BRITAIN – GREAT HOPES OF A LABOUR-LEFT UNITED FRONT

On 14.8.2021, Ken Loach was expelled from the Labour Party for “not disown[ing] the Labour members already expelled” and hitting out at an alleged “witch-hunt” in the Labour Party.

Ken Loach rejected with indignation the offer that he could remain in the Party if he disowned his Corbynist comrades. On the part of the Starmer leadership, this invitation to treachery underlines the absence of moral and political principle behind the expulsions. K Starmer is not after a project different from Corbyn’s. He just wants no project, to keep things as they are. But if Labour grew powerful by proposing socialist change in 2015-16, it is because socialist change is required. And no amount of expelling Corbynists can alter this.

The criminality of the conservative government:

From the start of the pandemic, Boris Johnson prepared to abandon the population to Covid19 through what he called ‘herd immunization’. He went ahead with it, even when told that hundreds of thousands would die; and he only backed down when teachers, parents and doctors mobilized against him. As Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer did not denounce this criminal plan. He sacked Rebecca Long Bailey instead, from his shadow cabinet, for having supported the teachers. To hide his anti-working-class obsequiousness, he had her framed on a falsely constructed charge of anti-Semitism. 

The number of the Labour comrades directly suspended or expelled must be well over 1000. Most of them are key local and national leaders whose positions are immediately captured by right-wing avengers who had been waiting in the wings. Many left comrades are being ‘disciplined’ through the perverse use of the IHRA[1] – a so-called ‘definition’ which the Party’s ‘disciplinary’ discovered only when Jeremy Corbyn became Party leader. It has now become a sackable offense to support comrades falsely accused, or to demand the return of the whip to Corbyn. On 20.8.21 (day of the demo on the featured image), the Party published a list of four Labour-linked organizations now banned and proscribed[2]. Association with these, even if retrospective, can get comrades excluded.

Great hopes of a Left United Front:

Ken Loach and his films are shining lights in the world, in Britain and in the Labour Party. He defends the Palestinians and denounces the criminal Apartheid regime in Israel. In expelling Ken Loach, the Starmer leadership does not just connive with the Tories; it shares with the Tories their depraved notion that Palestinian lives do not matter. 

The Labour Party lost some 150,000 members since Corbyn stepped down (April 2020). Left-wing and socialist comrades in the main: they oppose the imperialist and colonial wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. They want to see the end of British imperialism’s partition of Ireland and they supported Corbyn. Many felt discouraged and marched off, but the Party still retains some 430,000 members.  Gross right-wing inequity in the Party has pushed many comrades out, but it also motivates others to stay put. To stay and to unite: Today, Dont’ Leave Organise (DLO) regroups many of the left-Labour tendencies[3]. Two trade unions have joined their Front, whilst important debates take place in all the major Unions about supporting. Momentum is in crisis, but it may join later. 

The putrefaction of the Labour right:

There are many Labour right-wing layers behind K Starmer (Sir). The directly bourgeois-imperialist circle around Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson (Lord) or Margaret Hodge (Dame) is not huge, but its members occupy posts of influence in the Party and the State. When they are Labour MPs, any attempt at having them replaced is systematically described as ‘despotic’ in the press. Their political strength is on the wane however, what with the fiasco of their support for the Iraq and Aghan wars. Their hatred of Corbyn has exposed their terror of anything approaching socialism. In the elections where J Corbyn was candidate for Prime Minister (2017, 2019), they flirted with the LibDems[4] and Mandelson declared that he was working every day to make Corbyn fail. 

The Party never troubled to reprimand Mandelson for this immorality (and the other immorality of calling to vote LibDem!) – but it is Blair’s and Mandelson’s critics who are being expelled! This points to a political and moral degeneration in the Party. In the same way that British imperialism becomes vicious and degenerate on the stage of the world, this bourgeois imperialist Labour layer becomes vicious and degenerate in the Party. Its anti-Corbyn antagonism is now too deep to admit that it helped the Tories reach government, and bears therefore some responsibility in the killing of tens of thousands of Seniors in the care homes. As it tears the ‘Labour’ perspective away from that of Socialism, this bourgeois imperialist Labour layer surrenders the ‘Labour’ role and identity to the rotting capitalist class. 

