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John McDonnell, Left Should not Shout ‘through the Letterbox’ at Starmer and become isolated.

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John McDonnell: Labour would save families more than £6,700Parikiaki | Parikiaki Cyprus and Cypriot News

At the beginning of Left Out, Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire’s coruscating, account of Labour during the Corbyn leadership, two sparks are thrown out.

There are two quotes;

Jeremey Corbyn, ‘We Won the Argument’.

John McDonnell, ‘I own this disaster.’

In the concluding pages there are these words,

“The Project’s weakness, and its internal divisions, be they the distrust of Murphy’s combative stile, the deep resentment that festered among junior staff in LOTO, or John McDonnell’s freelance excursions on Brexit, all flowed directly from Corbyn’s own. Power was not something he pursued. At times it felt that he was a man living in anticipation of another happy accident.

“The Shadow Chancellor, without whom the Project would have never existed, was the opposite. For four years he worked himself ragged in the pursuit of power. He set aside his sectarianisms and moderated and mellowed, or at least had the good sense to pretend to.”(Page 359)

This is not a review of Left Out. readers of this Blog may guess that the direction one will take. There is a  view that Jeremy Corbyn would have been more content,  and perhaps more effective,  in the leadership the League Against Imperialism circa 1927. The full story the Project fell apart is not the issue here.

But some general points can, and should be, made.

There is a judgement, contrasting with Pogrund and Maguire, that the “centrifugal forces” of Brexit and personality clashes, were overshadowed by divisions over what was right. One one side were left-wing internationalists opposed to the Hard Right Brexit Project, on the other side were those who either welcomed the opportunity to break free from the EU, or stayed confused about how to mobilise Labour’s electorate against it.

John McDonnell ultimately had more in common with the internationalists, and his actions were far from inexplicable but based on his ability as a politician to work with those from this camp, rather than the way the People’s Brexit faction attempted to dismiss us.

To illusrate his abilty to talk to, and not ‘use’,  other people we have this report today.

McDonnell has now said: “The most important thing for the left now is not to allow itself to be portrayed as oppositionists, shouting from the sidelines, shouting through the letterbox, that sort of thing.”

What there is, is the evidence of John McDonnell’s actions now.

McDonnell advises Labour left not to be seen as “shouting from the sidelines

John McDonnell has urged Labour left members not to let themselves be “portrayed as oppositionists, shouting from the sidelines” and instead “make sure that we win every political debate around the policy issues that we now confront”.

In an interview with Antonello Guerrera of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the former Shadow Chancellor warned the party’s left flank against allowing itself to become isolated, saying: “We mustn’t alienate people within the party.”

He reminded members that Keir Starmer won the Labour leadership election earlier this year “on the basis of adopting a template policy programme which was drawn from the last two Labour manifestos” in the 2017 and 2019 general elections.

McDonnell said: “The most important thing for the left now is not to allow itself to be portrayed as oppositionists, shouting from the sidelines, shouting through the letterbox, that sort of thing.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to be isolated or in any way, and we mustn’t alienate people within the party of the majority of the Labour Party members.”

He argued that while most members are “willing to give Keir Starmer a chance to see how we can really keep the party together and develop it”, the majority “don’t want any retreat from the radicalism of Jeremy Corbyn”.

McDonnell also said that some members within the party had been alienated by the leadership’s statements on certain issues that have “not been carefully worded or well chosen”, but said people were not leaving Labour “on any mass scale”.

These comments follow others which confirm this Blog’s view that not only was John McDonnell one of the most serious figures in Corbyn’s Labour pushing a transformative democratic socialist agenda, that he has a “nose” for the political bargaining involved,  but that he is simply somebody with a lot of good sense.

The hysterics of many articles and comments made by those claiming to be on the left  shown towards Keir Starmer is repulsive.

Not only will they alienate the majority of the Labour Party, and the wider public, but the go against the grain of democratic socialist politics.

People used to talk, not least his own ‘knowing’ supporters,  of Tony Blair “getting in the betrayal first” when, well before election victory,  he had got rid of Clause Four and key left-wing policies on replacing Thatcherism.

This writer has heard those who knew absolutely nothing about Keir Starmer, who had a period of radical left activism of some years in the 1980s, as a Blairite.

You do not have to have met Starmer during his years editing Socialist Alternatives, or indeed to have worked with him in his Chambers, to feel your stomach churn at some of the scattergun, often very personal, attacks.

John McDonnell, like Andrew Fisher, are well placed to call for these  bilious shouts.

McDonnell’s interview has made waves for another aspect,

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the former shadow chancellor drew parallels between Johnson and US President Donald Trump and claimed that parts of the world are “in quite a dangerous moment when it comes to the development of the forms of the Right”.

