Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘AWL

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

What is left anti-semitism and how can it be confronted? Report on 13th of September Meeting.

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 Confronting Anti-Semitism.

Last night there was a Zoom meeting, “What is left anti-semitism and how can it be confronted”, Steve Lapsley (speaking in a personal capacity) and Daniel Randall (Alliance for Workers’ Liberty).

The event began with Daniel Randall explaining the roots of left anti-semitism in the 19th century. He outlined the hostility to Jews amongst early socialists and radicals such as Proudhon, and Wilhelm Marr, a hatred that combined very old prejudice against the Jewish ‘race’ with attacks on ‘Jewish’ finance (I was reminded of Les juifs, rois de l’époquehistoire de la féodalité financière, Alphonse Toussenel. 1847. The utopian socialist author was a disciple of Charles Fourier). The picture of secretive state-making Jewish power and money  was an influential theme across the European left for the rest of the century. Randall noted, it was the original “socialism of fools” denounced by  August Bebel. It has no “emancipatory” message, just a mustering of hatred. 

The speaker showed this quote:


Randall then traced the history of Stalinist anti-semitism. This reached a peak in the last years of Stalin’s rule as an Egocrat. After initially backing the creation of the State of Israel the Soviet Leader fomented purges of Jewish Communist leaders in the Eastern glasis. His openly anti-Jewish ‘Doctors’ Plot left an imprint on Communist Parties. This could be extended to the fall-out from the  6 Day War in 1967.  and the embrace of the Palestinian cause by leftists in the 1970s. The decade saw the rise of a parallel form of leftism amongst a minority of Palestinians – a process that has ground to a halt in the new millennium with the rise of Hamas and Hezbollah.

One enduring trait is that  many see Israel as a uniquely reactionary state (out to influence world events)  and Jewish nationalism, ‘Zionism’  as a uniquely reactionary nationalism. As he pointed out, people do not talk about Turkey as the ‘Kemalist’ state or harp on and on about the nationalism of other countries rather than political parties or leaders in power. Randall did not discuss the political traditions on the Jewish left, such as the Bund, which were hostile to creating a Jewish national homeland. One can only observe that the Bund has, tragically, not been a mass force since the Shoah.

It was perfectly right to campaign for Palestinian rights, Randall argued, giving forceful examples or oppressive Israel government actions,  which recognising that for most Jewish people worldwide Israel itself was a “raft” of hope. While the internationalist left is not a promoter of nation states, we would support people’s human right to make their own decisions on this.

Those with long-standing acquaintance and friendship with Jewish people do not perhaps need talk of the “community” to know that most are strongly attached to Israel.  Yet you can still be surprised to find those, in the Labour Party, who are not aware of the depth of feeling this stirs up.

Steve Lapsley talked of his own – unhappy – experience of dealing with the former MP ‘anti-Zionist’ Chris Williamson, and his own Labour Party, within which some activists gave priority to the Palestine and Israel issue over all other international causes, and even British politics. He spoke of how even members of his Liberal Synagogue had become so incensed by what the problems with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party that it has caused him great pain.

In the discussion (TC did not contribute) there was some debate over Randall’s belief that administrative means were very far from the best way to deal with any indication of anti-Semitism. But can discussion be the only way to confront left anti-semitism? It was pointed out that some individuals are not deliberately provocative but held views and acted in way  incompatible  with  membership of a democratic socialist party.

The meeting was a model of clarity and genuine  debate.

Why Now?

There is a view that the recent LP problem was brought out not just because of these long-standing issues. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader the most ‘anti-Zionist’ campaigners on Palestine believed they would be able to take the Labour Party along with them and lead a campaign on Israel on their terms. They thought they were at a ANC moment (when anti South African apartheid campaigns became a mainstream priority). Believing Labour open to their movement, they were mortally offended to find that could not do this. Their own ultras reacted at the top of their voice. The valves opened.

Historic  anti-semitism lives on in conspiracy theories, the openly racist far right, and national populism.  It also has echos on the fringes of the ‘anti-globalist’ left and red-brown movements, like Alain Soral’s Shoah denying Égalité et Réconciliation. Stalinist and other ‘absolute anti-Zionist’ movements bear the imprint.

As if to illustrate the point Tony Greenstein’s latest ‘anti-Zionist’ crowing arrived on Facebook this morning.

And this got posted in the comments here, a link to Ian Donovan’s latest rantings,

Labour: A Racist Party led by Pogromists

The election of Keir Starmer as Labour’s leader in April was the revenge of Labour’s contingent of the neo-liberal bourgeois elite for the ‘aberration’ of Corbyn’s election in 2015.”
Truth seeking Donovan asks
the “question of how it is possible, in terms of Marxist sociology and materialist analysis, that a far-right, bourgeois supremacist trend such as Zionism can come to play such an unusual role in the British Labour Party. Why is it that all candidates for the Labour leadership election that were voted on by the membership should swear what amounts to an oath of loyalty to the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD).

He finds that,

the role of Zionism in a dissolving bourgeois workers party whose bureaucrats and privileged layers are in transition from being lackeys of finance capital in the old sense, with its more concentrated industry and proletariat, to being lackeys of today’s imperialism with its qualitative enhancement of financialised capital.

Donovan’s New Course:

The strategic aim of Marxists in working with layers of militants such as those who are currently leaving the Labour Party in droves and beginning to coalesce around initiatives such as that of Chris Williamson, has to be to create a genuine working class party, where the functionaries are materially and politically subordinate to the working class membership, not the other way round.

