Tag Archives: NEC

Witch-hunt’s biggest victim

Chris Williamson has dared question the claim that Labour has become institutionally anti-Semitic under Jeremy Corbyn, writes Carla Roberts. Now he is likely to be expelled for this crime.

For future generations of socialists studying how the right has managed to brand lifelong anti-racists as racists, July 9 2019 might serve as a symbolic date.

Outside the Labour Party’s HQ in London’s Victoria Street, 100 protestors gathered in solidarity with the Labour Party’s bravest MP. They delivered a petition, signed by almost 4,000 people, demanding Chris Williamson’s reinstatement. Speakers who were there on behalf of Labour Against the Witchhunt, Jewish Voice for Labour, the Labour Representation Committee, the RMT union and various Momentum branches outlined what really is behind the charges against Williamson: “This is an attack on Jeremy Corbyn himself, because he remains an unreliable ally from the ruling class’s point of view,” said Stan Keable of Labour Against the Witchhunt – a position that was echoed by many other speakers on the day.

Inside the ugly Southside tower, however, fewer than 40 people (most of whom had sneaked in through the back door) made a decision that allowed the McCarthyite witch-hunt in the party to reach Kafkaesque proportions. In what we believe was an unprecedented move, a majority of Labour’s national executive committee voted to ‘revisit’ the verdict of an NEC anti-Semitism panel to reinstate comrade Williamson to full party membership. This only became possible because general secretary Jennie Formby had chosen to accept the ridiculous claim by Keith Vaz (one of the three panel members making the decision) that he was on some kind of mysterious medication that had rendered all his decisions on that day unsafe. Instead, she should have sent him to an independent doctor to verify his claims.

But her decision underlines yet again who is calling the shots in the raging civil war in the party – and that the leadership around Corbyn is still trying to appease the right rather than openly take them on. True, Corbyn might not want to see Williamson expelled. But by not speaking out and allowing the witch-hunt to grow and grow over the last three years, Jeremy Corbyn is as culpable for this decision as Tom Watson, who coordinated the vicious media backlash against Williamson’s brief reinstatement.

So instead of clearing comrade Williamson – which is, of course, the only rational conclusion the so-called evidence against him allows – the July 9 NEC meeting decided to have his case re-examined by a different NEC anti-Semitism panel.

lobby Chris Williamson NECIncredibly, this will be the third panel dealing with Chris’s case. As we reported last week, the first one was to be made up of Momentum owner Jon Lansman, Claudia Webbe and ex-MP George Howarth. We can just about imagine the furore if such an ostensibly leftwing panel had voted to send Williamson – who is hugely popular amongst the membership – to the national constitutional committee (NCC). This is where the NEC outsources all the disciplinary cases that it cannot/does not want to deal with. Despite this body’s recent expansion from 11 to 25 members, it is still dominated by the right; the three person panels are ‘traditionally’ made up of one leftwinger and two rightwingers. No wonder that a referral to the NCC usually results in expulsion – which is how it got its well-deserved epithet of ‘national kangaroo court’. Both Webbe and Lansman chickened out, leaving it to a second panel to rule on the case. As we know, Huda Elmi and Keith Vaz both voted for Williamson’s reinstatement, which was followed by a very PR-effective outcry by the right, mobilised by chief saboteur Tom Watson (whom Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of the RMT union, quite rightly called “a scoundrel” that “the members should get rid off” at the lobby outside).

What if this third panel finds Williamson innocent? Will somebody have to fake a heart attack to get the verdict revisited once again? How many panels does it need to get the correct answer? We already know, of course, that the next panel is bound to get it ‘right’ – ie, wrong – and send Williamson’s case to the NCC.

Vicious circle

There is a very small chance this will not result in Williamson’s expulsion, but this has less to do with justice and more to do with timing: should there be a snap election before his case is dealt with by the NCC, he will be unable to stand again in Derby North, the constituency he represents, as he will still be suspended. Somebody else will be installed as the official candidate and might or might not become the next MP for Derby North.

It is far more likely, however, that the party leadership will want to get this over with soon. The very public resignation this week of three parasites from Labour’s benches in the House of Lords (who bizarrely claim that the party is “shielding anti-Semites”) and the outrageously one-sided edition of BBC’s Panorama programme on the issue will add even more pressure on those around Jeremy Corbyn to be seen to ‘act’. Unfortunately, we know what that means: there will be more investigations, more suspensions, more expulsions. The witch-hunt grows – ditto the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. It is a vicious circle.

There is exactly zero chance of comrade Williamson getting a fair trial at the NCC – and even less chance of being exonerated. We expect that he will (eventually) be expelled. So let us be clear what his ‘crimes’ are: like Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and many other Corbyn supporters who have been smeared, vilified and wrongfully accused of anti-Semitism, he will be expelled for stating that the tiny number of cases of actual anti-Semitism in the party have been weaponised, amplified and woven into a hugely distorted, politically motivated narrative. He will be expelled for the crime of questioning the commonplace that the party has become institutionally anti-Semitic because of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He will be expelled, in other words, for daring to state the truth.

As Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi of Jewish Voice for Labour put it at the NEC lobby, “Now even questioning if somebody really is an anti-Semite is proof that you are an anti-Semite yourself.” Or, in the words of Moshé Machover, who also addressed the event: “The proof that Chris Williamson was right to question the party’s response to such false allegations is, of course, his own treatment by the party.”

There are obvious similarities to the case of Ken Livingstone. The former mayor of London might have been slightly clumsy in his off-the-cuff remarks about Hitler – who, he said, “supported Zionism until he went mad”. Of course, he got the date wrong when he said Hitler came to power in 1932 (it was a year later). It was also wrong to personalise the shift in policy. But the point he was making about the collaboration of the early Nazi regime and Zionism is basically correct, as comrade Machover outlines in his excellent article, ‘Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism’.

Livingstone’s original punishment for saying what is now deemed unsayable was a one-year suspension. The NEC was probably hoping that things would die down and that he could be allowed to sneak back quietly into the party. But, of course, by giving in to the witch-hunters and suspending him in the first place, the NEC and the leadership helped to fuel the flames and allow the witch-hunt to grow out of all proportion. So, instead of readmitting him, they planned to add another 12 months to his suspension. At this stage though, the rightwingers in and outside the party had grown so emboldened that anything less than Livingstone’s expulsion was not acceptable. Livingstone resigned to save Corbyn from further blushes.

We do not expect comrade Williamson to do the same. Contrary to Livingstone and many other Labour lefts, he is quite prepared to publicly criticise Corbyn. We note with interest the open letter circulated just before the July 9 NEC meeting, which has been signed by Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, John Pilger, professor Avi Shlaim, Alexei Sayle, Lowkey, Brian Eno, Professor Ilan Pappe and some other well-known people. This has no doubt been prepared with Williamson’s input:

Jeremy’s victory in 2015 was almost immediately followed by an onslaught against his supporters – starting with black and Jewish socialists – maliciously misrepresented as anti-Semites by disparate forces hostile to the prospect of a Corbyn-led government. Chris was sometimes their only parliamentary ally and advocate. The party’s complicity in this campaign of systematic harassment of black and Jewish members with long histories of fighting racism rendered all activists and MPs fair game, including Jeremy and members of his shadow cabinet.

This paragraph points to the ridiculous nature of the witch-hunt. Chiefly directed against Corbyn and his supporters, it could only become so successful because of “the party’s complicity” – ie, that of Jeremy Corbyn himself and those around him.

What’s an anti-Semite?

We note that Gordon Brown and Keith Starmer are now demanding that “anti-Semites” should be “automatically expelled from the party”. That begs the question: what exactly is an anti-Semite? Thousands of party members have been suspended and investigated – and not because they show actual “hostility to or prejudice against Jews” (which is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines anti-Semitism).

