Monday, 18 January 2021

Peace and Justice Project Launch: Corbyn is Fighting for the People Centrists Won't

Yesterday saw the launch of Jeremy Corbyn's Peace and Justice Project. And for a working class leftist like me, it was an immediate source of renewed hope.

I've been homeless. I've been long-term unemployed. I've been, for a while, financially comfortable and, for much longer, I've been working poor. 

I've known what it's like to go days without food, to not be able to switch the heating on, to not know if I'll have a roof over my head next month. I've seen first-hand the cruelty of our immigration system and the systemic racism that exists in this country because I committed the crime of marrying an immigrant and having mixed-race children. I'm one of the many who've been very deliberately marginalised by establishment politicians and I'm not prepared to stand for it any longer. That's why I'm now an activist.

People like me have no representation from the major political parties. And this is why a Peace and Justice Party is needed.

In the past 12 months, Starmer's Labour have fallen over themselves to move away from the working class struggle, from the fight against systemic racism, from even tackling the biggest problem we are currently facing as a species - the climate crisis.

I don't consider myself hugely uncompromising in my politics, but I certainly do have red lines. If a politician wants my vote, here's what commitments they must make - these things are non-negotiable:

  • A plan for ending homelessness
  • A guaranteed living wage
  • A guaranteed access to food for all citizens (and non-citizens)
  • A determination to eradicate all forms of racism always, not just when politically convenient
  • A green industrial revolution

There are many other things I'd really like to see, but they are things I would be prepared to compromise on. However, the things I've listed above are, like I said, non-negotiable, and I don't think that's even close to being unreasonable. 

Unfortunately, we now have a Labour leader who would vilify someone like me, rather than address these vital concerns. A Labour leader who will let corporations dictate policy and treat the working class his party was founded to represent as an afterthought.

Starmer's idea of representing the working class is meaningless soundbites like "patriotic foreign policy" and concerning dog whistles like "no truck whatsoever with the Black Lives Matter organisation." Let me tell you, when you have a Black family, the language Starmer is using does not fill you with any confidence that he is committed to racial (or social) justice. He comes across as a politician who is taking our vote for granted while trying to win over the UKIP mob.

Does he not realise there is a huge, disregarded chunk of the population whose votes he could target? A gaping hole in the political spectrum where no party is placing their focus? Did it not occur that might be a more viable and credible strategy, given these would be the people his party was founded to represent? Or does he just not care? I know what I think...

Starmer's reluctant to tell the public what he actually believes on anything. Principles? What are those? 

And on those rare occasions Starmer does talk policy, it's to water down Labour's amazing 2019 manifesto. Indeed, his shadow chancellor has indicated we are now back to the pre-2015 austerity-lite Labour Party - from the period when Rachel Reeves boasted about being "tougher on benefits claimants than the Tories." Shudder.

Labour is once again the party of anti-immigration mugs, and as the husband of an immigrant, I find this truly alarming.

I've been made politically homeless. Not in a whiny centrist from the Corbyn-era way. I'm politically homeless from the perspective of once being actually homeless and now having no-one willing to solve the problems I've experienced first-hand.

All I want is a cause to get behind. Something to fight for. 

The irony is I would've gladly accepted compromise with Starmer's centrists in order to achieve badly-needed change in this country, as long as they were willing to address our key concerns — concerns which should be the priority for any Labour leader.

Sadly, Starmer would rather vilify people like me. The Parliamentary Labour Party treat committed activists, lifelong trade unionists, and our most passionate socialist MPs like the enemy, like non-persons. Starmer is perfectly happy to write for racist right-wing newspapers and cosy up to fascists, but if you show solidarity with someone he's declared a non-person, you get booted out the Labour Party. He's an astounding hypocrite and he's made it clear compromise isn't happening.

Starmer's showing himself to be a technocrat who is every bit as out of touch with ordinary people as Boris Johnson. His entire game plan is to count on Johnson being so horrendously awful, he wins a general election by default. But a supportive mainstream media can only get him so far. The more the public see of Starmer, the less they like him. And he's somehow polling behind the worst prime minister in memory. 

The reasons are simple: He won't stand for anything, he won't offer hope, and he won't provide solutions.

Starmer's telling people like me things will not change, the structural problems will remain, the issues I care about largely ignored, but I'd better vote for him because the other guy's even worse.

