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The Labour Party: Holed up and Isolated on Collis Aventinus.

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Labour’s Forerunners The Secession of the People.

In early, half-legendary, Roman history at around 495 BCE the conflict between the Patrician Senate and the Plebeians reached such a point that the common people seceded. After time three miles away on Mons Sacer, they sat, the story goes, on Collis Esquilinus and Collis Aventinus, within the City walls. There they remained, it is proverbially (in a simplified version of the story) in splendid isolation, until their demands for debt relief were met.

The tale came to symbolise how political minorities can defiantly proclaim their independence. We might say that the Labour Party is in danger not only of tearing itself apart, but of ending up, however large its membership may swell , separate from the rest of the country. Opinion polls indicate that it remains very far from commanding the votes needed for an electoral majority. It risks far greater isolation than the Roman plebs.

In La social-démocratie européenne dans l’impasseLe Monde yesterday covered the crises affecting the European left. Of those politicians heading potential governing parties, it noted that Jeremy Corbyn, Robert Fico (Slovakia), and Pedro Sanchez (head of the Spanish socialists, the PSOE) confronted the same dilemma: how to win power and to keep their parties going.

The article cites the startling case of the Slovakians: Fico formed a ‘red-brown’ coalition with nationalist-far-right parties between 2006 and 2010. Again allied with the extreme-right his populism extends to virulent anti-migrant rhetoric. At the bottom of the page is another striking case. France’s ruling Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) has declined to between 60,000 and 80,000 members (some put the figure still lower). The PS, and other left candidates, less or more radical, look unlikely to make it to the second round of next year’s Presidential election.

Spain’s PSOE – still, at 22,06 % of the vote, the largest electoral force on the Spanish left – looks about to accept another right-wing government; the ‘populist’ Podemos’s vote declined in the June elections, creating its own internal difficulties. The German SPD is withering on the vine, its leader, Sigmar Gabriel, barely registering internationally. Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Rizni, nominally on the centre-left, faces a challenge in a referendum about reforming the country’s’ Senate. Only in Portugal, with a coalition led by Socialist Antonio Costa and supported by the Communists and the radical Bloco de Esquerda remains clearly on the left.

Are the fortunes of the rest of the European left important for the British Labour Party? With no participation in the Euro, and now Brexit it would appear that .the country is free from the prospect of a Continental federation ruled by free-market bureaucrats. The ‘democratic deficit’ ended, the House of Commons can return to making its own laws. What happens elsewhere, happens elsewhere.

Sovereigntism.

The ideology that animated the pro-Brexit left is sovereigntism. This is the idea that popular sovereignty is the goal of the “people” against the elites, Brussels, globalisation, finance capital. The ‘general will’ can be expressed in extra-Parliamentary forms, from the Spanish Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the more recent Nuit Debout protests in France. The view is growing that the Labour Party can, as a ‘social movement’ take on a similar role: a direct link between the will of the grass roots and politics. With the end of ties to the EU what is to stop this force, a battering ram, from conquering power and exercising the sovereignty of the people? Or, as the British left tends to dub it, will the ‘the working class’ be able to “take power”?

Yanis Varoufakis observes, by contrast, that the sovereignty that British political forces want to preserve, of ”their cherished House of Commons”, “is put under pressure by its most powerful social groups: trader, manufacturers, and of course the City of London, for whom Brexit is fraught with dangers”. The “tug of war between sovereignty and financialised capital” has not evaporated after Brexit. (Page 123. And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Yanis Varoufakis 2016) Popular sovereignty, a General Will whose supporters regularly (as in the radical protest movements cited above) contrast with the compromises, not to say corruption, of Parliamentary democracy, is an intangible force faced with the class realities of power. The social movement talked about in recent months, whether largely apparent only in public meetings, or with deeper roots, is unlikely to stand much of a chance faced with these structural constraints.

The Conservative government is negotiating trading and other agreements, including new versions of TIPP. Continued access to the single market will come at a price. The TUC’s has little power behind its efforts to secure “jobs and right at work.” (Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave. TUC June 2016) The results will not vanish if a Labour government comes to power. Prime Minister Teresa May is on record as hostile to trade unions and the rights embodied in EU law. International trade agreements will doubtless favour the rights of what Varoufakis calls “financialised capital”.

Conquering Power.

How can this be changed? Labour governments have been charged with merely exercising power, rather than conquering it, that is, winning a serious battle in the state and society as a whole and not just in the ballot box. Governing may involve making many important choices, but the intense life of Cabinets tends to downplay the wider social basis of change that socialists wish to introduce.

Many people are impressed by illustrations from very recent history. The Blair-Brown years could be seen as winning elections, with a careful strategy to assemble different constituencies (middle class, aspirational working class, left labour voters with ‘nowhere else to go’). Until the banking-financial crisis of 2007 -8 this was a period of expanded social spending. But these Labour governments operated within institutions of the privatising state created by Margaret Thatcher. Following John Major they extended this to privatising public services, including, for example, back-to-work schemes for several million of the unemployed. As the well-paid private appointments of many former New Labour Ministers and their supporters indicate, the state was not just unconquered; the privatisers conquered New Labour.

With this perspective in view, the acceleration of Conservative free-market ‘reforms’ to the economy, the development of the private company hold on the state, we should not be inward looking. We should embrace both democratic socialist calls for public ownership, and the social democratic impulse for equality. In place of rhetoric about ‘sovereignty’ the powerful Labour tradition of practical reforms should be our concern. A revival of the Fabian tradition of public service and detailed social policy, melded with Marxist scepticism about the class nature of the state and the critique of capitalism, might – I am being, to say the least, optimistic – bring us together. Matched with concern for universal human rights, this could be part of what one of the greatest leaders of European socialism Jean Jaurès (1859 – 1914) called the “synthesis” between left-wing traditions.

In early Rome the Avernis episode ended, it is said, in compromise. The Plebeians won on the issue of debt and, eventually, some political representation. But they did not overturn Patrician rule. Whatever the causes, which we can discuss for days, the last thing Labour needs is infighting, standing alone, laughed at by the Governing Right, cheered on by sectarian forces who wish to split the Party, and standing alone, on a modern political Collis Avernis. If this continues we look unlikely to  get even the measure of satisfaction our commoner forerunners obtained. We are not separate from the crisis of European social democracy described in Le Monde: we are part of it.

Labour’s Crisis: In Praise of Owen Jones.

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Owen: Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster.

In Praise of Owen Jones.

“The story recounted in this book suggests that the route to socialism does not lie through transforming the Labour Party”

The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys. 1997.

“The period of New Labour may be seen in the future as a short deviation from the historical flow of Labour Party as a developing socialist party or it may be identified as the period in which Labour as an aspiring party of radical socialist advance was destroyed.”

John McDonnell. Introduction. 100 Years of Labour. Graham Bash and Andrew Fisher. 2006.