Most complaints are based on (sometimes sloppy) comments made in the heat of an online debate, when somebody, for example, writes ‘Zionists’ when they should say ‘the Israeli government’. Or somebody sharing a meme or a video that, on much closer inspection, turns out to be the work of an actual anti-Semite – does that make the sharer anti-Semitic? How about having your words taken out of context, twisted and rearranged?

Or take the evolution of the term ‘Zionism’. This is a label chosen by the Zionists themselves to describe their political ideology. Yet we have seen dozens of examples of Labour members being investigated simply for their use of the word – often merely in a descriptive fashion. They are presented with a charge sheet that reads:

The Chakrabarti report states: “The word ‘Zionist’ has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for ‘Jew’ … Use the term ‘Zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse.” Do you think that your comments are against the spirit of this?”

Ditto Jon Lansman, who wants to ban the diminutive form, ‘Zio’, because for him it is an insult.

Those accused might point out the Chakrabarti report has, in fact, not been implemented – otherwise, for example, automatic suspensions like that of comrade Williamson, would have to cease too.

These types of accusations make up the vast majority of the complaints against Labour members. Hastily written, sometimes based on misconceptions and misinformation and, yes, sometimes based on low-level prejudice. But these instances – which, as can be expected, are increasing proportionally with the growth of the witch-hunt – would best be countered not by silly demands for ‘zero tolerance’, but by education through open debate (and, no, we are not talking about the ‘rehabilitation programmes’ offered by the Zionists of the Jewish Labour Movement or the witch-hunters in Hope not Hate, who have joined in the calls to expel Chris Williamson).

After all, the idea of socialism is based on the presumption that people can change, for the better. But then, most of the people pushing this witch-hunt and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach are, of course, not socialists – and should not be members of the Labour Party.

And, encouragingly, some half a dozen rightwing MPs have now publicly declared that they will not stand again. These include Blairites like Kate Hoey, Stephen Twiggs, Jim Fitzpatrick and Kevin Barron. Good riddance. Let us hope there will be many more rightwingers who follow their example.

Most of those now stepping down are, of course, jumping ship before they are pushed, thanks to the newly reformed system of trigger ballots. We are still awaiting detailed guidelines and a timetable from Labour HQ (without which trigger ballots cannot be launched), but we note with great interest a circular that was apparently sent by Jennie Formby to panicked MPs at the beginning of July. It clarifies how votes will be counted. As readers know, if a minimum of 33% of a Constituency Labour Party’s branches or 33 % of the CLP’s affiliates vote ‘no’ to retaining the sitting MP, a full selection process starts – ie, a democratic contest between different candidates, including the MP. But the circular clarifies this by stating: “the third of branches is calculated based only on the branches that do cast a vote”. Which would be excellent, if indeed this is how the rule will be implemented.

Getting rid of some of the biggest saboteurs in the Parliamentary Labour Party is crucial in the fight to transform the party into a weapon of and for the working class. It remains to be seen, however, whether this will be a case of ‘too little, too late.

‘Anti-Semitism’ statistics: really a crisis?

It is worthwhile looking at the figures from Jennie Formby’s letter in more detail (available as PDF here and here) because they show just how few cases are being upheld – and not because the investigators are soft on anti-Semitism, but because the cases are so weak. We also learn a bit more about Labour’s disciplinary process.

  • The number of staff in the governance and legal unit (GLU) dealing with all disciplinary investigations “will increase from five to 11”. This is the first point of contact once a complaint has been received.
  • Since April 2018, complaints have been recorded as anti-Semitic, “irrespective of the evidence, in line with the Macpherson principle”. Formby states that before then no such records were kept. To our knowledge, while many members were certainly charged with anti- Semitism, and often publicly so, very few were disciplined for that offence – instead being suspended and expelled under the catch-all rule of “bringing the party into disrepute” (eg, Marc Wadsworth and Tony Greenstein).
  • The GLU whittled down the 1,106 complaints to 673 that were actually concerning members – and then dismissed another 220 cases outright, where there was “no sufficient evidence of a breach of party rules”. In other words, they were vexatious and false complaints. That took the total down to 453.
  • These 453 cases were passed on to the ‘NEC anti-Semitism panel’, made up of three out of the “10 or so specifically trained” NEC members. The names of the 10 are not publicly available – but we know that Darren Williams, a leftwinger on the NEC, tried to get onto this panel, but was outvoted. We can therefore deduce that this is not a group of people who could be charged with being too leftwing.
  • This NEC anti-Semitism panel then decides if the person should merely receive a ‘reminder of conduct’ (146 cases), be put under investigation (211) or be immediately suspended before the investigation begins (96 cases – we believe that this practice, like automatic expulsions, has now almost ceased). So we are now down to 307 complaints that might have something to them.
  • Of these 307, the NEC anti- Semitism panel ruled on 96 members’ cases: 48 members had their cases closed at this stage, receiving a “formal NEC warning” or a “reminder of conduct”. That leaves 259 members.
  • 42 of those have been referred to the national constitutional committee (dominated by the right), which has so far expelled 12 members and sanctioned six, while five others have left the party. The remaining 19 cases are still ongoing, including that against Jackie Walker, whose NCC hearing takes place on March 26-27.
  • What about the remaining 217 members? We learn that 44 members accused have left the party, about 90 are “recent complaints” and have not yet been investigated. Which leaves about 83 members “where the investigation revealed evidence that meant the case could not be pursued further”. In other words, they were found innocent of the charge of anti-Semitism.

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt: The latest victim of the witch-hunt

The NEC refuses to endorse the Corbyn supporter in South Thanet – and it seems Momentum is complicit, writes Carla Roberts

In April 2018, Corbyn supporter Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt was selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the “key marginal” seat of Thanet South. She beat the more ‘moderate’ local councillor, Karen Constantine, by 17 votes – despite the fact that the latter was backed by a rather unholy alliance of Unite, Unison, GMB and, somewhat strangely, Momentum.

We hear that Constantine had never been seen at a Momentum meeting and only started to back Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader once he was sure to win. On Twitter, she proudly declares that her “motto” is: “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory”. Gordon-Nesbitt, on the other hand, is known as an outspoken Corbyn supporter and life-long socialist campaigner. So no real surprise then that local members chose the more leftwing candidate (as would probably be the case almost everywhere, if members were allowed to democratically select their prospective candidate via a system of mandatory reselection).

But clearly, not everybody was happy about the result. Two weeks after the local decision, the revolting Guido Fawkes published a take-down piece on Gordon-Nesbitt, who works as a researcher to, among others, Labour peer Lord Howarth of Newport. Fawkes published a small number of tweets released by the Centre for Cultural Change in 2016, to which Gordon-Nesbitt contributed.

As is unfortunately now the norm in the Labour Party, the tweets were – probably simultaneously – passed on to the compliance unit of the Labour Party, an investigation was opened and Labour’s national executive committee decided to put on hold the required endorsement of her candidacy – a highly unusual decision. Guido Fawkes seems to have had already had a good inkling of the result of the investigation even before it started: “Assume Gordon-Nesbitt will be deselected if Corbyn is really taking anti-Semitism seriously…”, he wrote in April.

And he was right. Still, it took the Labour Party bureaucracy a staggering eight months to look into those few tweets – three of which were authored by Gordon-Nesbitt:

“Accusations levelled at Jackie Walker are politically motivated.”

“Anti-Semitism has been weaponised by those who seek to silence anti-Zionist voices. See The Lynching, endorsed by Ken Loach, for elucidation.”

“Accusations of AS levelled in an attempt to discredit the left.”

