Archive for the ‘Labour Government’ Category
This year’s Labour Representation Committee (LRC) AGM was the first the Tendance has attended.
We joined, because Labour Briefing is now the official journal of the LRC. It seems a good idea to go along to the meeting of a left paper that has played a significant role on the left for several decades.
The turnout for the event was as Stan Keable in the Weekly Worker describes,
There were slightly more than 100 comrades attending the November 23 annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London’s Conway Hall. That is down by a third compared with last year. Bad news for what is an umbrella organisation of the pro-Labour Party left, but surely reflective of the general state of the left in Britain.
He puts the LRC’s importance in this context,
The LRC also has significant organisational affiliates, including six national trade unions (Aslef, BFAWU, CWU, FBU, NUM and RMT), numerous trade union branches and regions, constituency and branch Labour Parties, Welsh Labour Grassroots, Campaign for Socialism (Scotland), and a variety of communist and socialist organisations.
It is hard to comment on Comrade Keable’s detailed remarks about the functioning of the LRC, and the “office problem”, since we do not have direct information on this. The Briefing is something we can all judge. Against the Weekly Worker article we would that Briefing has changed, though perhaps “renewed” – for the better – is a more balanced description.
Of the speeches Owen Jones was uplifting, pointing to the successes of such initiatives as the People’s Assembly. Keable dismisses this as his “usual fare” – ignoring the importance People’s Assemblies have taken on the ground.
John McDonnell MP was excellent. You can take this argument whatever way you wish: “People are still voting Labour,” he said. “We must nourish struggles within the party by building struggles outside.”
Stan rightly underlines the importance of the contributions made by “two activists from the Boycott Welfare campaign, Clive and Robert, gave a moving contribution from the platform as guest speakers. Unemployed people and benefit claimants are clearly being badly maltreated by the system. Half a million have been already denied benefits under the workfare system, they reported.”
These are issues dear to our heart and the LCR, and associated Labour MPs, are to be congratulated for making the campaigns against of Workfare, Universal Credit and Sanctions, not to mention ATOS, a priority. We were able to develop our contacts with Boycott Workfare by talking to the activists during the break.
Jeremy Corbyn MP gave a more nuanced portrait of the 1945 Labour government than has recently appeared (notably in the Ken Loach film, the Spirit of 45). Its record was exceptionally largely positive, but it had been Atlanticist and a far from a consistently principled anti-colonialist government.
Mark Serwotka is patronised by Comrade Keable (whose style is rapidly tiring). “he would not waste time repeating “how bad it is”. We need to talk about “what we’re going to do about it”.
I did not get a chance to speak to guest speaker Philippe Marlière of the Front de Gauche (Left Front) – with whom I have contacts. He must have felt cheered by the serious speakers listed above, though less encouraged by some of the others.
Of these, Stan does not mention the antics of Graham Durham who seemed eager to hog the limelight at every opportunity. His virulent attacks on Len McCluskey and the LRC elected Committee (amongst others) and his support for Murdoch’s man in UNITE, Jerry Hicks, struck a sour note.
Durham’s only accurate observation was on the lines that every meeting he attended got smaller.
We wonder why.
There was also an extraordinary motion by something called Socialist Fight, on Syria.
This noted that “Negotiation with Russia and Iran disarm Syria of its chemical weapons and Iran from developing nuclear weapons and so prepare for a future attack against weaker enemies.”
It ended, “The defeat of this utterly bogus ‘revolution’ will defend a relatively secular administration, strengthen the Syrian working class against Assad and dent chauvinism in US, Britain and France.”
This was roundly defeated in favour of a policy of defending democratic movements in Syria against Assad and opposing the Western backed jihadists.
There was a debate on the Labour-Union link.
Andrew Berry from Unison, Maria Exall of the CWU and Ian Hudson of the bakers’ union (BFAWU) all made pertinent speeches – Ian Hudson was particularly rousing.
Labour Party Marxists made an appearance.
Stan Keable led off by citing the phrase, “The Labour Party emerged from the Bowels of the Unions” – a quote he attributed to Ralph Miliband.
Ernest Bevin, who actually made the observation, was hardly a model of democratic practice in his use of the union – T&GWU - block vote.
Perhaps next time former members of the CPGB begin talking about the Labour Party they might care to familiarise themselves with its history.
