Category Archives: Labour Party Marxists

LP conference voting guide: Life-long bans and significant silences

Unfortunately, Momentum’s 2017 Rule change guide for this year’s Labour Party conference simply ignores the controversial motions around the weaponised issue of anti-Semitism. In fact, it is vital that these three motions sponsored by the Jewish Labour Movement are voted down, says Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

This LPM voting guide deals with all rule changes submitted by Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) before conference in 2016. In accordance with one of the plethora of undemocratic clauses in the LP rule book, these procedural motions were then ‘parked’ for almost 14 months before they can be finally discussed by delegates at this year’s conference. (Note, motion 12 from Filton & Bradley, Stoke and Newport West proposes to do away with this crassly anti-democratic rule. Absolutely correct!)

Not every motion published in the Addendum to the 2016 delegate’s report will make it to conference floor. Some have already been implemented by the NEC, some might be ruled out of order by the Conference Arrangements Committee and/or the NEC meeting on September 19. The final, detailed agenda and all motions will only be published a few short days before conference and might well contain a package of clumsy compromise ‘reforms’.

For example, there is talk of the ‘McDonnell amendment’ (no:14 in our list below), being tweaked so that any future candidate for LP leader or deputy leader would need nominations from 10% of the “the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP”. Currently, the threshold stands at 15%. The original motion below suggests reducing it to 5% per cent.

In our view, it should be 0%. The relatively tiny numbers of Labour MPs and MEPs should not have any inbuilt constitutional right to thwart the democratic will of our mass membership!

If Corbyn and his allies on the NEC opt for this 10% ‘compromise’, it may be prompted by uncertainty about the political balance at conference – despite Luke Akehurst and the mainstream media suggesting that the left will score important victories in Brighton.

So, the battle lines are clearly draw up, but the actual balance of forces remains blurry. Lukehurst could be reducing expectations on the right with his downbeat comments. This wing of our party is fighting hard to keep its hold over the party apparatus – but its supporters are painfully aware they constitute a minority amongst the grassroots membership. In addition, many CLPs have chosen pro-Corbyn supporters as representatives and have filled their whole quota of delegates with left-wingers. But it’s not a done deal, however. There are also reports of many more CLPs where the right has again cited the “financial burdens” of sending more than one delegate – ‘and, hey, why not send our experienced [read, “rightwing” – CR] comrade X, who represented us in previous years, knows the score at conference…”, etc, etc?

Indeed, if we consider the rule changes as an indicator of the balance of forces in the party, then a clear victory for the left is far from certain. It is remarkable how few progressive, left-wing amendments have been submitted – and how tame they are. Yes, this is partially explained by the 14 months delay, which means we have a snapshot of where our party was over a year ago, not how it looks now. But there’s no doubt that the motions are also a reflection of the fact the left is still playing catch-up with the huge challenges presented to us by the election of a left-wing leader and a mass influx of a left-leaning new membership – some two years after these historic opportunities landed in our laps.

Bluntly put, we are still woefully unprepared and unorganised.

Momentum played a very effective mobilising role in the general election. However, its leader Jon Lansman – and Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter – clearly have no coherent plan for a root and branch political transformation of the Labour Party. The organisation deserves credit for publishing some useful guides to and information on the 2017 conference. (With the partial qualification that its most useful sections have already been covered by NEC member Pete Wilsman’s excellent overview, published last year and which is still available on the website of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.) Momentum’s generally useful contribution has a very loud, symptomatic silence, however – it has nothing to say on the energetic witch-hunt against the left in the party, under the banner of purging of ‘anti-Semitism’ in our ranks. This finds reflection in three rule changes submitted to conference – and the fact that the National Policy Forum wants to end Labour’s opposition to the occupation of Palestine (see Tony Greenstein’s article in Weekly Worker September 7).

There must be no bowing to this foul provocation against the left of the party, or equivocation on the defence of comrades who are caught in the net of the witch hunters.

Motions to oppose

The Momentum 2017 Rule change guide lists six motions that delegates should support (copied from CLPD and LPM) – and only two that should be opposed. Both of those deal with the anti-Corbyn attempt of removing the category of ‘registered supporters’ (who paid £3 and £25 respectively to have a vote in the leadership elections) and ‘affiliated supporters’ (ie, union members and members of affiliated societies). Of course, LPM also opposes these two motions (there are actually three: the Momentum office seems to have forgotten about motion no 1 from Kingswood). You can bet your bottom dollar that neither of the movers of these motions are concerned about the ‘power of the fully paid up Labour Party member’ – this is all about reducing the power of the unions, Jeremy Corbyn and avoiding the possibility that he could be replaced by a fellow left-winger.

But there are far worse motions among the 23 submitted – and they have been composed in exactly the same anti-Corbyn spirit. Motions 3, 4 and 6, all are clearly motivated by the entirely fabricated “anti-Semitism scandal” in the party. Motion 4 from Finchley & Golders Green is the worst of the lot. It proposes a life-long membership ban on anybody who is deemed to have engaged “in conduct which is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on gender; sexual identity; ethnicity or faith; age or disability; or other personal characteristic”. Such a person “shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member” [our emphasis]. And how can you possibly disprove that you were “motivated by hostility or prejudice”? This proposed rule change is incredibly open to abuse.

Ditto motion no 3, which defines a “hate incident” as “as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation” [our emphasis]. This formulation basically does away with the need for any evidence. Somebody thinks you were motivated by something nasty – bingo, that’s your expulsion letter in the post.

Motion 6 has been submitted by, among others, the Jewish Labour Movement. It uses the same formulations as the two motions above – ie, it is up to the “victim or anyone else” to charge somebody successfully with Anti-Semitism or related crimes. Hard evidence is not needed, feelings will suffice. The person charged is guilty until they can prove their innocence. In addition though, the motions also singles out “anti-Semitism (and ‘cleverly’, Islamophobia and racism) as being above the right to express opinions. Their full proposal would read: “The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions, except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism” [we emphasise the JML’s proposed amendment]. Coupled with the proposal to remove any need for evidence, this is a truly anti-democratic motion and a bureaucrat’s wet dream.

Why is Momentum not saying anything on these truly atrocious motions? Unfortunately, Jon Lansman – who since his coup of January 2017 rules Momentum’s national office like an absolute monarch – has been a willing accomplice in the witch-hunt by the right in the party, in the mistaken belief that by not ‘attacking’ them, they might eventually rally behind Jeremy Corbyn.

Also, Lansman, rather ironically, is politically rather close to the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty when it comes to their definition of Anti-Zionism: basically anybody who criticises the actions of the state of Israel. Lansman famously threw Jackie Walker to the wolves when he had her removed as vice-chair of Momentum and then drew up a constitution which bars from Momentum membership all those thrown out of the Labour Party – for example, for the ‘crime’ of having been or being a member of another political group (like the AWL or Left Unity).

