Labour Party members being ‘purged’ under Keir Starmer are refusing to leave the party - and they’re even considering printing their own membership cards as an act of defiance. Since Keir Starmer became leader, hundreds of members have been suspended or expelled. But now a fightback is underway.
Terry Deans, who was punitively suspended by the party last year said: “People are being kicked out because Starmer is creating a new party in his own image. But this is our party and we’re not going anywhere.” Following an investigation by Labour’s national executive committee, Falklands War veteran Deans was sentenced to a 12-month suspension - a decision that has left him puzzled, as he was denied a hearing. He is still awaiting acknowledgement of his submission of appeal nearly five months after lodging it within the two-week deadline of the suspension date given to him by the party. Now, like growing numbers of members, he is planning to fight back.
He said: “As was reported following last year’s Equality and Human Rights Commission looking into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, the disputes and disciplinary process is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. All I want is a proper, fair justice system. So we are not leaving the party, nor are we starting a new party. The Labour Party is our party and we are staying put.”
It’s Starmer, Deans said, who should be leaving Labour, not the members he’s trying to purge. He said: “Starmer is trying to dismantle Labour and build a new, rightwing party in his own image. The majority of members don’t want to know. Why should we be forced to leave our party because of Starmer?”
Deans is one of the founding members of a new group called Labour In Exile Network which will be meeting later this month to launch a campaign to change the party. He says they may even print their own Labour Party membership cards to prove their commitment to the party. But the cards will bear the original clause four of the Labour constitution, calling for the common ownership of industry, which was later rewritten when Tony Blair was leader. Deans said: “The cards will show people that, whatever Starmer does, whether he suspends or expels us, and whatever he does to the party, the original party remains and we remain members of it.”
Another issue LIEN plans to take up is the controversial part played by the general secretary of the party. Deans said: “I stand in solidarity with my chair and secretary - comrades who have been suspended following an unconstitutional directive by the acting general secretary, David Evans, for doing the jobs they were elected by their members to do - namely, facilitating members’ motions to their local parties. The present general secretary was appointed by Starmer and has played a disgraceful part in trying to restrict free speech in the party. Why shouldn’t grassroots Labour members set about electing a new general secretary, if only as a symbolic first blow in bringing democracy to the party?”
Labour In Exile Network will be launched at its founding conference on Saturday February 27 at 11am. It will be holding a briefing meeting on the ‘purge’ in the party at 7pm on Saturday February 20. For more details go to www.labour-in-exile.org
Labour In Exile Network
While there have been so many suspensions in the Labour Party, we have yet to hear whether there are any based on ableism. On October 13 2019, I resigned from Neurodivergent Labour by writing a letter to John McDonnell, MP and former shadow chancellor, who gave huge support to this group.
In order to provide more detail, I was born with lack of oxygen at the brain and was diagnosed with autism by Dr Ken Soddy, who was consultant and physician in charge of the development of child and adolescent psychiatry at University College Hospital. In addition, he was scientific director of the World Federation for Mental Health, consultant to the World Health Organisation and a member of its expert panel on mental health, as well as consultant to the home office. This diagnosis was confirmed more than 20 years before Hans Asperger’s paper on the mild forms of autism was recognised in 1994.
At an early age, I was taken away from mainstream education and put in a ‘special school’ for autistic children. These schools in the 70s were appalling. My parents fought battles to ensure that I was educated in mainstream schooling and they succeeded, but the medical authorities were, still, monitoring my progress.
In 1978, I had an ECG test at the Whittington Hospital, which is part of Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency. At the age of 11, it was painful and distressing to be told, shortly after my ECG test, that I was “brain-damaged”. I was finally assessed by Dr Dora Black, who was an NHS consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist. She was also founder of the Traumatic Stress Clinic in London (the first of its kind for children in the United Kingdom). Dr Black concluded that the lack of oxygen to my brain did cause my autism, but I showed signs of improvement. Therefore, she confirmed that I could stay in mainstream education.
