Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Massive Row as Labour Against the Witchhunt and Labour-in-Exile-Network Vote to Merge into a Single Organisation.

with 2 comments

Banned group Labour Against the Witchhunt urges supporters to lie to party  about their affiliation - The Jewish Chronicle

Breaking: Resignations from LAW, Jackie Walker Kevin Bean, Stan Keable, Tina Werkman.

Breaking, Exclusive to this Blog and Tony Greenstein.

Labour Against the Witchhunt and Labour-in-Exile-Network Vote to Merge into a Single Organisation.

TG reports, hot-foot (today).

“Last Friday night members of Labour-in-Exile-Network voted by 31-8 to merge with Labour Against the Witchhunt. The following night LAW, at its first All Members Meeting for 3 months also voted to support a merger, albeit by a narrower but decisive majority of 47-27 with 12 abstentions.

It is unfortunate that the majority of the LAW Steering Committee, having lost the argument and the vote have resigned rather than accepting the view of LAW members. Their argument is summed up in this week’s Weekly Worker that we are ‘Deserting the Fight’. No comrades we are refusing to allow the fight against Starmer and his neo-liberal politics to be confined to simply machinations in the Labour Party.

Motion 1 in favour of the merger was passed with one amendment. The second motion, opposing the merger, moved by supporters of Labour Party Marxism therefore fell automatically.”

opponents of merging the two organisations wanted people to believe that LAW today is the same as it was 2-3 years ago. That simply is not true.  In the past 6 months LAW has done relatively little other than with LIEN. On LAW’s own website there is no activity registered since the Resist at the Rialto in late September. The fact is that there is next to nothing we can do to fight the witchhunt inside the Labour Party because there is no democracy left.


LAW has not got wide support for many reasons, including ambiguities on anti-Semitism such as this (2020), “The anti-Israel activist Norman Finkelstein has told a meeting of the Labour Against The Witch-Hunt group: “I don’t know what a Holocaust denier is” – while backing what he said were “statistical, scholarly questions” around the question of whether six million Jews died in the Shoah. The American left-wing icon also heaped praise on the discredited Nazi apologist David Irving at the virtual event, describing him as a “very good historian” who “knew a thing, or two or three.”

Greenstein, who is another explanation of why LAW has not had wide support, gives the lowdown on the reasons why the Communist Party of Britain (Provisional Central Committee/Weekly Worker) through its front, the Labour Party Marxist (LPM) and its allies, opposed this move:

LPM has always taken the position that there is nothing in between the Labour Party, a bourgeois workers party in their eyes, and a revolutionary Marxist Party. All or nothing and they get nothing.

In other words, one probably the factor behind their view, was they would not wish a new left Labour grouping to emerge – the idea vaguely supported by some of those calling for the merger behind the talk of organising “inside and outside” the Party – within which they could not hope to have much influence. Greenstein notes, “the CPGB didn’t always take this position having participated first in the Socialist Alliance, Respect and Left Unity.”

This is the rub: the was the people and forces involved in LAW have spent their political lives in incessant switching from group to group, alliance to alliance, micro-party to micro-party. With one consistent force, the CPGB (Provisional Central Committee) stirring the pot.

Here is their view on the affair,

Deserting the fight

(Weekly Worker)

“The drafters of this proposal do not say it, but what they are calling for amounts to the liquidation of LAW and giving up on Labour as a site of struggle – particularly stupid with the witch-hunt finding ever new victims and the signs that Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and others of a similar ilk, might, at last, be willing to put up some kind of fight (note the excellent December 5 ‘Expulsion Rebellion’ initiative of Defend the Left). Organising ‘inside and outside Labour’ is simply smoke and mirrors, which blows away and shatters as soon as it is tested by the elementary questions of trade union affiliation and electoral choice. Do we, as comrade Greenstein has, call for trade unions to disaffiliate? Do we, as comrade Greenstein has, call for a vote for George Galloway? And to what point? Backing candidates of the nationalist Scottish Socialist Party, affiliating to Tusc, supporting the ‘left’ version of Brexit and immigration controls?”

The likely result is a further political degeneration into the British left’s worst habits: the substitution of piecemeal activism ‘in the movements’ for high politics (the only vaguely concrete political basis offered is the unqualified affirmation of XR and BLM). Decades under the influence of this particular drug have left us entirely unable to cope with the attacks of our enemies, because we have lost our instinct for the importance of mass political organisation and institutional strength.

Those with longer memories than fruit fly Tony will recall the Campaign for a Marxist Party and the CPGB-PCC’s own “worst habits”.

