Tag Archives: Morning Star

George Galloway and Claire Fox: Left cover for Farage’s Brexit Party

Nigel Farage is back. Again. And it looks like his fourth (or is it his fifth?) incarnation might be his most successful one yet. A YouGov poll for the May 23 European Union elections has his Brexit Party on 27% (sharply up from 15% the week before), followed by Labour on 22%, the Tories on 15% and the UK Independence Party on 7%. The Greens are on 10%, the Liberal Democrats on 9% and the saboteurs of the snappily titled ‘Change UK’ – formerly known as The Independent Group – are languishing at 6%. There was an expectation that Change UK and the Lib Dems would get it together in some kind of ‘remain’ alliance – perhaps with the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party. After all, fighting for a second referendum was officially one of the key reasons for TIG’s split from the Labour Party (along with Labour’s alleged widespread anti-Semitism, of course).

But, somewhat surprisingly, it is not to be, as Chuka Ummuna explains:

Change UK-TIG has not been formally approached by any of the other pro-EU parties with a view to running one list of candidates. That is because it is impossible to run one list of candidates unless you merge to form one party, which, not unreasonably, none of us are prepared to do.

Various disappointed bourgeois commentators have already pointed out that there were other methods with which pro-‘remain’ parties could have presented a more effective challenge: for example, by dividing up regions between them.

Overconfident public schoolboy that he is, Ummuna tries to assure them that “there is already a grassroots, ‘remain’ alliance – Change UK-TIG is it.” But, as they have also buggered up their application to stand in the local elections, these anti-Corbyn rightwingers continue to make headlines only for their ineptness: in the first 24 hours after the launch of its EU election campaign, two of Change UK’s European candidates have already been forced to step down for posting racist tweets. The only real ‘success’ they can claim is the fact that they got the Corbyn leadership to take yet another step back: in the hope of stopping other MPs from splitting because they fear being deselected by the local membership, Labour HQ has still not published a timetable to implement the reformed trigger ballot system – the only realistic way local Labour members can get rid of their sitting MP.

The undemocratic selection method for Labour’s EU candidates underlines the problem: ordinary members had zero input. In a brief email they have been informed – after the fact – that, “sitting MEPs who wished to stand again have been re-selected. Candidates for remaining places on the list have been appointed by joint NEC and regional selections boards following interviews earlier this week.” That means 16 out of Labour’s 20 sitting MEPs have automatically been reselected. The newcomers include Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand woman, Katy Clarke, and Momentum organiser Laura Parker, who has been heavily promoted by her boss, national executive member Jon Lansman. But overall the selection process has demonstrated yet again that the Corbyn leadership is continuing to try and appease the right in the party – even though this demonstratively does not work.

It seems unlikely that those elected on May 23 will remain MEPs only until October 31; we expect there will be more ‘deadlines’ and more extensions of Britain’s EU membership. And the fact that we are the middle of a huge constitutional crisis clearly makes this an important election. When have candidates for MEP positions ever received so much coverage in the national press?

Only one thing seems clear: unless the Tories get shot of Theresa May pronto – replacing her with somebody who looks like he/she could make Brexit work (a miracle) – they will receive an absolute trashing on May 23. A questionnaire of Tory members for the Conservative Home website found 62% were planning to vote for the Brexit Party, and only 23% intended to vote for their own. And a poll of Conservative councillors for the Mail on Sunday found that 40% of them were planning to vote for Nigel Farage’s party, and only 52% for the Tories. Sure, a lot can happen in six weeks and these polls are clearly biased – but undoubtedly they are telling a certain truth.

Nigel Farage’s latest organisation certainly has a lot of forward momentum. Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe is the latest ‘celebrity’ to join the former Ukip leader. All things being equal, it looks as if the party will do as well as – if not better than – Ukip did at the last European elections in 2014, when it came first with 27.5 % of the vote. The Brexit Party already has a sizeable fraction in the European parliament – 14 of the 24 MEPs elected as Ukip members have already switched allegiance since it was launched in January.

Nigel’s former party, Ukip, meanwhile, has Tommy Robinson, Carl Benjamin (he who “wouldn’t even rape” Jess Phillips MP) and Mark Meechan, also known as Count Dankula – the man who was fined £800 for teaching his dog to perform a Nazi salute when he shouted things like “Sieg Heil”. They seem to be aiming to win the votes of – how to put this? – a particularly narrow and alienated section of the working class, which tends to be male and very white.

Compared to those clowns, the Brexit Party really does look rather sane. Farage is, of course, a Tory at heart, albeit a very rightwing one. He has assured people that he is “sorry to be taking votes from the Conservatives” and that his main target are “disappointed Labour voters in the northern heartlands”.

And a certain Claire Fox is supposed to be covering his left flank. Fox was a leading member in the Revolutionary Communist Party and all its transformations since: Living Marxism, Spiked and the Institute of Ideas, which is now the Academy (!) of Ideas. Her sharp move to the right has been characterised by the belief that capitalism is a really good thing and that the world needs more of it (for example, to end hunger in Africa). For the last decade or so, the output of Fox and other co-thinkers like Frank Furedi and Mick Hume could at best be described as rightwing libertarian.

