While some on the disoriented left will support ‘anyone but Labour’, writes Carla Roberts, Momentum and what remains of the official Labour left beg Sir Keir for unity
Labour did well in the local elections - but not well enough to avoid the potential of a hung parliament at the next general election. For John McDonnell this presents a golden opportunity to once again bang on about the need for Labour to become - you guessed it - “a broad church”, where “there is respect for a whole range of views across the political spectrum within the Labour Party”.1 He rather amusingly describes how “young left radical MPs have appeal across the board. If we don’t use that resource, we lose the opportunity of mobilising some of the key votes”.
Who are those mysterious ‘young left radical MPs’ that he wants to see on the front benches? Well, there is Nadia Whittome (fellow traveller of the pro-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty), the tame Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the middle-of-the-road Olivia Blake and - last not least - Zarah Sultana. The latter is the only one of this bunch who could be described as potentially radical - but Realpolitik in parliament has certainly made her a very quiet warrior. All of these ‘radical’ MPs are members of the so-called Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs - which has still not managed to put out a statement in support of its own Diane Abbott, now suspended from the party. Clearly, none of them fancy ending up next to Diane Abbott or Jeremy Corbyn. Better to keep heads down then.
From a careerist point of view, this is entirely understandable: the swift disciplinary action taken against Abbott for her admittedly extraordinarily stupid letter to The Observer shows that Sir Keir continues to be on the warpath against the left. Politically of course, the despicable opportunism of the SCG is exactly what has put the left in the position it is today - entirely defeated. Instead of at least trying to take on the right, the official Labour left has tried to appease it, begging for forgiveness for the entirely fake ‘mass anti-Semitism problem’ of the party. It is now so weak that Starmer can pick the remaining ‘left’ MPs off one by one, without little or no opposition.
Last week’s coronation stressed this fact once again - not only did the Labour Party’s official social media outlets sycophantically declare that “Labour celebrates the coronation of His Majesty The King”, while crying “God save His Majesty The King”; we were also reminded that the anti-monarchy group, Republic, is part of Labour’s new blacklist of 12 organisations that Constituency Labour Parties have been banned from affiliating to “without approval from the NEC”, since “To do so would breach party rules.”
The email goes on to list the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition, London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, Jewish Voice for Labour, Somalis for Labour, Sikhs for Labour, All African Women’s Group, Health Campaigns Together, the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group, the Peace and Justice Project - and Republic (more on the latter below).2
This list clearly contains a few innocent bystanders who are being hit by ‘friendly fire’, so to speak. It is chiefly Jewish Voice for Labour and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign that had to be dealt with, because they continue to be a thorn in Starmer’s side by challenging the big lie that ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’. As both contain large number of Jewish members, Starmer probably felt that he could not simply add them to the growing list of organisations that have been proscribed outright, which means that members, sympathisers or anyone liking one of their Facebook posts are automatically expelled: he could and would have been accused of anti-Semitism (something that JVL has pointed out many times). This blacklist is a more ‘elegant’ weapon.
Though the other groups on the list are mostly quite harmless they do have a symbolic value. Stop the War Coalition, for example, stands for social-pacifism in the midst of a Nato proxy war in Ukraine that is supported just as much by His Majesty’s loyal opposition as his government … and it is only a step, a logical one, from suspending branches affiliated to StWC to expelling MPs speaking on StWC platforms, signing petitions or acting as sponsors. Having CLPs sign up to Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project would, of course, be a minor embarrassment for Starmer, but if Corbyn stands as an independent it sets the stage for witch-hunting anyone who dares to leaflet, canvas, post or even speak in his support.
Labour CND and Abortion Rights, are, of course, run by the shadowy Socialist Action sect, which also effectively steers the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. It might strike some as curious that, just like Momentum, they have both been left off any blacklist ... so far.
The Guardian quotes a “Momentum source”, who says that the organisation “is making a ‘strategic’ retreat to local government, focusing less on the parliamentary party and more on a ‘growing appetite for change and ambition in local communities’.” According to the article, Momentum also wants to “focus on renewing a broader alliance of the left and soft left within Labour”. If Whittome and Blake are the “left”, we shudder to imagine which MPs they might consider on the “soft left”.
Momentum is, of course, picking up on the fact that most leftwingers have now left the Labour Party, with some celebrating ‘anyone but Labour’ candidates winning seats in the local elections (or even standing against Labour). The political confusion on the left following the defeat of the Corbyn movement is so immense that it matters not that most of these candidates stood on a localist programme which can only aspire to the heights of ‘motherhood and apple pie’.