And just like the CLPD, Momentum has, at least for the time being, given up its fight for mandatory selection of MPs. And that despite the fact that the CLPD (with its member Jon Lansman playing a leading role at the time) fought for this rule change for many decades – and eventually with success: From 1980 until the early 90s, a form of mandatory selection of MPs was enshrined in the rule book. Noticeably, no constitutional motion on this subject has been submitted, despite all the debates on this subject in the last few years (though there is a slight chance that some of the contemporary motions submitted might touch on the subject – we’ll know after the NEC meeting of September 19. Also, at least a couple of motions on mandatory selection have been submitted in time for the 2018 conference). This shows how far we still have to go: the left is a long way away from the power it wielded even in the 1980s.

Motions to support

Among the motions that should be supported by delegates are, as already discussed, the so-called ‘McDonnell amendment’ (No 14). We also support motion 9 from Blackley & Broughton Exeter, which wants to do away with the restriction that CLPs can submit either a contemporary motion or a procedural motion, but not both. Motion 11 also wants to give more powers to the CLPs: it proposes that motions submitted are not automatically ruled out of order because they touch on a subject that is mentioned in the long documents produced by the National Policy Forum (to which Tony Blair has outsourced policy-making in the Labour Party). We also recommend a vote for motions 7 and 23, which seek to increase the money from membership fees allocated to CLPs (at the moment, they scrape by with an allocation of a measly £1.50 per member – per year!). There are a couple of other motions that deserve support.

Click here to read our voting recommendation in detail. We will produce more voting guides when the agenda and all motions have been finalised. They will be covered by our daily issue of Red Pages that we will upload online hand out at conference. We are keen to hear from delegates and observers – send your impressions, thoughts, observations and short articles to office@labourpartymarxists.org.uk for possible inclusion in Red Pages.

 

End the bans and proscriptions

Once the Labour Party was characterised by tolerance and inclusion, all working class organisations were welcome – no longer. James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists explores the history.

We in the Labour Party are in the midst of a terrible purge. Four examples.

  •   Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union general secretary Ronnie Draper has been suspended from membership and thereby prevented from voting in the Labour leadership election. Why? An unidentified tweet.
  •   Tony Greenstein is likewise suspended. A well known Jewish anti-Zionist, he faces baseless charges of being an anti-Semite. His real crime is to oppose the state of Israel … and Labour’s pro-Zionist right wing.
  •   Then there is Jill Mountford, an executive member of Momentum. She has been expelled. Once again, why? Six years ago, in the May 2010 general election, the comrade stood for the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty against Harriet Harman. A protest against the acceptance of Con-Dem austerity politics, albeit based on a stupid dismissal of the Labour Party as virtually indistinguishable from the US Democrats. However, since then comrade Mountford vows she has supported only Labour candidates.
  •   Perhaps the most ridiculous disciplinary case is Catherine Starr’s. Having shared a video clip of Dave Grohl’s band she ecstatically wrote: “I fucking love the Foo Fighters”. The thought police nabbed her under the ban on “racist, abusive or foul language, abuse against women, homophobia or anti-Semitism at meetings, on social media or in any other context.”1 Yes, using the word “fucking” in any context, can, nowadays be deemed a breach of the Labour Party’s norms of behaviour.

Unsurprisingly then, there are thousands of Drapers, Greensteins, Mountfords and Starrs. And it is clear what general secretary Iain McNicol, the compliance unit and the Labour right are up to. Create a climate where almost any leftwing public statement, past action or use of unofficial English can be branded as unacceptable, as threatening, as violating the Blairite ‘safe spaces’ policy. Then bar, ban and banish the maximum number of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. Swing things in favour of Owen Smith. True, the right’s chances of success are remote. The odds against citizen Smith are far too great. Nonetheless, this is clearly what the purge is all about.

Meanwhile, despite his massive £2.1 million donation to the Liberal Democrats in June, Lord David Sainsbury, a minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, is, at least as things stand today, free to vote in the leadership election. Nor are former Tory or Ukip members suspended or expelled. That despite their undisputed past support for non-Labour candidates. And, of course, there are those MPs who have been throwing one lying accusation after another against the left. They are Nazi stormtroopers. They are anti-Semites. They are Trot infiltrators.

The same MPs have attempted to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership at every turn. Now, having failed with the anti-Semitism campaign, they are furiously using the capitalist media to spread rumours of an imminent split and getting hold of the Labour Party’s name, offices and assets through the courts. They have gone untouched. A crime in itself.

Unlike John McDonnell we do not complain of “double standards”. We in Labour Party Marxists forthrightly oppose the suspension and expulsion of socialists, leftwingers, working class partisans. All of them, without exception, ought to be immediately reinstated. Whatever our criticisms they are assets who should be valued. It is the treacherous right, the splitters, who deserve to be purged.

There is surely nothing uncontroversial about a Marxist making such a case. After all, the ongoing civil war in the Labour Party is a concentrated manifestation of the struggle of class against class. Labour’s much expanded base faces an onslaught by the pro-capitalist apparatus of Brewer’s Green bureaucrats, MPs, MEPs, councillors, etc. Under such circumstances we Marxists are obliged to actively take sides.

What then should we make of Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain? He grovellingly wrote to Iain McNicol to assure him that the CPB “does not engage in entryism”.1)My emphasis – see https://andrewgodsell.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/labour-suspension-appeal-process More than that, comrade Griffiths parades his spinelessness:

According to reports in The Guardian and other media outlets … Labour Party staff have produced a research paper [that] links the Communist Party to ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party. In particular, that research paper cites a report made to our party’s executive committee [that] on June 25 declared that “defending the socialist leadership of the Labour Party at all costs” should be a priority for communists. Nowhere in that executive committee report … do we propose that our members join or register with the Labour Party. “At all costs” is a rhetorical flourish that cannot, obviously, be taken literally!

So the CPB should not be taken at its word. It will not defend the Corbyn leadership “at all costs”. And, prostrating himself still further before the witch-finder general, Griffiths continues:

Should you or your staff have any evidence that Communist Party members have joined the Labour Party without renouncing their CP membership, or engaged in any similar subterfuge, please inform me, so that action can be taken against them for bringing our party into disrepute.2)https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/communist-infiltration-of-labour

Let us be clear about what is being said here: in the middle of a brutal civil war, with the Labour left facing a concerted witch-hunt, the CPB’s Robert Griffiths wants to be seen as standing shoulder to shoulder with Iain McNicol. He even offers to help McNicol out in hunting down any CPB member who has decided to become a registered Labour Party supporter. To my personal knowledge there are more than a few of them. Anyway, not to leave a shadow of doubt, Griffiths signs off “With comradely regards”. A giveaway as to where his true loyalties really lie.