A key part of the political basis for such a party must be to draw a very hard line against Zionism, which is playing an insidious role as an anti-working class, destructive far-right force, seeking to destroy any trace of working class politics and consciousness in Labour. 

So ‘Zionism’ is responsible for “dissolving” Labour and making it into a party of “lackys of imperialism”  etc etc etc….

For an explanation of this mindset:

See: The left and anti-semitism. Daniel Randall. 

A video of the meeting will be available.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2020 at 11:41 am

Anticapitalist Platform attacks “campaign of abuse and guilt by association”in Momentum Election.

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Anticapitalist Platform

“that this campaign has been allowed to flourish in the midst of Momentum’s election is an indictment of the democratic deficit at the heart of the organisation.”

Momentum’s response to the report on Labour’s election defeat (Election Review 2019)  contains this reference to “wrecking”.

Some people in Momentum seem to spend their time fighting ‘wreckers’.

The anticapitalist Platform (linked to the journal, Red Flag) have issued this declaration on the Momentum National Executive Committee Election – voting began on the 16th of June. (1)

A Statement on the Conduct of the NCG Election

As socialists we stand for maximum democracy and debate within our movement in order to clarify political differences and put competing ideas and strategies to the test of experience.

Throughout the Momentum NCG election, supporters of, and those who have worked with, the AWL group, have been subjected to a campaign of abuse and guilt by association which violates all democratic norms of the labour movement.

This includes vetting candidates for the supposedly ‘open primaries’ held by Forward Momentum, barring candidates from participating in ‘hustings’, and an anonymous Twitter campaign demanding “NCG candidates disavow [the AWL]”. This is a transparent attempt to bully candidates into repudiating the democratic choice of members if supporters of ‘Momentum Internationalists’ are elected.

As supporters of Red Flag we make no secret of our irreconcilable opposition to the politics of the AWL, most significantly in the context of the Labour Party, their equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism. This leads them to brand principled opponents of Zionism as ‘political’ or ‘leftwing’ ‘antisemites’, which serves as a spurious ‘left’ cover for the Labour establishment’s witch-hunt.

Needless to say, this charge of antisemitism is one we reject with contempt. We understand that many defenders of Palestinian rights, including many courageous Jewish people, equally reject the AWL’s position on this issue, being themselves the target of right wing Zionist abuse. Nevertheless we are sure they will reject witch hunting and demagogy in reverse. Principles always pay in the long run.

The truth is, what their opponents, or at least the instigators of the campaign, really object to is the AWL’s consistent record of support for rank and file democracy in the trade unions, advocacy of the class struggle, and solidarity with democratic revolutions in the semi-colonial world. It is these remnants of the AWL’s original allegiance to Trotskyism that arouses the antipathy of this constellation of cliques, whose only common ground is their pathological hostility to the ideas of revolutionary Marxism.

The fact that this campaign has been allowed to flourish in the midst of Momentum’s election is an indictment of the democratic deficit at the heart of the organisation, and testament to the debased political culture prevailing in a disoriented and demoralised labour movement.

This witch-hunt is a deliberate distraction intended to divert attention from the poverty of the main factions’ platforms, which have nothing credible to offer on the key issues facing our movement: learning the lessons of the Corbyn movement and adjusting our strategy to meet the challenge of coronavirus, the economic crisis, and the emergence of a powerful anti-racist street movement.

All socialists and democrats should oppose demands to anathematise candidates because they belong to a different political tradition. It is wrong in principle, and it actually reveals the real attitude of such people to Momentum’s members and their democratic right to choose their own representatives.

Momentum, the Forward Momentum and Momentum Renewal slates, and MPs like John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, John Trickett, and others who have endorsed prominent candidates, should publicly condemn this undemocratic behaviour.

Those who persist in mounting intimidation campaigns against political opponents are aiding the right wing party leadership who recognise these pathfinders for the anti-socialist purge as temporary allies on their road to rescuing Labour for the ruling class.

This is a genuine and welcome statement.

It goes without saying that this Blog strongly disagrees with the assertion that the present Labour leadership is “right-wing” and preparing an “anti-socialist purge”.

We also have no intention of reproducing the latest quasi-pornographic tweets from Momentum Against the AWL which have passed the limits of decency.

It is worth noting that the wider ‘anti-wrecking’ wing of Momentum was involved in blocking attempts at Labour’s Conference to commit the Party to an internationalist anti-Brexit position.

Their conference factionalism is notorious.

Here they go again.

The Labour Party Marxist is now engaged in the Momentum elections

Affiliation and a line change (18.7.20)

 the LPM fraction in the OG voted against the LLA “encouraging” people to vote in the current Momentum NCG elections, and against endorsing any candidates, on the basis of not lending the organisation credibility. However, on reflection, and especially having listened to criticisms from the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee, we have reconsidered our position. We see little point in standing ourselves, but we will support leftwing candidates who do. There remain disagreements within LPM’s fraction on the OG. Of course, they concern only matters of tactics. Our differences are entirely secondary, but we shall argue them out, openly if necessary.

There are those on the right in the LLA who believe Momentum is reformable. It is welcome then, that on this issue at least, we find ourselves with the majority (see LLA’s excellent ‘Can Momentum be reformed?’ online document5).

Either way, vote for principled leftwing candidates in Momentum, but do so with no illusions in Momentum.

(1) Labour List: The end of the parliamentary road. An anticapitalist platform for Momentum Urte Macikene.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2020 at 10:39 am