There are those who would argue that the Labour Party should not seek power for power’s sake. I disagree. Without power you cannot do anything. You can have the most principled policies on earth, but if you do not have power then you cannot apply them.
For example, your CPGB is, and will always remain, an impotent force in British politics because it refuses to compromise on a set of policies that will always be rejected by the majority. Paul Demarty’s article reads like a rant from a frustrated revolutionary (‘Confront, intimidate, deselect’ December 10). You allow your emotion to cloud your reason.
In my opinion, a Labour government - any Labour government - is better than a Tory government and the Parliamentary Labour Party should do everything it can to ensure a victory in 2020. That victory will not indubitably follow Corbyn’s victory. Corbyn’s 300,000 has created a euphoria in the revolutionary left that there will be a second coming. Unfortunately it ignores the 29,700,000 that have not yet expressed their support for him and who may not do so.
The Oldham by-election is significant. The revolutionary left regard it as support for Corbyn. I see it differently. Meacher won with a 15,000 majority on a 55% turnout. McMahon won with an 11,000 majority on a 62% turnout. If Meacher had enjoyed a 62% turnout then he may have won with a 17,000 majority. That is a loss of 6,000 votes which to me indicates that Corbynism has turned away voters (to Ukip?).
Corbyn allowed his MPs a free vote on Syria. Two-thirds of them voted with him, which seems to suggest that the majority of them support him. However, the vote actually was not a free vote because the MPs were subjected to a rumour that deselection might follow those who do not support Corbyn. It does not indicate that they support him unquestioningly.
To aim for victory in 2020 the most important thing is to listen to the Blairites. They gave Labour 13 years of power. The Blair governments may not have done everything that their supporters wanted, but they were infinitely better than what has followed: the country prospered and the people were better off then than they are now. A Blair-type government in 2020 would be infinitely better than a third Tory government.
Your article is both unhelpful and irresponsible. To suggest that intimidation is an acceptable way to conduct politics is to turn back the clock. It smacks of the old-style communism of Stalinism and other similar tyrannies that the democratic world rejects utterly. If the CPGB want to gain any credibility then it would do well to expel the likes of Paul Demarty from the party.
I hesitate to intrude on the space reserved each week for your resident letter columnist, Steve Freeman (Letters, December 10). I confess that I am overwhelmed by the comparison between the Easter Rising and the bravery of James Connolly and co and Mr Freeman’s own considerable rebellion against the conservative, monarchical forces of Left Unity in the Bermondsey election. Such is the stuff of which revolutionary heroes are born.
The logic of socialist politics today dictates that anyone who is serious about political change must orientate to what is happening within the Labour Party. The earthquake that was represented by Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign over the summer is set to rumble on. This is reflected in both your front and back pages, which call for the deselection of Labour MPs and the purging of the right within Labour’s shadow cabinet (Weekly Worker December10).
When political debate in this country is focused on the battle between the left and right within the Labour Party and when a considerable section of that left believes that an accommodation can be made with the Labour right, it is clear that its place today is inside the Labour Party. It is churlish to pretend that what happens within Left Unity or Tusc has any relevance or meaning any longer. Their day has long since gone.
Although the likes of Steve Freeman will continue to tilt at windmills, all serious Marxists will have joined or be joining the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn and those around him are set upon appeasing the Labour right and imagine that they can be bought off. It is all the more necessary that Marxists stiffen the resolve of those who imagine that the right will succumb to appeals for unity.
As I pointed out in my article, ‘Labour turned upside down’ (October 22), Tony Blair made his and the Labour right’s position explicitly clear: “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.” The loyalty of the majority of the PLP, Progress and company is to the existing capitalist system and state. That is what support for Trident and the bombing of Syria signifies. It is clear to many people that much of the Labour right is closer to the Conservative Party than Jeremy Corbyn and those he represents.
Yet the Weekly Worker’s position is contradictory. You are making calls to deselect Labour MPs, yet you argue that socialists should stay in irrelevant groups of the flotsam and jetsam represented by Left Unity. You are drawn to the battles inside the Labour Party and yet you stay outside of it. This makes no sense.