Following Tom Watson’s dodgy dossier, alleging that “far-left infiltrators are taking over the Labour Party”, Griffiths issued a follow-up statement. Again this excuse for a communist leader reassures McNicol that membership of his CPB is “incompatible with membership of the Labour Party by decision of both party leaderships”.3)Morning Star August 12 2016

Origins

How exactly Griffiths’ organisation arrived at its ban on Labour Party members joining the CPB and the ban on CPB members joining the Labour Party need not concern us here. Presumably its roots lie in the constitutionalism embraced by the ‘official’ CPGB with its turn to the cross-class politics of the popular front. This was sanctioned by the 5th Congress of the Communist International in 1935 under Stalin’s direct instructions.

Yet the CPB claims to be the unbroken continuation of the ‘official’ CPGB, going back to its foundation in 1920. Nonetheless, as we shall show, it is clear that that a fundamental break occurred. No less importantly, the same can be said of the Labour Party.

From its origins our Labour Party was a federal party. A united front of all working class organisations with, yes, especially at first, decidedly limited objectives.

JH Holmes, delegate of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, moved this truly historic resolution at the 1899 TUC:

That this Congress, having regard to its decisions in former years, and with a view to securing better representation of the interests of Labour in the House of Commons, hereby instructs the Parliamentary Committee to invite the cooperation of all cooperative, socialistic, trade unions and other working class organisations to jointly cooperate on lines mutually agreed upon, in convening a special congress of representatives from such above-named organisations as may be willing to take part to devise ways and means of securing the return of an increased number of Labour members in the next parliament.4)BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p166

His resolution was opposed by the miners’ union on the basis of impracticability, but found support from the dockers, the railway servants and shop assistants unions. After a long debate the resolution was narrowly carried by 546,000 to 434,000 votes.

The TUC’s parliamentary committee oversaw the founding conference of the Labour Representation Committee in February 1900. The 129 delegates, representing 500,000 members, finally agreed to establish a distinct Labour Party in parliament, with its own whips, policies, finances, etc.

An executive committee was also elected. It would prepare lists of candidates, administer funds and convene an annual conference. Beside representatives of affiliated trade unions, the newly formed NEC would also include the socialist societies: the Fabians, the Independent Labour Party and the Social Democratic Federation. In fact, they were allocated five out of the 12 NEC seats (one Fabian, and two each from the ILP and SDF). Given the small size of these socialist societies compared with the trade unions, it is obvious that they were treated with extreme generosity. Presumably their “advanced” views were highly regarded.5)BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p167

True, for the likes of Keir Hardie the formation of the Labour Party marked something of a tactical retreat. He had long sought some kind of a socialist party. However, to secure an alliance with the trade unions he and other ILPers were prepared to formally limit the Labour Party to nothing more than furthering working class interests by getting “men sympathetic with the aims and demands of the labour movement” into the House of Commons.6)Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p17

The delegates of the SDF proposed that the newly established Labour Party commit itself to the “class war and having as its ultimate object the socialisation of the means of production and exchange” – a formulation rejected by a large majority. In the main the trade unions were still Liberal politically. Unfortunately, as a result of this vote, the next annual conference of the SDF voted by 54 to 14 to withdraw from the Labour Party. Many SDF leaders came to bitterly “regret the decision”.7)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p97

It should be recalled that neither Marx nor Engels had much time for the SDF nor its autocratic leader, Henry Hyndman. The SDF often took a badly conceived sectarian approach. Instead of linking up with the trade unions, it would typically stand aloof. Eg, faced with the great industrial unrest of 1910-14, Hyndman rhetorically asked: “Can anything be imagined more foolish, more harmful, more – in the widest sense of the word – unsocial than a strike?”8)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p230 Of course, it is quite possible to actively support trade unions in their struggles over wages, conditions, etc, and to patiently and steadfastly advocate radical democracy and international socialism. Indeed without doing just that there can be no hope for a mass socialist party here in Britain.

However, the SDF is too often casually dismissed by historians. Eg, Henry Pelling describes it as “a rather weedy growth in the political garden”.9)H Pelling Origins of the Labour Party Oxford 1976, p172 True, its Marxism was typically lifeless, dogmatic and with Hyndman mixed with more than a tinge of anti-Semitism. Thus for him the Boer war was instigated by “Jew financial cliques and their hangers on”.10)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p159 Yet the SDF was “the first modern socialist organisation of national importance” in Britain.11)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8 Karl Marx disliked it, Fredrick Engels despaired of it, William Morris, John Burns, Tom Mann and Edward Aveling left it. But the SDF survived. There were various breakaways. However, they either disappeared like the Socialist League, remained impotent sects like the Socialist Party of Great Britain, or could manage little more than establishing a regional influence, as with the Socialist Labour Party on Clydeside. Meanwhile the SDF continued as the “major representative” of what passed for Marxism in this country till 1911, when it merged with a range of local socialist societies to become the British Socialist Party.12)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8

Not that sectarianism was entirely vanquished. The first conference of the BSP voted, by an overwhelming majority, to “seek direct and independent affiliation” to the Second International.13)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p248 In other words, not through the Labour Party-dominated British section of the Second International.

However, despite that, the BSP began to overcome its Labour-phobia. Leading figures such as Henry Hyndman, J Hunter Watts and Dan Irving eventually came out in favour of affiliation. So too did Zelda Kahan for the left. Withdrawal from the Labour Party, she argued, had been a mistake. Outside the Labour Party the BSP was seen as hostile, as fault-finding, as antagonistic. Inside, the BSP would get a wider hearing and win over the “best” rank-and-file forces.14)M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p255

Affiliation was agreed, albeit by a relatively narrow majority. Efforts then began to put this into effect. The formal application for affiliation was submitted in June 1914. And in 1916 – things having been considerably delayed by the outbreak of World War I – the BSP gained affiliation to the Labour Party. Note, the BSP also in effect expelled the pro-war right wing led by Hyndman.

Labour debates

Interestingly, the International Socialist Bureau – the Brussels-based permanent executive of the Second International – meeting in October 1908, had agreed to Labour Party affiliation … and thus, given its numbers, ensured its domination of the British section. For our present purposes the exchanges between the dozen or so national party representatives gathered in Brussels are well worth revisiting.

