May 15 saw over 150 people pack into the Indian YMCA hall in London for the first meeting of Marc Wadsworth’s national speaking tour. This follows, of course, the disgraceful decision to expel him from the Labour Party. His ‘crime’? Daring to publicly criticise Ruth Smeeth, the rightwing Labour MP, prominent member of Labour Friends of Israel and a former director of public affairs at the British Israel Communications and Research Centre.
The chair of the meeting, Deborah Hobson, began by calling for a minute’s silence in honour of the 58 Palestinians killed and thousands injured in the latest Israeli atrocity. An atrocity defended and excused by Donald Trump, Binyamin Netanyahu … and Labour Friends of Israel.
Mike Cushman (Jewish Voice for Labour) was not alone in pointing out that there can be fewer more eloquent testimonies to the nature of the Israeli state than the harrowing events in Gaza. Certainly, it exposes the foul apologetics of the Labour right and their Zionist allies, and destroys the notion that Israel attracts the huge amount of condemnation that is does because the left – its most trenchant critics – is ‘anti-Semitic’. Far from being a source of strength, the Labour right’s support for the Zionist state – and the United States’ reactionary strategic goals in the region – can be turned into a huge weakness for this scab faction in our ranks.
While the top table was perhaps a little heavy with speakers (of varying degrees of quality and political acumen, it should be noted) – there was a real energy and combative confidence. This was perhaps displayed best in Jackie Walker’s defiant anecdote about her rejoinder to a characteristically stupid tweet from the wretched Wes Streeting MP. Apparently, he challenged her to meet him in debate in any synagogue in north London. OK, she told him – where and where then, Wes? Predictably, however, the man has gone very quiet …
Moshé Machover reminded us of the almost comically irrational nature of the provocations coming from the Labour right, their allies in the mainstream media and various apparatchiks in the Israeli state. He posed a “trick question”: “Are there anti-Semites in the Labour Party?”
Well, yes, given the current numbers in our organisation (570,000-plus) from all sorts of backgrounds, there must be. The comrade (a renowned mathematician, let us not forget), stated that it would be statistically “astounding” if there were not. The party will also have its statistically ‘fair’ share of paedophiles. The point being that if the Labour right and its venal allies thought it could gain political traction by smearing the left as a herd of paedophiles, they would. The right gives “fuck all” for truth, principle or any other such annoying impediment, comrade Machover stated.
Moshé illustrated this same observation via a sideways detour. There is – apparently – a tiny number of spotted hyenas in Norway (in zoos). However, if you hear of a spotted hyena trackers’ expedition – organised with an extravagant disregard for the huge amount of time, energy and money expended – a rational conclusion to draw might be that these people have a thing about Norway, rather than the spotted hyenas.
It was a fun way to set the tone for the meeting. And the atmosphere of aggressive levity was added to by comedian Alexi Sayle’s amusing introductory spiel for Marc – he does seem to be getting some of his political mojo back via this battle; the unhinged accusations against the left must be providing the bloke with material for years to come. Many speakers also ridiculed the laughably flimsy charges against Marc Wadsworth and other comrades, such as Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.
A recurrent theme during the regrettably short space allocated for questions and contributions from the floor was the need for Labour Against the Witchhunt to become a mass campaign that can rally not dozens, but thousands, outside Labour’s Victoria Street HQ. That means building local organisations.
There were some gently regretful criticisms of Corbyn’s and the core LP left leadership’s passivity to – even accommodation with – this witch-hunt. This generosity was not all-encompassing – on the strength of this meeting and others I have attended over the last year or more, there are now very few on the left with any compunction about laying into Momentum nationally. The local groups can be good, even very good, but the national organisation and its ‘CEO’, Jon Lansman are deeply discredited.
Clearly, it is not the veteran anti-racist campaigner who has brought the party into disrepute, but rather the rightwing of the Parliamentary Labour Party. In cahoots with much of the bourgeois media and the Tories who dominate the top positions in the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies, they have hit a new low with comrade Wadsworth’s expulsion.
They shed crocodile tears for the pro-Zionist Ruth Smeeth MP, who was so traumatised by Marc’s claim that she and other MPs were “working hand in hand” with newspapers like The Daily Telegraph that she just had to go to newspapers like The Daily Telegraph and accuse comrade Wadsworth of being an anti-Semite.
It is rather a perverse irony that Smeeth did her best to misuse some of the recommendations of the MacPherson report established after the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The fact that the report even exists was in no small measure down to the Anti-Racist Alliance led by Marc Wadsworth (a recent BBC documentary showed him introducing Stephen’s parents to Nelson Mandela).
MacPherson recommended that when a victim or someone else perceivesan attack or hate incident as racially motivated, then the police must record it as such. Pro-Zionist organisations in and outside the Labour Party have been working hard to change this into something quite different. Last year, the Jewish Labour Movement, for example, tried to force through a rule change at Labour Party conference which wanted a “hate incident” to be “defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation” (our emphasis).
Fortunately, the compromise formulation eventually adopted by the NEC (and subsequently by conference) enshrines the need for some kind of – you know – evidence: “… any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation”. The JLM also failed in its attempt to explicitly enshrine the disciplining of members for comments or actions made in “private”.1)http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/humpty-dumpty-and-anti-semitism/
Comrade Wadsworth, incidentally, has been charged under the old rules, which did not deal specifically with racism or anti-Semitism and did not contain the above formulation. The rightwingers would perhaps have found it more difficult to expel him under the new rules, as anybody would be hard pressed to prove that Marc’s words “demonstrate[d] hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation”. Grounds for an appeal here, it seems to us.
In any case, even before the April 26 judgment, comrade Wadsworth had, of course, already been ‘found guilty’ as an anti-Semite in his drawn out trial-by-media, which lasted a staggering 22 months. It was no great surprise then when, finally, he was expelled under the wonderful catch-all phrase of “bringing the party into disrepute”. Tony Greenstein was expelled under the same rule 2.1.8 – which will probably also be applied to try and boot out Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and other ‘troublemakers’ over the next few weeks.
The comrades also had almost identical ‘judges’ in their kangaroo court before Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC), which deals with any disciplinary cases that the national executive committee feels merit further investigation – and, in many cases, such a referral leads to expulsion.
We understand that the 11 members of the NCC are asked to volunteer for particular cases. As the NCC still has a rightwing majority (only two new members are elected per year), in effect the three-person panel at expulsion hearings is usually made up of two Blairites and one leftwinger. Maggie Cosin from the rightwing GMB has chaired all these recent hearings and is usually aided by Douglas Fairbairn from the equally rightwing Community union.
It is debatable how ‘leftwing’ NCC members like Momentum’s vice-chair, Emina Ibrahim, are: she sat on the panels that expelled comrade Greenstein and comrade Cyril Chilson (a former officer in the Israeli army). If she had any objections, she certainly did not raise them. What about the Kate Osborne who sat on comrade Wadsworth’s panel? She had been proposed for the NCC by her union, Unite and comrade Wadsworth reports: “She asked tough questions of the accusers and helpful ones of me.”
But what is stopping her from telling us how she voted? Considering the timely intervention of Unite general secretary Len McCluskey last week about the anti-Semitism “smear” campaign in the New Statesman,some kind of public statement from her would have been very useful in the left’s campaign to stop the witch-hunt in the party.
But there is only silence. The same goes for Jeremy Corbyn, unfortunately. Corbyn is not just silent – he really has become complicit. Why on earth he continues to try and appease his backbenchers, the pro-Zionist lobby and their friends in the bourgeois media is beyond us. It clearly is not working. He and his advisors must surely have realised by now that the witch-hunter’s appetite grows with the eating. They will continue with their campaign until he is gone – or has changed politically beyond all recognition.
This whole campaign is, of course, only about Corbyn insofar as he cannot be trusted to run Britain in line with US foreign policy, not least in the Middle East. Despite his shameful complicity in the witch-hunting of his own supporters, for the establishment he remains a loose cannon. And, crucially, at least historically, he has been firmly on the side of the Palestinians. No amount of bending over backwards to the pro-Zionist lobby will make them forget that. Corbyn remains unreliable, despite everything.
It is no coincidence that the heightened campaign of the Zionist lobby occurs at a time when the war drums in the Middle East are beating ever louder. As Moshé Machover put it so eloquently in a letter in last week’s Weekly Worker, the
anti-Semitism hysteria … has much to do with the hyenas positioning themselves for the next major Middle East war … The likely pretext for western military action this time will not be simply ‘humanitarian intervention’, but coming to the aid of Israel in order to ‘prevent another holocaust’. Those who demur will be branded as ‘anti-Semites’.