Until Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last year most socialists in Britain would have concluded that the second of John McDonnell’s options had come true. Labour was not in any sense a vehicle of “radical socialist advance”. Others who believed that Labour was never a radical socialist party as such but contained currents that promoted democratic socialist policies that could see the light of day, saw their hopes of influence blocked. Labour, was, in short, not a party the left had any hope in.

Blair and Brown, the Third Way, or social liberalism, Blue Labour, a variety of distinctly non-socialist approaches dominated not just its Parliamentary representatives, but local government, intellectuals of any practical influence and the network of civil society associations that sustain the party. For a period modernisers, promoting ‘social partnership’, dominated even the trade unionism, although this began to unravel in the first years of the new century. Left groups and journals, such Labour Briefing and Chartist (both of which I am associated with), were marginalised. The Labour Representation Committee (LRC)  set up in 2004 and chaired by John McDonnell had little impact.  While union leaders like UNITE’s  Len McCluskey appeared to exert left influence, and the centre-left Grassroots Alliance maintained its presence on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) nobody expected the election of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

Much of the socialist left, from the late 90s on,  in diminishing numbers and with decreasing success, put their energies into trying to create new left parties and electoral alliances that stood independently of Labour. Many of these attempts ended not just in failure at the ballot box but also in demonstrated the difficulties of ploughing new political ground. Above all the experience of the Socialist Alliance (essentially from 1999 to 2003) demonstrated fundamental incompatibilities between democratic socialists and small ‘Leninist’ parties like the Socialist Workers Party, the bureaucratic ‘Trotskyist’ Socialist Party, and whatever label currently fits the personal vehicle for George Galloway, Respect.

If Corbyn’s 2015 victory was unexpected the groundswell in his favour this year has also been unprecedented. Left-wing individuals, including many from the democratic group, Left Unity (which stood out from the above organisations) had joined Labour to vote for him. At present the campaigning and protesting of unions, left groups, and individuals that has, most recently, been channelled into the alliance known as the People’s Assembly, has been overshadowed by rallies in support for Corbyn’s re-election. The campaign for the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn has shifted attention away from the kind of political negotiating that marks the Labour left.  A body of opinion has emerged that believes Labour is, or can be, transformed into a “social movement” in its own right. That the vast majority of those now rallying to Corbyn are not part of any organised group has made it hard to funnel them into traditional directions, and the all-embracing nature of the terms “social” and “movement” can be interpreted in many ways.

Paul Mason expresses the view that Labour will come to office because neo-liberalism is “busted” and puts Labour as a social movement at the forefront of building an alternative.

In Labour: The Way Ahead he stated a couple of days ago,

Labour will become the first mainstream party in a western democracy to ditch neoliberalism and then take power.”

Above all, victory is possible under Corbyn because Labour can become a social movement. Corbyn himself called for this at his leadership launch rally. The problem is that the Labour tradition has very little experience of social movements — especially the networked, anti-hierarchical forms of organisation associated with them since the late 1990s.

To call for Labour to become a social movement when it had 130,000 members and a bunch of moribund local committees would have sounded futile. With 600,000+ members, the majority pro-Corbyn and amid a summer of street rallies and overflowing mass meetings, it sounds highly possible.

Mason’s proposals for economic stimulus, the moblisation of the social movement aorund issues such the defence of mirgant workers, offering hope against the despair of UKIP,  are attractive.

But is this part of a viable strategy?

If Corbyn wins on 24 September then, at the substantive and sovereign party conference that begins the next day, Labour MPs should be asked to register publicly their confidence in the new leader.

The party should also ask all MPs to sign a statement recognising that the leader elected on 24 September is the lawful leader of the legal entity known as “The Labour Party” and that he is legally entitled to run the two limited companies that own its assets (Labour Party Nominees Limited and Labour Party Properties Limited).

Those MPs who refuse to register their confidence in Corbyn, or to recognise his legal right to run The Labour Party, should be marked down for de-selection.

Mason clearly indicates that he considers a large section of the existing Parliamentary Labour Party a waste of space. No doubt he, and others, would wish to extend such a loyalty test to councillors and all officers of the Party. Or are local representatives allowed greater freedom to dissent?

One of Mason’s principal models, the Spanish party, Podemos, is a very different phenomenon. It grew from the Indignados, known as the 15-M Movement , protests at the staggering corruption of the country’s political life that involved several million people. Mason claims that the American Occupy movement was inspired by  Stephane Hessel’s Indignez Vous! (Time for Outrage) but in fact it had its deepest impact in these Iberian protests. Podemos, while sometimes claiming to be “beyond” left and right, involves at least one left Marxist-Green current, the Izquierda anticapitalista.

From 9,8% of the vote in the European Podemos reached 21% in the December 2015.  But, refusing any compromise with the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE)  triggered fresh elections. This time, allied with the so-called ‘old left’ of the Izquierda Unida, and hopes of becoming the leading left force in the country it only reached  21,10% to the PSOE 22,66% . New elections may well be held,  but  even if its score improves Podemos can never hope to score a majority of the vote and can only govern in coalition – a prospect that Labour, with an electoral system that makes even this kind of representation difficult – would not relish.

Mason’s hostility to anybody disloyal to Corbyn is not at all helpful. The antagonism between the Corbyn side and those against him has ratcheted up in the fall out after the Brexit referendum vote. There are plenty of MPs who are willing to take the most extreme measures to destroy the existing Labour leadership. From a constant drip-by-drip of stories undermining the leader of the Opposition and its allies in the Shadow Cabinet we are now faced with the prospect of an alternative parliamentary group, and even – in some people’s view – a split in the party.

How does Mason’s alternative (not to mention those of others equally virulent against the Party’s centre and right-wing)  offer a serious way forward? A social movement  that moves in “waves and swarms and ” “a street movement” seeking “new forms of representation” a serious way of grappling with the problem of a Parliamentary party split in two and the mounting Tory lead in opinion polls. It would be pleasant indeed to believe that this might win labour elections, but we have only faith, belief in things unseen, to back the claim up.

Frenzied attacks on Corbyn backers, charged with wishing the Gulag for their opponents, have been met by screams of Blairite, and worse. It is as if both sides wish to conduct their disputes after the template of the pro-Nazi 20th century political philosopher Carl Schmitt: dividing the world into “friend and enemy” with a “fighting collectivity of people” confronting a similar collectivity. (1)

In this vein John Landsman asserts “the current leadership contest is like the Miners’ Strike – there are two clear sides, and while one might disagree with the way a political battle is being conducted, you still rally behind your side, because defeat and capitulation to the other side is still much worse.” “This is the battle being played out in the party right now, those are the stakes, those are the ‘sides’ that we are forced to pick.” (Picking sides’ – A short reply to Owen Jones). A victory of the Corbyn opponents, he argues, would lead to disaster. That;’s as may be. But to regard those who do not “pick sides” as part of the enemy camp is but a step from the original assertion.l This is not a way to conduct democratic politics inside the same party. It is a recipe for a split.

