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John McDonnell calls for talks to “defuse the row” over Exclusions from the Labour Party.

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The Labour Party, Trotskyism and Pabloism. | Tendance Coatesy

Days When Keir Starmer was a “radical anti-imperialist ecosocialist”.

This is an important intervention.

In a BBC interview, he suggested that disciplinary action against some members on the Left of the party had made many others feel “unwelcome”, and in some cases “intimidated”.

He is calling for the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to call a summit with his critics next week, as Labour prepares for its in-person annual conference, to address their ‘grievances”.

Otherwise, he said, an internal party row could dominate the first day of the Labour conference in Brighton.

And he was critical of the way Labour’s disciplinary process is being applied.

He told the BBC: “What’s happened is a number of groups have been proscribed and we are now receiving reports of large numbers of members of the party being excluded from the party on the basis of statements or retweeting something from one of these groups before they were proscribed.

“This flies in the face of natural justice… It is like being guilty of pre-crime.”

He said he believed that this had consequences far beyond those who are directly affected.

“This sends a message throughout the party to some members that they are not welcome.

“My understanding is we have lost at least 100,000 members so far. If you start losing that mass membership, we are undermining our ability to fight elections – which is appalling.”

The effects of the exclusions, as John McDonnell, have extended beyond what Private Eye calls in the latest issue (17th of September) the “ragtag gang of S[artists and anti-Zionists who believe the party’s antisemitism crisis was mostly made up” – aka Labour Against the Witch-hunt.

When somebody of the moderation and good sense of Ann Black signs this you know something is wrong.

Update, September 9thLabourList understands that Ann Black, thought of as a ‘soft left’ NEC member and not one who was backed by Momentum as a candidate, has now also signed the joint letter. There are now 13 signatories.

12 members of Labour’s ruling body have written to David Evans and Margaret Beckett to say they “feel deeply uncomfortable” about the way the ban on certain groups is being implemented, LabourList can reveal.

in a letter to the general secretary and NEC chair, the group of 12 NEC members – all considered to be on the party’s left – have now raised concerns over retrospective action being taken and how ‘support’ is being defined.

They have highlighted reports of Labour members being given “notice of auto-exclusions applied retrospectively”, with evidence of their support for a group originating from before the ban was agreed.

The NEC members are also concerned that the definition of ‘support’ being used is not the same as the specific indicators of support that were set out in the NEC papers in July, which means the parameters are being set by staff.

“We don’t believe that how they are implementing the proscription is how it was represented in the NEC meeting,” one NEC source told LabourList. “It’s not fair, I don’t think, the way this has been applied.”

Labour sources have pointed out that banning support for a political organisation other than the Labour Party was already in the rulebook, and members of Socialist Appeal had been expelled from the party before the July NEC meeting.

It has also been said that the lists of ways in which members could be deemed to have demonstrated support for the banned groups were non-exhaustive, and other forms of support – such as social media activity – also count.

TSSA’s Andi Fox, FBU’s Ian Murray, ASLEF’s Mick Whelan, Unite’s Jayne Taylor and CWU’s Andy Kerr, all from the trade union section of Labour’s NEC, have also signed the letter.

Below is the full text of the letter from a group of NEC members.

Dear Margaret Beckett and David Evans,

Members of the National Executive Committee feel deeply uncomfortable about the way in which the proscription of political organisations paper has been implemented subsequent to the decision of the meeting of the 20th July 2021. It is the view of those who have signed this letter that the true intent of the decision, as to how it would be applied to individuals, was concealed and/or misdescribed.

We have been made aware that members of the Labour Party, said to be supporters of proscribed groups, have had notice of auto-exclusions applied retrospectively, in so far as it is alleged support prior to the decision of the NEC and that is being used as justification for auto-expulsion.

At no point in the NEC discussion about proscription of political organisations, and nor within the officers papers, was it suggested or stated that members would be subject to suspensions or auto expulsions for past support given to any of the proscribed organisations. Such alleged support of an individual would of course have been given when the organisation in question was implicitly or expressly welcomed into Labour. The mere fact that Labour took no action to either proscribe the grouping or suspend an individual for giving alleged support to such grouping, is reflective of that fact that at that time neither the grouping in question, nor an individual’s support, was considered contrary to Labour values. This retrospective application is unfair, likely contrary to our rules and not something that the NEC should be taken to have agreed to without specific debate.

