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The Socialist Party (Militant) admits it has entered Labour in Northern Ireland.

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“A number of individual members have joined Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. “

Labour figures in Northern Ireland quit, claiming secret group within the party.

Most of the key figures in the Labour Party in Northern Ireland tonight resigned from their leadership positions after alleging a secret internal attempt to subvert the party.

Six people – including the chair and vice chair – who have been campaigning vigorously for Labour’s ban on fielding candidates in Northern Ireland to be lifted have now walked away from their roles, claiming that a “small minority” of hard-left members had made their work impossible.

The split comes after several years of strong Labour growth in Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies where in a few years its membership has swollen from around 300 to more than 2,000, partly due to members who have joined in order to vote in the party’s leadership contests.

The report is followed by this,

Entryist suggestion

Although they did not use the word in their resignation statement, the members appear to be alleging an entryist attempt to take over the party in Northern Ireland.

Labour and other left-wing sources claim that recent or current members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and People Before Profit have recently joined Labour in Northern Ireland.

Those who have resigned are chair Anna McAleavy, vice-chair Damien Harris, vice chair membership Peter Dynes, secretary Kathryn Johnston, disability officer Keith Gray and women’s officer Mary Sheen.

In a statement, the six said that they would remain active members of the party.

They said: ‘We do not resign lightly. Instead, it is a heavy decision which has weighed on us for several months. It became evident from a very early stage that there are diverse and inimical political parties secretly organising within the LPNI contrary to Chapter 2 of Labour Party Rulebook 2017.

“Although these are a small minority among our committed and hardworking activists, members and supporters, they are a vocal and troublesome element. ‘This has presented us with irreconcilable difficulties.”

The Socialist Party has now admitted its members have entered Labour in Northern Ireland.

Labour Party Executive resignations – Socialist Party statement

A group of members of the Labour Party’s Northern Ireland Executive have suddenly resigned their positions, allegedly in response to left-wing groups organising within the party, with some of the former officers and some media outlets specifically referring to the Socialist Party in this context.

The Socialist Party supports Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies and the building of a broad, cross-community left in Northern Ireland. A number of individual members have joined Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. Some did so solely to help defend Corbyn against the Blairite coup and have never attended a meeting. Others have got active locally in an open and honest way, aimed at helping Labour to develop as a vehicle for workers and young people to challenge austerity and sectarianism. However, Socialist Party members have not sought any senior positions within Labour. Some of those who have resigned from the Executive were not only aware of this but, for positive reasons, actively encouraged Socialist Party members to become involved in Labour at various points.

……

Some of those who have resigned from the Executive are also members of two parties – the Co-operative Party and Labour. This is perfectly permissible, as the Co-operative Party has affiliated status. We believe that socialist groups and anti-austerity campaigns should be afforded the same right to affiliate and work with others to rebuild Labour as a campaigning, left force. For those who are supporters of Corbyn’s policies, the focus should be on challenging the pro-capitalist right, including the Blairite-Tory entryists who continue to dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party and the apparatus and remain determined to undermine Corbyn’s leadership, no matter what the cost to the party.

The Socialist Party worked fraternally with Labour members – including some of those who have resigned from the Executive – in the successful Hands Off Our Libraries campaign last year, as well as in developing the five-point Re-Think agenda which was endorsed by the Labour Party locally and adopted by six labour movement candidates in this year’s Assembly election. We believe that the impact of Corbyn’s policies on political debate has created an important opportunity for the anti-sectarian left in Northern Ireland. We will continue with our constructive and positive approach in working with others in the struggle to build a working class alternative to the Green and Orange Tories on the hill.

Previous ‘fraternal’  links between the Socialist Party  and Labour Party include:

2017. Socialist Party Stunt : ‘Ana Key’ – ’11 Votes’ Ellen Kenyon Peers – is expelled from Labour Party.

In 2015 an attempt was made to launch this: (The Socialist, 25th of November. 2015) Trade Union Momentum launched to organise to defend Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn’s new best friends have not been idle since.