The motion that was passed broadly re-affirmed the importance of keeping unions affiliated to the Labour Party. Keable, this time accurately, mentions that their motion,, which sought “the end of individual ‘opting out’ of trade union political funds”, was voted down by a two-thirds majority. Sadly that majority included the LRC’s political secretary Pete Firmin, though Graham Bash, the de facto editor of Briefing, abstained. “
The motions passed on Europe were, as the Weekly Worker reports, equivocal on the need to defend a perspective of a social, socialist, Europe – a view put forward by both Labour Party Marxists and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. They left space for both this genuine internationalism and a more narrowly focused ‘anti-Brussels’ stand. As the article states, there was a “refusal to recognise that advocating withdrawal means nationalism.”
The AGM was well worth attending.
I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere during the evening that began in the Dolphin and ended in China Town the most.
Hated Britain So Much He Joined the Belgian section of the Royal Navy.
“The man who hated Britain: Red Ed’s pledge to bring back socialism is a homage to his Marxist father.”
The headline over GEOFFREY LEVY‘s Mail article will have outraged many people, on the left and elsewhere.
Ed’s father, Ralph Miliband, was known, and warmly remembered by thousands (if not more) on the left.
He was a founder member of the New Left, a democrat, fiercely opposed to Stalinism, and the author of books that influenced people people across the labour movement.
His more topical articles in the yearly Socialist Register contributed enormously to international and British political debate – and still bear reading (I have cited some only a couple of months ago).
The Mail, barely skates the surface of this.
Thought apart from his ‘hate’ for Britain, Ralph apparently “made plain his disdain for the Establishment, which was, to his mind, nothing less than the old boy network.”
Miliband, father of Ed and David Miliband, died in 1994, aged 70, soon after the publication of his last book, Socialism For A Sceptical Age. In it, the venerated Marxist philosopher and academic continued to espouse his lifelong ‘socialist’ cause.
One voice, however, vehemently informed him that he was still pursuing a lost cause. It was that of his elder son David. He did not mince his words.
Having read the manuscript before publication, David wrote to his father asking, ‘whether you are restating a case that has been traduced in theory or practice, or whether you are advancing a new case.
I was sent the same manuscript (before publication) and reviewed it in Labour Briefing.
Like many I had met Miliband as a member of the Socialist Society Steering Committee – in many ways the continuation of the original New Left.
The print-out text was sent to Briefing so as our obituary of Ralph Miliband could incorporate the insights of his last book.
In the pages of the Briefing I praised Socialism for a Sceptical Age for his hopeful, democratic insights, which came at a time when the free-market hard right (as today) was wreaking havoc in our country and across the world.
Ed, rightly, is outraged at the attack on his father.
He says in his reply,
My father’s strongly Left-wing views are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision. He was a man with a great sense of humour, so the idea of me being part of some ‘sinister’ Marxist plot would have amused him and disappointed him in equal measure and for the same reason — he would have known it was ludicrously untrue.
But whatever else is said about my Dad’s political views, Britain was a source of hope and comfort for him, not hatred. Having been born in Belgium he didn’t start from a belief in the inferiority of other countries, but he loved Britain for the security it offered his family and the gentle decency of our nation.
Amongst the controversy now flaring up it is important to bear in mind some points.
- Ralph Miliband was a democratic socialist. In Marxism and Politics (1977) he argued for political pluralism and representative elected institutions. He was strongly opposed to ‘Leninist’ vanguard politics and dictatorship of any kind. The Socialist register backed dissidents struggling for democracy in the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc and Asia. He was consistently anti-Stalinist.
- MIliband was sceptical about the Labour Party. That is, he considered that socialism (at the time still officially a central part of Labour’s Constitution) was less important to the party than its loyalty to the British Constitution. That was his famous conclusion to Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour (1961). In practice he backed socialists who were members of the Labour Party. His final book left the question as to whether a British left might revive in Labour open.
- Coming from the original 1950s New Left – itself a break with the traditional left – Miliband was open to new movements, such as feminism, and ecology. But he remained committed to ‘class politics’. That is, he considered that the central inequalities of capitalist society were bound up with minority economic rule – the bourgeoisie. Socialists had to tackle the economic sources of this rule in order to fight a much wider range of injustices and oppressions.
