Jeremy Corbyn: “The Rule of the Few Over the Many Rests on Shaky Ground”

Today, Jeremy Corbyn addressed the launch conference of his new Peace and Justice Project. Describing how the post-crash period has exposed the bankruptcy of unaccountable elites, he argued that movements from below have the power to transform the political agenda. 

Jeremy Corbyn visits the Whaley Bridge Dam site on August 5, 2019 in Whaley Bridge, England. (Anthony Devlin / Getty Images)

I want to start with a huge thank you to everybody taking part today.

People have tuned in from all across the UK, communities big and small, and from countries all over the world. Our coming together across borders, backgrounds, and experiences has never been more important. That’s what we want to do with this project: unite the local, the national, and the global.

Thank you, all of you, for your endless determination to make a more peaceful and just world — for the many, not the few. It’s your hope, your commitment, your passion that powers our movement.

You, those who came before you, and those who will come after us in the struggle for peace and justice, are the motor of change in history. It may not always seem that way in the face of defeats and setbacks.  But movements do transform the world.

Look at those movements that fought for liberation from slavery, the vote, equality for women, civil rights, freedom from colonialism, for the eight-hour working day, for the right to organize, for our National Health Service, for socialism.

They were scorned. They were beaten back. They often thought they had lost — and they were defeated many times.

But look who changed the world. Who do we remember? Do you remember Sylvia Pankhurst, or the Home Secretary who put her in prison for demanding votes for women? And there are so many more examples around the world.

That’s why we are all here. Because the struggle for peace and justice is needed today more than ever. Things can, and they will change — and that’s what our task is.

As we live through the second major global crisis in a dozen years, we see the scale of the task. But also, know that we have the solutions and are better organized and prepared than when the financial crisis hit in 2008.

The pandemic is intensifying the three deep, connected, and global crises we face: The climate emergency. An economy that generates inequality and insecurity faster than prosperity and freedom. And a global political order that holds back the vast majority of our planet’s people and is dangerously breaking down.

2020 was the hottest year on record. The wealth of the richest rose astronomically while the majority suffered. And a global response to the pandemic was held back by authoritarian nationalist leaders, and the drive for corporate mega profits.

But we have both the ideas and the power, when we come together, to overcome these crises and build a world of peace and justice. What our movement does today will be felt for many generations to come.

Our role in the Peace and Justice Project will be to champion those ideas, and support the movements that can turn those ideas into reality. Because if you don’t argue for your side, our opponents win by default.

Many of the ideas we need to make the 2020s better than the 2010s were developed in and around the Labour Party in recent years by outstanding thinkers. But, more importantly, by movement demands, and the skills, the knowledge, the needs, of the communities affected.

We will build on these policies, taking them further and adapting them to the post-pandemic world, alongside movements, experts, and with you. This, so that our movement can turn the dial away from conflict and inequality, and toward peace and justice.

As we launch today, we will focus on four areas of work. And we want you and the movements you’re involved in to take part.

Green New Deal

First, a Green New Deal, paid for by the wealthy and big polluters, that supports our planet and a new economy that produces good quality, unionized jobs as a standard.

Labour’s 2019 manifesto program is arguably the most developed green agenda in the world, combining radical decarbonisation with an enormous good jobs program in every part of the UK. We will take it further — because that’s what the future of our planet demands. We will commission new research, thinking, and policy that can be used by movements, communities, and parties around the world to build a Global Green New Deal.

But we won’t do this to movements, we will do it with movements. So, we will convene regular meetings with climate activists, with community groups, and with trade unions representing workers.

If your organization wants to help shape our work, and join our meetings, please get in touch with us.

And if you want to be part of the campaign we will build in the run-up to the vital COP26 meetings in Glasgow in November, please go to our website and sign up.

Economic Security

The second area of our work is economic security, with the immediate task of supporting people in the pandemic recession.

We will advance the policies that would make the effects of a recession so much less severe for millions of people. Policies that give people things they can always rely on. Publicly owned and properly funded public services. High-quality, affordable transport. Cheap bills from public providers. A huge expansion of social housing. Security of tenure for the private rented sector. Protections against fire and rehire to drive down wages and conditions. And rights at work from day one for all workers.

But the most important thing is to help people now.

So, we are asking our supporters — you — to link up locally and address this economic emergency together. That may involve working with food banks, mutual-aid groups, social organizations, or trade unions to support communities in this difficult period, whilst campaigning for a more decent and just economy.

