Sun Feb 25, 2024
February 25, 2024

Can Labour become a socialist party?

Peter Taaffe, leader of the Socialist Party, recently expressed  their thinking on Jeremy Corbyn and whether or not the Labour Party can be become a workers, anti-austerity and socialist party.

By Martin Ralph.


The first thing to point out is that SP theory on the Labour Party fluctuates depending on their own tactical needs. Following their expulsion from the LP the characterisation they developed was that Labour was a “bourgeois party”.

The channels through which the working-class base of the Labour Party could hold the leadership in check have been cut off, and the party has made the transition to an openly bourgeois party”.- (Socialism Today, 2000) However, Taaffe now believes that it could become a socialist party.

The Labour Party remains a bourgeois workers party (as characterised by Lenin) as trade unions can affiliate and are represented in the Labour Party and at its conferences.

In the same article Taaffe relates that this year’s Unite conference passed a motion calling for the mandatory re-selection of MPs.

Yet, published in the post conference Unite magazine Len McCluskey (General Secretary) talks about reuniting Labour saying “there must be a reconciliation with the PLP. We must re-establish mutual respect and unity”.

Similarly John McDonnell in a BBC radio interview in July stated that they would never break from the Labour Party and that both he and Corbyn are against re-selection.

So, neither the union bureaucracy nor the Labour left leadership want a break from the right-wing.

The editorial issue of The Socialist (issue 912) talks of a civil war between the Labour right and Jeremy Corbyn and repeats Momentum’s position and that of the left MPs, who see the central axis as the struggle in the Labour Party and in the leadership contest.

Civil war

The civil war in Britain is between capitalism and the working class.

The attacks on Black people and immigrants, Prevent legalisation targeting Muslim communities and left activists, immigration controls, zero hour contracts, anti-trade union laws, benefit sanctions and poverty are all weapons in this “civil war”.

The Tories are destroying the NHS, education and the welfare system through privatisation which is a central strategy of this war from above (a continuation of Thatcher and Blair’s strategy).

There is much confusion on the LP and there needs to be a struggle for clarity on what Corbynism is and where it is going.

The writings of Rosa Luxembourg, Lenin and Trotsky on social democracy and its right and left wing can provide essential assistance.

Marxism for these socialists was a guide to action on how to fight capitalism and the opportunist currents within the working class.

The centre of struggle for Marxism is not parliament but the independent mass actions of workers and workers’ candidates in parliament and councils should promote struggle, but real change will come from class struggles outside of parliament.

It was an anti-austerity and anti-status quo feeling that created the mass support for Corbyn.

But he has failed to mobilise the working class into any struggle, when the need to unite the strikes of public and private sector workers is urgent.

Instead he gives pledges for what a Labour Government would do, if they win the next general election, which is likely to be 2020.

Taaffe says that Corbynism opens the road to Socialism, but Socialism cannot be achieved through elections and gradual reforms in parliament!

The Labour lefts adjust verbally to the mass struggles that take place but they twist and turn because they cannot face the question of working class power.

The main question is building a revolutionary party and destroying the grip of the reformist bureaucracy.

The International Socialist League is in this fight.


Originally published in “Socialist Voice” Nº 25.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles