THERE ARE FIVE candidates standing in the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party, but members are faced with a clear choice between two: Sir Keir Starmer for the right, and Rebecca Long-Bailey for the left.
A sixth nominee, Clive Lewis, the only black contender, and the only one with a detailed manifesto taking forward the most radical side of Corbyn’s first campaign, suffered the fate of previous leftwing candidates, falling victim to the undemocratic PLP veto, which neither Corbyn nor Momentum challenged.
The hard right of the party, represented by the Progress rump and Labour First are not wasting their time backing Phillips: their candidate is Starmer, and their project is to smash the left. Starmer might be the architect of a broad church, but it will be one in which the enemies of socialism will be occupying the pulpit and packing the front pews. The left should not act as ushers for the congregation.
Long-Bailey, long touted as the ‘continuity’ candidate stands squarely in the democratic socialist left of the party. Her campaign is centred on her record promoting Labour’s Green New Deal, and a pledge to “democratise the economy” as the foundation for an “economic transformation that will hand wealth and power back to ordinary people.”
The continuity is the continuity of the Corbyn leadership’s rightwards trajectory under the pressure of need to maintain ‘unity’ with the pro-capitalist right wing at the price of demobilising and disenfranchising the mass membership.
Long-Bailey’s U-turn on mandatory reselection is welcome but since it remains subject to effective veto of the trade union conference bloc vote, there will have to be a hard fight within the trade unions to turn this electioneering cheque into hard currency. If she is genuinely committed to the idea that policy should be made ‘from the bottom up’, she will campaign for the sovereignty of conference and endorse the internationalist policy passed on migrants, the commitment to repealing the anti-trade union laws, and ensure that future election manifestoes are subject to amendment and approval by a special delegate conference.
If the membership succeed in holding the right at bay, we must not repeat the mistake of supporting whatever the Long-Bailey does in case criticism ‘undermines’ her. Whatever the individual merits or conviction of the leader, it is not possible to reform the Labour party to the left through a top-down process of bargaining and compromise.
It requires a revolution from below, with the leader where possible, but without them where necessary, to secure the sovereignty of the membership over policy, democracy, and representatives, in order to drive out the agents of British imperialism and rebuild Labour as a workers’ party committed to an anticapitalist programme and a socialist republic.