Even the most biased bourgeois justice system would have laughed this ‘evidence’ out of court. Not so today’s Labour Party, unfortunately, which is cleaved apart by the ongoing civil war that began with the election of Corbyn. In July 2018, the NEC – even though it was now ostensibly dominated by the ‘left’ – voted to refer the case to its kangaroo court, the national constitutional committee (NCC). This is a crucial body in the party. It deals with all disciplinary matters that the NEC feels it cannot resolve and – given that the NCC is dominated by the right – the referral of a leftwinger usually results in expulsion from the party. Incredibly, even after its recent expansion from 11 to 25, only a minority are chosen by rank-and-file Labour members.

Gordon-Nesbitt describes how “months went by, but nothing happened”. She continued to be the officially selected candidate and campaigned with local party members. Six months after the referral to the NCC she was invited to an interview – not with the NCC, but with a panel of three NEC members.

Gordon-Nesbitt writes that she came to the hearing on December 18 “armed with a dozen endorsements from local party members, a respected rabbi, an Oxford University anti-Semitism expert and a sizeable group of parliamentary candidates from around the country, all of whom said in various different ways that neither I nor the tweets were anti-Semitic”.

Still, a few hours after the meeting, Gordon-Nesbitt received a letter stating that the NEC had “decided not to endorse my candidacy on the basis that: “In light of these posts your conduct does not meet the high standards that are expected of parliamentary candidates and has the potential to bring the party into disrepute.”

Her local Labour Party continues to support her: The CLP executive, its branches and the CLP women’s forum have all rejected the NEC’s decision. An emergency meeting of the CLP’s general committee is scheduled for later this week.

We understand that, worryingly, leftwinger Claudia Webbe was one of the three NEC members on the panel. In fact, she was the only one who was there in person – the other two were listening in via speakerphone. In July, Webbe replaced Christine Shawcroft as chair of the NEC’s disputes panel, having been nominated to the post by both Momentum’s Jon Lansman and Pete Willsman, secretary of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (Webbe also serves as chair of the CLPD). It is unusual for Lansman and Willsman to agree on anything these days – the former comrades who worked together for decades in the CLPD have fallen out spectacularly over the last 12 months or so, after Lansman falsely accused Willsman of anti-Semitism and dropped him from Momentum’s list of recommended candidates for the NEC (Willsman was elected anyway).

Of course, we do not actually know how Webbe voted. These hugely important decisions are kept secret, away from the membership. She certainly has not made her views on the matter public. But we know that she is an ally of Lansman, who, we have been told, is campaigning against attempts to allow the next full NEC meeting (January 22) to revisit the panel’s decision on Gordon-Nesbitt. Momentum locally and nationally has certainly not raised a finger to defend her or the democratic will of the local members.

NEC panels have the right to make decisions on behalf of the executive and those decisions do not have to be ratified by the full NEC. But, as Darren Williams explains, they can be “revisited” and overturned by the NEC. Williams seems to be the only NEC member who has come out publicly on this case, though we understand that he is not the only leftwinger on the NEC who is “unhappy” about the panel’s decision.5 We might find out more on January 22 – but isn’t it a pity that there are no official minutes of NEC meetings? We have to rely on the few reports produced by individual members (who only report on decisions they find interesting or important, of course).

This case does shed a rather worrying light on the state of the so-called ‘left’ on the NEC (and the wider party). Lansman has thrown himself with gusto into the campaign to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism – a campaign whose chief target is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself. While Lansman has always been a soft Zionist, he has certainly found his hard-core Zionist feet in recent months. He successfully campaigned for the NEC to adopt the ludicrously inaccurate and pro-Zionist ‘Definition of anti-Semitism’ published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, with all its disputed 11 examples.

Lansman and his close allies make up about half of the nine NEC members elected by party members on the slate pushed by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance. Darren Williams, Pete Willsman and Rachel Garnham seem to be the only NEC members with at least half an occasional backbone. Even though Unite is run by Corbyn ally Len McCluskey, the numerous Unite members on the NEC tend to vote – in general – with the rest of the unions on Labour’s leadership body.

This is particularly worrying, as Jeremy Corbyn remains a prisoner of Labour’s MPs, who are far to his right and, of course, to the right of the majority of members. Refusing to endorse a candidate who would have been a very valuable ally of Corbyn makes you wonder on which side Jon Lansman and some of his allies on the NEC really stand.

For model resolutions, see Labour Against the Witchhunt’s website.


Rhea Wolfson and Emily Thornberry: pro-Zionist sisters in arms

On Tuesday afternoon, Labour Party conference staged the absurdly titled session ‘Security at home and abroad’, which included the debate on Brexit – and Palestine. This session was, incredibly, chaired by NEC member Rhea Wolfson, a member of the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement. She started the session by warning conference to stay away from “inward-looking debate which focuses on internal matters and NEC decisions. Please be careful about the language you use. Make everybody feel welcome and do not boo.”

Hilary WiseWolfson was, however, less than “welcoming” when Hilary Wise from Ealing and Acton Central CLP spoke passionately about the anti-Semitism smear campaign (Youtube video here). She stated that as a campaigner on Palestinian rights for 30 years, she had “never seen anything like the current campaign of slurs and accusations made against Jeremy Corbyn and the left in the party. I am afraid it is an orchestrated campaign and if you want to know how it works I urge you to watch ‘The Lobby’ on Al Jazeera.”

At that point Wolfson warned her: “I would ask you to be very careful. You are straying into territory here.”

Comrade Wise went on to warn quite rightly that “this campaign will only get worse and the list of people being denounced as anti-Semitic will get longer, often simply for being proponents of Palestinian rights.” Wolfson interrupted her again: “I urge you to be careful” and then went straight on to tell her abruptly: “Take your seat – your time is up now.”

After two minutes and 45 seconds, that is. All other delegates got a minimum of three minutes, with Wolfson gently requesting that they finish when their time was up. But Wolfson is not just a member of the JLM: she used her vote on the national executive committee (NEC) to send Jackie Walker to the national constitutional committee (which will in all likelihood expel her later in the year), pushed through the ‘working definition’ on Anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and has ambitions to become an MP. She will fit in well with the current PLP. Her fellow travellers in the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty must be so proud (she was – until very recently – listed as an editor of their magazine The Clarion).

In this context, the role of Emily Thornberry at conference was interesting: As a member of the pro-Zionist Labour Friends of Israel, she is not tainted by the ‘anti-Semitism scandal’ in the Labour Party and is groomed by ‘moderates’ and some on the left alike to take over from Jeremy Corbyn (note her positive reference to fellow soft Zionist Jon Lansman in her speech).

palestine flagsAccording to Asa Winstanley of the award-winning Electronic Intifada, in an hour-long meeting, she heavily leaned on the movers of the motion on Palestine to delete any reference to the nakba (a reference to Israel’s expulsion of some 800,000 Palestinians to establish a “Jewish state” in 1948) and demanded that the motion’s call for an immediate arms trade freeze be removed. But they refused on both counts and even made reference to her in their speech. Good on them! Thousands of comrades waved Palestine flags, handed out by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Labour Against the Witchhunt – a fantastic sight.

Then came Thornberry’s already infamous conference speech – well-delivered, but playing hard and fast with working class history, using references to the International Brigades and the Anti-Nazi League to support the witch-hunt against many Corbyn supporters who have been accused of anti-Semitism (most of them falsely).

“There are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement, who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people, and their desire to see Israel destroyed. These people stand for everything that we have always stood against and they must be kicked out of our party, the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool.” Her dramatic shouts of “No pasaran, no pasaran!” tricked some people into giving her a standing ovation.

