The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is not a sudden declaration of civil war in the Labour Party by the new leadership, it is the resumption of the hostilities that have been raging in the party for the last five years between the reformists and the right of the party. In a distorted form this war has been the playing out of the class conflict between the working class base of the party and its pro capitalist leading layers and party administration. While the right have been carrying on this war to protect the capitalist friendly nature of the party uninterruptedly the reformists, who should have been articulating the socialist aspirations of the workers, have been a study in appeasement, they have not even defended themselves, never mind taken the fight to the right. The responsibility for this current situation lies solely with the leaders of the reformist wing who refused time and again to bring the right under the democratic accountability of the party when the reformists had the clear mandate to do so, such as in the aftermath of the coup of 2016 or after the election of 2017. However instead of doing so the reformists preached forgiveness and unanimity in the face of the ongoing attacks by the entrenched hostile right, backed by the media and capitalist establishment.
The right having contributed mightily to the loss of the 2019 election with their constant public attacks on our party. In the demoralised aftermath of that election defeat the right eagerly seized the opportunity to regain the leadership of the party by appealing to unity, unity though on their terms. Left policies would stay in place as window dressing never to be implemented, although the right never had any intention of implementing those policies in parliament had Corbyn ever actually been elected to power, they would have, in the time honour practice of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) just ignored these conference decisions and instead “realistic” pro capitalist policies would have been followed.
At no time over the past five years have the right ever attempted to answer the reformists political or economic positions, the best they have ever managed is to scoff from the sidelines without ever offering any alternative or even detailed criticism of the reformists policies. . In the past the right answered their critics in the labour movement and proposed their own solutions to the problems faced by the working class and society as a whole. The right had solutions and strategies with which to take the movement forward, often it is true these solutions were only the capitalists own solutions coated in social democrat flavouring to make the bitter pill of further exploitation more palatable to the working class. Statespeople and theorists of the right would devise these solutions and strategies and then prominent rightist leaders would popularise them with the right’s mass following.
However, the current day right has one fundamental problem that, try as they might, they can not overcome. They have no solution to the crisis of capitalism, they only hope like Mr Micawber that “something will turn up.” and the capitalist crisis will just go away on its own but in the meantime they intend to close their eyes and ears to the suffering of the working class. It therefore follows from this fundamental problem that they have no great thinkers or strategists, as they have no idea what to do or how to do it , they have no deep rooted popular following, because in order to be followed you actually have to move and they have no charismatic figures or great speakers; for who of sound mind would listen to someone extolling the virtues of the current status quo. Administrative measures would have been used by the right in the past but only as a last resort after all the attempts to answer the reformists had failed, this current right have been forced, by their own lack of any political or economic answers to the problems of capitalist society, to utilise organisational methods as their first and only response because they are unable to articulate any political alternative to the reformists.
This lack of a solution to the crisis of capitalism on the right’s part and the mass support for the reformists should have seen the reformists comfortable victory with minimal losses or fuss. Instead due to the policy of appeasement followed by the reformist leaders we have seen that, other than the window dressing of policy, every attempt to transform the party and make it more democratic and transparent has been thwarted by the stubborn resistance of the right. The reformists, instead of basing themselves on the energy and enthusiasm of the members who voted Corbyn into office in 2015, defended him from the coup in 2016 and turned out to canvass in the election of 2017 they based themselves on the party administration, as if that was neutral and wasn’t the strongest possible bastion of the right, who used this very same machinery of the party as well as the status of MPs to launch rearguard attacks every chance they got. The reformist’s policy of continued retreat was, we were told, all part of a brilliant strategy of three dimensional chess, if it was it ended in predictable defeat. However we actually know the name of this game, it’s called cat and mouse. And there’s only one way to win, don’t be the mouse.
What should have been done was a campaign to fully democratise the party launched with the full backing of the leadership, to achieve open selection, a transparent National Executive Committee (NEC) and a sovereign conference should have been its first steps, coupled with the removal of the ability of party employees, such as regional directors appointed by the party employee general secretary to interpret rules and regulate the internal life of the party and proactively seek out members to suspend and harass. The regulation of party life should be the preserve of officials elected by the membership who haven’t a hidden agenda of stifling the development of the party.
The right have been forced to use the administrative measures of suspending Corbyn at this time out of weakness not strength. Starmer’s so far less than scintillating performance as leader, even at his much heralded specialist role in the house of commons attempting to pin down the greased weasel Johnson at PMs Questions he was upstaged by his stand-in Milliband. It took a footballer and a city mayor to articulate the popular mood of anger over free school meals and financial support for workers during covid restrictions showing the lack of any real leadership of the opposition. The continuing mantra of “me too”, dressed up as “ constructive opposition”, which has greeted every policy announcement of the Tory government has failed to make any impact and so far nothing has been said about the obvious looting of public funds under the cover of providing PPE or even a suggestion of a pay rise for the beleaguered health and key workers who have carried the burden of the pandemic. Even the holy grail of his political appeal and the source of many of his leadership votes has had to be sacrificed, in the current situation he can no longer remain a remainer. The new leader’s honeymoon period is definitely over and many members are regretting having voted in haste now that they have the leisure to repent.
Just like the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey earlier this year the motivation for this move is not to combat anti-Semitism but to prevent the left in the PLP becoming the spokespeople for those workers who are suffering under the Tory government. 34 Labour MPs, approx 1 in 6, including seven opposition frontbenchers defied the party whip and voted against the covert human intelligence sources bill including 16 MPs who were only elected to the Westminster PLP bubble in 2019 from the real world. This number of MPs is more than enough to facilitate a leadership contest and shows the precarious nature of the right’s position, especially with the left set to win the NEC election. The right are acting boldly because of the quiescence currently in a labour movement with no physical meetings and the working class reeling with uncertainty with job losses and insecurity amidst the health pandemic but all of these moves to the right at the lowest ebb for the working class will only prepare the way for a big swing to the left as soon as there is a stabilisation of the situation.
The only legitimate use of the term forensic with regard to the right’s approach is their use of the very small amount of ammunition that they possess to the best possible effect. One suspension has triggered multitudes of resignations, despair and demoralisation. This is the result that they would have hoped for, that instead of hounding each and every left wing member out of the party, they themselves walk out. There are, it must be admitted, many who have only been waiting for the change in the political landscape that would give them the opportunity to resign from the comfort of the moral high ground. However the need to stand firm and resist the right wing at this time could not be clearer, when we say an injury to one is an injury to all, we mean that it is necessary to redress and prevent further injuries. The only way to do that is to take the fight to the capitalists and the right wing who support them by democratising the party and the trade unions, and that requires that we stay and we fight.
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The Struggle 4th November 2020