To improve accountability and transparency within the Labour Party in the run-up to the party’s national executive committee elections, the Labour Left Alliance took an important - and useful - initiative to invite left candidates wishing to stand for the party’s NEC to attend an online hustings meeting on July 25. The invitation included the six candidates who had already been selected for the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance’s slate (although none of these candidates acknowledged the invitation from the LLA or were present for the event itself). On the day 11 candidates attended and they spoke to an audience of 120.
The event itself should be applauded, as it contrasted with the process used by the CLGA to put together a left slate at such short notice that Labour Party socialists are now being asked to support: knowing and hearing what an individual stands for before deciding who to vote for is far better than being expected to back a slate someone else has chosen for you. From this perspective, it was good to hear the comrades who had taken the time to attend the LLA event - even though many of their comments, whilst delivered with passion, were somewhat contradictory and, at times, disappointing.
They were asked to provide a five-minute introduction and to give their views on the LLA’s ‘Action programme for the left’. Comrade Carol Taylor-Spedding, for example, correctly said she wanted to “call out” the perception that Labour has an ingrained anti-Semitism problem - yet she then stated that she was “devastated” when Rebecca Long-Bailey (who signed the Board of Deputies’ 10 pledges to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism) lost the recent leadership race. Similarly, comrade Alec Price, whilst promoting the cause and necessity of socialism, announced he does not support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, thus compromising the pro-Palestinian consensus. Comrade Roger Silverman spoke passionately of his personal experiences in relation to anti-Semitism and against the witch-hunt, but there was no suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn and members of his shadow cabinet, in attempting to appease the pro-Israel lobby and rightwing members of the party, may well have contributed to the intensification of the witch-hunt itself.
Comrade Mark McDonald (Jeremy Corbyn’s ex-lawyer) energetically promoted the need to overhaul internal democracy, yet seemed hesitant to dismiss the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. And, while it was moving to listen to comrades Ekua Bayunu and Joyce Jasmin Reed passionately speak about the party needing to lead the fight to combat racism and prejudice per se towards the Bame community, neither comprehensively addressed the LLA’s action programme. Indeed, only comrade Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal did so, enthusiastically supporting the promotion of that programme.
Whilst some of the politics expressed at the event were positive and party members can now at least begin to get an insight into who they might consider voting for, there was no open acknowledgement that Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, had its problems. All comrades who spoke did so uncritically about the party’s political trajectory throughout the previous four years, and Corbyn himself was uncritically praised by all. Even the party’s 2017 and 2019 manifestos were promoted by some as “radical”.
True, Corbyn did inspire many individuals to join Labour and for those new (and many existing) party members he did instil some hope for a better future. But he also got lots wrong. Appeasing the pro-Israel lobby, for example, not only dampened down any potential leftwing influence, but contributed to many prominent and principled socialists being suspended from the party. If we are to learn, we must surely acknowledge that it is perfectly acceptable - indeed a duty - to criticise comrades from the left as well as the right.
Of course, nothing in the above prevents any Labour member giving critical support and providing appropriate ‘ranking’ to any of the candidates who attended the LLA’s online hustings or, for that matter, any of the CLGA’s already selected left slate. The LLA will decide by polling its supporters in the next couple of weeks which candidates they would like to see forming any supplemented left slate or whether only the candidates on the CLGA’s current left slate should be considered. The LLA’s conference next month will make that final decision as to what to recommend.
Crucially, of course, whatever left candidates are considered for the NEC, the process of openness and engagement with the party’s membership throughout the election process remains key.
Keir Starmer hasn’t capitulated to an attack: he’s shown that he’s firmly onside - ‘I’m with you, lads!’ But, as Len McCluskey said in a slightly different context, they “refuse to take yes for an answer” and are out for more. Not just more money, it seems, but an all-out effort to drive the Labour Party to bankruptcy. The unions could perhaps stop funding Labour, but they’re after McCluskey as well.
Where then would that leave Labour? This is the second 11 for British bourgeois democracy - they may be needed if the natives get too restless. Is there perhaps an Emmanuel Macron waiting in the wings?
