Anti-Austerity Victory Poses Challenge For Right-Wing Tamil Leadership

September 15, 2015 | Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion | Posted by: COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH

Did Labour lose the general election in Britain because it was too left-leaning as was claimed by the party’s then leadership ? This question has now been decisively answered by left-winger Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning victory as Labour leader. Liz Kendall, basically a mini-me for the Tory Prime Minister not just in policies but also in mannerisms, only managed to secure a 4% vote against a whopping 59% vote for Jeremy.

Despite the fact that the Tories won the election with only 24% of the electorate, the weakest victory since 1918, all the right-wingers across the Westminster political spectrum hailed their victory as proof that Britain was shifting to the right. The Labour leadership tried to use this as an opportunity to push their party further to the right.

In reality one of the dominant themes of the general election was the lack of difference that existed between the Tories and New Labour. Only 43% of young people even voted. Millions stayed away. On the burning question of austerity Labour was mostly in agreement with the Tories on most issues. For five years Labour-led councils have been relentlessly passing on Tory cuts. Hence in Scotland they were derided as “Red Tories”.

jeremy_youthMargaret Thatcher said that her biggest achievement was Tony Blair and New Labour – referring to the successful Torification process through which Labour, once a workers’ party at its base, albeit with a pro-capitalist leadership, was transformed into an out and out capitalist party. The former leader Ed Miliband just applied the icing to the cake when he changed the election process within the party by removing the last shred of the voice of the organised working class, the trade unions, from the decision making process. The leadership election that followed Labour’s defeat was the first outing of the new method and the contest was opened up to anyone who paid £3 for a vote as well as members and those who signed up inside the affiliated unions.

Initially Jeremy Corbyn seemed somewhat reluctant to enter the leadership contest and he was not expected to get on the ballot paper given that only nine of the party’s MPs are in the socialist group and 35 nominations were required. But the Blairites played a last minute ‘trick’ by voting for Jeremy. They are known for tricks and spinning. However this time it backfired in such a way that no one –including Jeremy Corbyn – expected. One Blairite who voted for him later called herself a “moron”! Support for the left-winger began to grow rapidly despite Tony Blair claiming Corbyn supporters need a “heart transplant”. Too many heart transplants needed in the end, as one of the journalist put it.

Every attempt by the right to discredit Corbyn’s campaign and anti-austerity message backfired. A funny appeal by Blair pleaded “even if you hate me” don’t vote for Jeremy was destined to rebound. He later wrote that he didn’t understand what was going on.

Recent history is full of examples like this. The masses moved against the powerful dictators in the Middle East for example. Every country in the world restricts democratic rights to various degrees in one form or another. Despite this, the masses move to make their mark on history whenever they believe their involvement will become meaningful. Jeremy Corbyn talked about free university education, a £10 an hour minimum wage, defending the NHS and nationalising the gas and electric companies – measures that would make an enormous difference to the living standards of millions of people.

In Sri Lanka people used the limited opportunity offered them at the election to put an end to the possible emergence of a dictatorship. Tamils, in particular, mobbed the ballot boxes to mark their revolt against the old regime. In Scotland, where the independence referendum was seen as a chance to strike against Westminster-led austerity, almost an uprising was in the air. Elements of this also developed during the Jeremy Corbyn Labour leadership campaign.

The right-wing had propagated the idea that there is no alternative to austerity. An FT columnist Janan Ganesh, for example, arrogantly dismissed the possible emergence of an anti-austerity movement. He wrote in August: “As for the popular insurrection against austerity, your columnist invites you to wake him up when it happens.” They will never wake up from this self-imposed coma! But creatures like him are establishing another clarity among the masses ie the unbridgeable gulf that exists between the possessing class of the 1% of the population and the rest who provides the labour needs of the planet.

The idea that we – the working people – should not pay for the crisis that was caused by the billionaires has been growing along with the growth of austerity measures. People simply refuse to accept that the austerity is inevitable. From the Occupy movement across the world in 2011, to Corbyn’s campaign in Britain in the last months, this fightback against injustice is the engine. Anti-austerity feeling emerged as the dominant feature of “Corbynmania”.

Tamils living in Britain are not exempt from austerity or from the divide in society. While numerous Tamils will be enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, the so-called ‘leaders’ are tightening their ties with the Tories. The British Tamil Forum’s appointment of arch right-winger Lee Scott as its ‘face’ reveals the nature of the organisation’s leadership. Scott voted to cut benefits, against creating jobs for young people, for war and against taxes on the super-rich bankers.

Another close ally in the so-called all-party representatives for Tamils (APPGT) is John Mann – another Blairite right-winger. In fact it is this MP who wanted to stop the leadership contest by claiming that the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party) is trying to join Labour in tens of thousands. So much is his love for democracy and human rights that he is a regular feature at the Mullivaikal day, every May in Trafalgar square. But John Mann who has taken a right-wing position on almost every issue in parliament is now claiming that the party under Jeremy will have “more positions than the kama sutra” and that “he is not remotely up for the job”. In contrast to him Jeremy has taken a progressive position on every issue in the parliament, whether its about the trade unions, caste or race relations legislation or the debate on human rights. Jeremy never played the “double game” of voting against human rights and then pretending to be a defender of it among some sections for some votes and benefits. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonell were two MPs who have shown consistent support for the Tamil Solidarity campaign due to the principled position they have on national rights and human rights, not because they wanted something in return. Jeremy Corbyn gave his support to various minority organisations in Britain, including Kurdish/Turkish organisations.

Why then, you could ask, do some Tamil organisations such as the GTF and BTF appear to not care less about Jeremy Corbyn and other left-wing MPs who gave their full support regardless? Why is the so-called APPGT so full of good-for-nothing Tories? Has this group ever taken any action whatsoever regarding the false promise that the current PM made to Tamils?

Just like the TNA, the ‘leaders’ of most of the so-called Tamil organisations are right wing. Some of them, just like Sambanthan, are manoeuvring against left wingers to maintain control for themselves. More needs to be written about this process later. But numerous questions may have arisen in the minds of the Diaspora who watched the Labour leadership debate. With the idea that an anti-austerity alternative is possible now on the agenda nothing will be the same. Tamil workers, young people and all those suffering austerity must join this fight. And ‘leaders’ should be aware of what’s coming to them.

By TU Senan