Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Labour Briefing

Labour Left Group, LRC, Commits Suicide: “no longer possible to endorse the slate for Labour’s NEC drawn up by Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD)”.

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LRC: Forward Towards the Political Graveyard.

On Wednesday this appeared in the Morning Star, written by two Left Labour activists this Blog really respects.

The left must stay united the closer Labour gets to power

Maintaining the unity of the forces invested in a Corbyn victory, which may yet be a while away, is no small task, write MIKE PHIPPS and LIZ DAVIES.

Maintaining the unity of the forces invested in a Corbyn victory, which may yet be a while away, is no small task. In recent weeks, tension has emerged over the contest as to who will be Labour’s next general secretary. Writing in The Guardian, Owen Jones saw the candidacy of Jon Lansman, the national chair of Momentum, who has since withdrawn, against that of Unite’s Jennie Formby as “a sign of just how hegemonic the party’s left has become.”

He saw the rivalry as “a mark of the left’s sense of political security.”
Martin Kettle in the same newspaper was more sulphurous. He called it a “debacle” that exposed to public view “real and potentially fundamental divisions.” Who’s right?

The truth may lie closer to Jones’s view. There is undoubtedly a tension between the 30,000-plus members Momentum has recruited, arguably the most active section of the hugely increased Labour membership, and the older trade union left.

Momentum mobilised on an unprecedented scale in the 2017 general election. Its My Nearest Marginal app was used by over 100,000 people.

Momentum contacted over 400,000 voters on polling day through viral WhatsApp messaging.

During the campaign, nearly one in four UK Facebook users viewed a Momentum video.

Unsurprisingly, its members are impatient for change and frustrated with the slow pace of internal party reform.

Many are unengaged by the old methods of doing politics in the party and want to see palpable changes that transform it into a mass campaigning movement.

That said, there is an absence of detail on exactly how. It may well be that some concrete ideas could be a basis for unity across the divides.

Leading left unions are both engaged by and a little wary of this new movement, which is youthful and enthusiastic, certainly, but also politically inexperienced.

Unite and others stayed with the party through its leanest years, funding it in elections once New Labour’s fickle donors deserted the party.

In opposition during the coalition years, they pushed for better, more accountable candidates than those wanted by the party apparatus, used to parachuting their own favourites into winnable constituencies, often in the teeth of opposition from local activists.

In the process, they had to confront both the party’s right wing and a hostile mainstream media.

Those who understand the party’s history must communicate that Corbyn is neither the property of Momentum alone, nor of the left unions, nor of the old Labour left, nor even of the broader membership.

There are millions now, both inside the party and out, who passionately want a Labour government. They will rightly take a dim view of any disunity which could jeopardise that.

It’s worth remembering too that there are still plenty in the party, especially among its parliamentarians, who still don’t want Corbyn as leader, even if his strong showing in last year’s election has temporarily silenced them.

They will seize on any sign of weakness — either within the Corbyn-supporting unions or the broader membership — to roll back the astonishing achievements of the last two years and prepare another leadership challenge.

We on the left must continue to work together with discipline, mutual understanding and a focus on the main prize.

Mike Phipps’ book For the Many: Preparing Labour for Power is published by OR Books (www.orbooks.com). Liz Davies is a former member of Labour’s NEC and a barrister specialising in housing rights.

Now this has appeared.

In fact it was published some days ago on March the 19th, and the  Blog Skwawkbox reported the tumultuous beginnings of this suicide note, but nobody noticed – not least the membership –  until yesterday, such is the importance activists give to the LRC…

Statement Supported by the National Executive Committee of the LRC on Saturday 17th March  

The LRC, Grassroots Black Left (GBL) and Red Labour have agreed that it is no longer possible to endorse the slate for Labour’s NEC drawn up by Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) for the following reason:

1. The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) is supposed to operate on basis of consensus but the slate has been drawn up without consultation with all its constituent bodies. The slate has to all intents and purposes been presented as a fait accompli.

2. The GBL has been unilaterally refused membership of the CLGA on the basis of opposition from one person representing Momentum.

3. Red Labour was invited to join the CLGA but has been informed that this will not be permitted until its 2018 slate is finalised.

We resolve to start an online consultation process, hosted by Red Labour, to determine whether grassroots candidates want to stand and whether it is the expressed wish of rank and file members that such candidates be supported.

In the interests of tackling the under-representation of oppressed and disadvantaged comrades, we would positively welcome applications from women, from Black African, Caribbean, Asian and other people of colour, people with disabilities, those who are LBGT, and people from a diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds.

The LRC NEC meeting overwhelmingly agreed on March 17th to endorse the draft statement drawn up by LRC/GBL/RL representatives previously circulated

The NEC agreed on the next steps:

1) To confer with the other organisations as to whether they endorse the proposal;

2) The statement to be made public and sent out to members, asking for people to submit their names (or those of others) together with a short `CV’ saying why they should be considered as a candidate. The address to write to is leftslate@gmail.com

3) The `working group’ elected by the NEC together with the other groups involved in this process, to continue to provide feedback and consult with the LRC NEC;

4) The final decision on whether the LRC supports alternative candidates, and if so who, to be taken by an NEC MEETING ON SUNDAY 6th MAY. 

Even the Labour Party Marxist queries this decision (After Formby’s election Weekly Worker 22.03.2018).

…we fear that the statement issued by the Labour Representation Committee, Red Labour10and Grassroots Black Left (see below) will do little to lead to political clarity or greater democracy.

The Weekly Worker cannot resist mentioning their own eccentric politics,

Why does the statement not contain any mention of the basic political principles that we would want our NEC representatives to uphold? At least a commitment that they stand for a democratic republic, abolishing the House of Lords, replacing the standing army with a popular militia, getting rid of capitalism and achieving the rule of the working class and socialism.

Wild gestures apart the LPM accurately notes,

There is also opposition in the LRC. Yes, its executive voted in favour of endorsing the statement, but a sizable minority of LRC executive members opposed the move.

We would agree with those comrades. It is one thing to criticise Jon Lansman for his undemocratic methods. He deserves it and we have done plenty of it. But to seriously consider standing candidates against a slate endorsed by Momentum, is – how to put this nicely? – not tactically advisable at the moment. We understand the LRC executive will make a final decision on May 6 – we would urge them to vote against. It runs the risk of letting in right-wingers like Eddie Izzard, which, considering that the NEC does not have a rock-solid left majority, could well have dire consequences for the left’s fight to transform the party.

It is not hard to see where such opposition comes from (see article above), and where the undying loathing of Momentum comes from.

But this is wrong-headed behaviour, to put it mildly, an act of political suicide which will push the LRC further into irrelevance.

In short into the kind of wilderness where in perfect seriousness Moshê Machover can write an article in the latest Labour Briefing (April 2018) asserting that the “real reason” Tony Greenstein was expelled from the Labour Party was “his tireless campaign against Zionist colonisation of Palestine and the ideology which justifies it.”

Meanwhile some discussion  on this decision (Clarion):

Debate: Support Momentum’s Labour NEC slate?

YES: Support Momentum’s NEC slate

By Rosie Woods .

NO: Fight for a more democratic process

By Emma Maxwell

Update:

 Mike Phipps of Labour Briefing has just sent out a list of recommended nominations for the NEC. There are, as far as I can tell,  *no* differences from the Momentum list.

I am informed that he resigned from the LRC NEC over this decision.

I am sad, I greatly respect and like Mike.

The candidates below are working to secure the election of a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government. They will stand up for the rights of members and are backed by: the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), Labour Assembly Against Austerity (LAAA), Labour Briefing Co-op, Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (LCND) and Momentum. Please urge your CLP to nominate these candidates by Friday 22 June.

National Executive Committee 2018 Campaigning for a Labour victory.

Huda Elmi
Peter Willsman
Yasmine Dar
Rachel Garnham
Ann Henderson
Jon Lansman
Claudia Webbe
Navendu Mishra
Hazel Grove CLP.
Darren Williams.

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Haringey’s 1980s “hard-Left junta”: a reply to Janet Daley and a personal Note.

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Media Treatment of 1980s Left.

There have been endless stories about Haringey’s Labour Party, Claire Kober’s resignation, and the  Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) housing project.

November: Evening Standard.

Momentum set to take control of Haringey council in ‘purge’ of Labour moderates

January,  as the Sun puts it,

RED MENACE  Sinister hard-left activists at Momentum are hijacking the Labour Party and forcing out moderates.

Labour moderates are convinced opposition to the plan to transform a sprawling Seventies estate in Haringey with 5,000 new homes is a front for something sinister

This has just hit the headlines,

Claire Kober accuses Labour members of sexism and bullying

Haringey Council’s leader, Claire Kober, has accused sections of the Labour Party of “sexism” and “bullying” amid her decision to quit her role.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show she said Labour Party members would shout at her and sing songs about stalking.