But the vultures are circling and squawking with glee at what they see as their triumph. According to the Jewish Chronicle, “Labour is facing a legal bill of £5.5 million - and possibly far higher - as a result of the toxic legacy of anti-Semitism under previous leader Jeremy Corbyn ...” And in the same paper, John Ware defends the BBC: “You don’t need much experience of television to know that the BBC’s editorial processes simply don’t allow for such mammoth corruption of the editorial process.” So that’s all right then.
They’re not seeking revenge; after all, there is nothing to avenge. Maybe they will stop at driving all the socialists out of the Labour Party (rule of thumb for socialists: they think that a Palestinian is a human being - along with all the other human beings). Not everyone is a socialist, of course: we have the reports of Palestinians killed, children incarcerated, crops stolen or destroyed ... Then there is a little detail from the Electronic Intifada on July 23: “Israel systematically targeted and arrested activists distributing informative leaflets around the city, and detained Palestinians volunteering to disinfect public spaces, such as mosques.” As I say, a detail. The full article is headlined: “How Israel obstructs Covid-19 care in East Jerusalem”. You see, only human beings need protection from Covid-19.
There is some resistance to the Starmer offensive. A GoFundMe drive to fund any defence that Corbyn might need has almost immediately far outstripped expectations. So there are socialists in the Labour Party - and perhaps those who have left in disgust - who are willing to ‘kick against the pricks’, if I can use a biblical expression (Acts 9:5).
And Corbyn has decided to fight back. Shame he left it so late.
Go on, George
In 2017, it took 749 votes to win a seat on Durham County Council for Chester-le-Street West Central, and 854 for the leader of the council to top the poll. The turnout was 1,870. George Galloway would get that just by being on the ballot paper.
The defeat of that leader would be heard from the souks to the favelas, from the Dalit colonies to the Rohingya camps, and from Kashmir to Crimea, to the scattered outposts of Diego Garcia. Armed with an impeccably local running mate in order to stop the target from slipping through, Galloway is just the man to do this. We would need only to get him registered to vote in County Durham, and preferably in Chester-le-Street, in time to be a candidate on May 6 2021.
Eric Joyce once described Galloway as having stepped beyond what was “reasonable and acceptable for Labour MPs”. Any Labour electoral opponent of Galloway’s, including the present leader of Durham County Council, has therefore been endorsed by Eric Joyce, and may look forward to being described as such. They would dance in the streets of the annexed Jordan Valley at Galloway’s election - and not least at his election against this opponent.
What an eminently sensible response from Anne McShane to those who pursue ‘cancellation’ of others they find to be illiberal, intrusive or offensive (‘Without it we can’t breathe’, July 23). But maybe the comrade should have pointed out a bit more clearly that one person’s awful behaviour can be another person’s radicalism.
There are, of course, many examples of that syndrome to be lifted up for appropriate examination. One such is how US radio and TV executives, when responding to the Dixie Chicks’ outspoken criticism of George W Bush’s plans for the invasion of Iraq, decided to ban the group’s music from their stations - no doubt in their own minds doing so as an act of holy patriotism. Others around at the time may well have seen things a bit differently: ie, as proto-fascistic blacklisting; as being a hybridised form of state censorship; as incarnations of McCarthyism, once again let loose to rampage around at close to full throttle.
Of course, for any Marxist a string of questions is thrown up by matters such as these. So who is to be the arbiter of any transgressions of decency, morality, truthfulness or egalitarianism; of acceptability in relation to ‘loyalty to your country of birth’ or whatever the devil else? Conversely, as well as most dangerously, who are to be the recipients of any such double-edged silencing? At an even more distinctly philosophical level, what lies behind that peculiar mentality of cancelling out opponents?
Maybe pertinent above all else is how a lifestyle of that type, with those particular inadequacies contained within it, creates for that vast majority of our younger co-citizens a bubble masquerading as a virtuous paradigm - one actively accommodating their strong disinclination to embrace revolutionary politics. That failing on their part is only made more egregious by the faith lavished instead upon a flimsy spider’s web of reformist dead-ends and certainly compromises - outfits such as Extinction Rebellion, Occupy and even Black Lives Matter taking top honours in many of those respects, dare it be suggested?