Some of the strongest supporters of this approach appear to be recent members of the Labour Party, and those, from the far-left outside, trying to bathe in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election. It grates to hear people long-standing Labour people, many of whom have decided their lives to it and public office, from the centre, a variety of groups or none, as well as the genuine Labour right group, Progress. It is equally deeply offensive for opponents of Corbyn to scream that his backers are totalitarians, anti-Semites, and abusive thugs.

In the middle of this pandemonium Owen Jones has stood out as a rational voice. Owen first made his name with the book Chavs (2012), followed by the Establishment (2014). His columns, originally in the Independent and now in the Guardian, have great influence. Having worked in John McDonnell’s office he is more than familiar with the way the Left works and the people involved in the present Corbyn team. Owen had trudged around the country speaking to hundreds of left meetings. Above all he is a dedicated democratic socialist who has earned great respect on the left and amongst the wider public.

Owen’s approach in recent weeks gives expression to the deep concerns many of us have not just with those constantly undermining Corbyn but more deeply with the real problems that Labour faces – summed up in  disastrous opinion polls – and what he feels are policy failures and difficulties with addressing the wider electorate. He also challenges an over-optimistic ‘social movement’ stand that many appear to be taking.

This is his latest contribution:

Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer

Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster. There, I said it. I’ll explain why. But first, it has become increasingly common in politics to reduce disagreements to bad faith. Rather than accepting somebody has a different perspective because, well, that’s what they think, you look for an ulterior motive instead. Everything from self-aggrandisement to careerism to financial corruption to the circles in which the other person moves: any explanation but an honest disagreement. It becomes a convenient means of avoiding talking about substance, of course. Because of this poisonous political atmosphere, the first chunk of this blog will be what many will consider rather self-indulgent (lots of ‘I’ and ‘me’, feel free to mock), but hopefully an explanation nonetheless of where I’m coming from. However long it is, it will be insufficient: I can guarantee the same charges will be levelled

The core of the article revolves around these point:

  • How can the disastrous polling be turned around? “Labour’s current polling is calamitous. No party has ever won an election with such disastrous polling, or even come close. Historically any party with such terrible polling goes on to suffer a bad defeat.”
  • Where is the clear vision? “What’s Labour’s current vision succinctly summed up? Is it “anti-austerity”? That’s an abstraction for most people. During the leaders’ debates at the last general election, the most googled phrase in Britain was ‘what is austerity?’ — after five years of it. ‘Anti-austerity’ just defines you by what you are against. What’s the positive vision, that can be understood clearly on a doorstep, that will resonate with people who aren’t particularly political?
  • How are the policies significantly different from the last general election? “It’s less than a year in to Corbyn’s already embattled leadership: there hasn’t been the time to develop clear new policies. Fine: but surely there needs to be a clear idea of what sort of policies will be offered, not least given what is at stake?”
  • What’s the media strategy? “..there doesn’t seem to be any clear media strategy. John McDonnell has actually made regular appearances at critical moments, and proved a solid performer. But Corbyn often seems entirely missing in action, particularly at critical moments: Theresa May becoming the new Prime Minister, the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, the collapse of the Government’s economic strategy, the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, soaring hate crimes after Brexit, and so on. Where have been the key media interventions here?”
  • What’s the strategy to win over the over-44s?
  • What’s the strategy to win over Scotland?
  • How would we deal with people’s concerns about immigration?
  • How can Labour’s mass membership be mobilised? “a movement will only win over people by being inclusive, optimistic, cheerful even, love-bombing the rest of the population. A belief that even differences of opinion on the left can’t be tolerated — well, that cannot bode well. So how can the enthusiasm of the mass membership be mobilised, to reach the tens of millions of people who don’t turn up to political rallies? What kind of optimistic, inclusive message can it have to win over the majority?”

Comrade Owen ends by stating this,

Labour faces an existential crisis. There will be those who prefer me to just to say: all the problems that exist are the fault of the mainstream media and the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to be whipped up with the passions generated by mass rallies across the country. But these are the facts as I see them, and the questions that have to be answered. There are some who seem to believe seeking power is somehow ‘Blairite’. It is Blairite to seek power to introduce Blairite policies. It is socialist to seek power to introduce socialist policies. As things stand, all the evidence suggests that Labour — and the left as a whole — is on the cusp of a total disaster.

Guess what at least some of the responses to these carefully thought out questions has been?

Well guess not: Corbyn supporter Owen Jones labelled ‘Blairite traitor’ for criticising current leadership.

Those attacking Owen are attacking the democratic socialists who back Corbyn, but with exactly the kind of independence of thought he represents.

We back Corbyn, we back McDonnell – a view strengthened in the last few days by the strong stand in favour of restoring Trade Union rights.

But these are indeed the questions which need to be looked at.

(1) The Concept of the Political. Carl Schmidt. University of Chicago. 2007.

Labour Leadership Contest, Corbyn and the Left, some Notes.

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People of Good Will Flock to Back Corbyn in York Yesterday.

Tensions inside the Labour Party have reached new levels today with this news:

Labour rebels plan to start their own party if Jeremy Corbyn gets re-elected

Labour rebels plan to elect their own leader and create an ‘alternative’ parliamentary group if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected, it was claimed last night.

Senior Labour rebels are so convinced that Jeremy Corbyn will win the leadership contest that they intend to launch a legal challenge for the party’s name.

The move would see them create their own shadow cabinet and even elect a leader within Parliament to rival Mr Corbyn’s front bench to take on the Tories.

They are considering going through the courts to get the right to use Labour’s name and assets including property owned by the party across the country.

Since it is clear that Jeremy Corbyn will win the contest – from nominations,  massive turn outs at meetings to the polls – it is important that the left thinks about its stand.

This, one of countless articles from across the spectrum, is just one contribution.

Some people may rejoice in the prospect of a fight to end with his opponents, wish for a completely different Parliamentary party, and indeed, if opinion polls are to be believed (which put Labour 17 points behind the Tories) a new electorate.

A better approach has been taken by Owen Jones, who has written some of the best, and most informed, commentary on the rise of Corbyn’s support inside the party and the challenges his team faces.

He begins by examining what the party is now and what it could be become.

With Labour currently in the throes of an existential crisis, a false dichotomy is being debated: is it a party of government or a social movement? Labour was undoubtedly founded because of the limitations of social movements. Winning concessions from Britain’s rulers was not enough: those rulers had to be displaced by the political arm of the labour movement and, more broadly, working people and those without a voice.