It was widely suggested that the SP may have been involved in the Northern Ireland equivalent of Momentum.

It is hard to imagine what kind of “fraternal” work was possible with a group that is fanatically pro-Brexit was possible in Northern Ireland during the EU Referendum.

This is the kind of stuff they are coming out with now: Venezuela shows battle that would be faced by Corbyn government. Decisive break with capitalism needed (The Socialist. August 2017)

History shows – including in the drama now being played out in Venezuela – that piecemeal reforms irritate the capitalists but at the same time do not satisfy the demands of the working class for real change. The British and other ruling classes throughout the world are attempting to use Venezuela as a scarecrow to frighten the working class away from socialism.

They can only be defeated through the adoption of clear, fighting, socialist policies in Venezuela and in Britain.

We can assist the masses of Venezuela, and ourselves, by explaining similar ideas in Britain and exerting pressure on the labour movement for the Corbyn revolution to be completed, both in the internal battle to defeat the Blairite right and programmatically with measures which can really lead to a democratic and socialist Britain.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Venezuela: For the Left is Defence of Maduro, Dialogue or Criticism, the Answer?

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Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun !

This was on Newsnight yesterday: Evan Davis speaks to Juan Andrés Mejía, founding member and National Director of one of the main Venezuelan opposition parties, Popular Will (Voluntad Popular, a “centrist social democratic party”).

This statement has caused controversy and there is little doubt that many critics of it do so in bad faith.

I will restrict comment to one point.

If Macron has indeed called for dialogue in Venezuela, his appeal has not been widely reported in the French media.

A search reveals that he suggested that he offered his services in the role of mediator.  France’s Macron pushes for mediation role in Venezuela  4th of August. The French language media is pretty near silent on this but you can find that, “La lettre écrite de la main d’Emmanuel Macron a été envoyée le 5 juillet à Nicolas Maduro” – a letter written by Emmanuel Macron was sent on the 5th of July to Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela : Macron a envoyé une lettre à Maduro pour tenter d’aider le pays à sortir de la crise).

I may well be proved wrong but Le Monde certainly has not found this story worthy of recent coverage and there was certainly no major “call today” as the Corbyn statement suggests: here.

We wait for a reply from Maduro to Macron.

But, silence, Mr 5,7% has spoken.*

George Galloway ridicules Venezuela dictatorship claims: ‘They’ve won more elections than anyone in history’.

George Galloway has rubbished the idea that Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, saying the country’s Socialist regime has won more elections than any other regime in history.

The country’s constitution is to be redrawn following a recent election, and there are fears that President Nicolas Maduro will gain a raft of new powers – fears exacerbated by the recent arrest of two leading opposition activists.

Galloway told a caller that he was firmly opposed to dictatorship, saying “some of them work for a little while, none of them work for long,” while quoting Winston Churchill’s line that “democracy is the worst political system apart from all the others.”

Turning to the specific allegations against the Venezuelan regime, Galloway said “the government of Maduro, and before him Chavez, has won more elections than anybody in all of human history.

“If they’re dictators they’re the most elected dictators in the history of the world.”

George Galloway: Venezuela critics are just Blairites having a kick at Jeremy Corbyn.

Galloway said: “I keep hearing half-witted, uneducated pontificators who know nothing about the country, lecturing us on how Venezuela has taken such a wrong turn.

“When I heard the interview about it on this station, in this very studio room with Ken Livingstone, I realised we had to take a stand.

“What’s really going on here is not an attack on Maduro, who these pontificators had not heard of before last week, couldn’t identify his mug on a mugshot on a TV screen. This is another assault on Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour MPs, many of them admirers of Tony Blair, many of them supporters of the Iraq War, many of whom abstained on a three-line whip to ask for an inquiry into the selling of deadly weapons to the putrid dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, are demanding that Corbyn denounce his erstwhile friends in Venezuela.