“The depiction of right-wing populism can be described in some instances as ‘proto-fascism’, with regard to Trump and also with regard to our own country, the rise of Johnson, Johnson’s politics,” McDonnell told the paper.

“It’s proto-fascism, no respect for democratic values, no respect for democratic institutions, no respect for the law, no respect for some of those rights and entitlements that particularly Labour and trade unions in our own country secured after struggles over the years.”

Boris Johnson is ‘proto-fascist’, says John McDonnell


That sounds a better row to get into!

But on Labour’s left will he be listened to?

We hear that leading Labour left-wingers, or rather, those who define themselves against others by their identification s left wing are already saying, “Comments and articles like this are  unhelpful by John McDonnell” They are preparing to buckle down.

To see what alternatives there are (not forgetting the previous post on this Blog on Chris Williamson) here is an interesting critical assessment of life outside the Labour Party.

Marxist Method and Orientation to Mass Organisations of the Working Class II

Socialist Voice.


“A Matter Of Prestige ” and “Marxist Method and Orientation to Mass Organisations of the Working Class (Part One)”, published in August 2019 and July 2020 respectively, examined the destructive role played by The Socialist Party of England and Wales (SP) in the United Kingdom civil service and out-sourced workers’ trade union the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and the subsequent wider split in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).

One’s eyes are drawn to this passage on one of the groups shouting loudly for people to leave Labour and join their brand of politics.

 – SP & CWI and the Trade Unions

As predicted, the SP/CWI’s surrender to prestige politics and abandonment of the united front strategy has driven an inexorable descent into destructive sectarianism, currently most evident in their continuing “rule or ruin” strategy in the socialist led PCS, one of the most militant, democratic, lay-led unions in the UK. Their abandonment of the principles and method through which the CWI played such an outstanding role in building a united left over many decades that defeated one of the most corrupt right-wing bureaucracies in the movement has left their now tiny forces isolated and alienated from even their erstwhile supporters on the left. Prestige politics inevitably results in a pursuit of “strategies” based on grudge-bearing, vendettas and self-abasing delusions of victimhood rather than a sound method of Marxist analysis. For them everything is now personal.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Labour Against the Witch-hunt Hosts Debate on ‘Free Speech’.

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Chaired by Tina Werkmann of Labour Against the Witchhunt and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee, CPGB-PCC), Labour Party Marxists,  who “works at Labour Left Alliance”.

This important event will discuss how we can fight back against McCarthyite attempts to stifle debate on the issue of Israel/Palestine – and label those unjustly expelled and suspended as ‘unpersons’ who we are not allowed to share platforms with.

No to (self-) censorship! Discuss how we can fight back and mobilise for free speech in the Labour movement and beyond.

Speakers include Norman Finkelstein, Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, David Miller, Tariq Ali and Tony Greenstein.

Many of the speakers are too well known to need further introduction.

But note this: 

David Miller, (2020)

a report in The Times detailed how Prof Miller is a director of a group known as the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS), which has promoted theories about the September 11 terrorist attacks, the shooting down of an airliner over Ukraine in 2014, the White Helmets humanitarian rescue group in Syria, the anti-vax movement and the origins of coronavirus.

Ahead of a probe into his conduct, Bristol professor resigns from Labour blaming ‘the Zionist movement’

Norman Finkelstein, Verso Blog 2018:

The chimera of British anti-Semitism (and how not to fight it if it were real)

In hard to read, adjective strewn prose,  Finkelstein continues,
 Is it anti-Semitism to believe that “Jews have too much power in Britain”—or is it just plain common sense? (It is, to be sure, a question apart and not one amenable to simple solution how to rectify this power inequity while not impinging on anyone’s democratic rights.) Still, isn’t it anti-Semitic to generalize that “Jews” have abused their power? But even granting that a portion have been manipulated or duped, it certainly appears as if British Jews in general support the anti-Corbyn juggernaut. If this indeed is a misapprehension, whose fault is it? The tacit message of the unprecedented joint editorial on the front page of the major Jewish periodicals was: British Jews are united—Corbyn must goIs it anti-Semitic to take these Jewish organizations at their word?
Then there is Tony Greenstein…
Marlon Solomon on Twitter: ""The NEC's case is that Greenstein's ...
At least a couple of these people (including Tariq Ali)  are members of the Labour Party.
Image may contain: text that says "Reports Tina Werkmann, LAW's vice-chair, presented the steering committee's report of work. This noted the assistance LAW has provided to numerous members of the Labour Party who have been suspended or expelled. It was clear from the 'evidence packs' that criticisms of Israel and Zionism were used as proof of'anti- Semitism. LAW's help rebutting these the members were still shown the door, because this witch-hunt is not about eradicating anti-Semitism, but getting rid of the left, she said."
Reports that the Editor of the Canary Kerry-Anne Mendoza may be watching this event and could intervene have not been confirmed. 