I would like to thank the National Health Service for providing such great specialists. Today, I am contributing to the Labour Party and the trade union movement. In my personal opinion, it is to heroines like Dr Dora Black that the Labour Party and the trade union movement owe a debt of gratitude.
Sadly, many members of Neurodivergent Labour have refused to recognise my autism being caused by lack of oxygen to the brain and made nasty and condescending criticisms of my diagnosis on social media. They even threatened to take action against me if I dared to make the cause of my autism public. In addition, they accused me of providing ammunition to the ‘anti-vaxxers’ and so called ‘cure-mongers’ of autism. But I have campaigned against these groups and categorically emphasised that autism is not caused by vaccines - there is no cure for autism, just as there is no cure for any form of sexual orientation! Additionally, I never dispute a person’s cause of autism, regardless of whether it is brain injury or genetic factors.
These people in Neurodivergent Labour are also autistic advocates, and associated with some of the most potentially ableist organisations - one organisation justified making a mockery of my lack of oxygen in the brain causing autism. In addition, this organisation is not only hostile to people of my diagnosis, but those with Asperger Syndrome, because only the word ‘autism’ can be used. A number of people, including myself, have suffered cyber-bullying, discrimination and abuse from such autistic advocates that include members of Neurodivergent Labour.
The Labour leadership is well aware of these incidents. I have sent my personal medical file to the Labour Party HQ in the strictest confidence. But is this leadership taking action against such ableism? We are a socialist organisation with the duty to tear discrimination “out by the roots” - a phrase used by the Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer. It is important that Labour fights against all forms of discrimination!
Julie Holland’s response to what I previously wrote is completely unhinged (Letters, February 11). I have no idea how she arrives at the conclusion that I am a “vile racist” (this coming from someone who rants about equality and diversity officers!), and maybe she could point out the specific quotes which lead her to believe this.
I think she says this about me on completely unsubstantiated grounds, but has nothing to say about Ted Hankin’s openly racist generalisations about Muslims (Letters, December 17). She seems a fanatical Islamophobe, which, I should point out, is very fashionable among all the fascist movements of the imperialist centre. They also complain a lot about equality and diversity.
I would also be very interested to see where I said there is some sinister plot in relation to Bame people and their susceptibility to Covid. Has she been reading another letter, or is she so intoxicated with Islamophobia that she is seeing things? I believe in no such conspiracy and can’t even imagine what that conspiracy could be.
“The Weekly Worker was kind enough to print my letter pointing out that Islam, to put it mildly, is very bad news for women,” she says. This is such a postmodernist statement - as if Islam is a new fashion or something. The recent rise of Islam, if that is even the case, can be linked directly to the murderous activities of western imperialism, among other things. If this is bad news for women, look closer to home for the solution. Islam is rooted in the conditions of society, is a rational social organisation in the context of where it developed. It simply expresses a form of human social organisation, just as capitalism does. To frame it within the context of ‘bad for women’ or not is a travesty of critical thinking and is actually an abdication of the real struggle to change social conditions. If I say capitalism is really bad news for women, men and children, I would be rightly derided as an absolute moron, I think Julie Holland’s ‘Islam is bad news for women’ should be seen in the same light.
Of course, as a communist, I believe in the struggle against actually existing social conditions. However, for those outside the main centres of imperialism that struggle is not just for internal emancipation, but requires a struggle against an imperialist system of domination. You can struggle all you like against your own immediate rulers, but that doesn’t solve the fact that you consume much less than those living in the imperialist core, that a higher proportion of your income is spent on essentials like food - not forgetting all the other indicators, like child mortality rates. This is why ‘degenerate’ leadership manifests itself continuously outside the imperialist core; it isn’t actually ‘degenerate’, but is a totally rational outcome. It just seems irrational to those who are too lazy to think deeper or too prejudiced to think otherwise. Julie Holland appears to fit both these possibilities.