“It’s enough to make you sick.”

Galloway went on to suggest that, “if only Venezuela had hired one of Tony Blair’s PR machines in London town, they might be in a better place as far as the British mainstream media is concerned.

“If only Venezuela, when it adopted its new constitution in the last couple of days, had chosen the Saudi Arabian constitution, all the Western countries would have loved it and would have been queuing up to sell it weapons. Prince Charles might have done a sword dance with President Maduro.”

Turning to the cause of the current crisis, Galloway said it has been “fuelled by the United States, not in the last few weeks or months but since 1998.

“Nineteen years the United States government and its secret agents have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan political protest.

 Skwawkbox can only agree, screaming yesterday that,

Rightist Labour MPs busted exploiting Venezuela for a shot at Corbyn.

As anyone who follows the news even tangentially will be well aware, the latest ‘weapon of mass desperation‘ used to attack Labour’s hugely-popular leader is a country. To feeble and flailing right-wing media and MPs, the complex troubles of a whole nation have been reduced to little more than a hammer to try to land a blow on Jeremy Corbyn.

But the new Venezuela APPG does little more than expose the motivations and lack of character of MPs who have joined it. Labour MPs Graham Jones, Angela Smith and John Spellar joined the group – but their former deputy leader spotted something interesting and called them out on it on Twitter.

Now this may well be true but when will people answer serious left-wing criticisms of the Venezuelan regime?

On the Venezuelan crisis

With the global fall in oil prices, Venezuela’s fifteen-year experiment in “petrol populism” seems to be winding to a close. Either the regime will collapse in short order, or it will maintain itself through increasingly bloody and repressive measures, as Maduro’s claim to represent the interests of the people grows even more tenuous. George Ciccariello-Maher, a seasoned apologist of Chavismo in the United States, writes in an article for Jacobin that the “enemies” are the ones who are out there “in the streets, burning and looting.” Socialists, he contends, should be supporting the recent state crackdown on the protesters, which has already left 130 or so dead.

One should read comrade Ross Wolfe’s full article on the Charnel-House, but this conclusion is important,

Socialists gain nothing by continuing to defend this bloated and incompetent regime. Even an oil-rich state like Venezuela cannot build “socialism in one country,” as the old Stalinist motto goes. Better to admit now what should have been obvious all along: Bolivarianism was a Revolution In Name Only, or #RINO for short (that acronym is still available, right?).

As Vincent Présumy puts it on his Blog carried by the highly respected French left site, Mediapart, in answer to those on the left who defend Maduro,

Ni l’expropriation du capital par les travailleurs organisés, ni la destruction de l’appareil d’Etat existant, n’ont jamais été à l’ordre-du-jour au Venezuela sous la direction de Chavez.

Neither the expropriation of capital by the organised workers, nor the destruction of the existing state apparatus, were ever on the cards in Venezuela under the Leadership of Chávez.

Présumy states,

La meilleure chose qui pourrait arriver au Venezuela, au contraire, serait une mobilisation indépendante de la classe ouvrière, des pauvres et des paysans, contre Maduro.

The best thing that could happen in Venezuela is, by contrast, an independent mobilisation of the working class, the poor and the peasantry, against Maduro.

Drawing to a conclusion he comments,

Le problème principal, à gauche et dans le mouvement ouvrier, est l’absence de mobilisation en défense du peuple vénézuélien et donc contre Maduro. Se répète l’expérience accablante et tragique de l’Ukraine et surtout de la Syrie.

The main problem on the left and in the workers’ movement, is the absence of a mobilisation in defence of the Venezuelan people, and therefore against Maduro. This is a repetition of the horrifying experience we saw with the Ukraine and above all with Syria.

 

A propos du Venezuela  7th of August,

*********

* 2017.  Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

Skwawkbox Tries to Shut Down Debate about Brexit and Freedom of Movement.