Another candidate on Farage’s list is Spiked contributor Alka Sehgal Cuthbert. She unconvincingly explains how she, “as an Indian”, can support a party committed to keeping out refugees and foreigners:

The EU is not a haven of social justice – it is a thoroughly racist institution. In order to maintain EU free movement, it has to ensure its borders are kept tightly sealed against non-EU people.

She is obviously aware that Farage happens to be the guy who during the 2016 referendum campaign unveiled his ‘Breaking Point’ poster, which depicted threatening masses of Syrian refugees bound for the UK. So she quickly and unconvincingly points out: “That poster, or anything else Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage may have said, pales into insignificance compared with the egregious racism of the EU.” So Farage is not quite as bad as the EU then. Not much of an endorsement.

Claire Fox, on the other hand, overplays her leftie credentials just a little bit when she assures us in an article for the Daily Mail that she has been a “leftwing campaigner for 35 years. I’ve been arrested on picket lines, led anti-imperialist demonstrations and spoken at anti-deportation protests outside police stations.”It’s been a while though, hasn’t it, Claire?

She leaves out the fact that Spiked has been arguing for years that the labels ‘left’ and ‘right’ are oh so wrong and old-fashioned, because, don’t you know, “We live in a world beyond left and right politics”. In her article, she briefly references this position by claiming that, “the left-right divide has been replaced by democrats vs anti-democrats”, before describing herself as a “lefty” a few more times. To top it all, she claims to be acting in the tradition of the “Levellers during the Civil War, the Chartists in the 19th century or the suffragettes in early 20th”.

For Claire Fox and her ilk, “sovereignty” is the key, because we “remain shackled to Brussels”. She cannot see any problem with standing alongside Farage, because this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to save “our democracy” from those evil foes in the EU. Fox has a problem only with the EU version of capitalism, because it is too regulated and Spiked very much believes in the free market – free for the capitalists, not for immigrants, obviously. Some “lefty”.

Slightly more sad – though not entirely surprising – is George Galloway’s support for Farage. On April 17, he declared on Twitter:

Given the nature of Labour’s Euro-fanatic candidates list and the crucial juncture we have reached in the fight for the full implementation of the Brexit referendum result and for one time only, I will be supporting Nigel Farage in next month’s elections.”

Clearly, he has given up hope of ever getting back into the Labour Party. Galloway seems to agree with Farage on the need for tougher immigration controls: “Being opposed to mass immigration is not (necessarily) racist,” he writes – “only Trotskyites and globalised capitalists really believe in ‘open borders’.”

This is nothing new, of course. He already outlined his reactionary beliefs in 2005 when he was still allied with the Socialist Workers Party in Respect. The SWP kept schtum when he wrote an infamous article in the Morning Star, where he called for “an economic-social-demographic plan for population growth based on a points system and our own needs” (ie, the needs of British capital). He claimed that the scrapping of immigration controls would mean “urging all the most accomplished and determined people to leave the poor countries of the world and come to the richest, [making] the poor countries even poorer and the rich countries richer”. 1)Morning Star February 12 2005

No doubt, Farage will have some success in appealing to Brexit-supporting members of the working class who usually vote Labour and would probably do so in a general election – in fact, we have been rather disturbed to see evidence of that in Corbyn-supporting Facebook groups. Not because of Claire Fox posing unconvincingly as a leftwinger, but because the Labour Party will have to continue to ‘sit on the fence’ for as long as possible, if it does not want to seriously alienate large sections of its electoral base on either side of the Brexit divide.

In the EU poll (as well as the local elections), we urge our supporters to vote Labour – despite the many, many shortcomings of the Corbyn leadership. There remains a window of opportunity to radically transform the Labour Party into a united front of a special kind.

Carla Roberts


1 Morning Star February 12 2005

Morning Star: Compounding the mistake

No-one should be congratulated for the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt in the Labour Party, says David Shearer

Last week saw a bit of a controversy in ‘official communist’ circles over the publication of an article in the Morning Star entitled ‘Rising anti-Semitism cannot be tackled without addressing Israel’s crimes’ (June 18).

The article was written by John Elder – described subsequently by the Star editors as “an external contributor” – but a couple of days later it was removed from the paper’s website following protests about its contents, which were indeed highly problematic. While Elder was adamant in his condemnation of the Israeli state for its slaughter and continuing oppression of Palestinians in Gaza, he conflated criticism of and hostility towards Israel with anti-Semitism, in exactly the same way as the Zionists do.

He talked about “developing international anti-Semitism (or anti-Israel sentiment)” and “rising anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment in Britain” – as though opposition to Israel was exactly the same thing as hostility towards Jews.

According to Elder:

Unfortunately, mainstream Jewish communities everywhere – and their supporters – appear unwilling to accept the connection between developing international anti-Semitism (or anti-Israel sentiment) and Israel’s decades-long, yet still ongoing, acts of barbarism against Palestinians, and its illegal occupation and annexation of their land.

Apparently the anti-Semitism directed against such Jews

… could be because of their perpetual backing of a nation that cocks a snook at worldwide excoriation of its repeated military atrocities in Gaza, and seemingly endless UN resolutions opposed to its general conduct towards the Palestinians.

