Tag Archives: Labour Representation Comittee

LRC and LLA: Recoiling from the challenge

Carla Roberts is puzzled by the decision of the Labour Representation Committee

The Labour Representation Committee has decided to withdraw from the Labour Left Alliance. As we understand it, this decision was reached at a meeting of its executive, but was far from unanimous. Graham Bash, for example, tells us he argued “strongly” against it.

In his article in last week’s Weekly Worker, he stated that “rebuilding the Labour left is a matter of extreme urgency”. Quite right. According to the LRC’s statement, however, launching the LLA in July 2019 – three and a half years after Jeremy Corbyn’s election – was “premature” and “a short cut”. We disagree. If anything, this launch has come very, very late – hopefully not too late.

Thanks to John McDonnell (who will remain president of the LRC despite his effective cooperation with the witch-hunters), there is now real pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to step down as Labour leader, should the party lose in the December 12 general election. Any candidate who wants to replace him will still require 10% of the votes of all MPs or MEPs. This remains a very difficult hurdle to clear for any leftwinger (not that there are that many). Sadly, in the hope of appeasing the right, Corbyn and his allies have refused to back measures that would help change the composition of the Parliamentary Labour Party – they instructed Len McCluskey to use his Unite block vote at the 2018 Labour conference to vote against the mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates (aka ‘open selection’).

There was, of course, the earlier Grassroots Momentum initiative, which was set up just after the Jon Lansman coup of January 10 2017. But it was underorganised and, crucially, allowed the witch-hunting Alliance for Workers’ Liberty to participate – no wonder it came to nothing. After all, AWL members had helped Lansman to boot Jackie Walker off the leadership of Momentum (just before they in turn were booted off). Important lessons have been learned from this disaster: the LLA founding statement crucially contains the principled positions that it “opposes attempts to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism” and that it supports “the democratic and national rights of the Palestinians” – both demands that the AWL social-imperialists would not support.

The rightwing campaign against Corbyn and his supporters has been raging for over three years, but there is still no viable organisation that can exercise any real pressure from the left, as the politically corrupt selection process of parliamentary candidates is clearly demonstrating. Since last week, we have heard about three more leftwingers who were removed from their local shortlist – just before the hustings meeting that was voting on the parliamentary candidate. In South West Norfolk, the selected Labour candidate, Matthew Collings, was suspended one day after his election. The ‘evidence’ presented is, as can be expected, laughable: it includes support for Chris Williamson and Labour Against the Witchhunt. However, decisions reached because of the party’s “need to exercise due diligence” cannot be challenged – an affront to democracy, clearly.

So, while this is very strange timing from the LRC (which released its statement one day after the general election was called), its decision does not come as a great surprise to those involved in the LLA. We understand that the LRC’s representatives on the LLA organising group (OG) have been somewhat reluctant to get involved in actually building the initiative, despite being one of the two principal organisations (along with LAW) that set up the LLA back in July.

LRC’s statement contains a good number of inaccuracies, while giving the impression that it was somehow in a minority within the LLA and therefore could not achieve all the many good things it wanted to. And it mainly blames Labour Against the Witchhunt. Readers should keep in mind, however, that LAW only has three representatives on the LLA OG (which had over 30 members). The LRC, on the other hand, had its three national reps, plus three more from local LRC groups that had affiliated. The three delegates from Red Labour are also close to the LRC. Clearly, they could have easily outvoted LAW’s representatives on any issue, had they so wished.

It seems to us that, in reality, the LLA has developed more quickly, more successfully and with a stronger forward ‘momentum’ than the comrades had envisaged or could keep up with. The LRC is a rather slow and inert organisation, with very few active members (just over 100 made it to the last AGM). It argues that the LLA should not move beyond the stage of a network and should, under no circumstances, elect any officers. The flaws of such an untransparent structure of ‘volunteers’ taking initiatives (or not) have, however, become increasingly obvious in recent weeks, as the pressure to elect officers has grown.

The LRC’s inertia has, of course, a political basis. The organisation used to act as entirely uncritical cheerleaders of the official Labour left. With the left now running the party leadership, the LRC has come under increasing pressure to criticise the many political retreats and the ever-expanding witch-hunt in the party. But it is clearly struggling with that role: it is used to defending Corbyn, McDonnell and co, rather than criticising them. The LRC looks to us like an organisation at an important political crossroads and it could dwindle into oblivion pretty quickly. That is not something we would celebrate.

What are their arguments?