Ralph Miliband was a good man, a good socialist, and a good comrade.
And, as Ed shows, he was a good father.
The Mail, we note now says this,
“An evil legacy and why we won’t apologise.”
“But what is blindingly clear from everything he wrote throughout his life is that he had nothing but hatred for the values, traditions and institutions — including our great schools, the Church, the Army and even the Sunday papers — that made Britain the safe and free nation in which he and his family flourished.”
The constitutional monarchy, the bicameral legislature, property rights, common law . . . even ‘respectability’ and ‘good taste’ — all were anathema to this lifelong, unreconstructed Marxist who craved a workers’ revolution.”
This is the Mail’s own democratic record (Hat-tip Paul F),
A brilliant response to the Mail’s lies, Ralph Miliband: democrat and anti-fascist is given by Poumista.
The Suffolk People’s Assembly held a very successful meeting on Tuesday night.
Around 150 people crammed into the Co-op Education Centre in Fore Street to hear speakers on “It’s Time to Fight Back’.
People came from Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, Saxmundham, and Hadleigh as well as Ipswich and its surroundings.
As the trade union UNITE noted, “The assembly intends to act as a focal point for a general campaign against the tide of austerity that is hitting the 728,000 people living in this predominately rural county. “
The meeting was organised by trade unionists, and a range of campaigners from across the county. Many had been active in the Suffolk Coalition for Public Services which had held large demonstrations against the cuts in the region.
There were banners from Ipswich and District Trades Council, UNITE, the NUT, the GMB and Disabled People Against Cuts.
Graham White, Suffolk county secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) led off the meeting. he talked of the privatisation of education and the attacks by the Education Minister, Michael Gove, on teachers Graham called for support for the coming joint NUT/NASUWT strike action.
Teresa McKay, Secretary of Ipswich Trades Council, talked of the way austerity and poverty hit us, particularly women. She backed the Living Wage campaign, and a one-day national protest general strike to oppose government policies.
David Ellesemere, Leader of Ipswich Council Labour Group, began by dissecting the disaster created by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition’s economic policies. He cited, Winston Churchill to back the argument that low wages ended up by making everybody worse off.
David made the Living Wage,calculated as the salary needed for a decent standard of living without tax credits, * the centrepiece of his speech.
He observed that the state was now subsidising bad employers by refusing to introduce this standard. He said that Ipswich Borough Council had brought the Living Wage, and banned zero hour contracts for their employees. A Suffolk Living Wage Campaign would bring pressure on those companies which refused “A fair day’s pay for a fair day;s work”.
Ipswich Borough Council was proud to announce that it had begun building Council Houses, for the first time in many years.
The Council had, so far, resisted cuts – though the Coalition was now set to introduce centrally imposed reductions in Ipswich spending.
David’s speech, which took a clear anti-austerity stand, was well received.
Dianne Holland, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE, spoke of the broader effects of austerity. We needed an alternative that could grip people’s imaginations and inspire opposition, Unity, People sticking together, was what we need.
Owen Jones, the keynote speaker, made just such an inspiring speech.
He talked of the politics of hope, opposed to the Government’s efforts to create fear and envy, setting the working poor against the unemployed, the healthy against the disabled, and the stigmatising of migrant workers.
Owen slammed the disability ’testing’ firm, ATOS, one of many of the government’s welfare ‘reforms’, the bedroom tax, and the fact that people now had to be fed by Food Banks.
Many people react to the decline in living standards and policies designed to foment division, with frustration and anger.
Hope, he said, was as essential to life.
In place of the Government’s politics of hatred Owen offered plans for public housing, for decent wages not tax credits, and for welfare. It was a scandal that rents were so high that the Housing Benefits were going into landlords’ pockets, without helping solve the housing crisis. In their place rent controls and a massive programme of public sector housing were needed instead. Banks, bailed out during the financial disasters of the last few years, should be brought under public control and used to promote investment. tax avoidance should be stemmed.
The movement, he observed, had a knack for division, into rival Judean Fronts.
But now we were working together towards common goals.
Owen’s speech ended with a standing ovation from the audience.
There was ample time for debate.