Since last week the campaign for another major war has been stepped up even more. First we saw Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, claiming that there are “80,000 extremists from all over the Middle East who are members of Shia militias in Syria under Iranian control”, hiding away in a base “just over five miles from Damascus”, where they are preparing to launch their “ground invasion” of the Zionist state, designed to “break up Israel”.2)for example, www.express.co.uk/news/world/952532/WW3-warning-World-War-3-Israel-Iran-Syria-nuclear
The pictures that the Israeli government produced as ‘evidence’ are as ridiculous as the idea that – even if there were 80,000 ground troops waiting to pounce – the Iranians have any chanceof simply walking into Israel. As opposed to Iran, Israel actually does possess nuclear weapons and, thanks to a hefty annual cheque from the US government, their armed forces are highly trained and equipped with the latest tech. Iranian soldiers, on the other hand, have access to 1980s-style weaponry – if they are lucky.
A few days later, the world was treated to another one of Binyamin Netanyahu’s embarrassing low-tech slideshow presentations, in which he tried to prove “with half a ton of evidence” how the government of Iran lied in order to secure the 2015 nuclear deal in return for the lifting of some sanctions. This little charade was mainly for the benefit of Donald Trump, of course, who is firmly opposed to the deal, which has to be renewed by May 12.
If it does not get renewed, we are indeed one step closer to a military confrontation in the Middle East. But, contrary to what Netanyahu is trying to tell us, it is not Iran that is threatening to unleash “World War III”. It is in fact the governments of Israel, the US and Turkey who are preparing the ground to go to war against Syria. The ‘civil war’ there is drawing to an end and the side of Assad/Iran/Russia/Hezbollah seems to be emerging as the ‘winner’ (if such a phrase can be used, when one looks at the carnage in that devastated country).
To stop such an outcome, a new war may well be ‘necessary’, from the point of view of the US, Israeli and Saudi governments. It is much more likely that Israeli troops are preparing for a significant incursion into Syria. The aim: to keep Syria permanently divided and, while they are at it, deal with Hezbollah in the Lebanon.
Another goal of the Israeli government is, of course, to continue to provoke the Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank. The March 31 slaughter of 18 unarmed civilians by hidden Israeli snipers is just a taster of what is to come – no doubt there will be more such actions – the goal of the Israeli government is to ethnically cleanse the whole of the West Bank.
No wonder that Zionists are so keen to try and outlaw comparisons between Nazis and the Israeli government. They are too close to the truth.
The anti-Semitism campaign in the Labour Party only makes sense if seen in this international context. When it turned out that Jeremy Corbyn could not simply be humiliated into giving up his post as party leader, the next stage of the campaign was launched: Operation Tame Corbyn. And this is going rather better than the chicken coup, unfortunately.
Britain is expected to take part in this latest campaign for war in the Middle East. If not by dropping bombs, then at least by providing political cover for this necessary war to “prevent another holocaust”. A Labour leader and potential prime minister who has been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians is, in this context, untenable. Labour cannot be allowed to become an anti-war party.
Al Jazeera’s powerful documentary The lobby has proved beyond doubt that the Jewish Labour Movement – which is, outrageously, still an affiliate to the Labour Party – is not just “working hand in hand” with the Israeli Labor Party (which is bad enough), but also with the Israeli embassy and therefore the government of Israel. The JLM clearly should not be allowed to remain an affiliate of the Labour Party, and the MPs who remain members of this despicable organisation should be immediately deselected by the local party membership.
The ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign has already succeeded in imposing the idea of what a properJew is – one who does not criticise Israel, but supports the pro-Zionist, pro-Tory Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies. The proud tradition of socialist Jews opposing Zionism has been brushed aside and vilified. Jews are being presented as hegemonic supporters of Zionism. Momentum owner Jon Lansman has already stated that the word ‘Zionism’ should be abandoned, because “to the Jew in the street it might only mean the Jewish state of Israel, safe and secure – nothing more than that – not a separate ideology”.
How wrong can you be? From the start, modern Zionism as an ideology fought for the foundation of an exclusive colonial-settler state, which had to be based on the violent displacement of the native Arab population – that or their savage oppression. It is not the word ‘Zionism’ that is the problem – it is the reality of an ongoing colonial-settler project. By attempting to remove the right to criticise Zionism by name, Lansman is actually attempting to undermine the fight against systematic national oppression.
Clearly we cannot rely on Jeremy Corbyn and Jon Lansman to stand up to the pro-Israeli lobby. Socialists and supporters of the cause of the Palestinians in the Labour Party must now step up their campaign and increase the pressure on the Labour leadership to turn the organisation into a democratic, anti-war party.
David Shearer of Labour Party Marxists reports on the lobby in support of Marc Wadsworth
Just a day after Jeremy Corbyn met with leaders of rightwing Zionist groups to reassure them that he was taking claims of anti-Semitism within Labour “very seriously”, Marc Wadsworth’s disciplinary hearing took place in Church House (just round the corner from Westminster Abbey).
Comrade Wadsworth has been suspended from the Labour Party for almost two years, after criticising Ruth Smeeth MP at the launch of the Chakrabarti report in June 2016. What he actually said was that Smeeth was working “hand in hand” with a journalist from TheDaily Telegraph. After a considerable time lapse Smeeth theatrically stormed out of the Chakrabarti launch, later claiming that she had been “verbally attacked” by a “Jeremy Corbyn supporter … who used traditional anti-Semitic slurs to attack me for being part of a ‘media conspiracy’”. Uh? Comrade Wadsworth states that he did not even know Smeeth was Jewish.
Despite the fact that his words can be clearly heard on social media – thanks to those who recorded the question-and -answer session – the charges against him were not dropped. Yet no honest person could seriously interpret what he said as anti-Semitic. It therefore says a lot about the current climate that such a remark can be weaponised in this cynical way. True, just as with Ken Livingstone, amongst others, the charge of anti-Semitism against comrade Wadsworth was eventually replaced with the catch-all of “bringing the party into disrepute” and it was on the basis of this charge that the hearing took place on April 25 (as we go to press, the two-day-hearing is still ongoing).
Naturally, the proceedings were lobbied by Labour members outraged at such blatant nonsense. They included comrades from Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour Party Marxists, Momentum and Grassroots Black Left. The headline of the Evening Standard referred to them as a “far-left mob”, although that does not appear in the online version. Its report was typical of many, concentrating on the rightwing Labour MPs who bravely accompanied Smeeth to shield her from that “far-left mob”:
Dozens of Labour MPs staged a symbolic show of discontent against Labour’s failure to crack down on anti-Semitism by marching alongside Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth when she went to give evidence at an expulsion hearing against activist Marc Wadsworth, who is accused of abusing her.
Jess Phillips MP is quoted as saying: “We are making sure she isn’t walking into a protest on her own.” As for her fellow rightwinger Wes Streeting, he claimed that the mere presence of a lobby was “intimidating”.
Elsewhere Streeting has stated: “That it was necessary to accompany her through a protest is an appalling state of affairs.” Necessary? As The Guardian puts it, “MPs said they had decided to support Smeeth because she had initially been told by the party she would be responsible for her own security walking to the hearing.” In Streeting’s words, “Victims of abuse giving evidence shouldn’t have to walk through a protest to do so.” He went on to slam “people who claim to be Labour supporters and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who think it’s appropriate to protest against a Jewish MP.” For that reason, “I hope [Wadsworth will] be kicked out of the Labour Party.”
Yes, he really did say that. Smeeth is a “victim of abuse” because she was accused merely of working “hand in hand” with a rightwing journalist. And we should not be allowed to protest against such an obviously unjust procedure – for the record, it was the procedure and the whole campaign of smears that provoked the protest: comrades had gathered to express solidarity with comrade Wadsworth, not hurl “abuse” at “a Jewish MP”!
But this is all part of the ongoing drive to both undermine the Corbyn leadership and equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. The latter point is illustrated by the demands made by the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies when they met Corbyn on April 24.
As well as insisting that Labour should “expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker” (ie, expel them on equally fabricated charges of ‘anti-Semitism’), and that “there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process” (ie, with groups like the JLC and Board of Deputies making sure things go the ‘right’ way), the Zionists insist that Labour must “adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples and clauses”.
Labour has, of course, accepted the IHRA definition itself, but certainly not those “examples and clauses”, which collectively have the effect of dubbing opposition to Israel and Zionism anti-Semitic. But, thankfully, Corbyn refused to comply. According to the joint JLC-Board of Deputies statement, the meeting had been a “disappointing missed opportunity” to deal with “the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”. Corbyn had “failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for”, which apparently represented the “minimum level of action the community expected”. Nevertheless, the two groups will continue to “do our utmost to work with all those within Labour who want to help make it a safe and equal space for all of its members”.
Such statements really do point to the success of the smear campaign. With the help of Corbyn’s soft pedalling and apparent acceptance that Labour really does have a problem with anti-Semitism, the rightwing media has seen to it that the falsehoods are widely regarded as indisputably true.