I could not think of a less appealing message from a Labour leader (at least Blair tried to inspire), and my concern is that a vote for Starmer may ultimately do more long-term damage to the future of this country than a vote for Johnson. This is because he would snuff out the hope of a transformative Labour government for yet another generation. Horrifying.

Step forward Jeremy Corbyn and his new Peace and Justice Party, I mean Project

God, I do hope it becomes a party!

The launch was brilliant, inspiring. There were outstanding speakers like world-renowned academic Noam Chomsky who is still fighting for us at 92 years old. There was an incredibly impressive climate activist called Scarlet who is only 16 years old. Other speakers included Unite leader Len McCluskey, economist Yanis Varoufakis, future prime minister Zarah Sultana, and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell (whose message was pre-recorded).

Corbyn said: "The pandemic is intensifying three deep, connected and global crises: the climate emergency, an economy that generates inequality and insecurity faster than prosperity and freedom — and a global order that holds back the vast majority of our planet’s people.

"But we have both the ideas, and the power when we come together, to overcome these crises. What our movement does today will be felt for generations to come.

"Our movement can turn the dial towards peace and justice."

During the show, we heard how the PJP will actively campaign against the Murdoch empire and the concerning plans to create a British equivalent of Fox News. This was music to my ears. We've desperately needed something to counter the pernicious influence of Murdoch for 40 years. Jeremy Corbyn now plans to do this while Sir Keir Starmer plans his latest column for the S*n newspaper. 

See the difference here? Starmer wants to work with and represent sinister billionaires who are holding back our country. Corbyn wants to defeat them. Who do you think is on your side?

There was also the predictable, but much-needed talk of countering imperialism, campaigning against the war machine and promoting peace around the world. And you know that, unlike other politicians like former "Middle-east Envoy" and corrupt warmonger Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn will approach this with absolute sincerity. Plus, he has a movement of people behind him, only too willing to amplify his voice.

Corbyn spoke of an "economic security project" to support families impacted by austerity and Covid-19 by working with unions and foodbanks. He spoke of an "international justice project" focusing on ensuring Covid-19 vaccines reach as many people as possible. (At present some countries are buying three times more stock than they physically need, leaving other countries with little or nothing, and this is clearly unacceptable.) He also spoke of a "climate justice project" to fight for the implementation of the Green New Deal Starmer wants to water down. (Seriously, who is this man fighting for? Fossil fuel companies?)

The fact is Jeremy Corbyn spoke like the Prime Minister we should have, the leader we deserve, the person who actually cares about the things all politicians are supposed to care about. It's unbelievable to me that 90% of our political representatives couldn't give a damn about any of this. Even more unbelievable is that Labour centrists helped install someone as dangerous as Boris Johnson. As far as I'm concerned, they own every Tory failure and every excess death as a result of this corrupt government. They can shove their fake calls for unity up their arse.

The show was closed with Emeli Sande's "You are Not Alone"  a song that both gives me chills and triggers PTSD! Every time I hear it, I'm taken back to December 13th 2019 and that devastating electoral defeat that crushed our dreams. But now those dreams have been reignited. 

Finally we have something to cling to, something to campaign for, and although my hope is for the PJP to become a new political party, even if it remains just a "project", we at least have have a way of coming together and making our voice heard. We've had 40 years just hearing the voice of the billionaire class. It's time to fight back.

As Yanis Varoufakis said: "Democracy has never failed because it's never been tried."

If you ask Corbyn, he will of course tell you the PJP is not, and will not become, a political party — he will tell you to stay and fight, but if his current court action against the Labour Party is unsuccessful and he fails to get the Labour whip restored, we could see him take a very different position. It all hinges on whether Corbyn is up for that challenge because his supporters certainly are.

Say what you want about "splitting the left vote," Starmer is not even pursuing the left vote and he is probably going to lose in 2024 regardless. But the chance of the left finding any way back in the Labour Party is slim to none. 

In my humble opinion, now is the time to find the spirit of Keir Hardie and trade unionists in 1900 when they got together to take on the establishment, to replace liberalism as the political alternative to conservativism. That alternative was stolen from us by infiltrators, by a neoliberal fifth column, but we can start again. Socialism can become a renewed force in British politics but I can only see that happening outside the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn, over to you...

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email: r.d.hale@outlook.com