Following events closely (I grew up in the area and was even, by the oddity of fate, as a result of a mix up of the name ‘Alexandra’, invited to one of the Labour councillor selection meetings..), and knowing some of the so-called ‘Hard left’ (so called because the term is worthless to describe events, I can only recommend a few articles that counter the right-wing scare stories:

In Haringey the people have taken over, not the hard left 

In Haringey, the HDV was never just about social housing – it was going to swallow up council offices and park buildings. This was a scheme that in effect would have handed a borough on a plate to Big Finance, in the form of a giant developer. And now it has been beaten, by a band of retired vicars, chain-smoking obsessives and Fiesta drivers.

Forget the red-baiting – Haringey shows the power of local people coming together.

If voting against plans to hand over vast chunks of your community to predatory developers now bears the name “coup”, then we need more coups.

As Haringey Labour’s leader resigned this week amidst a long-running row about a proposed property development, she attacked critics for “undemocratic behaviour.” But it was Haringey Labour members who elected new candidates opposed to her plans. Momentum didn’t make the movement against the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV); local people did.

I shall leave the reply to Kober to those living in Haringey.

But this concerns my friends and touches on my own past.

The far Left’s hounding of a council leader brings home bad memories. Telegraph.  Janet Daley.

So here we are again. Followers of this column may recall the reverie into which I was plunged by Mr Corbyn’s succession to the Labour leadership. This was the same Jeremy Corbyn who, in an earlier incarnation, was the force behind this very council’s hard-Left junta, during an era in which my family fled our home and neighbourhood to seek refuge in another London borough which did not actively loathe half of its inhabitants.

Back then, when Corbyn was a Haringey councillor (as well as being, in his day job, a convener of a public sector union), he and his Trotskyist comrades had succeeded in pushing the moderate Labour group out of local control.

With their late-night votes and their indefatigable appetite for endless meetings, they had little difficulty seizing the levers of the Hornsey Labour party – of which my husband and I had once been members.

Now I knew some of the people who were part of this 1980s  “Junta”.

To illustrate this here is the story of one, greatly loved, comrade, who appeared far more in the press than the (at the time) relatively unknown Jeremy Corbyn.

Mandy Mudd “I am not intimidated, I will not shut up”

A Tribute by Glyn Rowlands 2011.

For a short period Haringey Labour Briefing was the dominant force Left in Haringey both inside and outside the Labour Party. In a movement in Haringey that contained many able comrades, Mandy was probably the key figure. She provided great tactical political skill, combined with immense powers of organisation. She gave a huge level of commitment to the struggles, and showed great personal courage in the face of a most vicious witch-hunt. Like all good leaders she could also inspire others to join the struggle and to follow the example of her commitment.

Rowlands continues,

Mandy helped set up the “Positive Images” campaign. This was after controversy was whipped up over the inclusion of a statement in the 1986 Haringey Labour Party manifesto, which committed Haringey Council to devote resources to “to promote Positive images of gay men and lesbians”. This was another example of how political action within the Labour Party was linked to campaigning and action outside the party. Demonstrations were organised in Haringey in support of the policy and against the homophobic campaign stoked up by local Tories and the press.

Meanwhile the painstaking work through caucuses and political action, led to the left having a majority in the borough’s Labour Party. Mandy was Chair of Tottenham Labour Party between 1986 and 1988. Democracy reached a high point with Labour Councillors being held to account. In some meetings constituency delegates had equal votes with councillors in taking key decisions. Some Labour Councillors were de-selected before the 1986 Council Elections after abandoning the fight against rate capping.

When Bernie Grant stepped down as Leader of Haringey Council, following his selection as the Labour Candidate in Tottenham; Steve King and Martha Osamor took over as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, and for a short while the left was in the ascendancy. But the Labour right wing within the Haringey Labour Group, soon organised to replace them. This they achieved in 1987, and immediately the new leader began making significant cuts from the autumn of 1987 onwards. In response, Mandy and Mike Marqusee initiated through Haringey Labour Briefing, an attempt to build mass resistance to the cuts by setting up “Haringey Fights Back”. Public meetings and mass lobbies were organised, whilst inside the Labour Party attempts to get councillors to oppose the cuts continued.

There were some memorable occasions in this tenacious attempt to stop the decimation of local services being implemented under the then leadership of Toby now Lord Harris. No one who was there will forget the all night Council meeting, when a committed group of left labour councillors, supported by a mass lobby and Briefing led meetings through the night, refused to vote through cuts. This was despite coming under immense pressure and the threat of personal surcharge from the acting Borough Solicitor. This was a credit to the political and organisational skills of Mandy and others in Haringey Labour Briefing.

The hate campaign began,

 

It was at this point that the attempt to smear and discredit Mandy began in the national media. She was turned into a national hate figure, with the clear intention of undermining her leadership of the campaign against the cuts. The attack was vicious and very personal. She found herself on the front page of the Sun and door stepped, having to climb over a garden wall and out through a neighbour’s door in order to be able to get off to work.

