Tag Archives: Jon Lansman

How delegates can support the fight for open selection!


Today’s issue of Red Pages, Sunday September 22 20218.  Download PDF here

  • Fight for open selection!
    Support the reference back of today’s CAC’s report – otherwise delegates will not be able to discuss the crucial question of mandatory reselection
  • Party Democracy Review: Disappointing but predictable
  • Tribune Relaunch
  • Labour against the Witchhunt’s NEC lobby




How delegates can support the fight for open selection!

Support the reference back of today’s CAC’s report – otherwise delegates will not be able to discuss the crucial question of mandatory reselection

Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) has not only gutted most of the positive recommendations coming from Katy Clark’s Party Democracy Review (see article overleaf). It is now also trying to impose a new system on the selection of parliamentary candidates that could potentially make it even harderto oust a sitting MP.

The Parliamentary Labour Party urgently has to be brought under democratic control. The majority of Labour MPs have been plotting against Jeremy Corbyn and sabotaging him at every turn. They are far to the right of the Labour membership and, once elected, usually enjoy a ‘job for life’. Should Jeremy Corbyn become prime minister, he would be held hostage by the PLP (who would very likely launch another vote of ‘no confidence’ before long, forcing him out).

It is unfortunate that Corbyn – after all, he is the central target of the right – has refused to take up the challenge and include mandatory reselection in the Party Democracy Review. It would have been very useful for branches and CLPs to discuss the issue properly.

Instead, the NEC suddenly announced that it was proposing a new system on how to elect a wannabe MP. This is no doubt down to the very successful campaign run by International Labour, which has mobilised hard for its rule change, ‘Open selection’ (another term for mandatory reselection).

The proposal from the NEC looks more democratic than the current system. But a closer look shows that it could be potentially worse.

Currently, it is almost impossible to get rid of a sitting MP: If s/he wants to stand again, all the constituency’s branches and its affiliates (trade unions, socialist societies, cooperative organisations) have one vote each and can choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in favour of the sitting MP as the only candidate. Each branch and affiliate is counted equally, irrespective of the number of members.

This is where the union bureaucracy can really bugger things up: “Basically, unless you’ve really cocked up in some egregious and public way, locally affiliated trade unions – which always have many more branches affiliated to the local party than the local party itself does – will bail you out, sometimes against the will of the members.” This description by Blairite ex-MP Tom Harris on his website Third Avenue neatly sums up the problem with the current system.

The NEC proposes to replace the current trigger ballot with twoseparate ones: for local affiliated bodies like unions and for the local party branches. The threshold in both would be reduced from the current 50% to 33% and it would be enough forone of the two sections to vote ‘no’ to start a full selection process – ie, a contest between the different candidates.

Of course, Marxists prefer a full and democratic selection process before all elections and doing away with all restrictions. But the NEC’s proposal – in that respect, at least – is a small step in the right direction.

There is, however, a potentially huge caveat: We hear that the NEC proposal stipulates that for a branch to be counted toward the 33% threshold, the decision would have had to be made in a quorate meeting. The quorum in the ‘model procedural rules’ for all party units is currently set at 25% – there are very, very few branches that will have ever met this quorum. Most branches have agreed lower quorums with the regional office; others don’t bother ‘counting’. But if the NEC’s proposal really stipulates that 25% of the local membership must have been involved in this trigger ballot, then they will become even more impossible than under the current system.

Then we come to the second step: the actual voting. And here the NEC’s proposal would lead to a worseningof the current situation. At the moment, after a successful trigger ballot, the voting between candidates takes place in CLPs only (affiliated organisations and unions have no vote in this stage).

As we understand it, the NEC wants to change this to a so-called ‘one member, one vote’ (Omov) system. We write ‘so-called’, because Omov is nothing new in democratic organisations: everybody who shows up to a meeting gets a vote, right? Not according to a narrative that is becoming ever more dominant though, because this traditional method ‘disenfranchises’ all those who don’t come to meetings.

What is meant by Omov nowadays is that all local members get a vote, perhaps via an online or postal ballot. This sounds democratic, but on closer inspection it clearly favours the sitting MP. They would not just have the ‘recognition’ factor and the newspaper columns: they also have the money and the staff to write to all those members who don’t normally go to meetings. The upstart who is trying to challenge the MP can of course send out their CV and election statement. But where they can really convince members is face to face, in branch and CLP meetings. Even better if a debate could be arranged between the candidates, where members can ask questions and make up their minds. Such a debate would be impossible to organise online.

We therefore urge all delegates to vote against the NEC’s proposal – and support the excellent rule change tabled by International Labour instead: in order to achieve that, the conference arrangement committee has to be successfully challenged tomorrow. IL’s rule change would do away with the trigger ballot altogether, giving all candidates a level playing field. There would be no need to challenge the sitting MP, as there would alwaysbe a full selection process. This amendment would automatically fall if delegates vote for the NEC recommendation.

Mandatory reselection would once again establish a very important democratic principle in the party – and allow us to get rid of the saboteurs.

Momentum’s Jon Lansman: changing his mind

Although Momentum owner Jon Lansman used to be an important figure in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, whose main claim to fame remains the successful fight for mandatory reselection in the Labour Party in 1980 (it was abolished again in 1989 by Neil Kinnock), he abandoned the principle at the very moment Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. A big mistake, given that the PLP, dominated by the right, was never going to give Corbyn an easy ride.

So, instead of doing away with the undemocratic trigger ballot altogether, Jon Lansman drew up lame proposals to raise the threshold from Tony Blair’s 50% back to Neil Kinnock’s 66% – ie, two thirds of local branches and affiliates would have to vote in favour of the sitting MP, otherwise a full selection process would begin. Lansman even had this proposal sanctioned by the membership in one of Momentum’s tortuous and clearly biased online “consultations”. But he seems to have undergone a welcome change of heart.

Last week, he sent an email to the membership, informing them that Momentum now favours a system that gives “a fair chance to all candidates and does away with this negative, divisive stage of campaigning – so it’s an open contest from the start, and there are no ‘jobs for life’. That way, local members and the sitting MP can compete for the Labour Party’s backing at the general election, and run positive campaigns about local issues voters really care about.” Momentum has even set up a petition on the issue and is strongly urging its members to lobby the NEC. He might have done so for his own reasons (which are too complex and peculiar to deal with here) but a change of heart in the right direction is always welcome.

Party Democracy Review:
Disappointing but predictable

Our party – and its constitution – are ripe for radical reform: Throughout the history of the Labour Party various leaders have shaped and reshaped things according to their requirements … and the wider balance of class forces.

Today CLPs are only allowed to submit either one contemporary motion or one constitutional amendment per year, which means that any attempt from below to force through changes can take an incredibly long time. And, once conference has formally voted on an issue, it cannot be revisited for another three years – even if it only deals with the same question tangentially. The result is a ridiculously overcomplicated travesty of democracy.

Yes, the Party Democracy Review (PDR) would, if agreed, result in a number of changes. But clearly, the constitution needs more than tinkering. Indeed it would be no bad thing if the whole thing was swept away and replaced by something fit for purpose. A special conference could be called for such an initiative.

We were never that hopeful that the PDR would represent a big step forward – after all, Jeremy Corbyn and his allies would have to consciously take on the right in a civil war that ends in the decisive victory for the left, for democracy, for those who support socialism and oppose capitalism – and that is not happening so far. Instead there is retreat, conciliation and a constant turning of the other cheek.

Even the very limited reforms proposed by Katy Clark were hit on the head by a majority of the NEC. Very few positive proposals remain.

For example, Pete Willsman’s report of the September 18 NEC meeting notes that the ridiculous restriction of “contemporary” will be scrapped. This is excellent, as CLPs have had to scramble around for studies or news reports in order to submit a political motion to conference.

Another potentially worthwhile proposal concerns how the leader should be elected. The NEC will move a rule change that would require any candidate to have the support of 10% of individual party members,  plus  5% of MPs/MEPs and of union affiliates. Currently, any candidate needs the active support of 10% of MPs or MEPs – the other groups play no role.

The Guardianhas described this proposal as a “purge of the Chrises” – Williamson and Leslie, leftwing and rightwing troublemakers respectively. However, as a matter of fact, it should make it in theory slightly easier for a leftwinger to get on the ballot, as 10% of the members should be easier to convince than 10% of MPs. But if one considers that the incumbent NEC was only voted in by 9% of the membership, we understand why some describe this proposal as worse than the status quo.


But a significant number of Clark’s very sensible suggestions were defeated by a majority of the NEC – and both Darren Williams Pete and Willsman blame “the unions”. In any case, the following useful reform suggestions by Clark (and presumably Corbyn too) were defeated:

  • that a CLP/union should be able to submit both a motion and a rule change in any one year;
  • that the 3-year rule for rule changes be abolished;
  • that the 1-year delay for CLP/TU rule changes be abolished;
  • that policymaking in the party should no longer be outsourced to the National Policy Forum;
  • that the Local Campaign Forums should revert back to the more accountable Local Government Committees;
  • that there should be a number of democratic changes in the local government area – for example, that members would vote for the local leader and election manifesto;
* that there should be a realistic quorum for larger CLPs, where the current 25% would be unmanageable.
  • The NEC also accepted a few recommendations in Katy Clark’s report that we strongly oppose. For example, all CLPs are to transfer to an all-members-meeting structure, doing away with the general committees, which consist of delegates from branches – both party branches and local affiliates (unions, socialist societies and the Cooperative Party).

In general, Marxists prefer the delegate system, because it gives more consistency to proceedings. Delegates feel more obliged to show up and are more likely to be able to take informed decisions. The bigger the CLP and the more members show up, the more unwieldy it becomes. Key decisions would no doubt be outsourced to the executive or some other bodies. If this is combined, as suggested, with more ‘digital democracy’, we fear the further depoliticisation and disengagement of party members: why bother coming to a CLP meeting that doesn’t make any key decisions, when you can just sit at home and click a few buttons?

We also oppose the NEC’s apparently uncontested decision to increase the size of the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), which takes up all disciplinary cases that the NEC feels it cannot deal with. Instead of 11 members, this body will now have 25.
Adding 14 members might indeed “speed things up”, but this does not mean that the proceedings will become any more just or fair. For example, the NEC recommends that, “where the possible sanction falls short of expulsion from the party, the NCC could make a decision without a hearing”. Surely, anybody accused should have the right to defend themselves – especially when it comes to highly politicised accusations of anti-Semitism, for example. The NCC is currently dominated by the right and has been expelling members on the most ludicrous grounds.

But things depend on what rules this body is interpreting and enforcing. For example, we believe that by adopting the full ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the NEC has opened the door to even more suspensions and expulsions. The intent of this document is not to define anti-Semitism – after all, the Oxford English Dictionary manages that in just  six words: “Hostility to or prejudice against Jews.”