  • The comrades write that for them it has been “crucial to win trade union support”. But when a couple of LLA members proposed a strategy that would, for a start, organise our supporters in the unions, they opposed it. No other effort to win unions to the LLA has been made by the LRC, we understand.
  • They write that the LRC argued for “the insertion into the LLA statement of the clause ‘supports and encourages struggles against austerity and all forms of oppression’. While this met no opposition, it has not been reflected in the political proposals of those LAW comrades involved in the LLA project, whose sole emphasis seems to be on internal party matters. We feel that this shuts down the wider potential and ambition originally envisaged.”

    Well, it is not called ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’ for nothing, and it should therefore not come as a surprise that LAW would propose initiatives around trigger ballots, the selection process and the Chris Williamson case. The LRC, on the other hand, with its focus on “wider issues”, did not make any proposals at all – apart from inserting the above phrase.

  • The comrades criticise the fact that there has not been “space in the LLA to raise issues that should be the bedrock of Labour left organising – for example, whether solidarity with workers taking industrial action, international campaigns, opposition to climate change or defence of public services”.

    Now this is where things are getting a bit bizarre. We understand that LRC reps did not make a single proposal on any of those issues on the OG. Which seems to us would be the perfect “space” to make them. Or they could have used the three LLA Facebook groups in existence. In reality, LRC comrades have consistently argued against the LLA taking any positions on anything. They opposed LAW’s suggestion to discuss LLA’s political aims and campaigning priorities at the forthcoming conference, because the groups affiliated to the LLA “already have their own campaigns”.

  • They also charge “leading LAW comrades” of promoting “the formation of local LLA groups, rather than the – on paper – agreed approach of persuading existing, established and active local left organisations – whether Momentum, Labour Left or whatever – to affiliate.”

    We really struggle to see how that is a bad thing. Where the left in the Labour Party is not yet organised and therefore unable to efficiently and effectively organise in the party, clearly the point of a national Labour left is to support exactly the formation of such new groups?

  • Rather weirdly, they then claim that LAW representatives demanded that, in order to affiliate, unions would have to have a “minimum of members” who were “individual, signed-up LLA supporters”.

    Labour Against the Witchhunt has published its draft constitution for the LLA and this is what was proposed on this issue: “All national trade unions can appoint up to three representatives once they have paid the affiliation fee of £500/annum.” At no point has there been any other proposal, based on numbers of affiliated LLA supporters in a particular union. This claim by the LRC is just nonsense – based presumably on a serious misunderstanding.

  • Last but not least, we are told that the “emphasis” of LAW comrades is “that small left groups should be encouraged to affiliate to LLA, while questioning the affiliation of broader, genuine Labour left groups like Red Labour and Grassroots Black Left.”

    Here the comrades are being rather economical with the truth. We understand that LAW comrades raised the question as to why Marxist groups active in the Labour Party – for example Socialist Appeal, Labour Party Marxists or Red Flag – should be barred from the LLA (as demanded by the LRC), while groups like Red Labour, which barely exists even as an online endeavour, should unquestioningly be allocated three representatives on the OG. This was raised, discussed and then put aside within two days. Clearly, this is an issue that can be resolved at the LLA conference in February.

We repeat: it is a shame that the LRC has decided to jump ship, especially at this crucial time in the civil war and the witch-hunt. Many LRC members have expressed disagreement with this decision online and it is good to see that the departure has – so far – not harmed the LLA. It might actually help it to move forward at a quicker pace and allow it to set its sights far higher. In which case the LRC will hopefully come back on board soon.

Oppose nationalism across the board

Use the May 2014 Euro elections to fight for socialism and internationalism, argues James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists

Opposition to the European Union continues to embarrass, vex and divide rightwing bourgeois politicians.

The current situation is easy to summarise. Under severe pressure from the UK Independence Party, David Cameron has committed the Tories to an in-out referendum following the next general election in 2015. If returned to No10 he solemnly pledges to negotiate a root-and-branch reform of Britain’s relationship with Brussels. Smelling blood, Nigel Farage wants to turn the May 2014 European election into a referendum against Bulgarian and Romanian migrants and continued EU membership. And, worryingly, an Open Europe poll puts Ukip on 27% – significantly ahead of Labour (23%) and the Tories (21%).1 Meanwhile, the swelling anti-EU mood gives rise to further rifts within Conservative ranks. Eg, Adam Afriyie – tipped by some as a future Tory leader – has been agitating for a referendum this side of the general election.2

