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The ‘People’s Question Time: Brexit.” Lindsey German: “a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”

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Brexit: Lindsey German says, “..a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines.”

This is being organised the ‘People’s Assembly‘.

The People’s Question Time: Brexit – What Are Our Demands?
7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA. Register your place: https://pqtjan2017.eventbrite.co.uk/

Panel includes:
Emily Thornberry MP – Shadow Foreign Secretary, Labour Party
Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party
Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Lindsey German – People’s Assembly
Malia Bouattia – NUS President
Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE
(more tbc)

This is their puff: 


Do you have a question for our panel? Submit one when registering for a chance to put it to the event.

This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Brexit has been hugely divisive and has created a dynamic and unpredictable situation.

Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.

The idea that Brexit, whose purpose is to serve the bankers, the bosses and the corporations, and to attack migrant workers, can be effectively changed through demands that it is “negotiated in the interests of the People’ is a straightforward, to put it simply, lie.

Speaking for the People’s Assembly (who have never debated the issue in public still less asked supporters to vote on the issue) Lindsay German holds these views.

Next stop… the People’s Brexit (3rd of November 2016)

The missteps of the ruling class can create space for our side, notes Lindsey German

No doubt influenced by her groupuscules belief in the ‘actuality of the revolution’ German goes into say,

The job for all those on the left now should be not to overturn that decision but ensure that the ruling class’s division is turned in our favour. We need to fight for an outcome that ensures a solution to the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights, as well as total opposition to scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms. 

….

….a chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines. This now has an urgency given the likelihood of a general election next year. It means putting forward these demands, mobilising around them, building trade union strength, doing everything to support Corbyn in these electoral battles, and trying to give a voice to the millions of working people, whichever way they voted, who are looking for an alternative.

If Brexit is the occasion for this “chance to shape the future of British society along egalitarian lines” then we are indeed in the actuality of great revolutionary events.

How Brexit will do anything but hinder the fight to resolve the NHS funding crisis, a solution to the housing crisis, a raising of workers’ wages and employment rights,  is less than clear. As well as a being a major cause of the scapegoating of migrants and to racism in all its forms it is becoming part of these crises.

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Well-established Rumour has it that this is German’s coming Retirement cottage. 

Looking forward to evenings eating toasted crumpets with honey, while Rees warms his slippers on the wood fire.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 1, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Socialist Worker: Left Needs to Focus on “Energetic Rallies” and not “internal” Labour Battles as the Socialist Party Calls for Victory by Letting it Join.

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Always Ready with Good Advice.

It’s a hard task, but –  hell knows –  somebody has to keep up on what the non-Labour left is saying these days.

How else would we know what the vanguard is telling us?

Socialist Worker reports,

The Labour right has defeated the left in recent battles inside the Labour Party—ensuring it holds its grip on party structures.

Candidates backed by the right won all leading positions at a meeting of the party’s National Policy Forum last Saturday. Its policies shape Labour’s manifesto.

It followed right victories at regional conferences and annual general meetings of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).

The paper continues,

There is a danger that the defeats could encourage the Labour left to step up its attempts to win internal battles.

Labour left group Momentum has focused on winning more seats for CLP representatives on the party’s national executive committee (NEC). The NEC had been set to meet on Tuesday to debate changes to its rules and make-up.

Momentum had focused its efforts on an online campaign in the weeks running up to the meeting, calling on its members to demand more CLP seats.

FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack recently called on all Momentum supporters to back the campaign. He warned, “Time is running out to transform Labour”.

But late on Monday evening the proposed changes were removed from the NEC’s agenda—meaning the left was defeated before the meeting even began.

The recent victories for the right show that the left is at its weakest when fighting internal battles against Labour’s right wing bureaucracy.

Weeks of campaigning can swiftly be quashed by backroom manoeuvering. And Labour’s new mass membership clearly has little enthusiasm for getting bogged down in internal battles.

But the left is stronger when it looks outwards. Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election campaign was successful because it drew tens of thousands of people to energetic rallies that promised a fight for a radically different society.

The Socialist, paper of the, you’ve guessed it, Socialist Party, has another option,

To be successful, Corbyn and those around him need to boldly come out for a programme to transform Labour and to transform the lives of working and middle class people.

That means opening up the Labour Party to all anti-austerity forces, allowing them to affiliate on a democratic, federal basis. It means inviting back into Labour all those socialists who have been expelled or excluded from membership by the Blairite party machine. It also has to involve being clear and open about what alternative is necessary..

Big public speeches, letting the Socialist Party join Labour….It’s all boiled down to what comrades have always said about these two groups: 1) The SWP organises “rallies” – that’s what they do. 2) The SP ‘builds the SP” – that’s what they do. Their lines have the merit of putting in second place all the other stuff about class struggle, nationalisation, revolution, People’s Brexit etc.

Socialist Party (Ex-Militant) Apply to Join Labour in order to “Kick out the Blairites”.

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Image result for socialist party petition deselect the blairites

Socialist Party Campaigns to Join Labour in order to “Kick out the Blairites”.

Expelled Militant Labour members apply to rejoin party, reports the BBC.

Expelled figures linked to the former Militant wing of the Labour Party have formally applied to rejoin Labour.

 75 applicants include former Militant leaders Peter Taaffe and Dave Nellist, who was Labour MP for Coventry South East for nine years.

They cite Donald Trump’s election as US president as a motivation to “assist the struggle to transform Labour”.

The internal battle with the Militant tendency faction was one of Labour’s biggest controversies of the 1980s.

Mr Taaffe, who Thewas expelled from Labour in 1983, said: “We want to play our part in the struggle to transform Labour and urge the National Executive Committee to aid this process by admitting us, and others who have been similarly expelled or excluded, into membership.”