He adds:

So surely the Jewish organisations and individuals who lately were protesting about growing anti-Semitism in Britain must see that, as advocates of Israel’s historical and still unremitting brutality against Palestinians, they will inevitably be regarded by some other British nationals as being indirectly complicit in that country’s actions.

It is reasonable enough to say that those who justify or excuse the acts of an oppressor will be seen as “complicit” in those acts – and perhaps not just “indirectly” either. But stating your opposition to such people’s views has nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism, whether or not the apologists are Jewish. It is a Zionist lie to suggest otherwise.

It is true that some anti-Semites justify their hatred of and prejudice against Jews by claiming that they are somehow collectively responsible for Israel’s crimes. But for a supposed leftwinger to make such a claim is a disgrace. There are many thousands of Jews who are militantly anti-Zionist – indeed amongst young Jews in particular increasing numbers no longer identify with Israel.

In fact one thing that is noteworthy about the “developing international anti-Semitism” – in Austria, Poland, Hungary, etc – is that it is totally unconnected with “Israel’s crimes”. Take Hungary, where Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party won a landslide victory in the April elections – his third such victory in alliance with the Christian Democratic KDNP.

Fidesz’s election campaign focused to a large extent on the Hungarian-born US financier, George Soros, who is Jewish. Although it was not stated overtly, the posters carrying pictures of Soros, and bearing slogans against people like him who were allegedly responsible for trying flood Hungary with Muslim migrants, strongly implied that it was all the fault of the Jews.

At one rally Orbán said of his political opponents: “They are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs.” Once again, he did not say so explicitly, but the language used – reminiscent of anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists -was pointing the finger at Jews and alleged Jewish sympathisers within the opposition parties.

This is the same Viktor Orbán who has described former Hungarian regent and notorious Nazi collaborator Miklós Horthy as an “exceptional statesman”. Yet Fidesz is pro-Israel – last year Orbán invited Binyamin Netanyahu to visit Budapest and the Israeli prime minister was delighted to accept.

But such pro-Israel sentiments among anti-Semites are not unique to Hungary and other European states. They have actually been a feature of the far right in Britain too. So there is virtually no connection between “rising anti-Semitism” and “Israel’s crimes”.

And what about that phrase – “rising anti-Semitism”? Elder says he is opposed to Zionists in the Labour Party, together with groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Alliance, but plays into their hands not only by conflating opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism, but by appearing to admit that anti-Semitism is increasing in Britain, particularly within Labour.

To be fair to Elder, he talks about the “apparent anti-Semitism within Labour Party ranks and emerging in the population at large”, and what the BoD and JLA “considered to be anti-Semitic conduct by some of Labour’s members”. He also says that, even during last month’s slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, “Their attention remained focused on Labour and, also, on what they believed to be rising anti-Semitism in Britain itself” (my emphasis).

However, while it is true that the headline was no doubt chosen by the editors, caveats like those emphasised above are omitted in other parts of the article, such as when he talks about the “pressure on the Labour Party and its leadership to stamp out anti-Semitism within its ranks and take action against the perpetrators”. And, most notably, when he writes: “… no amount of protestations about the symptoms of rising anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment in Britain and elsewhere will end the problem until its root cause – Israel’s criminal behaviour – is dealt with” (preferably by the United Nations, he thinks).


As I have already noted, it is ludicrous to describe “Israel’s criminal behaviour” as the “root cause” of anti-Semitism, “rising” or not. However, Elder’s article provided the minority of sympathisers for the Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt within the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain with a golden opportunity. Foremost among them is Mary Davis, who demanded that Ken Livingstone’s weekly column in the Star be immediately terminated following his remarks in 2016 about the collaboration between the early Nazi government and German Zionists, for which he was suspended. Thankfully, the editors – and, presumably, the CPB leadership – rejected her demands.

But now Davis took up the opportunity in the shape of an article penned jointly with Phil Katz, entitled ‘Jews and all citizens should be encouraged to challenge actual and existing anti-Semitism’ (June 20).

They say of the Elder article: “Its rationale – that Jews everywhere are responsible for the actions of the Israeli government – is by reverse exactly the argument put forward by the Israeli government and rightwing Zionists.” This is basically correct. But things go rapidly downhill from there.

They continue:

What is alarming about current-day anti-Semitism is that it continues to use the same themes that have been used to stigmatise and justify genocide of the Jews for centuries. And, where the Labour Party is forced to confront hundreds of cases and act on them, it can hardly be “apparent” …

The Labour Party should be applauded for taking anti-Semitism seriously and dealing with it robustly. To say anti-Semitism isn’t an issue, is a conspiracy to bring down Jeremy Corbyn or that no British Jew can challenge anti-Semitism without being called an apologist for genocide is a dangerous path.

So who in the Labour Party has been disciplined for using “the same themes that have been used to stigmatise and justify genocide of the Jews for centuries”? Nobody at all. No-one has been accused of stating that Jews are money-grabbing self-seekers or part of an international conspiracy to control the world. Like Livingstone they have mainly been accused of making anti-Zionist statements that are allegedly “offensive”. It is true that many Zionists will take offence when reminded of their co-thinkers’ collaboration with the Nazis, but it is not anti-Semitic to point to such historical facts.