No, its sole purpose is to conflate criticism of Zionism and Israel with anti-Semitism. No wonder then that we hear of new, post-IHRA suspensions on the grounds of members using the word ‘Zionist’ and calling Israel ‘racist’. But clearly racism is exactly what Israel has depended on from its origins – and has now enshrined with its ‘Nation State’ law.

Not so democratic

Leaving aside the regrettable role “the unions” seem to have played, we have criticisms of the process as a whole. Despite its official name of ‘Party Democracy Review’, it has been far from democratic. Of course, there will have been hundreds, if not thousands, of contributions from members, branches and CLPs. But it is entirely up to those running the review to decide which contributions are ‘accepted’. We would venture to suggest that much of the final document will have been agreed well in advance of the ‘consultation’.

A draft of Clark’s proposals was presented to the NEC on September 18 – ie, four days before conference. Amendments from the NEC then had to be incorporated before the document was presented to yet another NEC meeting on September 22, before delegates could see it for first time – on the day they are due to vote on it. As everyone knows, it is impossible for delegates to make amendments. Clearly this is not the way to go about democratising our party.

Tribute relaunch

After a gap of some years the left magazine Tri- bune was relaunched at a well-attended and enthusiastic rally at The World Transformed last night. Introducing a panel which included David Harvey, Dawn Foster, Owen Jones and Grace Blakeley, the journal’s editor, Ronan Burten- shaw, argued that there was a clear need for a magazine which reflected both the experience of the contemporary Labour movement as well as drawing on the “enduring relevance of our his- torical achievements”.

Tradition was a key theme for Burtenshaw and he very deliberately identified his magazine with what he saw as the illustrious history of the Tribunite current and the Labour left since the 1930s.The first edition certainly had some simi- larities with the ‘original’ magazine with articles covering current politics, history, culture, the arts and ideas. But both in form and content this ‘Tri- bune’ is much closer to the US left publicationThe Jacobin which is not surprising given that Bhaskar Sukara, publisher of The Jacobin, is also now the publisher of the Tribune. The suc- cess of The Jacobin and the hopes for the new/ old Tribune rest on the new layers who have been drawn into activity by the Sanders’ campaign in the US and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in Britain.

The tone, layout and nature of the articles in Tribune certainly reflect many of the concerns and enthusiasms of these activists. Any new magazine that provides a media space for the discussion of socialism and the future of the
Labour movement is to be welcomed: after all, the range and size of our movement’s media is pitifully inadequate for the political tasks facing us. We need more magazines and papers: we need more voices and much more debate within our ranks. But can this Tribune make such a useful contribution to those discussions? We can but hope.

However, given that the magazine proudly lays claim to both the discredited historical tradi- tions of Labour left reformism and its contempo- rary manifestation in the inchoate politics of Owen Jones, this seems somewhat doubtful.

IMG-20180922-WA0015So far Labour Party Marxists comrades have been well received by delegates and visitors to conference and to The World Transformed event. Nobody has yet reported any hostility to the latest edition of LPM, which features the headline, ‘Why Israel is a racist state’.
But this is unsurprising, since a large majority of Labour activists strongly support Palestin- ian national rights and are opposed to Zion- ism. They know that such politics have noth- ing whatsoever to do with ‘anti-Semitism’, as the right likes to pretend.

Equally positive has been the attitude to those from Labour Against the Witchhunt and Open Selection. Both were involved in yester- day’s attempted lobby of the NEC meeting. I say ‘attempted’, because the police dispersed the 40-50 participants on the grounds that the meeting was taking place on “private land” adjacent to the conference centre.

Stop the Witchhunt shirts

LP conference 2018: Democracy, reselection and Omov 

Carla Roberts looks at some of the rule changes before this year’s Labour conference

First, a note of caution: this will not be the final list of constitutional amendments before delegates at this year’s conference in Liverpool (September 23-26). Some of them will be composited with similar amendments and there are indeed a few where that makes entire sense – as opposed to contemporary political motions, which are usually composited into bland, motherhood and apple pie statements.

We also know that some amendments coming from Constituency Labour Parties will be superseded by the recommendations and proposed rule changes coming out of the Party Democracy Review (PDR) run by Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand woman, Katy Clark. Unfortunately, it looks like the first delegates will get to see of them will be at conference itself – the national executive committee will take another look on September 18. Those recommendations will be discussed on the Sunday, the first day of conference, with the rest of the rule changes to be debated and voted upon on the Tuesday.

In accordance with one of the plethora of undemocratic clauses in the Labour rule book, proposed constitutional amendments from CLPs are parked for almost 14 months before they can finally be discussed by delegates. Among them is motion 10, which proposes to do away with this crassly anti-democratic delaying rule.

CLPs are only allowed to submit either one contemporary motion or one constitutional amendment per year, which means that any reform attempts from below take an incredibly long time to filter through. And, once conference has voted on an issue, it cannot be revisited for another three years – even if it only deals with the same question tangentially. The result is a ridiculously long, overcomplicated travesty of a constitution. Yes, the PDR will push through a number of changes (including, apparently, the abolition of the three-year rule). But clearly, the whole thing should be ripped up and replaced by a new, streamlined constitution that is fit for purpose.

We will look at the recommendations from the PDR as and when they are finally published, but, judging from the leaks, it is fair to say that it will probably not contain many of the radical proposals that would be needed to transform the Labour Party into a real party of the working class. This would require Jeremy Corbyn and his allies making a conscious decision to put two fingers up to the right inside and outside the party.

No, the most radical proposals come from below, from CLPs. For example, in order for Labour to become the umbrella organisation for all trade unions, socialist groups and pro-working class partisans, all undemocratic bans and proscriptions must be abolished. Constitutional amendment number 6 from Mid Worcestershire, Rugby, Truro & Falmouth, Bexhill & Battle makes a useful start in that direction. It wants to remove the first part of the infamous rule 2.1.4.B (‘membership conditions’), which bars from membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party”.

 Although we fear it is unlikely to win a majority, it is an important debate to have. Jon Lansman has already made it clear that Momentum would oppose such a change, as “this could benefit groups who are opposed to the party”. What, like Progress and Labour First? Of course not.

Lansman knows very well that this rule has been applied in an entirely one-sided way against leftwingers only – among them supporters of Socialist Appeal, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and Labour Party Marxists. Groups such as Progress and Labour First remain untouched and can continue to operate freely and in a highly organised fashion. And what about members of Stop the War Coalition or Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? Surely they are also examples of a “political organisation”? This rule should go. Labour would be positively transformed by allowing members of left groups – who are often very dedicated – to operate freely in the party.

Instead, Lansman seems to have inspired rule change number 7 from Broxtowe, which adds a few words to the first sentence: “joins and/or supports a political organisation that is in conflict with the aims and principles of the Labour Party”. This formulation has been used, for example, to expel supporters of Socialist Appeal because, rather than recognise “the importance of the enterprise of the market”, the organisation wants to “consign the market economy to the dustbin of history”. The amendment carries that distinct danger and should therefore be opposed.

Mandatory reselection

The Parliamentary Labour Party urgently has to be brought under democratic control. The majority of Labour MPs have been shamelessly plotting against Jeremy Corbyn and sabotaging him at every turn. They are far to the right of the Labour membership and, once elected, usually enjoy a ‘job for life’.

It is unfortunate that Jeremy Corbyn – after all, he is the central target of the right – has refused to take up the challenge and include mandatory reselection in the Party Democracy Review. Nevertheless, there are eight rule changes, submitted by 13 CLPs, dealing with the subject of how and when the party selects its parliamentary candidates. If we ignore the rule changes that tinker with some of the less important issues around this question and combine similar rule changes, we can see that there are two clear alternatives.

  • Option 1: Rule changes 24 (Portsmouth North, Rochester and Strood) and 26 (Labour International) want to do away with today’s trigger ballot – which makes it more or less impossible to replace a sitting MP – and instead introduce mandatory reselection, where all those interested in becoming a candidate (including the sitting MP) participate in a democratic selection process.
  • Option 2: Rule changes 27 and 28, on the other hand, also do away with the words ‘trigger ballot’, but not the undemocratic concept. If a sitting MP receives more than 66% of “nominations” from party branches and affiliated organisations, the MP would automatically be reselected.

Such a system would still be hugely in favour of the sitting MP and could easily be rigged by affiliated unions and societies. Much better to have an open and democratic contest between all candidates, to be decided by Labour members – as envisaged by rule changes 24 and 26.

Option 2 smells heavily of Momentum’s original plan. Instead of doing away with the undemocratic trigger ballot altogether, Jon Lansman merely drew up a lame proposal to raise the threshold from Tony Blair’s 50% back to Neil Kinnock’s 66% – ie, two thirds of local branches and affiliates would have to vote in favour of the sitting MP, otherwise a full selection process would begin. Lansman even had this proposal sanctioned by the membership in one of Momentum’s tortuous and clearly biased online “consultations”.

But he seems to have undergone a mysterious change of heart and we can only speculate about the reasons behind it. He has certainly not explained them to Momentum members – or bothered to mention that there even has been a change. Lansman has still not told members which of the rule changes he wants them to vote for, but option 2 is clearly not it.

This week, he sent another email to the membership, informing them that Momentum now favours a system that gives

a fair chance to all candidates and does away with this negative, divisive stage of campaigning – so it’s an open contest from the start, and there are no ‘jobs for life’. That way, local members and the sitting MP can compete for the Labour Party’s backing at the general election, and run positive campaigns about issues local voters really care about.

Momentum has even set up a petition on the issue. Would it be petty if we thought this was a neat way of harvesting more data, while simultaneously jumping on an increasingly successful bandwagon?

Evidently, the increasingly vitriolic nature of the civil war in the Labour Party has given the campaign for mandatory reselection a new lease of life. With the support of Unite, the Fire Brigades Union, presumably the vast majority of CLP delegates and even the timid backing of Jeremy Corbyn himself, it has a good chance of winning at conference (even though John McDonnell managed to disappoint once more by declaring his support for the existing system).

Omov not the answer

It is understandable that a good deal of proposed rule changes want to extend the use of ‘one member, one vote’ to elect NEC representatives (rule changes 1, 2, 3 and 4) and even the party general secretary (18 and 19). After all, this is the method that allowed Corbyn to become leader.

This trend is also reflected in the recommendations that are expected to be in the PDR. The Huffington Post published a leaked summary, which apparently includes recommendations for “more digital democracy”, including “secure online voting systems for CLPs developed for policy and other matters”.

