John McDonnell at Ruskin House

Speaking to a packed meeting at Ruskin House on Tuesday, John McDonnell defended Labour’s decision to campaign on a remain/second referendum ticket at the general election. It was necessitated, he argued, both by the Labour Party Conference decision in 2019 and evidence the leadership had gathered on voters’ intentions. A firm leave line would, he argued, have resulted in an even worse outcome. The important thing now, John McDonnell said, was for the Labour Party to rally behind the new leader, whoever he or she was, and campaign vigorously outside parliament for the next four years. His assumption was that, regardless of the Fixed Term Parliament Act,  the Tories would call the next general election at a time of their choosing, not at the end of the fixed five year term.

While taking full responsibility of the electoral defeat, there was, understandably, a measure of denial and excuse in McDonnell’s speech and in his answers to the questions that followed. As Tariq Ali argues in the current edition of the London Review of Books (1), one of the few progressive voices left in the UK’s printed media (the other shining example being, of course, the Morning Star), if Labour had stated clearly that the referendum and the chaos that ensued were the result of a Tory split and if Labour had then let them get on with it, Theresa May’s deal with the EU might have gone through and the general election scheduled for April 2020 could have been fought on the NHS, education and other public services.

On one point made by McDonnell there can be no dispute: his warning that any Labour leader who threatened the capitalist status quo would be subject to the same level of vitriolic abuse as that directed at Jeremy Corbyn. One of numerous examples of this was the absurd question relating to nuclear buttons put to Jeremy Corbyn and are now directed at his potential successors (2).

As Tariq Ali observed, the question would be more meaningful if expressed as “Are there any circumstances in which you would refuse US orders to fire the missiles?” However, as we have pointed out previously on this website, our nuclear missile technology is supplied by the USA. Does anyone seriously doubt that the Americans would not have installed a disabling switch in the Pentagon? A more worrying question is whether they have installed another switch enabling the US President to launch “our” missiles regardless of the wishes of a future UK Prime Minister.

Notes

(1) Short Cuts, Tariq Ali, London Review of Books, Volume 42 Number 2, 23 January 2020
(2) With depressingly successful results. Unlike Corbyn, they all appear willing to declare themselves potential war criminals.

The Meaning of Conspiracy

With concern mounting about the spread of the Coronavirus, is it perhaps time to take a step back and ask ourselves whether this outbreak and the criticisms in the mass media of how China is dealing with it fit in with some other issues that have dominated news coverage in recent months: Hong Kong; Taiwan; the plight of the Uyghurs in China’s western Xinjiang Province; Trump’s “tariff war” with China; and the Huawei/G5 controversy. The common link is, of course, China.

Could the reporting of the Corona virus outbreak be exaggerated or worse, could it have been created in a laboratory to undermine the Chinese state? The Communist Party is largely indifferent to such conspiracy theories – with one exception. The capitalist state itself is, in our view, a ruthless conspiracy against the majority of the people who reside within its borders. Our evidence?

• The success of historical materialism in explaining the world we live in – and in particular its rejection of the idea that the state as simply the means of balancing competing interests.

• The self-evident fact that, regardless of elections every four or five years, the welfare of the great majority of those in capitalist states is simply not the state’s priority. Further evidence of this was provided this week in a report by the Rowntree Foundation that found that around 14 million people in the UK, one in five of the population, are in poverty.

• The evidence, when we can get hold of it, about how capitalist governments actually respond to perceived threats to the status quo. It’s too soon to discover the smoking gun that saw off Corbyn and the probably failed attempt to radicalise the Labour Party, but a re-reading of The Enemy Within by Seumas Milne will provide a salutary reminder that government (aided by the security services) and the judiciary will act as one to protect the status quo.

While the unity of action between government and the judiciary is predicted by historical materialism and supported by hard evidence such as that found by Seamus Milne, why is the government then, according to Whitehall speculation, apparently intent on restricting judicial review and tightening up on the selection of judges? Clearly the finding by the Supreme Court that parliament was illegally prorogued was an embarrassment for the government and it wishes to remind the judiciary that its independence a token independence only. Class interests are what bind the state together. That is the real conspiracy, and, if the judiciary wishes to prosper, they had better keep it in mind.

 

References

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Report on UK Poverty 2019-20 http://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2019-20
The Enemy Within – MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair by Seumas Milne, Verso, 1994