If this retrospective application is to be applied consistently then anyone who has ever been a member of another political party (proscribed by Labour) can never become a member of Labour. An MP can never cross the floor to Labour.

We are further alarmed at the definition of ‘support’ for the organisations now being applied by GLU. It is a definition that is not only all encompassing but one that’s application is subjective. It is a paid member of staff, not the NEC, who now decides what actions amount to ‘support’ of a proscribed organisation and subject to auto-expulsion.

The examples given to the NEC of what amounted to support were clearly understood by the signatures to this correspondence, intended to be definitive. If the list of what constituted “support” was to be added to then this would be in consultation with the NEC. We accept the papers use the Latin “inter alia”, although the meaning of this Latin term was not explained to the NEC members, it does not mean that the authority for deciding the meaning of “support” would transfer from the NEC to paid staff. This is obviously of the utmost importance as members being accused of “support” are then being subject to auto expulsion and denied the opportunity to make their case to the NEC.

This is against natural justice, contrary to the fairness principles that run through our Rule Book but also entirely contrary to the custom and practice of the application of the auto expulsion rule which until now has been precise as to the member’s conduct and not open to such a level of subjective analysis.

Based on the discussion at the NEC and information contained in the the papers, it is our opinion that the Labour Party administration is current acting outside of the authority granted by the NEC.

The officials must now recall the NEC to have a clear and transparent debate about whether the retrospective application is either fair or capable of consistent application. The recalled NEC must also clearly define what future actions will constitute “support” and confirm that it is for the NEC to consider any additions to the list of actions considered by the administration to be capable of constituting “support”. If the NEC is not recalled we wish to formally request to have this matter added to the agenda for our next meeting on 17th September.

If the integrity of the NEC decision making process is to be upheld then the recall must happen without delay and before any further auto expulsions occur.

Yours sincerely,

Laura Pidcock
Nadia Jama
Gemma Bolton
Lara McNeill
Andi Fox
Ian Murray
Yasmine Dar
Mish Rahman
Mick Whelan
Jayne Taylor
Andy Kerr
Ellen Morrison
Update: Ann Black

Starmer’s own Left Background.

Perhaps this is the moment to mention that Keir Starmer also has had strong links with the radical left.

In the recently published Red Knight, Keir Starmer the Unauthorised Biography, by Michael Ashcroft, there is a whole chapter on the Labour Leader’s activity in the Socialist Society and his links with the Pabloite Tendance Marxist Révolutionnaire Internationale (TMRI). It includes a rare interview with his comrade Ben Schoendorff:

 “We were radical anti-imperialist ecosocialists,” said Ben Schoendorff, the leader of the seven-member editorial team, including Starmer, 23, that ran Socialist Alternatives. The magazine was inspired by Michalis Raptis, a Greek former Trotskyist known as Pablo, whose faction, the Pabloites, wanted to broaden socialism to include feminism and green politics. The first issue was published in July 1986, proclaiming that its vision of socialism was “the generalised self-management of society as a whole”; it claimed to be “concretely working towards a radical extension of popular control over wealth and power” by integrating the traditional labour movement with “new social movements”.

Independent.

The book, which also cites a certain A. Coates, does not mention just how radical that anti-imperialism was. This is the leader of the group, the tendance marxiste-révolutionnaire internationale (TMRI).

Michel Raptis “was personally closely involved in supporting the Algerian national liberation struggle against France, which led to imprisonment in the Netherlands in connection with counterfeit money and gun-smuggling activities. A campaign for his release was launched by Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1961, Pablo was finally sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, and liberated at the end of his trial. He took refuge in Morocco. After the victory of the Algerian revolution, he became a (very junior, note) minister in the FLN government.” Michel Pablo

While Schoendorff was equally part of the French section of the TMRI, the Alliance Marxiste Révolutionnaire (TMR) – a group this Blog writer was close to. They were involved in the ‘self-management’ (autogestion) currents of the French left, which many of us are still inspired by.

There is a distinct memory of Keir Starmer being at one, the 8th and the last, International Conference of the group, held in Paris in 1985. He did not speak French or Spanish, the main languages of the event, and I was asked to translate for a person very similar to the present Labour leader. Our little joke these days is that if the meeting had been held in Latin the lawyer would have had no difficulty participating.

