Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Don't Celebrate Organise

It didn't look good. The decision to hold the NEC vote, on whether Corbyn should be automatically on the ballot, in secret, suggested a majority would vote to keep him off. In the end, the vote 18-14 that he should be on the ballot was reasonably decisive, and has also meant that his opponents are not going to challenge it. That is all very good, but that is just a minor skirmish won, the major battle is ahead, and that is not just about winning sufficient votes for Jeremy in the leadership election. The Blair-rights, and their supporters will do all in their power, to prevent members and supporters from voting, and will use their links to the Tory media to carry out a campaign of dirty tricks over the period ahead.

The outline of their strategy in that regard is now fairly well established. The decision of the NEC on who can vote is an obvious indication. There seems no rational basis upon which people who have become full members of the party, can be denied a vote in the leadership election, unless they joined before the end of January, whereas people who have not become members of the party, can have a vote provided they pay £25 to register as a supporter on the 18th and 19th July. That is clearly against all concepts of natural justice, because it discriminates against actual party members in favour of non-party members!

But, given that the Blair-rights understand that around 80% of the 150,000 members who have joined since the coup attempt are Corbyn supporters, and given that the rich supporters of the Blair-rights, like Robert Harris, are trying to get other rich people to sign up as registered supporters, for no other reason than to vote against Corbyn, and for whom a £25 registration fee will be nothing, it makes perfect sense.

In my opinion, the idea that registered supporters should be able to vote in internal Labour elections, was always wrong. In fact, it always used to be the case that in order to vote in selection meetings, party members had to have had at least six months membership prior to the selection meeting, so as to prevent selection meetings being artificially packed. However, on the basis that the rules currently allow registered supporters to vote, a move that was introduced at the instigation of the right, because they originally thought it would benefit them, then those rules should at least be rational and fair.
Full members will have paid £48 to join, but its not even clear whether those that have joined after the end of January, could also be able to vote, if they also paid a further £25 to register as a supporter! By setting the date for people to register as supporters, to be able to vote, for just next week, it means that there is no time even for that decision to be changed by the next NEC. Its notable that the decision on this was made when Corbyn was out of the room. Had he been there to vote, it would not have been carried.

In last year's election, a whole series of bureaucratic means were used to prevent or delay people from joining. One of my son's friends, who has had no previous political involvement, at first had his membership request turned down. Around 4,000 people were stopped from joining, many simply because they had previously supported the Greens. Yet, the Blair-rights have had no problem in the past with taking in Tory MP's, and fast-tracking them to being Labour Ministers, as happened with Sean Woodward. Gordon Brown, took in the right-wing Digby Jones as Industry Minister, although Jones himself boasts that he never actually joined the Labour Party, in order to take on that role.
So long as the right and soft left have control over the party apparatus they will have no shame in applying rules in such a discriminatory manner. John McDonnell may have been quite right that in terms of the current chicken coup, the Blair-rights showed themselves to be “fucking useless”, but when it comes to ruthlessness, vindictiveness, willingness to destroy the party to maintain their own positions, it would be a very big mistake indeed to underestimate their abilities.

In the 1980's, a common complaint of the right was that of intimidation. Of course, the right consider any challenge to their positions, any requirement for them to be accountable, as intimidation. But, they will use all of their connections to the Tory media to whip up an hysteria about supposed hard left entryists overwhelming the party, and using such bullying and intimidation as a basis for various administrative measures to suspend and expel members, just as ahead of the local elections they whipped up the hysteria over supposed anti-Semitism. They whipped that up again more recently, even ridiculously charging Corbyn with equating Israel to ISIS, a charge that Shami Chakrabarti herself had to slap down.

After weeks in which the plotters have been going into the Tory media to denounce Corbyn as a useless leader, we then have their fake outrage over John McDonnell, pointing out that they are “fucking useless” as plotters. In Left Foot Forward, Ed Jacobs writes,

“That means also now considering the position of Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. From the person who has been calling for a new, kinder, gentler politics that brings the party back together, his comments last night at a pro-Corbyn rally that those wanting to unseat Mr Corbyn are “f*****g useless” was juvenile and pathetic from someone who, I assume, would like to be Chancellor one day.” 

The Blair-rights, and their supporters, were, of course quick to seize on the brick being thrown through the window at Angela Eagle's office. But, the fact that they automatically assigned blame for this to Corbyn supporters shows how shameless they are. The brick could have been thrown by a disgruntled constituent, who was unhappy about Eagle spending time organising coups and plots rather than dealing with their problems, it could have been done by kids, it could have been done by fascists, it could have been the work of an agent provocateur. But, without any evidence whatsoever, Eagle and the Blair-rights immediately accuse Corbyn supporters, and then accuse Corbyn for not preventing such action.

