Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a self-proclaimed ‘Marxist’ (don’t laugh), received something of a roasting in the corporate media last month after speaking to a rally of May Day marchers in London’s Trafalgar Square – much as his party leader Jeremy Corbyn did last year for speaking to a rally in Clerkenwell Green before the march set off. Communists were visibly present on both occasions, although given that 1 May was established as the day of the international working class by the Second Communist International in 1889, their presence was hardly surprising, either to the Labour leaders or to the apparently ‘shocked’ journalists.
In response to an avalanche of media-manufactured outrage, aimed at undermining electoral support for the party, Labour struggled to dissociate itself from even the remotest association with such ‘beyond the pale’ working-class politics by editing out hammer and sickle flags from the photos and videos it published from the event. Despite their keenness to distance themselves from the taint of the reds, Labour’s leaders still found themselves being criticised for appearing in the same street with communists, however – and were even tainted with the alleged communist penchant for ‘air-brushing history’. (Something to hide, Mr McDonnell? Labour’s shadow chancellor addresses protesters from underneath COMMUNIST and ASSAD regime flags … but crops them out of his tweet, Mail Online, 1 May 2017)
All this is patently unfair to the milquetoast social democrats of Corbyn’s Labour, who are putting forward only the most modest of reforms in their election manifesto – steps that would barely take us back a few inches closer to the post-WW2 Keynesian consensus, never mind forward towards revolution. In fact, Labour’s manifesto includes a heartfelt plea to the ruling classes under the heading “A Global Britain”, where the party promises to meet Nato’s defence spending requirements of two percent of GDP and to renew the Trident nuclear submarine programme. (Labour Manifesto, 2017)
McDonnell was reportedly ‘furious’ that there were communist banners and flags on May Day, of all days, and later betrayed his (presumably wilful) ignorance by saying: “I was there to celebrate May Day, which was a celebration of the contribution workers make to our economy [!]” (Our italics)
Clearly happy to throw away the history of May Day, a day dedicated to workers all over the world who have organised, fought and died for the rights McDonnell and the Labour party claim to stand for, he doubled down by telling BBC Radio 4 that he would have “insisted on having the banners removed” had he known they were there.
A broken clock is right twice a day, and on that count McDonnell did not fail to deliver: “We’re talking about the Trade Union Congress! It isn’t an organisation that backs any of these sorts of movements. That’s appalling.” Would it be too much to see in this a sly dig at the TUC’s consistent betrayal of workers at home and abroad?
Keen to jump on the bandwagon, Neil Coyle, one of Labour’s most egregious career parliamentarians, who never misses an opportunity to attempt to stick a knife into Corbyn, told the Mail Online: “Assad apologists and other communist airbrushers should have no part in the Labour party.”
Coyle can rest assured that the Labour party remains a thoroughly bourgeois party, but he might want to check his own schedule in future to avoid any suggestion of hypocrisy. Mere days later, on 9 May, Coyle attended the Victory Day remembrance ceremony at the Soviet war memorial, honouring the heroic sacrifice of the Soviet people under the leadership of Comrade Stalin in the war against fascism. On that occasion, he was in the company of Soviet and Arctic convoy veterans and the Russian ambassador, as well as members of the CPGB-ML and the Stalin Society.
Precisely because there is not a radical bone in their bodies, these servants of imperialism are unable to deal with even the most pathetic of criticisms from the imperialist media. And yet the Labour party’s false promises that, if elected, it could solve workers’ problems without disrupting the system of capitalism are so deeply unpalatable to the imperialists, mired as they are in financial crisis, that they have for more than a year now been desperate to scupper Corbyn’s leadership of the party.
The only glimmer of hope for Labour’s embattled leadership has come from the fact that the Tory party’s manifesto is so blatantly anti-worker that only the most misled or sociopathic people would be inspired to vote for it. Despite this, we trust that the whole sorry spectacle of Corbyn and McDonnell, of the ‘Momentum’ movement and its motley crew of Trotskyite and revisionist hangers-on loudly ‘reclaiming’ (for whom?) the Labour party will prove educational enough for British workers to continue to desert the entire ill-fated social-democratic project and to direct their energies into building a real, communist alternative.
In the immortal words of Karl Marx, which are carried on banners in cities all over the planet every May Day: “Workers of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!”