Mr Taaffe, now the general secretary of the Socialist Party, was expelled along with ex-MP Mr Nellist – now the chairman of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Their affiliations with Labour rivals mean it appears unlikely that their applications to rejoin the party will be approved.

A Labour spokeswoman told the BBC: “It is against Labour’s rules to be a member of another political party or organisation which has its own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda, and which is therefore ineligible for affiliation to the party.”

The Socialist Party  (SP) statement reads,

We the undersigned urge the Labour Party NEC to accept the joint application for Labour Party membership made by 75 activists who have previously been expelled or excluded from Labour for their socialist ideas. In total they have over 1,000 years of membership of the Labour Party.

Among the 75 are members of the Militant Editorial Board, including Peter Taaffe, now general secretary of the Socialist Party; Tony Mulhearn, one of the leaders of the struggle of Liverpool City Council in the 1980s; and Dave Nellist, previously Labour MP for Coventry South East.

They are socialists, trade unionists and anti-austerity activists who should have a place in the Labour Party.

Whether this is a “publicity stunt” (Morning Star) to mark the SP’s weekend event Socialism 2016 or not there are points to be made.

We note the following:

  • In asserting their right to a “place in Labour’ the Socialist Party makes no mention of dissolving its organisation. The Guardian states, “Taaffe said his aim was for the Socialist party to affiliate to Labour, and ultimately field joint candidates – and the application process would be part of a “rolling petition” by his supporters. He was dismissive of Momentum, the grassroots group set up to support Corbyn and transform the Labour movement. “We don’t agree with Momentum,” he said, singling out Jon Lansman, its chair, for criticism. “He doesn’t agree with compulsory reselection. What is the point of Jeremy Corbyn without the right to remove the Blairites, who are an enormous drag on the progress of the Labour party?”
  • The Socialist Party has the goal of ‘removing’ the Blairites, that is purging them from the Labour Party. As they state, “the idea now of building a mass movement to keep Jeremy Corbyn and drive out the Blairites as part of preparing to fight and win a general election is widely accepted among rank and file Corbyn supporters.” (The Socialist). In other words Taaffe wants to join Labour – and will complain that his democratic rights are denied if he is not admitted – in order to purge the party of political opponents.
  • The Socialist Party is a Leninist party which does not tolerate internal differences of its own. It has also a long history of trying to impose its ‘line’ on other groups on the left.
  • In 2010 its trade union front, the National Shop Stewards Network, announced support for the “NSSN All-Britain Anti-Cuts campaign”, a rival body to the trade union backed, “Coalition Of Resistance.” There were complaints from the minority of non-SP members active in the NSSN, “Launching a further national anti-cuts campaign, while obstructing cooperation with other organisations, would be a retrograde step, as well as changing the nature and direction of the NSSN. If the NSSN becomes controlled by one political party which is unwilling to work constructively with any other shop stewards in the network, we would see no point in further participation. Confirmation that this is the way the the SP intends to proceed seems to be borne out by events since the meeting of the Steering Committee – the secretary has unilaterally announced that only SP members will represent the NSSN at 2 forthcoming meetings discussing left/anti-cuts cooperation, with not even a pretence at consultation with non-SP officers .” (Socialist Unity) This lack of ‘consultation’, in fact making decisions without any reference to the minority in the formal leadership of the NSSN, was described in much, much, greater detail by those involved and bore the marks of the culture of a classic sect/cult.  It would be tiresome to list all the other examples of this behaviour. They can be summed up by describing them as the actions of a ‘miniature’ orthodox Communist Party with its ‘front organisations’ run by the Party’s own leading bodies.
  • The Socialist Party actively campaigned for a Brexit vote during the European referendum. As formidable mythomanes,  at a local meeting, and no doubt elsewhere, they talked of a great, indeed massive,  movement on the European left and workers’ movement  to support Britain leaving the EU. It rapidly turned out (that is after asking other European comrades) that their network of support was based on the ultra-sectarian, nationalist, anti-EU and negligible electoral force, the French based Trotskyist group, Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID). Their ‘international’  meeting, last may, is reported  here . Pour le Brexit Mai 2016. POID, is the result of, you guessed it, a 2015 split, that is with the  Parti ouvrier indépendant. That group scored 0,34 % of the vote in the 2007 Presidential elections, with  Gérard Schivardi, now a member of POID.
  • The Socialist Party has formed the backbone of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), “In the 2015 General Election TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland, as well as 619 council candidates in local elections. The party performed badly at the election, winning 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved (Wikipedia).

Regardless of the merits of admitting individuals who have been in the SP into Labour  the application, en masse, of Socialist Party members to join the Party is not welcome.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2016 at 11:50 am

French Communist Party ‘Cadres’ Say “Non” to Backing Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential Candidacy.

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The Era of the People: Without the PCF? 

Le Parti communiste dit non à Jean-Luc Mélenchon reports Libération.

The hard choice before the assembled ‘cadres’ of the French Communist Party, (PCF) at their National Conference, was between Jean- Luc Mélenchon or a Communist . Pierre Laurent, PCF National Secretary voted for the first option. André Chassaigne, MP and potential presidential candidate, backed the second. The 535 delegates, mandated by their PCF federations, cast their ballots 55, 7% for the ‘internal candidate”. The final decision will be put to the whole membership at the end of November.

The defeat of the PCF leadership’s recommendation is extremely unusual.