And what about the claim that Labour has been “forced to confront hundreds of cases and act on them”? As far as I know, only one person has actually been disciplined specifically for alleged anti-Semitism. It is true that many others originally faced spurious ‘anti-Semitic’ charges, just like Livingstone, but in just about every case the charge was eventually changed, as it was with him, to “bringing the party into disrepute”, using unpleasant language, and so on.

If there were numerous instances of actual anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, then of course it would be “an issue” that should be taken “seriously”. But I’m afraid such allegations have been used precisely as part of the anti-Corbyn campaign, which does aim to eventually “bring down” the leader.

Anyway, the day after the Davis-Katz article was published, the Star carried ‘An apology’ on the front page (June 21). This stated that the Elder piece had “crossed a line” and should not have been published – now “This article has been removed from the website”. The editors had “failed to vet with the care necessary on a subject of such importance”, and now “we have reinforced editorial procedures and oversight to ensure this error is not repeated”. To be honest, it is not unusual for the Star to publish worthless pieces, but it is unusual for such pieces to be taken down from the website.

Surely, having made the mistake of publishing it, it would have been better to leave it in place, so that readers could judge for themselves whether it had indeed “crossed a line” and learn the appropriate lessons. Removing it was actually compounding the mistake. But what about the Davis-Katz piece? Was that all right? The Star claims over and over again that it is on Corbyn’s side, yet it publishes an article (not a letter) which upholds one of the main weapons used against him.

The revolutionary left: Still on the sidelines

Organisations such as SPEW, SWP, CPB and Left Unity are not only draining members, says Robert Matron: they are profoundly disorientated politically

Having dismissed the Labour Party as nothing more than a British version of the US Democrat Party, having backed the left-nationalist Scottish Socialist Party, having fought for trade unions to disaffiliate from Labour, having promoted the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition as a Labour Party mark two, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, has been busily backtracking. Now he says, quite rightly, that Labour should open up to affiliation by the likes of SPEW.

Yet comrade Taaffe cannot frankly admit that for nearly two decades he has been wrong about the Labour Party. That for nearly two decades he has misled his organisation. Hence, instead of urging his members and supporters to join Labour, join in order to defend Jeremy Corbyn from the right, join to fight alongside other leftwingers to transform it into a permanent united front, comrade Taaffe resorts to all manner of ultimatums, posturing and subterfuges.

Labour councils should stop blaming the Tories for austerity; they should agree illegal budgets. Labour should allow the RMT union to support whatever election candidates it happens to like. Labour should accept the collective demand for readmittance from Militant members expelled in the 1980s. Labour should issue an affiliation invitation to SPEW.

Till such demands are met comrade Taaffe will claim the necessity of standing “against rightwing, cuts-inflicting Labour candidates”.[1] Till such demands are met SPEW will continue with the farcical Tusc project. Till such demands are met SPEW will continue to oppose the growing numbers arguing for the RMT to reaffiliate and PSC to affiliate. Till such demands are met SPEW will stand aloof from the historic battle that is raging ever more fiercely inside the Labour Party.

Comrade Taaffe seems to imagine himself akin to Mohammed, the prophet of Islam – that he can order the Labour mountain to come to him. But, of course, so the story goes: “If the mountain will not come to Mohammad, then Mohammad must go to the mountain.” In other words, Mohammed, as recounted by the philosopher Francis Bacon, was a lot cleverer, a lot more realistic, than comrade Taaffe.

However, comrade Taaffe is a towering genius compared with Robert Griffiths, the general secretary of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain. When not promising to shop “entryists” to our witch-finder general, Iain McNicol, what he displays is a completely imbecilic attitude towards Labour’s civil war. He says there are more important issues … like routine strikes and protest demonstrations.

Echoing him, Morning Star editor Ben Chacko is just as witless. He sees “a task far bigger than the Labour Party”. Fighting for a mass revolutionary party? No. Forging the links necessary for establishing a new workers’ international? No. What comrade Chacko, laughably, wants is “organising at a local level in groups such as the People’s Assembly, Keep Our NHS Public, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts and many more”.[2]

Where we in LPM strive to elevate local struggles to the national and the international level, comrade Chacko’s sights are set on “saving an A&E or a youth club”. That he does so in the name of Marxist politics and creating a mass movement on the scale of the Chartists shows an inability to grasp even the A in the ABC of communism.

Left Unity condemned itself to irrelevance in February 2016 when it rejected any active involvement in the Labour Party. In fact, many prominent members believed the election of Jeremy Corbyn was a total disaster. Their illusory project of building a left-reformist “alternative to the main political parties” had just hit the rocks of reality. Since then one resignation has followed another. Many who once greeted Corbyn’s election as a total disaster are now members or want to be members of the Labour Party.

Under national secretary Felicity Dowling, what remains of Left Unity is reduced to voting Labour – except maybe in Scotland – and issuing banal calls to support this campaign, that protest: Another Europe, Stand Up to Racism, the People’s Assembly demo, etc. No wonder its entire London membership now meets in the snug little room provided by Housman’s bookshop.

Then there is Charlie Kimber – indicating the Socialist Workers Party’s crisis of leadership, he is now joint national secretary and Socialist Worker editor. Anyway, showing a modicum of common sense, the SWP “suspended” its involvement with Tusc (reducing it in the process to just two affiliates – SPEW and the RMT).