In the days before Screen Shots there is no way to prove this, but one can say that the delegates included people whose radicalism and participation in the ‘struggle’ would put groups like the marginal messianic cult, Socialist Appeal, in the shade.

It is worth saying that Socialist Appeal is not accused of Anti-Semitism. Grounds for auto-exclusion of supporters are that:

“Socialist Appeal has its own programme, membership, and structures; that we are part of an international organisation, the International Marxist Tendency; and that our organisation is a continuation of the Militant Tendency, which was similarly proscribed by the Kinnock leadership in the 1980s.”

Leaving the last bit aside (who these days cares about the Millies, and their unloved, floundering (if not foundering) offspring TUSC.

Ealing council, London, Hobbayne ward by election result of 16 September Labour 1617, 52.2%Tory 865, 27.9%Green 362, 11.7%Lib Dem 207, 6.7%Tony Gill, TUSC (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition) 48, 1.5%

But the rest surely applies to the TMRI…

****
More.

Benjamin Schoendorff is a licensed psychologist and international trainer living near Montreal with his wife, baby child and two step daughters.

Benji has a passion for helping people get unstuck and move toward valued living and travels the world over to train clinicians from all backgrounds in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP).

In addition to his clinical and training practice, he currently researches ACT in the treatment of Obsessive Complusive Disorder as part of the Montreal university mental health institute.

As an author and trainer, Benji is renowned for his down-to-earth, authentic, relationship-centered and deeply compassionate style. He believes effective science-based methods to get unstuck are too precious to remain confined to academia and has made it his life mission to disseminate them in an engaging and easily accessible way. Simple, but not simplistic. Benji dreams of a scientific psychology in the service of spreading love, peace and understanding.

He has written books and chapters in French and English. His next book, The ACT practitioner’s guide to the science of comapssion and co-authored with Dennis Tirch and Laura Silberstein, is due to be published by New Harbinger in december 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2021 at 11:00 am

Norway: Left Election Win and the Much Exaggerated Death of Social Democracy.

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Latest Norway Election Results

Norway’s left-wing opposition wins election in a landslide

Labour expected to form coalition with other left-leaning parties as it seeks to reduce inequality and wean the economy off oil.

Norway election results in brief

  • Jonas Gahr Støre’s Labour Party are the biggest single party. He is set to be Norway’s next prime minister, leading a coalition of Labour, Socialist Left and the Centre party.
  • Erna Solberg’s 8-year tenure as prime minister is over. She has congratulated Støre on his victory.
  • The battle for the 4% threshold to win levelling seats was a fascinating one. Far-left party Rødt made it over for the first time, winning an expected 8 seats.
  • Venstre were the only former government party to retain support, staying above the threshold to retain 8 seats.
  • Despite a very visible campaign in the closing weeks, the Green Party failed to make it over the threshold, picking up just an expected 3 seats.

Is this a result with wider implications? The German left, notably the Sozialdemokratische Partei DeutschlandsSPD, looks as if it may perform well in their national elections on the 26th of September.

This comes against a much less encouraging backdrop for European centre left and left wing political parties. They are often said to be facing long-term decline, if not existential crises.

This has a history going back some decades. In the final chapter of The Retreat of Social Democracy (2000) John Callaghan outlined what he described as “epoch making changes” that had weakened left parties across Europe. First of all was the decline of the manual working class in the ‘post-Fordist” economies no longer based on mass production and revolutionised by the robotic and information based transformation of production. The possible end of the “class mechanism” behind voting patterns, “class solidarity” indicated by drops on party membership (not only on the left), and the decline of trade union membership was, it had been argued, long-term mechanisms undermining any form of left of centre politics.

This for example, more recent observations What happened to Europe’s left? Jan Rovny (2018)

Having lived in Gothenburg, Sweden, the home of the Volvo, I eagerly visited the Volvo factory, looking forward to meeting the contemporary proletariat. What did I see? Halls and halls of conveyor belts shuffling skeletons that would become fancy SUVs in about an hour, while silver robotic arms added various parts to them. And the working class? I saw precious few of them. They were mostly young women, sitting on comfortable chairs surrounded by computer screens and keyboards, listening to their iPods… I later learned that these workers earn as much as Swedish university professors (that means – a lot).