There was concern that over the weekend a ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’ live music charity event at The Steamboat Tavern on the Waterfront had cancelled by organisers after threats from the English Defence League. Around 11 members of the EDL had turned up. **
Members of the audience raised issues such the cuts in education locally, Labour Party Policy, the NHS’s use of agency workers. Concerns about the Labour Party’s policies in these areas, and over squatting, were raised. Women from the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) called for people to support their campaign against the service’s sell-off.
One speaker, indicating how the politics of division could be fought, said that the local UNITE had recently recruited a substantial number of Eastern European Haulage drivers.
Sandy Martin Leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk County Council noted that unlike Ipswich Borough, the Tory-run County employed people on zero-hour contracts. Its privatised services, such as Home-care service exploited workers still further.
After the Assembly people remarked on how heartening they had found the meeting.
Serious follow ups are planned.
The Suffolk Living Wage Campaign will be organised in the coming weeks.
People will be out on the September the 29th NHS demo outside the Tory Conference in Manchester, and the November the 5th Day of Action.
Tuesday was a springboard for a much wider campaign against austerity in Suffolk.
Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting at the Coop Education Centre Ipswich, on September 17th 2003 resolves to:-
* Oppose the Austerity policies being carried out by the Coalition government and develop political and economic alternatives to them. Read the rest of this entry »
Marxists back Newman in Chippenham!
Andy Newman is the Labour Party prospective candidate for the Chippenham constituency.
We should be very proud of what was achieved by the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.
The Labour government with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, and Alistair Darling as Chancellor, had introduced a number of specific and targeted measures that boosted the economy.
Comrade Newman spent much of this time backing the Labour Party by supporting candidates of Respect and Socialist Unity.
He was Swindon spokesman for the Respect Party and, amongst other activities, invited George Galloway to speak at the town.
Newman ran the Socialist Unity site.
We say, phooey! and whatabout? to this past.
In a gesture of solidarity we announce our intention to campaign for Comrade Newman.
Chippenham Map for Socialist Canvassers.
Update: a bit tardy but worth waiting for, Andy Newman announces his candidacy on his own site.
The Wiltshire Daily Small Pig Breeder and the North Wiltshire Digital DJ, Alan Patridge Jnr, have given this extensive coverage.
The contest looks a close run with Labour scoring 6.9% in Chippenham at the last election.
Undercover. The True Story of Britain’s Political Police. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis. Faber & Faber 2013.
Many of the reported 8,931 political campaigners on the “national data base of political extremists” took a keen interest in the publication of Undercover. Some police infiltrators had already been publicly unmasked. Mark Kennedy – “Stone” – has been fingered by Indymedia in 2010. ‘Progressive academic’ and advocate of a dialogue with Islamists, Bob Lambert, was confronted with his spy chief past at a conference to “celebrate diversity, defend multiculturalism, oppose Islamophobia and racism” in October 2011. Suddenly people on the left, and other campaigners, were reminded of the existence of intense police surveillance on our political activity.
Undercover has marked a new stage. The extracts in the Guardian, which contains fuller revelations about Kennedy and Lambert, and others’ including long-term relationships with activists, and the use of dead children’s birth certificates to procure undercover identities, did not just whet the appetite of a broader public. They raised serious issues about the involvement of what Evans and Lewis rightly call the “political police” in Britain.
One case continues to cause an uproar. On spy, Pete Black, began his work in the 1990s in anti-fascist groups, then the (what has become) Socialist Party’s Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE). He moved on to spy on community-organised fights against legal injustices affecting the black community. Black finally began to recoil when asked to “smear” those involved in the Stephan Lawrence campaign and discover anything he could to discredit the key figure of Duwayne Brooks. (Page 156)
Questions about their role have extended to allegations about their use as agents provocateurs. It has been claimed that Lambert helped write the anti-MacDonald leaflet by London Greenpeace (an autonomous body) – the origin of the notorious libel action. It’s also said that Lambert “encouraged and even participated in an arson campaign that caused millions of pounds of damage. Lambert has firmly denied that he planted the incendiary device at the Harrow store, of Debenehams.”(Page 43) He strongly denies this, though claims credit for putting the animal rights activists involved in prison.
Nor is this a purely domestic matter. Kennedy has been cited in the French case, the Tarnac Affair, in which he allegedly witnessed bomb making. Briefly alluded to in Undercover (Page 265) this – dismissed – claim made headlines in Le Monde. They raised questions (details here) about Kennedy’s role in the prosecution of a group of libertarian leftists.