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Skwawkbox Says: “Noise about freedom of movement by some of the usual undermining suspects.”

Self-appointed Corbyn and Labour Party adviser Steven Walker is notorious for scaremongering on his site Skwawkbox. 

Now he’s turned his attention to the Labour Party Conference in an attempt to spread fear about possible “protests” by people who “wish to damage the party” at Labour Conference on the issue of Brexit.

The SKWAWKBOX can reveal that a move is planned inside Conference by ‘moderates’ desperate to disrupt Jeremy Corbyn’s surging popularity to disrupt Labour’s Conference by means of either a ‘mirror’ protest inside the hall or a ‘walk-out’ to join protesters outside, which of course makes an even bigger mockery of the term ‘moderate’ than it already is.

It is worth noting that Walker uses this ‘report’ to attack the growing campaign for freedom of movement.

The vast majority of Labour members – already bristling at the increase in ‘noise’ about Brexit and freedom of movement by some of the usual undermining suspects as Conference draws closer – will have no tolerance for this ridiculous, self-indulgent stunt and will back any and all measures the party’s leadership takes to block the infantile behaviour.

Let the tone of this sentence sink in….

SELF-INDULGENT ‘MODERATES’ PLANNING TO DISRUPT LABOUR CONFERENCE.

If one can delve into Walker’s mind, a murky, fog clouded, region, the reasoning seems to be that since, “Corbyn’s ability to remove Brexit as an vote-factor for millions of voters ” is an “an incredible political achievement” (here) attempts to bring up ‘divisive’ issues, that is either questioning Brexit or whatever Corbyn may, or may not, say, on Brexit, is the work of “undermining suspects”.

No doubt Skwarky will froth at this:  Finally, Labour’s left are standing up for freedom of movement, “A new campaign is tackling the Labour leadership’s growing anti-immigration narrative.”

This, Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

And this:

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 6, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Support the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

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We are Labour members and supporters united in our commitment to defending and extending the free movement of people in the context of the debate around Brexit.

The UK is at a crossroads in its relationship to the rest of the world, and so is our party. Immigrants and free movement are being scapegoated by a political and economic elite that is subjecting ordinary people to cuts and austerity. During the greatest refugee crisis in recent years, the Tories have responded with brutality and detention centres.

Labour should respond with clarity, humanity and solidarity. We fought the last General Election arguing against such scapegoating, and celebrating the contributions of migrants to our society. That tone must now translate into policy.

Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services. These are the product of decades of underinvestment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe. On the contrary, migrant workers have been on the front line of fighting for better pay and working conditions. Labour is the party of all working people – regardless of where they were born.

A system of free movement is the best way to protect and advance the interests of all workers, by giving everyone the right to work legally, join a union and stand up to their boss without fear of deportation or destitution. Curtailing those rights, or limiting migrants’ access to public services and benefits, will make it easier for unscrupulous employers to hyper-exploit migrant labour, which in turn undermines the rights and conditions of all workers.

Free movement enhances everyone’s rights. There are more than a million UK citizens living in the EU, and millions more who may enjoy the right to do so. UK workers in the EU have access to benefits, healthcare and other public services. Tens of thousands of UK students study abroad each year under ERASMUS schemes. UK and European citizens have the automatic right to family reunion.

Labour must build a society for the many, not the few. We need well-paid, secure jobs for all, with guaranteed hours, collective bargaining and stronger, freer trade unions. We need a policy of massive investment in council housing, public services and infrastructure. And we need to tell the truth about who and what is to blame for the crisis: an unaccountable elite who have run the economy in their own narrow interests. Ending free movement would be counterproductive to achieving all of this.

List of signatories.

More information: Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

This important initiative  has been signaled by Shiraz Socialist. We hope it gets the widest possible support.