There is also support for Starmer in the Party’s structures and at the top of the Trade Unions. Like the capitalist class, those bureaucracies are afraid of the power of the working class. To defend themselves from it, they can no longer bargain for crumbs of empire as they used to do. There are no more crumbs of empire – only a £2.7 trillion debt instead. Faced with the sudden explosion of socialist ideas, however mild, the Party’s bureaucracy (with Starmer in the lead) resorts to violent means, like the expulsion of Ken Loach. This bureaucracy has confiscated free speech in the Labour Party, and it is now attacking free speech in the Unions as well (with its attack on Ian Hodson of the Bakers’ Union). To demonstrate its anti-socialist credentials, the Starmer leadership waves the flag of constitutional monarchy and of British imperialism by declaring that Ireland must remain partitioned.

Labour‘s role and the Socialist aim:

Ken Loach’s art and his ideas place the working class, and love for the human being, at the epicenter of life. In what calls itself ‘Labour’ however, there has been silence about the killing of the Seniors in the nursing homes. The bans and proscriptions against the Labour-left show Labour in the light of a Party that no longer upholds the working-class values. These values were built through centuries of working-class struggles for the workers’ right to be treated as human beings, not as beasts of labour. Working-class values are preciously preserved in Ken Loach’s ideas and films. To expel him from the Party is to tear ‘Labour’ away from the working class and socialism. 

At the base of the Trade Unions however, in the workplaces and in the Party (as in Bath for instance), Ken Loach’s expulsion is not accepted. No more accepted than war criminal Tony Blair free to grow rich, and courageous Julian Assange in Belmarsh – Assange whose incarceration was helped by Mr Starmer himself.

Some of Corbyn supporters left the Party because of this kind of moral and political putrefaction, but it is also the reason why others stay in the Party, to resist and organize.

The Labour Party is partially a workers’ party based on the Trade Unions. Hundreds of thousands joined Corbyn for socialist change – some of them Jewish people with the probity to defend the Palestinians – along with many working class, intellectual, academic and artistic others like Ken Loach. Their presence in the Party, even if only up to now, has testified to the hope, and the possibility, that the traditional ‘Labour’ role of the Party might yet be adapted to a ‘Socialist-Labour’ role.

The elements of rot and decay in the present bourgeois leadership of the Party mirror the rot and decay of the capitalist class that it embraces. The death of the Seniors, the expulsion of Ken Loach and the continuing imprisonment of Assange testify to this. There is depravity – even in still official Labour terms – where Mandelson preferred a Tory victory to a Corbyn one; and was never reprimanded for it. But this is what happens in the top circles and the bourgeois and bureaucratic structures of the Party. This is not what happens in the working class and Trade Unions, like Unite, where the fight continues against ‘fire and rehire’, and for union recognition at Amazon in alliance with the Amazon workers of the US and Germany. 

Remove the Party’s rot, don’t walk away from it:

Some comrades say that, in front of Starmer and the rot in the Party’s structures, the Labour left and Trade Union base should think in terms of eventually advocating the disaffiliation of the Trade Unions (from Labour) and the creation of a Socialist Party.

It took generations of struggle to build a single Trade Union Centre and a single mass workers’ party in Britain. Nowhere else has this feat happened in the capitalist world. From Peterloo (1819) to the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Chartists (1830’s), 1848, Karl Marx and the influence of the Paris Commune (1871), the 1926 general strike, the 1922 general election when the Communists Shapurji Saklatvala and Walton Newbold were both elected as Labour Party candidates, etc. To say nothing of the massive concessions that capitalism had to grant to the Labour-organised British working class after WW2. Considering all this, the British working class is immensely more likely to want to remove the rot from its Party than to want to walk away from it.

Russia and China are surrounded militarily by world imperialism intent on world war against them, and with nuclear weapons. In such conditions, the British working class is more likely than ever to value its Unions’ and Party’s centralization. If socialist transformation in Britain were not extremely pressing, and perhaps imminent, the anti-Socialists characters around Starmer would just shrug their shoulders. Why are they so keen to expel the left and the socialist ideas? It is because socialist transformation is not only coming, but coming through the Trade Unions and Labour. 

Comrades wonder how the Party can be changed, since the internal Party’s structures are silenced or closed down. But it were not the Party’s internal structures that invited 180,000 new members to become Registered Supporters in 2016! The Corbyn movement was catapulted into Labour from below, mainly from the Trade Unions and from repeated workers’ and anti-war mobilizations. 