Going to the Labour Briefing readers’ meeting in London last Saturday, I had hoped - against the evidence, I have to admit - to discover what plans are being hatched for the future organisation of the Labour left. After all, Briefing is the journal of the Labour Representation Committee, and the two most prominent figures in the LRC have always been Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, so LRC officers must surely be involved in the behind-the-scenes negotiations to construct a provisional steering committee to guide Momentum towards a conference - the only legitimate way to determine the politics of Momentum and the form its promised “democratic governance” should take.
No such luck, I am sorry to say. I left the meeting none the wiser about plans for the future of Momentum, nor of the LRC itself, and consequently no indication of how Briefing will be governed if the LRC decides to dissolve itself into Momentum. The LRC national committee had met only a few days earlier, and several NC and executive committee members were present, yet we were told nothing about what kind of future the NC is planning for the organisation. Why has the word ‘annual’ been dropped from the LRC’s February 20 conference (postponed from its usual early November slot), if not in anticipation of liquidating the LRC organisation into the Momentum network? So far, we are left guessing, and the LRC leadership has not used the pages of its own journal to enlighten its own members.
The problem vexing the ageing Briefing team is this: how come the Corbynite surge, which has doubled Labour Party membership to some 400,000, has left the uncritically pro-Corbyn Briefing with sales only slightly up at about 1,500 monthly, and left the burden of producing the journal on fewer and fewer shoulders? Of course, producing a monthly journal is no easy task for a few stalwarts, and the desperate need for young blood is nothing new. A proposal to ease the burden of work by scaling down from monthly to quarterly, or even to three issues a year, albeit in the context of upgrading the Briefing website, was thankfully rejected - it would have been a disastrous political retreat - but the problem of personnel remains to be solved. One obvious way to recruit new forces is to publicise the problem, as I am doing here - but strangely some comrades see the discussion of weakness as an attack, rather than an essential step towards a solution.
When I argued that support for Corbyn and McDonnell in the pages of Labour Briefing should necessarily include criticism where appropriate - best friends should always criticise, and comradely criticism should be welcomed - comrade Mike Phipps, a pivotal member of the editorial board, countered that there are already a dozen or so left journals critical of Corbyn, and Briefing is the “only” pro-Corbyn publication. So, there it is: no criticism will be tolerated, if comrade Phipps gets his way.
Then comrade Phipps went a step too far, and moved a vote of the 24 comrade readers present - which seemed to be carried, though no-one counted the votes - that the discussion on “organisation”, which I have described here, be not reported in the Weekly Worker (yes, the motion was explicitly about Weekly Worker). How silly. How counterproductive. How undemocratic, that our own press should be marred by the anathema of censorship. How ineffective must such a self-censored press be in the struggle for working class and human liberation.
Perhaps that gives a clue to Briefing’s failure to capture the massive Corbynite readership market: it’s not exactly “straight-talking politics” when it comes to our own affairs. The idea that the goings-on in the national committee of the LRC, or in a readers’ meeting of Labour Briefing, is a private matter which must be kept secret from the people we are trying to win over, is a self-evident stupidity. The privacy of parliamentary debates was overcome in struggle long ago. Of course, we want transparency in the state and transparency in the debates in the Labour Party NEC.
Thankfully, Pete Willsman, Christine Shawcroft and other NEC members provide reports of what goes on in that ‘private meeting’. In Unison, 22 NEC members are just now campaigning publicly to overcome the attempt of the rightwing NEC majority to keep the general secretary vote-rigging scandal under wraps. Briefing should stand firmly on the side of openness and transparency.
Publicity is healthy. As Lenin put it in a little piece entitled ‘Conversation’ (March-April 1913), “You really are getting like those people who are ready to condemn publicity because of some false information that has been published … But publicity is a sword that itself heals the wounds it makes.”
Briefing editorial board member (coopted)
Maciej Piatkowski is clearly mistaken when he writes that I chaired the recent meeting of Haringey Momentum and suggested we talk about “why we hate the Tories” (Letters, December 10).
The chair was local councillor Seema Chandwani and I made no statement on the agenda throughout the meeting beyond answering questions.
I do want to compliment the Weekly Worker editorial team for putting out a fascinating political newspaper each week. I don’t want to get into the dismissive gestures game that we see all too frequently in the socialist world. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical. But the criticism should be pointed and precise, not generalised puerile slogans that are taken out of a props cupboard. That leads nowhere.
