Battle lines are joined!
The perennial war in the Labour Party between left and right has taken a new turn with the ruthless behaviour of the right the catalyst for this latest battle.
With the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn it is clear that we are facing a final face off in the current phase of socialism versus the neoliberal forces that currently control the Party.
The party is meant to be about equality – but only when it doesn’t challenge the leadership. Starmer can talk about Corbyn’s suspension in the media but party members are not even allowed to discuss it.
Branches, CLPs and other party units have been threatened since Corbyn’s suspension with suspension themselves if they dare to comment on, or pass motions in support of, the former leader.
The left must defy the diktats emerging from Starmer’s enforcer, the new General Secretary, David Evans – Bristol West CLP (see box) being a shining example of defiance. Evans’ ability to discard the Party’s rule book and simply send out intimidatory emails to all and sundry is a taste of the kind of dictatorial mode we can expect under the “new leadership”.
Gone are the days when the Conference was the place to seek rule changes and attempt to define the democratic boundaries of the Party’s machinations. The pandemic conveniently allowed Starmer to avoid members’ scrutiny in the glare of conference in 2020 and instead he has put in place a range of measures designed to allow his total control.
Sheffield Local Campaign Forum is just one example of this kind of dictatorship in action. Its Executive had passed a motion of support for Corbyn calling for his suspension to be lifted.
This was too much for the Party managers and emails threatening action against the SLCF’s officers winged their way demanding that the following full meeting of the LCF drop the Executive’s motion at the scheduled meeting of 10th November.
And here, the problems for the left started as individuals, under threat of action, wilted and the meeting nearly descended into chaos. First, the right, turning out in numbers not seen for months but not in a majority, organised a walk out of the meeting led by Council leader Julie Dore.
The meeting then faced an amendment to the motion from the determined left in support of Corbyn, inserting the demand for his reinstatement. And this is where the “soft left” lost their nerve and quit the meeting.
Carried at full Sheffield LCF on 10th November:
"This LCF expresses its solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn, fully supporting his statement in response to the EHRC report, and calls upon the Labour Party national to reinstate him to full membership and the whip without sanction. Jeremy is a lifelong campaigner against racism and antisemitism.
We believe that unity, not division, is important for the party to make progress and effectively challenge antisemitism, racism, fascism and harassment in whatever form this may take.”
It was left to those still in attendance to instal a temporary chair and pass the amended motion.
The machinations from the right of the party are being repeated throughout as the right stamp their jackboots down on democratic debate – suspensions may follow – but the left must stand firm and continue to present a socialist alternative to the careerist, opportunist and managerialist tendencies that have taken control.