Labour can still open a process of social transformation if the DLO and even wider Labour-left sectors start working (as DLO already proposes) from both outside and inside the Party. To this end, they need to draw ever closer to the trade union bases, and to all the struggles, like those of the renters for instance, and those whose benefits are going to be cut. Forming Labour-workers committees in the enterprises, in the local areas, and with the militants of other socialist organizations. This will eventually require a Labour media of its own.

It is not correct to propose to the Unions that they disaffiliate from Labour: 

If the Unions decide to do disaffiliate, this will be their choice. But from the Labour-left point of view, the purpose must be to help the Unions to cleanse the Party by means of cleansing the Unions themselves. For it were the Trade Unions who stopped a Labour Conference passing a resolution on Open Selection (recall of MPs) in the Labour Party. The task is not for the Unions to walk away from Labour, but to reinforce the Labour-Trade Union link in the workers’ and popular struggles – and no longer strictly in the Party-Unions bureaucratic interfaces.

The Starmer leadership pitches aggressively against socialist change, but it is not written that the Party will always follow him. It is more likely that he will be eventually replaced by a leader better disposed towards the working class, particularly when new and important mass struggles start again. In Scotland, the Tories reckon that the Greens who have entered the SNP government are ‘extremists’. This is because, for the Tories, anything to the left of official Labour (like Corbyn) is a threat to the now craven, unstainable capitalist system. 

It is not so much the workers, or even Labour, that the Tories are so afraid of. They are afraid mainly of their out-of-time capitalist system. This still leaves a space, if only perhaps temporarily, where working-class and Trade Union forces should find a way to make some of the socialist aims weigh back on Labour.

Posadists Today, 30.8.21 – This document was revised on 4.9.21

[1] IHRA – International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, created by Kenneth Stern as a definition of anti-Semitism. In January 2020, he warned against the misuse of this definition to stifle pro-Palestinian speech.

[2] The four banned organizations are: Labour Against the Witch-hunt (LAW), Labour in Exile (LIEN), Resist (C. Williamson) and Socialist Appeal. Socialist Appeal is the organisation that created an important Labour-left tendency in the Labour Party in the 1980’s. Expelled in 1983 under Neil Kinnock.

[3] See below – the DLO’s United Front and its programme. New organizations have joined since it was published. The two supporting Trade Unions are the firefighters and the Bakers.  

[4] In the enormous 2019 street-demonstrations of the Remain Conservatives and right-wing Liberal Democrats, Progress (bourgeois Labour tendency now ‘Progressive Britain‘) joined-in with Labour Party banners – contradicting directly the official Labour-Corbyn line (of Brexit aimed at a Socialist Europe) in the run-up to the December 2019 elections. 

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Below, public documents from Don’t Leave Organise (DLO): LABOUR LEFT FOR SOCIALISM, # BUILDING THE RESISTANCELABOUR LEFT RALLIES TO RECLAIM PARTY AS DEMOCRATIC FORCE FOR SOCIALIST TRANSFORMATION:

DON’T LEAVE ORGANISE, 20.8.21

Trade union and Labour Party members’ organisations have united around a call for party democracy and transformative socialist policies, with a launch statement condemning Labour’s failure to mobilise a fightback against the “most right-wing government in living memory”.

A one-day event on Saturday 18 September will be the first in a planned series and will give voice to all sectors of the Labour left, building unity and organising around goals that serve working people from all communities.

The Labour leadership must abandon its destructive attacks on left-wing members and its proscriptions targeting left-wing groups – and focus instead on mobilising in opposition to the reactionary policies of the current Tory government, according to a statement released today by 16 labour movement organisations.

Many weeks of talks between the groups, including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG), Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), Labour Black Socialists (LBS) and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), have resulted in a joint statement of common goals and the 18 September event – the Saturday before Labour’s annual conference in Brighton.

Signatories demonstrate their support for the principles in the statement, not for each other’s organisations.

“Unions that founded the Labour Party, and ordinary members who are its backbone, no longer feel themselves to be represented by the organisation. More than 100,000 have left since Keir Starmer became leader and the party’s finances are in crisis,” said Ben Selby, FBU Vice President and Chair of Don’t Leave, Organise, which initiated the talks.

