strength from Starmer. His party is likely to generate rebellions on the backbenches precisely because of that lack of a solid mandate. This will not be a stable government.

Jeremy Corbyn’s overwhelming victory in Islington North is a considerable political blow to Starmer and will damage his authority right from the start. Starmer brazenly ran a candidate who is involved in private healthcare and who spoke publicly about the ‘importance’ of healthcare privatisation. A serious threat from the new regime since its designated Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, is also an evangelist for private healthcare.

The victory of Shockat Adam over would-be cabinet minister Jonathan Ashworth in Leicester South is a wonderful blow to the Labour Zionists. Shockat made Gaza a big element of his campaign. The same is true of the victory of Ayoub Khan in Birmingham Perry Barr, who took the seat of the neocon Zionist stooge Khalid Mahmoud, who has even served on the Council of the neocon arch-Zionist Henry Jackson Society.

Iqbal Mohammed, Newly Elected Independent MP for Dewsbury and Batley, West Yorkshire

Iqbal Mohammad, is a former Labour member who quit the party over Starmer’s endorsement of Yoav Gallant’s call for the deprivation of food, fuel and water to the population of Gaza (described by Gallant as ‘human animals’). He defeated the Labour candidate, Heather Iqbal, getting 41% of the vote to her 23%. A massive victory.

Then there is the victory of Adnan Hussein in Blackburn. There is some controversy over this as Craig Murray, the long-time anti-war activist and prominent campaigner in the successful campaign to free Julian Assange, was standing in this seat with the support of the Workers Party of George Galloway. Another independent Muslim candidate withdrew in favour of Craig Murray, but Hussein refused to do so. Murray offered to toss a coin for the left candidacy with Hussein, but the latter indignantly refused. It transpired that though the vote was split, Labour was just about defeated anyway. There are accusations that Adnan Hussein might be a ‘spoiler’ for Labour and that he has connections with the New Labour Iraq war criminal Jack Straw. We can only hope that this is untrue: if it were true. it would be very damaging. A ‘spoiler’ phoney candidate was run against Andrew Feinstein in Starmer’s seat, though he was exposed as such during the campaign and completely marginalised.

Prominent Palestinian activist Leanne Mohammad came within 500 votes of defeating the arch-Zionist Wes Streeting in Ilford North. Jody McIntyre, Muslim and disabled activist and supporter of the Workers Party, almost unseated Jess Phillips, friend of Israel, in Birmingham Yardley, by only 693 votes. George Galloway, founder of the Workers Party of Britain, lost the Rochdale seat he won in February, but quite narrowly – by around 1500 votes.  He promises to take the fight to Labour on Rochdale council.

Starmer lost a lot of votes in his own seat. 17,000 of them. Andrew Feinstein came a very good second with over 7,000 votes after a very energetic campaign that attracted activists from a wide area keen to have a go at Starmer himself. It lays down a marker for the future: Stamer will not be able to consider his own seat to be ‘safe’ in future elections.

Halima Khan in Stratford and Bow for the Workers Party – former Labour whistleblower about corruption and the activities of the Zionist lobby in Newham – came a very good third, behind Labour and the Greens. She gained ten times the vote of prominent RMT activist Steve Hedley, who mistakenly stood without any real base. Faiza Shaheen, a respected economist and the overwhelming popular choice of Labour members in Chingford and Woodford Green was banned from standing for Labour, because she criticised Islamophobia in the Labour Party. She was set to defeat Iain Duncan Smith. She rightly refused to accept this, Labour imposed a stooge candidate, and a split vote ensued that allowed IDS to retain his seat. This is entirely caused by Labour Zionism and Islamophobia.

We live in a world where social democracy has failed, and imperialist capitalism is threatening human existence both by the destruction of the biosphere and through predatory, permanent imperialist wars, of which the genocide in Gaza is the most obvious and foul manifestation. We desperately need an alternative, both here and internationally.

The left needs to create a proper party to fight under in the next period. Unlike the situation in the 2000s under Blair, now as a result of the Corbyn surge in Labour in the late 20-teens and then it’s defeat, there is a large layer of ex-Labour working class people involved in this movement. Though Labour has an awful history and record as a party controlled by a pro-imperialist bureaucracy, its party loyalty element was correct. We need to recreate the party loyalty element without the pro-imperialist bureaucracy and go beyond the weaknesses of the far left in general and the Trotskyist movement in particular.  