Please go to our website and sign up. In the coming days, we will put you in touch with other supporters in your area with concrete actions you can take together to help people get through this difficult, isolated and isolating time.

International Justice

The third area of our work is international justice. I’ve spent my life campaigning for peace, justice, and human rights all over the world. We will campaign against the merchants of death in the arms trade and against war. The UK government is complicit in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen, through its arming, training, and support for the Saudi-led coalition. We will do all we can to help bring this already six year long war to an end and support the people of Yemen who have been so brutalized.

And we will continue to be utterly committed to the support and protection of the victims of war, refugees seeking a place of safety. Peace and diplomacy is the answer to war and conflict.

But as with economic security, our most urgent priority is to address the injustices and iniquities of COVID.

Some rich countries have acquired enough doses for their entire populations to vaccinated nearly three times over, while nine out of ten people in poor countries will not receive a vaccine this year.

If the COVID emergency has taught us anything, it is just how connected we all are and that global problems can’t be fully addressed by local solutions. If vaccines are to end the pandemic, 60 percent of the world must be inoculated to achieve that immunity. Yet a combination of vaccine nationalism and the irrational placing of profit ahead of public health is thwarting the global solidarity and coordinated action needed to roll out coronavirus vaccines for the entire world.

There are already a number of excellent organizations working in this area, and we will add our weight and strength to them, to speed up global rollout, to reduce the costs for people around the world, and argue for a more rational system where public health comes before profit or beggar-thy-neighbor nationalism.

Please go to our website and sign up for this campaign to find out more as it develops.

And while you are there, please add your name to an incredibly important petition to the UK government that we’ve created.

It calls on the UK government to use its power in the World Trade Organization to support Indian and South African efforts to allow poorer countries to access the vaccines necessary without paying enormous markups to big pharmaceutical companies.

Please go to our website or check social media and sign the petition.

Democratizing Society

The fourth area we are working on is building a truly democratic society.

Democracy is so much more than voting once every four or five years — and sometimes with the choice restricted to parties which fundamentally agree on most things.

We want to see democracy dramatically extended into our communities, our workplaces, our public institutions.

There’s a simple principle. If something has significant power over our lives, we should have some collective say over it.

One vital area — and the one this project will start with — is the media.

We want a powerful and influential media, but one that puts power and influence in the hands of the majority, not in the hands of the few. A truly free media would expose truth and challenge the powerful.

Right now, much of the media isn’t very free at all. The influence of billionaires and their interests is huge, and the power of the tech giants has mushroomed. And it might be about to get worse, with two new TV stations being set up with the backing of enormous private wealth, competing to out-Fox News each other.

The media isn’t something just like the weather that we complain about but can’t change. To advance peace and justice, we need to democratize the media so that real journalism that seeks truth and challenges power is supported over misinformation and falsehood.

The Peace and Justice Project will work with academics, experts, and journalists to develop research and policies that our movement can rally around.

I laid out some ideas in a speech to the Edinburgh TV festival in 2018. But there’s much more we can do.

We are going to start by taking on Rupert Murdoch and his plans to reenter the UK television market. Unlike his last attempt to buy out Sky, this time there’s no one stopping him. We need an urgent parliamentary commission to protect our news media from oligarchy and monopoly control.

We have started a petition for this parliamentary commission on our website. I hope you’ll go to our website and sign up to our campaign for media democracy and sign the petition.

We Are Many, They Are Few

As you can see, we have so much to do.

We might look around us now. and think things look bleak with the climate crisis, the pandemic, the continued rule of billionaires and their political playthings, and the frightening rise of the far right and renewed racism.

But history is a funny thing. It doesn’t flow in straight lines. And movements can give us hope like the incredible Black Lives Matter movement did last year and will continue to do.

The rule of the few over the many rests on very shaky ground. Those with power fight harder to make it seem inevitable that they will be in charge forever than they do trying to make the system work.

A dozen years ago, the financial crisis began to expose their weakness. Now it is us, the many, that are assembling the ideas and the movements to change the world.

The Peace and Justice Project is part of that effort, alongside so many others. Because it isn’t just about one organization, one movement, one group of people. Our greatest strength is that we are many, but we come together in unity, in hope, in love, to demand peace and justice for all.

I hope you’ll join us in this fantastic endeavor.

Thank you.