They Steal Identities, They Break the Law, They Sleep with the Enemy. Under these words on the book cover there is a lot more detail to ponder over in this excellent book. The causal deception the spies used to maintain their ‘cover’ deceived more than their comrades and friends. “There was no specific rule against having sexual partners. It was so commonplace they, he says, it was barely remarked on.”(Page 142) The heartbreaking stories of Charlotte, and Helen Steel, abandoned by their lying long-term partners, Lambert, the mother of Charlotte’s child, and John Dimes, whom Helen was “madly in love with”, are gut-wrenching. There are plenty of others; nine of the operatives identified in the book had “meaningful relationships” with the opposite sex. (Page 322) When the time came the agents simply slunk away
History of the Political Police.
These human tragedies had their origins in government and security decisions. Undercover traces the history of the British political police. The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), founded in wake of 1968, put in place its agents throughout the left. Ideally they would be the “trusted confidant, a deputy who lingered in the background”(Page 23) It was disbanded in 2008. Another body, which with the increasing focus on civil resistance, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) – was founded in 1999, under Tony Blair, with 70 staff. What were (are) their targets? “Domestic extremists, police decided, were those who wanted to ‘prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy’, often doing so ‘outside of the normal democratic process.”(Page 202)
Initially they went for animal rights activists, including the less than appealing Animal Liberation Front, and “environmental extremists”.Then broadened their scope, “Domestic extremists now included campaigners against war, nuclear weapons, racism, genetically modified crops, globalisation, tax evasion, airport expansion and asylum laws, as well as those calling for reform of prisons and peace in the Middle East.”(Pages 203) Today we also have the National Domestic Extremism Team, all which are brought under the control and merged of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
There is little doubt that those who offer a violent threat, not just to “the demcoratic process” but the people at large – have to followed. But this is hardly the case for those of the above list.
Why these official bodies go to the lengths they do remains something of a mystery to many on the left. Why do they need infiltrators? Is it because we are all plotting something subversive – a wide term the previous paragraph suggests covers most of the activist left’s campaigning including large sections of the Labour Party – in secret?
It is true that some groups cultivate an aura of mystery. Ian Bone once wrote that if anarchists ran the train carrying Lenin to the Finland Station they would have no identity on the side except a Post Office Box Number. The Socialist Workers Party has fought a losing battle to keep its internal discussions secret.
But most of what we do is easy to follow. Blogs, Facebook and the rest, are full of details about we do. Some people – specifically the tradition the Tendance comes from – believe in being as open as possible about how we reach decisions – by democratic vote – and what we do. To the great interest, no doubt of all coppers well up on Leftist Trainspotting and the finer points of the history of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Internationals.
Others have a way of reaching conclusions, and a distinct political culture, which may be harder for the political police to follow. That is the ‘consensus method’ of some of the groups covered in the course of Undercover; “activists used a strange-looking ritual known as ‘jazz hands’, in which they wriggled their fingers in the air to express support for speakers.” (Page 245) But if they want to do this, why not? Wiggle away, we say, far far away from, say any industrial action where we suspect consensus would never permit a strike in the first place.
In reality, the Web, as they say, shows just about everything these days. Which may or may not be a good guide. Indeed it well may not as we found with our own visit from the local rozzers after a malicious complaint by a local Islamic cult.
It will be interesting to follow the Net news on Bob Lambert if he does, as Evans and Lewis suggest, convert to Islam. (Page 331) Perhaps he will find peace – in a religion of order. Some would say that the version he is most familiar with, from his days in the Muslim Contact Unit, Political Islam, offers many possibilities for police surveillance and repression. Or, it might be that, following Kennedy, his personality is unravelling – as indeed Bob’s last television interview seemed to suggest.
Wounds Remain Unhealed.
An open wound remains. The legal action taken by 11 of the deceived women is proceeding at a snail’s pace. The latest news suggests that the women are profoundly dissatisfied with the procedure. Public knowledge of the activities of the political police has not changed things. Post-Kennedy recommendations to clean up the system have not been implemented. Further official inquiries, are, as the authors predicted early on, less than forthcoming. Operation Herne has trawled wide, but “has not yet made a single disclosure about any undercover operation.”(Pages 327 –80)
The last word should go to Steel and Morris, to Lambert – “Shame on you!”