But hostility to the leader of the Parti de gauche and owner of his supporters’ ‘movement’, La France Insoumise, ran high. ” Some present declared, “je ne soutiendrai jamais Mélenchon»«je n’aime pas la France Insoumise».”, I will never support Mélenchon” or “I don’t like La France Insoumise”. Those who backed voting for him argued that it was “political choice” (that is, there being no other candidate to the left of the Socialists who is visible in opinion polls). To which one delegate replied, “Le refus de soutenir de Jean-Luc est dû à son glissement au niveau des idées, pas sur sa personne. Le cœur du parti n’est pas d’accord avec son positionnement politique.” Refusing to support Jean-Luc is due to his shift in his ideas, not about the individual. The heart of the Party is not in agreement with his political position.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who refuses to meet Pierre Laurent, has made a show of ignoring this decision.

The same story lead the morning news bulletin on France-Inter this morning (Le PCF ne soutiendra pas Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

From the outside one can observe that there are plenty of people around who certainly do not like the Man of Destiny, as an individual, a politician, as well as heartily disagreeing with his present politics.

A review by Raphaëlle Besse Desmoulières of Mélenchon’s newly published le Choix de l’insoumission in Le Monde (31. 10.16)  is a useful introduction to how many on the left feel about the self-proclaimed Presidential candidate.

Desmoulières describes Mélenchon’s background in the ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyist Organisation communiste internationaliste – a big black mark to start with. The leader of La France Insoumise expressed adulation of Francois Mitterrand, described as a “guide” and Le Vieux’ (a term normally used in these circles for….Trotsky) , and his uncritical enthusiasm for Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. It mentions that Mélenchon remains a Freemason (the lambertist leader Pierre Boussel, generally known by his ‘party name’  Pierre Lambert was staunch Freemason)

These aspects of  Mélenchon are not universally admired.

This is La France Insoumise’s ‘Projet’ which gives further reasons not to admire him.

It begins with the words, ” l’ère du peuple” “doit commencer ” – the era of the people must begin. This “citizens’ revolution” must overthrow the ” l’oligarchie financière et de la caste” – the financial oligarchy and the elite (caste, directly borrowed from Podemos, has as little resonance in French as it does in English).

It  promises to share the wealth of the country, to  transform the taxation system, and “Protégeons de la finance les salariés et la production en France. ” Protect wage-earners and production in France (my emphasis)  from Finance”.

It proposes “ecological planning”.

The ‘project’ proposes to leave European Treaties that impose on us ( nous) austerity, and the affirmation of “la souveraineté” against the decisions of the EU Commission.

We (nous) must be freed from following “des folies impériales des États-Unis et de leur outil de tutelle militaire : l’OTAN” the imperialist follies of the USA and their tool of military subordination, NATO. Our (Notre) anchor must be with the Mediterranean peoples and the Francophone countries of Africa. 

There are words about “progrès humains” (human progress) and “autres modèles de vie ” (other models for living).

Anybody who has got this far is in for a treat: the conclusion,

Je connais aussi la force d’entrainement des grands enthousiasmes collectifs. La France est le deuxième territoire maritime du monde, et la deuxième nation pour la cotisation individuelle à la conquête de l’espace ! Voilà qui fait de nous un peuple qui a une responsabilité particulière, enthousiasmante, aux frontières de l’humanité ! Ici se trouvent deux immenses gisements d’emplois, d’inventions et de progrès écologiques pour la France et la civilisation humaine.

I also know the power that great collective enthusiasm can bring in its wake. France is the second largest maritime territory in the world, the second nation, per individual contribution, in the conquest of space! This has made of us a people with a special responsibility,  enthusiastic, at the  cutting edge of  humanity (1). Here one can find two massive sources of employment, inventions, and ecological progress, for France and for human civilisation.

(1) I justify this somewhat free, though equally lyrical,  translation by reference to the text linked to, “Comment porter la France aux avant-postes de l’Humanité ?

The programme of La France Insoumise is clearly ‘populist’. Whether it is ‘left’ is up for the ‘people’ to judge.

Le Projet focuses on an ‘elite’, a fusion between finance, politicians – in  short, ‘them’. It has no reference to class struggle arising in production and distribution. It rests on a picture of a world in which exploitation and bad social conditions are the result of malevolent decisions by this upper crust, and foreigners, beginning with the EU, and extending, O so extending, to the US. Once rid of that lot, and “we”, the “special” people of France, will no doubt colonise the Moon…

A more comprehensive demolition of this approach, which begins with the basis of a new movement to answer the crisis of the “party-form”, extends to the dropping of the working class as a reference and its replacement by the ‘people’ and ends with the personalisation of the France Insoumise project around the Leader (“la nécessité d’une incarnation personnelle du processus) si given by   Samy Johsua in « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ?

All I can say after that is, yuk!

In Le Monde today Election présidentielle : la Conférence nationale du PCF refuse de se rallier à Jean-Luc Mélenchon continues the saga.

After outlining the above vote, Desmoulières speculates that the PCF may support the Socialist candidacy of Arnaud Montebourg, a contender in the PS’s ‘primary’ selection process to designate their own candidate. Above all he notes that this decision marks a definitive divorce between the PCF and  Mélenchon.

Some might say, echoing the PCF delegates, from the outside, about time!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Socialist Party on “Left Populism”, “Miserable experience” of Momentum and fighting for a “Socialist” Brexit.

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Taaffe’s Socialist Party draws lessons from Momentum’s ‘miserable experience.”

There has been discussion of sectarian bearpits.

Leave it to the experts to show what real sectarians are.

The ‘Socialist Party’, currently attempting to be admitted to the Labour Party, publishes a lengthy theoretical article on the Labour Party.

Corbynism and the rise of left populismPeter Taaffe. (Socialism Today November).

Taaffe begins with this observation,

…how did Jeremy Corbyn use his colossal victory at the Labour Party conference in September? He and his main ally, shadow chancellor John McDonnell – along with their supporters in the Momentum group – attempted to offer the right a way back. This has been the pattern throughout Labour history. On those rare occasions when the reformist left have won, they invariably failed to capitalise on their victory. When the right are in the ascendancy, they go all out to isolate and crush the left, as happened in the purges and expulsions of the 1980s, first against Militant and then the rest of the left, including the supporters of the late Tony Benn.