Mandy Clare - former leading lady of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy before jumping ship to join Chris Williamson in the Socialist Labour Party - has won a council seat as part of the ‘Winsford Salt of the Earth’ group - which has campaigned on the slogan, “People before politics”. It has taken control of the local town council, wiping out Labour.3 Let us see what ‘non-political’ things our ‘Salt of the Earth’ friends do with their clear majority.
Jo Bird, the well-known former JVL member and a supporter of Labour Against the Witchhunt, has won a seat in the Wirral council on the Green ticket (she now wears only green clothes instead of red ones!). She is one of many former Labour members who have joined the Green Party, especially in the wake of Corbyn’s suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party. This is, sadly, an indication of the lack of appreciation on the ‘left’ of the Green Party’s role as a pro-capitalist, pro-business organisation.
We might also take issue with Alan Gibbons, who, together with Sam Gorst (another former supporter of LAW) and Lucy Williams (who has not been known for her leftwing politics), won council seats as Liverpool Community Independents. As a former CLP secretary of Liverpool Walton, Gibbons was known for keeping his mouth firmly shut during the witch-hunt of the Corbyn years and refused to speak out (or even table motions) in support of the Wavertree Four, who were expelled on fake anti-Semitism charges. When he was the leading member of Momentum’s national constitutional committee on the Forward Momentum ticket, he refused to stand in solidarity with those expelled over the anti-Semitism smears and only criticised the suspensions of those who were victims of the ‘second’ wave of the witch-hunt, after Corbyn’s defeat. And, when he himself was finally expelled, he had to, of course, leave Momentum because of the witch-hunting rule he himself had continued to enforce! He now says he left Momentum because it was becoming ‘ineffective’! The man is clearly no hero of the left.
Of course, socialists and communists engage in local politics. But without a UK-wide, mass Marxist party of the working class that can effectively tackle bigger issues and engage coherently with national and international politics, such local ‘leftwing’ councillors are likely to end up focussing on issues that do not go much beyond the ‘litter-picking and dog-poo’ category. Even the much-celebrated ‘Preston project’, while useful in some respects, suffers by necessity from severe limitations.
The inclusion of Republic in Labour’s blacklist deserves a closer look. It is rather puzzling, seeing as it is hardly a radical organisation or one which has caused Sir Keir any problems whatsoever. Perhaps he is trying to overcompensate for his former republican views by stressing his monarchist credentials - which is rather tricky when there are video clips out there of him calling for the abolition of the monarchy.4
In the wake of the coronation, Republic happily reports a massive growth in membership and donations. No doubt fuelled by the heavy-handed approach of the police, which arrested almost a dozen Republic organisers (as well as at least one royalist bystander), the group’s membership has almost doubled from 5,000 to about 9,000 in a few days, with donations of over £100,000 coming in.5
The fact that Republic has a chief executive, Graham Smith, and no democratic structure shows what kind of organisation it is - more like a charity. Its website has a cross in the patriotic colours of the Union Jack. Tame campaigners like citizen Smith might have learnt a sharp political lesson over the police arrests of them and other anti-monarchist protesters, but the group’s programme is very limited indeed, focussing its critique on the cost of the monarchy and replacing the king with a president, as in the US and France - ie, an elected monarch - while leaving pretty much the rest of the state and the capitalist mode of production untouched. If The Guardian were to launch a party, it would look like Republic.
Nevertheless, its recently published short statement on ‘Why we protest’ is interesting.6 It starts, sickeningly enough, with the platitude that “This great country of ours is full of creativity, potential and possibility” and that democracy is important “in creating a prosperous and fair society”. Capitalism would just work a lot better without the preposterously expensive and irrational monarchy, you see.
However, the next sentence is interesting: “The campaign for a republic is about democratic reform, democratic principles and ridding the country of an institution that serves itself and those in power - the few, not the many” (my emphasis). Now where have we heard that one before? It is, of course, based on Percy Shelley’s poem, ‘The mask of anarchy’, but has gained immense popularity by its use by a certain Jeremy Corbyn in Labour’s 2017 and 2019 election manifestos. Perhaps this explains the inclusion of Republic in Labour’s ‘naughty list’.
The Guardian May 15.↩︎
The Guardian May 4.↩︎
The Guardian May 14.↩︎