Disgracefully, not a few in the labour movement have aligned themselves with the xenophobic right. Among the Labour MPs who signed up to the People’s Pledge – a cross-party (now semi-defunct) campaign calling for an EU referendum – are Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, David Crausby, Jon Cruddas, John Cryer, Natascha Engel, Jim Fitzpatrick, Roger Godsiff, Tom Harris, Kate Hoey, Lindsay Hoyle, Kelvin Hopkins, George Howarth, Iain McKenzie, Austin Mitchell, Graham Stringer, Gerry Sutcliffe, Derek Twigg and Keith Vaz. The RMT was the first union to give official backing. Brian Denny of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain sits on its national council, as does Mark Seddon, former editor of Tribune. Other council members include Tory MPs Zac Goldsmith and Douglas Carswell, Nigel Dodds (Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader), Marta Andreasen (Ukip MEP till February 2013, when she defected to the Tories), Jenny Jones (Green Party) and Jim Sillars (SNP deputy leader 1990-92). Bob Crow, Boris Johnson, Caroline Lucas and Bill Greenshields (CPB chair) are prominently listed as supporters.

The foul nature of the People’s Pledge can be gathered from the protest it staged outside the treasury on July 21 2011. That was the day when EU leaders launched a second, £96 billion, bailout for Greece. The campaign said that there should be no further contributions from Britain. Bob Crow in particular singled out article 122 of the Lisbon treaty, which “obliges” British taxpayers to “risk” billions of pounds at a “time of cuts to public services at home”.3 Presumably Greece should be abandoned to a disorderly default and forced to exit from the euro zone.

For its part, the British National Party roundly condemns international bankers for “strangling the Greek economy”, demands that the UK “withdraw from the European Union” and wants to reserve government funds for “more useful projects”.4 Sadly, a position which almost passes for common sense on the left nowadays too. Both the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party in England and Wales are set to partner the Morning Star’s CPB in the No2EU electoral front – note the line-up of speakers for the North West constituency launch meeting: Bob Crow (RMT), Roger Banister (SPEW) and Michael Lavalette (SWP).5 According to a recent No2EU bulletin, a break with the EU will allow Britain to “be rebuilt with socialist policies.”6 A clear case of national socialism. And, unfortunately, where the CPB, SWP and SPEW have led Socialist Resistance, Respect, Alliance for Green Socialism, Socialist Labour Party, Solidarity, etc have followed.

What appears to be an incongruous, puzzling and unnatural alignment between left and right in actual fact stems from a common source. Uniting 28 countries, having an agreed legal framework, committed to the free movement of labour and capital, the EU stands as an existential threat to the nation-state cherished by those for whom the future lies in the past. After all BNPers yearn for a white, 1950s Britain with traditional weights and measures and close trading relations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In a similar way, the nation-state is viewed as the natural vehicle for socialist transformation by left reformists, ‘official communists’ and former Trotskyites alike. The dream is of a referendum which in due course will see a return to Keynesianism, welfarism and “British sovereignty”.

As an aside, it is worth noting the deep distrust Marxists have generally had for referendums. So-called ‘direct democracy’ is a chimera in any complex society. Nuances have to be considered, likely consequences predicted and alternatives closely studied. That is why we advocate indirect democracy: ie, the election of recallable representatives who are tasked with debating and deciding political positions and stratagems. Marx certainly denounced – and in no uncertain terms – Louis Bonaparte’s deployment of successive referendums to consolidate his dictatorship and excuse foreign adventures.7 The wording of the question is, of course, everything. Eg, to vote ‘no’ was to declare oneself opposed to democratic reforms, to vote ‘yes’ was to vote for despotism and war. Referendums bypass representative democracy, political parties and careful deliberation. Something not lost on Adolph Hitler. He managed to get a 90% mandate for his dictatorship on August 19 1934 – despite an almost unprecedented campaign of intimidation, there were millions of spoilt ballot papers.

Standing out

Against this dire background the position of the Labour Representation Committee stands out positively. The November 2011 AGM was presented with resolution 15, which reads as follows:

1. That the Europe-wide capitalist crisis requires a Europe-wide working-class response.

2. That we should no more oppose European capitalist integration than we would oppose the merger of two companies, even though the bosses use mergers as an excuse to attempt job cuts and other attacks. When Britain PLC merges into Europe PLC, the answer is to link up with other European workers in solidarity and struggle.

3. That demanding withdrawal from the EU, or opposing British entry into the European single currency, is a British nationalist position which misidentifies the enemy as ‘Europe’ rather than the ruling class. This is not altered by tacking on a slogan like ‘Socialist United States of Europe’.