Now this unqualified identification of the left as a bloc, putting the Militant, a would-be Leninist combat party (albeit a very bureaucratic sclerotic one) in with democratic socialists, is pretty unremarkable.

What is clear is that Taaffe is arguing that the ‘right’ should simply not be “in” the Labour Party. As if all the MPs who are not on the ‘left’ should…well, disappear…

Taaffe, after a lot of glowing phrases about the SP’s activities over the years attempts to render his own organisation’s ‘theory’ of the Labour Party intelligible.

From its outset the Labour Party was, in Lenin’s phrase, a bourgeois workers’ party. Its mass base was composed of workers, particularly from the trade unions, while its leadership always had one foot in the camp of capitalism. Blair changed all that and created a ‘capitalist party’.

The Corbyn insurgency represents an attempt to turn back the wheel of history, to re-establish a new workers’ party.

How the laws of changing quantity into quality work are remarkable.

Bourgeois workers party – bourgeois party- new workers’ party.

This veritable triad of thesis and anti-thesis needs a lever to perform the process of Aufhebung to result in the synthesis.

One might have  guessed what – or rather who –  the SP.

But I anticipate…..

Taaffe wanders into an analysis of the forces at present trying implicated in the ‘Corbyn insurgency’.

It is the effects of this crisis, taken together with the worldwide anti-capitalist movements preceding it, as well as the political rottenness of the leadership of the ‘traditional’ social democratic workers’ parties and organisations, which have led to the emergence of left-wing populism. This is a loose term employed to describe nebulous phenomena, not clearly left but appealing to ‘the folks on the bottom of the ladder’.

Comment: the key feature of populism is not the vague notion of appealing to just plain folks. It is the opposition between the ‘people’ and the ‘elite’, la Casta (as Podemos calls the political and business elite). The problem is that the ‘people’ is a category which is also against a much wider group of the ‘anti-people’. Populism is also for the people (by definition), their rule, and their sovereignty. In the EU Referendum the Socialist Party stood for the same Leave – Brexit – vote as ‘populists’ (UKIP, Brexit Tories) against the EU ‘elite’,  for the Sovereignty of Parliament and the British ‘People’. (1)

 It is hardly surprising that a carnival of reaction accompanied this result as the British ‘people’ turned against the ‘non-people’, foreigners. 

Taaffe attempts to wish this all away with rhetoric:

The leave vote in the EU referendum represented at bottom an uprising against the elite by the working class alongside sections of the middle class.

They perceived the imperialist EU as an author of their misfortunes and took the opportunity to strike back against it and the British ruling class. Incredibly, sections of the left – including some alleged Marxists – opted for remain.

When did the concept of an ‘elite’ become a Marxist marker? If the SP leader  means “A group or class of people seen as having the most power and influence in a society, especially on account of their wealth or privilege” why doesn’t he use the language of class. Or is the Socialist Party advocating the progressive nature of  a populist movement mobilised for the power of ‘regular people,’ and in their right to have control over their government rather than a small group of political insiders or a wealthy elite. Even without the difficulties flagged above – we see here the drift to an endorsement of ‘uprisings’ against “political insiders” without examining the politics of the movement. That somehow the ‘class’ nature of that ‘revolt’ (a very very contestable claim that ignores the position of the labour movement and very large numbers of workers) is somehow more ‘authentic’ ‘regular’ than the Remain left camp. Who are, one assumes, part of that “elite” – and, hey why not, the cosmopolitans – another word associated with ‘elites’….

Relishing the prospect of Brexit the Socialist Party leader fails to mention any benefit to the left or the labour movement other than a potential split in the Tories,

The negotiations over Brexit could result in Britain leaving the EU, which will have colossal repercussions in the Tory party, and probably split it from top to bottom. This could result in a schism similar to that of the early 19th century over the Corn Laws which kept the Tories out of power for decades.

Taaffe’s views on on the ‘two parties‘ in  Labour, with a hefty dose of patronising lesson-giving, is the following,  “These transitional parties and organisations, inherently unstable, can give way through splits to a more defined form of left reformism. They contain elements of the past, alongside the undeveloped ideas and forces of the future. This is why we have described the present Labour Party as no longer a completely right-wing social democratic party but one which contains these features as well as the outline of a new radical socialist mass party. There are two parties fighting for domination within Labour.”

Transitional forms…one wishes for the old Trotskyist clarity: he means ‘centrists’ who waver between ‘reformism’ and ‘revolution’. Apart from this, these ‘features’ and the “outline” – clunky expressions if ever there were any – of a new radical socialist mass party are left undefined. The struggle between these “two parties” (barely defined beyond the most general level), given the criticisms of Corbyn and his allies, is all very well, but who defines what is on one side and what is on the other?

The impression – the correct impression – is that there is a ghostly ‘Socialist Party’ side (everything they agree with from Brexit onwards) called the left,  left populists in the middle, and the Right. Too terrible to be even in the same party.

At this point we would ask what of winding up the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)  which campaigned for a mass working-class party and was the “side” in which the Socialist Party openly set out its stall?

Taaffe modestly describes TUSC’s present suspension of activity as  the means, “to consolidate the victory of the left.”

But for the real strategy inside the ‘war of two parties’ after TUSC’s – present- truce,  we have to turn to the Socialist’s Editorial today.

It’s theme is “Imagine if Jeremy Corbyn was currently campaigning for a socialist Brexit.”

But the article soon gets down to the issue of Momentum – dispelling the illusion that this it is part of the forces working for a ‘new workers’ party.