To continue,

The traditional working class as we imagine it from the times of Henry Ford does not exist anymore. Most of the workers at Volvo with their above-average pay, comfort and job security can hardly be considered as such. Today’s working class is much less visible, and much more atomised. Today’s working class are the masses of unskilled service workers who predominantly cook, clean or drive. Often, their jobs are short-term or part-time, and low-paying. These people do not come into contact with each other nearly as much as the traditional factory-floor workers did. They are more often than not from diverse minority backgrounds, and thus are separated by cultural boundaries. In short, these people have significantly reduced ability to organise, and they do not. As my research with Allison Rovny shows, their political belonging is weak, and – in the absence of a formative subculture – it is malleable.

Callaghan nevertheless concluded his study by observing that Labour and other parties from the reformist tradition had adapted to the environment consolidated by globalisation and neo-liberalism pursuing “market orientated strategies” that expanded their appeal to non-socialist voters. In Scandinavia and Germany the “case for managing capitalism in a social democratic way” remained strong and had popular appeal.

The British socialist left, after years of fighting Tony Blair and the Third Way between capitalism and (what?), trying to make the Labour Party more left-wing, tended at the time when Callaghan wrote, to focus on the possibility of creating socialist vehicles. Was Labour potentially one? Written in the spirit of Ralph Miliband’s Parliamentary Socialism (1961) The End of Parliamentary Socialism: From New Left to New Labour. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys (2001) argued that “the route to socialism does not lie in transforming New Labour”.

There have been attempts to find a path to socialist politics outside the Labour Party. The Socialist Alliance (1999 2003) which included a few people from the Labour left (coughs), grouped for a few years, until being dissolved into Respect, small parties such as the SWP, the Socialist Party and other groups. Unlike Respect the SA had no electoral success. It also proved impossible for many democratic socialists to work at close quarters with ‘revolutionary’ organisations. The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) had more success, winning 6 seats in Holyrood in 2003. Internal disputes around Tommy Sheridan broke the SSP apart. Its supporters are now backers of the More Borders campaign for Scottish Independence.

The dream of creating a new socialist party in Britain has been revived by some individuals, ‘in exile’ or still on the margins of the Labour Party. But the nightmares of the SA, the SSP, and, obviously George Galloway’s Respect – not to mention his present red-brown vehicle, the Workers Party of Britain – weigh heavily on the living.

What does remain is the belief in the long-term decline of social democracy. Study and debate has focused on the cultural effects of the halting of the forward march of labour. The development of a new form of working class Toryism, and its counterparts across Europe, in ‘left behind’ and formerly industrial regions, is one issue. Another is the appeal of national populism to a cross class constituency, bringing together self-identifying ‘real’ working class and wealthy right-wingers. The rise of far-right identity politics, the ‘anti-woke’ and anti-immigration, has parallels across our continent. Sovereigntist ideas (the basis for the pro-Brexit left), nationalism, political confusionnisme, and other issues come into the mixture of ideas that have, it is said, weakened the appeal of classical social democracy and democratic socialism.

Over the last couple of years – that is since Jeremy Corbyn left the leadership of the Labour Party – the threat of “Pasokification“, named after the the Greek centre-left party that lost three-quarters of its voters in just three years.- has been brandished. “Recent decades have seen the decline of social democratic parties across Europe, with some becoming so atrophied as to lose any hope of winning office. “With more resonance than the collapse of the French Socialist Party vote in the Presidential elections in 2017 (a result partly diffused by the deft switch to Emmanuel Macron of some Socialist figures) this theme became ubiquities in the pages of the US left populist journal Jacobin, and such organs as Novara Media.

How will the supporters of this theory explain Norway away? Bets are being laid on Scandinavian exceptionalism.

This poor chap has his own pet theory:

Full election statistics.

2021 Norwegian parliamentary election.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2021 at 9:29 am

Corbynism: What Went Wrong? Martin Thomas. A Review.

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Corbynism cover

A balance sheet of “Corbynism”

Solidarity, from the Workers’ Liberty site. 7th of September.

 Author: Andrew Coates

Just over a year after Jeremy Corbyn was elected, in September 2016, the new Labour Leader addressed the Burston Strike Rally in Norfolk. Reminded of this by a “social media snippet” I wonder how many people remember what the Islington MP actually said. The Internet informs us that he spoke of social justice, workers’ rights and opposed austerity.