However, in our view there are some serious problems with Omov. As a general principle we should be against plebiscites in the party – for electoral contests or otherwise. There is a good reason why the move to Omov for the election of the party leader began with the likes of Neil Kinnock and John Smith, and culminated in Ed Miliband’s Collins review – it was a rightwing ploy to dilute the working class nature of our party. It atomises comrades and makes serious political engagement very difficult. For example, how do you question a candidate when all you have is a short statement and s/he does not reply to emails? In terms of making policy, how can you effectively move an amendment when you do not have the possibility of talking to people and explaining some of the nuances?

Take the contemporary motion on Brexit pushed by  People’s Vote. On paper, many lefties and Corbyn supporters find this entirely acceptable – allowing the people a say on the final Brexit deal sounds democratic, doesn’t it? Until you explain to them that this is clearly part of the coup against Corbyn, to embarrass him even further by undermining his pretty successful strategy of letting the Tories tear each other to pieces, while keeping all options open. Having to come out for a People’s Vote is likely to cost him in terms of votes.

Comrades should also bear in mind the farce that was Lansman’s Momentum coup, cynically wrapped as it was in a veneer of ‘democracy from below’. In fact, this pseudo-inclusive manoeuvre crushed the embryonic democratic structures of the organisation and substituted online voting by the entire, atomised and easily steered membership. Omov in Lansman’s hands was the vehicle for a profoundly undemocratic plot against the interests of the membership – one that stymied Momentum’s potential to be an effective, dynamic left trend in the party.

Online voting also marginalises the role of the unions in the party. Yes, the representatives of rightwing unions have played an entirely negative role on the NEC and when it comes to trigger ballots. But in general, the affiliation of unions is an enormous strength of the Labour Party. While they should not be allowed to stop the democratic selection of parliamentary candidates, unions have clearly played an important role in preserving the character of the Labour Party as a workers’ party, even under Tony Blair. In fact, we should fight for a serious commitment to a vigorous national campaign to affiliate all unions.


Momentum: No politics, please

The July 15 ‘Momentum national conference’ will be a very special one, reports Carla Roberts: no motions, elections or decision-making of any kind

Labour Party Marxists is very much looking forward to the “Momentum national conference” on July 15 in Durham. We have prepared motions on how to transform the Labour Party, will be fielding a couple of candi-dates in the elections to the national coordinating group and are making preparations to intervene in the open and frank policy discussions that will determine Momentum’s campaigning priorities in the next 12 months.

Sorry, I’m only pulling your leg. Momentum conferences are rather more special than the tedious events of the past, where delegates sat around all day, talked, argued and – you know – made decisions. Bo-ring. We can leave all of those things safely in the hands of Jon Lansman, the founder, owner and self-crowned king of Momentum.

There will be no motions, no position papers, no elections and certainly no decisions taken in Durham. The Momentum website also describes the event (rather more honestly) as a “summer gathering” and that about sums it up. It has three aims: to help participants “get skilled up” by attending “training sessions”; “get to know other Momentum supporters”; and “celebrate everything we’ve achieved”. And that is all in terms of public information on the event. There is not even a timetable or a speakers list available. As if to underline how unimportant this ‘conference’ really is, just look at the date: it actually takes place on the same day as the football World Cup final (kick-off 4pm).

No doubt, there will be dozens of young and keen Momentum interns handing out leaflets about the event to the 200,000 or so people participating in the annual Durham Miners Gala on the day before. And you might even get a couple of hundred people coming to next day’s event.

But it is, of course, not a conference. After all, just a few weeks before Momentum was to have its first, real conference in 2017 (with motions, elections and everything), Jon Lansman simply abolished it all at a stroke. During the now infamous Lansman coup of January 10 2017, he got rid of all national and regional decision-making structures in the organisation, cancelled the conference, imposed an undemocratic constitution and organisational structures, and installed himself as the unchallengeable leader of his little realm.

Many Momentum branches collapsed as a result of the coup or in the months following it. In other areas, rightwingers and councillors have begun to join and are now often dominating Momentum to make sure their career in the party is safe. The organisation’s database of well over 100,000 Corbyn supporters means that in some areas it can help swing election results by mobilising supporters to come out and campaign (or not). It also played a useful role at last year’s Labour Party conference when it got leftwing delegates to vote along broadly pro-Corbyn lines, by sending them text messages before important votes. But Jon Lansman will not allow Momentum to do more than that: members are simply seen as voting fodder, used to push through the decisions and policies that Jon Lansman wants to see implemented (which most of the time coincide with what Jeremy Corbyn wants).

For example, there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Corbyn supporters and Momentum members support the demand for mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates. It is an eminently democratic, long-standing demand of the Labour left. A real, democratic conference of Momentum members (or delegates) would in all likelihood vote in favour of such a basic democratic measure – but it would put the organisation very quickly in direct confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn, who is stubbornly persisting in his misguided attempts to try and appease the Labour right.

Such a real democratic gathering of the Labour left might even make criticisms of Corbyn’s complicit silence, when it comes to the witch-hunt against his supporters in the party. In other words, a genuinely democratic organisation of Labour left members would actually put pressure on Corbyn to start behaving like the socialist they were hoping he was.

That is why Momentum will not go down that road. Instead, Jon Lansman decides its policies and shamelessly manipulates its “digital democracy platform” to get exactly the results he wants (as was the case when Labour Against the Witchhunt almost succeeded in submitting a ‘winning’ proposal to Momentum’s input to the Corbyn review).

Political debate and discussion in Momentum are far from being an integral, organic part of the organisation – they are merely tacked on as a way to recruit people. Which is probably also why, somewhat interestingly, Lansman feels the need to describe this July 15 event as a “conference”. There clearly is a huge democratic deficit – not just in society, but also in the Labour Party. People who have been inspired by what they believe Jeremy Corbyn stands for actually want to talk about politics and how to change society. So Jon Lansman throws them some rather pathetic scraps.

For now, he has succeed in outsourcing political discussion to training sessions and events like ‘The World Transformed’, where people can talk about anything and everything, without ever coming to any decisions that could threaten the position of Jon Lansman, or publicly criticise Jeremy Corbyn.

People, Pits and Politics

The People, Pits and Politics event is very much part of that apolitical culture. This two-day event takes place just before the Miners’ Gala. In general, it is a pretty nifty initiative to set up an educational political event prior to one of Europe’s biggest political gatherings (even if the vast majority of the visitors at the Durham Miners Gala are not necessarily Corbyn supporters or even interested in politics – it is very much a family day out with a huge fair and lots and lots of booze).

We read with great concern, however, the following paragraph in the long list of ‘terms and conditions’ for participants at People, Pits and Politics:

“No literature or other products may be sold or distributed, no flyers handed out or placed on seats, no papers sold, in any festival venues without prior written permission of the festival organisers. Breaking this rule will invalidate your ticket, and you will be asked to surrender your wristband and leave.”

This deeply sectarian move is clearly aimed at the organised left – sellers of Socialist Worker, The Socialist, etc, and those pesky Labour Party Marxists who ruin everybody’s fun by handing out their paper that talks about transforming the Labour Party. Yawn!

A political festival without political discussion, in other words. Well, that sounds very much like our Jon. And, while the event is kept quite separate from Momentum’s ‘conference’ (presumably in order to reach further in terms of its potential audience), it is very obvious that the speakers, organisers and political/organisational methods of both events will be pretty similar.

The main organiser of the PPP event is Jamie Driscoll. He is also the sole director of the limited company set up in January for the sole purpose of organising the event (another hint that Jon Lansman is involved – he just loves setting up, renaming and closing down companies, as a quick glance at Company House’s database shows).

Driscoll is author of a book called The way of the activist and founder of ‘Talk Socialism’, which organises training workshops and reading groups, particularly around Newcastle. He is also chair of Newcastle Momentum and in December 2016 organised “Momentum’s first regional conference” in the city. We believe  it was Momentum’s only regional conference to date, maybe because its main claim to fame was the fact that it was addressed by socialist stalwarts such as Nick Brown, Chi Onwurah, Emma Lewell-Buck and Ian Mearns. They are all local MPs, in case some of their names did not ring a bell.

At Momentum’s “inaugural conference” on March 25 2017 in Birmingham, Driscoll was one of those called upon by Lansman to run the various workshops. I am sure he and his comrades at Talk Socialism have the best intentions at heart and are seriously committed to changing society. But a problem arises when those types of ‘workshops’ of that type are used to substitute for proper political debate and decision-making. Here is how we reported about that particular ‘conference’, which will no doubt have been very similar to what comrades can expect in Durham:

Labour Party Marxists supporters attended workshops that were run by The World Transformed, Talk Socialism and even Hope Not Hate. They were clearly based on ‘training sessions’ that these organisations run on a relatively frequent basis – utterly devoid of any real politics, focusing only on ‘method’ and run by young, overly eager people who reminded me of Duracell bunnies.

They included icebreakers like telling the person sitting next to you what you had for breakfast, shouting “one-word answers” about what you liked or disliked about the European Union ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ campaigns and writing “objectives” on paper plates, then sticking post-it notes onto a flipchart grid. You get the drift. It was really, really grim. Worst of all – any of these workshops could just as easily have been presented to Progress or Labour First.

Having said all of that, Driscoll does not seem to be a mere Lansman stooge. He signed an open letter against the expulsion from the Labour Party of Ella Thorp, a supporter of the Alliance of Workers’ Liberty. According to Lansman’s Momentum constitution, that also bars her from Momentum membership.

That is another decision that would probably be quickly overturned at any real, democratic conference of Momentum members.

Momentum NCG elections: no vote

A call from Labour Party Marxists

Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG) has agreed a statement on anti-Semitism, which, while not available on its website, seems to be very much in keeping with Jon Lansman’s comments on the issue. This does not come as much of a surprise. He is, after all, the owner of Momentum. So we read in The Guardian that the statement condemns “anti-Jewish bias”, which is apparently “more widespread in the Labour Party than many of us had understood even a few months ago”. Obviously, this had nothing to do at all with the increased attacks by the right on the party on this issue.

We read that Lansman is working with “external groups” on developing anti-Semitism awareness training for Labour members. Judging by his uncritical description of the March 26 anti-Corbyn rally, ‘Enough is Enough’, on Radio 4 as an “anti-racist rally” and a “demonstration on anti-Semitism”, 1)Today Radio 4, April 3 (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcsdb we fear that he has not just the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement in mind (which would be bad enough), but might well be in touch with some even more ‘mainstream’ forces like the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Leadership Council.

This sad story underlines why we will not be advocating a vote in the forthcoming NCG elections. Firstly, it is an entirely useless body, designed by Lansman and imposed on the organisation with the constitution he wrote in the wake of his coup of January 10, 2017 in which he abolished all democratic national and regional structures in the organisation. It is there to rubber-stamp whatever Lansman wants it to do.