Few, however, will be inspired to get active by the Momentum leadership’s current strategy of endless conciliation with the right. This road, if continued down, will ultimately lead to widespread demoralisation and therefore defeat.

We warned of this when, soon after the foundation of Momentum, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, and Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary, met with Jon Lansman. Even then Lansman argued against fighting for mandatory reselection, believing that many of the MPs could be won over to Corbyn, enabling him to ‘cling on’ until 2020. Our warnings that the right was irreconcilably opposed to Corbyn and an attempted coup was inevitable were dismissed.

They warned, but were their counsels heeded?

The consequences of Momentum’s continued strategy of ‘clinging on’ are currently being demonstrated in the attempts of its unelected leadership to prevent any kind of democratic Momentum conference taking place. They are terrified that a conference might embarrass them by voting to combat the Blairites.

Because no doubt Momentum shovers at the very thought of a “combat” with the (unnamed) “Blairites”.

That is why they are proposing the conference be organised on an online voting basis. While online voting can play a useful supplementary role in some circumstances, if it is used to replace meetings and conferences it is always a means to consign the majority to the status of passive observers, whose participation is limited to the occasional click, while central decisions are taken by an unaccountable leadership.

Those who became active in Momentum in order to fight to transform the Labour Party need to draw the necessary conclusions from this miserable experience.

Which they can only counter by offering this sound advice: we were right. 

As the Socialist Party has argued from the beginning, what is needed is an open, democratic, fighting organisation that brings together all who want to fight to transform Labour into an anti-austerity party; whether or not they are currently allowed into the Labour Party by the right-wing machine. Such a force should fight clearly for the transformation of the Labour Party; including the democratisation of its structures – mandatory reselection, restoring trade union rights, readmitting expelled and excluded socialists – see our petition – and allowing socialist organisations to affiliate.”

The Socialist Party’s opposition to Momentum leadership is indeed a “warning” to the left, though perhaps not in the way the Editorial intends.

It would be interesting to know, from a party that has the loudest yelps for ‘democracy’, how its own party debates take place, their pre-conference discussions, their internal discipline, rules, and their rules on dissent inside their organisation. Oh, and their membership, figures and all. 

******

(1) See Ernesto Laclau On Populist Reason (Verso, 2005) and, more immediately relevant:  Podemos: In the Name of the People Chantal MouffeInigo Errejon , Owen Jones (Introduction). 2016. 

Update: the latest contribution to the Momentum issue:  The row in Momentum: a Q&A. Sacha Ismail.

More: How Momentum entered the crisis zone. Stephen Bush. New Statesman.

Warring Momentum members reach truce over ‘virtual reality’ talks.   Guardian. 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 2, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Momentum in Crisis?

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We publish this without detailed comment.

We welcomed – in broad terms – the creation of Momentum and note that it played a very positive role in trying to win support for a left-wing campaign to vote Remain in the European Referendum.

This dispute has all the air of a typical fight between left political tendencies that ends in a great deal of bitterness and unpleasantness.

It is, naturally, as nothing if people heed this self-serving appeal and admit the Socialist Party (Labour), the actively pro-Brexit Socialist Party –  back in Labour: Readmit expelled socialists,

More than 60 socialists, with over 800 years of Labour Party membership between them, have signed the letter below calling for their re-admittance to the Labour Party. Many of them were expelled in the past for supporting the Militant Tendency. Others have been excluded or expelled in recent months as part of the right-wing Labour Party machine’s attempts to defeat Jeremy Corbyn.

Yes they were expelled, for forming a disciplined ‘leninist’ combat party inside Labour.

And since then they have stood candidates against Labour, up till the very very recent past, pouring scorn on Labour and……

A short statement for the press Jill Mountford. 

I’ve had a couple of requests for comment from journalists. Here is a statement people are welcome to quote (obviously I would urge anyone who does so to not edit it so as to misrepresent what I’m saying!) You can also contact me at jillmountford@rocketmail.com or on 07904 944 771.

“I take no pleasure in sharply and publicly criticising comrades in Momentum. But for the organisation’s National Committee to be cancelled yet again, so that at best it will not have met for seven months – and what months! – smacks at the very least of an inadequate appreciation of the importance of democracy.

“At a time when there is an urgent need for Momentum to take the lead in working for a democratic, campaigning Labour Party and labour movement, a shocking amount of energy is being wasted on these kind of totally unnecessary, bureaucratically-generated internal rows. Normal democratic functioning would allow us to redirect that energy to taking the fight to the Tories.”

Report of controversial 28 October “emergency” Momentum Steering Committee. 

Jill Mountford’s Momentum blog.

Dear comrades – apologies if anything in this report is unclear or confusing. In addition to the events themselves being quite confused, this was written late at night after a very long day at work and then a long meeting. Please feel free to email questions and comments tojillmountford@rocketmail.com. See also my initial brief report here, which includes basic decisions about the NC and who voted how, and Michael Chessum’s comments here.

This evening’s Steering Committee (28 October), called at 21 hours notice on a Friday evening, and against the wishes of several SC members, pushed through most of Jon Lansman and Sam Wheeler’s agenda. Ironically arguing that local groups, regional committees and the National Committee are dubious in their legitimacy. If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.

The meeting was supposedly called to decide how the liberation groups inside Momentum elect their reps and on whether or not to cancel the long awaited November 5 National Committee. Michael Chessum, Jackie Walker, Matt Wrack and myself had all opposed an emergency SC for tonight arguing as Matt Wrack put it, it is “an outrageous way to do business”.

It soon became clear that Lansman and Wheeler were confident they had a strong majority to push through more than a cancellation of the NC.

Regardless of what you think about OMOV* of some sort vs a national conference based on elected delegates, how the majority on the Steering Committee behaved tonight is nothing short of total disregard for any democratic structures we have, however imperfect they may be, inside Momentum – again.