As might be expected, comrade Kimber called for a Labour vote on June 8 – except in Scotland – but, the more SWP members leave for the Labour Party, the more he too stresses localism, the latest demonstrations, economic strikes and fake fronts.

In his ‘Letter to a Jeremy Corbyn supporter’, comrade Kimber warns that “there’s a great danger that you could be drawn into endless internal battles”. The “crucial arena” of struggle is not “the long slog” of “endless meetings to (perhaps) get rid of a rightwinger”.[3] No, its is economic strikes and street demonstrations.

Evidently, comrade Kimber does not have a clue about transforming the Labour Party or even how it could be opened up to affiliation once again. How the Parliamentary Labour Party could be made into the servants, not the masters, of the labour movement. How Labour could be armed with Marxist principles, with a new clause four. How Labour could be made into Britain’s version of soviets: ie, a permanent united front of all working class organisations.

Comrade Kimber’s myopic claim that what really matters is not changing the Labour Party through the long, hard slog, but the “fightback in the workplaces and the streets”, is a Bakuninist, not a Marxist, formulation. For the 19th century anarchist leader, Mikhail Bakunin, direct action – ie, strikes and protests – were the key to revolution. By contrast, Marxists have always placed their emphasis on programme, consciousness and the patient work of building a mass party and digging deep social roots.

In Marxist terms, because the Labour Party is historically established, because it is a class party, because it involves all big unions, because it has a mass electoral base, because it has drawn in hundreds of thousands of new members, what is now happening in Labour is a far higher form of the class struggle than mere economic strikes, protest demonstrations – let alone the ephemeral fake fronts established by this or that small left group.

In point of fact, the ongoing civil war in the Labour Party is a concentrated form of the class struggle, because above all it is a political struggle. Labour’s leftwing mass membership is confident, is learning and is determined to take on and defeat the smug middle class careerists, the pro-capitalist warmongers, the defenders of Zionist oppression in Palestine and, behind that, the Anglo-American imperialist alliance.

To belittle what is happening in the Labour Party, to abstain from the struggle to transform the Labour Party, is inexcusable for any socialist.

[1]. ‘What we think’ The Socialist September 20 2017.

[2]. Morning Star September 10-11 2016.

[3]. Socialist Worker September 20 2016.

The left and the snap election: Total intellectual collapse

Theresa May’s snap election call brought forth no end of statements, editorials and rallying cries from every little group going. e details di er, but the overall picture is of dreary homogeneity. May has called the election because she is in a position of weakness. Never mind the polls: Jeremy Corbyn can lead Labour to victory. His policies are popular. All he needs to do is take a strong line on such-and-such an issue which is our group’s particular hobby-horse, and the great escape is on.

Take, for example, the Morning Star and its ebullient April 22 editorial. “When Theresa May says that the general election result is ‘not certain’ despite opinion polls giving the Tories a huge lead,” writes (presumably) editor Ben Chacko, “for once her words can be taken at face value.” May is bottling debates with the leaders of other parties because she is scared: after all, “many Labour policies are popular with the electorate”; better to concentrate “on flimsy pretexts such as parliamentary frustration of the ‘leave’ decision”. “Corbyn and his team have hit the ground running”, and “[May’s] lead may dwindle more quickly than expected.”

On closer inspection, Chacko does not seem sure – may dwindle more quickly than expected – how much more, and expected by whom? You know the polls are looking bad when this is the best the Star will do; anyone who got all their news from this grovelling daily could be forgiven for thinking that the last two years have consisted entirely of a single, continuous red tide of Labour success, and a statue of Jeremy was already on order for Parliament Square.

The final words of the editorial – “all labour movement activists need to give full backing to Corbyn, move beyond media obsessions with establishment obsessions and image and argue the case for a Labour victory” – at least nod to the problem, which is that the whole labour movement is not at all united in giving full backing to Corbyn, but instead riddled with saboteurs. All along, of course, the Star has acted as a mouthpiece for the leader’s office line of compromise, which is what has landed us here, with Labour’s electoral campaign beset constantly with outright and unchallenged sabotage.

Bold tendencies

The Star seems to think that Corbyn’s programme is acceptable in itself: abolishing grammar schools, raising the minimum wage and four entire new bank holidays – a cornucopia of socialist progress! Backsliding on Trident is, at least, regretted, although blamed on “an anonymous party official”.

Other groups, in the grand Trotskyist tradition of positioning oneself a meagre few seconds of arc to the left of the prevailing Stalinist wisdom, demand more. From the Socialist Party in England and Wales comes the call for a “bold socialist campaign” (The Socialist, April 25). Socialist Resistance cries out for a “radical left programme” (April 19). Socialist Appeal wants a “bold socialist alternative” (April 18) … and so on.

What counts as a socialist programme nowadays? SPEW provide some details, as comfortingly familiar as a pair of slippers – “renationalisation of [all] privatised public services”, and the banks, and the pharmaceutical industry, all of which should be “linked to the need for fundamental socialist change”. The last phrase sounds radical, but is actually entirely meaningless – linked how, comrades? When Theresa May ‘links’ such plans to the gulag, will that count? If the ‘link’ is so important, why not just demand Corbyn puts the actual transformation in his programme?