But, thankfully, not by everybody. Writing in the New Statesman Unite general secretary Len McCluskey says: “You would have to go back a long way to find such a sustained smearing by MPs of their own leader and their own party as we are seeing now.” However, he promises that the “promiscuous critics” who “wish to hold Corbyn to account can expect to be held to account themselves”.
Automatic reselection should be the first step. Only then can MPs be held to account by Labour members l
An existential crisis continues to haunt the dwindling forces of the Labour Representation Committee, reports Stan Keable
Around 120 Labour Representation Committee members gathered in London’s Conway Hall on February 10 for yet another angst-ridden ‘special’ general meeting (SGM), in which a bewildered leadership shared with its rank and file its own failure – like most of the left – to draw into membership or engage with the ‘radicalised’ mass intake of Corbyn supporters into the Labour Party.
The exception to this failure is, of course, Momentum. The LRC executive’s statement jealously admits that Momentum “has successfully organised many of their number” into 150 local groups, which have “formidable electoral achievements under their belt” and are “feared by the Tory enemy”. By contrast, the statement repeats the LRC’s own longstanding wish to “rebuild” its “network of local groups”. Before this meeting it had called on “experts on particular subjects” to develop an imagined “comprehensive and impressive bank of educational material” on the “new LRC website” – the “formation of local LRCs may hopefully follow as a result”.
This pious wish, however, bears no relation to the reality. As political secretary Mick Brooks accurately declared, “The LRC has stagnated” in this “most favourable situation for socialists”: the Labour leadership is “probably the most leftwing ever”, the Tories are in disarray and the 2008 economic crisis showed that “capitalism has failed”.
Founded in 2004 in the dark days of New Labour – when clause four ‘socialism’ had been destroyed and Blairism seemed permanently victorious – the LRC was based on the belief that Labour had to be rebuilt from scratch, just as the original LRC had created the party in 1900. Hence the organisation’s cumbersome, unwieldy structure, designed as a replica of the party: the rights of individual members were to be trumped by affiliated trade unions and socialist groups, and – ironically, keeping up with New Labour – bureaucratic ‘equality’ rules were to guarantee the election at all levels of women, LGBT, BAME and disability representatives, instead of assessing candidates on the basis of their politics. But news of the death of Labour was exaggerated, and as a result the LRC has always been plagued by uncertainty of purpose.
Now, with John and Jeremy heading the party – backed by Momentum’s mass membership and those 150 local groups – the project of refounding old Labour is superfluous. So what is the point of the LRC? Back in February 2016, at a previous SGM in the early days of Momentum, the NEC statement opted for “maintaining the existence of our own organisation – for the time being”, but foresaw the possibility that it may soon have “outlived its usefulness”. And John McDonnell mused that “maybe in the future” there will be “just one organisation” (Weekly Worker February 25 2016).
However, Jon Lansman’s January 10 2017 bureaucratic coup put paid to that happy prospect, and at this SGM Momentum’s shortcomings became the raison d’être of the LRC. “We are not a fan club for the Corbynite movement,” claimed comrade Brooks. “Momentum does not have conferences, elections, policies. It has a democratic deficit.” And chairperson Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, stated: “The key role of the LRC is to ensure discussion and debate takes place.” As the NEC statement declared,
The LRC is pluralist internally. We can develop independent-minded supporters of the Corbynist movement, which neither Momentum nor the [Campaign for Labour Party Democracy] are designed to do …. We regard democratic discussion and debate within our ranks as the essential oxygen of our organisation.
Then why, we must ask, does it convene ‘special’ general meetings, in which amendments to the rambling NEC statement are not allowed? Take it or leave it. And why were Labour Party Marxists and a few other political groups quietly ‘disaffiliated’ by the leadership in 2016, if not to curtail discussion in order to avoid embarrassing criticisms of Corbyn and McDonnell? This is more or less confessed in the NEC statement, where it shamefacedly attempts to set out the limits of legitimate discussion: “Debate within the LRC is not concerned to score points or make sectarian contributions against others.” So no polemics. “As long as we see ourselves contributing in a positive light to a movement going forward rather than carping at its inadequacies we can’t go too far wrong.” So no real criticism.
Class politics was emphasised by NEC member Maria Exall of the Communication Workers Union:
Working class empowerment should not be simply put in a list alongside the empowerment of women, people of colour, LGBT people, etc – we prioritise working class women, working class coloureds, working class gays and lesbians. Working class representation is what we are about.
And she spoke about the problem of the trade union bureaucracies and the “ongoing project” of “how to democratise the trade union link”.