”By organising this initial gathering – which will be the first of many – we proclaim our determination to build a movement which can reclaim our party as a democratic force for socialist transformation, offering real hope for working people from all their diverse communities devastated by the pandemic and fearful of its aftermath.”

The statement has been published on the website of Don’t Leave, Organise, an initiative launched in April 2020 to combat the demoralisation sweeping through Labour’s ranks following Keir Starmer’s election as party leader. The full statement reads:

Labour Left for Socialism – Building the Resistance

The current Tory government is the most right-wing in living memory and people are suffering terribly as a result. The Covid-19 virus has made around five million people sick, put almost half a million people in hospital and led to more than 150,000 deaths in the UK. But Labour has not organised or mobilised opposition.

The people need and deserve an Opposition worthy of the name.  Below are just some of the pernicious government actions that Labour needs to organise around and lead opposition to the Tories:

– Britain has had one of the highest per-capita COVID death tolls in the world – plus many now suffering from long-term health problems

– The impact of the pandemic has not affected communities equally: disabled people, women, people from African, Caribbean, Asian and other racially marginalised communities, those on low incomes, older people and frontline workers have been hardest hit

– Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, enabled by draconian anti-trade union laws, and thousands more will be lost when furlough ends

– The NHS is being privatised at speed, vast sums of public money have been squandered and corruption is rife in the allocation of contracts

– The Tories are using the worst ‘divide and rule’ tactics, whipping up racism and promoting ‘culture wars’ to divert attention from their disastrous handling of the pandemic

– Climate change poses a growing and existential threat and the Tory response is pathetic

– Our rights to protest are being severely curtailed

– Undercover police are being permitted to commit crimes, including murder

– British military forces can now commit war crimes and not face prosecution.

These are just some of the many reactionary policies of the current Tory government.

Unfortunately, on almost all of these issues, Labour has not effectively opposed the Tories; on many of the issues, Labour has rather echoed the Tories’ approach, as in its racist treatment of Black members and with Islamophobic and anti-Traveller positions put forward in election campaigns and much more.

This has enabled most of these policies to be adopted with ease, thereby encouraging the Tories to go further to the right, deepening their reactionary offensive confident in the knowledge they will face no serious opposition. 

A consequence of Labour’s failure to stand up against the Tory government has been the party’s steady decline in the polls since last summer, overwhelmingly poor local election results and huge loss of votes in three by-elections.

Meanwhile, the democracy of our own party is under threat. A growing number of local parties have been taken over by unelected officials; the Forde inquiry report has not been published; many members who have spoken out have been suspended or expelled; proscriptions have been introduced against socialist groups; Jeremy Corbyn remains without the Labour whip. As a result, over one hundred thousand members have resigned from the party over the last year. 

We will not stand idly by and allow this to continue. We are, therefore, coming together in solidarity not only with the people who are being so gravely disadvantaged by this government but against the purge of the left, which is key for the Leadership to achieve its aim of reversing the socialist policies brought in under Corbyn and to make the Party a safe place for capitalism. We stand firmly against proscriptions, and stand in solidarity with every grouping that is proscribed solely for holding socialist views. We will always oppose the proscription of any groups that remain committed to supporting Labour and that do not stand or support other candidates.

As part of the ongoing fightback, a conference has been called for Labour members and activists to discuss the changes in the party that are urgently necessary and how to achieve them. The conference will be led by party members active at local and national level and by key trade unions, and organised around specific demands:

-Restoring and strengthening democracy throughout the whole of our Party
– Ending the wave of suspensions, lifting those already unjustly imposed, reversing bans and proscriptions against the left
– Committing Labour to repeal all anti-union laws, ending zero-hours contracts and “fire and rehire”, demanding fair statutory sick pay
– Ensuring that the Labour Party is actively anti-racist and supportive of international solidarity issues
– Ensuring that the Labour Party is demonstrably committed to equalities in its practice
– Ensuring that Labour becomes a place for open and respectful political discussion and learning.
– Building on, with no retreat from, socialist policies, for example as developed after 2015.

Labour must oppose the Tories and once again make the case for a socialist transformation of society. We must fight and organise to get our party back.

For more information on the drive for radical change, read DLO’s ‘What next for the Labour left?‘

https://www.dontleaveorganise.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/What-next-for-the-Labour-left_-DLO-1.pdf