There was a reasonably quick resolution to the call for delegates from the liberation groups to be done by OMOV in time for the November 5 NC.

Next came the call to cancel the NC on November 5, Sam Wheeler, from the North West, argued we had to cancel the NC because it clashed with the NW Regional Labour Party Conference. Now bear in mind a) the date of the NC has been out for more than five weeks and b) the North West region of Momentum has more members than Scotland and the North East put together, and they only have three delegates. Yet Sam Wheeler said he feared the clash would be of detriment to both events. The arguments went back and forth with Sam refusing to a) to explain why we had to cancel as the NW regional committee given it would only take out three people from the NW and b) tell the meeting how many people from North West Momentum groups were due to go to NW Regional Labour Party Conference.

Sam Wheeler and Jon Lansman spent far too much time arguing that local groups and the regional committees were undemocratic and unrepresentative. Lansman illustrated his point by telling us he’d attended one meeting recently where the Chair hastily proposed himself and another incumbent to continue to be the delegates to the regional committee from that group. He said someone from the floor of the meeting asked if there was to be a vote and the Chair swiftly went to the vote without asking for other nominations. When I asked him which group this is and who is the Chair, he said “Southwark and Nick Wrack”. Lansman has it in for local groups, always has had because he knows local groups often represent serious activists who both campaign in their localities, want to transform the Labour party and understand the need for an actively participatory membership to do this.

Throughout the debate arguments for a form of OMOV were frequently put by Lansman, Sam Wheeler and Sam Tarry. Lansman then moved a procedural motion that the meeting goes to a vote on conducting the National Conference by OMOV. Michael and myself argued that this was not the business of the meeting, that it had not been put on the agenda, either as a discussion item or a motion to be voted on and that it was therefore not legitimate business. Regardless of what you think of OMOV, this committee did not have the legitimate power to make this decision.

Lansman pushed his procedural motion to go to the vote, confidently knowing he had a majority; and he won his procedural motion by 7 votes for, 2 against and 1 abstention (Martyn Cook – Abstained, Darren Williams, Cecile Wright, Sam Tarry, Marsha Jane Thompson, Christine Shawcross, and Jon Lansman in favour and Michael and myself against). Then we went to the vote on an OMOV conference with the same votes cast. This should have been the legitimate business of the National Committee.

Sam Tarry ended this part of meeting by asking: “Why bother with a national committee, let’s go straight to an OMOV conference!” And who sorts out the OMOV conference? Not a National committee made up of 50 or so recently elected delegates, but a steering Committee made up of a dozen people who were elected in February supposedly until August when a new Steering Committee was due to be elected and, of course, it never was because we haven’t had a national committee for six months.

Next Sam Wheeler moved his motion to cancel November 5 National Committee and the votes were same with the exception of Cecile Wright who voted with Michael and myself against the cancellation of the NC.

The only thing left at this point was for me to propose a date for another an NC on Saturday 3 December. This was carried by 6 votes in favour and 4 abstentions. The votes were cast as follows: In favour – Darren Williams, Martyn Cook, Cecile Wright, Michael Chessum, Christine Shawcross, and myself, while no one voted against, Sam Tarry, Sam Wheeler, Jon Lansman and Marsha Jane Thompson all abstained on a new NC date set for December 3.

This date has since been changed – by text! – to December 10.

A fine example of how to bureaucratically carve up an organisation of 20,000 members while arguing what they were doing was all about democracy and everyone having their say. What it will mean in reality is that a small clique will seek to run Momentum, calling the odd electronic plebiscite and or survey of the membership, in between members being called upon to defend the leadership at the next challenge. Such manoeuvres cannot build an open democratic organisation that is active on the ground, organising in the Labour Party to transform its structures, and building community and labour movement wide campaigns.

Time for the membership, activists, groups and regions of Momentum to fight back for democracy.

* To clarify what I mean by OMOV (One Member One Vote). Jon Lansman and co are not always clear, but it seems what they mean is that delegates to Momentum conference will not take any decisions but votes will instead be taken by an online ballot of all members afterwards. This is bizarrely reminiscent of Blairism, bureaucratic manipulation veiled in plebiscitary pseudo-democracy.

We are aware that support (including from forces wider than the above, that is, people I know) is gathering for a campaign to support a motion based on this:  Emergency motion for London region Momentum network (29 October) and this, “condemns the decision of yesterday’s Momentum SC to cancel the scheduled NC for 5th November and its decision to abandon a delegate conference in February.”

I would like to hear the reasons for these decisions from those who made them, but in principle I personally would be wary of going to, or delegating people to,  a conference that was a rally pure and simple or, as seems possible, could easily be a sectarian bear-pit.

It is unlikely that this view is not shared by others.

Update:  Jon Lansman branded “autocratic” as Momentum splits turn acrimonious. Steven Bush New Statesman.

Lansman, the founder of Momentum, was tonight accused of behaving in an “autocratic” manner after the organisation voted to delay a meeting of its national committee to December and that the vote on its founding principles in February 2017 would be using a one member, one vote system rather than a delegate system.

The move will make it harder for the Alliance of Workers Liberty, Lansman’s major internal opponents, to win key votes, as they are well-organised but have limited numbers.

Michael Chessum, a member of Momentum’s steering committee and a regular contributor to the New Statesman, accused elements of Momentum of having “absorbed the modus operandi of Blairism” in a post on Facebook.

The meeting was held with less than 21 hours notice, which led to Matt Wrack, the head of the Fire Brigades Union, and Jackie Walker, who has been stripped of the role of vice-chair but remains a member of Momentum’s steering committee, being unable to attend.