Secondly, most of the candidates are utterly useless. The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty is putting forward some of their members and supporters, including three who have been on the NCC for the last 12 months. There is a chance that Sahaya James and Rida Vaquas actually support Lansman’s NCG statement – after all, they are supporters of the social-imperialist organisation that portrays pretty much the entire left as anti-Semitic, with AWL leaders actually describing themselves as “Zionists”.



1 Today Radio 4, April 3 (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcsdb

Momentum’s loose cannon

Why did Jon Lansman withdraw from the race to become Labour’s new general secretary? Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists looks for answers

Jon Lansman might have withdrawn his candidacy for Labour Party general secretary, but the charade continues.

In his statement, tweeted on March 10, Lansman assures us that he is withdrawing “with my aims fulfilled” and in order “to focus on my role on the NEC”. You see, all he ever wanted was to “open up the contest”. Apparently, he had “a number of party members get in touch to let me know they are applying for the role.” Therefore, “I reiterate my call for Labour Party members, especially women, with talent and experience to consider submitting an application.” He says that now the party “must draw a clear line between our renewed and reinvigorated mass-membership party and previous eras of command and control, where the views of members and affiliates were too often ignored”. Because he had put in his nomination, “NEC members have begun a productive, comradely debate about the future of the party”.

So much bullshit – where do you start?

Firstly, there already was a woman with “talent and experience” running for the position, even before Lansman declared his candidacy. She is called Jennie Formby.

Secondly, we do not believe for a minute that Lansman was just standing to inspire others to follow suit. Nothing quite says to a woman ‘Come and apply for this job’ better like the leader of a mass organisation with excellent access to the mainstream media going for it himself! Still, Owen Jones seemed to believe Lansman:

Bennism holds party democracy to be sacred, and on a point of principle Lansman believes important positions should be open and contested. Rather than seeking conflict with Unite, above all else Lansman is standing to open up the contest.

That says more about Owen’s trajectory towards politically naive La-La-Land than it does about Lansman. He clearly wanted the job – there is no doubt about it.

Thirdly, who are the other candidates that Lansman managed to inspire through his action? There is a certain Paul Hilder, a very managerial type of candidate who avoids talking politics – but seems to have vast experience in all sorts of sectors and roles, particularly in self-promotion. He previously tried for the general secretary position in 2011, so that one is not down to Lansman.

The only other female candidate who has – very quietly – thrown her hat in the ring is someone called Maria Carroll. On March 11 she tweeted that Jon Lansman “is encouraging members to apply and I am inspired to apply. So I’m seeking your views here.” She has been outspoken against aspects of the witch-hunt based on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism and is no doubt serious. But we would have advised her not to stand. As we go to press, no other candidates have emerged, so Lansman’s talk about others applying as a result of the contest being ‘opened up’ by himself seems to have been a little inaccurate. [Update March 16: Ex-NUT leader Christine Blower  features on the shortlist with Jennie Formby, though we doubt if this is thanks to Jon Lansman]

Fourthly, thanks to the media’s interest in the left tearing chunks out of each other, we got a glimpse of the “debate about the future of the party” among members of the national executive committee following Lansman’s candidacy. It could be described with a lot of different adjectives, but Lansman’s “productive” and “comradely” are certainly not among them!

Not only did John McDonnell come out publicly for Formby in order to put pressure on Lansman not to run: Jeremy Corbyn was said to have called him twice before he finally relented. And we have heard talk of other, rather heated phone calls that current and former NEC members made to Lansman.

Fifth, had Lansman indeed been chosen as general secretary, his place on the NEC would have been taken by rightwinger Eddie Izzard (runner-up in the constituency labour party section). So much for his “focus on the NEC”, where pro-Corbyn members only have a very slight majority (21 to 17). If somebody is on holiday or falls ill (or disagrees!), that majority is in serious jeopardy.

Democracy à la Momentum

Lastly and most absurdly is Lansman’s claim to have done it all for the rights of ordinary Labour Party members – and his desire to put an end to the “era of command and control”. Owen Jones must be pretty much the only person on the planet who seems to believe that one. Apparently, Lansman’s “lifelong obsession is creating a grassroots-led party, and a democratisation agenda taken to its logical conclusion may well face moments of opposition from both union hierarchies and Loto” (the leader of the opposition’s office). Pass the sick bucket.

Do we really need to remind Jones that Lansman simply abolished all democratic decision-making structures and imposed his own constitution on Momentum during the infamous Lansman coup of January 10 2017? A few weeks ago, he got rid of Momentum’s youth wing in a similar way. A rather unusual “democratisation agenda”.

As if to prove the point, Momentum is currently engaged in a fake-democratic decision-making process over its submissions to the Corbyn Review. It really sums up the way Lansman operates.

To begin with, he asked Momentum members to put forward their own ideas. When it transpired that concrete proposals (pushed by Labour Against the Witchhunt) to end the purge of leftwingers were doing very well, leading the field with the most ‘backers’, he mysteriously managed to ‘inspire’ over 60 members to go online at 11.30pm on the day submissions closed. And, hey presto, his own lame proposal to slightly tweak the trigger ballot (as a safe alternative to the mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates) won! Incidentally, had the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty helped to push LAW’s proposal on the witch-hunt, rather than submit its own a few days before voting ended, Lansman might have struggled to win. But the AWL, sectarian to a fault, insisted on an almost identical set of proposals – minus all references to the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, which, of course, it implicitly supports.

In any case, the LAW and AWL proposals combined had far more backers than any of the other 120. But that is not the reason that Lansman picked up on one point contained within both proposals for the last round of ‘online voting’. The reason for him asking Momentum members a question on rule 2.1.4.B is simply that he also wants to see it reformed. However, while the LAW and AWL proposals called on the Labour Party to delete the first part of rule 2.1.4.B, Lansman simply wanted to tighten it.

Under this witch-hunter’s rule, which automatically bars from membership anybody “who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party”, dozens, if not hundreds, of Marxists and socialists have been auto-expelled from the party, including supporters (or alleged supporters) of the AWL, Socialist Appeal and Labour Party Marxists.

So in his online questionnaire put to all Momentum members, Lansman stripped our proposals of all context – and managed to turn it around, so it would actually lead to the opposite outcome of that intended by LAW and the AWL:

Labour’s rulebook says membership of organisations other than the Labour Party can make people ineligible for membership, but the wording is imprecise. It should be clarified that this applies only to organisations whose objectives or methods are clearly incompatible with Labour’s.

Lansman’s proposal will do nothing to end such auto-exclusions. After all, you will just need to show that Socialist Appeal or LPM are in favour of “Marxism” or “revolution” or even just opposed to the “market economy”. The latter formulation was used in court to uphold the expulsion of Socialist Appeal supporter Jack Halinski-Fitzpatrick, when Labour’s barristers ‘proved’ that SA’s programme was incompatible with that of the party. Apparently, being sceptical of the “market economy” puts you in a direct clash with the party’s adherence to the “dynamism of the market” in the Blairite clause IV.

In reality, there is actually no such rule in the party’s constitution – yet. Clearly, in this case, the Labour Party’s bureaucrats found a sympathetic judge. A rule dealing with issues of programmatic “incompatibility” refers only to organisations that want to affiliate to the party – which, clearly, Socialist Appeal was not doing at the moment. This is about an individual’s party membership.

So Lansman’s reformed rule would, if anything, give the bureaucrats in the compliance unit more power to witch-hunt leftwing activists.

Momentum’s questionnaire also proves once again that online ‘referenda’ or online voting on complex political issues only appear democratic. It all depends on who asks the question and to what purpose. Clearly, as with so many referenda, answering Lansman’s question with either a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was highly unsatisfactory.

However, as expected, his proposal won the day. Momentum has now reported that question 4 of 15 – “Should Momentum campaign for this rule change to clarify the eligibility for membership of people who support organisations other than the Labour Party?” – received 3,183 ‘yes’ votes (84%), while only 308 said ‘no’ (8%) and 296 abstained (7%). 1)https://my.peoplesmomentum.com/review/track_voting/2

Truth of the matter

But back to Lansman’s application for general secretary. Why did he withdraw? The man clearly wanted the job – he wanted it so badly that he even risked falling out with Jeremy Corbyn over it. The short answer is: he messed up.

He had hoped to peel away support from Jennie Formby by appealing both to the right through critiquing the unions and to the soft left, by presenting himself as some sort of champion of members’ rights.

Well, it blew up in his face, big time. He could not keep all his different tactical plates spinning. The man does seem to suffer from a serious case of over-inflated ego and a sense that everything he touches will turn to gold. But critiquing the unions, while simultaneously relying on union delegates on the NEC to vote for him was, to say the least, a high-risk strategy. At worst, pretty stupid.

Lansman also did not seem to take into account the fact that his allies on the NEC might not be as easily controlled as the membership of Momentum. One of the main reasons for his withdrawal can probably be summed up in two words: Christine Shawcroft. Or, more precisely, her outburst on Facebook: “It is time to support disaffiliation of the unions from the Labour Party.”

Lansman and Momentum quickly tried to disassociate themselves from her angry and inane remark, but it did not help that the rest of her (very rare) online comments were focused on praising Lansman. Combined with his own suggestion that the general secretary should be elected by members and his publicly stated “dissatisfaction that the role should be chosen behind closed doors by Labour’s NEC, which in practice would mean a deal struck between major trade unions for their preferred candidate”2)www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/26/jon-lansman-set-to-stand-for-role-of-labour-general-secretary, this indicates that Shawcroft probably thought she was doing Lansman a favour and was acting in his interest.

Well, she did not. All hell broke loose and pretty much every left organisation felt the need to issue statements in defence of the union link. We hear that union after union got on the phone to Lansman and Corbyn, demanding to know what on earth he was playing at. The tacit support of some rightwing unions for Lansman – as their best hope to stop Jennie Formby – quickly evaporated after Shawcroftgate. Lansman had to withdraw for the simple reason that he did not want to be seriously humiliated in the NEC vote on March 20.

And he may have just managed to ruin his political career in the process. For example, can Corbyn and Seumas Milne continue to rely on this man to deliver the required votes at conference? Last year, Momentum managed to text delegates ‘live’ with voting instructions, swinging quite a few decisions. But Lansman has proved to be a loose cannon. Yes, one with well over 200,000 pro-Corbyn members on his database. But still, Jennie Formby would be well advised to work out alternative methods of engaging directly with the ‘Corbyn army’, many of whom do not yet attend Labour meetings.