One challenge is that the Labour party membership is simply unrepresentative of the population. That has always been the case: it’s the trade union link that grants Labour any right to self-describe as a workers’ party. According to ESRC-funded research by the academics Tim Bale, Monica Poletti and Paul Webb, around half of Labour party members belong to the social group AB: that is, middle-class professionals. Yet only 22% of Britain’s population belong to this group. Those deemed to be working-class represent 47% of the population, but they make up just 21% of the Labour party membership. Nearly half of members live in London or southern England, and a large majority have university degrees

Understandably, any movement that feels under siege from the establishment will be defensive. An obvious danger is a retreat into the company of those with similar views, and the lashing out at those who dissent, even mildly. On issues from immigration to social security, there is an obvious chasm between the views of Labour members and the general public. But this divide can be bridged.

That won’t be achieved by intolerance for differing opinion on the left, let alone the wider public. An optimistic, understanding, empathetic, inclusive, outward-looking movement needs to be built. All of this must be part of a wider strategy for gaining power, of course. The Tories won the last election with few footsoldiers on the ground. Without a clear plan for power, the history books will refer to the left only as an explanation for how the Tories were able to rule for so long. Enough of the false dichotomies: Labour doesn’t have to choose between being a social movement and a party of government. It can be both.

One aspect that has drawn a lot of attention is precisely this intolerance.

From critics of Corbyn claiming that his supporters would put people in the Gulag and torture women, to those constantly claiming that his opponents are ‘Blairite scum’, this has marked recent weeks as never before.

It is worth noting that differing opinions on the left, within the boundaries of democratic socialism, have no always been so polarised. People on what was called the ‘hard’ left have contributed to ‘social liberal’ left sites, such as Harry’s Place, or, the more muted Left Foot Forward – despite wildly differing opinions – and they have contributed to our Internet vehicles. Within the democratic socialist left people read, write for, and talk with, journals from Labour Briefing, Tribune, Chartist, the AWL’s Solidarity, and ….the Weekly Worker. 

There are plenty of other places where the left expresses differing views, from the Morning Star to the Guardian.

I for one have no intention of ending any dialogue with our democratic opponents.

Left-wing Political Culture and Brexit.

Many people now drawn to Labour have no previous experience of left-wing politics. They are people of good will. They have their own opinions. They will make their own judgements. But the voices which are being heard are not just from them, but from groups with a long, in most cases very long, political histories.

In this respect it is important to recognise that not only is there not ‘one’ left, but that the left is itself divided after Brexit. One group, Socialist Resistance,  like the AWL (who also took welcome initiatives to build on this), took a progressive ‘Another Europe is Possible’ Remain stand during the referendum. They have just published this article which helps explain the background of the left and the implications of the result for those who backed Brexit and for the (majority) who supported Remain.

THE UKIPISATION OF THE TORY PARTY –THE BREXIT LEFT IN DENIAL Alan Thornett

It was clear, long before it was launched, that the EU referendum held serious dangerous for the left and for multiculturalism and anti-racism in Britain. The campaign itself was always going to be a carnival of racism and xenophobia and an outcome in favour of Brexit would trigger a major shift to the right in British politics—both at the level of government and in terms of social attitudes. Racism and xenophobia would be strengthened and the left thrown onto the defensive….

Socialist Resistance argued for a remain vote on the basis that the referendum would be a carnival of reaction leading to a major shift to the right in British politics, and we have been right on both counts.

Those far-left organisations—the SWP, the Socialist Party, and Counterfire, along with the CPB—that agued for exit from the EU on the basis that such a vote would bring down Cameron, push the political situation to the left, and open up new opportunities for radical politics, even increase the chances of a Labour government, got it dramatically wrong. In fact, some are still arguing that there has not been a shift to the right a week after the formation of the May government…..

It should be clear now, if it was not clear before, that this referendum was not, at the end of the day, a referendum on the EU but on immigration: i.e. ‘are you in favour of the free movement of people—yes or no?’ This scenario was played out in interview after interview, on the streets, the response was overwhelmingly: too much immigration—end free movement. And the uncomfortable fact is that given Britain’s imperialist and colonialist history, decades of bi-partisan institutionalised racism practiced by both Tories and Labour, and the disgusting xenophobia of the tabloids—the Sun, the Mail and the Express in particular—over many years, it was always going to be thus.

It is important to read Alan’s article in full.

One cannot underline enough how backing Brexit significantly  shapes any attempt they make in claiming to be part of a Corbyn Movement. To put it bluntly, it reduces their assertion to ashes.

The Present Politics of the Brexit Left and the Labour Party.

The Socialist Workers’ Party has issued a petition to defend Corbyn.

This week Socialist Worker states,

Everyone should back Corbyn and build the movement in the workplaces and the streets that can win reforms—and much more.

The Socialist Party has issued  instructions to Labour activists,

…for the first time since world war two, all regular party meetings have been closed down, removing the chance for ordinary party members to hold anti-Corbyn MPs and councillors to account.

Local parties should defy these edicts and continue meeting, or #Keep Corbyn meetings should be organised independently, including by trade union branches – and involving Corbyn supporters inside and outside the Labour Party.

They believe they have a right to join the Labour Party as a separate, democratic centralist (that is organised through their own internal discipline) group. They advocate a Labour Party run on federal lines.

(such a) federal approach applied to today would mean allowing political parties like the Socialist Party and others involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and anti-austerity Greens, to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.

Behind this stand very distinctive politics.

The SWP believes in building a revolutionary party, that is their party. That is their objective. The Socialist Party’s previous strategy was summarised a couple of years ago by Andrew Murray (of the British Communist Party and UNITE) as follows. They are

trying to create a shadow labour movement around itself, with its own electoral front, its own shop stewards’ network etc.

This labour movement has failed to materialise.

The No2EU slates in 2014 scored between 0,25 and 0,5% of the vote.

The SWP and the SP stood candidates through their electoral vehicle, TUSC (Trades Union Socialist Coalition) against Labour again as recently as…..May.

Their vote was derisory indeed “Following the 2016 elections, TUSC have no remaining official councillors“.

They actively campaigned for a Leave vote.

In some cases they advanced the demand that we should have “local jobs for local workers.”

In effect the provided a ‘left’ cover (to use the language of these organisations) for the hard-right nationalist pro-Leave campaign.

Now both groups wish to become players in the Labour leadership contest.

The SP is even involved in the campaign to get Corbyn re-elected.

They both campaigned for Brexit just over a month ago.

A big majority of Labour supporters and an even larger majority of young people voted Remain.

The Pro-Brexit left may think young people and Labour Party members have the memory of fruit flies, and are ripe to join their groupuscules.

But only those in, as Alan Thornett says, “in denial” can expect their interventions to be welcomed.

 

Say No To Blackmail: Oppose Bombing Syria.

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Say No to Resignation Blackmail: Labour Should Oppose Bombing Syria.

“L’objectif, c’est d’anéantir l’Etat islamique globalement”

The objective is to wipe out the Islamic State across the world.

John Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Defence. (Le Monde. 24.11.15)

The French government talks of a “hybrid world war” against Daesh. The first is on the battle-field in the Levant, against the Islamic “state being built”. The second is against terrorism, fought in the “shadows” world-wide, and by the state of emergency in France. The British government proposes to join the ‘coalition’ to play an aerial part in Syria. It will make Britain safer. Jeremy Corbyn refuses to take part in the conflict. It will male the UK less safe. Uniting with David Cameron leading figures in the Labour Shadow Cabinet, who back air strikes, threaten their Party and Leader. The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) brandishes the prospect of mass protests.

We have not been here before. Very few people are interested in demonstrating that the present US and French responses to the Syrian civil war are part of plans to extend the American Empire or the New Imperialism (Socialist Register. 2004 and 2005). Whether taking part in the conflict is integrated in a long-term strategy of “bomb and build”, covered by the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention, remains to be seen. For the moment minds are concentrated on the claims of the French government, made in response to the agony of the Paris murders, to take on Daesh.

Leading Labour politicians are, they say, standing on principle against Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to back the use of air power in Syria. The ability to find an incontestable line that will guide intervention amongst the multiple contenders, the external forces in play, is a rare talent. The belief that the way to resolve the conflict begins with wiping out the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh) – is less common amongst specialists reporting and analysing the region.

The possibility of a democratic settlement sealed by the gathering coalition for military action has yet to be demonstrated. A list of those it would have to involve includes (to start with), the Baath Party and Assad, the Free Syrian Army, the non-Daesh Islamists, the Turkmen, Christians, the Kurds, free-lance militias, and all their contending backers, from the Gulf States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, the US, to France. The actions of Turkey alone, as shown in the last few days, with the shooting down of a Russian plane, indicate that the grounds for belief in an end to the fighting are not strong. That the players called to agree include tyrannies, religious or not, should encourage scepticism about their human rights intentions.

Anti-War Movement.

But if the Labour rebels are people of principle, then so are the StWC and its supporters.

The anti-war movement is still congratulating itself on condemning the Paris slaughter. These were ordinary people. They were not the wrong kind of leftists at Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish customers of the Hyper-Casher, murdered earlier this year in what many of them described as a response to French secularist Islamophobia. The StWC had, we have to say, tweeted about Paris reaping the “whirlwind” and the Socialist Workers Party had claimed that ultimately the dead were the victims of imperialist intervention in the Middle East. Some ventured that again it was AllAboutOil. But now they all condemn the attacks, if still trying to “understand” them. There even moral cretins around on the fringes who state, “The real terrorists are in power today across Europe and in the United States.” (Here) And many more are warning about more future murders at home if Britain joins in air strikes. Which concern them. Although the entirely justified US support for the Kurds, including air-strikes, which saved them in their hour of need,  does not get mentioned.

The anti-war movement is concerned about prejudice and attacks on Muslims in the wake of the Paris killings. Is it concerned about the deaths in Syria? Syrian democrats rightly point to the origins of the civil war in Assad’s refusal to contemplate democratic reform when the hopes of the Arab Spring reached their country. How will Jeremy Corbyn’s call for more negotiations produce a different result?

Violent Islamism is far from restricted to the Middle East. Its development there may well have been favoured by the failures of the Arab Spring, or, further back, of Arab left-wing nationalism. The West has its imprint. In the aftermath of Western intervention in Iraq, the sectarian conflicts (not least led by the Shiites), Daesh was born. But what of Tunisia, – latest bombing site – which now has a democratic state? Is this too experiencing ‘blow back’ for its imperialist involvement? Is Nigeria, scene of the largest number of Islamist terrorist killings, also caught up as a result of its place within the US Empire? Are Bangladeshi secularist bloggers paying the price for their country’s involvement in the Levant?

Jihad.

France’s ‘war of the shadows’ against Jihadist terrorism is equally unclear. Gilbert Achcar points to a domestic origin in France’s ‘banlieue’, the territorial, social and ethnic apartheid Prime Minister Valls has himself denounced. (Le Monde.26.11.15). The day before Olivier Roy talked of a restricted generational revolt, both by those of a Muslim background against traditional faith, and by converts who (unwilling to read left-wing literature) find it the only “radicalism” on offer. Their path is towards nihilism: fascination with death, pride in killing, and the accumulation of sexual slaves. In Daesh’s utopia, detached from Muslim society and religious tradition, is one long battle, in which they play the role of lowly troops. (Le Monde. 25.11.15) How any, by necessity, long-term plan to end the social exclusion that may have encouraged these willing recruits to the Islamic State’s Einsatzgruppen, could bear results is yet to be debated.

In Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran (2015) the laws of an actually existing Islamic State, Iran, are discussed inside a cab. Film censorship, correct dress, hanging for theft, the film opens a window into life in a country ruled by religious law. The Sunnite version of this oppression, in Saudi Arabia, is even better covered in the media. The bigotry of political Islam, that is faith made into law and enforced on people’s daily life, is all too known across the world today. Countries like Iran, which still tries to export its ‘Revolution’, and Saudi Arabia, whose financial weight extends into Europe’s mosques and other Islamic institutions, have spread the belief that the Sharia and an ‘Islamic society’, are utopias. Their community has little place for non-Muslims, who have little place in these worlds. They are based on punishment. They united against unbelief. Whether there is an existential gulf between the ideology of the rulers of Tehran or Riyadh and that of Daesh and the world’s Jihadists, is hard for most people to tell.

Oppose Bombing.

What is certain is that David Cameron’s plans for Syria are as clear as mud. France has switched from Laurent Fabius’ (French Foreign Secretary) strategy of toppling Assad to allying de facto with him in weeks. President Hollande’s Defence Minister is open in advocating putting troops on the ground – how and which troops is not announced. (Le Monde. 22.11. 15) Yet moral outrage at those who urge caution is building. Moral indignation at bombing – when war is already raging, and when the indignant have less than straightforward alternatives – may not have a great echo. Nobody has any solid plans, for all the welcome US air support for the Democratic Forces of Syria, to help one of the few forces in the maelstrom the left can support, the Kurds of Northern Syria in the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), above all faced with Turkey. But let’s put it simply: the Coalition against Terror has no effective and sustainable solution that it can enforce militarily without massive loss of life and unsure future prospects.  We hope that Parliament refuses to go along with them.

****

Note: This is the Crucial Point in Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Labour MP’s:

…the Prime Minister did not set out a coherent strategy, coordinated through the United Nations, for the defeat of ISIS. Nor has he been able to explain what credible and acceptable ground forces could retake and hold territory freed from ISIS control by an intensified air campaign.

In my view, the Prime Minister has been unable to explain the contribution of additional UK bombing to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, or its likely impact on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.

