One of the members of the corrupt billionaire-class who was named in Jeremy Corbyn’s election speech earlier today was the Duke of Westminster. Corbyn asked: “Whose side are you on?” The side of the super-rich elite, or the side of ordinary people?
“Whose side are you on? The dodgy landlords like the Duke of Westminster, Britain’s youngest billionaire, who tried to evict whole blocks of families to make way for luxury apartments? Or the millions of tenants in Britain who struggle to pay their rent each month?”
The Daily Mail responded to Corbyn’s speech with the with the headline “Labour declares class war.” If only! On the issue of the Duke they noted: “Unveiling a highly personalised anti-elite message, Mr Corbyn attacked the Duke of Westminster, 28 – a godfather to Prince George – for being a ‘dodgy landlord’.”
What The Daily Mail forget to mention is that even the Mail have revealed the Duke to be a dodgy landlord! Only a few months ago they led with the headline “Britain’s ‘most eligible bachelor’ the Duke of Westminster, 28, is accused of ‘social cleansing’ over plans to evict 40 families from their council homes to make way for luxury flats.” The Mail explained that he “owns more land than the Queen” and didn’t really agree that the Duke was the best of landlords.
The Duke’s personal property company, Grosvenor, which invests in property in more than 60 cities around the world also has an interesting Leicestershire connection: a fellow director of the Duke’s ‘social cleansing’ outfit (a rapacious capitalist called William Kendall) is also a director of one of Leicestershire’s most infamous Victorian-era employers, a food manufacturer known as Samworth Brothers. Samworth is a Tory-owned anti-union business that treat their workers like serfs, and that recently waged a ruthless campaign against the Baker Union’s (BFAWU) valiant attempt to gain a union recognition agreement across their many factories.
So, while Corbyn’s speech only mentioned five billionaires by name, he did so, not because the Duke and his chums are the only elites wrecking our society, but because they represent a toxic capitalist iceberg, furnishing useful examples for why it is so vital to fight for a socialist future.
With popular uprisings now rocking the world, what is clearer than ever is that society must be run by and for ordinary people not billionaires; and in reorganising society, it is apparent that organised workers, acting through their trade unions, will play a central role.
On this front, we need not look far for brilliant examples of workers who are already fighting back. Take for example the stunning results of the just-announced ballot undertaken by members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Leicester (see here), or the amazing organising efforts of postal workers across the entire country who are about to launch historic industrial action against their capitalist employers. Or for another local example, look towards the strike that is being undertaken next week by teachers and support workers at WQE and Gateway Colleges in Leicester over the government’s relentless attacks on our education system, which like the UCU dispute is part of a larger national campaign.
Times are certainly a changing.
Corbyn represent a possible ray of light pointing towards a new socialist future, despite his faults – which includes his unwillingness to actively support his members in acting decisively against the right-wing Labour MPs that still dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party. But this socialist future will not be inaugurated by simply relying upon the political good-will of an incoming Labour government; this future will only come into being if it is driven by a determined struggle for socialism waged by organised workers.
It is we who we can stake a claim on the future of this country, and it is we who will be able to force the complete democratisation of every aspect of our lives. Corbyn’s election can only speed up that process, but ultimately the future of socialism in Britain, and across the entire world, will depend upon the unrelenting activism of millions of ordinary people rising-up in unity against the capitalist establishment.