Starmer is determined to display his loyalty to big business, the state and the Atlantic alliance by purging what is already a totally marginalised and useless official left. But, asks Carla Roberts, what if Jeremy Corbyn stood as an independent?
Sir Keir Starmer was quick off the starting blocks after the misnamed ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’ report predictably cleared the Labour Party of the “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” it had allegedly been guilty of under Jeremy Corbyn. He announced that Corbyn would not be standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election.
For the EHRC, Sir Keir’s “action plan to drive out anti-Semitism” (also known as his purge of the left) has apparently done the trick! Sure, it took a redefinition of what anti-Semitism actually is: instead of ‘hostility against Jews’ (which very, very few Labour Party members could be convicted of), it is now almost universally understood as ‘criticism of Israel’.
The EHRC is, of course, far from independent – nor very much interested in human rights, for that matter. It is a deeply partisan body whose members are appointed by the government, and it is now firmly in Tory hands. Corbyn should have told the EHRC to get lost when it first launched its investigation of Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ back in 2019 when he was still leader. But his active cooperation was yet another symptom of his futile campaign to appease the right. It is quite astonishing that he continued to pursue this strategy to the bitter end. Even in his final moments as leader, Corbyn sought to reward deputy leader Tom Watson with a seat in the House of Lords, though this witch-hunter continued to stab him in the back.
With the EHRC’s clean bill of health in his back pocket, Starmer moved to his coup de grâce. When asked if Corbyn will be a Labour candidate at the next election, Starmer bluntly pronounced: “Jeremy Corbyn will not stand for Labour at the next general election.”
The day before publication of the EHRC report, Starmer confidently wrote in The Times:
The changes we have made aren’t just fiddling around the edges or temporary fixes. There are those who don’t like that change, who still refuse to see the reality of what had gone on under the previous leadership. To them I say in all candour: we are never going back. If you don’t like it, nobody is forcing you to stay.
As most of those members who actively and loudly supported Corbyn have now been expelled, suspended or have simply resigned in disgust, it does beg the question: who was he talking about? The few ‘leftwing’ MPs in the Socialist Campaign Group have clearly given up the fight. Showing up on a picket line is the most radical thing that some of them are prepared to do. But even that seems to be going too far for some of them: they have recently set up an alternative group entitled ‘New Left’, which so far acts as a group within the SCG. The neo-Blairite undertone of their name surely cannot have escaped MPs like Clive Lewis, Dawn Butler, Sam Tarry and Nadia Whittome (the latter a fellow traveller of the pro-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty). Apparently, they model themselves on ‘The squad’ of politicians in the US, despite the fact that this opportunist quartet has pretty much collapsed.
As for Starmer, he was really talking to big business and the mainstream media, to those who used to love Tony Blair. He might not have the same alleged ‘charm’ and media savviness, but he is certainly a lot more brutal, when it comes to reshaping the party and purging the left, as shown by his decision to pursue five former Corbyn staffers in a civil case for leaking what was going to be Labour’s submission to the EHRC. The unredacted 860‑page report highlighted the right’s campaign against the Corbyn leadership (as well as that leadership’s appeasing efforts to push out Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker and others falsely accused of anti-Semitism). Even though this case might cost the party between £3-4 million, this is money well spent for Sir Keir. It signals that Labour is, once again, open for business. Starmer might have stood for Labour leader on the 2019 Corbynite manifesto, but he has certainly washed his hands of it now.
It is rather incredible that, at the same time, the official Labour left is still barking up the ‘unity’ tree. “The blame for this polarisation in the party lies with Starmer and his fixation on the left, while there is so much wrong in wider society,” says Mike Cowley on the dying Red Line TV show, which is loosely linked to the Labour Representation Committee. Why, oh why, can’t Labour concentrate its fire on the Tories instead of attacking the left?
Cowley is, of course, encapsulating the political outlook of the official Labour left, despite its obvious and painful failure in the last eight years. It is exactly such useless appeals for ‘unity’ that have led to Corbyn’s futile strategy of trying to appease the right rather than take it on.
Starmer’s ultimatum serves as a reminder that the Labour Party is still a ‘bourgeois workers’ party’. The party has trade union affiliates and still relies on hazy notions of class to get votes, but the right commits itself to maintaining the existing constitution and pursing common interests (read: the interests of capital). Of course, Starmer is doing his best to limit the damage caused by the presence of active socialists in Labour’s ranks to the carefully crafted pro-big business image. But the continued affiliation of the big trade unions, representing millions of workers, means that for now Labour remains an arena of the class struggle.