For these and other reasons, I do not believe the Prime Minister’s current proposal for air strikes in Syria will protect our security and therefore cannot support it.

Labour List.

As Workers Power Goes Michel Pablo, is this the Maddest Sectarian Blog Post Ever Written?

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https://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/p/pics/pablo.jpg

New Workers Power’s Guru: Michel Pablo.

Extensive investigations by the Tendance Coatesy Central Committee have revealed the startling truth about Workers Power’s “Corbyn Turn”: dissolving and joining the Labour Party en masse (insofar as they are anything like a mass).

The erstwhile steel-hardened Trotksyist anti-liquidationists have taken a leaf out of Comrade Michel Pablo’s book and adopted “entrism sui generi., otherwise known as “deep entrism”.

“In entryism sui generis (“of a special type”), Trotskyists, for example, do not openly argue for the building of a Trotskyist party. “Deep entryism” refers to the long duration.”

Pablo, Michel Raptis, is best known for advocating this line, “To gain influence, win members and avoid becoming small sectarian cliques just talking to each other, the Trotskyists should — where possible — join, or in Trotskyist terminology enter, the mass Communist or Social Democratic (Labour) parties. This was known as entrism sui generis or long-term entry. It was understood by all that the FI would retain its political identity, and its own press.

This study, Christophe Nick, Les Trotskistes, (2002) contains all you need to know on the subject of entrism – the French Trotksyists make the British ones look like hopeless amateurs.

It is to be expected that internationalists like Workers Power have read and absorbed its message.

 Review: Les Trotskistes. Revolutionary History

… its main theme is entrism (particularly Chapter 6, pp218-64), and the book’s very first words are that ‘the Trotskyists are everywhere’. Trotskyists, apparently, ‘identify themselves with the mole, and venerate this animal’ (p12), and ‘entrism is a technique peculiar to the Trotskyists, a case unique in the annals of politics, an ethnological curiosity’ (p217)

Chapter 6 of the estimable study, Cde  Al Richardson suggests of some of the book, contains “much of real value“.

It recounts for example the case when one Trotkyist group (the ‘Lambertists’) set up an entrist current (the Ligue communiste internationaliste  LCI, led by Daniel Gluckstein), inside another Ligue communiste révolutionnaire. It exited and fused with its parent as the Parti communiste internationaliste in 1981 .

Please ask for more information on ‘Lambertism‘ (and its present split)- it’s a hoot! (1)

Ian Birchall has written elsewhere that the next study by the Christophe Nick might be on  the Rosicrucians.

Which makes him an even more appropriate strategic guide for Workers Power preparing for perhaps centuries of underground work inside the Labour Party.

Particularly in view of the fact that they have attracted this kind of debate (Thanks NN).

Exclusive: from Workers Power factional history (which is we emphasise for the unwary, is meant to be ‘satire’ – just).

Who Are Proletarian Democracy? A Historico-Theoretical Special
Posted on October 9, 2012

In spite of the strong liquidationist tendencies within a substratum of semi-Stalinist circles in and around Workers’ Power’s CC in the 1980s, Mark Hoskisson was productively correct to assert that Trotsky, had he lived to 1945 to see a nuclear bomb in action, would have revised his statements denouncing nuclear physics and nuclear weapons:

“Now with the reality of the boom, only an idiot or perhaps a charlatan like Gerry Healy, would describe Trotsky’s categorical declaration as correct. However we reject the idea that Trotsky’s error stems from an objectivist and fatalist methodology on his part. This charge, levelled at him by theoretical cheapskates like John Molyneaux – does not stand up for one minute.” – (Workers’ Power Theoretical Journal of Workers’ Power- no9).

BOURGEOIS MILIEU TO ITS CORE

Hoskisson is only partially correct to suggest “Had Trotsky’s epigones re-elaborated his programme in the 1950s many of the difficulties we face today would not exist.” The contradictory containment of post-war Trotskyism within the methodological confines of identary post-manufactured retopianism would have marked a bourgeois milieu to its very core even in the 1950s, hence Hoskisson would be wrong.

Although Paul Mason is now an erstwhile counter-Proletarian Democrat on Newsnight, his contribution to Workers’ Power as it was then, was insightful:

“Soviet power in reality had been enough to drive the Mensheviks into the camp of the bourgeoisie, to make centrists like Kautsky opt decisively for bourgeois-democratic counter-revolution. Conversely it had raised the political sights of the best syndicalist and anarchist militants who had hitherto rejected both the party and state power, by embodying in deeds the revolutionary essence of these words.” – (Workers’ Power Theoretical Journal of Workers’ Power- no9).

We Agree.

It remains our aim to drive Mensheviks such as the IRSP, Eirigi, the ICC, the SSP and the various sordid sub-party groupings around the journals ‘The Commune’, ‘Battaglia Comunista’, ‘Good Housekeeping’ and Lauren Laverne’s columns in Grazia into the camp of the bourgeoisie. We are as committed as ever to make centrists like Owen Jones and Caitlin Moran opt decisively for counter-revolution. And, we will, in time, make the best syndicalist and anarchist militants embody in deeds both party and state. The worst syndicalist and anarchist militants naturally will face a workers’ girder.

THE ‘MACE’ IN PAUL MASON

The crucial point: we were the ‘mace’ in Paul Mason’s words. We did what he preached, and began taking action to make the bourgeoisie crack from within. We knew better than to openly discuss our factionalisation in front of the WP CC, and to openly digress from their characterisation of the Labour Party as a bourgeois workers’ party would have been foolish. We knew they would never condone or support militant action and might even have acted as informers – so we acted in secret, in private.

Anybody who’d been comrades with that lot will be probably end up in Progress – out of sheer relief.

 (1) See latest summary: Longue scission au CCI/POI : et maintenant ? (5th September 2015).

After SWP Involvement Makes News, Momentum Publishes Ethical Code – is this enough?

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Enfin, les difficultés commencent !

By a route leading back to, amongst others,  Tendance Coatesy the New Statesman has published this:

When new group Momentum was launched by Jeremy Corbyn supporters, Labour MPs were immediately alarmed by its decision to allow non-party members to sign up. This, they warned, risked far-left entryism and the creation of a Militant-style “party within a party”.

Their fears were given greater credence yesterday by the announcement by the Socialist Workers Party, the most loathed Trotskyist groupuscule, that it intends to participate in Momentum. The SWP’s “Party Notes” stated: “There are also various initiatives to re-launch the Labour left. Momentum which has the backing of a group of newly elected Corbyn-supporting MPs such as Clive Lewis and Richard Burgon, looks like it might be the most significant to date (Corbyn and McDonnell have also made supporting statements backing it). It does not seem restricted to Labour members, though it says it will aim to encourage people to join Labour. We should go along to any local Momentum meetings with the aim of taking part as open SWP members, suggesting joint activity, and sign up to be on the email lists. A launch meeting in Manchester last week attracted 70 people, many of them new and comrades had a friendly response when they raised common activity.”