The LRC leadership seems, at last, to be overcoming its reluctance to take sides in political struggles within trade unions. The NEC statement asserts:
Unlike CLPD and Momentum, we actively support workers’ struggles and do not confine our attentions to the Labour Party. We are in the process of organising a Unite LRC caucus … the first of trade union caucuses for all major unions. … We need to organise within the unions … for trade union democracy and socialist policies.
All very positive – but why not adopt Labour Party Marxists’ aim to win all trade unions to affiliate to Labour?
LRC president John McDonnell turned up in the afternoon, fresh from Labour’s ‘alternative models of ownership’ conference, which, he said, was shaping policies “almost like those of the LRC 10 years ago”. Since the 2017 general election, the Labour leadership has been “consolidating”. Unintentionally exposing the LRC’s overblown claim that the election had been fought on a fully socialist manifesto, he stated that For the many, not the few was “just for that election”. So now “we need to radicalise those policies” and “develop an implementation manual”, together with “draft legislation ready for office”.
And, worryingly, he claimed: “The Parliamentary Labour Party are signed up to this exercise.” Wrong, wrong, wrong, John. The LRC NEC statement takes the opposite view – not that anyone bothered to tell him. Perhaps that would be seen as negative or “carping”. Or maybe the NEC statement itself is “carping”? Here is what it says:
The Parliamentary Labour Party and the party bureaucracy remain firmly in the hands of the right wing. They seemed determined to rule or ruin. Corbyn’s role as leader is untouchable for the time being on account of his 2017 electoral success, [but] his position, and that of his supporters, remains precarious.
Spot on, NEC. But comrade McDonnell is already on a different page. “When the LRC was set up on Tony Benn’s advice, we were within a Labour Party we could not recognise. We are on the edge of government now.” So the LRC’s role now should be as a “think-tank, to develop ideas into policies” – and he saw Mike Phipps’s book For the many: preparing Labour for power as making a start.
A revealing episode at the SGM was an emergency motion moved by Marc Wadsworth of Grassroots Black Left. This criticised the way in which the “centre-left slate” had been selected for the forthcoming elections for Constituency Labour Party seats on Labour’s NEC:
This SGM notes with grave concern that the ‘centre-left’ slate for Labour’s next NEC elections appears to have been chosen unilaterally by Momentum without consulting its members and before the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance had completed its discussions on the slate. We consider that this could split the left and divide supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive agenda for government. Irrespective of the outcome and content of the slate, we believe this is not a democratic and transparent process in line with Jeremy’s ‘new politics’. We call on the incoming LRC NEC to formulate a response to challenge the democratic deficit in deciding the slate.
In my years as an LRC member, I confess I have never discovered exactly how candidates for the slate were selected – it always seemed to be done behind closed doors, and I do not remember ever being asked to vote on the matter. The LRC leadership was supposedly consulted, though it had sometimes complained about not being invited or about their views being ignored, especially with respect to their longstanding wish to remove Ann Black. The CLPD, under Pete Willsman’s leadership, always defended Ann Black and always got its way.
But the left is evolving new forms, so the cosy, behind-the-scenes process has to be made transparent, and the members of the participating groups have to have their say. This time, not only was Momentum involved, but also Jewish Voice for Labour (and perhaps other groups). The newly formed Grassroots Black Left, however, was excluded.
What happened, we are told, was that all parties except the CLPD wanted a slate without Ann Black, because of her role in the anti-Corbyn shenanigans of general secretary Iain McNicol’s apparatchiks. They had excluded masses of new Labour members from voting in leadership elections, suspended left-led CLPs and waved through the automatic suspension and even expulsion of leftwing members on trumped-up charges.
However, the CLPD would only accept a slate which included Ann Black. But when the 80-strong CLPD executive (in reality, volunteers who are voted in as a block at the AGM) took the unheard of step of actually voting to resolve a disputed issue, CLPD secretary Pete Willsman and his co-thinkers lost the vote narrowly. Then, when Willsman and co refused to accept the vote, Jon Lansman jumped in to impose a Momentum slate – without consulting the Momentum membership, of course.
LRC secretary Michael Calderbank, in asking for Marc Wadsworth’s motion to be remitted, said:
The slate-making process is broken. It is opaque, carried on behind closed doors. Not only were Momentum members not adequately consulted: neither were LRC members, nor the LRC itself.
Graham Bash, supporting the motion – which, after all, only commits the LRC to fight for a democratic slate-making process, confirmed that the present system is broken, but insisted, quite rightly, that “fielding an alternative left slate would be a disaster”. The motion was carried overwhelmingly.