From Greece to Britain: it's capitalism itself that must be challenged!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
23 September 2015

The main stream media have carried on pouring yet more dirt on Jeremy Corbyn over the past week.

After their initial hysteria, they went on to deride his performance in the Commons. Then the Sunday Express managed to dig out a story about a remote Corbyn ancestor who was allegedly accused of sexual harassment while running a workhouse! The Sunday Times went one better, by quoting an armed forces' general who made a statement that the army would not stand for such a Prime Minister.

This anti-Corbyn rage is a measure of how much Corbyn upsets the political institutions and their usual smooth operation. For so many decades, politics has been little more than a game of musical chairs in which, rhetoric apart, politicians have all been defending the same capitalist interests. Then along comes Corbyn, propelled into his position by those who have never had a voice, in the hope that he will throw a spanner in the works of this corrupt system. No wonder the political establishment and its masters are up in arms!

The cost of "playing the system"

But is Corbyn really determined to throw his spanner in the works? Hasn't he been a Labour MP for over three decades, regardless of the anti-working class policies of his leaders, in opposition and in office? Despite his countless backbench "rebellions", hasn't he, by remaining in the party, helped to fuel the illusion among the working class that Labour was "on its side" - something which it certainly never was?

This is a fundamental political choice on the part of men like Corbyn and McDonnell. Instead of challenging the system head on, they want to try to "influence it from the inside". But such a choice can only come at the price of endless compromises, which will inevitably turn them into hostages of the system, instead of being able to influence it.

Already, the list of these compromises is growing. Corbyn chose to honour the Queen with his presence at the official commemoration of the Battle of Britain. As if remembering the dead of this period could possibly be done side by side with a monarchy which was sympathetic to Hitler's regime and with representatives of British Capital which shed the blood of hundreds of thousands for the sole purpose of defending its colonies and markets? As to Corbyn's failure to "bless the Queen" by singing the national anthem - which was to his credit - it was hurriedly explained away by claiming that he had

been "distracted"

Compromises are emerging in Corbyn's economic pledges too. His "rail renationalisation" only involves taking over franchises as they expire - meaning that, in the best of cases, only one third of the franchises would be renationalised by 2025! As if it wouldn't make sense to renationalise the whole lot without compensation, especially as the profits made by these companies are mostly paid for by state subsidies anyway!

Likewise for Corbyn's "taxing the rich" slogan. McDonnell's suggestion of a 60% tax band for the very rich was promptly reduced to 50% - less than under Thatcher!!

Lessons from Greece

Choosing to "play the system" has a logic of its own which Corbyn cannot dodge. This is precisely what was shown by the case of Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza coalition in Greece.

Last January, Syriza was brought to power by voters on the basis of a clear pledge to reverse past austerity measures and to challenge the diktats of the international banks and rich governments which were strangling the population. Over the following 8 months, however, Syriza failed to deliver, except on one thing: to his credit, Tsipras did stand up to his country's lenders.

But not for long. Ignoring voters' opposition, he eventually signed up to a "deal" which will only tighten the noose of austerity on the population and put the country's economy under the tutelage of the men of the banking giants. And this weekend, voters confirmed Syriza's majority, without joy this time, but in the hope that its austerity would be less drastic than that of the other parties.

Was another outcome possible? No-one can say for sure. But what is certain is that Tsipras' choice to "play the system" by seeking a compromise without challenging capitalism and, especially, without challenging the dictatorship of the banks, made this outcome inevitable.

Tsipras never claimed to be a revolutionary; nor does Corbyn. But here, just as in Greece, "austerity" is just a symptom of the disease. Its cause is the parasitism of a capitalist class which owns the economy. Ending austerity will involve taking on the capitalist system itself and getting rid of the capitalists' parasitism. And only the working class, with its collective strength, can achieve this.