We saw this in the letter by Mike Martin in the December 10 edition. He had a lot of points to raise and questions for the editors as to future content. We need an all-round discussion of every subject, especially where these foreign wars are concerned. But to say that the Weekly Worker “increasingly resembles a parish magazine for the soggy UK left” is doing a great disservice to a paper that provides an excellent and exact description of many important political meetings that have taken place in the previous week. It’s just not true. We can have antagonisms, but we need to mix them with appreciation too.
Where would we be without the painstaking work done by all the left socialist newspapers and their staff, and the books and pamphlets they publish too? This is quite apart from the political work done by the members of the parties that publish those newspapers. All of the UK is covered. A progressive socialist stratum is built into the democratic foundations of the country. Without that we wouldn’t have a democracy at all.
We are the future and in the meantime we safeguard the people and the country. We are this country’s democratic watchdogs. We restrain the unaccountable capitalist state. Let them go too far and we will take their heads off.
At the Teesside People’s Assembly meeting held on December 15, our delegates reported back to the branch on the PA’s recent national conference. In particular, the issue of the exclusion from the conference agenda of our ‘Standing army and people’s militia’ motion was discussed and the following statement was unanimously approved:
“Teesside People’s Assembly expresses its disappointment at the decision of the PA committee to exclude from the 2015 national conference agenda a valid motion submitted by our branch.
“Whilst we appreciate that the committee may not have agreed with the content of the Teesside motion, the appropriate way to deal with such differences of opinion within an organisation that purports to be democratic, and which seeks to build a mass movement, is to empower the national conference to debate and decide all matters of policy.
“We believe the workers’ movement must resist the temptation to engage in self-censorship in order to appease the media and other critics.”
We have asked national secretary Sam Fairbairn to circulate our email to members of the PA committee and relevant officers, and Teesside PA will itself be publishing this statement via our mailing list, website and social media outlets.
Secretary, Teesside PA
No rugby, please
Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition was amazed when, back in January, cash-strapped Rugby borough council suddenly found £1.1 million to spend on promoting the Rugby World Cup.
We were very concerned about the spending of council-tax payers’ money in this way in a time of austerity. We were not opposed to Rugby celebrating the World Cup, but we argued it should be financed by the Rugby Football Union and the government. The people of Rugby have suffered a massive reduction in local services, and council jobs have been lost as a result of public spending cuts by both Warwickshire and Rugby councils.
Council leaders said at the time that there would be a return on this expenditure. Culture chief Heather Timms claimed that this investment should mean that “our businesses and residents benefit ... while ensuring there will be better facilities for residents at the end of the tournament”.
Rugby Tusc felt this was unlikely, and said as much. The World Cup ended on October 31. A week later, we put in a request, under the Freedom of Information Act, to ask the council how much extra income was generated for Rugby businesses, hotels, entertainment venues and for the council itself as a direct result of the World Cup. We had anecdotal evidence from a number of restaurants, pubs and hotels that this was minimal at best. Rugby council finally replied on November 30, as they had to by law, simply to state that “Rugby borough council does not currently hold this information, but it was intended that any information would be reported, when it becomes available”.
Finding this unacceptable, we wrote back the same day asking what procedures will be put in place to collect this information, along with the timescale for its collection, collation and reporting. After all, with such a substantial sum of money, and in times of cutbacks, there must be an obligation to demonstrate that the investment of £1.1 million was good value for money. What new facilities are there?
Two weeks later, we have not had that information. It would appear that the council spent £1.1 million of our money with no real idea of the benefits that might accrue. It also appears it has no procedures in place to monitor the impact of this considerable expenditure. We suspect there will be no obvious benefits to the people of Rugby, and this is why the council does not want to answer our questions. In addition, did the council spend even more than the £1.1 million on the World Cup promotion?
We still believe that, if Rugby council had suddenly found an extra £1 million, it would have been better spent on investigating the effects of the £160 million of cuts over the last three years and finding ways to mitigate against the worst of them. The money could have been used to obtain more council accommodation and reduce the housing waiting list, or to create jobs and replace those that have been lost in recent years.
The council’s failure to provide answers makes us wonder what they are hiding.