Jill Mountford, of the Alliance of Workers Liberty, said the decision to delay the national committee meeting again  “smacks at the very least of an inadequate appreciation of the importance of democracy”, and that a “shocking amount of energy” is being wasted on “totally unnecessary, bureaucratically-generated internal rows”.

Separately, Cecile Wright, who sits on Momentum’s steering committee as a representative of the organisation’s ethnic minority wing, has come under fire after replacing Walker as a vice-chair. One figure accused her of being “desperate for a seat”. However, Wright voted against cancelling November’s national committee meeting.

The divides within Momentum have spilt out into the open, with the removal of Jackie Walker as vice-chair the catalyst. Although the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty did not support Walker, they have cited the row as an example of their wider criticisms of the organisation’s democratic direction.

On a lighter note people may be amused by this weighty correspondence, from the august pages of the Weekly Worker, (Correspondence)

October 13

Hi Norrette

Please renew the affiliation of Labour Party Marxists to the LRC. I paid £50 affiliation fee online today (October 13), using the ‘donations’ button on the LRC website. Our contact details are unchanged.

Stan Keable

October 13

Dear Stan

You might recall that at the SGM earlier in the year the rules for national affiliates changed – as a result organisations are required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NC that there is evidence of a membership base proper to a national organisation. When the current list of affiliates were reviewed, several were not deemed to have met this test, including Labour Party Marxists.

Whilst individual members of those organisations are welcome to renew their membership and attend the AGM, they will as a result not be able to attend as delegates from those groups.

If any payment has already been processed I’m sure we can arrange for a refund.

Michael for the EC

October 13

Dear Michael

No, I was unaware of such a rule change. This is the first time I have heard that Labour Party Marxists has been excluded from affiliation to the Labour Representation Committee. Surely I should have been informed, as LPM secretary?

May I ask which are the “several” other affiliates which were disaffiliated in this way?

Stan Keable

October 23

To: Michael Calderbank, secretary, Labour Representation Committee

APPEAL TO LRC NC

Dear comrade Michael,

Renewal of Labour Party Marxists affiliation to LRC

I am writing to appeal against the disaffiliation of Labour Party Marxists from the LRC.

Labour Party Marxists has been an affiliate of the LRC for several years now – at least since 2011, when we submitted our contribution to Peter Hain’s ‘Refounding Labour’ consultation – ‘Refound Labour as a real party of Labour’ – published in the first issue of the LPM broadsheet, and distributed at the November 2011 LRC annual conference.

Our members and supporters have participated in every LRC conference since then, including the special general meeting in February 2016, and have routinely paid our annual £50 affiliation fee in the period before each annual conference.

It therefore came as a surprise, when I paid the £50 affiliation fee on October 13 2016 to renew our affiliation for the coming year, to be told that LPM’s affiliation was rejected.

You wrote: “You might recall that at the SGM earlier in the year the rules for national affiliates changed – as a result organisations are required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NC that there is evidence of a membership base proper to a national organisation. When the current list of affiliates were [sic] reviewed several were not deemed to have met this test, including Labour Party Marxists.”

Of course, we accept that the LRC national committee has the right, within the LRC constitution and in line with its aims and objectives, to accept or reject applications to affiliate. But I confess that, although I personally attended the February 2016 SGM along with other LPMers, we were unaware of the rule change, and unaware that LPM had been disaffiliated, or that our affiliation had been “reviewed” by the NC.

We were not informed of this decision, whenever it was taken. Indeed, we were not asked to provide “evidence of a membership base proper to a national organisation” – whatever that means. In these circumstances, perhaps you can understand my suspicion that this might be simply a bureaucratic method of excluding unwanted political views, instead of sorting out differences through open debate. The immediate effect of our disaffiliation is that we are unable to submit amendment(s) or nominations to the forthcoming October 29 annual conference.

May I ask some relevant questions:

l Which are the “several” affiliates which were disaffiliated, being “not deemed to have met the test”?

l Have they been informed?

l When was that decision taken – at which NC meeting?

l Why was LPM not informed that it had been disaffiliated?

In a subsequent email message, on October 16, you explained: “if you are able to provide the NC with supporting evidence that you meet the criteria (eg, evidence of your national membership, minutes of national meetings, etc), they would be able to reconsider on appeal.”

In fact the LPM steering committee (presently five comrades) meets regularly, usually weekly, on Skype. Please see below, as a sample, the agenda and notes/minutes of our October 3 meeting, and agenda for October 10. Some comrades use cadre names. As you can see, we have members and cells in different locations around the country, not just in London.

We produce a widely circulated, irregular LPM broadsheet with increasing frequency, and produce frequent articles on our website and Facebook page, and in the Weekly Worker.

LPM national membership aggregates are held, jointly with the CPGB, roughly every two months (eg, January 24, March 6, May 8, June 26, September 4, October 16) and reports of these meetings can be read online in the Weekly Worker. Likewise, LPM organises, jointly with CPGB, the annual Communist University in August, which attracts a wide range of supporters from around Britain and beyond.

Membership is open to those who accept the LPM ‘Aims and principles’ (available on our website and in every issue of the LPM broadsheet), who contribute financially, and who actively participate in the work of the organisation through one of its cells. Isolated members meet regularly on Skype.

I trust this information satisfies the NC that LPM is a small, but effective, national organisation, with a positive contribution to make to the work of the LRC. If the NC requires further information, please ask.

Stan Keable

LPM secretary

October 23

Dear Stan

Thanks – I acknowledge receipt. It will be forwarded to the incoming national executive committee, once they are elected from the AGM.

Michael

Corrected: had problems with the Library’s computers yesterday: the main ones were out of of order and I was using ones limited to 30 minutes.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Dispatches and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: Once Again on Trotskyism.

with 17 comments

Responses to: The Battle for The Labour Party: Channel 4 Dispatches

CorporatePortal

The Mirror.