The struggle against the far right and Farage’s semi-far-right movement, which aims to parallel the rise of Marine Le Pen, Meloni etc., is going to be a key struggle in the next period. But it is going to be inseparable from the struggle to build a new party of the working class left. Trotsky wrote in a different situation, about the counterposition of the fascists, and what the party of the working class left, the communist party, should stand for. He said that the fascists were the party of counterrevolutionary despair, whereas the communist party was the party of revolutionary hope.

We are in a somewhat different situation today. In the 1930s, there were strong, highly political working-class movements all over Europe, and fascism was a petty bourgeois and lumpen movement directly aimed at crushing them. This time round there is not a strong, highly political working-class movement. Far from it. The parallel rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s and the collapse of Stalinism caused a massive weakening of the working-class movement in the imperialist countries. A qualitative weakening, which has not yet been overcome.

This rise of fascism intersects a conflict within the imperialist bourgeoisie, because in the period since the collapse of Stalinism under the unprecedented US domination, the globalising factions of the bourgeois gained unprecedented dominance. The problem is that the imperialist bourgeoisie is a national class. Although, as Lenin pointed out, the nation-state is obsolete, and the proof of that is the world war that broke out in 1914. But the war in 1914 showed that, not only is the nation-state obsolete, but the imperialist bourgeoisie cannot abolish it. Rather, it will try to ‘abolish’ it by imperialist powers attempting to conquer each other, and the rest of the globe also. And tearing apart human civilisation in the process and threatening human existence today as today’s technology is quite capable, from climate pollution to the threat of nuclear war.

Today’s right-wing populist and fascist movements derive from a backlash within the various imperialist bourgeoisies against the ‘globalising’ liberal factions of the bourgeoisie. They are not particularly aimed at the workers movement, which is qualitatively weaker, both organisationally and politically, than it was in the 1930s. However, they are aimed at migrant workers, and the workers movement has to act as the tribune of the oppressed, and therefore has a duty to defend such workers tooth and nail. There is nothing remotely ‘progressive’ about this reassertion of the ‘national’ prerogative of the various imperialist ruling classes.

Unfortunately, the populist factions have managed to convince some sections of the working-class movement that there is something positive about them. Even some left-wing sections of the workers movement have been drawn into the orbit of the populists, at least partly. Thus, we see working class support for Brexit, so-called ‘Lexit’, the most extreme example of which is George Galloway, who openly allied with Farage during the period of the Brexit referendum.

Even now, as he advocates the most courageous defiance and attacks on the imperialist bourgeoisie over its criminal support for genocide in Palestine, and its criminal, equally genocidal (in intent) proxy war in the Donbass, he still echoes the demands of the populists over so-called ‘illegal’ migration. He embodies a contradiction. He should be both hailed and congratulated for his courage over Ukraine and Gaza and taken to task for his chauvinist politics over so-called ‘illegal’ migration. For the working-class movement, no-one is illegal. Migrants, legal and ‘illegal’, are part of the working-class and oppressed.

Galloway became particularly vulnerable to such deviations when, as Britain’s most radical MP, he was brutally beaten by a Zionist in 2014, and betrayed by every member of the House of Commons bar one (including the Labour left) who failed to publicly condemn this fascist attack. He appeared to become partially disillusioned with the left after that. But this is not a mere personal foible. There are other examples.

Similar such contradictory phenomena are so-called ’MAGA-Communism’ in the United States (would be communists who support, or at least are in the political orbit of, Donald Trump). Or the left-wing politics (over Ukraine and Gaza) of Sahra Wagenknecht – very courageous in today’s Germany, and yet similar chauvinism to Galloway – her chauvinistic politics over migration. Wagenknecht has formed her own party over this, and appears to have the same mixture of courageous anti-imperialism and chauvinism as Galloway. This has partly come about as the Ukraine war has been seen particularly as a project of the ‘globalising’ faction of the bourgeoisie, with their populist opponents (Trump, Farage, the AfD, being seen to be more dubious about it).

This needs to be properly understood by the workers movement. A key text in understanding it is a 1977 essay “On Bourgeois Class-Consciousness” the then-leading Marxist intellectual figure of the Spartacist League/US, Joseph Seymour.

I would like to see us do a public forum/discussion on that soon. It would be very useful for enhancing a Marxist understanding of populism and the roots of the current growth of the far right. And re-arming the workers movement and the left, to understand this phenomenon, to gain a sense of perspective and discover how to combat it.

For this we need to advocate a unification of the anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist left including its sizeable ex-Labour, ex-Corbynite component. Programmatic development can only come through full debate and wide-ranging education. We need an anti-racist/anti-Zionist Socialist-Communist party with full freedom of programmatic debate. Freedom of criticism, unity in action, as in the early stages of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

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