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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 14, No. 36, 17 September 2015

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Jeremy Corbyn: The British working class is at last waking from its long slumber?

By Ian Beddowes

“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many - they are few.”

The words of the great radical English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley came to mind as soon as the overwhelming victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party was announced. With the possible exception of James Keir Hardie who became leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1906 and Michael Foot who briefly led the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980, Jeremy Corbyn is the most progressive Labour Party leader in history. More importantly, he has a huge and still growing popular support base. Although it is difficult to obtain exact figures, Labour Party membership was below 200 000 before the leadership race. It is now well over 400 000 with some 30 000 joining in the three days following Corbyn’s election last Saturday. Everywhere he has been, huge crowds have gathered to hear him speak.

Why this sudden phenomenon among a people whose political and economic illiteracy is only a little above that of the USA, the land of the utterly brainwashed? 

A June 2014 publication produced by Oxfam and others entitled “Below the Breadline - The Relentless Rise of Food Poverty in Britain” has this to say:

“The UK is the seventh richest country in the world.  It is also a deeply unequal country. In May 2014, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the richest one percent of Britons own the same amount of wealth as 54 percent of the population. The same month, the Sunday Times reported that the 1,000 richest people in the country had doubled their wealth in five years.

“People on low incomes have traded down and down again to the cheapest food products; after which they simply have to buy less food. We have spoken to people living on one meal a day, drinking hot water and lemon to tame hunger pangs, trying to think how they can survive on a household budget of £6 a week. More than half a million children in the UK are now living in families who are unable to provide a minimally acceptable diet.

“Despite their best efforts, many people cannot earn enough to live on. UK food prices have increased by 43.5 per cent in the eight years to July 2013 and food expenditure as a proportion of total household expenditure has continued to rise. The UK has one of the highest levels of housing costs in Europe, while between 2010 and 2013 energy prices for households rose by 37 per cent. At the same time, low and stagnant wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts mean that for many low-income households, the money they are bringing home is less every month than their essential outgoings.”

This report comes in a country where until very recently, extreme poverty did not exist. The Independent newspaper has listed eight points around which other politicians have called Corbyn an “old-fashioned socialist” - but with which the majority of the British public agrees.

  1. Re-nationalisation of the railways: 60% for 20% against - including 42% of Conservative voters.
  2. Raising the tax level to 75% for earnings over £1 million per annum: 56% for, 31% against.
  3. International convention to ban nuclear weapons: 64% for, 21% against.
  4. Rent control: 59% for, 7% against.
  5. Mandatory living wage: 60% for, 31% against.
  6. Cut University tuition fees: 41% for, 31% against.
  7. Iraq War: 43% against, 37% for.
  8. Bombing Syria: 60% against, 24% for.

There are still five years to go before the next election. As the Communist Party of Britain has made clear for many years, according to its long-standing if old proposition, the election of a Left-Labour government is a first step towards the building of socialism in that country - but government power is not state power. Should Jeremy Corbyn be elected as the next Prime Minister, as is very likely, then the people will have to protect their government.

Few are aware that under the unwritten British Constitution, an elected government can be deposed by the Privy Council, the Queen’s private council, and if that happens, the army and police then come under its command.

If you do not think that this is possible, remember that during the 1960s, Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, far to the right of Jeremy Corbyn, was spied on by British intelligence agency MI. 5.

Worse, in 1975 after a deliberate destabilisation campaign, Australian Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was deposed by the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in that country.

The victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the internal Labour Party election came suddenly and unexpectedly and it looks like the British working-class is at last waking from its long slumber and “Shaking its chains to earth like dew” led by the modest bike-riding, former Anti-Apartheid activist Jeremy Corbyn.

But the path is long and fraught with danger.

Cde Ian Beddowes is General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Communist League. He is based in South Africa and spent many years of his life and political activity in the UK. He writes in personal capacity.

Umsebenzi Online is the online voice of the South African Working Class