As Labour Students and Young Labour prepare for conferences in February, at which policy will be decided and elections held (including for the position of International Officer), it is a good time to consider what kind of policies a Corbyn-led Labour party should be putting forward. For the first time in a long time, thanks to Corbyn, people are talking seriously about what socialist policies might look like.
With the ongoing bombing of Syria and the debates that surrounded that decision by the Tories and the right-wing of the Labour party, as well as the upcoming EU referendum and the recent wave of student protest internationally, the question of what a socialist foreign policy could look like should be high on the agenda for Young Labour as it approaches its next conference.
We need to seize this chance to put forward clear, bold socialist ideas. The Labour party has attracted thousands of new young members in recent months who are looking for radical ideas and a way out of the crisis that has engulfed society and wrecked our futures since 2008. Young Labour should use the upcoming conference to give those people a voice. We need a revolution in Young Labour.
Fight imperialism – for a new Arab spring
As the generation of the war on terror we are the most terrorised generation since the horrors of WWII. The imperialist interests of the US, backed by Europe and NATO, have for a long time made cynical use of Islamic terrorism. After more than three decades of supporting and funding Islamic fundamentalist groups in the middle east and protecting its ally Saudi Arabia, the US has woken up to a monster that it has unwittingly created: the Islamic State. The reckless foreign policy of US and EU imperialism in the region, spurred on by economic interests in securing the energy supply of natural gas and oil, needs to be exposed and combatted now more than ever.
The recent terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere, attacks that were directed against young people and the cosmopolitanism of their culture, were clearly designed to be a show of strength by IS. But they will also be used by the bourgeois class of Europe to push us towards a policy of even more military intervention and oppression of the population in the middle east.
We need to organise a strong reaction to the slaughter and displacement of millions of people in the middle east, which is the direct result of the pursuit of geopolitical and economic interests by the imperialists of Europe and the USA. It is the cynical diplomatic and military adventures pursued by successive governments, including Blair’s war in Iraq, that have got us where we are today. Young Labour could put itself at the forefront of this struggle. We need to produce material and hold meetings on these questions. We need to hold to account, using deselection procedures among other methods, those in the party who have been responsible for these policies and who continue to pursue the same agenda today in Syria and elsewhere.
Young Labour needs to build links with trade unions and workers’ organisations in the middle east, especially in countries with a powerful working class such as Turkey, Egypt and Iran. The best hope there is for building a peaceful and brighter future for this region is for a new Arab spring – one that does not simply change the government while keeping the system intact, but which sweeps away the capitalist system, ejects the imperialist powers from the region and rediscovers the best traditions of pan-Arabism and Nasserism.
For a socialist united states of Europe
The most powerful weapon of the working class is internationalism; without an international struggle capitalism will always find a way out of its crises by making the working class pay for them, as they have been doing since 2008. Capitalism is an global system and we must be organised internationally to fight it.
In Europe the bourgeoisie have forged an international imperialist organisation in the form of the European Union. Using this weapon they have ridden roughshod over the sovereignty of the people of Greece. They have built Fortress Europe, against which wave after wave of refugees have crashed whilst trying to escape the bombs of European countries and their allies. Through TTIP the EU now plans to sacrifice workers’ rights and democracy at the altar of big business. This is the internationalism of the 1%.
But bourgeois nationalism is no alternative to neoliberal globalisation. In fact they are two sides of the same coin. For the working class in Britain and in every country, being inside or outside of the capitalist club of the EU makes little difference – we will still suffer austerity at the hands of the 1%.
The real alternative to the bosses’ international capitalist system is working class internationalism. We need to build alliances with working class organisations in every country in Europe and around the world. We need to study the lessons of working class struggle internationally, from the Russian Revolution of 1917, to 1968 in Europe, to the Arab Spring of 2011. In short, we have to fight for international socialist revolution.