The witch-hunt continues

In reality, of course, the union link was never really under threat. We have never heard Lansman (or Shawcroft) publicly complaining about the role of the unions before his ill-considered candidacy. It is unlikely they have only now found out that even the representatives of leftwing unions tend to vote against individual Labour Party members on disciplinary questions. They knew, but they chose to tell us about it now, in the context of Lansman’s candidacy.

Clearly, Shawcroft was very upset when the NEC disputes panel – now chaired by her – did not follow her advice to dismiss all cases brought before it by the unelected bureaucrats of the compliance unit (they still operate under the instructions of Iain McNicol, who remains in post until March 20). It decided by a clear majority to refer three cases to the national constitutional committee (NCC), which has a robust rightwing majority and clearly makes politically biased judgments. Even Ann Black admits that this committee is “seen as increasingly politicised”, as she writes in her latest NEC report. Bizarrely though, she thinks that is a bad thing only because it leads to a lack of complaints, as “members [are] reluctant to come forward”.

Yes, that is exactly the main problem in the Labour Party at the moment, isn’t it? Too few members are being fingered to the compliance unit! In November 2016, Christine Shawcroft reported that there had been 11,000 complaints against Labour Party members since Corbyn’s election the previous year, “as well-resourced rightwing hit squads scented a golden opportunity and began trawling through known Corbynistas’ Facebook and Twitter accounts”. There must have been thousands, if not tens of thousands, more since then – though no official figures have been published.

To further underline how wrong it was for Ann Black ever to have been featured on the slate of the Grassroots Centre Left Alliance, her report then goes on to praise McNicol for having “continued” a “trend towards neutrality and fairness to those of all factions and of none”. Needless to say, Jon Lansman supported this GCLA slate uncritically until very recently.

Shawcroft knows, of course, that, once a member is suspended and referred to the highly political NCC, he or she has little chance of getting a fair hearing. She quite rightly wants the NEC to deal with all disciplinary cases. But it seems that all union reps on the NEC – even those from pro-Corbyn unions – take a cowardly approach. For each complaint, the apparatchiks working for the compliance unit prepare a report for the NEC disputes panel containing the allegations. Handily, the top page of each file (there are sometimes dozens of them at every meeting) contains a “recommendation on further action”.

Rather than investigate or challenge these recommendations, it appears that Jennie Formby and the other leftwing union delegates on the NEC automatically vote in accordance with that recommendation.

Critical support

Jennie Formby (and other leftwing union delegates) clearly deserve to be taken to task over their behaviour on the NEC. In the most recent cases that got Shawcroft so riled up, it appears Formby ‘absented herself’ when it came down to the vote that decided to send three disputed cases to the NCC.

That is why we in LPM agree with Labour Against the Witchhunt, which thinks that Formby should only be given “critical support” by the left:

LAW critically supports Formby for the job. We are concerned about her record on Labour’s NEC, where it appears she has, as recently as last week, failed to oppose the witch-hunting of Jeremy Corbyn supporters by rightwingers, who have weaponised false claims of anti-Semitism, despite Formby herself being the target of such smears. Nobody in the Labour Party can truly be a socialist if they support the purge and that includes the future general secretary.

Formby might have been trying to play it safe before the March 20 NEC meeting, which will decide on the new general secretary. But her behaviour is worrying – and a sign perhaps that her likely appointment will not lead to a swift change of direction, when it comes to the witch-hunt against leftwingers in the party. We also note press reports, according to which “senior backers of Jennie Formby are trying to reassure party staff that there are no planned overhauls, should she secure the job”.

Thanks to Tony Blair, of course, most staff are now on short-term contracts and do not have to be dismissed should they no longer be required. They simply might not get rehired. Others do not quite seem to trust Formby’s peace offering and are jumping ship before they are pushed. For example, Emilie Oldknow, Labour’s executive director for governance, membership and party services (which includes disciplinary processes, suspensions and expulsions), has just announced that she is leaving her post in the summer. Excellent news.

Naturally, Iain McNicol has been a key player in the ongoing civil war. But he is not acting alone. The right is still in control of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the bureaucracy. For the last seven years, McNicol has been in charge of hiring and firing the 200 staff working for the party. No doubt, he was politically biased when doing so. And we hope Jennie Formby will be too!

Glyn Secker

Take the most recent case of Glyn Secker. On March 7, the secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour received a letter informing him of his “administrative suspension” from the Labour Party, because of “allegations relating to comments on social media that may be anti-Semitic”. The letter, signed by “Sam Matthews, head of disputes”, states that McNicol had “determined to use powers delegated to him … subject to the approval of the next meeting of the NEC.”

As it turns out, the suspension was based on Secker’s ‘crime’ of being part of the Facebook group, Palestine Live, which has achieved some fame in recent days for having counted a certain Jeremy Corbyn among its former ‘members’. The pro-Zionist blogger, David Collier, sent the Labour Party a dossier of over 250 pages, which contain … fuck all. Some members of the group had posted dodgy links. Like people do every day on every single Facebook group.

Incredibly, without any kind of research themselves, most newspapers reprinted parts of the report, as if it was a scientific document. Tony Greenstein has done a good job exposing Collier as the vile blogger, “Gnasher Jew”. But even after days of splashing this non-story across various newspapers, neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Glyn Secker, nor any other of the Labour members suspended for belonging to that group were found to have posted anything even vaguely anti-Semitic. It was just another weapon in the ongoing campaign to smear Corbyn and his supporters.

After five days in which Labour members and branches vocally protested against comrade Secker’s suspension, Sam Matthews was forced to lift it, “because it would not be in the party’s interest to pursue disciplinary action in relation to this matter”. There is no apology – not even a withdrawal of the accusation of anti-Semitism. Just like in the case of the expulsion of Moshé Machover, which was quickly rescinded, it appears that the NEC overruled McNicol, who seems to want to cause as much damage as possible until the very last moment. But what about Sam Matthews? His letter to Secker clearly exposes his political loyalties.

Also, compare comrade Secker’s treatment to that of Jeremy Newmark – until recently chair of the Jewish Labour Movement. Despite the JLM calling in the police to investigate allegations of fraud under Newmark’s watch, he remains untouched by the compliance unit, because, we are told, his behaviour in an organisation affiliated to the Labour Party is a “private matter”.

Rightwingers like Sam Matthews should follow their masters, McNicol and Oldknow, to the door marked ‘exit’.



Jon Lansman v Jennie Formby: What’s going on?

Unexpected fault lines have opened up on the soft Labour left over who will be the next general secretary, reports Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

With less than a week to go before nominations close on March 13, there are two candidates standing for the position of Labour’s general secretary. Their politics appears so similar that the contest between them seems, at best, ludicrous and, at worst, irresponsible. Should a ‘moderate’ candidate choose to exploit the current division, and should both pro-Corbyn candidates continue to insist on standing, that moderate might indeed ‘slip in’ through the middle when it comes to the crucial vote on Labour’s national executive committee on March 20. We presume that will not happen and that either Momentum owner Jon Lansman or Unite’s Jennie Formby will withdraw. But then, we never presumed that there would be two pro-Corbyn candidates standing in the first place!

The issue might already be decided by the next meeting of the NEC officers group on March 14. It is tasked with putting together a short list for the full NEC and has a pro-Corbyn majority. Of the current eight members, at least five are pro-Corbyn and two are members of Unite (though Jennie Formby, the current NEC vice-chair, will probably have to excuse herself).

One thing is for sure. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is continuing to have a disruptive effect, not just on the establishment, but on the Labour left too. In a sense, this is very much to be welcomed. The left seemed to have been dying a slow, painful death – it needed a ‘cultural revolution’. For a start, wouldn’t it be nice if we had actual transparency and democracy in our movement? Why on earth are there no proper reports, for example, from all NEC members? They should be obliged to report back to those they represent as to what was discussed and how they voted. Pete Willsman and Ann Black have been the only ones to routinely write such reports (for general circulation) – with their own omissions and partisan views, of course.

But in recent days NEC members Christine Shawcroft and Darren Williams have come out with short Facebook posts and brief hints, which indicate not just deep divisions between the representatives of the left-led unions and the nine elected by Constituency Labour Party members, but also the tensions between the nine, though they were elected on same the ‘centre-left slate’. We will come to that below.

Here is what we know.

For days, Jennie Formby seemed a virtual shoo-in. She has the support not just of her union, Unite. But pretty much every single group on the Labour left has come out for her, including quite a few Momentum branches. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has tweeted his support. Jeremy Corbyn is keeping schtum in public: he wants to appear above the fray and, of course, he values the support of both Momentum and Unite’s Len McCluskey.

So why then are there two left candidates? There are various theories and possible scenarios, some of which are, of course, interlinked. Clearly, we are in the middle of a very messy process.

Theory 1: Lansman has gone mad

This is perhaps the most common theory one comes across when discussing the issue on the left. According to this – and I must admit to having some sympathy for it – Jon Lansman’s ego has simply got the better of him. So successful has he been running Momentum as his own private fiefdom that he now thinks he has earned the right to aim for bigger things. After all, wasn’t it his tens of thousands of foot soldiers who nearly managed to get Jeremy Corbyn into No10?

Being directly responsible for over 200 staff; the party’s campaign and media strategies; all its organisational, constitutional and policy committees; the organisation of party conference; the preparation of party literature, etc – it sounds right up Jon Lansman’s street, doesn’t it? And who cares if that puts Corbyn in a very awkward position when it comes to Unite leader Len McCluskey? The time has come for Lansmanism to blossom!

We can certainly believe that Lansman’s ego is bigger than your average politician’s. But just like theories that try to pin the outbreak of World War II on Adolf Hitler’s psychological problems, that is clearly too easy an explanation.

Theory 2: Lansman is moving to the centre

We do not believe for a moment that he is standing in some semi-sacrificial way to “open up the contest and ensure we have a wide range of candidates”. We presume that Lansman thinks that he has an actual chance of winning a majority of votes on the NEC.

Of the 38 executive members, 21 could be described as pro-Corbyn, and 17 as rightwing. According to The Skwawkbox:

all the left NEC members have committed to support Jennie Formby, with the exception of a couple who have said they’ll only vote for a leftwing woman – and one who is behind Jon Lansman. Those committed to Formby include both party and union representatives – including party representatives elected as part of slates backed by Momentum, the organisation founded by Jon Lansman.

We know, of course, that outputs by ‘alternative media’ like The Skwawkbox should be taken with a pinch of salt. They are increasingly being used by political factions and sometimes even by journalists to leak unverified rumours to the wider public, so that it can then be picked up by the mainstream press. But we reckon that the website has done its counting correctly this time: 17 votes for Formby. The single leftwing NEC member who openly supports Lansman is Christine Shawcroft. But Lansman seems to think that he can win round those two left NEC members who have not yet openly backed Formby – a possibility, clearly.

