Activist analyses the discredited myth – or scam – that the media and pro-Israel activists still roll out and links it to the right’s austerity scam
In 2008, the Labour government bailed-out the British banking system with tens of billions of pounds of public money. In 2010, the newly-elected Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government distorted the concept of solidarity – the ludicrous ‘We are all in this together’ – to convince the British public that massive cuts to welfare and public services, referred to as ‘austerity’, were necessary to save the country from economic collapse even though they would be damaging:
And it’s not possible to make those cuts without cutting some things that are important. […] that is the situation we are in as a country.Then-Tory PM David Cameron’s austerity scam
Similarly, the concept of antisemitism was distorted to convince the British public that the removal of lifelong anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn from his position as Leader of the Opposition, was necessary to save the country from a social collapse. As Scottish-American Professor Mark Blyth has pointed out, austerity was sold as the ‘pain after the party’ but it is in fact ‘class politics’ and ‘dangerous nonsense’. Austerity was simply the continuation of a neoliberal political agenda of tax cuts and privatisation that began in 1979 and has been embraced by all three main political Parties in the UK.
However, there was a chance to throw the ‘tax cuts for the rich and privatisation of public services’ agenda into reverse when Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour party in 2015.
From 2015 to 2017 opposition to austerity was not confined to a few academics, trade unionists and socialists. It was led by the largest political Party in Europe. During this period the Labour party rejected austerity and the 2017 Labour manifesto was a parliamentary socialist challenge to the political consensus that had held sway since 1979. It was his opposition to this neoliberal political trajectory that proved to be the root cause of his popularity with the public, and his profound unpopularity with the political Establishment. The results of the 2017 general election proved opposition to austerity to be a popular position and not the electoral liability that Corbyn’s critics had assumed or claimed. Opposition to austerity captured the mood of the nation and became synonymous with hope and change – and Corbyn’s frankness about the political nature of austerity exposed the lie and won the argument.
Hopes and aspirations are often nothing more than rhetorical techniques used by politicians as a substitute for real change. David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea ‘hoped’ for a more compassionate philanthropic society, but it was simply cover for the privatisation of public services.
Hope is not a threat to neoliberalism, but the real change promised by a Corbyn-led Labour government was something that posed a real challenge to the privilege of so-called ‘elites’. Change meant the rich would have to pay more taxes and that public services would remain public – and where needed return to public ownership – which was a major impediment to the political consensus of privatisation and tax cuts that had come to dominate the political class.
The right wing of the Labour party had no desire whatever to lead the charge against austerity, particularly if it meant winning an election based on those principles. Their figurehead Tony Blair said so in as many words. So instead of seizing the opportunity to embrace and build upon the success of 2017 and take on the rich and powerful, the right wing of the Labour Party chose to do the opposite. They chose to invent an ‘antisemitism crisis’ in the Labour Party as a means to undermine the challenge to austerity and return Labour to the invisible neoliberal tracks of privatisation and tax cuts.
This was even admitted by some. The now-disgraced Ian McKenzie, at the time an organiser for hard-right pressure group ‘Labour First’, gave away that it was just the latest in a string of tactics used against Corbyn when he tweeted to an ally in 2018 that the ‘anti Semitism stuff’ was ‘cutting through like the IRA/Iran stuff didn’t’.
The catastrophic Labour defeat in 2019 was the apotheosis of this sabotage and was engineered by the right wing of the Labour party as a means to seize control of the wreckage.
The next election will likely utilise ‘hope and change’ as election slogans, but it will not be meaningful change, simply a change of government. Meaningful change is only to be found in opposition to austerity. Starmer has already abandoned the pledge to abolish tuition fees and is no longer committed, as if he ever was despite his promises, to the nationalisation of key industries like energy, railways, water and post.
Starmer’s Labour is also committed to the ‘reform’ of the NHS – meaning greater use of the private sector and privatisation by stealth. If elected, Starmer’s ‘Labour’ government will not tackle the fundamental causes of poverty and deprivation (privatisation and tax cuts) and has no intention or interest in doing so.
Instead it will continue the neoliberal political trajectory that has been impoverishing people since 1979. The so-called ‘antisemitism crisis’ in the Labour party was nothing more profound than a political attack on a socialist Labour leader that was committed to actual change and was overturning the neoliberal political consensus.
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