Needless to say, Rhea Wolfson made no attempt to reign in Thornberry, who was basically comparing comrades like Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth (both already expelled) and Jackie Walker, who is about to be thrown out of the party, to fascists. Thornberry is a fellow Zionist, after all.

To quote Chris Williamson MP at the fringe organised by Labour Against the Witchhunt:

“The only way you stop a playground bully is to stop running. The monster is getting bigger, the more you feed it. Stop feeding the beast! They are trying to pick us off, one by one. Which is why we need to call this campaign out for what it is: a pile of nonsense.”

IHRA: NEC left capitulates

But there might yet be light at the end of the tunnel, says Carla Roberts

As expected, Labour’s national executive committee decided on September 4 to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism – including, crucially, all its 11 examples. So now, for instance, to describe Israel as “racist” will be officially anti-Semitic in the Labour Party – even though the new ‘nation state’ law enshrines racism to an even greater extent in Israel’s constitution.

What is only transpiring now, however, is the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was royally shafted by his allies on the NEC. He had prepared a 500-word “personal statement” to be read out at the beginning of the meeting, which he wanted adopted alongside the whole IHRA document. According to The Times, it was this sentence that raised particular concern: “Nor should it be regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Apparently, it “was made clear” to Corbyn that the majority of the NEC would vote against his document, and so in order to save face he withdrew it. That is a real shame: it would have been very interesting to see exactly which of his so-called allies were prepared to stab him in the back. After all, there is now a slim majority of pro-Corbyn forces on the executive. We know that Momentum owner Jon Lansman has been at the front of the queue, but unfortunately Unite also declared in the run-up to the meeting that it would back the full IHRA document. We can only speculate as to who else might have helped humiliate Corbyn, including the soft Zionist Rhea Wolfson (a fellow traveller of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and member of the Jewish Labour Movement). Fortunately, she is about to end her term on the NEC.

Instead, the NEC adopted a short statement alongside the IHRA wording, which says: “We recommend that we adopt the IHRA in full, with all examples. This does not in any way undermine the freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians. We re-invite organisations to engage in consultation on the code of conduct.”1)The Times September 5.

To make matters more complicated, the usually well-informed Skwawkbox reports that “senior Labour sources have confirmed that the protections of the existing code of conduct still apply and govern the application of the additional IHRA examples that were adopted yesterday.”

We do not have to go into much detail about why the full IHRA definition is so dangerous, as most readers will have become experts on the matter over the last few weeks. A short paragraph from Labour Against the Witchhunt’s recent leaflet, distributed at the September 4 lobby outside Labour’s HQ, will suffice:

The intent of this document is notto define anti-Semitism – after all, the Oxford English Dictionary manages that in six words: “Hostility to or prejudice against Jews”. No, its sole purpose is to conflate criticism of Zionism and Israel with anti-Semitism. In effect, the IHRA definition is labeling criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.

Legal experts have also come out to give their opinion on the document: Geoffrey Robertson QC describes it as “not fit for purpose”; professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism, criticises it as “bewilderingly imprecise”; former appeals court judge Stephen Sedley believes that the document would place “Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine beyond permissible criticism” and Hugh Tomlinson QC has warned that it will have “a chilling effect on freedom of speech”.

Not about Jews

In their identical front pages of July 25, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Telegraph and Jewish News openly stated that, “Had the full IHRA definition with examples relating to Israel been approved [by the NEC], hundreds, if not thousands, of Labour and Momentum members would need to be expelled.”

Jeremy Corbyn would be the prime target, needless to say. And that is, of course, what this whole saga is really about. It has nothing to do with trying to protect anybody from anti-Semitism or abuse of any kind. It is all about getting rid of Corbyn as Labour leader. From an establishment point of view he has been and – as his personal statement shows – remains very unreliable, especially when it comes to the important issue of Middle Eastern politics. Israel’s position as US imperialism’s only remaining stable outpost in the area must be protected at all costs.

But even without his personal statement, the right is still not satisfied. In an interview that was published a day before the vote, Margaret Hodge MP was asked whether, if Labour passed the IHRA definition in full, with no caveats, the anti-Semitism issue would be over. She replied: “I think the moment has passed. The problem is that Jeremy Corbyn is the problem.” Spot on, Margaret. The September 5 vote by the Parliamentary Labour Party further confirmed that adopting the full IHRA definition will make no difference.

Now, this all seems pretty clear. In the last few months, dozens of leftwing organisations and thousands of Labour Party members have signed letters, attended meetings and, yes, sometimes raved and shouted online, pantomime-like, to the Labour leader: “Don’t do it – it’s a trap!”

But Corbyn has stepped into one trap after another. After all, the full IHRA definition makes Corbyn officially, and even according to Labour Party rules, an anti-Semite – at long last.

It is, of course, very unlikely that Corbyn would be charged under the new rule. However, the damage has already been done: Corbyn has been declared an anti-Semite by pretty much all the mainstream press. Nobody raises an eyebrow now when another “Jewish community leader” declares that Corbyn “hates Jews”. John Mann MP can get away with claiming, “We are now seeing the first British Jewish people leaving – that is the state we are in. That is the responsibility of the Labour Party.” Utter bullshit, of course. But where there’s smoke …

In that sense, the whole debate over the IHRA has already achieved one of its main objectives. Whatever Corbyn and the NEC do now or in the future, it makes no difference. His ill-fated strategy of trying to appease the right wing in the Labour Party has backfired spectacularly. Clearly, it has gone so far that some of his ‘allies’ have utterly internalised this approach, with Jon Lansman playing the part of Brutus – stabbing Corbyn in the back while assuring him of his enduring love.

NEC elections

The capitulation of some on the NEC left also somewhat puts into perspective the fact that all nine ‘pro-Corbyn’ candidates have again swept the board in the NEC elections. After all, it really depends what these NEC members actually dowith their votes.

We have commented at length about the undemocratic way in which the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance has been choosing ‘worthy’ candidates in backroom deals – cobbled together by a handful of self-selected Labour lefts, who, “convinced of the left’s unelectability, continued to support centrist candidates and rejected any moves to present a leftwing platform or support openly left candidates”.

In this context, it is excellent that Ann Black – for the first time without the support of CLGA – has been convincingly booted off the NEC. She picked up just over 45,000 votes, as opposed to the 101,000 she got in 2016. She had supported the move to stop tens of thousands of pro-Corbyn members from voting in the second leadership election and, as chair of the NEC disciplinary panel, gave her backing to much of the witch-hunt against the left – for instance, by voting for the suspension of Brighton  and Hove District Labour Party.

It is also welcome news that Pete Willsman has been re-elected, despite being disowned by Momentum and his former comrade in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Jon Lansman. Now he seems to be observing some vow of silence. Despite that, his re-election to the NEC is important, because it shows that a good proportion of the membership is putting two fingers up to both the witch-hunters in the bourgeois media and those facilitating and aiding the witch-hunt inside the party – on the right and the left.

The results, however, also show that despite rising membership figures, fewer people voted this year compared to 2016. The highest vote this year – 88,176 – was achieved by Yasmine Dar: almost 13,000 fewer votes than those for Ann Black in 2016, when she came first. If we ignore comrade Willsman’s skewed result (a small minority of left voters obviously followed Momentum’s advice as he picked up only 70,321 votes – only 2,500 more than the highest-placed unsuccessful candidate, Eddie Izzard), the distance between the worst left candidate and the best rightwinger remained roughly the same, compared to 2016 – about 9,000 votes.

Izzard in fact seems to have benefited from presenting himself as independent and unaligned to either side: he got almost 18,000 votes more than the next ‘moderate’, Johanna Baxter (50,185). In 2016, five rightwingers achieved over 50,000 votes. The elections were a mixed bag, in other words, which perhaps shows a lot of members on both sides getting fed up with the current state of the party.