Labour MPs Clive Lewis, David Lammy and Geraint Davies have joined trade union leaders in backing a new Labour campaign for free movement. (New Statesman.)

Their participation in the campaign underlines the tension between the Labour party’s official line that free movement will end after Brexit, and the theory expounded by many leading Labour politicians that migration has forced down wages.

The MPs were joined by the MEP Lucy Anderson, Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes, National Executive Committee members Ann Black and Darren Williams, and the leaders of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union.

Cortes said: “We are fully committed to challenging and fighting unscrupulous bosses who exploit EU migrants. We put the blame firmly on the perpetrators not the victims. We strongly believe that free movement enriches our society.”

A statement from The Labour Campaign for Free Movement said: “Migrants are not to blame for falling wages, insecurity, bad housing and overstretched public services.  These are the product of decades of underinvestment, deregulation, privatisation, and the harshest anti-union laws in Europe.”

BBC report:  New campaign urges Labour to back free movement

Guardian report: Labour MPs ask Corbyn to commit to free movement post-Brexit

The Sun says, “The move would be in defiance of the referendum result – as the British Social Attitudes Survey found the main reason people voted to leave was due to concerns over uncontrolled immigration from the EU.”

Comment: 

Will this call be supported by everybody on the left.

In 2016 (September, Socialism Today. No 201) the Socialist Party said this on free movement,

The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy.

It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.

How many others wish to create a form of “closed shop” against free movement remains to be seen.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Ken Livingstone Goes Loudly Mad (Venezuela …)

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Ken Livingstone ‘s Adviser on Anti-Imperialism. 

Items today:

Ken Livingstone: Venezuela should have followed my economic advice.

Ken Livingstone gave an extraordinary interview on talkRADIO this morning, saying the country ignored his economic advice – and this folly is the root cause of its decline.

The former mayor of London also said America had played a major part in Venezuela’s crisis, that Hugo Chavez’s failure to kill the country’s oligarchs is a “problem”, and that Nicolas Maduro seemed a nice and fair men when he met him.

Livingstone spoke to Julia Hartley-Brewer this morning about the mounting crisis surrounding Maduro, which escalated further this week following the arrest of two leading opposition figures.

Livingstone told Julia Hartley-Brewer that he’d offered personal advice to Venezuela’s minister of finance, telling the country to move away from its economic dependence on oil.

But, Livingstone said, “he ignored my advice… and that’s one of their problems.”

He then went onto speak of this:

Ken Livingstone: Venezuela crisis caused by Chávez’s failure to kill oligarchs

Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London, has blamed the turmoil in Venezuela on Hugo Chávez’s unwillingness to execute “oligarchs” after he came to power.

Livingstone, who is suspended from the Labour party, also blamed the economic crisis in the country on the government’s failure to take his advice on investment in infrastructure, which he said would have reduced the Latin American state’s dependence on oil.

The former mayor, a longtime supporter of the late president Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro, said the socialist leader’s enemies wanted to restore their power.

One of the things that Chávez did when he came to power, he didn’t kill all the oligarchs. There was about 200 families who controlled about 80% of the wealth in Venezuela,” Livingstone told Talk Radio.

“He allowed them to live, to carry on. I suspect a lot of them are using their power and control over imports and exports to make it difficult and to undermine Maduro.”

The Newshounds of the influential Labour Party Marxists  state today (August the 3rd),

….unconfirmed reports in the party suggest that Ken Livingstone is facing a new investigation over his comments on the relationship between Zionist organisations and the German Nazi government in the early to mid-30s. The comrade remains suspended for statements he made about the limited cooperation between these two otherwise bitterly opposed forces; concretely over the immigration of Jews from Germany to Palestine.

More:  Livingstone’s ‘blasphemy’

Indications from reliable sources inside the Labour Party indicate that investigators will have a lot more on their plate after  the latest outbursts.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Socialist Party Stunt : ‘Ana Key’ – ’11 Votes’ Ellen Kenyon Peers – is expelled from Labour Party.