Various attempts were made to get her employer to take action against her. One example of this was an article in the Daily Mail on 11th February 1988, in which Richard Littlejohn wrote: Appointing Mandy Mudd as a school governor is as appropriate as putting Kurt Waldheim in charge of a holiday camp. Do you want her ruining your daughter’s education? I don’t.”

Mandy herself commented about the attempt to discredit her: “The Labour party and the Sun are not attacking me because I am weak and vulnerable, but because I am strong and effective, not because I am different…but because I am part of a movement…our combined strength threatens those who hold power in society and so they move against us”

It had its effect,

Mandy played a heavy price for her courageous leadership throughout this period. The Labour Party witchhunt and public demonisation, put Mandy under immense pressure. It was a deliberate and highly politicised attempt to derail a political movement by attacking and trying to discredit one of its leaders. What was most disgusting was that those involved were not satisfied with removing her as a political threat, they also sought to destroy her career and hence her life. It remains our belief that certain people in the Labour Party deliberately leaked stories to the press to discredit Mandy.

For the rest of her life Mandy had to contend with the impact of this on her career as a school teacher. It is a real indication of her abilities as a teacher and as a manager, that the witchhunters were not able to prevent her becoming a successful secondary school headteacher.

In one way the late 1980s seems a very different era. But in their essence the struggles of the 80s remain the same today. To finish are two quotes from Mandy’s speeches from the 1980s, referring to the struggle of women and her own stand against the witchhunt. They provide just as valuable a rallying call now as they did then.

“Women are in struggle in a multitude of ways every hour, every day – whether giving leadership or support to political and industrial movements, as in south Africa or [the] Women Against Pit Closures [campaign], or as activists in trades unions or the Labour party – we are in struggle to take control over own lives ….it’s women who are being hit hardest by the cuts – it’s their services, playgroups, daycentres that are being closed. It’s their community groups who are looking for funding, and it’s them who are losing their jobs in their thousands and suffering from severely worsened working conditions. But it’s also women who are leading the fight back.”

“I haven’t come here today to tell you how terrible things are for me. I am not smashed, intimidated or discredited – in fact I feel stronger and even more determined to fight. I have come to urge people to stand and fight with me, not just for me, but for all socialists who are being witch-hunted…I am not intimidated, I will not shut up and I will continue to fight for socialist policies…[to]…achieve equality and dignity for all people in this country and internationally.”

We shall remember you Mandy and the other comrades who fought for Democratic socialism in Haringey!

Back the fight against HDV!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Socialist Action, Shadowy Gurus of the new Labour Leadership – Exposed!

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Labour Briefing AGM circa 1981. Pic: Sunday Telegraph.

Rumbled by the Telegraph and Andrew Gilligan!

For much of Labour’s history, the idea that the party was covertly influenced by revolutionaries, Communists and terrorists was dismissed as a fiction propagated by Right-wing tabloids.

But now it is true.

Very worrying.

Mr Ross, now an economic adviser, was a prominent member of an international Marxist group. In an election speech in 1974, Mr Ross – quoted in a biography of former London mayor Ken Livingstone – said: “The ruling class must know that they will be killed if they do not allow a takeover by the workers. If we aren’t armed there will be a bloodbath.”

The Sunday Telegraph has also uncovered evidence of how other key figures around Mr Corbyn, including his chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, as well as Mr Ross are or were members of a tiny, secretive Trotskyite sect, Socialist Action, which seeks a communist revolution and believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a “tragedy for humanity”.

In secret documents (so secret they do not publish them NOTE) seen by this newspaper, Socialist Action calls itself the “revolutionary wing of the Labour Party” and describes how it performed a “clandestine form of entry” to infiltrate the party.

Among groups on the revolutionary Left, Socialist Action is unique in another way. It already has substantial experience of power.

…..

Socialist Action started as an overt organisation fighting elections in its own right, initially known as the International Marxist Group (IMG). Mr Corbyn’s brother, Piers, was a prominent IMG member and fought an election for it in the 1970s.

…..

Modesty prevents us from mentioning another prominent member of the IMG in the 1970s, behind a world-famous Blog.

A main focus of the group’s attention was the monthly news sheet London Labour Briefing, a key instrument of the takeover of the 1980s party in the capital by what became known as the “loony Left”.

Briefing, set up by a separate group of Trotskyites, was strongly influenced (?????)  by Socialist Action. Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn, too, were both closely linked to it.

Some might possibly note the word “separate” and quibble about the word Trotskyist,  but, hey, left’s continue the fun!