This is an unfortunate but understandable reaction to the ongoing civil war. Many joined in the mistaken belief that all it would take was to ‘vote Corbyn’ so that he could deliver, messiah-like, some form of socialism. The reality of boring meetings, nasty underhand tactics by the right and the never-ending attacks in the media show that transforming the Labour Party into a real party of labour is a serious job, however, that requires hard and dedicated work at all levels.

But Corbyn, from the start, has denied that there is a need to defeat the right. He continues to insist that there could be some kind of ‘unity’ with them. We note John McDonnell’s most recent attempt to placate the right by inviting the despicable Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, “to come and talk to us and sit down with Jeremy”, when the man deserves to be told where to go, having compared Jeremy Corbyn to Enoch Powell. It is highly unlikely that Corbyn – and especially McDonnell – actually believe in the possibility of such unity; they have been around long enough to know better. Nevertheless, it is the agreed strategy that is supposed to hand Corbyn the keys to No10 Downing Street.

But even if the Labour Party won the next general election and Corbyn became prime minister, there can be no doubt that the right would still continue to sabotage and undermine him – chiefly and most efficiently orchestrated by the rightwing majority in the PLP. They will not give up until Corbyn is gone – or until they have been forced out themselves, of course.

This is where we might yet see some light at the end of the IHRA tunnel. In our view, the saboteurs and the plotters should have been expelled from the party long ago, but Corbyn is clearly not going down that road. There are, however, some encouraging developments when it comes to the method with which the party selects its parliamentary candidates. This is of the utmost importance, considering the role that the PLP majority has been playing in Labour’s civil war.


Mandatory reselection has a reputation as a rather scary, vicious tool of the militant left. In reality it is a very basic, democratic procedure that Labour already employs, for example, to select council candidates. The left in the party has fought for it for decades and it was the main demand of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, which managed to get a variant of it into the Labour Party rulebook for a few years, between 1980-89.

However, since Corbyn’s election in 2015, the CLDP (under Pete Willsman) and Momentum (run by former CLPD stalwart Jon Lansman) have followed his political trajectory and dropped the demand in order not to spook the right. In January this year, Jon Lansman gave a long interview to The Independent, in which he said: “Momentum nationally is not going to campaign to deselect any MP and we will stick by that.” He defended the current rules: “… the existing process was already in place, should local parties wish to ditch their candidate at an election, known as the trigger ballot.”

So, instead of doing away with the undemocratic trigger ballot altogether, Jon Lansman’s Momentum merely drew up a lame proposal to raise the threshold from 50% to 66% – ie, two-thirds of the local branches and affiliates would have to vote ‘yes’ to a sitting MP, otherwise a full selection process would begin. He even had this proposal sanctioned by the membership in one of Momentum’s tortuous and clearly biased online ‘consultations’.

Such a ‘reform’ would still disproportionately favour the sitting MP, of course: rather than allowing for a full and democratic automatic reselection process before every election, a sitting MP would still have to be challenged. Lansman’s tinkering would merely restore the trigger ballot to what it was when introduced by Neil Kinnock in 1990 in order to curb the power of the unions, before Tony Blair reduced it to today’s 50%.

A pathetic proposal by the so-called Labour left. No wonder then that others in the Labour Party have taken up the gauntlet. There are eight rule changes going forward to this year’s conference that propose reforms to the way parliamentary candidates are selected – from the most radical one, proposed by International Labour, which would simply do away with the trigger ballot altogether (our preference) to the lamest, based on Momentum’s tinkering with the trigger ballot, which is proposed by three CLPs. (We intend to look at all the motions in next week’s issue of the Weekly Worker.)

The new campaign for mandatory reselection was first driven by International Labour, which did an excellent job in publicising its motion (under the title ‘Open selection’, which is presumably meant to make it sound less scary). Like all rule changes, this was tabled last year so that it could be voted on in 2018 – an anti-democratic relic of a rule, which another proposal to this year’s conference quite rightly wants to do away with.

Then in March 2018, in the face of the increasingly vicious anti-Semitism smear campaign, Unite leader Len McCluskey confirmed that a motion calling for mandatory reselection, which was adopted at the union’s conference in 2017, would not follow many other good motions into obscurity, but that he and his fellow Unite colleagues would actually campaign for it in the Labour Party. That was followed in August this year by a similar motion agreed by the Fire Brigades Union – newly reaffiliated to Labour under Matt Wrack.

Last but not least is the incredibly successful ‘Democracy Roadshow’ organised by Chris Williamson MP, who, together with Tosh McDonald of the Aslef union, has been touring the whole country with the demand for more democracy in the party, crucially on the question of mandatory reselection. Comrade Williamson is fast becoming the most popular Labour politician on the left – and deservedly so. Incredibly, he has been the only MP who has openly spoken out against the witch-hunt in the party. Having clearly opposed mandatory reselection when he was elected leader in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn has in recent months been more ‘flexible’ on the issue, calling for “more democratic accountability” for the members.

And now, it seems, this pressure has rubbed off on Jon Lansman. In the ‘Comment is free’ section of The Guardian on September 3, we read with great interest an article penned by Momentum’s unelected national coordinator, Laura Parker, who was appointed to the position by Lansman. In a rather strained comparison, she tries to link the success of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in the US with the current method of selecting Labour’s parliamentary candidates:

Instead of being able to run in an open contest on a positive and propositional platform, as Ocasio-Cortez did, Labour has a built-in mechanism that forces local party members to mount a negative campaign against their sitting MP just to instigate a race. We want to see a process that gives a fair chance to all candidates and improves the atmosphere in local parties by doing away with the negative, divisive stage of campaigning and making it an open contest from the start. This means, in all constituencies, local members and the sitting MP would be free to compete for the Labour Party’s backing at the general election – and able to run positive, vibrant campaigns, talking about the issues voters actually care about, in order to become the Labour candidate.

That this is indeed Momentum’s new position has since been confirmed with an email to all members on September 4. In other words, having explicitly rejected mandatory reselection (aka “open contest”, aka “open selection”) just a few months ago, Lansman suddenly declares it to be Momentum policy. Not that we oppose it – quite the opposite. But it clearly shows how undemocratically this organisation is run.

What Momentum has not yet told its members is which of the eight rule changes – if any – it is about to support. It is safe to presume that it definitely will notbe the one containing Lansman’s original proposal, which would have kept in place the “built-in mechanism that forces local party members to mount a negative campaign against their sitting MP just to instigate a race”.

But there is a myriad of possibilities on how the current selection process could be reformed to make it more “open”.

Corbyn review

Of course, this development also begs the question as to why Lansman has suddenly changed his mind. Nobody can accuse him of moving to the left. But we know that Momentum have received a large number of protest emails and phone calls about their decision to dump Pete Willsman from the left slate and, of course, for Lansman’s public lobbying for the full IHRA (against Corbyn’s wishes). We even hear from within Momentum HQ that the decision was made to take the phones off the hook, because they were so inundated with angry calls. Maybe Lansman is trying to protect his and Momentum’s last remnants of ‘street cred’.

Or maybe he just simply fears being outflanked – and, perhaps, outvoted at conference. And if there is one thing Lansman does not like it is losing: just remember how he bullshitted his way through his resignation from the race to become Labour’s general secretary when he realised that he would lose to Jennie Formby. Funnily enough, in a September 4 email to members, Momentum claims that “Corbyn, when asked about our proposals”, expressed support for “greater democratic accountability”.

