Sunday, 3 July 2016

The 300 and The 172

In the Battle of Thermopylae, in 480 B.C., 300 Spartans, plus 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans held off a Persian army of around 100,000, as one of the most famous rearguard actions in history, along with the Alamo. In both cases, nearly all of the defenders were ultimately killed. The 172 Labour MP's, isolated in Parliament, against half a million party members, standing against them, must feel that they are in a similarly desperate position, supported only by a handful of MEP's, MSP's, and Council Leaders. But, the 172 are no 300.

Sparta was renowned as a militaristic state whose citizens were dedicated to its collective defence and promotion. We get the phrase about a Spartan existence, meaning a hard life from its culture, which saw toughness as stemming from a rejection of a life based upon the enjoyment of comforts. That is a complete opposite to the position of the 172. They are a rabble mostly of self-serving individuals whose main reason for staging their resistance to the half million party members ranged against them, is the fact that they have grown used to their comfortable and cosseted lives, as part of the establishment elite, and which they see coming to an end.

Where the 300 were self-sacrificing, the 172 are so self-centred that they cannot even agree on a single candidate to oppose Corbyn, because each one of them, looking to their own future, is reluctant to stand against him, knowing not only that they will lose, but also that, in such contests, those that wield the knife against the leader, never go on to fill the leader's position. What is more, the only strength that the 172 have, is their collective strength in Parliament, a strength that arises from historical accident in that they owe their positions to the bureaucratic control of the party machinery by Blair and Brown, which enabled them to be imposed on local parties who often would not have selected them otherwise.

Individually, faced by the membership in their own CLP's, they are just one individual against thousands of party members, now empowered by Corbyn's victory. It has been reported by some that one reason that Angela Eagle did not, as expected, announce her candidacy to challenge Corbyn, last week, was that she was seeking advice on the potential of being deselected by the local party if she did. Others amongst that rabble of MP's like John Spellar, have repeatedly expressed their disdain for all of the party members, and are now facing deselection at the hands of those members.

As is reported above at the Canary. Spellar's own ward moved against him.

90% of John Spellar’s Local Labour Party Members Support Jeremy Corbyn.
Following the tabling of a Motion of No Confidence in the Labour Party Leader, officers of Abbey Ward in the Warley constituency launched a poll of its members. Over 90% of the members have called on John Spellar (their Labour MP) not to support the Vote of No Confidence.
The members called on all Labour MPs, especially our own MP John Spellar, to join with the majority of party members and reject this attempt to remove Jeremy Corbyn. It is only by uniting behind the leadership of the party that we will ensure that the Labour Party proves to the electorate that we are capable of governing and providing a real alternative to the austerity measures of this Tory Government at the next general election.
John Kelly
Abbey Ward
(Warley CLP)"

The problem for the 172, resides precisely here too. It is not just that the large majority of the half million party members stand behind Corbyn, and stand against them and their plotting and treacherous actions, it is that all of those individual members stand against them in organised battalions; in the Labour Party branches, the Constituency Labour Parties, and in the Trades Unions and Socialist Societies. The BBC's reporting has been disgracefully, biased, and one factor the 172 have on their side, and it is not inconsiderable, is the power of the Tory media. They have largely failed to cover the tens of thousands who have rallied, across cities, throughout the UK, in the last few days, in support of Corbyn, whilst they have given extended coverage to the plotters and traitors.  Rather than representing the fact that it is the handful of rebel MP's, organised around organisations such as Progress and Labour First, which act as a party within a party, they ridiculously, like Spellar, represent the half million members, as somehow a takeover of the party by the SWP, an organisation of a few hundred members, that itself opposes activity by socialists within the LP!

However, even Newsnight was led to report, in the week, that a poll showed that Corbyn retained the support of around 60% of party members, and around 80% of those that have joined the party more recently, including the 60,000 that joined the party after the referendum, and the coup attempt against him. They also had to admit that, in contacting the selection of CLP's they had contacted before last year's Leadership election, of the 50 CLP's they contacted, 45 said that they would be nominating and supporting Corbyn in any new leadership contest, and the Secretaries of several of those CLP's added comments denouncing the 172 MP's for their actions.

One problem, for the 172, is that, whoever they choose as a stalking horse, against Corbyn, they are all tainted with their own political history. A look at the list of the 172, and the record of those amongst them that abstained from opposing the Tory Welfare Bill, and its £12 billion of cuts to the benefits of the disabled and weakest in society, illustrates it. The 300 were tough, disciplined, self-sacrificing and morally strong. The 172 are the opposite. Prior to the referendum, we had the manufactured outrage over anti-Semitism as a means of trying to undermine Corbyn by the back door. During the referendum campaign all of that magically disappeared. Now when Corbyn has organised the Chakrabarti Inquiry into anti-semitism, we see the charges re-emerge, and ridiculous attempts to claim that Corbyn was being anti-Semitic in his comments in relation to the report, or that any mention of plots can be denounced as anti-Semitic, because they are a reference to a “Jewish Conspiracy”! Chakrabarti herself had to slap down such distortions.

Yet, those hurling this kind of personal abuse at Corbyn and others, are the first to respond with an exaggerated expression of hurt feelings and emotion when their own positions and actions are challenged. This from politicians whose daily plying of trade, in Parliament, involves ad hominem attacks on others, and might, therefore, lead you to believe that they had entered the wrong line of business. It is why they are ill suited to any kind of real political battle, the kind of which they are too young ever to have seen, but which to use an old phrase used with petulant children, is likely to “give them something worth crying for”.

Far closer to the 300, in fact, in that respect were the actions of miners who in 1984-5 stood out almost alone, apart from a number of socialists and other workers, against the full might of Thatcher's government, against the massed ranks of the state, such as at the Battle of Orgreave.  During that rearguard action, it was Jeremy Corbyn, that supported miners, whilst the predecessors of today's 172, the Kinnockites, who undermined that struggle, looking to their own narrow political careers.

It is why today, the miners like the Durham Miners have thrown their weight behind Corbyn, and tell his opponents to stay away.  It is that principle, that moral courage, that sense of unity which makes the half million strong, and the 172 and their hangers on weak.

If they have sense, they will flee the battlefield now. There time has passed.

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