But he must also count on the entire right wing on the NEC to back him in order to achieve a majority. He has clearly been working very hard to position himself in the political ‘centre’ of the Labour Party. I am sure Lansman is not entirely unhappy with the media narrative, according to which Jennie Formby is the representative of the hard left and the union bureaucracy, openly supporting – would you believe it? – the democratic rights of the Palestinian people. Clearly, she is too radical and ‘anti-Semitic’ to head the Labour machine!

In reality there is, of course, very little actual political difference between Jennie Formby and Jon Lansman. We are seeing a split on the soft left, rather than a split between the hard and soft left (which is probably still to come). Both candidates are uncritical supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and his policies, presumably prepared to back various political climbdowns should he become prime minister.

Which makes the only visible difference all the more crucial: the question of Israel and Palestine. With the Israeli army inching closer to getting involved in Syria (to distract perhaps from the legal problems of a certain Binyamin Netanyahu1)www.independent.co.uk/news/world/ middle-east/israel-prime-minister-benjamin- netanyahu-corruption-allegations-lawyers-explain- trouble-a7524416.html) the Labour Party’s position is becoming increasingly important. Can it really become an anti-war party – perhaps even in government? Will the pacifist Corbyn stick to his guns (excuse the pun) as prime minister and forthrightly condemn Israel aggression?

That would put the pro-imperialist right in the Parliamentary Labour Party under immense pressure from the Zionist lobby. This is, after all, why the whole ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal was created in the first place. Discredit Corbyn’s anti-war and pro-Palestine stance. Force him to ‘man up’ and come out in support of US interests. And that includes unconditional support for Israel to do whatever it has to do to ‘defend itself’. (We note Prince William is the first member of his family to make an official visit to Israel, as well as Lebanon and “the occupied Palestinian territories”.)

In this context, Jon Lansman’s participation in the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt in the Labour Party is very, very important. He has said of Ken Livingstone, “It’s time he left politics altogether”; thinks that “there should be no place for George Galloway in the Labour Party” (and called on his employers to sack him); and when Jackie Walker was suspended from Labour on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism, he quickly removed her as vice-chair of Momentum. He wants to be seen as a safe pair of hands, when it comes to Israel.

The question is, can Lansman get away with positioning himself in the political centre?

Alansmanfter all, he is Mr Momentum, which has since its inception been portrayed as a dangerous hotbed for an assortment of hyperactive hippies and Trotskyist troublemakers. He has been on the ‘far left’ of the Labour Party for decades, we are told. However, over the last 14 months, Lansman certainly has been very busy moulding Momentum into a thoroughly respectable election machine.

His coup of January 2017, which abolished all democratic structures in the organisation and imposed his constitution on the membership, has certainly gone a long way to assure the establishment of his ‘credentials’. He also subordinated Momentum to the compliance unit by barring membership  to all those who have been expelled from the Labour Party for “supporting another organisation” (rule 2.1.4.B).

No doubt Momentum’s deployment of an army of foot soldiers during the general election campaign made a real difference to Labour’s votes. Momentum nationally has been very careful to support all Labour Party candidates, not just pro-Corbyn ones (even if locally its members often choose to campaign mainly for leftwing candidates).

Politically, the organisation is even more harmless. For example, despite the fact that Jon Lansman has campaigned for mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates for decades, he has now dropped the demand and campaigns merely for a reform of the trigger ballot. At present an MP needs to win a simple majority of nominations from local party branches and affiliated trade unions and socialist societies in order to become the candidate once more. Lansman wants to raise this threshold to 66%, but this would still disproportionally favour the sitting MP: rather than allowing for a full and democratic automatic reselection process before every election, a sitting MP would still have to be challenged.

So successful is Momentum’s transformation that now even Theresa May openly wants to emulate it. This week she has written to “young activists” to help build Momentum-style grassroots campaigners. According to The Sun, the letter states:

We are recruiting a new army of foot soldiers to take the fight to Labour. It is clear from the results of the general election that we are more likely to win seats in which our organisation is strong. And it is an unfortunate fact that Labour’s organisation was better in many seats than ours.

It is absolutely possible that the right in the Labour Party might swing behind Lansman. The Guardian writes:

Lansman’s entry into the race is thought to have the tacit backing of some other unions, which are irritated by what they regard as Unite’s increasing dominance of Labour decision-making. Key to the decision will be two other major unions, the GMB and Unison, who have so far declined to give Formby their backing.

It is not impossible that other rightwingers on the NEC – for example, those from the PLP or those representing councillors – might support him, too. Especially if that was the only way to stop Formby.

Politically, of course, Lansman’s method of chasing the political centre is very much old school and in line with the method advocated by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and its founder-leader, Vladimir Derer, since 1973 (he died in 2014). The organisation was founded on the premise that any reform in the Labour Party has to be achieved not by pressure from the membership (which, for example, Militant pursued), but by winning over – or at least neutralising – the ‘centre’, in the party and the unions. The fascinating BBC docudrama The campaign shows how the CLPD won a conference majority to vote for a version of mandatory reselection in the early 1980s: through a number of backroom deals with union leaders.

It still pursues this method though the so-called Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, which ‘recommends’ various candidates for Labour Party elections. It is based on rather mysterious, private and entirely undemocratic get-togethers of various Labour left organisations, to which only a few lucky ones are invited (this year, for example, Jewish Voice for Labour was among the invitees), while others never make the gathering. The Labour Representation Committee regularly complains when it is left out in the cold.

According to Wikipedia, the CLGA was founded in 1995 by the CLPD and Labour Reform, “a centrist democratic group”, which had supported Ann Black as member of the NEC. When “private talks with trade union representatives” failed, Liz Davies of Labour Left Briefing and Mark Seddon, editor of Tribune, were also brought in. But, convinced of the left’s unelectability, the CLGA continued to support centrist candidates and rejected any moves to present a leftwing platform or support openly left candidates.

This explains how Ann Black could remain on the ‘left ticket’ for so long, despite clearly being very much on the centre of the party. She supported the move to stop tens of thousands of pro-Corbyn members from voting in the second leadership election and, as chair of the NEC disciplinary panel, gave her backing to much of the witch-hunt against the left – for instance, by voting for the suspension of Brighton and Hove CLP. Many have questioned, quite rightly, why the CLGA continues to back her.

Theory 3: It is all about Ann Black

As we have reported, Jon Lansman and CLPD secretary Pete Willsman, who have worked together in the CLPD for decades, have fallen out over Black. Just how badly became very obvious at the CLPD’s March 3 annual general meeting. Clearly having thoroughly internalised the centre-left strategy, Pete Willsman continues to insist that Black should be included on the CLGA slate. When his own CLPD executive committee voted (by a majority of one) against her inclusion a few months back, he decided to ignore the decision and campaign for her.

On the morning of the AGM, a rumour was doing the rounds that Lansman would turn up in order to graciously announce his withdrawal from the general secretary race. If true, he clearly changed his mind. He did not even show up. But his supporters were a visible presence. After a long list of worthy but boring speakers (which pushed all normal motions submitted off the agenda), Lansman’s NEC ally, Christine Shawcroft, presented an emergency motion, which sought to remove Pete Willsman as CLPD secretary and force immediate new elections to the position (which she was apparently intending to contest).

The motion criticised as “unacceptable” the delay in putting together a slate for the NEC elections in the summer:

A draft slate was not opposed by CLPD, yet during February attempts were made to overturn it with biased and incomplete emails around the executive, and threats to take it to the AGM. All in the name of keeping someone on the slate [ie, Ann Black] who has consistently voted against us in the last two years, often in ways very damaging to the leader. Now the two-month delay means that those on the final slate are already on the back foot, struggling to make up time. This has happened because of a lack of basic democratic accountability in CLPD’s organisation.

The motion was ruled out of order (on the basis that it was “not an emergency”), but it took a vote that needed two recounts before that decision was accepted. And, of course, it served another purpose: to justify the fact that Jon Lansman single-handedly leaked a list of the nine NEC candidates supported by Momentum to the national press. Ann Black was not on it, of course.

In our view, Ann Black should certainly not be on any leftwing list. But then she should have never been on it in the first place! She had been supported by Lansman and Willsman for many years – and, no, she did not turn into a centrist overnight. She had always been one.

By kicking her off the left slate, Lansman seems to have been acting in line with the party leadership. After all, the NEC officers group (which has a clear a pro-Corbyn majority) risked media ridicule when they shut down a meeting to elect a new chair of the national policy forum, because Ann Black was sure to win it.

Pete Willsman, however, did not seem to get the message. We wonder how long the deeply divided CLPD can keep going.

Theory 4: Lansman ‘wants to break the union link’

This is where the contradictions start to mount up. It is one thing to stand against a leftwing union representative. If you present yourself as the serious, credible alternative candidate of the political centre, you might have a chance of getting the rightwing unions on the NEC behind you.

But Lansman has gone one further with his proposal to have the general secretary elected by the party membership as a whole. We very much oppose it. It sounds democratic, but really it is not. It would actually create two rival centres of power. We have seen under McNicol’s tenure how destructive the general secretary can be. Having direct elections to the post would not prevent this situation occurring again – it would though guarantee endemic conflict between Labour Party HQ, the NEC and the leaders’ office. No, the general secretary should remain directly accountable to the NEC. Once the numbers on the NEC had changed in favour of the pro-Corbyn left, McNicol’s time was up. And that is how it should be.

Lansman’s proposal is also very risky from his point of view, as it surely is bound to alienate all unions affiliated to the Labour Party. They see it as their historic right to fill a proportion of leadership positions, so why would they vote for him to become the next general secretary if he is proposing to change that? Especially as his NEC ally and fellow Momentum director, Christine Shawcroft, used an angry Facebook post to declare: “It is time to support disaffiliation of the unions from the Labour Party.”

This came as a complete surprise to us. To our knowledge, she had never put forward such a line before. And it also came as a shock to Jeremy Corbyn, whose spokesperson described that statement as “a heat-of-the-moment remark”:

There is almost no-one in the entire Labour Party who supports any kind of breaking of the link with the trade unions. Even to say it’s a minority view would be exaggerating it: it’s a completely marginal view that has no support whatever. I don’t think it even represents her view.

Shawcroft has indeed deleted the comment. Some claim that she was not totally out of tune with Jon Lansman here, even if Momentum was quick to distance itself from her statement. In his candidacy statement Lansman talks about wanting to “listen to our trade union affiliates” and “work hard to strengthen Labour’s trade union link”. But he has also gone to the media to express “dissatisfaction that the role [of general secretary] should be chosen behind closed doors by Labour’s NEC, which in practice would mean a deal struck between major trade unions for their preferred candidate”. However, to interpret this as a desire on Lansman’s part to see the unions disaffiliate is a bad case of clutching at straws.