The programme said it had uncovered fresh evidence that Corbyn-backing grassroots group Momentum is being influenced by “hard left revolutionaries”.

It said one has advocated a “flood” of leftists into Labour while others back mandatory reselection of anti-Corbyn MPs.

Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum’s Steering Committee but has recently been expelled by Labour for links to hard-left group the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), was filmed at a Party meeting holding a copy of an AWL newspaper bearing the headline: “Flood the Labour Party .”

Footage shows her saying: “In 30 odd years of being politically active, I don’t think I can remember a time, apart from the miner’s strike, a time as exciting as this.

“If you haven’t already joined the Labour party, then you should join. If you haven’t already joined Momentum then you must join. We have to fight to shape the way the Momentum develops and the way the Labour party develops”

A Momentum spokesperson said: “Momentum membership is open to members, affiliates and supporters of the Labour Party and not open to members of other parties, those hostile to Labour or those that do not share Momentum’s objectives. All members must declare that they “support the aims and values of the Labour Party and (are) not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.”

In a statement to Dispatches, Jill Mountford said: “We are open, honest socialists looking to discuss big ideas on how to create a better, fairer world for everyone.”

Momentum founder Jon Lansman said Ms Mountford was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Momentum.

Dispatches Momentum Documentary Prompts Torrent Of Criticism Led By Owen Jones

Zac Goldsmith says Dispatches’ ‘weak’ investigation of Momentum will only help Jeremy Corbyn.

Conservative MP calls media impartiality into question. Independent.

Apart from Momentum’s official statements we are confident that there are many others who will stand their corner. Already: Dispatches won’t stop Momentum inspiring young people – we’re here to stay.  Phil’s post which makes very accurate points, Momentum is Nothing Like Militant “an organisation that is totally transparent, easy to get involved with, and mirrors the properties of the network would do. There’s a reason why dull, plodding authoritarian outfits like the Socialist Party (despite its mini-Militant rebrand) and the SWP rape cult have been left out in the cold. As it stands, Momentum is a good way of consolidating these new members and turning them to campaigning activity, both with the party and in other labour movement campaigns.”

But what of the issue of Trotskyism and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty?

Much indeed has been made of ‘Trotskyism’ in recent weeks.

The AWL is, it says,  a Trotskyist group.

What does this mean?

To begin from their practice: the AWL has played a positive role, for some years now, in defending the cause of human rights: from its backing for the ‘two states’ position on Palestine and Israel, its refusal to follow the implicitly pro-Assad stand of some in the anti-war’ movement in Syria, its opposition to those who stand with Vladimir Putin on a range of issues, including Ukraine.

In short, in the tradition of ‘Third Camp‘ Trotskyism (neither imperialism nor Stalinism but socialism) the group has stood against the  ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ of those who automatically side with the opponents of the ‘West’, nationalist dictators, Islamists and  authoritarian of all stripes. Their stand indicates that the debate about theory indicated in more detail above can have relevance to the world today.

This has not won them universal admiration, particularly from those determined to blame everything on ‘imperialism’ in general and the USA in particular.

The AWL has also campaigned, over a long period (going back to the 1975 Referendum), for a Workers’ Europe.

This was their call in 2015:

We advocate the left forms a united campaign with the following aims:

• To defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism

• To vote against British withdrawal from the EU

• To fight for a workers’ Europe, based on working class solidarity.

Many people, trade union, political and campaign group activists, far beyond the AWL itself, supported this call.

Just before the Referendum in June they stated,

Vote remain! Workers’ unity can change Europe

Theory: for anybody genuinely interested in what the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty means by Trotskyism the place to start is there: The two Trotskyisms. Sean Matgamna followed by  Reviews and comments on The Two Trotskyisms. These debated a range of points about ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ Trotskyism, and whether these had any meaning and relevance in left politics today.

The AWL published many of these contributions in its paper, Solidarity.

They included a long article (carried over 2 issues) critical of Trotskyism from a democratic Marxist stand, by somebody that modesty forbids us to name ( Raising Atlantis?)

It is clear that comrade Sacha is right to say, “We always argue for our ideas through open discussion and debate. People either reject what we say or are convinced by it, and that’s fine. Our members and supporters make no apologies for trying to influence policy. That is what democratic politics is about. On that last point, we are no different from members of Progress, the Fabian Society, Compass and other Labour Party groupings”.

Solidarity, is known in the movement for its serious articles on trade union issues, reliable reports on subjects such as Welfare and Women’s rights, and an approach to anti-racism that does not dismiss the problem of reactionary Islamism and the persistence of anti-Semitism.

To continue on Europe to illustrate the group’s activity: during the EU Referendum,  the AWL, like Momentum, (EU referendum: Momentum movement campaigners drafted in to rally support for Remain vote) actively backed the themes of Another Europe is Possible, the left ‘Remain’ campaign.

On this key issue, which defines present British politics, the group showed its commitment to backing Labour Party policy, campaigning not in order to ‘recruit’ for its group but to further the interests of the movement as a whole.

After the vote to Leave comrade Martin Thomas wrote,

What is to be done now is to conserve and extend workers’ unity, between workers in Britain of all origins and between British and European workers; to defend migrant rights and the worker rights which have entered British law under pressure from the EU; to fight to redirect the social anger expressed in Brexit votes towards social solidarity, taxing the rich, and social ownership of the banks and industry; and to stand up for socialism. None of that can be done if the left falls for the fantasy that the Brexit vote already took things our way.

A broad swathe of democratic socialists would agree with this.

This Blog, a left European democratic socialist site, has no hesitation in defending the AWL against the accusations of undemocratic practice made by Dispatches and others.

Full text of Sacha’s video talk here: Dispatches attacks Workers’ Liberty.