By contrast it is not hard at all to recall the enthusiasm and warmth with which Corbyn was greeted by East Anglian trade unionists, pensioners, socialists. Or the new, often, young, people who came on our coach from Suffolk. That backing was reflected during the General Election in 2017 when people would speak to campaigners about their support for Labour. Sandy Martin was elected Labour MP for Ipswich, taking the seat back from the Tories with a majority of 831.

Bringing us down to earth Martin Thomas, observes, “In the 2017 manifesto, the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ were not used at all; in the 2019 manifesto, ‘socialism’ appeared once, and not to state an aim, rather to describe what already exists in the NHS”.

Early on in What Went Wrong Thomas further notes, “Corbyn rarely uses the word ‘socialist’, but he has commented on Chavez’s Venezuela, Evo Morales’s Bolivia, and Castro’s Cuba as if they are, more or less, models of a future society. That model of a future society is one to which workers in a country like Britain could never be won.”

This is a criticism of the “foreign policy” Corbyn project that was made by some on the left already wary of these countries’ socialist claims. It could be said to be a reflection on 1960s/70s “third worldism” which backed a variety of post-colonial states, in Africa, aligned at the time with the Soviet Union, as well as Communist Party led countries such as Vietnam, which have not created any form of socialist society.

Drawing up a balance sheet of “Corbynism”, the years when Jeremy Corbyn was the leader of the Labour Party, is an important task.

Martin Thomas offers a clear and valuable insight into the workings of the bodies that sustained the Corbyn project. This includes a detailed account of the workings, and the democratic deficit, of Momentum, which became a Corbyn “defence guard”. This he states was a ‘virtual’ (web-based) centrally run structure axed around supporting a ‘charismatic’ Leader. In this respect it reminds this reviewer of some European political organisations, such as the ‘movement’ La France Insoumise (LFI) of Jean-luc Mélenchon. All that seems to remain of the British ‘left populism’ and ‘social movement’ is a loathing, shared by many others on the Corbyn left, of a new ‘enemy’, Keir Starmer.

The more widely known influence of key Labour advisers, the “Stalinist-heritage” Seamus Milne, Andrew Milne and Steve Howell, all from the Communist Party, Straight Left background, and very pro-Brexit. If there was trade union influence it was from “top officials” and leaders, such as Len McCluskey of Unite.

With these figures at the centre Labour had no “interaction” with “workplace struggle”. Still less did he help with “rebuilding of the labour movement at the base, both ideologically and in organisation in workplaces and neighbourhoods.” It is, nevertheless, hard to see how Labour on is own could recreate a powerful union movement when economic change has underlined the basis for mass trade union struggles outside of the public sector.

What Went Wrong agrees with many commentators that Labour make a mess of Brexit. Since the Leader and key parts of his Office (LOTO) were glad that Britain voted Leave it was hardly likely that they would do otherwise. Conference manoeuvring blocked any clear call to oppose the Hard Right Brexit and fight for a new referendum.

Corbyn was unable to deal with antisemitism, and responded with “passive aggression” to any charges. “He himself had been ‘an anti-racist all his life’. Ergo, no real problem. He was unable, or more likely unwilling, to recognise that some of the “political antisemites” considered themselves the best anti-racists and anti-fascists….” That this response is awry had fed the present impasse on the issue. There are those, out of bad faith, only too willing to tar all critics of Israel with the “antisemitic” brush. The present purge of Labour, with its multiple injustices, is a shabby and counterproductive response to these political problems.

In what could be called a digression Martin Thomas criticises the Editor of Chartist magazine for his observations on the Trotskyist “obsession with the Russian Revolution”. Mike Davis has argued that building revolutionary parties is unimportant when radical left objectives might be achieved through existing left mass parties. Perhaps the AWL could show examples of mass revolutionary parties in the present day that indicate that Davis has placed his wager on the wrong horse. If Corbynism, JC4PM, did not win, surely a serious reform minded Labour government was worth campaigning for?

To get an idea of our present difficulties, hard right Tory Tom Hunt won Ipswich in 2021 with a majority of 5,479.

(Slightly sub-edited by the writer)

***

See also,

The failings of Corbynism were more than the failings of Corbyn

Solidarity, AWL. 30th of August.

Author: David Osland

Corbynism isn’t over yet

Solidarity, AWL, 27th of August, Richard Price

Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2021 at 9:39 am