For Momentum’s Labour supporters, the involvement of the SWP (see Edward Platt’s 2014 NS piece for an account of the party’s multiple woes) would be a political catastrophe. Indeed, it is precisely because the SWP recognises that its participation would discredit the group that it has adopted this strategy. It intends to support Momentum as the noose supports a hanged man.

It is notable, then, that the group’s founders have moved swiftly to repudiate the SWP. An article on Left Futures, the site edited by Momentum director Jon Lansman, declares: “There are extremely good reasons why the SWP and my erstwhile comrades in the Socialist Party should be told to sling their hook when they try and get involved. A passing acquaintance with them is all it takes to understand that they’re fundamentally uninterested in building the wider labour movement, let alone the Labour Party – which is one of Momentum‘s explicit objectives. During the summer the SWP looked upon stormin’ Corbyn with indifference and barely any comment. For the Socialist Party, because Labour was a “capitalist party” Jeremy couldn’t possibly win and it was dead as far as socialist politics were concerned.

But the suspicion that Momentum will be infiltrated by hostile left-wingers is likely to endure. If SWP members are to be formally excluded from meetings, the new fear is that its activists go undercover (though it is worth recalling how few there now are). Shadow minister Clive Lewis, a Momentum director, told me this week: “If people are concerned about Momentum, all I would say is judge it on what it does.” But for Labour MPs, the jury will remain out for some time.

Momentum published this yesterday

Interim Ethical Code for Individuals and Local Groups Associated with Momentum

Individuals and groups using the Momentum name and branding must operate according to the following principles at all times:

• As the successor to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Campaign, Momentum promotes the values that Jeremy popularised during the campaign, of fair, honest debate focused on policies, not personal attacks or harassment.
• Momentum is outward-facing. It seeks to reach out across the community and encourages the participation of people who may not have been involved in political activities before. Ensuring the safety and self-expression of everyone is a priority, especially of those who are often marginalised on the basis of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, religion, class, disability and educational or economic status.
• Groups of individuals may form local Momentum Groups to share ideas, organise and participate in activities at their local level which demonstrate how ‘Labour values’ and collective effort can make a positive social and/or environmental impact. These groups must be democratic in their nature and be organised around a spirit of collaboration, inclusion and respect.
• As the successor to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Campaign, Momentum promotes the communication of progressive ideas for political change, such as: opposition to austerity, the promotion of equality and participatory democracy. These are the values for which Jeremy Corbyn was elected.
• Momentum is wholly committed to working for progressive political change through methods which are inclusive, participatory and non-violent.
• Momentum seeks to build a social movement in support of the aims of the Labour movement and a fairer and more decent society. Momentum is committed to supporting the Labour Party winning elections and entering government in 2020 and seeks positive and productive engagement with local Labour Party branches.

Individuals and/or groups who do not adhere to the above principles will not be considered to be part of, or associated with, Momentum. Please note that Momentum is its embryonic stage as a network organisation. Our Code of Conduct is likely to develop further along with the governance structures of our organisation.

Whether these interim  commitments will make a difference, or become fully codified,  remains to be seen.

The principal concern is not setting up measures to avoid being hectored by the SWP/SP. Or even to put a stop to attempts to support break away candidates standing in elections against the Labour Party (which we flagged up).

It is about what the left needs to be done to make itself not ‘populist’ but popular enough to be able to implement our democratic socialist policies.

However democratic and inclusive an internal structure is this Blog’s own view that a lot more needs to be done to reach out not just to ourselves, to ‘new’ people, and movements in civil society. Particular attention should be given to the views of Trade Unions on issues concerning not just budget austerity but privatisation, hiving off local services, and to groups fighting, what is effectively the dismantling of the Welfare state.

For this to have a real impact:

  • The left has to appeal, and listen to, those already in the Labour Party who did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
  • We have to respect the hard work they have put in, over many years, as activists, as Councillors and MPs.
  • We have to offer rational well-thought out policies – on austerity, on broader economic issues, on social policy, and on international subjects.
  • It is important, therefore, that supporters of Team Corbyn and the new Shadow Cabinet more broadly, work with that section of the Party which  wants to see a Labour government elected, our representation on local councils increased and effective policies carried out in local government.
This means listening and trying to convince the ‘centre ground’ of the Party.

This will not help:

“Momentum England an Unofficial page supporting “Momentum” the movement inspired by Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Labour Party #ANewKindOfPolitics.”

2,093 people like this.

The Facebook page (Here)  is managed by one Mark Anthony France,  Republican Socialist and Labour Party Member.

Politics in Britain and Ireland is being transformed.
We have seen a powerful rebellion in Scotland in support of a radical movement for Independence and the spectacular rise of the Scottish National Party.

We see the growth of Sinn Fein both North and South as we approach the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.

In Wales Plaid Cymru is a potent force led by Socialist Republican Leanne Wood
In the Summer of 2015 came an unprecedented mass movement mainly based in England that led to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader of the Labour PartyThere is tremendous momentum for change.

One of the biggest issues that confront all the peoples of these islands is how to manage dynamic towards the break up of the so called ‘United Kingdom’ in a peaceful, democratic way.
We encourage debate and discussion about the movement for change and how to maintain and accelerate the Momentum for change towards a genuinely democratic future based upon peoples power.

This chap has a bit of a ‘history’.

With John Tummon Mark Anthony France was the seconder of the (roundly defeated) notorious Caliphate motion at the Left Unity Conference in November 2014 (Extracts: original here)

To show solidarity with the people of the Middle  East by supporting the end of the  structure of the  divided nation states imposed by the Versailles  settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’.

Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.

We also distance ourselves  from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that  believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning  their religious faith to a separate part of their  lives from their political aspirations, if they are to  develop progressive societies.

The story got national attention,

Islamic State’s ‘Progessive Potential’ As ‘Stabilising Force’ Debated By New Left Unity Party. Huffington Post.

The “progressive potential” of Islamic State (IS) had been discussed by a British political party, which also claimed a caliphate created by the brutal Islamist terror group would be a “stabilising force” in the region.

The bizarre proposition was put to members of a new left-wing party in an amendment that said IS’s territorial ambitions were a break from “framework of western-imposed nation states” in the Middle East.

The Left Unity motion added that Islamic State’s call for a pan-Islamic Caliphate to replace the various states of the Muslim world was “an authentic expression of … anti-imperialist aspirations.”

No more than ‘debating’ with the SWP would we wish to ‘discuss’ the idea that we should be sympathetic to an Islamic caliphate.

 

Momentum: a Mass Movement for real Progressive Change – we hope.

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Welcome to Momentum!

Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader has transformed into Momentum – a network of people and organisations that will continue the energy and enthusiasm of Jeremy’s campaign.