According to the rules of the Second International, there could only be two types of affiliate organisations. Firstly, socialist parties “which recognise the class struggle”. Secondly, working class organisations “whose standpoint is that of the class struggle” (ie, trade unions).15)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p233

During these times the Labour Party positively avoided calling itself socialist. Nor, as we have seen, did it expressly recognise the principle of the class struggle. However, despite that, the Labour Party was admitted to the August 1907 Stuttgart congress of the International. My guess would be that it had observer status. Why was it admitted? Lenin characterised the Labour Party as an “organisation of a mixed type”, standing between the two types defined in the rules. In other words, the Labour Party was part political party, part a political expression of the trade unions. Crucially, the Labour Party marked the break from Liberalism of the vitally important working class in Britain. That could only but be welcomed.

At the October 1908 meeting of the ISB, Bruce Glasier of the ILP demanded the direct recognition of the Labour Party as an affiliate. He praised the Labour Party, its growth, its parliamentary group, its organic bonds with the trade unions, etc. Objectively, he said, this signified the movement of the working class in Britain towards socialism. Meanwhile, as a typical opportunist, Glasier lambasted doctrinaire principles, formulas and catechisms.

Karl Kautsky, the Second International’s leading theoretician, replied. Kautsky emphatically dissociated himself from Glasier’s obvious contempt for principles, but wholly supported the affiliation of the Labour Party, as a party waging the class struggle in practice. He moved the following resolution:

Whereas by previous resolutions of the international congresses all organisations adopting the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle and recognising the necessity for political action have been accepted for membership, the International Bureau declares that the British Labour Party is admitted to International Socialist congresses, because, while not expressly accepting the proletarian class struggle, in practice the Labour Party conducts this struggle, and adopts its standpoint, inasmuch as the party is organised independently of the bourgeois parties.

Kautsky was backed up by the Austrians, Édouard Vaillant of the French section, and, as the voting showed, the majority of the socialist parties and groups in the smaller European countries. Opposition came first from Henry Hyndman, representing the SDF. He wanted to maintain the status quo. Until the Labour Party expressly recognised the principle of the class struggle and the aim of socialism it should not be an affiliate. He found support from Angele Roussel (the second French delegate and a follower of Jules Guesde), Ilya Rubanovich of Russia’s Socialist Revolutionary Party and Roumen Avramov, delegate of the revolutionary wing of the Bulgarian social democrats.

Lenin spoke on behalf of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He agreed with the first part of Kautsky’s resolution. Lenin argued that it was impossible to turn down the Labour Party: ie, what he called “the parliamentary representation of the trade unions”.16)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p234 After all, the ISB admitted trade unions, including those which had allowed themselves to be represented by bourgeois parliamentarians. But, said Lenin, “the second part of Kautsky’s resolution is wrong, because in practice the Labour Party is not a party really independent of the Liberals, and does not pursue a fully independent class policy”. Lenin therefore proposed an amendment that the end of the resolution, beginning with the word “because”, should read as follows: “because it [the Labour Party] represents the first step on the part of the really proletarian organisations of Britain towards a conscious class policy and towards a socialist workers’ party”.17)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, pp234-35

However, Kautsky refused to accept the amendment. In his reply, he argued that the International Socialist Bureau could not adopt decisions based on “expectations”.

But the main struggle was between the supporters and the opponents of Kautsky’s resolution as a whole. When it was about to be voted on, Victor Adler, the Austro-Marxist, proposed that the resolution be divided into two parts. This was done and both parts were carried by the ISB: the first with three against and one abstention, and the second with four against and one abstention. Thus Kautsky’s resolution became the agreed position. Rubanovich, the Socialist Revolutionary, abstained on both votes. Lenin also reports what Adler – who spoke after him but before Kautsky’s second speech – said: “Lenin’s proposal is tempting, but it cannot make us forget that the Labour Party is now outside the bourgeois parties. It is not for us to judge how it did this. We recognise the fact of progress.”18)VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p235

The ISB dispute over the Labour Party continued in the socialist press. Fending off charges of “heresy” from leftist critics, Kautsky elaborated his ideas in a 1909 Neue Zeitarticle, ‘Sects or class parties’. Basically he argued that, unlike Germany and other mainland European countries, a mass workers’ party in Britain is impossible without linking up with the trade unions. Unless that happened, there could be nothing but sects and small circles.19)www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1909/07/unions.htm

In the Labour Leader, the ILP’s paper, Bruce Glasier rejoiced that the ISB not only recognised the Labour Party (which was true), but also “vindicated the policy of the ILP” (which was not true). Another ILPer, giving his impression of the Brussels meeting of the ISB, complained about the absence of the “ideal and ethical aspect of socialism”. Instead we “had … the barren and uninspiring dogma of the class war”.20)Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p238

As for Hyndman, writing in the SDF’s Justice, he expressed his anger at the ISB majority. They are “whittlers-away of principle to suit the convenience of trimmers”. “I have not the slightest doubt,” writes Hyndman, “that if the British Labour Party had been told plainly that they either had to accept socialist principles … or keep away altogether, they would very quickly have decided to bring themselves into line with the International Socialist Party.”21)Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977ibid p239

Lenin too joined the fray. He still considered Kautsky to be wrong. By stating in his resolution that the Labour Party “does not expressly accept the proletarian class struggle”, Kautsky voiced a certain “expectation”, a certain “judgement” as to what the policy of the Labour Party is now and what that policy should be. But Kautsky expressed this indirectly, and in such a way that it amounted to an assertion which, first, is incorrect in substance, and secondly, provides a basis for opportunists in the ILP to misrepresent his ideas.

By separating in parliament (but not in terms of its whole policy) from the two bourgeois parties, the Labour Party is “taking the first step towards socialism and towards a class policy of the proletarian mass organisations”. This, Lenin optimistically stated, is not an “expectation, but a fact”. A “fact” which compelled the ISB to admit the Labour Party into the International. Putting things this way, Lenin thought, “would make hundreds of thousands of British workers, who undoubtedly respect the decisions of the International, but have not yet become full socialists, ponder once again over the question why they are regarded as having taken only the first step, and what the next steps along this road should be”.

Lenin had no intention of laying down details about those “next steps”. But they were necessary, as Kautsky acknowledged in his resolution, albeit only indirectly. However, the use of an indirect formulation made it appear that the International was “certifying that the Labour Party was in practice waging a consistent class struggle, as if it was sufficient for a workers’ organisation to form a separate labour group in parliament in order in its entire conduct to become independent of the bourgeoisie!”22)Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977pp235-36

The International, Lenin concluded, would undoubtedly have acted wrongly had it not expressed its complete support for the vital first step forward taken by the mass of workers in forming the Labour Party. But it does not in the least follow from this that the Labour Party “can already be recognised as a party in practice independent of the bourgeoisie, as a party waging the class struggle, as a socialist party, etc”.

Bolshevism

The October revolution in Russia found unanimous and unstinting support in the BSP. A number of its émigré comrades returned home and took up important roles in the Soviet government. Bolshevik publications were soon being translated into English: eg, Lenin’s State and revolution. Money too flowed in.

