Socialist Students groups have been campaigning at freshers fairs, signing up hundreds of students across the country over the last few weeks. We’ve been out discussing with students against the backdrop of utter crisis for the capitalist class. Since the below editorial for our magazine was written we have seen the supreme court find against Johnson and rule the prorogation of parliament null and void. Read below for what we think about the need for students and workers to fight for a General Election now and for Corbyn to fight on socialist policies to win!
This September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is returning to Parliament along with other Tory MPs. Elected by less than 100,000 predominantly elderly and wealthy members of the Tory Party Boris’ ‘election’ marks another turn and ramping up of the Tory Party civil war.
Former Tory MP Nick Boles attempted to savage Johnson on his very first day as Prime Minister by telling the press that the party has been “fully taken over by the hard right”. This was in response to one of Johnson’s first moves as PM – to sack 18 cabinet ministers in the biggest cull in living memory, and pack it full of pro-Brexit supporters, including Jacob Rees Mogg, the head of the pro-Brexit European Research Group.
This is the state of the complete and utter disarray of the ruling Tory government, which with the fast approaching ‘Brexit Day’ of October 31, is teetering on the edge of collapse.
It’s an unstable situation for the capitalist class, unlike anything in British history. Inherent in the situation is the collapse of the Tory government, a new general election, and the possibility of the coming to power of a Corbyn led anti austerity government, elected on a programme that saw Corbyn nearly take power in 2017 on the back of the “youthquake”, the flocking of millions of students and young people to polling stations to vote for Corbyn’s manifesto.
To vote for free education; for a mass programme of council house building; for the renationalisation of mail, water and energy and the railways; for a ten pound an hour minimum wage and the abolition of youth rates. The hopes of millions of young people were raised at that election, and could be yet again at the next election.
Corbyn has put himself forward, in the event of a no confidence vote tabled by himself against Johnson in Parliament passing, to lead the formation of a temporary ‘caretaker government’ to avert a no deal Brexit on October 31 by applying for an extension of Article 50 in order to call a general election.
The fact Corbyn has put himself forward to form such a government and press for a general election is a positive, and should be welcomed.
But Johnson has threatened that, if a no confidence vote passes, and if a new alternative government and Prime Minister fails to be agreed by Parliament, he will not call a general election until after October 31 in order to complete a Tory Brexit – with or without a deal.
Fight for a general election
Either would be bring no relief for students and young workers if left in the hands of the Tories. A Tory negotiated leave, or crashing out with no deal at all, will be used by the Tories – the party and government of the super-rich – to continue to make young and working class people pay for the economic crisis of capitalism.
What is needed now is an all-out campaign from every corner of the student and labour movement to fight for that general election.
For students, this should start with a massive national student demonstration called by the NUS, as well as Corbyn and McDonnell, during the Autumn term, demanding a general election with the demand for free education central to mobilising students. If the NUS refuses to call such a demonstration, student campaigners from campuses and colleges around the country who want to kick out the Tories should co-ordinate and organise a demonstration themselves without the NUS.
This would be a strong start and potentially spell the start of the end for Johnson’s government. But the entry of the trade unions onto the scene, firstly with a national trade union-led demonstration as a first step towards co-ordinated strike action if necessary – bringing the working class onto the streets alongside students struggling for free education and students’ rights – would tip the balance of power completely.
But crucial to mobilising such a movement is a programme capable of giving a clear and bold alternative to the pro-capitalist austerity policies of the last decade – a socialist programme.
Socialist policies would mean free university education and the cancellation of all student debt, as well as the introduction of living grants for all students. With the publication of the Tory Auger report, it’s clear that the Tories still have students in their sights and will try to yet again make us pay for the crisis caused by the rich (see pages 15 and 16 for more).
It would also mean an end to the marketisation of our universities and funding cuts to services on campuses, as well as a complete reversal of all academisation and cuts to schools and colleges.
In the world of work, it would mean a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour for a start – we say £15 should be the living wage in London, as well as the banning of all zero hours contracts.
It would mean ending and reversing all cuts to public services, including to the NHS, and the launching of a mass programme of council house construction and the introduction of rent controls in the private sector.
And crucially, it would mean the nationalisation – not just of the railways, mail and the energy companies as Corbyn has outlined, but also taking the banks and the other big companies into public ownership, under the democratic control of workers and young people, to fund all of these policies and plan the economy for the benefit of the vast majority of the population and to protect the environment from climate change.
Such a programme could unite workers and young people who fell on both sides of the EU referendum, in a united battle to topple the Tories and fight for jobs, homes and services for all. This is the only force capable of breaking the logjam in Parliament.
If a Corbyn led government was propelled to power by such a mass movement, Corbyn would have the basis to negotiate with the EU a socialist Brexit deal – a Brexit which would be in the interests of the overwhelming majority of society – millions of working class, young people and students, as well as the middle class.
This would mean a deal that would scrap all the anti-worker directives and legislation of the single market – including the posted workers’ directive, legislation prohibiting the renationalisation of industry, and laws restricting state aid – and to establish a new customs union in the interests of students and workers.
National unity government?
But every time the moment arrives when a Corbyn government seems to be on the cards, his enemies mobilise to stop him at all costs. This doesn’t only include the Tories, but also the Blairites, who could back the formation of a “national unity” government with Tories, Lib Dems and all manner of pro-capitalist, pro-austerity politicians.
That’s why Socialist Students says that it is crucial Corbyn calls for the removal of the pro-capitalist elements of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Blairite MPs, and campaigns for their reselection and replacement with class fighters who will fight for the interests of workers, students and young people, not for the interests of big business.
The rank hypocrisy of the pro-capitalist politicians will be an outrage to the overwhelming majority of students and young people. The fact that Jo Swinson – leader of the little bosses’ party, the Lib Dems, responsible for trebling university tuition fees alongside the Tories in 2010 – refuses to back even a temporary Corbyn government to prevent a no deal Brexit demonstrates what the pro-capitalist politicians truly fear.
Their biggest fear, and the only glue which holds the fractious Tory Party together, is the coming to power of a Corbyn led government. The anti-austerity policies he campaigned on in 2017 and continues to campaign on is only part of what frightens big business and their political representatives though.
It’s the raised hopes and expectations of millions – including students – which the capitalist establishment truly fears. The election of a Corbyn led government could unleash a whole new wave of mass struggle, pushing Corbyn further to the left than he intended to go.
Socialist Students says go further
But if Corbyn is to mobilise a movement both within the Labour Party to transform the party, and a movement in wider society to oust the Tories, he needs to go on the offensive with bold socialist policies.
Why not instruct all Labour councils now to stop passing on cuts delivered to them from the Tories in Westminster using their massive financial reserves and borrowing powers, and build local campaigns, mobilising students, workers and the community as a whole, to fight for the funding required to make good on all of his anti-austerity pledges.
With a guarantee from shadow chancellor John McDonnell that a future Labour government would underwrite any debt, linked to taking the banks and finance companies into democratic public ownership, such a fightback could be the beginning of the end of Boris Johnson and the rest of the rotten Tories, and point the way towards a socialist future.