Remarkably, neither Resisting Socialism’s Alan Thornett nor the relevant issuers-of-statements of Socialist Appeal have anything much to say on the matter of “radical left” or “bold socialist” policies. Both, however, urge Corbyn to permit the Scottish nationalists their second referendum (and indeed both endorse a ‘yes’ vote, though neither say so in their election statements). Socialist Worker went further in an article prior to May’s election call, suggesting that Labour’s poll ratings could in part be repaired by “backing Scottish independence”.

The SWP version of this is useful as an extreme point of the sheer madness of this method. If Jeremy Corbyn came out tomorrow with a statement backing Scottish independence, the immediate response would likely be a unilateral declaration of independence of the Scottish Labour Party. Theresa May would gladly cash the blank cheque, and denounce Labour on the basis of English chauvinism. Labour would be crucified both sides of the border.

We need to be clear about the point of all this. If it were a matter of principle to support Scottish independence, then that might be a sacrifice worth making. But Socialist Worker sells it not as a sacrifice at all, but as a sure means of victory; and likewise do SA and SR sell their milder versions of the same as a promising electoral gambit; and so also does SPEW claim that wide nationalisation is the royal road to popularity … This logic is so common on the far left that it barely passes notice, but under the circumstances we must insist that it is nonsensical; for it consists of utterly marginal forces in society imagining that their particular combination of shibboleths already possesses enormous mass support which has somehow heretofore gone unnoticed.

A particular case of this syndrome is Brexit, where our comrades are at sixes and sevens, having taken entirely different lines on the matter. Thornett demands that Labour “present an alternative to the hard Brexit being planned by May, including the retention of free movement in the event of access the single market [sic – presumably this should be ‘losing access to the single market’ – PD]”. In similar mood the ultra-remoaners of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty call “for opposition to the Tories’ Brexit plans, for defence of free movement and migrants’ rights, for remaining in the single market” – otherwise “Labour will go into the election echoing, or scarcely contesting, the Tories’ main message” (April 18). Equal and opposite are the left Brexiteers of the Morning Star and SPEW.

Both sides argue that a clear line on Brexit is fundamental to success – their line. And for both sides the argument is substantially negative, in that choosing the opposite line is an error. For the AWL, a firm perspective for Brexit will leave Labour indistinguishable from the Tories; for The Socialist a ‘soft’ Brexit or ‘remain’ position would alienate “workers who voted for Brexit [who] did so primarily because they were in revolt against all the misery they have suffered over the last decade”. The problem is that they are both right: if Corbyn drifts towards the remainers, he will be torn apart for being ‘out of touch’ with ‘ordinary people’, in his ‘cosmopolitan elite bubble’. If he hardens on Brexit, the pace of Blairite sabotage will be accelerated, and he will be lambasted for losing control of his party.

In short, the game is rigged, and all this ‘tactical advice’ from well-meaning lefts is utterly facile. It reveals the serried ranks of Britain’s Marxists as what they are, which is to say, merely pale echoes of Labourism. What has Corbyn been up to, after all, if not casting around for wizard wheezes and gimmicks to shore up his short-term popularity? The Corbyn office’s strategy has been to give all the ground asked of them on issues of ‘high politics’, and fight purely on a platform of modest economic reforms. The result is that he and his allies refuse to confront the actual arrangement of power against him, leading to the present situation, where he must fight a general election under constant assault from his own side. The far left does not seriously confront this problem, merely recommending a different slate of gimmicks.

We live in strange times, and it may be that there is a startling reversal before June 8. Yet that is in many respects besides the point. The left so fears defeat that it refuses to even think it possible, insisting that May could come unstuck, or isn’t as strong as she looks, or whatever other comforting delusions are available. But, on the basis of all currently available evidence, the left will not wake up on June 9 with a friend in Number 10. What then, comrades? Do we go back to our papers, and write in sadness that everything would have been different if Corbyn had promised to nationalise Pfizer under democratic workers’ control? Or do we fight to purge the labour movement of traitors and build it into a social force that can withstand the attacks of the bosses’ media?

We would hope for a renewed commitment to the latter. Yet we must admit it is probably a more forlorn hope than the most dewy-eyed Corbynite expresses for June’s election. The Morning Star and its Communist Party of Britain are incapable of political lines that seriously oppose the left wing of the bureaucracy; SPEW prefers to obey the orders of the RMT union rather than actually get involved in the Labour Party struggle; the SWP actively discourages its members and periphery from engaging in such internal struggles; the AWL involves itself, but often on the wrong side; Socialist Appeal has fallen so utterly into flighty eclecticism and millenarian crisis-mongering that we cannot be sure when their attention will stray elsewhere; and Resisting Socialism is reduced to hopeless liberal philistinism, and will abandon Labour as soon as they deem something else sufficiently attractive to ‘the youth’ they (and, these days, most of us) so conspicuously lack.

Thus the paradox of the situation: the greatest opportunity the left has had in a generation coincides with its political nadir.

End the bans and proscriptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour debates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The in-out Kabuki dance

James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists says a passive boycott is not as good as an active boycott. But it is far better than participating in Britain Stronger in Europe.