Of course, it is possible that none of the eight proposals will see the light of day at conference, as they may well be superseded by the outcome of the so-called Corbyn review. Although the issue of selection was not originally part of its remit, the first strategically placed leaks to the bourgeois media from Katy Clark’s draft recommendations already contained suggestions that “when MPs forfeit their seat in boundary changes” the party was considering the use of mandatory reselection Considering how the civil war has spun out of all proportion in recent months, it is entirely feasible that the final recommendations will contain something more wide-ranging on this question. This would also explain Jon Lansman’s sudden change of heart – maybe he got to see an early draft? We can only speculate.

No doubt the right would have gone ballistic if it had a sniff of any such move – it wants to avoid mandatory reselection at all costs. As it is, they are very much on the offensive against Corbyn and he knows he could not act as prime minister without majority support. Any move he made would be liable to sabotage by his own side, bringing his premiership to a very quick end. He would be the right’s prisoner, even more so than he currently is.

If mandatory reselection really isone of the proposals contained in the document produced by Corbyn’s right-hand woman, Katy Clark – especially in the way that we understand it: ie, doing away with the trigger ballot and allowing the local membership to choose their candidate without any restrictions – then we would, of course, welcome this move and congratulate Corbyn on finally having discovered his backbone. However, this would also imply that Corbyn and his allies are about to end their strategy of appeasing the right. We are not quite convinced that this is the case.

And, despite its official name of ‘Party Democracy Review’, the process has been far from democratic. Of course, there will have been hundreds, if not thousands, of contributions from members, branches and CLPs concerned about the state of the party. But it is entirely up to those running the review to decide which contributions are ‘accepted’. I would venture the guess that much of the final document will have been agreed well in advance of the ‘consultation’.

A draft of Clark’s proposals will be presented to the next meeting of the NEC on September 18 – ie, a mere four days before conference starts. Any amendments from the NEC will then have to be incorporated into the document before it is presented to delegates and the public – presumably without any chance to read through them beforehand. And anybody who has been to conference knows that it is impossible to make any amendments to such documents.

That is clearly not the way Marxists envisage a real democratic review of party structures. It stinks of the old, bureaucratic way of riding roughshod over the members. A truly democratic, root-and-branch transformation of the Labour Party would require theactiveparticipation of an empowered and educated membership. Nevertheless, we hope that delegates at this year’s conference will get the chance to put two fingers up to the rightwingers in the PLP and vote for such an overdue democratic change.



1 The Times September 5.

NEC readmits leftwingers

But hopes that this might mark the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt could be premature, warns Carla Roberts

One of the biggest problems the Labour Party has today is its lack of a media outlet. Apart from the occasional email and snazzily produced video, we receive very little unfiltered, unbiased news from Jeremy Corbyn.

Having said that, it is, of course, far from certain that he and his allies would indeed always be prepared to share important decisions and developments with the membership. Take the last meeting of the party’s national executive committee, on January 23 in London – its first meeting since its expansion following the election of three pro-Corbyn members. We all know of the decision of the NEC to request a “pause” in the housing development in Haringey (we will come that later). But apparently the meeting also took the decision to readmit a number of members previously suspended or expelled from the party. An important and potentially very positive development, that we were informed of through an acidy skewed report in The Sunday Times:

A holocaust denier and a leading member of Militant during its takeover of Liverpool council are among a first wave of expelled hard-left activists who have been readmitted to the Labour Party. Activists have been allowed to rejoin despite still belonging to organisations ‘proscribed’ by Labour – including a Trotskyist group, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Others stood against Labour for hard-left parties as recently as 2016.1)The Sunday Times February 4

Clearly, the information was leaked by a rightwinger on the NEC, with the intention of inflicting damage on Jeremy Corbyn. There are no official reports or records of these decisions to be found anywhere. In fact, we still do not know how many members have actually been suspended since Corbyn’s election (and how many remain suspended) or how many have been expelled for ‘supporting’ non-Labour organisations. The Times last week wrote that the party “had to suspend 18 members for anti-Semitism”.2)The Times February 2
 If this figure is true, that immediately begs the question: how on earth can the right can get away with continuing to claim that anti-Semitism is a huge problem in the party?

We also do not know if The Sunday Times is correct when it claims that “the appointment of leftwing members to review leftwing activists’ membership appeals was part of an understanding that would allow centrist members to review their own allies’ disciplinary cases”. It seems rather unlikely that the right of the party – which, of course, initiated the expulsion and suspension of so many leftwing members – would now simply leave everything to the pro-Corbyn NEC left to deal with. Also, how many disciplinary cases are there against “centrist” members? Not many, presumably. But we have to guess here, of course.

Even the latest, extensive report sent out by veteran NEC leftie Pete Willsman (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) does not mention any of this. We cannot even be sure if the January 23 decisions on disciplinary matters are in any way unusual, as we do not know how many cases have been dealt with at previous meetings.

The Sunday Times (and those leaking to it) does, however, present the decisions of the meeting as highly unusual, as the outcome apparently “shows the extent of the resurgent left’s control over the party after recent elections to its governing body, where Momentum candidates won a ‘clean sweep’ of new positions”.

With a bit of detective work, we can gather that the NEC on January 23 decided that the membership requests from three applicants should come “under NEC review”: They are Ken Livingstone’s “race tsar”, Lee Jasper, who stood against the Labour Party for George Galloway’s Respect in 2012; Kingsley Abrams, who stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the 2015 general election; and a man convicted of fraud in 1981, for which he served a seven-year sentence.

The NEC also decided to reinstate one member suspended for anti- Semitism (under certain conditions – see below) and that the membership applications of two previously expelled activists should be accepted. Here are the cases the NEC dealt with :

Alan Fogg was a Labour councillor in Liverpool, when he was expelled from the party in 1985 for supporting the Militant Tendency (today’s Socialist Party). He stood for Tusc in the 2016 local elections. The acceptance of his membership application is good news for a number of leftwingers who have been denied membership on the grounds that they have stood for Tusc or Left Unity. It is also an indication that Lee Jasper and Kingsley Abrams will probably be reinstated, too. Good.

Author Mike Sivier, according to The Times, is a “holocaust denier” and was suspended last year for “comments about Jews and Zionism”:

On his website, Sivier, 48, said it “may be entirely justified” to say Tony Blair had been “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisors”. He also said he was “not pretending it was a big problem” if Jews were omitted from a list of holocaust survivors, and claimed “I’m not going to comment” on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the holocaust, as “I don’t know”.

Mike Sivier has commented at length on the “libellous article” and, while this writer did not have the time to investigate the whole case or all of the man’s writings, it seems pretty clear that his few words above – which have been taken from a single Facebook thread and seem to form the entire case against him – were presented to the Labour Party by the truly vile ‘Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’ out of context, out of sequence and in a seriously misleading way.

Take his most problematic comments about the holocaust – I mean, how can you pretend not to know about it? Sivier explains the context: a Facebook conversation with somebody called “Ben”, who seemed intent on setting him up. Ben sent him a link to an article in the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s publication Workers’ Liberty, which stated:

In 2008, the SWP issued an explanation of the holocaust that referred to “thousands” (not ‘millions’) of victims and omitted any reference to Jews. Whether this was ‘organised’ or ‘just a mistake’ seems irrelevant.

Workers’Liberty featured alongside it a picture of a scruffy Socialist Worker petition against the “Nazi BNP”. And one of the points on the petition does indeed read: “They [the BNP] deny the holocaust, where thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists and disabled people were slaughtered.” Sivier explains:

I responded: “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’, because I don’t know” – meaning, of course, I don’t know why the SWP had said that. I have always used the ‘high’ figure of six million Jews who were killed in the Nazi holocaust. Perhaps your reporter should have read my recent articles on Holocaust Memorial Day before typing that reference into his piece? Or, indeed, any of my articles.