The Campaign for a Marxist Party was a campaign (founded 4 November 2006) run by the CPGB-PCC and other organisations on the British left for a political party with explicitly Marxist goals as part of a rebuilt workers’ international. Its members were Critique (who proposed the campaign initially), CPGB (PCC) and the Democratic Socialist Alliance. The Irish Socialist Democracy group welcomed the CPGB (PCC).

In November 2008, it was announced that the CPGB (PCC) would move to wind up the campaign at its December AGM.[15] Having done so, it claimed it will establish a new committee to promote “unity of Marxists as Marxists”.[16] A minority of members objected to the dissolution of the campaign including in published articles by Dave Spencer, Phil Sharpe and Steve Freeman

The Wiki entry does not mention the participation of the publication New Interventions and the Republican Democratic Group (Steve Freeman, above). There was a journal, Marxist Voice edited by Dave Spencer. Amongst many interesting contributions had a prescient article France the Left disunited, Andrew Coates, which truth be told could have been the title of anything about the French left, any time over the last 40 years.

The view many took is that this was the umpteenth proof that working directly with the Provisional Central Committee in political project was a dead-end. They would always find a way to promote their own project, to recreate a Communist Party, led by themselves. Nothing wrong with that, and, with appropriate distance, they are far from the worst on the left, with often interesting ideas, best explored in the abstract realm of ideas.

Once you get down to political strategy and political campaigning..well in every single case Greenstein cites, Greenstein notes, the Socialist Alliance, Respect and Left Unity, they, that is ‘Jack Conrad’ and the CC, have been endless source of division and mico-party building.

Then there is this problem, flagged by Bridget St Ruth, Crawling from the Wreckage: All over again. (on the break up of the Campaign for a Marxist Party. New Interventions. Spring 2009).

Why do this small groups always row? Step forward the presence of “Incessant Jabberers, Chronic Oppositionists Determined Differentiators, Long-term Feudists”, and one can add to this from one’s own list, Tony Greensteinites.

This is pretty well known on the small group left. As one specialist in such matters, and a doughty factionalist himself, once described them

“All the people of this type have one common characteristic: they like to discuss things without limit or end. The New York branch of the Trotskyist movement in those days was just one continuous stew of discussion. I have never seen one of these elements who isn’t articulate. I have looked for one but I have never found him. They can all talk; and not only can, but will; and everlastingly, on every question. They were iconoclasts who would accept nothing as authoritative, nothing as decided in the history of the movement. Everything and everybody had to be proved over again from scratch.”

James P. Cannon. ‘The Lunatic Fringe’. In The History of American Trotskyism.


Greenstein observes that Tina Werkmann (a former CPGB-PCC member) was against this merger:

For reasons that are not clear, Tina reversed her position and put out a paper Why a merger between Labour Against the Witchhunt and Labour In Exile Network is a bad idea.

As Cde Werkmann is, in some senses Labour in Exile Network (LIEN) this new lash up looks dead in a ditch.

Verbal fisticuffs are already breaking out:

On the LAW Steering Committee Whatsapp group Tina posted:

This feels very much like a hostile takeover and the only outcome is that it will close down LAW. Pretty shitty outcome.

On the LAW Facebook page Tina declared that the proposal to merge was a ‘Hostile takeover, really. Not sure it serves any purpose apart from closing down LAW.’ To which I responded that:

‘The Steering Committee opposed the merger. The members voted for it. Yes the members have taken LAW over as they realise it was going nowhere fast. Labour Party Marxists wanted to preserve LAW in aspic as a trophy that does very little.

You remind me of Bertold Brecht’s satirical poem “Die Lösung” (The Solution) in which he portrays the East German communists, after crushing the 1953 German Workers Uprising of wanting to abolish the people and start again

Leaving aside the fact that Tina herself was proposing what she now calls a ‘hostile takeover’ this is unbelievably arrogant.

Labour in Exile Network had ambitions to be a mass organisation and was given uncritical boosts in the Morning Star and the anti-Labour Skwawkbox. Given the 74 who participated in this vote that has not happened. Will the new orga work formally with the Labour Representation Committee? Nothing is less certain. Labour Briefing, which is aligned with the LRC, has not had an on-line edition since September.

Update, Meeting to organise new merged group:


Join statement Why we have resigned from the steering committee of Labour Against the Witchhunt 

Following the vote at LAW’s all-members’ meeting on November 27 to merge with Labour In Exile Network (by a vote of 47-27 with 12 abstentions, all votes and motions here), we have decided to resign from LAW’s steering committee. 