According to the authoritative Parliamentary Profiles by the late Andrew Roth, Mr Corbyn, a political activist and councillor, was the general secretary of its editorial board. His byline appears frequently from the first issue in 1980 and he usually chaired main fringe meetings of Briefing at events such as the Labour Party conference. According to the March 1983 issue, he ran Briefing’s mailing list.

Mr McDonnell, another bylined writer from the early 1980s, remains a key figure at Briefing, now affiliated with the ultra-Left party pressure group he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).

Briefing’s pages seethed with calls for “mass extra-parliamentary action” and it ran hit-lists of “traitor” Labour MPs and councillors to be purged. The group gave 30 pieces of silver – well, “silver milk [bottle] tops” – to former Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan.

A lifestyle section agonised about whether it was “bourgeois” to have children, while municipal tea dances put on by London councils were denounced as “heterosexist” as well as “primarily racist” (because they “reflect comfortable white society”).

Mostly though, Briefing, like Socialist Action, avowed what it called a “British revolution” – its motto was Trotsky’s “Take the Power”.

Yes, we are well and truly rumbled.

Labour Briefing is well-known for its close ties with Socialist Action (note snazzy SA site!).

They share the word “socialism” for a start!

Taking Power?

We should ask politely, if not at all…

But here’s the rub: I can even now recall the warmth with which much-missed Briefing Editorial members, such as Leonora Lloyd  and Mike Marquesse talked about their secret ‘guru’  John Ross.

Briefing, in a coded message to supporters, with due reverence, once published a photo of the Leader under the title, “A rare daylight picture of John Ross”.

Even today the influence of Socialist Action on the Briefing and the LRC is only equalled by the mighty forces of Socialist Fight and the Posadists, not to mention the Brent Soviet.

Andrew Gilligan: Bless!

Labour Representation Committee Conference.

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This year’s Labour Representation Committee (LRC) AGM was the first the Tendance has attended.

We joined, because Labour Briefing is now the official journal of the LRC. It seems a good idea to go along to the meeting of  a left paper that has played a significant role on the left for several decades.

The turnout for the event was as Stan Keable in the Weekly Worker describes,

There were slightly more than 100 comrades attending the November 23 annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London’s Conway Hall. That is down by a third compared with last year. Bad news for what is an umbrella organisation of the pro-Labour Party left, but surely reflective of the general state of the left in Britain.

He puts the LRC’s importance in this context,

The LRC also has significant organisational affiliates, including six national trade unions (Aslef, BFAWU, CWU, FBU, NUM and RMT), numerous trade union branches and regions, constituency and branch Labour Parties, Welsh Labour Grassroots, Campaign for Socialism (Scotland), and a variety of communist and socialist organisations.

It is hard to comment on Comrade Keable’s detailed remarks about the functioning of the LRC, and the “office problem”,  since we do not have direct information on this. The Briefing is something we can all judge. Against the Weekly Worker article we would  that Briefing has changed, though perhaps “renewed” – for the better – is a more balanced description.

Of the speeches Owen Jones was uplifting, pointing to the successes of such initiatives as the People’s Assembly. Keable dismisses this as his “usual fare” – ignoring the importance People’s Assemblies have taken on the ground.

John McDonnell MP was excellent. You can take this argument whatever way you wish:  “People are still voting Labour,” he said. “We must nourish struggles within the party by building struggles outside.”

Stan rightly underlines the importance of the contributions made by “two activists from the Boycott Welfare campaign, Clive and Robert, gave a moving contribution from the platform as guest speakers. Unemployed people and benefit claimants are clearly being badly maltreated by the system. Half a million have been already denied benefits under the workfare system, they reported.”

These are issues dear to our heart and the LCR, and associated Labour MPs, are to be congratulated for making the campaigns against  of Workfare, Universal Credit and Sanctions, not to mention ATOS, a priority. We were able to develop our contacts with Boycott Workfare by talking to the activists during the break.

Jeremy Corbyn MP gave a more nuanced  portrait of the 1945 Labour government than has recently appeared (notably in the Ken Loach film, the Spirit of 45). Its record was exceptionally largely positive, but it had been Atlanticist and a far from a consistently principled anti-colonialist government.

Mark Serwotka is patronised by Comrade Keable (whose style is rapidly tiring). “he would not waste time repeating “how bad it is”. We need to talk about “what we’re going to do about it”.

I did not get a chance to speak to guest speaker Philippe Marlière of the Front de Gauche (Left Front) – with whom I have contacts. He  must have felt cheered by the serious speakers listed above, though less encouraged by some of the others.

Of these, Stan does not mention the antics of Graham Durham who seemed eager to hog the limelight at every opportunity. His virulent attacks on Len McCluskey  and the LRC elected Committee (amongst others) and his support for Murdoch’s man in UNITE, Jerry Hicks,  struck a sour note.