And no, that does not mean that communists believe that the class struggle can be decisively ‘won’ in the Labour Party and even less that socialism can somehow be realised through a vote in parliament. But, as should have become crystal-clear over the last eight years, the bourgeoisie did everything in its power to prevent a Corbyn government, which was clearly a manifestation of the class struggle.
In his bid to shift the party still further to the right, Starmer may well be investigating the possibility of yet more bans and proscriptions.
Momentum might well be put on the list, despite the fact that the organisation has loyally implemented the witch-hunt. Its founder, Jon Lansman, actively and eagerly participated in it and his various heirs and successors never strayed much from this path. To this day, they are continuing to implement the witch hunt in their own ranks. Momentum does not allow anyone to be a member who has been expelled from the Labour Party. They are harmless, loyal and entirely useless as an opposition. So they may be spared.
Ditto groups like the Labour Representation Committee and the even more ineffective Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. While the LRC somewhat flaccidly stood up to the witch-hunt, supporting this or that protest or open letter organised by the likes of Labour Against the Witchhunt and Jewish Voice for Labour, it is barely alive nowadays.
Red Line TV was perhaps the last spark of life emanating from that corpse and it is now “taking a break”. At its Kafkaesque AGMs, the LRC continues to elect John McDonnell as its president – the same man who has embraced the anti-Semitism smear campaign and goes on about “zero tolerance”. Naturally he did not raise the rafters when his old friend Graham Bash, editor of Labour Briefing, was expelled. President McDonnell used to write a monthly column … so presumably he is in Starmer’s cross-hairs.
CLPD guru, Barry Gray (also a leading member of the Stalinoid sect, Socialist Action), has given out the message that it is heads down for the next 10-15 years. The hope is that eventually some leftwing leader will come along and bring salvation. All the while he and his chums kept their silence as comrades were purged one by one. When founder-member, Pete Willsman, was suspended and then expelled in November 2022 (for – you guessed it – false claims of anti-Semitism) the CLPD looked the other way.
Jewish Voice for Labour, one of the few organisations that did dare to speak out, has been a likely candidate for proscription, but perhaps Starmer has been fearful of the obvious charge of anti-Semitism being made against him! It seems that JVL too has been struggling, as most of its members have themselves been suspended or expelled from the party. It does put such groups into an existentialist crisis – their whole political outlook is based on work in the Labour Party. It is not surprising that there is so much demoralisation on the left.
An anonymous “Labour figure” speculates on the Skwawkbox website that the Stop the War Coalition could be next on Starmer’s hit list, which, given the ‘withdraw your signatures of else’ instruction to the spineless SCG 11 back in February 2022, seems quite possible. Jeremy Corbyn is deputy president alongside the Communist Party of Britain’s Andrew Murray. And, of course, StWC dares to criticise the US/Nato proxy war in Ukraine (even if it does so in a peacenik kind of way). Such a ban could lead to all sorts of Labour lefts being expelled, including Corbyn.
Many on the left are now pinning their hopes on Corbyn standing as an independent in Islington North. And, while he has chosen not to publicly speculate about such a move yet, the odds are that he would win, having served as the local and popular MP for over 40 years. It is unlikely though that Corbyn would receive any kind of support from the cowards in the Socialist Campaign Group. They much prefer saving their own stalled careers and keeping their heads down until it is time to cash in their lucrative parliamentary pensions.
Corbyn is also unlikely to form any kind of a political party, which is what many on the left urge him to do. That is rather surprising, considering that he was prepared to sacrifice hundreds of his own supporters in the witch-hunt, many of whom are still being vilified as anti-Semites in the national press. Reputations have been ruined and not a few livelihoods and careers badly affected. Thanks to the internet, this will be so for decades to come. But, incredibly, for many the man still seems to walk on water.
A Starmer government might take on the unions if they cause UK plc too much trouble over pay and conditions. A serious confrontation might see some big unions disaffiliating and forming a new version of the 1900 Labour Representation Committee. Should any such new kind of ‘broad left party’ emerge, communists would of course participate. It would be sectarian and stupid to do otherwise. But the main task remains fighting for a mass Communist Party l
. The Times February 14.