On Tuesday evening around 250 people gathered at short notice in the pouring rain to demonstrate their support for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, and for Anti-Austerity policies.
Ben Mayor, Leeds Socialist Party
The demonstration was called by Momentum after discussion with the Socialist Party and others from Trade Unions and campaigning groups around Leeds. The significant turnout on very short notice, the demonstration being called the previous evening, shows the clear popularity of Corbyn and indeed his electability despite what those at the right of the Parliamentary Labour Party have argued.
This mobilisation followed a huge and significant demonstration in London outside Westminster. Such is the enthusiasm for Corbyn’s Anti-Austerity message that around 60,000 new members have just joined the party in just the last 7 days. This is not just a reflection of enthusiasm and thirst for progressive and radical policies but a reaction to the attacks made against Corbyn by the right-wing Blairites of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Corbyn’s position and the strength given to him by his supporters is a direct threat to the status quo which has seen, for example Labour Party councils have passed on Tory cuts for many years, resulting in drastic reductions of public services up and down the country.
As organisers set up in preparation for the demonstration interviews were taken by the BBC. Amongst those that were interviewed, Socialist Party member Iain Dalton outlined the desire that exists for a mass party that represents the interests of the 99%.
The demonstration in Leeds quickly gathered and listened to speakers from Momentum, youth campaigners and Trade Unionists. All outlined the need to get behind Corbyn and support him and his policies. This was meant with huge applause at all calls for his defence.
It is regrettable that the Socialist Party was not permitted a speaker at the demonstration despite our support and help in initiating the demonstration. Nevertheless huge momentum was built at this demonstration. So much so that people packed a meeting room in the council chambers, so many that people queued outside to be told there was no room. Their response was to organise a second meeting at a nearby pub to ensure discussions could still be held on the way forward.
Many also stayed for some time after the demonstration to talk to Socialist Party members about the situation the Labour movement is presented with and the way forward.
The meeting discussed the issues affecting Corbyn’s leadership and the current position of the Labour Party. The meeting was opened by Councillor Kevin Ritchie, one of a few councillors on Leeds City Council who support of Corbyn. Kevin outlined the situation within the Labour Party and how to get involved. Unfortunately Kevin felt that it was not appropriate for members of other organisations to be present or directly involved in the campaign as this could be used against Corbyn and Momentum.
We would take issue here, as it is only with the broadest and strongest movement from all sections of the Labour and Trade Union Movement that will be able to fully defend Corbyn and all his allies should play a part. For instance, the RMT and the PCS have pledged their full support despite not being officially affiliated to the Labour Party. Socialist Party members spoke in support at the meeting and outlined that the Socialist Party, as a party would be prepared to join the Labour Party to bolster Corbyn if options were looked at in the future to allow groups/organisations to join.
We have seen from recent attacks on Corbyn for being anti-Semitic due to comments explaining that Jewish people cannot be blamed or the problems and crimes of the Israeli state attributed to them, that the right wing in the press and the Labour Party will clutch at any straw to attack Corbyn and anti-austerity politics. Corbyn’s strength is the that the workers movement backs his main polcies, and only by mobilising that and drawing in working class communities around demands such as a £10 per hour minimum wage, renationalisation of the railways, can a mass force be built that will see the realisation of such socialist ideas.