The Leeds conference of the BSP in 1918 enthusiastically declared its solidarity with the Bolsheviks and a wish to emulate their methods and achievements. And under the influence of the Bolsheviks the BSP adopted a much more active, much more agitational role in the Labour Party and the trade unions. In the words of Fred Shaw, instead of standing aloof from the “existing organisations” of the working class, we should “win them for Marxism”.23)Quoted in M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p281

Needless to say, the BSP constituted the main body that went towards the historic formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain over July 31-August 1 1920. Given BSP affiliation, and the fact that in 1918 the Labour Party introduced individual membership, there can be no doubt that the bulk of CPGBers were card-carrying members of the Labour Party. Dual membership being the norm, as it was in the Fabians and ILP.

However, instead of simply informing Arthur Henderson, the Labour Party’s secretary, that the BSP had changed its name, the CPGB, following Lenin’s advice, applied for affiliation. Lenin thought the CPGB was in a win-win situation. If affiliation was accepted, this would open up the Labour Party rank and file to communist influence. If affiliation was not accepted, this would expose the Labour leaders for what they really were: namely “reactionaries of the worst kind”.

With 20:20 foresight it would probably have been better for the CPGB to have presented itself merely as the continuation of the BSP. After all, gaining a divorce is far harder than turning down a would-be suitor. Needless to say, upholding its commitment to British imperialism and thereby fearing association with the Bolshevik revolution, the Labour apparatus, along with the trade union bureaucracy, determined that the CPGB application had to be rejected.

The “first step towards socialism and towards a class policy” was thereby thrown into reverse. Instead of being a united front of the organised working class, the leadership of the Labour Party began to cohere a tightly controlled, thoroughly respectable, explicitly anti-Marxist Labour Party.

Henderson replied to the CPGB application for affiliation by saying that he did not consider that the principles of the communists accorded with those of the Labour Party. To which the CPGB responded by asking whether the Labour Party proposed to “exclude from its ranks” all those who were committed to the “political, social and economic emancipation of the working class”. Did Henderson want to “impose acceptance of parliamentary constitutionalism as an article of faith on its affiliated societies”?24)Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p87 The latter bluntly replied that there was an “insuperable difference” between the two parties.

A good many Labour Party activists rejected Henderson’s characterisation of the CPGB as, in effect, mad, bad and dangerous to know. Nonetheless, the Labour apparatus never experienced any difficulty in mustering large majorities against CPGB affiliation. Eg, in June 1921 there was a 4,115,000 to 224,000 conference vote rejecting the CPGB.

Not that the CPGB limped on as an isolated sect. Affiliation might have been rejected, but there was still dual membership. In 1922, two CPGB members won parliamentary seats as Labour candidates: JT Walton Newbold (Motherwell and Wishaw) and Shapurji Saklatvala (Battersea North).

Subsequently, Labour’s national executive committee was forced to temporarily drop its attempt to prevent CPGB members from being elected as annual conference delegates. The June 26-29 1923 London conference had 36 CPGB members as delegates, “as against six at Edinburgh”, the previous year.25)JT Murphy, ‘The Labour Party conference’ Communist Review August 1923, Vol 4, No4: www.marxists.org/archive/murphy-jt/1923/08/labour_conf.htm Incidentally, the 1923 conference once again rejected CPGB affiliation, this time by 2,880,000 to 366,000 votes.

Nonetheless, the general election in December 1923 saw Walton Newbold (Motherwell) and Willie Gallacher (Dundee) standing as CPGB candidates. Fellow CPGBers Ellen Wilkinson (Ashton-under-Lyne), Shapurji Saklatvala (Battersea North), M Philips Price (Gloucester), William Paul (Manchester Rusholme) and Joe Vaughan (Bethnal Green SW) were official Labour candidates, while Alec Geddes (Greenock) and Aitkin Ferguson (Glasgow Kelvingrove) were unofficial Labour candidates, there being no official Labour candidate in either constituency. Despite a not inconsiderable increase in the communist vote, none were elected.26)J Klugmann History of the Communist Party of Great Britain Vol 1, London 1968, pp361-62

A ban on CPGB members standing as Labour Party candidates swiftly followed. Yet, although Labour Party organisations were instructed not to support CPGB candidates, this was met with defiance, not the connivance nowadays personified by Robert Griffiths. In the run-up to the October 1924 general election, Battersea North Labour Party overwhelmingly endorsed Shapurji Saklatvala; Joe Vaughan was unanimously endorsed by Bethnal Green SW Constituency Labour Party and William Paul similarly by the Rusholme CLP executive committee. And Saklatvala was once again elected as an MP.

The 1924 Labour Party conference decision against CPGB members continuing with dual membership was reaffirmed in 1925. And, going further, trade unions were “asked not to nominate communists as delegates to Labour organisations”.27)N Branson History of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1927-1941 London 1985, p5 Yet despite these assaults on the Labour Party’s founding principles, at the end of 1926 the CPGB could report that 1,544 of its 7,900 members were still individual members of the Labour Party.

Following the defeat of the 1926 General Strike, the Labour apparatus and trade union bureaucracy wanted the movement to draw the lesson that the only way to make gains would be through increased collaboration with the capitalist boss class – Mondism. As a concomitant there was a renewed drive to intimidate, to marginalise, to drive out the communists.

The struggle proved particularly sharp in London. In the capital city around half of the CPGBs members were active in their CLPs. And despite claiming that it was the communists who were “splitting the movement”, the bureaucracy strove to do just that. Battersea CLP was disaffiliated because it dared to back Saklatvala and refused to exclude CPGB members. Similar measures were taken against Bethnal Green CLP, where the communist ex-mayor, Joe Vaughan, was held in particularly high regard.

The left in the Labour Party fought back. The National Left Wing Movement was formed in December 1925. Its stated aim was not only to fight the bans on communists, it also sought to hold together disaffiliated CLPs.

The NLWM insisted it had no thought of superceding the Labour Party, but, instead, it sought to advance rank-and-file aspirations. In this the NLWM was considerably boosted by the newly established Sunday Worker. Despite being initiated, funded and edited by the CPGB, the Sunday Workerserved as the authoritative voice of the NLWM. At its height it achieved a circulation of 100,000. The NLWM’s 1925 founding conference had nearly 100 Labour Party organisations sending delegates.

Yet the right’s campaign of disaffiliations and expulsions remorselessly proceeded. The NLWM therefore found itself considerably weakened in terms of official Labour Party structures. Hence at the NLWM’s second annual conference in 1927 there were delegates from only 54 local Labour Parties and other Labour groups (representing a total of 150,000 individual party members). It should be added that militant union leaders, such as the miners’ AJ Cook, also supported the conference.