Young Labour members have far more in common with young workers and students in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and every other country around the world, than we do with the super-rich in Britain and their Tory friends. We should organise international meetings where we can discuss how to strengthen our common struggle, and where we can flesh out our alternative to the bosses’ EU – a socialist united states of Europe in which the vast resources on this continent are used for the benefit of all instead of in the interests of a tiny minority.
The outline of our international struggle is already visible. The attacks on living and working conditions that young people are facing in Britain are being replicated all over the world – austerity is a global phenomenon. The latest crisis of capitalism has had a profound global character that is still unfolding.
The slowing down of the economies of Brazil, India and China in the last year are a consequence of the low investment rates that are gripping the global economy thanks to the lack of confidence that there is any profit to be made from investment at a time of capitalist crisis. At a time when the market is saturated with both goods and debt, people’s purchasing power has consistently been reduced by the loss of jobs and lowering of wages. Investment has collapsed, production has halted and the global economy is slowing down while financial bubbles which carry a high risk of bursting are being created to keep things afloat.
The result of this global crisis has been to attack the education, living and working conditions of young people everywhere, thus provoking massive movements all over the world. Just at the end of 2015 students in Johannesburg protested against the intention of the government to raise fees and reduce grants to students. In a show of strength students united with workers and occupied their universities up and down the country for days until the government backed down and stopped the programme. In Canada students fought in the streets for one year against an hike in tuition fees to bend their government plans. In Italy high school students are organising and opposing new school reforms as well as denouncing the appalling state of the cold, unsafe buildings where they are expected to go every day. In Brazil school students in the state of Sao Paulo occupied hundreds of schools in the face of police violence to protest the restructuring of their education and the closure of their schools. In the USA an enormous anti-tuition fee demonstration inspired by presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has mobilised students to fight for their rights.
All of these are struggles that Young Labour must support politically and financially through campaigning and collections. This is our duty as socialist internationalists.
But education is only one of the many issues that are touching young people. The increased use of zero hour contracts; the attempt to recreate slave labour under the disguise of ‘work experience’; and the increasingly oppressive conditions of work being forced upon us is all we have to look forward to after many years of study and the accumulation of personal debt. The idea of the ruling class was expressed by Jeremy Hunt when he said that British workers should work harder and more like Chinese workers. This is the perspective for the future: a race to the bottom. For the ruling class this is the only way out of the crisis. Our international campaigning must link all the difficulties facing young people together into a struggle for international socialism.
The Corbyn revolution and the future of Young Labour
The last few years have seen dramatic changes in the political landscape across the world, in response to the economic crisis and its effects. This change represents the future. In Britain Jeremy Corbyn is part of that change. What Corbyn reflects is a seething discontent that runs through society, one that flows from the continued attacks of the bourgeoisie and its political representatives on the working class in Britain and abroad.
Young Labour, with the enormous influx of new members it has experienced thanks to Corbyn, also needs to be a part of this change. It is radical, even revolutionary socialist ideas that offer us a future. The slide into wage-stagnation, privatisation and war is not inevitable. We need to embrace the real potential of working class internationalism.
The working class has immense potential power, which lies in its numbers. In north Africa and the middle east, from Morocco to the Gulf, in the past 35 years the number of wage workers has gone from 25 to 70 million. They showed their power in 2011 albeit without being able to harness it properly. Potentially they have the strength to do away with a corrupt and failing bourgeoisie. And what a power that would be if united with that of 200 million workers in Europe, 220 million in India and 350 million in China. The working class is a global power against capitalism and imperialism.
This is the only way out from terror, war and crisis. The Labour Party needs to take the road to international socialism in its foreign policy and it is up to Young Labour, as the voice of the generation whose world this is to inherit, to make sure this happens. The future is in our hands. We need to start to build it now. Go out to your schools, universities and workplaces to organise and agitate for a different kind of politics, for socialism.
by Beatrice Papapietro, Romsey and Southampton CLP and Southampton Marxists