The death of Jo Cox was tragic, but had she been killed now, we would no doubt see Corbyn supporters being blamed for that too, on the same basis! Its as though the Blair-rights have never heard of things like Internet Trolling, so every unkind remark, every ridiculous threat by some sad individual sitting at a computer, who gets their kicks out of starting flame wars, provoking interminable nonsensical arguments, becomes in the hands of the Blair-rights a piece of genuine, serious social commentary. We have all come across the Internet trolls who one minute will assume the persona of a supporter of the BNP, only the next minute to adopt the persona of an SWP supporter, one minute a public sector accountant, the next a former soldier, or a US socialist.

No one with any sense pays any attention to them, whoever they claim to be, and whatever ideas they claim to be promoting at any one time, or in whose name they claim to be acting. Yet, the Blair-rights take every Twitter comment by such people to be deadly serious. We have all had such trolls issue threats of violence against us, and of course, there is always the possibility that one such threat may be serious, but usually people meaning you actual harm don't warn you first. Nearly all those that have been caught engaged in such trolling, have turned out to be the last people in the world who would be capable of hurting people, they are usually just sad, unfortunate people who need to get a life.

The vast majority of people in Momentum, or more generally supporting Corbyn, do not have any truck with such trolling activities, and unless they are even more remote from reality than they appear, the Blair-rights must know that. But, whipping up various moral panics whether it be about anti-Semitism, or internet bullying and so on enables the Blair-rights to create conditions for silencing their opponents, and organising a witch-hunt against them.

Those of us who have been around since the 1970's, have seen all that before. It was the standard operating procedure of the right in the late 1970's, and 1980's. The fact that branches and CLP's have also been told not to meet until after the leadership election is also, therefore, disturbing. Already around 100 CLP's have passed resolutions backing Corbyn, and others have passed resolutions attacking the plotters. Even such action is characterised as intimidation, as are the suggestions of potential deselections. Firstly, how are Labour Party members expected to undertake the necessary work of opposing the Tories in our communities, unless we are meeting, and organising to do so? But, also how are we to discuss, in a democratic manner, all of the policy issues and the ideas of the various candidates for Leader, without meeting and holding such discussions? The reason branches and CLP's are being told not to meet is to prevent them providing further support for Corbyn, or holding their MP's and councillors to account.

Those who saw this process in the 1980's can also provide some warnings in this regard. In the early 1980's a wave of change began to sweep the party, and was built on an alliance between different sections of the left against the old right-wing that had led the party into a completely moribund state, near to organisational collapse. Had Tony Benn been in Parliament in 1983, he would almost certainly have become leader, after Michael Foot. But, with Benn having lost his seat, the door was open to the fake-left Kinnock to assume the mantle passed on to him by Foot. The soft left of the party, keen to win council seats, on the way, they hoped, to winning the next general election, were happy to close their eyes to the real nature of Kinnock.

He won easily against the principled challenge of Eric Heffer, as the soft left across the party swung behind Kinnock, deluding themselves that he would, in some way, at least maintain the advances made since the late 70's. It was not that most of the elements that comprised this soft left were “bad people”, or traitors, or any such thing, but that they were quite simply wrong, and deluding themselves. They thought that by keeping their heads down and not rocking the boat, Labour could win back votes. I remember, myself at that time, when the 1984 local elections came along, and the Miners Strike was already underway, being told by people I had worked with in the party for several years that they would not be raising the issue of the strike during the campaign for fear of scaring off miners who were opposed to the strike!

Members of the party today should not underestimate just how powerful the tradition of electoralism is within the Labour party, a tradition that “Lord” Kinnock, and his modern day apostles have already appealed to against Corbyn. The fact is that Labour has always been a party whose base is both inside and outside Parliament. It was after all trades unions that created the Labour Party, and having done so they did not stop being trades unions, did not stop organising workers in the workplace, did not stop undertaking industrial action or collective bargaining with employers. Far from it, without a strong trades union movement working outside Parliament, the conditions could never be created for Labour governments to be elected.

Labour party branches have also always never been just about getting people elected to councils or parliaments. Without Labour Party members going out into their communities week in week out to become involved in community campaigns, to establish and take part in Tenants and Residents Associations and so on, again the conditions would never be created for a Labour government to be elected, because it is that continual work, and shaping of public opinion that creates the ideas in workers heads that makes them amenable to electing the Labour Party.

