Editorial: Jeremy Corbyn’s Reformist Programme
On 16 May, Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his General Election manifesto entitled ‘For The Many Not The Few’. On the BBC Daily Politics Show, on 12 May, a party representative was asked why the Socialist Party does not support Corbyn’s Labour Party. A similar question was also put to us by a Danish journalist. After all, the other so-called ‘Socialist’ Parties, including the ‘Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’, support Corbyn, and he is a ‘Socialist’, isn’t he ?
In his manifesto, Corbyn proposed higher taxes on incomes over £80,000 per year, raising corporation tax and introducing a tax on certain City deals. The extra income raised was to be spent on schools, infrastructure, childcare, the NHS, reversing the benefits freeze and abolishing tuition fees. It also pledged to bring back into state ownership the railways, the water industry, the National Grid and Royal Mail, and there were also proposals on helping small businesses and enhancing workers’ rights.
Whatever their merits these measures are not socialist. In the fifties and sixties, Conservative governments accepted the principle of progressive taxation and were generally in favour of high social spending. About twenty years ago, the Labour government imposed a windfall tax on the utilities and the banks, and nobody can accuse the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of being a socialist. Renationalising key industries isn’t socialist either. This merely transfers ownership from private companies to the state. Shareholders become bondholders and the workers continue to work for a wage. In the past, nationalised industries have been beset with strikes and redundancies.
The implementation of this manifesto would come up against the profit limitations of capitalism. Many high earners may seek ways to avoid paying the extra taxes and some capitalists may move their operations abroad where the tax regime is more favourable. If the economy is doing well and profits are high, then the capitalist class may tolerate the extra costs. If, on the other hand, should there be an economic downturn, then the government would have to make compromises and even backtrack and reduce public spending. The media and politicians would then cite these failures as proof that socialism does not work.
The history of previous governments’ attempts to reform capitalism in favour of the working class is not promising. François Hollande in France fell on his sword after attempting a more modest redistribution of wealth. Labour governments in the sixties and seventies also came to grief.
Even if a Corbyn government is a success, power and wealth would not be transferred to the working class, they would only receive more crumbs from the capitalist table. The only way to achieve a society that is ‘For The Many Not The Few’ is for a socialist working class to abolish capitalism and establish a society of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
So, in this general election the Socialist Party will not be supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. On the contrary, we standing against him again in his own constituency of Islington North.