Durham’s only accurate observation was on the lines that every meeting he attended got smaller.

We wonder why.

There was also an extraordinary  motion by something called Socialist Fight, on Syria.

This noted that “Negotiation with Russia and Iran disarm Syria of its chemical weapons and Iran from developing nuclear weapons and so prepare for a future attack against weaker enemies.”

It ended, “The defeat of this utterly bogus ‘revolution’ will defend a relatively secular administration, strengthen the Syrian working class against Assad and dent chauvinism  in US, Britain and France.”

This was roundly defeated in favour of a policy of defending democratic movements in Syria against Assad and opposing the Western backed jihadists.

There was a debate on the Labour-Union link.

Andrew Berry from Unison, Maria Exall of the CWU and Ian Hudson of the bakers’ union (BFAWU) all made pertinent speeches – Ian Hudson was particularly rousing.

Labour Party Marxists made an appearance.

Stan Keable led off by citing the phrase, “The Labour Party emerged from the Bowels of the Unions” – a quote he attributed to Ralph Miliband.

Ernest Bevin, who actually made the observation, was hardly a model of democratic practice in his use of the union – T&GWU –  block vote. 

Perhaps next time former members of the CPGB begin talking about the Labour Party they might care to familiarise themselves with its history.

The motion that was passed broadly re-affirmed the importance of keeping unions affiliated to the Labour Party. Keable, this time accurately, mentions that their motion,, which sought “the end of individual ‘opting out’ of trade union political funds”, was voted down by a two-thirds majority. Sadly that majority included the LRC’s political secretary Pete Firmin, though Graham Bash, the de facto editor of Briefing, abstained. “

The motions passed on Europe were, as the Weekly Worker reports, equivocal on the need to defend a perspective of a social, socialist, Europe – a view put forward by both Labour Party Marxists and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. They left space for both this genuine internationalism and a more narrowly focused ‘anti-Brussels’ stand. As the article  states, there was a “refusal to recognise that advocating withdrawal means nationalism.”

The AGM was well worth attending.

I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere during the evening that began in the Dolphin and ended in China Town the most.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2013 at 11:53 am

Two Labour Briefings.

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There are now two Labour Briefings.

This is very sad.

Briefing’s AGM saw the split played out.

At its most packed AGM for several years, Labour Briefing supporters voted by the narrow margin of 44 to 37for the magazine the magazine to be hosted by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). After an impassioned debate, the AGM agreed with a motion put forward by Briefing EB member and LRC joint secretary Pete Firmin that merging with the LRC represented the best opportunity both to ensure the continued production of the magazine and to reach new layers of activists. The LRC is a growing organisation with several national union affiliates and over 1200 individual members. The merged magazine is now tasked with strengthening both Labour Briefing and the LRC, bringing the political capital of the LRC into Briefing to develop the influence of the magazine while maintaining the unique and pluralist traditions of Briefing.

This Briefing has just published.

Now we also have Magazine of the Labour Briefing Co-Operative, produced by the minority at the AGM.

Its Editorial describes the AGM (see below for more on this*).

It says that “The LRC NC has agreed to take over the magazine but bizarrely, has not discussed the content, policy and focus of the new magazine. The resolution which the LRC members put to the Briefing AGM, however, was clear..”

Briefing is predominantly sold within the Labour party to Labour Party members. This is a weakness as the membership of the party has been decimated and the Labour Left is almost invisible to the outside world.”

“We do not share this contempt for Labour Party members”.

It continues, that the “Those readers who have been robbed of their magazine – the human collateral damage in the LRC’s turn to empire building – did not want to be shut up by the LRC, and after the AGM  a number of them asked us if we could produce a new magazine.” They have done so. The Editorial goes on, “What or  whom did we represent?” They are non-aligned, “We know what we are, and there are only two words that sum up what we stand for. We are Labour Briefing.”

The co-operative formed asks for support and subscription, noting, “Unfortunately the LRC has taken the Briefing bank account, so we need you to subscribe and order copies to sell….”

It then says, “That is the last time we shall mention the LRC in the magazine…” (my emphasis)

There are some very simple responses to this, despite the enormous respect I have for the people in the Briefing  ‘Co-op’.

The charge that the LRC has contempt for Labour Party members is grossly offensive.

Many people in the labour movement, even if not members of the Labour Party, or the LRC,  have respect for the LRC, and the MPs associated with it, such as John McDonnell. It has over 1,000 individual members and 150 affiliates. That is because the LRC has patiently worked to build grass-roots support for the left, and has engaged in all the principal wider campaigns of the left and trade union movement, from anti-cuts campaigns to international solidarity.