Even before it officially begins, a floodtide of hyperbole has been generated by the stay-leave Euro referendum campaign.

HM government’s £9 million pamphlet ominously warns that an ‘out’ vote will “create years of uncertainty”.1 Building upon the doomsday scenario, the cross-party Britain Stronger in Europe implies that three million jobs could be lost.2 For its part, Another Europe is Possible, a typical soft-left lash-up, is convinced that “walking away from the EU would boost rightwing movements and parties like Ukip and hurt ordinary people in Britain”.3 Similarly, Mark Carney, Bank of England governor, maintains that a Brexit will put the country’s vital financial sector at “risk”.4 As for Maurice Obstfeld, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, his widely reported claim is that a leave vote will do “severe regional and global damage by disrupting established trading relationships.”5

For its part, Vote Leave trades on the politics of a backward-looking hope. It wants Britain to “regain control over things like trade, tax, economic regulation, energy and food bills, migration, crime and civil liberties”.6 Same with the other ‘leave’ campaigns. Recommending the UK Independence Party’s Grassroots Go campaign, Nigel Farage says that voters have a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to break free from the European Union”.7 In exactly the same spirit Get Britain Out seeks to “bring back UK democracy”.8 Not to be left out the Morning Star patriotically rejects the “EU superstate project” and likewise seeks the restoration of Britain’s “democracy”.9

Hence both sides claim that some existential choice is about to be made. Yet, frankly, unlike crucial questions such as Trident renewal, climate change, Syrian refugees and Labour Party rule changes, the whole referendum debate lacks any real substance.

It is not just the likes of me who think it is all smoke and mirrors. Writing an opinion piece in the Financial Times, Andrew Moravcsik, professor of politics at Princeton, convincingly argues that, regardless of the result on June 23, “under no circumstances will Britain leave Europe”.10

The learned professor equates the whole referendum exercise with a “long kabuki drama”. Kabuki – the classical Japanese dance-drama known for its illusions, masks and striking make-up – nowadays serves as a synonym used by American journalists for elaborate, but essentially empty posturing. Despite the appearance of fundamental conflict or an uncertain outcome, with kabuki politics the end result is, in fact, already known. Eg, surely, no intelligent US citizen can really believe that a president Donald Trump would actually build his 2,000-mile border wall, let alone succeed in getting the Mexican government to cover the estimated $8 billion price tag.11

With Vote Leave, kabuki politics has surely been taken to a new level of cynicism. Formally headed by Labour’s useful idiot, Gisela Stuart, and incorporating mavericks such as David Owen, Frank Field and Douglass Carswell, Vote Leave crucially unites Tory heavyweights, such as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab. Yet, needless to say, their ringing declarations calling for British independence, an end to mass European migration and freedom from EU bureaucracy have no chance whatsoever of ever being implemented.


Britain’s second Europe referendum, in point of fact, closely maps the first. Harold Wilson’s June 1975 referendum was staged not because he was unhappy with the European Economic Community. No, it was a “ploy” dictated largely by “domestic politics”.12 Ted Heath oversaw Britain’s EEC entry in 1973, having won a clear parliamentary majority. Nevertheless, Labour could gain additional general election votes by promising a “fundamental renegotiation” of Britain’s terms of membership … to be followed by a popular referendum.

Wilson also wanted to show Labour’s Europhobes – ie, Tony Benn, Barbara Castle and Michael Foot – who was boss (he did so thanks to the Mirror, the BBC and big business finance). On June 5 1975, 67% voted ‘yes’ and a mere 33% voted ‘no’ to Britain’s continued membership. Despite that overwhelming mandate, given the abundant promises that joining the EEC would bring substantial material benefits, it is hardly surprising that Europe became a “scapegoat for economic malaise”: the 1974-79 Labour government could do nothing to reverse Britain’s relative economic decline.13

The illusory nature of Britain’s second Euro referendum is no less obvious. The European Union Referendum Act (2015) had nothing to do with David Cameron having some grand plan for a British geopolitical reorientation. By calculation, if not conviction, Cameron is a soft Europhile. And, despite tough talk of negotiating “fundamental, far-reaching change” and gaining a “special status” for Britain, just like Harold Wilson, he came back from Brussels with precious little. Apart from two minor adjustments – a reduction in non-resident child benefits, which Germany too favoured, and a temporary cut in tax credits – what Cameron secured was purely symbolic (ie, the agreement that Britain did not necessarily favour “ever closer union”).

Transparently Cameron never had any intention of Britain leaving the EU. His commitment to holding a referendum was dictated solely by domestic considerations – above all, him remaining as prime minister. By holding out the promise of a referendum, Cameron – together with his close advisors – figured he could harness popular dissatisfaction with the EU – not least as generated by the rightwing press. Moreover, in terms of party politics, Ed Miliband could be wrong-footed, Tory Europhobes conciliated and Ukip checked.

However, Cameron’s expectation was that he would never have to deliver. Most pundits predicted a continuation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition after the 2015 general election. With Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander still sitting around the cabinet table, there would be no referendum. They would have blocked such a proposal with threats of resignation. Yet, as we all know, despite the opinion polls, the Tories secured a narrow House of Commons majority. So Cameron was lumbered with his referendum.