The Kinnockite/Blair-right elements want to portray Corbyn and his supporters as not being interested in winning elections. That of course is total nonsense. But, what is true is that we are not interested in winning elections at the expense of everything else. We have no interest in winning elections just so that a set of elitist politicians can continue to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle before, like Kinnock they take up unelected positions in the House of Lords, or like a number of previous such Labour politicians as Directors or advisors on assorted company boards. We do not want want a Labour government only in name, that in practice simply implements Tory policies.

Firstly, that idea failed miserably itself for Kinnock in the 1980's and early 1990's. Secondly, if you listen to Labour voters, such as those interviewed in Stoke, on Channel 4 News last night, the reason many voted to Leave the EU, is that they fail that they have been deserted by both Blair and Brown's governments and of the Cameron's governments. Its not Jeremy Corbyn who lost the EU Referendum, but the 30 years of Blairism in one form or another, that decimated working-class communities, atomising the people who live in them, turning them into an underclass, or precariat that is open to all of the right-wing populist nonsense spouted by UKIP, and the Tory Brexiters, as an easy solution to their problems.

In fact, its a case in point. People like Harman, Jowell, Khan and other Blair-rights totally confused labour voters by standing shoulder to shoulder with Cameron, trying to present a view that a conservative dominated EU was all sweetness and light, as the basis for workers to vote for it. All of those deserted working-class communities in places like Stoke, realised that was a crock of shit. It was Jeremy Corbyn who more closely reflected their interests and idea. Rather than supporting the Tory view of Europe that the Blair-rights were signing up to, he presented an honest view of the EU, and of the reasons for staying in it. Not because it was perfect, but because a capitalist Britain is at least as bad, not because the EU does not need reform, but because it requires reforms of a completely different character to those advocated by the Tories. In other words, we are interested to win the vote, but only on terms that actually mean something positive for workers.

That also is a lesson for now. As the leadership election rolls forward, we should use it as a basis for presenting real alternative, working-class solutions that workers can see as completely new and distinguished from the old conservative policies pursued by Cameron and by the Blair-rights. We should begin by undercutting one plank of their argument. We should step forward with a bold internationalist perspective based around the renovation of the Second International; for the bringing together of all the European workers parties like Syriza, Podemos etc. and as part of a revitalisation and radicalisation of the existing social-democratic parties. A focal point should be for the creation of a United States of Europe, and a struggle within it for a Workers Europe.

But, we should also be bold in demanding a large programme of fiscal expansion and of infrastructure investment, particularly in telecommunications. Even the Tories are now talking about an extension of social democracy, by putting workers on to company boards. We should demand that any such process at least meets the standards proposed by the Bullock Report of 1975. But, there is no reason why shareholders should have any rights to positions on Boards. Workers should have democratic control over the billions of pounds in their pension funds, and they should be able to use that control to lever total control over the largest companies in the country, turning them into worker owned co-operatives, which is the only means by which workers can sustainably exert any meaningful control over the means of production.

Some of those largest companies include the construction companies, which workers need to control so as to be able to engage in a large scale programme of social housing construction, to be commissioned and managed by housing co-operatives, which will give control of communities back to the workers who live in them. The Blair-rights talked about aspiration, but it was always only kitsch aspiration, a dream for sections of the middle class, and wannabe middle class, on an individualistic basis. We should provide hope and aspiration for the millions who have been sidelined by Blairism over the last thirty years, a hope and aspiration that is tangible and meaningful, and one that places control collectively into their hands, to control all aspects of their lives. The Brexiters used a fake slogan of “Take Back Control”, knowing that the control they meant was control only for the rich and powerful elites in Britain. We should offer the prospect of taking back real control for the majority, for workers in their communities and in their workplaces, similar to the control they have experienced in the Labour Party itself over the last year.

We should exercise that control in our interests, sound in the knowledge as Shelley expressed it.

“Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you: 
Ye are many—they are few!"

It is a message that should also gird our loins as we prepare to defeat the Blair-rights, and their supporters in our midst.


levi9909 said...

I just tweeted this

It got 2 retweets almost immediately.

Boffy said...


Thanks. I have taken on board your previous suggestion, but I have just been too busy just lately. Besides all of the work trying to respond to current events in the LP, I am also engaged in a series of other economic studies, I'm also in the process of getting my modern translation of Marx's Capital Volume II, ready for publication, and working on Theories of Surplus Value for future publication. In addition, my son who understands all these social media things, is working 24/7 too at the moment.

I will do it some time. In the meantime, my stats have risen sharply. I had a spike one day of over 10,000 page views, and another of over 5,000. A lot seems to be getting spread through Facebook too.

davidjc said...

About time! Should say it more often, but thanks for all the writing so far.