With the counterrevolution within the revolution in the Soviet Union, the CPGB was in many ways reduced to a slave of Stalin’s foreign policy. The CPGB’s attitude towards the Labour Party correspondingly changed. Leaders such as Harry Pollitt and Rajani Palme Dutt denounced the Labour Party as nothing but “a third capitalist party” (shades of Peter Taaffe and the Socialist Party in England and Wales).

As an integral part of this self-inflicted madness, in 1929 the Sunday Worker was closed and the NLWM wound up. In effect the CPGB returned to its SDF roots. Ralph Miliband regretfully comments that the CPGB’s so-called new line “brought it to the nadir of its influence”.28)R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p153 Sectarianism could only but spur on the right’s witch-hunt. In 1930 the Labour Party apparatus produced its first ‘proscribed list’. Members of proscribed organisations became ineligible for individual membership of the Labour Party and CLPs were instructed not to affiliate to proscribed organisations. Needless to say, most of those organisation were closely associated with the CPGB.

However, what began with action directed against the CPGB-led National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and the National Minority Movement has now morphed into the catch-all ban on “racist, abusive or foul language, abuse against women, homophobia or anti-Semitism at meetings, on social media or in any other context”. Nowadays the Labour Party apparatus can, at a whim, expel or suspend anyone.

Surely, beginning with the Liverpool conference, it is time to put an end to the bans and proscriptions. We certainly have within our power the possibility of once again establishing the Labour Party as the united front of all working class organisations in Britain.

References

References
1 My emphasis – see https://andrewgodsell.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/labour-suspension-appeal-process
2 https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/communist-infiltration-of-labour
3 Morning Star August 12 2016
4 BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p166
5 BC Roberts The Trade Union Congress 1868-1921 London 1958, p167
6 Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p17
7 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p97
8 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p230
9 H Pelling Origins of the Labour Party Oxford 1976, p172
10 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p159
11 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8
12 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p8
13 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p248
14 M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p255
15 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p233
16 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p234
17 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, pp234-35
18 VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p235
19 www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1909/07/unions.htm
20 Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p238
21 Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977ibid p239
22 Quoted in VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977pp235-36
23 Quoted in M Crick The history of the Social Democratic Federation Keel 1994, p281
24 Quoted in R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p87
25 JT Murphy, ‘The Labour Party conference’ Communist Review August 1923, Vol 4, No4: www.marxists.org/archive/murphy-jt/1923/08/labour_conf.htm
26 J Klugmann History of the Communist Party of Great Britain Vol 1, London 1968, pp361-62
27 N Branson History of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1927-1941 London 1985, p5
28 R Miliband Parliamentary socialism London 1960, p153

A Labour military programme – LPM submission to Labour’s defence review

Emily Thornbury has been asked by Jeremy Corbyn to lead Labour’s defence review. Its remit is to “examine how the safety of the British people can best be secured in the global conditions of the 21st century”. The shadow defence secretary has asked Labour Party members, affiliates and the wider public to contribute to its work. This is the submission of Labour Party Marxists.

Despite a fraying US global hegemony, China’s rise, the decline of Russia and a stalling European Union, there is no immediate prospect of an all-out World War III. With the likelihood of mutually assured destruction (MAD), who would fight and why? Nevertheless, there is the increasing danger of a regional hot spot accidentally boiling over: Korea, Ukraine, Kashmir, Syria, Palestine and the South China Sea immediately spring to mind. Militarily, a direct clash between the US and Russia or China could quite conceivably rapidly escalate. Even a limited nuclear exchange would exact an almost unimaginable human toll.

However, what distinguishes Marxists from others on the left who oppose the war danger is that we see the need to retaliate not with the Labour Representation Committee’s touchingly pacifistic call to appoint a “UK minister for peace” and “progressively withdraw the UK from the international arms trade”.1 Nor Left Unity’s ambiguous demand for a “drastic reduction” in military expenditure.2 Nor with the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s no less vague “Cut arms spending”.3 The same goes for the number-crunching plea of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain to “cut military spending to average European levels”.4 Ditto the Scottish Socialist Party’s recipe of reducing “defence spending” to no more than the per capita level of the Republic of Ireland.5 Banal, timid and self-defeating.

Our military policy should not legitimise a reduced version of the existing armed forces. Despite the verbal, statistical and factional variations, what that theme amounts to is the attempt to win the working class – as individuals and as an organised force – to the hopeless illusion of securing peace, while the capitalist system remains intact.

Inevitably there is a corresponding refusal to take up the elementary demand of arming the working class. That is certainly the case with the Socialist Party in England and Wales and the CPB.6 But, if untreated, what begins as a scratch ends with gangrene. Confronted by the miners’ Great Strike of 1984-85 and the formation of hit squads, the Marxism Today Eurocommunists condemned “macho” violence. They offered instead the mystical, women-only pacifism of Greenham Common. Come the ‘war on terrorism’, not a few of these former peaceniks were to be found amongst the ranks of the Bush-Blair interventionists: eg, the newspaper columnist, David Aaronovitch.

Marxists are convinced that the bour­geois state machine must be broken apart, demolished, smashed up, if we are to realise socialism and put an end to war. So, concretely, in today’s conditions, that not only means scrapping Trident and all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction – they are indiscriminate and therefore inherently inhuman. We should be arguing for the scrapping of standing armies.

Peace will not be realised through the United Nations, Nato or by appealing to good business sense. Paradoxical though it may seem, peace has to be fought for. That is why the working class has to develop its own militia. Such a body actually grows out of day-to-day struggles: enforcing picket lines, defending Muslims from fasc­ist thugs, guarding our local offices, meeting places and demonstrations, etc. And, of course, with a strong, determined and well trained workers’ militia, it becomes a realistic possibility to split the state’s armed forces. Fear of officers, sergeants and court martials can thereby be replaced by the rank and file’s readiness to disobey orders. Certainly, army regiments, airforce squadrons and naval crews declaring for our side provides us with the military wherewithal needed to safeguard either an expected or a recently established socialist majority in the House of Commons.

Programmatically the labour movement should therefore demand:

● Rank-and-file personnel in the state’s armed bodies must be protected from bullying, humiliating treatment and being used against the working class.
● There must be full trade union and democratic rights, including the right to form bodies such as soldiers’ councils.
● The privileges of the officer caste must be abolished. Officers must be elected. Workers in uniform must become the allies of the masses in struggle.
● The people must have the right to bear arms and defend themselves.
● The dissolution of the standing army and the formation of a popular militia under democratic control.