Clearly, this man is no David Irving, problematic formulations like the “‘high’ figure” above not withstanding. Understandably, the NEC felt it needed to let him back in. According to The Times, “the NEC voted by 12 to 10 to issue Sivier a ‘warning’, but not to expel him, suggesting the new arithmetic on the body had a decisive impact.” Indeed. We also know that Jon Lansman in particular is a firm believer in the anti-Semitism “problem” in the Labour Party, so it is more than doubtful that he would indeed vote for the readmission of somebody who is indeed a “holocaust denier”. We simply presume, of course, that it was the NEC left voting in favour of his readmission, rather than the right – but who knows?

As an aside, we also wonder if the voting figure is correct, seeing as there are 39 members of the NEC and the fact that The Sunday Times got another thing wrong: Sivier has actually not (yet) been readmitted, because he is refusing to attend the NEC-instructed “anti-Semitism awareness training”.

Janine Booth, senior member of the AWL, has seemingly learned nothing from her own expulsion or those of her comrades. On Facebook, she replied “Indeed” to a comment that repeated the description of Mike Sivier as a “holocaust denier”. The writer continued: “Extraordinary to put you in the same article as a holocaust-denier. How utterly appalling. I hope he is not readmitted.” Underneath Janine approvingly posted a tweet by Richard Angell, leader of Progress, who wrote: “Why the leadership on the verge of winning an election would want to be associated with holocaust deniers and the like?” She comments: “Richard Angell (Progress) makes an even stronger connection.”

Well he would, wouldn’t he? No doubt it was his Progress friends on the NEC who leaked the decisions to The Sunday Times – in order, of course, to harm Jeremy Corbyn.

One really has to wonder sometimes about the pro-Zionist AWL. In its blind mission to label everybody on the “fake left” anti-Semitic, it fails to grasp some pretty basic political truths. The witch-hunt against the left in the party has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to stamp out anti-Semitism, real or imaginary – it has everything to do with weakening Jeremy Corbyn by tainting his supporters on the left. Which is, of course, why the witch-hunt is also directed against members of the AWL.

Janine Booth also proudly posted a tweet by Jeremy Newark, leader of the Jewish Labour Movement, who wrote: “Putting other politics aside, I know that Janine Booth’s readmission means the Labour Party gains a robust and fearless voice against anti-Semitism – much needed right now.”

Her lack of political astuteness (acquired through years of membership in the AWL) aside, we do, of course, welcome Janine’s readmission into the Labour Party. The party should be the home of all socialists and trade unionists – and there will be plenty of members with perhaps even funnier ideas.

Her reinstatement gives some hope that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt against the Marxist left in the Labour Party.

Her case is, however, quite different to that of the dozens (hundreds?) who have been expelled from the party for their alleged support for groups like Socialist Appeal and Labour Party Marxists. It does, however, highlight how the rules are being used, abused and even ignored, depending on who is applying them and for what reason.

Janine was expelled from Labour in 2003, after having stood as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance in Hackney in the general election of 2001 and the local elections of 2002. She was expelled under rule 2.4.1. A, according to which “anybody who stands for election … in opposition to a Labour candidate shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member”. It carries an automatic ban of five years.

She applied to rejoin in 2015, when the (not yet Corbyn-dominated) NEC ruled that it had no objections to her readmission and that it was solely up to her CLP (Hackney South and Shoreditch) to decide on the matter. The CLP “objected on the grounds that (a) I (allegedly) support Tusc and (b) I’m a member of Workers’ Liberty.”

The first accusation is quite funny, of course, because it shows how little the witch-hunters know about the left. The AWL never did more than back a few individual Tusc candidates. She “freely admitted the second, arguing that there are plenty of factions in the Labour Party and that is part of healthy debate”.3)www.janinebooth.com/content/my-exclusion- labour-party A week later, she received an official letter refusing her application to rejoin. It mentioned, however, that she could reapply in two years’ time.

Which Janine did again last year, when once more the NEC ruled that it was up to her CLP to make the decision. This time, the local party agreed – no doubt a reflection of the dramatic political changes in its membership.

Bans and proscriptions

The Sunday Times complains about her re-admittance: “Activists have been allowed to rejoin despite still belonging to organisations proscribed by Labour – including a Trotskyist group, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.” Further on though, the same article quotes “a senior party source” as saying that the party

no longer recognised the list of proscribed organisations, so people linked to them could not be banned. “There is a debate about whether these existed at points in Labour history,” the source said. “Our view is that they no longer exist.”

Proscribed-Groups-1935 2Labour has not had an official list of proscribed organisations since 1973. In 1930, the party leadership produced its first ‘proscribed list’, squarely aimed at the Communist Party of Great Britain, which included organisations and unions influenced by the CPGB.4)www.labourpains.group.shef.ac.uk/dust In 1939 the NEC added the Socialist League to the list, then in 1942 the Labour Research Department (which had originally been founded in 1912 as the Fabian Research Department, an offshoot of the Fabian Society). In the McCarthyite atmosphere of the 1950s, a few more organisations and publications were added, including Socialist Outlook and the Socialist Labour League (of which Gerry Healy was a leading member).

In 1973, general secretary Ron Hayward abolished the list, because “Difficulties have been experienced in keeping a current record of the many political organisations that are established, many of which are of short life, change their names or merge with other organisations.”5)R Hayward, ‘Discontinuation of the proscribed list’ (circular to secretaries of affiliates and Labour Party organisations, July 1973 In other words, it was not a democratic policy – quite the opposite. The list had been viewed more and more like an entry visa for all those organisations not featured on it.

For the Militant Tendency (today’s Socialist Party in England and Wales), the bureaucrats had to think of a new trick: after various failed attempts to kick it out, in 1982 they proposed the establishment of a register of non- affiliated groups that would be allowed to operate in the Labour Party. Militant was invited to apply – and was rejected. Not a few of its members were expelled over the next few years.

The bans continued. In 1990, a proposal to ban the newspaper Socialist Organiser was confirmed at Labour’s annual conference. In response, the Socialist Organiser Alliance dissolved and in 1992 launched a new grouping: the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty! Some people claim that this means the AWL and the Socialist Party remain the only two organisations that are featured on the (unofficial) list of organisations proscribed by the Labour Party.

Of course, we welcome the news that the list seems no longer to be “recognised”. It has always been a tool of the right to keep the party ‘safe’.

Whose rules?

While Marxists today are not being excluded for membership of explicitly “proscribed” organisations, they are, of course, still being expelled. In the wake of the publication of Tom Watson’s ridiculous ‘Reds under the beds’ dossier of 2016, supporters – and alleged supporters – of LPM, Red Flag and the AWL have received a standard expulsion letter, which reads:

It has been brought to our attention that you have been closely involved with and supported [named organisation], whose programme, principles and policies are not compatible with those of the Labour Party. Chapter 2.I.4.B of the Labour Party’s rules states:

A member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party … shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member” (my emphasis).

The first paragraph does, of course, give the impression that there is – perhaps in some well guarded location – a secret list of dangerous organisations or some sort of overview of banned terms (like ‘revolutionary’) that could explain what makes a group incompatible with the Labour Party.

It seems not. More likely the bureaucrats have been picking and choosing from the rulebook as they see fit. According to the constitution, it does not actually matter if the programme of the organisation you are deemed to be supporting is “incompatible” with that of the Labour Party. Indeed, the organisation in question does not even have to have a programme to lead to the instant expulsion of any “supporter”. The witch-hunters have mangled up 2.4.1.B with rule 1.2.5.A, which deals with organisations wanting to affiliate:

Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the party, having their own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda, or possessing branches in the constituencies, or engaged in the promotion of parliamentary or local government candidates, or having allegiance to any political organisation situated abroad, shall be ineligible for affiliation to the party (my emphasis).