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The Socialist Party, formerly the Militant, today condemned Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft for reporting a local student to the police – over an art project which proposes socialist policies.

The party – which has stood candidates against the Labour Party – continued in its  official paper,

Socialist Party member Ellen Kenyon Peers, the art student in question, has now been expelled from the Labour Party over the project.

Ana Key ‘represents’ the currently non-existent south London constituency of Deptford and Greenwich for the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Her website includes proposals for building new council homes, capping private rents and making roads safer for cyclists.

Anybody wishing to continue reading can learn that,

The Socialist Party’s forerunner, the Militant Tendency, had three MPs who were known for their active backing for local and national campaigning.

Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall only took the average wage of a skilled worker in their constituency, and donated the rest of their salaries to workers’ struggles. They also used their parliamentary positions as platforms to build these campaigns.

Although Ana Key is a personal art project, not solicited by the Socialist Party or TUSC, the attention it has drawn to socialist politics is welcome.

The Socialist.

It is clear that the Labour Member saw her creation as a member of a rival party, called the Socialist Party.

Ana Key:
First Socialist Party MP
Elected to Westminster

You voted for change on June 8th!

Huffington Post takes up the tale,

Student Ellen Kenyon Peers Who Posed As Fake Socialist MP ‘Ana Key’ Expelled From Labour Party

A university student who was reported to the police for posing as a fake socialist MP as part of an art project has been kicked out of the Labour Party.

Goldsmiths University student Ellen Kenyon Peers sparked uproar on Tuesday after it was revealed she had passed herself off as the newly elected MP for Deptford and Greenwich – a constituency which is set to be created in the next election.

The 24-year-old – who called herself Ana Key – was accused of running a fake Twitter account where she offered help to constituents, using House of Commons headed paper for correspondence and creating a website to list fake constituency surgeries.

Foxcroft told the Telegraph: “As an MP I deal with thousands of constituents with emergency cases, some of them about very serious issues on housing or immigration.

The Story continues,

In 2014, the student stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward election, winning 11 votes.”

Yet,

But in 2015 Peers went on to join the Labour Party, signing up after Jeremy Corbyn became leader. She now claims she has been expelled from the party.

She told the Evening Standard she has received a “standard legal letter” from Labour HQ cancelling her membership on the grounds she had written for the Socialist Party and stood for election on a “hard-Left ticket”.

Peers, who says she comes from a “traditional Labour-supporting family”, said: “My mum and dad were quite upset that I have been expelled from Labour.”

However, she claims that she has not been contacted by the police or Parliament over her stunt.

A Labour spokesperson confirmed that Peers is no longer a member of the party.

The student at the posh London University has yet to comment further.

But Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe,  tweeted: “The reason we have to #DefendAnaKey is because this imaginary character makes a better MP than the local one, Vicky Pollard or something…”

This  looks decidedly unfunny,

A previous art project of the Socialist Party drew national attention.

Socialist candidate who was left red-faced after getting NO VOTES at last week’s local elections is demanding a re-count – after saying he “definitely” voted for himself.

Paul Dennis, who stood for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Rainham North ward in the Medway Council elections in Kent, was left “baffled” at the count when the announcer revealed he had not got any votes at all.

The Socialist Party is best known on the left for its fanatical support for Brexit and for ending the free movement of labour,

Why the Socialist Party opposed the EU.

What ‘free movement’ exists in the EU is used to allow big business to exploit a cheap supply of labour in a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of low pay, zero-hour contacts and poor employment conditions.

Any EU citizen with problems about the end of free movement would be well advised to steer clear of such an ‘MP’.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 2, 2017 at 4:26 pm

English Labour Network, a “Patriotic” initiative.

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Identity Politics?

Jean-Luc Mélelenchon perhaps set a precedent.