We cannot support the view that the struggle against the Labour witch-hunt is over, or that “LAW has outlived its usefulness”, as Tony Greenstein, the proposer of the motion to merge, put it.

The witch-hunt in the Labour movement is expanding every day and a campaign like LAW still has a vital role to play. 

We do not believe that LAW can be effective if it is part of a much less focussed and politically diverse organisation like LIEN, which has committed itself to Corbyn’s 2019 and 2017 manifestos.

There are half a dozen groups with similar soft-left programmes – all small and entirely ineffective. Building yet another one on the same political basis is unlikely to lead to another result!  The prevalent view in LIEN is that Labour is ‘dead’.

While Starmer has been doing his best to close down all avenues for political intervention by the left, we should not underestimate that many working class people still see it as ‘their’ party – and therefore we need a strategy to continue the fight in Labour (which includes working with groups outside Labour).

We cannot simply run away from that struggle.

The motion commits the newly merged organisation to “work and/or join forces” with groups including Chris Williamson’s Resist. He is in his own unity negotiations with TUSC and George Galloway’s nationalistic Workers’ Party and his lieutenants in the Stalin Society.

That is not a serious strategy.

The recent expulsions from Labour of Graham Bash, Jo Bird and Pamela Fitzpatrick, as well as the ongoing reluctance of much of the official Labour Left to speak out against the witch-hunt, proves how necessary a single-issue campaign like Labour Against the Witchhunt still is. 

Thanks to all comrades who have fought in this battle with us over the last 5 years. 

In solidarity, Jackie Walker
Kevin Bean (beankevin1955@gmail.com)
Stan Keable (keablestan@icloud.com)
Tina Werkmann (tinawerkmann2014@gmail.com)

This statement is also available online here


Campaign for a Marxist Party:

  • For the use of Marxist method to analyse global capitalism and its effects on the working class and to devise a programme for a planned democratic socialist society against the market.  Be honest and bold with Marxist ideas.
  • For internationalism and the re-building of a Marxist Workers’ International. For the maximum solidarity with workers in struggle throughout the world.
  • Socialism can only come through the self-emancipation of the working class.  This means a political struggle for the fullest possible democracy against capitalism and within the workers’ movement – the Trade Unions and socialist parties.  For the accountability and recallability of leaders and for full liberty of tendency, platform and faction.  Against bureaucracy, elites and the bureaucratic centralism of the sects.
  • We recognise that social democracy collaborates with capitalism.  Reformism is a dead strategy and we are against attempts to pretend to be reformists or to put forward any notion of intermediate stages towards socialism.
  • We recognise the counter-revolutionary and anti-human nature of the Stalinist regimes and Parties.  We seek to undo the damage done to Marxism by Stalinism.
  • We recognise that the continuation of capitalism threatens the future of humanity and the planet – for example in wars, poverty, disease, ecological disaster and the exhaustion of resources.
  • The CNMP will have a membership structure and will encourage members to participate in the broader working class movement against collaborationist policies and for the programme of working class political power.


  1. Conrad, Jack (13 November 2008). “Exploring agreements and disagreements”Weekly Worker (745). Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee). Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  2. ^ Godwin, Mary (11 December 2008). “Something serious needed”Weekly Worker (749). Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee). Retrieved 25 October 2015. The 2008 annual general meeting, held in London on December 6, agreed a motion proposed by the national committee to dissolve the campaign. As the motion explains, some members of the CMP intend to establish a committee in the new year with the aim of promoting the study of Marxism and the unity of Marxists as Marxists. Not the unity of Marxists in yet another crazy halfway house project.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2021 at 9:33 am

2 Responses

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  1. Chris Williamson is already gleeful at this bust-up and hopes for closer working with the victorious Greenstein faction.

    The Tendance is already thinking that those who have resigned have a point, “The motion commits the newly merged organisation to “work and/or join forces” with groups including Chris Williamson’s Resist. He is in his own unity negotiations with TUSC and George Galloway’s nationalistic Workers’ Party and his lieutenants in the Stalin Society.

    That is not a serious strategy.”

    Andrew Coates

    November 30, 2021 at 6:08 pm

  2. Hostile takeovers? I am reminded of my normal day to day job in an investment bank. Perhaps a pac man defence to the hostile takeover will be appropriate?


    Blairites Against the Corbyite Demonisation (BACD)

    November 30, 2021 at 6:31 pm

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