Continue the fight

As Keir Starmer’s regime prepares a hostile environment for socialists at Labour’s annual conference, Labour Against the Witchhunt resolves to step up its campaign. Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists reports on the August 28 online membership meeting

The July 20 decision of Labour’s national executive committee to revive the anti-communist proscribed list has had a two-sided effect.

No doubt the continuing flow of disillusioned Corbynites out of the party has increased, but so has the membership of Labour Against the Witchhunt - especially after the expulsion of the world-famous film-maker, Ken Loach, for refusing to renounce his sponsorship of LAW. Widespread bureaucratic interference in pre-conference Constituency Labour Party meetings, too, has brought wider sections of the party into the struggle, some having only recently come to understand the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ big lie that is being used to beat the left.

Already, as the NEC made its inglorious decision, a new coalition of left groups, ‘Defend the Left - no bans and proscriptions’, was outside Labour HQ holding its first protest. DTL includes, and stands in solidarity with, the newly proscribed organisations, LAW, Labour in Exile Network (LIEN) and Socialist Appeal, together with a growing list of groups eminently eligible to be added to the list. Notable by their absence from DTL, however, are the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (whose solidarity did not even extend to its own leading figure, Pete Willsman) and Momentum (Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s baby, which has been totally complicit in the big lie).

Opening the August 28 members-only meeting of LAW, chairperson Jackie Walker pointed out that the “ludicrous nature of the purge is now being seen by many more”, and comrades are signing up to LAW in solidarity. And we have not yet seen “peak-purge”, she warned. Indeed, the strategy document adopted by the meeting noted that Starmer

sees the continued purge as an essential part of his electoral strategy. The targets chosen so far - LAW, LIEN, Resist and Socialist Appeal - have been ritual sacrifices chosen because of their relative weakness, not their strength.

Starmer’s aim, the document continues, is “to secure the complete surrender” of the ‘official left’ - ie, the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and the Momentum leadership - and the forthcoming Labour conference is likely to see “a series of staged showdowns with the left … such as the expulsion of Corbyn, the proscription of Momentum or removing the whip from others in the SCG”. Add to that the election of Sharon Graham as Unite general secretary - with the deluded backing of the Socialist Workers Party - and the Labour left cannot expect McCluskey-style resistance from any of the big trade unions to stay Starmer’s hand, as he adds to the proscribed list and turns the witch-hunt against smaller left-led unions, such as the bakers’ union, BFAWU, and the Fire Brigades Union.

In the face of the coming storm, the strategy document sets out LAW’s resolve to “step up our campaign” with a nine-point plan, including working in the trade unions by “making links with principled leaders and left caucuses”, and linking up internationally with those “fighting back against the witch-hunt” in, for example, “the US, Germany, the Netherlands and France” and “holding an online international rally” against that witch-hunt. With this positive strategy, LAW urges the left to “stay and fight for party democracy and the refoundation of Labour as a united front … open to all socialist and working class organisations”.

This positive strategy, which was endorsed by the majority, of continuing, extending and deepening the campaign against the witch-hunt, and maintaining LAW’s orientation towards the Labour Party - the key battleground, so important to the establishment - was, however, opposed by Tony Greenstein. Having found himself in a minority of one on the steering committee, his alternative strategy motion, under the title ‘Where do we go from here?’, gained a significant minority vote at the meeting, and undoubtedly represents a widespread view amongst the sects of one and not a few disillusioned Corbynites.

As far as comrade Tony is concerned, the struggle in the Labour Party is over, and it is time to prepare for an unprincipled left split - unprincipled, because the declared purpose is to “keep activists in the Corbyn project together, with a view to forming a distinct socialist party in the near future”. His defeated motion urged comrades to “face the fact that we have not only lost the battle, but the war”, because “something like 120,000 members have left the Labour Party voluntarily” and “another 100,000-plus will leave in the next few months”. So, instead of leadership, we have tailism: follow the disillusioned away from the struggle.

The defeated motion added: “There is little if anything we can do, since the national constitutional committee has been sidelined and there is no longer any possibility that someone facing expulsion can challenge their accusers”. As if the left could ever win the battle for the Labour Party with the permission of the right, by constitutional means. That would be Corbyn-like (ie, fighting with both arms tied behind our backs), obeying the right’s bureaucratic restrictions.

To cap it all, the final point of ‘Where do we go from here?’ was simply childish: “We believe that the time has come when socialists in trade unions should argue for disaffiliation from a party that is now part of the neoliberal consensus.”

Jackie Walker, among others, cautioned that it is “the wrong time” to declare the struggle over, when the fight against the witch-hunt is gaining “more traction than ever”, and just as we prepare to muster opposition at Labour’s annual conference.

How right she was - and thankfully the majority saw it that way too.