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“They nourish national vanity and the love of supremacy by force. “We alone,” they say, each behind his shelter, “we alone are the guardians of courage and loyalty, of ability and good taste!” Out of the greatness and richness of a country they make something like a consuming disease. Out of patriotism–which can be respected as long as it remains in the domain of sentiment and art on exactly the same footing as the sense of family and local pride, all equally sacred–out of patriotism they make a Utopian and impracticable idea, unbalancing the world, a sort of cancer which drains all the living force, spreads everywhere and crushes life, a contagious cancer which culminates either in the crash of war or in the exhaustion and suffocation of armed peace.”

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, by Henri Barbusse, 1917

Denham and key Corbyn ally join forces for “patriotic” English Labour initiative

A former Labour cabinet minister has joined forces with one of the leading lights of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign for the launch of a “patriotic” initiative to give English voters a voice.

John Denham, the former communities and local government secretary under Gordon Brown, has set up the English Labour Network in an attempt to help the party win again in the largest of the home nations.

The network aims to build on Labour’s progress in the June general election and allow it to take the seats in the “large towns and small cities”which are necessary to be able to form a government.

It will provide “practical support” rather than be “yet another internal party group lobbying for individual policies or individual candidates”, Denham writes on LabourList today.

George Orwell famously distinguished between patriotism and nationalism. “Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” (Notes on Nationalism. 1945)

It is unclear if things are so clear cut, we find plenty of people talking sentimentally about ‘their’ nation, places and culture, in good times,  but using these to defend the superiority of their way of life against all others. Or simply giving priority to ‘their’ ain folk. It surely is not a coincidence that the ‘identitarian’ movement in the European extreme right tries to connect the two.

Orwell is nevertheless useful when we realise that it’s issues of power, that is the state, which mark nationalism. Sovereigntist ideas, on the populist right, and sections of the left which try to create their own radical populism, which see the capture of national sovereignty by the ‘people’ as the premise of political success, have a tight link to nationalism. If the right bases itself on the People against a variety of Enemies, from Globalised elites, to migrants, the left version targets Oligarchs and claims to ‘federate’ the people. There is some convergence in  that both could be said to reflect something of  Zygmunt Bauman’s idea that today, in ‘late modernity’  “the settled majority is ruled by the nomadic and exterritorial elite” (Liquid Modernity 2010).

David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere (2017), is perhaps  the most recent attempt to put forward this themes in British terms.  His  writing, on  the opposition between ‘somewheres’ and ‘anywheres’, talks of the need for the left to take up the concerns of ‘decent populists’. He argued for the importance of the ‘restless’ anywheres who dominate Labour policy making to take up the concerns of those, who vlaue   “group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)”. 

Drawing on this feeling for “a particular place and way of life”, in the line of  Blue Labour, along with “work family and community”, the English Labour Network, now proposes the following.

Labour Vision interviews John Denham on launch of English Labour Network. He tells us: “No Labour manifesto in my time has gone as far as this year’s in recognising the political identity of England”

Sam Stopp ” a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Brent and is the Chair of The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness. He has written regularly for LabourList, LeftFootForward, Progress Online and Open Labour. “