True, the union link seems to have been a point of discussion among his allies and there is certainly room for democratic reform when it comes to the unions’ role in the Labour Party. For a start, instead of union general secretaries casting their union’s bloc vote at the Labour conference, we call for the vote to be divided on a proportional basis according to the political balance in the delegation.

But calling for the link to be broken is entirely wrong-headed. If Labour is to become the party of the whole class, then clearly it must become the umbrella organisation for all trade unions, socialist groups and pro-working class partisans. All unions should affiliate and all union members should pay the political levy.

Theory 5: Jon Lansman is the good guy

This is almost as hard to swallow as scenario 4. But bear with us.

Shawcroft’s outburst on Facebook actually came about after the March 17 meeting of the NEC’s disciplinary panel, of which she is now chair. The disciplinary panel is made up of the entire NEC – or, more precisely, of those NEC members who can be bothered to show up. It is the committee that decides if disciplinary charges have any merit – and should therefore be sent to the National Constitutional Committee for further investigation.

The NCC consists of 11 members, chosen by party conference for a two-year term. Four are elected by CLP delegates, six by the unions and one by affiliated socialist societies. Last year, the CLGA candidates, Emina Ibrahim and Anna Dyer, won overwhelmingly in the CLP section. The other two CLP positions are up for election at this year’s conference, but for now the NCC clearly remains in the hands of the right. And it is questionable how ‘left’ the CLGA candidates are. Emina Ibrahim, for example, was supposed to be the alibi leftie on the three-person NCC panel at Tony Greenstein’s expulsion hearing – and despite the obvious democratic shortcomings, lack of natural justice and due process in the accusations against him, she voted in favour of him being expelled. For being rude.

As far as we can tell, Christine Shawcroft has used her new position as chair of the disciplinary panel to argue for the dismissal of all cases brought before it – and against their referral to the NCC. Exactly right. Once your case is in front of the NCC with its current composition – if you are a leftwinger – you can kiss your membership card goodbye. Next to their access to the national press, this is probably the most potent weapon the right in the party machine still has. We support the demand that all 18 cases currently in front of the NCC should be referred back to the NEC’s disciplinary panel.

But at the March 17 meeting it seems that despite her best efforts to dismiss all the cases in front of the committee (there were a few dozen, we understand) the majority voted for three cases to be referred to the NCC, despite the evidence being “far from compelling”, as NEC member Darren Williams complains (see below).

Interestingly, Shawcroft wrote on Facebook that a certain Jon Lansman supported her; whereas Jennie Formby did the opposite:

Christine Shawcroft screenshot

I must admit to a certain scepticism when I first read this. Shawcroft did, after all, support Jon Lansman in the middle of his undemocratic coup by becoming Momentum’s director and did not speak up when he continued to ride roughshod over the members by imposing his own constitution. She also previously voted to refer Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth to the NCC. She irresponsibly split from Labour Briefing journal to set up her own Original Labour Briefing – without explaining the politics behind it.

But then she was backed up by fellow NEC member Darren Williams on Facebook. We cannot stress enough how unusual this is for both of them:

Darren William screenshot

In the discussion thread underneath, Christine Shawcroft then wrote:

unions sticking it... Christine

After being questioned if this was a systematic voting pattern of the representatives of the major unions and if Jennie Formby has indeed been part of that pattern, comrade Williams clarified: “I think there has been undue caution sometimes about speaking up for members facing questionable charges, probably due to a fear of being seen to be contributing to Labour’s supposed ‘anti-Semitism problem’.”

Ever since she threw her hat in the ring, Jennie Formby has been at the forefront of the right wing’s radar. She has been accused of “acting with anti-Semitic intent” by Labour Against Anti-Semitism – an attack which Unite has quite rightly termed a “malicious smear”. A smear which has, of course, been picked up and repeated by the entire press. She clearly feels the need to bend the stick in the other direction to have a chance of being elected. On March 3, she tweeted: Jennie Formby

But if it is true that she systematically votes to refer disciplinary cases to the NCC, that is a different matter altogether. We are told that Formby, in this instance, did not vote at all, but basically left the room repeatedly, so that she would not have to cast a vote. Apparently, all trade union representatives at that meeting (except the Transport Salaried Staff Association) voted to refer the three cases to the NCC. And, apparently, Jon Lansman voted against that.

Many members expected that, with the NEC finally having a pro-Corbyn majority, the witch-hunt would come to a swift end. But it was never going to be that easy. The civil war continues. And the fault lines are continuing to shift.

Right now Labour Party members deserve to know if Unite representatives (including Jennie Formby) do systematically vote with the right when it comes to the witch-hunt against pro-Corbyn members. If that is indeed true, it would certainly shine an entirely new light on Jennie Formby and how deserving she is of the left’s support.

Of course, in the absence of openness on such important issues, we should be careful about who is spreading news and to what purpose. After all, Len McCluskey has been very outspoken in his opposition to the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt, so this reported behaviour by one of Unite reps is, to put it mildly, surprising.


What is Jon Lansman up to?

Iain McNicol gone, JLM calling the police, rumours about Ken Livingstone being reinstated … But it’s not all plain sailing for the left, warns Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists, as Jon Lansman declares he wants to run for general secretary

What a week it has been for lefties in the Labour Party.

First, there was the fallout from the establishment’s rather desperate attempt to make a spy out of Jeremy Corbyn. Not only were the claims quickly disputed by the Czech and German spy agencies – soon followed by the more serious newspapers, which had to admit that, despite their displeasure at Corbyn’s politics, it was pretty normal for politicians of all parties to meet with people employed by other states. No accusations of any substance materialised – it was nothing but hot air.

The young and ever so eager vice-chair of the Conservative Party, Ben Bradley MP, was forced to eat humble pie of rather enormous proportions after claiming that Corbyn had “sold British secrets to communist spies”. Confronted with some rather serious legal threats by Corbyn’s lawyers, he swiftly deleted his tweet and was forced to admit that he “made a seriously defamatory statement”, which “was wholly untrue and false”, and for which “I am offering my unreserved and unconditional apology to Jeremy Corbyn for the distress I have caused him”.

Worst of all – from the establishment’s point of view – is the fact that these accusations have done very little to hurt Corbyn or the Labour Party. According to a YouGov poll for The Times, only 8% of voters said that this ‘scandal’ made them “think worse” of Corbyn – and most of those are Tory voters. To 64% it made no difference; and 6% “now think better of him”. The same poll showed that Labour “extended its lead to two points”, putting it on 42%, with the Tories on 40%. Similar polls show pretty much the same picture, with Labour continuing to be ahead.1)The Times February 24

We also saw a new twist in the scandal that keeps on running: days after Jeremy Newmark stepped down as chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, the organisation stated that it had referred “certain internal financial matters” to the police. We wonder if they might just have anything to do with Newmark? But, of course, the real problem with the JLM is not financial irregularities. It is politics. The JLM is the British branch of the Zionist and racist Israeli Labor Party. As shown by the Al Jazeera programme The lobby it has played a disgraceful role, in conjunction with the Israel embassy, in the witch-hunting of socialists and pro-Corbyn activists in the Labour Party. Surely, it should not be allowed to remain a Labour affiliate.

And, of course, a certain Iain McNicol – he who once suspended a member for stating on social media, “I fucking love the Foo Fighters” – regarded Newmark’s conduct as a “private matter” and refused to open an investigation. Maybe this was the final straw for Jeremy Corbyn. Either way, we know that McNicol did not resign just to spend more time with his family or “pursue new challenges” in the labour movement. Proving perhaps that he is not quite as soft a hippie as many presumed, we understand that Corbyn paid McNicol a visit, during which he ‘convinced’ him to go, but allowed him to resign to save face. Not that McNicol has got much of a reputation left. There are rumours that he might be made a life peer in return for his overdue departure – he would certainly fit right in with that bunch of overpaid and underqualified blighters, whose main task is to ensure that elected representatives do not undermine the interests of the ruling class.

We very much agree with the statement quickly put out by Labour Against the Witchhunt, a campaign that certainly helped to heap the pressure on the now departed general secretary:

McNicol was directly in charge of the unelected and discredited compliance unit, which has purged thousands of pro-Corbyn members from the party.

We see his resignation very much as an important symbol and an integral part of our fight to radically transform the Labour Party, which is undergoing a long overdue democracy review, to which we have also contributed.

The automatic and instant expulsions and suspensions overseen by McNicol – especially those based on alleged anti-Semitism and those based on members’ alleged “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B – have brought the party into disrepute. They have prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while valuable resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change.

Two days later, we read in The Observer the excellent news that Ken Livingstone’s suspension would not be renewed and that he would become a member “with full rights” when his two year suspension runs out on April 27. 2)The Observer February 25

It looked like Christine Shawcroft, as new chair of the NEC disciplinary panel, had acted swiftly. Livingstone’s suspension, like those of Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and hundreds of others, is a total injustice. Moshé Machover (among others) has proven that Livingstone was – despite some small factual inaccuracies – in essence entirely correct to claim that the Nazis and the Zionists collaborated in the 1930s. It is historically verifiable fact 3)For which comrade Machover was swiftly expelled himself before being readmitted three weeks later.

Shit hits the fan

However, since then the proverbial shit has hit the fan, proving that the civil war in the Labour Party is very much alive and well. The usual assortment of rightwingers have let it be known they would be “outraged” if Livingstone was let back in. And unfortunately Corbyn seems to have rolled over. Within hours, the national executive committee let it be known that Livingstone’s suspension would not ‘run out’ after all, but that the NEC would launch “a new enquiry into allegations of anti-Semitism” against Livingstone. Not so new, actually. The enquiry was announced 10 months ago, but never saw the light of day.

Another recent victim of the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign is, of course, regular Weekly Worker contributor Tony Greenstein, who was expelled from the party on February 18 – for being rude on social media. Members of the compliance unit could not prove the original charge of anti-Semitism, so they settled on “bringing the party into disrepute” – a very stretchy and flexible charge.

As an aside, it has been quite worrying to see not only Momentum vice-chair Emina Ibrahim vote in favour of comrade Greenstein’s expulsion at his Brighton hearing – but also how many Corbyn supporters seem to find it impossible to defend comrade Greenstein, because they claim to have been so appalled by some of the things he has written. 4)Disappointingly, that also includes Free Speech on Israel: http://freespeechonisrael.org. uk/tony-greenstein-abusive-yes-acerbic-yes-not- antisemitic/#sthash.ngIOgkET.dpbs

However, one person’s rudeness is another person’s robust argument. We should also stress that in reality comrade Greenstein has not been expelled for being rude: he has been expelled because he is an ardent and very vocal supporter of the rights of the Palestinians, and a socialist to boot. Had he been less rude, chances are they would have got him under some other charge.

