Sunday 13 September 2015

A weekend when the pendulum swung back to the left

This has been a historic weekend. For decades, Westminster politics has been dominated by right-wing, pro-big business policies. Now, after the crushing victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party leadership election, that pro-austerity consensus has been shattered.

For years, the press and the Tories, echoed by those in the New Labour machine (like Tristram Hunt the now EX-Shadow Education Secretary!) and even some in the trade union movement, have been telling us that 'anti-austerity is unpopular'. That's just not been true, it's just that the real mood of the majority has never (certainly south of the border) had a significant outlet. Now it has!

The news of Jeremy's victory coincided with a march of perhaps 100,000 through London in defence of refugees. That alone showed that the real public mood is in sharp contrast to the anti-migrant rubbish that is printed in too much of our press. Of course, the 'divide-and-rule' propaganda will resurface but a battle against austerity and for jobs and homes for all can help make sure it is cut across successfully.

I volunteered to steward on behalf of the NUT and, as luck would have it, was stationed by the stage when Jeremy Corbyn came to give his first public speech - just hours after his election. Here's my footage of the opening of his speech:

The confidence boost that Corbyn's victory had given to trade unionists was also visible at today's packed pre-TUC rally in Brighton hosted by the National Shop Stewards Network, addressed by many of the main left trade union leaders. A determined note was struck by all who attended - that we won't allow the Tories to steal away our rights and that we must strike together to defend any trade unionist who falls victim to these new laws - just as we have in the past.

A different period now lies ahead of us. Things will certainly not move in a straight line in building a mass anti-austerity movement - as Greece has shown. The old guard of New Labour will fight tooth and nail to keep hold of what they won for big business. There are some in the new Shadow Cabinet, not to mention the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party, that cannot be relied on to stand firm. A battle will have to be fought both inside and outside the Labour Party - as Hannah Sell of the Socialist Party explained on Sky News:

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory has lifted the confidence of all those who oppose austerity and has already dealt a blow to the establishment. Now teachers have to take heart, take courage and take action to fight for our pay & conditions and for education.

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