If this decision is ’empire building’ it should be noted that the LCR’s main officers come from Labour Briefing, including founding figures of the magazine.

The idea that a magazine of the Labour Left can publish without any further reference to the LRC is ludicrous.

It will get nowhere.

************

* Press release from the Labour Briefing Co-operative * On Saturday, 7th July, members of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) – aided by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which produces the Weekly Worker – attended the AGM of Labour Briefing and forced through a vote to close down Labour Briefing after 32 years of publication. The LRC is now producing its own “house journal”, using the same name – Labour Briefing.

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Labour Briefing: On the Split.

with 4 comments

Here are two different accounts of last Saturday’s Labour Briefing AGM.

The first from those who support making the magazine the journal of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) – who won.

“At its most packed AGM for several years, Labour Briefing supporters voted by the narrow margin of 44 to 37for the magazine the magazine to be hosted by the Labour Representation Committee. After an impassioned debate, the AGM agreed with a motion put forward by Briefing EB member and LRC joint secretary Pete Firmin that merging with the LRC represented the best opportunity both to ensure the continued production of the magazine and to reach new layers of activists. The LRC is a growing organisation with several national union affiliates and over 1200 individual members. The merged magazine is now tasked with strengthening both Labour Briefing and the LRC, bringing the political capital of the LRC into Briefing to develop the influence of the magazine while maintaining the unique and pluralist traditions of Briefing.

Earlier in the day, the AGM heard from TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes, benefits activist and Briefing EB member Louise Whittle and John McDonnell MP on the unparalleled class war being waged by the Tory-led government on working people and the poor in this country. Andrew Burgin of the Greece Solidarity Campaign outlined how the austerity being imposed on the Greek people was a template for future attacks on people all over Europe. New delegations from among trade union and labour activists are being organised to express solidarity across national borders.

Owen Jones closed the meeting with a blistering attack on the double standards of the Government and a call to unite in the face of the onslaught. Despite the divisions in the AGM over the future of Briefing, the debate was good-tempered and constructive. Now the task is to work together to meet the unprecedented challenges facing our class.” Labour Briefing.

The second is from those opposed to this move,

“Issued by the Chair of Labour Briefing

8th July 2012: for immediate release

Labour Representation Committee and Weekly Worker combine forces to close down Labour Briefing.

On Saturday, 7th July, members of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) – aided by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which produces the Weekly Worker – attended the AGM of Labour Briefing and forced through a vote to close down Labour Briefing after thirty-two years of publication. The LRC now intends to launch its own “house journal”, using the same name – Labour Briefing.

Labour Briefing, as a magazine, does not have members and its meetings have always been open to all readers, including those who are members of other groups on the left. Labour Briefing has always relied on goodwill from other groups, on an understanding that they would not use the price of a subscription to close the magazine down at the expense of genuine Labour Briefing readers. This mutual trust, which had lasted for thirty-two years, was broken by the LRC, in a hostile takeover which is tantamount to political asset-stripping.

Many longstanding Labour Briefing readers spoke passionately about their commitment to the left having a non-aligned magazine which is open to all. Veteran Labour CND member Walter Wolfgang referred to the takeover as an essential magazine which could not be replaced and stated “To make it a ‘house journal’ would be to murder it.” Those readers who have been robbed of their magazine are now the human collateral damage in the LRC’s turn to empire building.

Those LRC members who were behind the takeover move broke two norms of labour movement democracy.

*When the Labour Briefing Editorial Board (EB) began to plan the AGM, EB member and LRC Co-Secretary Pete Firmin appeared to offer to draft the usual EB statement to the AGM on the year ahead. He was in fact intending to put a resolution that Briefing agree to the LRC takeover, but did not reveal his intentions to the EB. He circulated his “takeover” resolution two days before the subsequent EB meeting: this head start left EB members with the opposing view little time to respond.

*The supporters of the “takeover” resolution used their “head start” to spread misinformation to other Briefing readers in a campaign which began before and continued after their intentions became public within Briefing. Among the misinformation put forward by the supporters of the “takeover” resolution were:
-the “takeover” was endorsed by the majority of the Briefing EB;
-the “takeover” was generally supported within Briefing, was a “fait accompli” and just remained to be nodded through at the AGM.