4. The road to a socialist united Europe is the road of responding to European capitalist unification by organising for cross-European workers’ and socialist struggle. We advocate the following programme for this struggle:

Oppose all cuts; level up wages, services, pensions and workers’ rights to the best across Europe;
Tax the rich and expropriate the banks, Europe-wide;
Scrap the EU’s bureaucratic structures; for a European constituent assembly;
Against a European defence force; for a Europe without standing armies or nuclear weapons;
For a European workers’ government.

5. In a referendum on British entry to the euro, our position will be to advocate an active abstention and our slogans will be along the lines of ‘In or out, the fight goes on’; ‘Single currency – not at our expense’; and ‘For a workers’ Europe’.

The resolution concludes with a three-point commitment:

1. To organise public meetings and debates about Europe across the country.

2. To initiate a short statement setting out this position and circulate it around Britain and Europe for signatories.

3. To produce a short pamphlet setting out this position.8

Given that the resolution originated with and was moved by the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, it was perhaps surprising that the AGM voted in favour. But, thankfully, it did. True there are some problems with it. Eg, a European workers’ government is perfectly fine as a programmatic position, but is a sad joke when it comes to immediate agitation. At present there is no serious revolutionary Marxist party anywhere in Europe. Nevertheless, the resolution was eminently supportable and it was good to see it gain a clear majority.

That said LRC leaders such as Graham Bash, Andrew Fisher and Mike Phipps evidently thoroughly disapproved of the resolution … and, as far as I am aware, the concluding three-point commitment remains unfulfilled. Of course, this may well be due to the decline and disorganisation of the LRC over the last couple of years.

Next May

However, the AWL has presented this year’s LRC national conference with another resolution on Europe. Noting the 2011 policy, the growth of Ukip and the rerun of No2EU, the AWL’s resolution 13 once again condemns British nationalism and xenophobic calls for an EU withdrawal. The position on organising an “all-European working class and socialist struggle”, etc is also reiterated. Nevertheless, the conclusion is questionable. The AWL calls for a “campaign advocating a Labour vote” in the May 2014 EU elections on the basis of opposing cuts, supporting the levelling up of wages across Europe, striving for the pan-European organisation of the working class, scrapping the EU’s bureaucratic structures, etc. Slogans such as ‘For international working class solidarity – for a workers’ united Europe’ are recommended in that spirit.

Frankly, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Ed Miliband and his candidates for 2014 will hardly be standing on the principles of internationalism and the perspective of a European workers’ government. Nor will they oppose all cuts or advocate a European constituent assembly. No, Labour candidates will be standing on a version of British nationalism barely distinguishable from that of the Tories and the Lib Dems. In the pointed words of deputy leader Harriet Harman, the “top priority” of Labour MEPs will be to “make sure they get the best deal” and “bring jobs and growth here in the UK”.9

That does not rule out voting Labour. Indeed, it has to be admitted, most LRC affiliates and individual members are firmly within the auto-Labour fold. But surely it would be far better for the LRC to use the May elections as an opportunity to make propaganda for its vision of a Europe ruled by the working class. Instead of running a campaign “advocating a Labour vote”, the LRC should challenge British nationalism across the board and spread the message of pan-EU working class unity, democracy and socialism. An election dominated by Ukip and British nationalism needs the input of the LRC and other leftwing organisations.


1. Daily Mail May 28.

2. The Daily Telegraph October 12.

3. http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1377:article-9-demonstration-no-bail-out-without-a-referendum&catid=78:eu-a-popular-sovereignty&Itemid=91.

4. www.bnp.org.uk/policies/foreign-affairs.

5. www.socialistparty.org.uk/campaign/Election_campaigns/no2eu/17420.

6. www.tuaeuc.org/no2eu-wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/a5_no2eu.pdf.

7. See Marx’s The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) and The civil war in France (1871). Also there is Kautsky’s book, Parliamentarism, direct legislation and social democracy (1893).

8. Resolutions booklet November 2011, p11.

9. www.labour.org.uk/labour-party-european-election-candidate-selection-results,2013-08-02.

Russian Krasnoe TV interview

Russian Krasnoe TV video report of SWP’s Marxism 2013

Thanks to Russian Krasnoe internet TV (krasnoe dot tv/node/19020#comments-info), who interviewed Stan Keable about Labour Party Marxists, as part of their upbeat video report of the Socialist Workers Party’s ‘Marxism 2013’ educational event:


LRC – Fearful of putting people off

Stan Keable reports from a recent LRC National Committee meeting

On Saturday June 29, the Labour Representation Committee’s four-hour national committee meeting in London was a friendly – and businesslike – affair. The venue was, once again, the boardroom at the headquarters of the Rail, Maritime and Transport trade union, one of the LRC’s affiliates.