“Taking Back Control”: Brexit, Putin, to Free Trade in Public Services, and Low-Quality Food.

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Boris Johnson urges Brits to vote Brexit to "take back control ...

Getting Brexit Done means “Taking Back Control”……

During the EU Referendum those who backed Leave talked of “taking back control”.

There were those on the left who denounced the EU as a “capitalist club”. They wanted a “People’s Brexit”, a ‘Left’ Brexit.

The former Labour MP Ronnie Campbell spoke for his camp when he said he wanted to “take back control of UK laws, taxes, budgets, and public spending”.

For the alliance of Blue Labour, the Communist Party of Britain, Labour Lexiteers, members, and supporters, of the Brexit Party, The Full Brexit, the phrase  gave voice to a “popular revolt against the status quo”.

“The Leave campaign’s slogan, “take back control”, resonated with millions of people whose interests are no longer represented in British politics.” Brexit, and the restoration of National Sovereignty, gave the UK the “opportunity to reshape Britain for the better”.

After the result the Lexit (pro-Brexit left) campaign issued this statement.

It began, 

The Leave vote is above all else a rejection of the entire political establishment by millions of working class people who have been left to suffer austerity for decades with few defenders among the mainstream parties.

The Leave-Fight-Transform (Pro-Brexit) campaign from the same stable asserted in August 2019 that,

the left must ensure the 2016 referendum result is implemented, so that the UK breaks with the treaties, institutions and laws of the EU as well as the structural racism of Fortress Europe.

Locating the origin of racism in the EU was a bold move, one yet for Brexit Britain to challenge.

But it looks as if the break with what is left of the its treaties, institutions and laws is underway.

In a statement on Brexit Day (3rd of February 2020), the pro-Brexiteers issued a statement on the ” likely terrain for the battle”.

They predicted a “crisis in Britain’s ruling class”, a phrase battle-hardened leftists find handy for any time in history.

A trade deal with the US looked fraught “with tensions”. But some light for the left was there, “Johnson wants to be free to engage in state investment. That requires a ‘Canada-plus[i]’ deal with the EU.” A step forward. “This new vision, brought on by economic necessity and the wishes of a section of British capital, as well as by the political reality of how Johnson won his majority, is rather different from the delusional, harking back to empire vision beloved of Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group.”

Things were not so bad (compare above “crisis”). Indeed, “…much of British capital is confident that it can cope with whatever happens in post-Brexit Britain, providing the City of London’s banking and financial interests are kept safe.The EU, they predicted, would negotiate a way out. The Tories would try to respond to the “concerns” of those who voted for them.

The Brexit left claimed that conditions for a real struggle looked bright: “What couldn’t be done has been done: a major country has broken with the largest trading bloc in history.” After Labour’s historic election defeat, the post-Brexit terrain offered an  “opportunity for the left.”

Today there are two major news stories about “taking back control” Brexit-style.

The first is on the post-EU trade negotiations, 

MPs have defeated an attempt by Tory backbenchers to ensure parliament has a vote on any post-Brexit trade deal.

An amendment to the Trade Bill currently going through the Commons would have given MPs and peers a say on any new agreement signed by the government.

Jonathan Djanogly, the Conservative MP who led the rebellion, had argued that the US congress approves similar deals.


He accused the government of taking a position of “less scrutiny than we did as a member of the EU”, because EU trade deals are subject to a vote in the European Parliament.

Free of EU ‘neo-liberalism’ the government can agree with Donald Trump to open up UK public services to US businesses, and our shops to low quality American food.

Brexit is said to offer many more such opportunities.

It seems that Jeremy Corbyn had the clairvoyance – along with hundreds of anti-Brexit commentators – to foresee this.

Yet, as this tweet indicates…

Then we have this:

This story is still developing.

We note that Arron Banks, who gave money to ‘Trade Unionists Against the EU”, a campaign led by Paul Embery, a supporter of the Full Brexit, and promoted during the Referedum by the Socialist Party, gets a mention,

Government rejects ISC’s call for inquiry into Russian interference in Brexit referendum.

Here is the statement from the Committee itself.

Press release from the Intelligence and Security Committee, July 21:

There have been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU: studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on RT and Sputnik, and the use of ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’, as evidence.

The actual impact of such attempts on the result itself would be difficult – if not impossible – to prove. However what is clear is that the government was slow to recognise the existence of the threat – only understanding it after the ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee, when it should have been seen as early as 2014.

As a result the government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016. The committee has not been provided with any post-referendum assessment – in stark contrast to the US response to reports of interference in the 2016 presidential election. In our view there must be an analogous assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum.

Observers predict that the Morning Star is about to carry a story attacking ‘anti-Russian hysteria” and “Putin Bashing”.

(1) Report: 

Case study: the EU referendum