What does Momentum want to do?

Organise in every town, city and village to create a mass movement for real progressive change.

Make Labour a more democratic party, with the policies and collective will to implement them in government.

Bring together individuals and groups in our communities and workplaces to campaign and organise on the issues that matter to us.

How will Momentum do this?

Organise events, rallies, meet ups and policy consultations to encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society.

Encourage those inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to get involved with the Labour Party. Assist members in making their voice heard in Labour Party debates.

Facilitate and coordinate people to build new and support existing organisations that can make concrete improvements to people’s lives. Through these actions, we aim to demonstrate on a micro level how collective action and Labour values can transform our society for the better.

Who runs it?

Formed as a successor to the Corbyn campaign, Momentum is in the process of setting up governance arrangements to represent its supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up. As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.

What is the relationship to Labour and Jeremy Corbyn?

Momentum is the successor entity to the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign but it is independent of the Labour Party’s leadership. It will work with everyone who supports Jeremy’s aim of creating a more fair, equal and democratic society.

Facebook.

The Guardian reports,

Activists to harness Corbyn campaign energy with Momentum

Volunteer activists in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign are to try to harness the campaign’s energy by setting up a movement called Momentum to back his ideas and politics.

But the idea was denounced by Labour critics of the leader as part of an attempt to mobilise factionally, leading to the deselection of moderate MPs and councillors “who are not judged politically correct by the veteran Bennite organisers behind Momentum”.

Momentum, which launched yesterday, has the approval of the Labour leader as well as John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and campaign manager for Corbyn.

The group is designed as a grassroots network to create “a mass movement for change, for real progressive change in every town and city”.

Momentum describes itself as the successor to the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign, but it is independent of the party’s leadership. It will work both inside the Labour party and organise in broader civil society.

This is a key point:

While all of the individuals setting up Momentum are members or supporters of the Labour party, the group anticipates that many thousands of people who are not will be involved in the wider social movement through their communities and workplaces.

Does this mean members of other political parties? Greens, those involved in TUSC and other left groups?

MPS seem more concerned about another topic.

Jeremy Corbyn-backed Momentum group is ‘a threat to sitting MPs’

The group has the backing of Mr Corbyn’s Labour party and will act as a campaigning arm, but there are fears it will seek to purge moderate MPs.

The group will also seek to “transform the Labour party into a more democratic party with the policies and collective will to make that change. The individuals and groups will also campaign on issues that matter to Momentum, including by holding rallies and the encouragement of mass mobilisation”.

Labour has seen tens of thousands of people join the party and there is a concern that the energy generated by Corbyn’s victory could be dissipated by the more bureaucratic structures of local constituency parties.

But Corbyn critics in the Labour First group said Momentum was unnecessary, and designed to trawl through the contact details raised by the Corbyn campaign and then effectively become a party within the party.

In a letter to Jon Lansman, one of the Momentum organisers, Luke Akehurst, the secretary of Labour First, wrote: “We find it strange that the winning candidate in a Labour leadership election would sustain the life of their campaign after winning, rather than seeing their role now as having responsibility to unite the whole party.”

It is understood that Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, was not informed of the Momentum plan.

But a spokesman for Momentum said: “The idea is to develop the promise of new politics made by Jeremy in his campaign by linking up to people outside the Labour party as well as inside. We are associated with the Labour party, and incredibly supportive of it, but not under its control.”

The new campaign is a formal successor company to the Corbyn leadership campaign. Many new MPs associated with the leadership drive, such as Clive Lewis, Richard Burgon and Kate Osamor, will act as directors before a proper democratic structure is established.

Momentum says its campaign is designed to “assist members in making their voice heard in Labour party debates”, as well as support existing organisations that can make real improvements to people’s lives rather than wait for four years for a Corbyn-led government.

One idea under consideration is private sector tenancy advice, and also building networks interested in specific issues such as mental health or education.

Corbyn, welcoming the launch of Momentum, said: “Now, more than ever, we need to unite and continue to build our movement to change our politics and to win together in 2020. We need us to put our values, the people’s values, back into politics. To do this, we need to keep up the momentum we have built over the last four months.”

McDonnell said: “We need the campaign’s momentum to continue to transform our democracy and our way of doing politics. We are part of this wider social movement, running an economy in the interests of society.”

Senior Labour MPs have warned a new campaign group, set up by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, is a “threat to sitting MPs” and will “undermine” the party.

Momentum, a collective set up with the backing of the Labour leader and the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, aims to influence party policy but MPs are worried it is the beginning of a purge of moderate members who don’t support the leader.

One Shadow Cabinet Minister said: “They are setting up a party within a party and I fear that they will use it to take control of conference, policy-making and mount a purge.”

Another MP asked not to be named but described the new group as “a worrying sign” while respected Labour MP Stephen Pound told The Telegraph: “This is basically a parallel organisation as far as I’m concerned, it’s against the principles of the Labour party and I think less of Jeremy Corbyn for endorsing it.

“It will inevitably be seen as a threat to sitting MPs and the Labour party in parliament – it is a retrograde step.”

Welcoming the group, which is also backed by a group of Labour MPs including Katy Clark, Clive Lewis, Richard Burgon, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Kate Osamor, Mr Corbyn said: “Now, more than ever, we need to unite and continue to build our movement to change our politics and to win together in 2020.

This is a welcome move.

Socialism has to built democratically, from grass-roots campaigning. The Labour Party is not going to face up to the challenges presented by the present hard-right government without a movement in the country at large, with strong trade union and civil society involvement. This means people, with a variety of backgrounds and opinions, working together beyond the institutional confines of the Party – but still focused on the need to get councillors and MPs elected who can carry out left politics.

It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that problems may arise with this initiative.

Momentum will not only attract  from new supporters from independent civil society campaigns, individuals, and those who are labour movement activists in the broader left. It is more than probable that left groups who have very different ways of organising to the Labour party and mainstream labour movement, and distinct views on a variety of issues, will be eager to be part of the movement.

The potential for difficulties is obvious, and already being discussed on the left.

Divisions on the left on perhaps one of the most important democratic issues of the coming year, the Referendum on the European Union (EU), are serious and are not going to disappear.

One section of the left is viscerally opposed to the EU and stood candidates against Labour under the banner of No2EU in last year’s European election. This stand was continued by the majority (with important exceptions, from Left Unity) of the groups who presented candidates under the banner of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, as an alternative to Labour in the General Election.

Another part of the left supports the TUC and others in campaigning for a reformed EU and for staying inside in. This corresponds to official Labour Party, and has been endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

It does not take a political wizard to see that this subject has the potential for division inside Momentum – adding to those already existing inside the Labour Party, with sections of the right and ‘sovereigntist’ left prepared already to ally with the Tories, UKIP and millionaire donors in the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2015 at 11:36 am