At this moment in time, the two camps are running neck and neck: a recent Telegraph poll of polls has 51% for ‘stay’ and 49% for ‘leave’.14 Despite that, probably, the status quo will ultimately triumph. Backing from big business, international institutions, celebrity endorsements … and fear of the unknown will swing popular opinion. Nevertheless, establishment critics are undoubtedly right: Cameron is gambling on an often fickle electorate. Referendums can go horribly awry for those who stage them, especially when issues such as austerity, tax avoidance, mass migration and international terrorism are included in the mix.

Yet, as Andrew Moravcsik stresses, the danger of losing would be a genuine worry for the ruling class “if the referendum really mattered”. But it is highly “unlikely” that there will be a Brexit, even if a majority votes to leave on June 23. Sure, David Cameron would step down – but not to be replaced by Nigel Farage. There will still be a Tory government. It could be headed by Boris Johnson, Teresa May, George Osborne or some less likely contender. The chances are, therefore, that a reshuffled cabinet would do just what other EU members – Denmark, France, Ireland and Holland – have done after a referendum has gone the wrong way. It would negotiate “a new agreement, nearly identical to the old one, disguise it in opaque language and ratify it”.15 Amid the post-referendum shock and awe, the people would be scared, fooled or bribed into acquiescence.

Boris Johnson has already given the game away. He is now using the standard ‘leave’ rhetoric: eg, the sunlight of freedom, breaking out of the EU jail, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “take back control over our borders and control over our democracy”.16 But he readily admits that his support for Brexit only came after Cameron’s final EU deal failed to include his proposed wording enshrining British “parliamentary sovereignty”. Just the kind of meaningless drivel that could easily be conceded in future negotiations and be successfully put to a second referendum – an idea originally mooted by former Tory leader Michael Howard. Naturally, Cameron dismisses the second referendum option. He is in no position to do otherwise. But if Johnson were to become prime minister we know exactly what to expect. He would seek an EU agreement to a highfalutin phrase that he could sell to the British electorate.

So what the referendum boils down to is an internal power struggle in the Conservative Party. Eg, Teresa May decided, eventually, to stay loyal because she reckoned that this was the best way to fulfil her ambition of replacing Cameron; and Boris Johnson went rebel, at the last minute, in an attempt to achieve exactly the same objective.

Under these circumstances Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell appear to have adopted tactics that amount to a passive boycott. An active boycott that exposes the whole referendum charade would be far better. But even a passive boycott is far better than campaigning alongside Tories, Lib Dems, the Greens, Scottish National Party, etc, under the Britain Stronger in Europe umbrella. In Scotland the Better Together led to electoral disaster for Labour and there is every reason not to repeat such a popular-front exercise today. Understandably, Corbyn and McDonnell have no wish to rescue Cameron from the hole that he has dug himself into.

Hence the urgent call from the Blairite right – former shadow Europe minister Emma Reynolds, along with Chris Leslie, Ben Bradshaw and Adrian Bailey – for Corbyn to play a “bigger role” in the ‘stay’ campaign. They berate him for failing to recognise that the “fate of the country” lies not only in the hands of the prime minister, but the leader of the Labour Party too.17

Obviously, utter nonsense. True, in the event of a ‘leave’ vote, the remaining 27 EU members might prove unwilling to go along with the new Tory PM. Frustrated by perfidious Albion, maybe they will insist on immediate exit negotiations. Not further rounds of renegotiation. Even then Britain will not really leave the EU though. It is surely too important a country to shut out – in terms of gross domestic product Britain still ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy. Yes, it might have to settle for the status of an oversized Switzerland. To access the single market the Swiss have no choice but to accept the Schengen agreement, contribute to EU development funds and abide by the whole panoply of rules and regulations. The 2014 “popular initiative” against “mass immigration” into Switzerland is bound to be overturned.

However, a Britain-into-Switzerland outcome is extremely unlikely. The whole architecture of the US-dominated world order dictates that in terms of the immediate future Britain will continue to play its allotted role: blocking Franco-German aspirations of an “ever closer union” that eventually results in a United States of Europe. Washington will quietly bend both Brussels and Westminster to its will. Britain is therefore surely ordained to stay in the EU because of the hard realities of global politics.


1. HM government, ‘Why the government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK’. 2. www.strongerin.co.uk/get_the_facts#iQAmHJOlGfmYbztJ.97.

3. www.anothereurope.org.

4. The Daily Telegraph March 8 2016.

5. The Guardian April 12 2016.

6. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/voteleave/pages/98/attachments/original/

7. www.ukip.org/ukip_supports_grassroots_out.

8. http://getbritainout.org.

9. Editorial Morning Star March 4 2016.

10. Financial Times April 9-10 2016.

11. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/02/17/politics/donald-trump-mexico-wall.

12. D Reynolds Britannia overruled London 1991, p249.

13. Ibid p250.

14. The Daily Telegraph April 12 2016.

15. Financial Times April 9-10 2016.

16. The Independent March 6 2016.

17. http://labourlist.org/2016/04/labour-mps-call-on-corbyn-to-step-up-campaign-to-stay-in-eu/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LabourListLatest