WeeklyWorker

30.07.2015
Four rivals: Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall

Dissolve the party and elect another

As the Labour leadership contest gets ugly, William Kane begins to worry about the sanity of the bourgeois press

As we hit the rough midpoint of the Labour leadership contest, it is safe to say that the right - both within Labour, and meddling from without - is in total, blind panic.

It is not hard to see why. While it initially looked like we would have a yawnsome choice between Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall - a Blairite, a Blairite and a Tory - the three clones have been almost eclipsed by an insurgent left that few even remembered existed, intent on pushing Jeremy Corbyn into the job. Nothing our rightwing friends do works. ‘He’s unelectable!’ the cry goes up. ‘He’s friends with terrorists!’ howl Zionist ideologues. No matter: people keep flooding into the Labour Party to vote for him.

As things get more heated, the fight gets dirtier. We may turn to John Mann, a Blairite MP who seems to have had a little more foresight than his colleagues - as soon as Corbyn got onto the ballot, he lamented that apparently the party did not want to win an election ever again. He has recently come forth with a pile of scurrilous innuendo, suggesting that Corbyn turned a blind eye to abuse in the Islington care system. That’s Corbyn for you - friend to Hamas and paedophiles; enemy of ‘wealth creators’.

This, naturally, says a great deal more about Mann than Corbyn. There are two possibilities here - that he is telling the truth about Corbyn’s complicity, or that he is lying. If he is lying, he is straightforwardly using vile crimes against young people to further his political ends. If he is telling the truth, we can only conclude that - instead of blowing the whistle previously - he kept quiet until such time as this scandal was politically useful against his enemies, such is his concern for Islington’s most vulnerable. Either way, his behaviour is utterly repellent.

It has also obviously not worked.

Delusional

If all else fails, of course, there is always the ‘reds under the bed’ option - and so the rightwing press last weekend was choc-a-bloc with silly-season stories about “hard left infiltration” of the Labour Party, designed to give justification to those who would stop the process entirely and have a ‘do-over’ - this time without the guy in the Lenin cap.

In fine barrel-scraping form, we have that sinking ship of the British press, The Sunday Telegraph, which dug out some sordid personal history:

Ralph Miliband, a Marxist academic, founded a small group of political activists who met at Tony Benn’s house in London, and included the then newly-elected young MP, Mr Corbyn ... The emergence of the long-standing link between Mr Corbyn and the Miliband family is likely to reinforce the view that, since the departure of Tony Blair, Labour has been taken over by leftwing intellectuals, backed by union money and bent on imposing socialist policies on Britain.1

Leftwing MP corresponds with other leftwingers - not exactly the smoking gun, is it? All we learn from this is that the Torygraph is still - in spite of everything - pushing the ‘Red Ed’ line. We wonder what Miliband fils makes of all this commotion - we somehow suspect that he is not a born-again Corbynite, now he has returned to the back benches. Never mind the sneering tone of the word “intellectuals”: as if Blair was not reliant on those baleful modern surrogates for the public intellectual, wonks and pollsters. Is Anthony Giddens really the Telegraph’s idea of a horny-handed son of toil?

At the most delusional end, we find - unsurprisingly - The Mail on Sunday, whose foam-flecked red-baiting focuses on a truly astonishing claim from the MP, John Cryer: “I am reliably informed that members of the Militant Tendency are using Tusc [the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition] to pay £3 to vote for Corbyn.”2

Where are we to begin? Perhaps by suggesting Cryer looks up the word ‘reliable’ in a nearby dictionary, and considers whether it can really be applied to any source who claims that:

If he is truly gullible enough to believe such charlatanism, then I have a bridge to sell him.

All our fault?

Such stupidities are to be expected from the likes of the Mail, whose purpose is not so much to influence the outcome of the Labour leadership as to hold its petty bourgeois readership in a state of perpetual anxiety about the encroachment of modernity upon its prejudices.

But, really, we expect better things from The Sunday Times. After all, Rupert Murdoch’s papers are not indifferent to the internal goings-on of the Labour Party, but highly interventionist. We might consider them a sort of evil twin: both our organisation and their corporation think about Labour strategically, albeit from diametrically opposed political viewpoints.

How amused we were, then, to make the front page! A story about “hard-left infiltrators” voting for Corbyn seized upon our humble organisation as a significant agent in all this stuff. They quoted us - more faithfully than many comrades on the left, we might add - on transforming the Labour Party, on fighting for a left victory in the leadership election, urging people to register and vote for Corbyn.3

There was, naturally, some hair-raising revolutionary rhetoric, and a little photomontage of Provisional Central Committee chair Jack Conrad and the last issue of the paper (clearly in view, ironically enough, is the front page promo: “As Jeremy Corbyn surges ahead, right plots anti-democratic coup”). There you have it - it’s the Weekly Worker wot won it.