It briefly looked as if comrade Greenstein – with McNicol finally out of the way – might have been the last victim of the compliance unit. But the Livingstone episode proves that this is far from certain. In fact, the civil war, which has been simmering under the surface for some time, is far from over. The left has made some important advances in recent months, starting with the change in the balance of forces on the NEC. The right will not take any changes lying down and will undoubtedly become more and more vocal if and when a range of small, but overdue, improvements are introduced (many no doubt as part of the Corbyn review at this year’s annual conference).

We have seen uproar, for example, over the admittedly rather strange appointment of Andrew Murray as part-time advisor to help with the “party’s Brexit strategy”. He was, after all, a longstanding and leading member of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, which prides itself on pursuing a “national path to socialism”. In the run-up to the 2016 referendum, the CPB joined the deluded Left Leave or Lexit campaign to come out of the European Union 5)www.communist-party.org.uk/britain/eu/2258- leave-eu-new-group-formed-to-fight-for-an-exit- left.html – when Murray was still a member of the CPB. His appointment was always going to rile the right in the party, many of whom have gathered behind a pro-EU banner.

But Murray is Len McCluskey’s trusted chief-of-staff, a reliable source of strategic thinking for Corbyn and a close friend of Labour’s communication chief, Seamus Milne (they were both involved in supporting Straight Left, a publication that appeared to be Labourite, but was, in fact, the front for a Stalinite faction of the old CPGB). Murray, who has never hidden his sympathy for Joseph Stalin, is, of course, also the man who as chair of the Stop the War Coalition led it into some rather dodgy political waters. He went along with the barring of Hands Off the People of Iran as an affiliate. Hopi, as a matter of principle, insists that it is necessary to fight not only against the war threats of western imperialism, but also the theocracy in Iran. Murray has a soft spot for dodgy third world regimes which he considers to be ‘anti-imperialist’. Bizarrely, under his watch, STWC promoted pro-Tehran speakers at its conferences. They even boasted of the number of sex change operations notched up in  Iran – homosexuals are given the choice of being executed or undergoing surgery.

Next general secretary

Murray is, however, very unlikely to become – as has been rumoured – the next general secretary of the Labour Party. For its part, the Skwawkbox website is certain that the new general secretary “will be a woman”. The possible female candidates whose names have been leaked are Unite’s Anneliese Midgley, Labour’s governance and membership director Emilie Oldknow and the GMB union’s Lisa Johnson. The most likely female candidate, however, is Jennie Formby.

Formby is a vocal critic of Israel and a supporter of the rights of the Palestinians. On the NEC, she objected to the selection of Jan Royall to lead the investigation into anti-Semitism allegations against Labour students at Oxford University, because she was able to prove that Royall had been a member of Labour Friends of Israel, and had visited Israel in 2007. Formby was also a “prime mover behind a vote passed by the executive last November to bar the security firm G4S from tendering to handle security at Labour’s annual conference because the firm does business with Israel”, writes The Independent.

We have to admit that we do not know how Formby has voted on various political issues or disciplinary matters that have come before the NEC. She has not exactly been the most vocal leftwinger on that committee and we are far from certain that she would demand an end to the purge of organised socialists under rule 2.1.4.B, which bars from membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party” and has exclusively been used against leftwingers.

But, for the time being at least, Unite supports Corbyn’s agenda. And, considering the disgraceful way in which the rightwing party bureaucracy has acted against him by purging hundreds, if not thousands, of his supporters on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism, Formby’s appointment would send a very powerful political signal. We can certainly hope that the beginning of her tenure would mark the end of the witch-hunt.

Lansman throws his hat in the ring

Momentum owner Jon Lansman has also indicated he might throw his hat into the ring. According to the Huffington Post, he is “being urged to run”, following “claims by the right that Formby was being ‘railroaded’ through as the favoured candidate of key allies of Jeremy Corbyn”. This smacks of fake news. Run some media stories about a Palestine supporter (read, anti-Semite) and trade unionist (read, leftwinger) being a virtual shoo-in for the post, and the centre and the right will do anything to stop her. Maybe even vote for one of Corbyn’s closest allies!

However, Steve Watson, editor of Skwawkbox, is openly supporting Formby. Funnily enough, he is doing so by using exactly the argument that Lansman employs when he is trying to convince everybody to vote for one of his slates: if Lansman does not withdraw, he would be “opening the door for any rightwing candidate who decides to apply” to slip in through the middle. In this case, however, it seems pretty certain that the successful candidate will be a leftwinger broadly in line with Corbyn’s politics.  The Guardian stated on February 28 that “a late-night conference call failed to persuade the grassroots group [read Lansman] to rally around the Unite candidate” and a day later, Lansman finally declared he would run. 6)The Guardian February 28 2018

The article also states that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell support Formby and not Lansman. That is certainly interesting. We have always presumed that Lansman acts in close cooperation with and on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn – and no doubt most of the time that is the case. However, opening up a rift with Unite is a risky strategy for Lansman. After all, Corbyn owes his position in no small measure to the direct support of Len McCluskey and his massive union machine. And Corbyn cannot afford to lose the support of the leftwing unions on the NEC.

But there is also the not insignificant matter of Momentum’s massive database. Jon Lansman literally owns the contact details of hundreds of thousands Corbyn supporters. He can urge them to support Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC – or not. And Momentum has clearly been an important tool in getting leftwingers onto the NEC, for example, and in helping mobilise supporters during elections. Corbyn will be very aware of the power that Lansman holds – and maybe he has begun to regret letting him acquire it.

The Guardian’s “senior Momentum source” claims that “Jon has proven his popularity with the membership with his recent NEC election result” and is “expected to be a popular grassroots candidate” for general secretary. But in reality Lansman likes to run things from above. He is Momentum’s Bonaparte, not its democratically elected and fully accountable servant.

When Lansman feared he would lose control of Momentum, he simply abolished all democratic and decision-making structures in the January 10 2017 coup. He wrote a new constitution that members had no possibility of amending. They could only vote ‘no’ or ‘yes’ in an online ballot.

He has made no attempt to politically educate or organise members – he regards them as spear carriers, to be called out during elections or at conferences.

Politically, Lansman is an arch-opportunist. He has given up the decades-old fight for mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates. Instead, he is pushing the lame proposal to raise the threshold for a trigger ballot for the reselection of MPs from 50% to 66% (at present an MP needs to win a simple majority of nominations from local party branches and affiliated trade unions and socialist societies in order to become the candidate once more). This would still disproportionally favour the sitting MP: rather than allowing for a full and democratic automatic selection process before every election, a sitting MP would still have to be challenged.

He is also playing a disgraceful role in the witch-hunt. When Jackie Walker was suspended from Labour on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism, he quickly removed her as vice-chair of Momentum. After Ken Livingstone’s suspension, he wrote on Twitter: “A period of silence from Ken Livingstone is overdue, especially on anti-Semitism, racism and Zionism. It’s time he left politics altogether.”

 He agreed that Momentum too would bar from membership all those expelled from the Labour Party for their alleged “support for other organisations” under rule 2.1.4.B. A rule that has been used exclusively by the right in order to throw out socialists. In a letter to Labour Against the Witchhunt’s Tony Greenstein, Lansman has come out in support of keeping the rule in Labour’s constitution.

*  In the same letter, he also states his desire to keep the disgraced and much-hated compliance unit in place – and for it to remain an appointed body, rather than have all disciplinary matters dealt with by elected representatives, who would be subject to scrutiny by Labour Party members.


Applications for the position of general secretary are open until March 13. On March 14, the NEC officers will be putting a shortlist before a full meeting of the NEC, which will make its decision on March 20. According to the rules, party conference elects the general secretary “on the recommendation of the NEC”. But, because there is a currently a “vacancy”, the NEC has “the full power to fill the vacancy subject to the approval of party conference”.

Both scenarios lead to the same result, of course – conference has, to our knowledge, never rejected the candidate chosen by the NEC. However, many members are now demanding that the general secretary should be elected by the full membership, in an online ballot, in a method similar to the leadership election. According to The Guardian, those who favour this now include Momentum:

Sources at Momentum … said there was dissatisfaction that the role should be chosen behind closed doors by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), which in practice would mean a deal struck between major trade unions for their preferred candidate.

Apparently, those “senior sources” said that they “may urge the leadership to change course on the appointments protocol to allow for an election of the general secretary” and that Lansman would be the perfect candidate, because “Jeremy’s style of politics is not that of backroom deals, but of open and transparent discussion, which is exactly what Jon would represent as a candidate”.

Oh sure, Jon Lansman just hates backroom deals! We wonder if he is really serious about challenging the power of the unions in the Labour Party – rather a big undertaking. Or perhaps he is suggesting a rule change on this matter because that might increase his chances.

A petition to elect the general secretary on www.change.org, which was only started a couple of days ago, already has well over a thousand signatures and is being circulated widely online. Rather ironically, it is actively supported by the initiator of an earlier petition (signed by 8,643 people), which called for McNicol to be sacked. But if the general secretary were indeed elected directly by the members, there would be no way s/he could be “sacked” by the leadership.

No, such a method is fraught with problems. Online Omov (one member, one vote) elections only appear democratic on the outside. For example, Labour members will soon be voting for nine Constituency Labour Party representatives on the new NEC. In fact, they only have one choice: to vote in favour of the nine Momentum candidates – or risk letting in a rightwinger We say the NEC should be elected by and accountable to annual conference.

Political posts responsible to the NEC should be elected by the NEC – by those in a position to know the candidate, their abilities, their political record. With such a method of election comes accountability … and recallability. Understandably, many members resent the fact that witch-hunter general McNicol was allowed to remain in  post for so long. His departure is a reflection of the changing balance of power. Once the NEC had a clear pro-Corbyn majority, McNicol’s days were numbered. His departure has precious little to do with particular events in Sandwell CLP or the position of Ann Black, as Skwawkbox reveals in one ‘exclusive’ after another. It is down to basic arithmetic.



1 The Times February 24
2 The Observer February 25
3 For which comrade Machover was swiftly expelled himself before being readmitted three weeks later.
4 Disappointingly, that also includes Free Speech on Israel: http://freespeechonisrael.org. uk/tony-greenstein-abusive-yes-acerbic-yes-not- antisemitic/#sthash.ngIOgkET.dpbs
5 www.communist-party.org.uk/britain/eu/2258- leave-eu-new-group-formed-to-fight-for-an-exit- left.html
6 The Guardian February 28 2018