  •   Labour has to aim to win England for two reasons. One is that, despite the strength in Wales and the fact we’ve recovered in Scotland, we can’t rely on sufficient MPs from those two nations to give us a UK majority. But the second reason is that it will be harder for Labour to implement policies that will be controversial in England if it doesn’t have an English majority, or is a long way behind the Tories. So we have the aim for an English majority.”
  • The second (point) is a constitutional and democratic point. The Welsh and Scottish Labour parties have a great deal of autonomy from UK Labour, but there is no place in which England is actually discussed. And I think the history says that one of the reasons that England has remained so centralised … and all of the failures to devolve have failed … is that the whole thing is being governed by the interests of Wales and Scotland, rather than the ideas of England. So I think we need to have a clear place for England within the Union and a clear decision on how we’re going to devolve inside England. And that is now long overdue.
  • The third thing”, Denham tells me, “is the cultural one, which is that Labour lags in support among English-identifying voters. Now, that’s going to be particularly critical. If you look at the seats that we need to win at the next election to form a government and the ones that we have to defend if the Tories get their act together, they are largely seats that are actually pretty evenly balanced between leavers and remainers and more of the older, working-class leaver voters than the places that we won at the election. And so to lag behind amongst those voters is very dangerous. And the reason that identity is important is that people want to be respected for who they are.”This is where Denham gets passionate and it seems as though this third issue is the one that stresses him the most. “If somebody feels English”, he goes on, “nobody ever acknowledges that they feel English. It’s a clear way of saying that we don’t understand you, or we don’t know where you’re coming from. The irony is that we live in a society where all sorts of multiple identities are possible, but it’s almost as though Englishness is the one that’s not legitimate. If Labour behaves as though there’s something inherently wrong with being English, we’re never going to reach those voters. When we talk about the importance England and Englishness, nobody is suddenly going to vote for us because of this, but it opens the door to discussions about public services or industrial strategy or austerity or spending and all the other things.”

offers some important critical reflections.

Labour has slipped rightwards on immigration. That needs to change

 

Both Denham and Liam Byrne stress that they want good, not bad, patriotism. But Byrne also asks us not to dwell on “dusty history”, as if the toxic nature of modern jingoism isn’t derived precisely from the predominant chauvinistic version of our nation’s past. It will take more than a half-baked rebranding exercise to deal with these deep-seated issues. After Brexit, the idea that our national identity should be simply celebrated rather than critically re-examined is not only irrational but deeply irresponsible. Currently, the ELN looks more like a triangulating appeal to rightwing voters than a serious project for reimagining and building a more inclusive England, with all the difficult conversations that will necessarily involve.

This is connected to a wider strand of thinking in and around the Labour party that sees xenophobia and racism as confined to a minority of cranks on society’s fringe, with the current high levels of public antipathy towards immigrants being due for the most part to nothing more than the “legitimate concerns” of primarily working-class voters. It’s a view resting on spectacular naivety about the true nature and breadth of prejudice in Britain (which is in no way class-specific), as well as the misconception that it is experience of, rather than prejudice about, immigration that drives this antipathy.

This narrative becomes a shade more sinister when the dubious category of the “white working class” (apparently neglected more due to its whiteness than its class) is elevated to the status of Labour’s “traditional” support – the “core vote” residing in the “heartlands”. One wonders where in the pecking order this leaves the non-white working-class residents of Grenfell Tower, for example. It would be unfortunate if the answer to that question were to be found in the expressions of sympathy one hears from some Labour figures for people “anxious about … the rate of change of communities”. Labour neither has nor deserves a future as the party of those who don’t want black and brown people moving into their street.

We suspect that the problems lie deeper than this.

It is not just the cultural issues Wearing rightly highlights and which make a mockery of efforts to revive a ‘national identity’  from the left.

Brexit has been followed by the attempt of some inside the Labour Party to assert their own brand of sovereigntism.

Calling on support from ‘anger’ of the anti-EU camp, the sturdy “northern working class” to the people of England who have not spoken yet, these forces – they have a name, and that is those within the Lexit campaign, and supporters (who include Labour leadership advisers) wish to mobilise the ‘people’ against any commitment to oppose the Tories’ Hard Brexit. They believe that they can ‘federate the people’ around a new version of the old Alternative Economic Strategy, Keynesian economics administrated by  a ‘captured’ state.

The real difficulty is that the world is too ‘liquid’ economically and culturally, for any radical left  government both to moblise popular enthusiasm and to build the links we need with ‘other’ nationalities, other peoples with their own loves of place and “particular ways of life”, without at the very elast making direct agreements across Europe, inside and outside of the institutional structures of the EU.