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Corbyn Going Global

A New International Movement

By Keeping the Flame (M. Holmes) for LeftInsider

A spectre is haunting Europe – the sweaty, unshaven spectre of Steve Bannon.

The ideological godfather of the American alt-right is currently plying his trade throughout Europe. Having been exiled from his post editing Breitbart, the far-right American news outlet, and from his role advising Donald Trump, Bannon has slithered into our waters to support figures like Tommy Robinson and to advise Boris Johnson on his plans for leadership.

One of Bannon's goals is to create an alliance of European political parties which share his toxic ideology. The aim will be to strengthen far-right organisations such as the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany party, and Le Pen's National Front, enabling them to gain enough support to take power.

In response to this, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has called for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party to form a new international movement to oppose the far-right in Britain, Europe and further afield.

Labour has a long history of being involved with international left-wing movements, including the Second International (1889 – 1916) and the Socialist International of labour parties from 1974 until it downgraded to observer status in 2013. This was due to controversy over the democratic instincts of certain African and Asian member parties, who were ruling what amounted to dictatorships in their countries.

Currently Labour is a fully-paid up member of the Progressive Alliance, an organisation which split from the SI. While the PA has taken steps to ensure that its members respect the democratic process, it is less discerning about the economic policies of those parties.

Many of the parties are very cautious about challenging neoliberal policies at best, and outright committed to further privatisation at worst.

As a result, a considerable number have seen their share of the vote collapse, particularly in Europe. Frustrated voters who feel left-behind have sought an alternative in the far-right. This has boosted the confidence of these parties in openly expressing their reactionary beliefs.

As a result, the urgency for socialists to mobilize internationally has not been greater since 1945. Yet many of Europe's most established ‘socialist’ parties feel unable to break from the policies of inequality which are fueling this social unrest!

Until just a few years ago, Labour could be numbered among them. But the election of Jeremy Corbyn has changed that.

If Trump’s election disheartened left-wingers around the world, then the shock result of the 2017 election here in Britain had the opposite effect; it electrified not only us British socialists but our American and European comrades too.

Indeed, Corbyn has international significance; here was a sign that left-wing policies could be defended and reap electoral rewards. If we took a stand and refused to compromise our most dearly held principles, then people would rally to our banner.

The time has come for a new, proactive and much more discerning international progressive moment to be formed. In an age of multinational corporations which can move operations across national borders and fascists which spread their creed through the internet, we need a fully coordinated global movement to oppose them at every turn.

And who better than the British Labour Party under Corbyn, a centre of resistance which has provided a model of policy development and campaigning strategy for socialists all over the world, to be the guiding star?

The movement should be based on active collaboration and joint working. Activists should receive education, training and advice on strategy development, tailored to their own national context. Governing parties should attempt to co-ordinate economic policy to check the bullying influence of big corporations and work together to crush tax avoidance and other unfair tactics.

At first, we will not find comfort in numbers; indeed, the number of fully-signed up parties will be very low, and those which are likely to assume power in their countries within the next few years will probably be less than ten in all. Nevertheless, this will be one of the keys to the organisation's survival. We cannot afford to become yet another talking shop for the bigwigs of historically left-wing parties to wring their hands and gaze at their navels as the world crumbles around them.

Aside from Labour, there are a few groups who I think would be key players in a new socialist international movement that genuinely fought for the many and not the few.

Key Current Movements

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) – Having been founded in the 1980s, the DSA was a minor group until the election of Donald Trump in 2016, when it exploded in size from approximately 6,000 members to 35,000 within the space of 12 months. Now approaching 50,000 members, it is the largest socialist group in America for over 100 years. A young group, with members averaging around 33 years of age, it has begun to make inroads in electoral politics and has the potential to shift the American Democratic Party far to the left of its current stance.

This would be in conjunction with the grassroots movement Our Revolution led by Bernie Sanders to transform the Democrats into a genuinely left-wing party. There has been a long history of collaboration between Bernie supporters and groups such as Momentum, and their experience was particularly useful for British activists in the 2017 election.

Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (National Regeneration Movement (MORENA)) – The main party of the coalition which elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador as President of Mexico this year. Obrador is a friend of Corbyn and has advocated a tough left-wing programme, which includes taking on vested interests in big business and the drug cartels which plague the country.

PODEMOS (We Can) – A Spanish party which was founded in 2014 after a series of anti-austerity demonstrations which swept the country. It exploded onto the political scene by becoming the third-largest party in membership within 20 days of its creation, and soon formed a coalition of left-wing parties called Unidos Podemos (United We Can). This alliance took 21% of the vote in the last national election and is the third-largest party in the Spanish Parliament. It advocates a basic income for all, strong environmental policies and an end to tax avoidance and austerity measures.

Various factions within multiple European parties – Most of the historical socialist parties within Europe have collapsed due to their support for neoliberal policies. Only 5 of 28 EU countries are now governed by left-leaning parties as a result.

Many activists within these parties have been inspired by the success of Labour under Corbyn and have formed their own Momentum-esque groups to pressure their parties to adopt similar left-wing policies. Any new international movement should encourage these factions to become associate members and receive the same benefits as fully-fledged members.

Potential Future Allies

Parties which could have potential, but need to clarify their stances, include the following:

Die Linke (The Left) – the largest genuinely left party in Germany, Die Linke’s impressive growth in electoral success has stalled in recent years with the rise of the fascist Alternative for Germany party. As a result, their policies have started becoming tainted with anti-immigration rhetoric, and they risk becoming a courter of the far-right.

New Zealand Labour Party – Much has been made of Jacinda Ardern’s recently elected Labour Party, and certain flashy initiatives and statements of hers have gained attention around the world. These include blaming neoliberalism for New Zealand’s failures and a wage freeze on the salaries of MPs, as well as commitments to ending child poverty, making university education free, and strongly improving the country’s environmental standards.

However, Labour is only in power thanks to an agreement with the right-wing New Zealand First party, and has pledged to continue, for the time being, the austerity policies of the previous Conservative government. Additionally, Ardern has her own worrying history, which I will cover in a future column.

Spanish Socialist Workers' Party – The largest social democratic party in Spain, it was recently returned to power under Pedro Sanchez. At first glance, there are interesting parallels between Sanchez and Corbyn; both have survived coup attempts against their leadership and have promised to take their parties back in a left-wing direction.

However, Sanchez’s beliefs have not been nearly as consistent as Corbyn’s, and he has been characterized as an empty vessel on whom one can project all shades of political belief. The party has also agreed to continue the tight budgets of the previous right-wing government led by the People’s Party (PP).

Still, there is progress that can be made by his government; these include rolling back Spain’s increasing restrictions on freedom of speech and fighting back against the increasingly Trump-esque PP under its new flag-waving and anti-feminist leader, Pablo Casado. A strong victory in the next election could provide the breathing room for party activists to organize with their comrades in PODEMOS and pull the party further left.

This list is far from comprehensive, and I will look at potential international allies in future editions of this column.

At the dawn of the 20th century, when socialism was on the rise, the clarion call of the movement was “Workers of the world unite!” In the 21st century, that cry for international solidarity has never been more needed.

As well as our national mission to rid the country of this Tory government, we must never forget the international example we are setting. We have important obligations to the world as a strong democratic socialist movement trying to turn the tide in a world too often left without hope.