Seriously now - we find ourselves, above all, concerned with the precipitate decline in journalistic standards. When a mail-out writer for Labour List declared on July 27 that we “could organise an infiltration of a nine-year-old’s birthday party and I doubt anyone would notice”, he was being a touch unfair; but we do not claim to be a large organisation, and frankly even if everyone who had read this paper since Corbyn’s nomination had signed up (almost certainly not true, given our international reach), it would still not amount to a significant minority of the numbers who have done so.

There is nothing in TheSunday Times about us that could not have been gleaned from five minutes’ clicking around on our website or a glance at Wikipedia. Somehow they failed to notice that we are not a large organisation, and target our propaganda more or less exclusively at other “hard leftists”, who in turn seldom take our advice. Ladies and gentlemen of the press: if you want to know who on the far left is actively supporting Corbyn, you might start by reading our polemics against the Socialist Workers Party and SPEW - the two biggest Trotskyist groups - for not doing so.4If only our comrades on the left were taking this matter as seriously as they should.

Dig your own hole

No, let us be clear - this development is not our work, never mind that of the ‘Militant Tendency’ or some such nonsense. It is a self-inflicted wound by the Labour right - and its cheerleaders in the bourgeois press. Who was it who drove through ‘one member, one vote’, registered supporters and the rest? Why, Ed Miliband, in response to an utterly artificial ‘scandal’ concerning the Unite union’s attempts to get a favourable candidate selected in Falkirk - in other words, under intense pressure from the right.

And in theory, it was a good idea, from the right’s point of view - reduce the collective power of the unions to shift things, by breaking the block vote. Introduce registered supporters, like the Democrat and Republican parties have in the United States - and thus make the whole procedure more vulnerable to media manipulation. There was a safety mechanism built in - no candidate could get on the ballot without a substantially higher level of support from the parliamentary party than before.

Here we meet the petty concerns of individual MPs. Who nominated Corbyn? Not so much the left - after all, many soft-lefts fell in behind Burnham initially, as a ‘realistic’ candidate. But partly under pressure from the rank and file, and partly as a manoeuvre on Burnham’s part so as not to be seen as the ‘left’ candidate - Red Andy, god help us - people who would never dream of voting for Corbyn got him on the ballot.

At that point, it became possible for people who despise Blairism and the rightwing press, who had deserted Labour over the last decade, to vote for somebody they actually liked. And, the more dirty tricks the Blairites pull, the more scare stories clutter the pages of the yellow press, the more determined they become.

Since nominations closed and campaigning began, there has been one story and one story only: the momentous surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn. Andy Burnham, the archetypal career politician, began this campaign by talking about the need to get out of the “Westminster bubble”, though in his mouth it was a laughable ambition. Now, for Labour at least, that bubble has been well and truly burst - by Corbyn, and his brand of sentimental, well-meaning, bearded Islington leftism.

The takeaway is a simple one - in the particular form it has taken during the last two decades of its total dominance, the Labour right is in fact very fragile. It ensured that dominance by totally ossifying internal structures, relying instead on favourable press coverage and support from elements of the bourgeoisie (we think of Lord Sainsbury) to increase its influence. That support has gone, however, and those who seek to lead Labour are forced to do so by appealing - heaven forefend - to the party, a beast they at this point barely understand.

Yet, with the press rallied behind the Tories, the party rank and file is also the only connection available to the doorstep; thus we have the bizarre spectacle of Burnham, Kendall and co claiming to be in touch with the electorate, but only able to talk in central office jargon about marketing Labour to this or that subset of voters; that is, discussing in full public view the lies they intend to tell in order to manipulate people. They are then somehow surprised when a straight-talking leftwinger shows them up as the degenerate, technocratic creeps they are. All this noise about ‘infiltrators’ reflects merely their political exhaustion: they may as well try, after Brecht, to dissolve the party and elect another.

Let the Labour right and the press learn this lesson - there is no injury the CPGB can inflict on their ambitions that can possibly compare to the one they have inflicted upon themselves. For the rest of us, it’s popcorn time l

Notes

1. The Sunday Telegraph July 26.

2. Mail on Sunday July 26.

3. The Sunday Times July 26.

4. See ‘Tepid support for Corbyn’ Weekly Worker July 16; and ‘Stop digging, Peter’ Weekly Worker July 2.