Another key element of misinformation used at by supporters of the “takeover” was that the LRC’s magazine, using the name “Labour Briefing”, will be a pluralist magazine, open to its readers and the outgoing Briefing EB. The LRC National Committee (NC) had in fact decided to co-opt the outgoing Briefing EB to its own magazine’s editorial board on an interim basis, until LRC Conference in November. After that, however, the LRC’s magazine’s editorial board will consist of six people elected at LRC conference and six elected by the NC. It had initially been thought that the LRC’s editorial board would be composed of leading LRC members, but speakers at the Briefing AGM clarified that the LRC’s NC could use its six places to put on to the editorial board any independents who had not been able to secure election at the LRC Conference. The notion that the LRC can “choose independents” is nonsensical: the word for any non-LRC member selected by the LRC in that way would not be “independent”, it would be “stooge”. Why would a non-aligned, genuinely independent person on the left, who either felt only critical support for the LRC or did not want to join it, want to be part of producing a LRC magazine? In any event, as the LRC proposes that its editorial board would only meet quarterly, with the option for individual members to email the editor in between meetings, the editorial board itself is a fig leaf rather than a meaningful entity.

Those LRC members who supported the takeover did so from different motivations. Some wanted to see the LRC hosting a journal which would be genuinely independent, while others wanted the LRC to have a magazine which would promote the LRC as an organisation. The LRC NC has agreed to take over the magazine and has decided its structures but, bizarrely, has not discussed the content, policy and focus of the new magazine. Inevitably, some LRC members will find they are not being delivered the journal they were expecting: how the LRC deals with this disappointment remains to be seen. In any event, those LRC members who had thought the LRC was genuinely offering a new style of open and democratic politics must be gravely disappointed to hear that these old-style factional manoeuvres have resurfaced.

Speaking during the debate at the Briefing AGM, John McDonnell MP, founder and Chair of the LRC, said “Whatever happens in this room, whatever the decision, we leave here as comrades.” Christine Shawcroft, Chair of Labour Briefing, commented, “Comrades are people who don’t stab you in the back. The actions of LRC members at the Briefing AGM have made it quite clear they were not acting as comrades, but as fair weather friends.”

Christine Shawcroft,  Jenny Fisher

There is a well-informed report on this by Left Futures. Its title, “The Labour Left at its Worst” gives the flavour.

People really should read Jon Lansman’s article. But this is perhaps the most salient point,

 “The structure of a Labour Briefing AGM is open to some abuse. There are no members and any reader is welcome to attend, even if they are a member of some other faction.”

81 voting suggests a much larger than average turnout for a Briefing AGM.

This obviously reflects interest in Briefing’s future but it also leads to suspicion of ”factional’ mobilisation.

Why does this Matter?

I have sold Briefing for a couple of decades. At one point, roughly around the formation of the Grass Roots Alliance in the Labour Party 1998,  (a slate for elections to the NEC), I was particularly close to the magazine.

Since then, and the aftermath of the disaster that ended the Socialist Alliance, I have concentrated on broader labour movement campaigns and union activity independent of the Labour Party. In all these areas Briefing has always been a valuable source of information and support. Many left-wing activists have a deep affection for The Briefing, as an independent paper where activists talk and discuss what they’re directly involved with. Indeed this is one of the monthly’s founding principles. Another one is to publish different and contrasting views on controversial topics (from Sex Workers, to Europe) .

Unlike  some of the British left groups Labour Briefing has never considered itself a ‘revolutionary nucleus’: it is part of the left-wing of the broader labour movement. It does not have a ‘line’  that binds ‘cadres’. It expresses clear opinions on  political issues that concern that movement, criticising New Labour, and trying to develop a radical democratic socialist alternative.

Briefing, built on these principles,  has been an important part of the left in Britain for over 30 years.

With this in mind it would be hard not to be wary of making Briefing the ‘official organ’ of the Labour Representation Committee. Many of the LRC’s elected officers are Briefing Editorial Board members. But the LRC also contains small (thankfully without influence) groups like the Stalinist New Communist Party. If it is, as claimed, ‘growing’, it is still a small body without decisive influence. One can only recall that John McDonnell was not able to muster enough Parliamentary backing to stand in the Labour Leadership contest.

The main point is that is far from being recognised as the main vehicle for the left, even inside the Labour Party.

As for the AGM (which I did not attend) to stress the role of the Weekly Worker  is perhaps to give ‘Labour Party Marxists’  more importance than they are due.

What is obviously more significant is that Graham Bash, a key figure in Labour Briefing, is the LRC Treasurer.

Jenny Fisher is a stalwart of the movement. Normally reticent to express this kind of criticism publicly I am automatically inclined to accept what she says.

She has given elsewhere an account of the way the differences on this issue worked out between her and Graham which give rise to grave concerns.

Christine Shawcroft is a greatly admired and respected comrade.

The judgement of these two women comrades counts for a great deal.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 11, 2012 at 11:38 am