I am sure she believes that all that needs to happen is for someone like Bill Gates to wave his magic wand, teach the natives a few tricks and suddenly the world is safe for women. I believe there are serious structural barriers that will prevent this from happening and only a complete reorganisation of society along communist lines will ultimately solve these social questions.
Unfortunately, so long as we have a capitalist system based on western values, Islam will remain a rational outcome and response to social conditions. Yes, we can support the struggles against it, but we should not reinforce the illusion that this fix can be achieved by engineering projects in Niger, as useful as they may or may not be.
The recent arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi has likely less to do with a coup against democracy and more to do with the semi-colonial relationship that Myanmar has with China. So far from what I’ve read, Trotskyists completely neglect to mention this. Fascist Myanmar is the oldest regional ally of the People’s Republic of China: not only a military ally, but an economic one, where cheap raw materials such as jade can be extracted, as well as cheap labour. It has also become one of the first steps in the Belt and Road Initiative.
In recent years it has become known for the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Rohingya people - an ethnic minority of Muslims, some of whom seem to have formed both nationalist and religious fundamentalist groups to resist the genocide. The ethnic cleansing is deeply tied to fascist Japanese invasion and occupation, and also to imperialist British colonialism. It was under the three-year Japanese occupation that the Burmese National Army, trained by the fascist Japanese (and led by the father of Suu Kyi), attacked ethnic minorities, as Japan attempted to wrest control from the British.
It was only after it became clear that Japan didn’t seek to liberate Burma, but to steal it as a colony for itself, that the BNA flipped sides to fight the Japanese. The Burma National Army, of majority Bamar ethnicity, became firm Bamar supremacists, learning from the racial supremacism of the Japanese and the British. This would ripple into later organisations through leaders like the Japanese-trained Ne Win, as they formed a Bamar variant of fascist ideology, crystallised in the Burma Socialist Programme Party.
Aung San Suu Kyi was not a critic of the genocide, but in fact made up excuses for it, providing a valuable, but ineffective, political cover. For being a ‘symbol of democracy’ (and I use that phrase tongue in cheek - a symbol promoted in the west), she did not have much to say on minority rights or the right for suffrage for those minorities. Suu Kyi, with her Nobel Peace Prize, became a useful tool of the military as a toothless figurehead - a puppet to lift US sanctions and ease domestic tension by providing a legitimate face for fascist rule. The entire time Suu Kyi was ‘in power’ Myanmar had a constitution written by the military, in which the army controlled at least 25% of parliament by default through military appointments. Many following reports of attacks against ethnic minorities (Suu Kyi is Bamar) say the attacks increased and it was reported that her government attempted to install statues of her father (a Bamar) in the communities of ethnic minorities being oppressed. Those ethnic minorities were prevented from voting.
But despite the fact that Suu Kyi was a paper tiger, she was looked on by western imperialists as a potential partner, posing with Bush and Obama, while the military was looked on as a loyal partner of China. With Chinese ambitions in Myanmar with Belt and Road - as well as the Covid-19 outbreak that many experts said required a military lockdown to control - it’s likely that Suu Kyi was seen as outliving her usefulness, resulting in her removal. The real power behind the throne, the military, needed to show China that they are a most reliable partner for decades to come and that there’s nothing to worry about.
The idea that Myanmar was ever on a road to bourgeois democracy was an illusion. A bourgeois democracy requires a serious crisis, a bourgeois democratic revolution, a mass uprising, or a war where the victor installs it. It was a foolish lie that it could democratise as a result of a change of heart by the fascists.
So what next for Myanmar? The manoeuvring of the military seems designed to bring Myanmar closer to China, but it is also an unpopular decision with the masses. Suu Kyi remains very popular, and her supporters may attempt to build a movement. But I cannot see a movement of just the Bamar. At some point, if the Myanmar people who are Bamar want to end military rule, they will likely need the help and support of ethnic minorities. They have to demand an end to the persecution of ethnic minorities to make that happen. They will need more allies.
Otherwise, their fate is going to be left up to the bigger regional powers of India and China.
The Marxist Line