Clive Heemskerk, national election agent for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), has signalled a turn towards the Corbyn surge in an article in The Socialist (28 September).
He argues that “consolidating Jeremy's victory against [the] continued opposition [of the Labour right] — by really transforming Labour into an anti-austerity, socialist, working-class mass movement — is the critical task facing socialists in Britain today.”
Since it emerged from Militant in 1991, the Socialist Party’s founding principle, raised to the point of dogma, has been that Labour had been irreversibly transformed from a workers’ party into a neoliberal capitalist party. The task of socialists, therefore, was to build a “new mass workers’ party”, a form of surrogate social-democracy, outside of Labour and its affiliate trade unions.
Flowing logically from this was standing candidates as part of TUSC (on a low political basis) and discouraging involvement in, and trade union affiliation to, the Labour Party. Even in July 2015, as the first Corbyn leadership election gathered steam, the SP cautioned that though Corbyn might win and his supporters would fight against the right-wing, “it is more likely that such a struggle would result in the left being ejected from the party.” No need to worry though: "This too, however, could create the base for a significant new workers' party” and the SP “along with others in TUSC, has been campaigning to prepare the ground for the creation of such a party.”
Now that much of the heavy lifting has been done, the SP watching from the sidelines has judged the prospects for working-class political representation through the Labour Party to be rather rosier.
The SP fall short of stating that its members will rejoin the Labour Party, however. Rather, its writes that TUSC “could agree a broad policy to take into the labour movement: that the unions must have their collective representation and proportionate weight restored in the formation of Labour Party policy, the selection and re-selection of Labour Party candidates, and the administration of the party locally and nationally.”
The SP wants “a modern version of the early federal structure of the Labour Party which encompassed trade unions, the co-operative movement, women's suffrage campaigners, and a number of independent socialist parties.”
Under this system, TUSC could have a similar relationship to Labour as the Co-Operative Party, which is registered with the Electoral Commission but affiliated to Labour on the basis that it stands no independent candidates of its own.
This is a policy not so much for the immediate term but conditional on the Pollyannaish notion that Labour would realistically allow the SP to affiliate. The SP is still yet to draw a balance sheet of their epochal perspective on Labour.
How on earth could a straightforwardly capitalist party now find itself in the situation that it could now be transformed into “an anti-austerity, socialist, working-class mass movement”? The answer, of course, is that the Blairite project of transforming Labour went far but was never consolidated, and Labour remained a “bourgeois workers’ party” with trade union links — not a straightforwardly capitalist party like the US Democratic Party or the Lib Dems.