Background

Strange though it may appear to the historically ill-informed, here contemporary Marxists draw direct inspiration from the second amendment to the US constitution. Ratified to popular acclaim in 1791, it states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”7

Those who made the American revolution – above all the urban and rural masses – saw a standing army as an existential threat to democracy. Eg, in her Observations on the new constitution (1788) Mercy Otis Warren – the mother of the American revolution – branded the standing army as “the nursery of vice and the bane of liberty”.8 At great sacrifice the common people had overthrown the tyranny of George III, and were determined to do the same again, if faced with another unacceptable government.

Naturally Marx and Engels considered the second amendment part of their heritage. Clause four of the Marx-Engels Demands of the Communist Party in Germany (1848) is emphatic:

Universal arming of the people. In future, armies shall at the same time be workers’ armies, so that the armed forces will not only consume, as in the past, but produce even more than it costs to maintain them.9

The Marx-Engels team never wavered. Read Can Europe disarm? (1893). Here, in this pamphlet written by Frederick Engels, 10 years after the death of his friend and collaborator, we find a concrete application of Marxism to the dawning epoch of universal suffrage and universal conscription. Engels concluded that the key to revolution was mutiny in the armed forces. His pamphlet outlined a model bill for military reform in Germany. Engels was determined to show that the proposal to gradually transform standing armies into a “militia based on the universal principle of arming the people” could exploit the mounting fears of a pending European war and widespread resentment at the ruinous military budget.10 For propaganda effect, Engels proposed an international agreement to limit military service to a short period and a state system in which no country would fear aggression because no country would be capable of aggression. Surely World War I would have been impossible if the European great powers had nothing more than lightly armed civilian militias available to them.

Not that Engels was some lily-livered pacifist. He supported universal male (!) conscription and if necessary was, of course, quite prepared to advocate revolutionary war. Needless to say, his Can Europe disarm? was not intended to prove the military superiority of a militia over a standing army. No, Engels wanted a citizen army, within which discipline would be self-imposed. An army where rank-and-file troops would turn their guns against any officer tempted to issue orders that were against the vital interests of the people.

In that spirit the Marxist parties of the late 19th and early 20th century unproblematically championed the demand for disbanding the standing army and establishing a popular militia. Eg, the 1880 programme of the French Workers’ Party, the 1891 Erfurt programme, the 1889 Hainfeld programme of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, the 1903 programme of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, etc.

In the ‘political section’ of the programme of the French Workers’ Party (Parti Ouvrier), authored jointly by Karl Marx and Jules Guesde, we find the demand for the “abolition of standing armies and the general arming of the people” (clause 4).11 A proposition faithfully translated by the Germans: “Education of all to bear arms. Militia in the place of the standing army” (clause 3).12 The Austrians too are adamant: “The cause of the constant danger of war is the standing army, whose growing burden alienates the people from its cultural tasks. It is therefore necessary to fight for the replacement of the standing army by arming the people” (clause 6).13 Then we have the Russians: “general arming of the people instead of maintaining a standing army” (clause c9).14

And after theory there must come practice.

Amongst the first decrees of the 1871 Paris Commune was the abolition of the standing army and its replacement by the national guard – “the bulk of which consisted of working men” (Marx). By actually constituting a new state, based on a repressive force that did not sit outside the general population, the Commune opened a new chapter in global politics. And Russia, of course, took what happened in Paris to new heights. Formed in April-March 1917, the Red Guards proved crucial. Red Guards, and increasing numbers of army units, put themselves at the disposal of the Military Revolutionary Committee – a subdivision of the Bolshevik-led Petrograd soviet, formally established at Leon Trotsky’s initiative. On October 25 (November 7) 1917 the MRC issued its momentous declaration: the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky “no longer exists”. State power has passed into the hands of the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers.

There are many other splendid examples.

Beginning in the early 1920s the two main workers’ parties in Germany built their own militias. The SDP dominated the soft-left Reichsbanner, while the Communist Party formed the much more militant Rotfrontkämpferbund (at its height it boasted 130,000 members). Despite its 1923 founding statutes emphasising ceremonial paraphernalia, marches and band music, the Schutzbund in Austria served as a kind of “proletarian police force”.15 When it came to strikes, demonstrations and meetings, this workers’ militia maintained discipline and fended off Nazi gangs. Though hampered by a dithering social democratic leadership, the Schutzbund heroically resisted the February 12 1934 fascist coup. Workers formed defence corps during the 1926 General Strike in Britain. American workers did the same in 1934. There were massive stoppages in San Francisco, Toledo and Minneapolis. In Spain anarchists, official ‘communists’, Poum, etc likewise formed their own militias in response to Franco’s counterrevolutionary uprising.

Then, more recently, in 1966, there was the Black Panther Party. It organised “armed citizen’s patrols” to monitor and counter the brutal US police force.16 Even the “non-violent” civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, included within its ranks those committed to “armed self-defence” against Ku Klux Klan and other such terrorism.17

Corbyn

Speaking to a Hiroshima remembrance event in August 2012, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his wish to emulate “the people of Costa Rica”, who “abolished the army”. Leave aside the concrete situation in Costa Rica and the synthetic outrage generated by The Sun18 and the Daily Mail.19 Demanding the disbanding of the standing army has assumed a burning importance since Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

Imagine for one moment that Corbyn wins a general election majority in 2020. Supposedly because it is constitutionally inappropriate for serving officers to “intervene directly in matters that are of political dispute”, are we really expected to believe that the armed forces will idly sit by and behave in a thoroughly trustworthy manner?20 That would be parliamentary cretinism – a disease that infects reformists of every stripe and variety with the debilitating conviction that the main thing in politics is parliamentary votes.

A Corbyn government would – hopefully – be committed to sweeping away the anti-trade union laws, reversing austerity, renationalising the rails, ending British involvement in Syria, decommissioning Trident and maybe announcing a withdrawal from Nato. However, say in the name of keeping the Labour right, the Mirror and the liberal intelligentsia onside, the Corbyn government decides to maintain MI5, the police and the standing army. Frankly, that would be an open invitation for a British version of general Augusto Pinochet to launch a bloody counterrevolution. In Chile thousands of leftwingers were butchered after the September 11 1973 army coup, which overthrew the Socialist Party-Communist Party Popular Unity reformist government under president Salvador Allende.

