LABOUR MPs should be given a free vote on military action in Syria, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on Tuesday night, at a Guardian-sponsored fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference.
This was said after Labour’s right wing made it clear that they would be voting with Cameron, while Tory MPs were abstaining on the issue of bombing Syria, to give him a parliamentary majority and keep the Tories in office. McDonnell said that Syria and the renewal of Trident were issues on which he did not expect consensus within the party. He said he believed a vote on military action in Syria should be made ‘on the basis of conscience’.
The Tory government was defeated in 2013 in a parliamentary vote on military action in Syria, and Cameron stated then that another vote on the issue would not be taken until he was certain that he would win it, since another defeat could bring him down! Yesterday, the Labour Party conference decided that it would oppose any UK military action in Syria unless it had the approval of the UN Security Council.
This decision should have been a hammer blow at the Cameron government. However, the ‘ultra-left’ Labour party shadow chancellor McDonnell has now provided the certainty of victory that Cameron needed. Labour’s right wing will now be able to vote to bomb Syria and keep the Cameron government in place, as a ‘matter of conscience’, with McDonnell’s approval and Corbyn’s understanding, while the SNP and the other parliamentary parties vote against, along with Tory rebels.
Presumably the Welfare Cap will also become a matter of conscience, and provide right wingers with another opportunity to prop up the Tories and give the V sign to the hundreds of thousands of new Labour Party members who thought that the emergence of Corbyn and McDonnell meant that socialism was on the way back inside the Labour Party.
McDonnell has given the right wing licence to have their own party inside the Labour Party and to defy the leader Corbyn, till they are ready to take action to bring him down. This may well come in the next round of the economic catastrophe that is threatening capitalism, when the Tories mount a new austerity drive to save the bankers once again, and make the working class pay for it, yet again.
At that point, the right wing will split Labour and form a national government with Cameron.
Instead of using the mass movement that has lifted them up on its shoulders to batter down the right wing, deselect Tory-loving MPs, and select anti-Tory socialist MPs, the right wing are being given freedom to vote with the Tories, and thumb their noses at the workers by McDonnell and Corbyn. This new left Labour is a toothless paper tiger. No wonder the trade union leaders greeted Labour leader Corbyn’s conference speech with such acclaim. It was overflowing with well-meaning phrases about kindness replacing austerity, and very short of any plan of action.
Immediately ahead are very big class struggles over life and death questions – fighting anti-union laws, NHS privatisation and massive welfare state cuts. The trade union leaders intend to hide behind Corbyn’s left-wing phrases and do nothing, except to say that the daily worsening situation makes it all the more essential to make sure that a Corbyn-led government is elected in 2020.
This is why the trade union leaders refused to call a general strike at their TUC Congress, instead electing to march on the Tory Party conference to plead with the Tories. Corbyn and McDonnell are toothless paper tigers, while the trade union bureaucracy is determined to find ‘reasonable Tories’ to do business with, while the working class suffers.
There is not the slightest doubt that there are huge class struggles ahead, that will pose the working class bringing down the Tories and bringing in a workers government and socialism. Now is the time to build the WRP and the Young Socialists into mass organisations to provide the necessary revolutionary leadership to the working class to bring down the Tories and carry out a socialist revolution.