Comrades were outraged at the capitulation of Labour’s front bench to government austerity policies. Jenny Lennox called it a “non-oppositional opposition”. There had been a “sea change” four months ago, according to Graham Bash, when the parliamentary party had voted against the Welfare Reform Bill, but now it had gone into reverse and rejected the principle of universal benefits.

Mike Phipps thought that Ed Miliband is listening too much to Peter Mandelson, trying to please the markets to gain so-called credibility, and is being pulled to the right by the ‘public opinion’ of an electorate influenced by the rightwing media – especially young voters who have never experienced a strong labour movement. Conclusion: we need an effective press officer (Andrew Fisher used to play this role well) to put across our policies, as “our ideas are popular”.

A series of suggestions followed about how the LRC could “use public opinion” to grow by publicising LRC policies which are already popular – like rail nationalisation, taxing the rich, a house-building programme, and so on. And to make our policies more acceptable, it was proposed, we should make a list of alternatives to austerity which are “easy to argue” and “things that don’t cost”. Extending this desperate logic into the field of Labour candidate selection, we had: “You are not going to get someone selected if they say what we believe.” And: “If candidates put themselves forward as LRC, they would not get selected.”

Everyone knows that the two Eds are promising continued austerity if Labour wins in 2015. When I argued that the workers’ movement will have to oppose any government that runs British capitalism, including the next Labour government, Jon Lansman countered (probably giving the view of most NC members), that we should “influence the next Labour government, not oppose it”.

With 13 committee members present, plus me as a non-voting observer (all LRC members are traditionally permitted to attend), there were at least an equal number of apologies, and comrades speculated that some may have absented themselves because of the unpleasant row at the previous meeting on April 13 (which I had been unable to attend).

Minutes of that meeting had not yet been circulated, and exactly what happened or what was decided was still unclear. However, we were told that Pete Firmin, then joint secretary, had prepared minutes, and they would be circulated that evening. (I recall a decision some two years ago that NC minutes would be routinely published on the LRC website, so I look forward to reading them.)

Not long after the April 13 meeting, comrade Firmin resigned his post, but without publishing his reasons, and a number of NC members complained about this lack of transparency – neither the LRC membership nor many of its leadership had been properly informed about the recent travails at the top.

Having been co-opted onto the editorial board of Labour Briefing – the version now “hosted by” the LRC – I have proposed that NC meetings should always be reported in the magazine – journalistically, not as minutes – so that LRC members can read about the decisions, debates and differences of their elected leaders in their own publication. But this was rejected by a majority of the EB on the grounds that it would be “boring”, “uninteresting” or would “put people off”. So much for transparency.

Pete’s resignation came on top of the withdrawal, on paternity leave, of the other joint secretary elected at conference, Andrew Fisher. Arrangements are in hand to divide and distribute the work previously carried out by the two, with responsibilities allocated temporarily until the November 9 annual conference elects new officers.

I made the point that the distribution of tasks and election of officers would be better done by the NC than by annual conference, so that the departure of individuals for whatever reason would not throw the organisation into crisis. Not only could absence due to resignations, births, deaths and illness be handled easily – instead of by crisis measures, as at present – but also the replacement of comrades who were tasked but failing to perform, or who had a political change of heart. However, such a change would require rule changes, so until conference it seems we will make do with a number of “acting” officers.

Meanwhile, despite the storms at the top, the LRC continues to grow, with a reported trickle of a few dozen new members in May. Our database now lists roughly a thousand paid-up members, a thousand “supporters” and another thousand lapsed members, many of whom may be persuaded to pay up and get active.

There was no sign at the NC meeting of anyone from the Socialist Appeal group. That is the wing of the old Militant Tendency which stayed in the Labour Party under the leadership of Ted Grant and Alan Woods. Peter Taaffe led the majority out of the Labour Party and went on to form the Socialist Party in England and Wales. According to current SPEW doctrine, Labour is no longer a workers’ party of any kind and what is needed therefore is a Labour Party mark two. Anyhow, I had noticed that the group’s monthly paper, Socialist Appeal, has recently carried nothing about LRC. One NC member advised me that SA had taken a decision 18 months ago to abandon LRC, but I had heard nothing of that. So that afternoon I made my way to the University College London Union in Bloomsbury, where Socialist Appeal was holding its third annual Marxist school, to find out. I will write about that next week.