Already, Sir Nicholas Houghton, the outgoing chief of the defence staff, has publicly “worried” on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show about a Corbyn government.21 There are accompanying press rumours swirling around of unnamed members of the army high command “not standing for” a Corbyn government and being prepared to take “direct action”.22 Prior to that, the normally sober Financial Times ominously warned that Corbyn’s leadership damages Britain’s “public life”.23

In fact the army is an instrument of counterevolution. Institutionally it is run by an officer caste, which is trained to command from public school to Sandhurst as if it is their birthright. When it comes to the grunts it relies on inculcating “unthinking obedience”.24 And, of course, the British army no longer has unruly conscripts to worry about. Instead recruits voluntarily join, seeking “travel and adventure” – followed by “pay and benefit, with job security”.25 Because they often live on base, frequently move and stick closely together socially, members of the armed forces are largely cut off from the wider civilian population and from any growth of democratic, progressive and socialistic ideas. Indeed far-right views appear to be the norm – see Army Rumour Service comments about that “anti-British, not very educated, ageing communist agitating class war zealot”, Jeremy Corbyn.26

Still the best known exponent of deploying the army against internal “subversives” is brigadier Frank Kitson in his Low intensity operations (1971). The left, trade unionists and strikers – they are “the enemy”, even if their actions are intended to back up an elected government.27 Legally, the “perfect vehicle for such an intervention” would be an order in council.28 After consulting the unelected and undemocratic privy council, the monarch would call a state of emergency and instruct the army to swiftly and decisively restore order. Remember, army personnel swear an oath that they “will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors”, and that they will “defend Her Majesty … against all enemies”.

As made crystal-clear by Michael Clarke, director of the United Services Institute, this is no mere feudal relic. “The armed forces don’t belong to the government: they belong to the monarch,” insists Clarke. “And they take this very seriously. When [the Tory] Liam Fox was defence secretary a few years ago, for his first couple of weeks he referred to ‘my forces’ rather than Her Majesty’s forces – as a joke, I think. It really ruffled the military behind the scenes. I heard it from senior people in the army. They told me, ‘We don’t work for him. We work for the Queen.’”29

In the late 1960s and early 70s there were widespread media reports of senior officers and ex-officers conspiring against the rightwing Labour government of Harold Wilson. Many were unhappy about Rhodesia, many branded him a Soviet mole. However, their pathological hatred was directed squarely against leftwing Labour MPs such as Tony Benn, Irish republicans, communist trade union leaders, striking workers and protesting students – the background to Chris Mullin’s novel, A very British coup (1982).

If Corbyn even looks like making it into office, there is every reason to believe that threats of “direct action” coming from the high command will take actual form. That is why we say: have no trust in the thoroughly authoritarian standing army. No, instead, let us put our trust in a “well regulated militia” and the “right of the people to keep and bear arms”.
Notes
1. LRC Programme for a real Labour government, no date, no place of publication.
2. http://leftunity.org/manifesto-2015-international.
3. ‘AWL election campaign: why we are standing and our policies’: www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/ge10/man/parties/Workers_Liberty.pdf.
4. www.communist-party.org.uk/about-us.html.
5. www.scottishsocialistparty.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/SSP_Manifesto_2007.pdf.
6. See Weekly Worker May 21 2009.
7. www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am2.
8. http://constitution.org/cmt/mowarren/observations_new_constitution_1788.html.
9. K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 7, Moscow 1977, p3.
10. K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 27, London 1990, p371.
11. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/05/parti-ouvrier.htm.
12. www.marxists.org/history/international/social-democracy/1891/erfurt-program.htm.
13. I am grateful to Ben Lewis for his translation of the Hainfeld programme.
14. www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1902/draft/02feb07.htm.
15. M Kitchen The coming of Austrian fascism London 1980, p116.
16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_Party.
17. See CE Cobb This non-violent stuff’ll get you killed New York 2014.
18. www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/6637495/Corbyn-Britain-should-abolish-its-Army.html.
19. www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3233244/How-wonderful-d-scrapped-Army-ranted-Jeremy-Corbyn-s-call-dismissed-madness-Tory-MP.html.
20. Jeremy Corbyn quoted in The Mirror November 8 2015.
21. The Mirror November 8 2015.
22. The Sunday Times September 20 2015.
23. Financial Times August 14 2015.
24. NF Dixon On the psychology of military incompetence London 1976, p244.
25. Lord Ashcroft The armed forces and society May 2012.
26. The Guardian January 25 2016.
27. F Kitson Low intensity operations London 1991, p29.
28. P O’Conner The constitutional role of the privy council and the prerogative London 2009, p20.
29. Quoted in The Guardian January 25 2016.

Alternative Clause 4 proposed by Labour Party Marxists

Alternative Clause 4 proposed by Labour Party Marxists

Click here to read why we have produced this alternative.

Objectives

1. Labour is the federal party of the working class. We strive to bring all trade unions, cooperatives, socialist societies and leftwing groups and parties under our banner. We believe that unity brings strength.

2. Labour is committed to replacing the rule of capital with the rule of the working class. Socialism introduces a democratically planned economy, ends the ecologically ruinous cycle of production for the sake of production and moves towards a stateless, classless, moneyless society that embodies the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. Alone such benign conditions create the possibility for every individual to fully realise their innate potentialities.

3. Towards that end Labour commits itself to achieving a democratic republic. The standing army, the monarchy, the House of Lords and the state sponsorship of the Church of England must go. We support a single- chamber parliament, proportional representation and annual elections.

4. Labour seeks to win the active backing of the majority of people and form a government on this basis.

5. We shall work with others, in particular in the European Union, in pursuit of the aim of replacing capitalism with working class rule and socialism.
__________

Original agreed in 1918 and subsequently amended in 1959

Objects

1. To organise and maintain in parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.

2. To cooperate with the general council of the Trades Union Congress, or other kindred organisations, in joint political or other action in harmony with the party constitution and standing orders.

3. To give effect as far as possible to the principles from time to time approved by the party conference.

4. To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

5. Generally to promote the political, social and economic emancipation of the people, and more particularly of those who depend directly upon their own exertions by hand or by brain for the means of life.

6. To cooperate with the labour and socialist organisations in the commonwealth overseas with a view to promoting the purposes of the party, and to take common action for the promotion of a higher standard of social and economic life for the working population of the respective countries.

7. To cooperate with the labour and socialist organisations in other countries and to support the United Nations and its various agencies and other international organisations for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international disputes by conciliation or judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights, and the improvement of the social and economic standards and conditions of work of the people of the world.
__________

Blairite version agreed in 1995

Aims and values

1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that, by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:
* a dynamic economy, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and cooperation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper, with a thriving public sector and high quality services, where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them;
* a just society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power;
* an open democracy, in which government is held to account by the people; decisions are taken as far as practicable by the communities they affect; and where fundamental human rights are guaranteed;
* a healthy environment, which protect, enhance and hold in trust for future generations.

3. Labour is committed to the defence and security of the British people, and to cooperating in European institutions, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international bodies to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all.

4. Labour will work in pursuit of these aims with trade unions, cooperative societies and other affiliated organisations, and also with voluntary organisations, consumer groups and other representative bodies.

5. On the basis of these principles, Labour seeks the trust of the people to govern.
__________

James Marshall argues against going backwards to Sidney Webb’s 1918 Fabian state-capitalist Clause 4:

http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/dont-go-back-go-forward/