An open letter: reply to John McDonnell’s piece in Labour Briefing of February 2016.
Your assessment of the Tory government’s brutal attack on local authorities is absolutely correct. This is a government acting as the political wing of the fat cats, hedge fund managers, private equity companies and the bankers: the class that crashed the economy in 2008 for which the working class are paying at enormous social cost.
However, you appear to be advocating the ‘dented shield policy’, in reality a ‘no shield’ policy, of Kinnock and his acolytes in the 1980s. In mentioning the ‘no rates’ strategy pursued by some councils in the 1980s you imply that it failed then so it will fail again. In Liverpool we spectacularly won the first round of that major battle. We adopted the tactic of setting a needs budget, identifying the shortfall in our budget – which was £30m – and then launched a mass campaign based on the slogans ‘better to break the law than break the poor’ and ‘no cuts in jobs and services’ which set as its objective winning back the cash that the government had stolen from the city. If all of those councils who had engaged in that campaign instead of knuckling under had stood firm like Liverpool there is no doubt in my mind that Thatcher would have been compelled to retreat. In the event the other councils retreated and left Liverpool isolated.
I note that you do call for a mass campaign of opposition to cuts with the objective of placing the blame on the Tories. But if this is to be effective it must be on the basis of Labour councillors refusing to vote for cuts.
Remember, Jeremy Corbyn was propelled into the leadership on a clear anti-austerity programme which must include Labour councillors voting against cuts. If such a call was made by you and Jeremy and linked to a mass campaign against austerity the Tories could be compelled to retreat and to abandon the current all-out assault on the working class and every gain it has made since 1945.