Andrew Marr’s interview with Corbyn on Sunday 28th Jan, was significant in revealing the gradual shift to the right by the Labour leader. Three points stand out: repudiation of Clause 4, repudiation of feminism, acceptance of the goal of a continued free trade area with the EU.
He was asked by Marr whether he supported recommitting Labour to socialism by once again including the phrase about public ownership of the means of production on the party card. Corbyn said no, he was quite happy with the redraft of the party card carried out by Tony Blair.
Clause 4 was important as a commitment to socialism. It was hugely symbolic when Blair removed it to replace it by an anodyne phrase about common endeavour. The original was actually one of the best concise summary of socialism that you could draft. The point about Clause 4 is not over whether parliament was to be the means to introduce socialism. Sidney Webb, Attlee, Tony Benn would all have agreed on that. The issue is whether the Labour Party takes as its aim the transfer of the means of production distribution and exchange into public ownership. Keep that commitment and you are, at least formally, a socialist party. Remove it and you are a capitalist one. What Corbyn is proposing on some policies may be better than Blair, but he is a long way from being as radical as Attlee or even Harold Wilson.
The other point is hugely controversial since Labour have allowed men who claim to be women, onto the all-women shortlist for parliamentary candidates. Naturally, there is uproar about this from feminists in the Labour Party. The party has suspended one long-serving feminist activist, Jennifer James, for making the factual observation that women don’t have d**ks.
In the interview, immediately after endorsing Blair’s removal of clause 4 Corbyn was asked whether he supported his feminist allies on the left, including Linda Bellos and others who were trying to defend the all-women lists, and he repudiated them. So repudiation of socialism and feminism in quick succession.
Corbyn is not just saying that those who have a gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition act 2004 should be allowed on the all-women list. That is already the case. These people will have undergone the hormonal and surgical changes stipulated in the act. He is instead saying that any man who declares himself to be female must be accepted as such, independently of whether they have undergone the medical procedures and had the medical diagnosis required by the 2004 act.
This is what feminists in the labour party are objecting to, and seeking legal advice on. He has sided with these men rather than the feminists.
They are men who take on a female persona, so that is clearly what they are, and as such the Labour Party Feminists are right to object. One has to be able to distinguish the actor from the role. Helen Mirren takes on the persona of the Queen but is not the Queen. The feminists in the Labour Party are objecting that having gone to great lengths to attempt to establish all women shortlists they do not want men taking up places on these lists. If the cross dressers want reserved places they should campaign for a portion of the male list to be reduced and reserved for them in proportion to their fraction of the population.
Corbyn then follows it up with a commitment to a customs union and free trade area with the EU. But one of the conditions of such a free trade area that the EU will insist on, is that the UK abide by EU competition rules. In the past, Corbyn had been leery of these, rightly seeing that they would stymie socialist intervention within the UK economy. But he is leading a parliamentary party that is overwhelmingly anti-socialist, recruited since Blair ditched Clause IV, and overwhelmingly pro EU Single Market. Kate Hoey, who was interviewed on ITV the same morning said that the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, having recognised that they can not defeat Corbyn in a democratic contest, are now using the EU issue to hamstring him. It seems they are making good progress.
By William Cockshott
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