Neither the AWL, Socialist Appeal, Red Flag nor LPM have applied for affiliation – though we are very much looking forward to the day when socialists organisations can do so again – an absolute necessity in the fight to transform Labour into a real party of the whole class.

It goes without saying that both rules should be abolished (along with a few others!) as part of the long process of transformation ahead of us. According to rule 2.4.1.B, Janine Booth would now have to be expelled again, because she openly admits to being an active member of the AWL.

While it obviously makes sense to stop Labour Party members from standing against the party, rule 2.4.1.B has to go. It is wide open to abuse. Notoriously, Moshé Machover was expelled for having articles published in Labour Party Marxists and the Weekly Worker. That, apparently, was enough to prove his “support” for a non-Labour organisation. After a national campaign, in which dozens of Labour Party branches and CLPs issued statements in opposition, he had to be reinstated within three weeks. How different from the case of Mike Palin, who remains expelled under the same rule – simply for sharing Facebook posts that included a handful of articles from Labour Party Marxists and the Weekly Worker.

All this proves that the problem is not the rules in and of themselves. The problem arises from those in charge of applying them. Of course, we will continue to demand the abolition of the various witch-hunting rules (like 2.4.1.B and 1.2.5.A), but an important part of that fight is to get Labour Party members and branches across the country to protest publicly. The active involvement of the largely pro-Corbyn membership is the best way to aid this necessary transformation – as will continuing pressure from campaigns like Labour Against the Witchhunt.


1 The Sunday Times February 4
2 The Times February 2

3 www.janinebooth.com/content/my-exclusion- labour-party
4 www.labourpains.group.shef.ac.uk/dust
5 R Hayward, ‘Discontinuation of the proscribed list’ (circular to secretaries of affiliates and Labour Party organisations, July 1973

Transform the Labour Party: our proposals

Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to find ways to give more power to ordinary members and a conference that makes the final decision on policy. The democracy commission has now been agreed and will report next year. All this is very welcome. James Marshall presents a 13-point platform that will provide the basis for our submission

1. Mandatory reselection is crucial, though it terrifies the right. We read that this, “even more than nuclear disarmament and membership of the European Community, became the main catalyst for the launch of the breakaway Social Democratic Party” in March 1981.[1] In that same treacherous spirit as the founders of the SDP, Progress – Lord David Sainsbury’s party within a party – furiously denounces mandatory reselection as “a weapon of fear and intimidation”.[2] Yes, it is viewed as an affront by every rightwing wrecker, every hireling, every parliamentary careerist.

It is worth looking at the background. Interestingly, and with good foundation, we read on the Progress website that mandatory reselection carries “echoes of the Paris Commune, and of the Russian soviets, where delegates were subject to recall if they displeased their local citizenry. It rests on the idea that leaders will always be tempted to sell you out, once they get power.”[3] Well, surely, that is what history actually shows.

For decades, sitting Labour MPs – certainly those with safe seats – enjoyed a job for life (or as long as no better offer came along). They might deign to visit their constituency once or twice a year, deliver a speech to the AGM and write an occasional letter to the local newspaper. Meanwhile they lived a pampered, middle class life, frequented various London gentlemen’s clubs and spent their weekends in the home counties with Lord this and Lady that. Despite such evident moral corruption, they were automatically the candidate for the next election. Unless found guilty of an act of gross indecency or had the party whip withdrawn, they could do as they pleased.

With the insurgent rise of Bennism, that totally unacceptable situation was called into question. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, founded in 1973, committed itself to a range of rule changes – the mandatory reselection of MPs was finally agreed by the 1980 conference. What this saw, however, was not a Labour Party equivalent of the Paris Commune or the Russian soviets. There was no right to instantly recall. Nevertheless, once in each parliament, our MPs had to secure the endorsement of their local general management committee. Note, GMCs were made up of delegates elected by local party and trade union branches; they were sizable bodies too, typically consisting of 80, 90, 100 or even more delegates.

At the prompting of the bourgeois media, Neil Kinnock, desperately seeking acceptability, sought to extract trade unions from the voting process altogether. He failed, but accepted a compromise. A local electoral college for the selection and reselection of candidates was introduced. Ordinary members were given a direct vote for the first time, leaving GMCs with the right to nominate and shortlist only. This electoral college system gave unions and affiliated organisations up to 40% of the vote, with ordinary members having some 60% (the actual balance was different in each seat, depending on party and union membership).

Trigger ballots were a product of the 1990s. Formally honouring conference’s “desire to maintain reselection”, they made it significantly “easier for MPs to defend their positions”.[4] They allowed for a sitting MP to be subject to a full-scale ballot of the membership. But only if they lost a trigger ballot.

We say, all elected Labour representatives, whether councillors, MPs or MEPs, must, by rule, be subject to one-member, one-vote mandatory reselection. All must be brought under democratic control – from above, by the national executive committee; from below, by branches and Constituency Labour Parties.

2. We urgently need a sovereign conference once again. The cumbersome, undemocratic and oppressive structures, especially those put in place under the Blair supremacy, must be abolished. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, etc, have to go.

3. We are against the idea of electing the general secretary through an all-member ballot. The NEC should elect all national officers. Therefore the post of Labour leader should be replaced by the post of NEC chair. We favour annual elections with the right to recall at any time. As a matter of basic principle Marxists oppose all forms of Bonapartism.

4. In Scotland and Wales, Labour’s executive committees should likewise elect their own officers, including their representatives on the all-UK NEC. We are against a single individual in Scotland and Wales having the right to appoint themselves, or a trusted clone.

5. Scrap the hated compliance unit “and get back to the situation where people are automatically accepted for membership, unless there is a significant issue that comes up” (John McDonnell).[5] There must be an amnesty for all those expelled for having supported leftwing organisations and publications. The compliance unit operates in the murky shadows, routinely leaks to the capitalist media and makes rulings in a completely biased manner. We want to welcome into our ranks the bulk of those who have been barred from membership by the compliance unit. Many of them are good socialists with a proven record.

6. Those expelled from membership ought to have the right to reapply – not after five years, but in just one year. All disciplinary procedures should be completed within three months, at which point suspensions must be automatically rescinded. Endless delay violates natural justice.

7. The huge swing towards Labour in the June 2017 general election happened in no small part due to the enthusiasm of young voters. Yet Young Labour is a creaking, uninviting, thoroughly bureaucratic construction. We need a one-member, one-vote organisation. That must include Young Labour’s national committee. At present, two-thirds of votes are accounted for by appointees from affiliated organisations: eg, the Fabians and Cooperative Party, and affiliated trade unions. Instead of the biannual policy and national committee elections, their must be an annual conference that can both decide on policy and elect a leadership. Young Labour has to have the right to decide on its own constitution and standing orders.

8. We need a rule that commits the NEC to securing the affiliation of all trade unions to the Labour Party. The FBU has already reaffiliated. Excellent. Matt Wrack at last changed his mind and took the lead in reversing the disaffiliation policy. But what about the RMT? Let us win RMT militants to finally drop their support for the thoroughly misconceived Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition project. Instead reaffiliate to the Labour Party. And what about the NUT? This year’s Cardiff conference saw the executive narrowly win an amendment, by 50.63% to 49.37%, which in effect ruled out considering affiliation … at this moment. This can be changed … if we campaign to win hearts and minds.

Then there is the PCS. Thankfully, Mark Serwotka, its leftwing general secretary, has at last come round to the idea of affiliation. Yes, that would run up against the Trades Disputes and Trade Union Act (1927), introduced by a vengeful Tory government in the aftermath of the General Strike. Civil service unions were barred from affiliating to the Labour Party and the TUC. The Civil and Public Services Association – predecessor of the PCS – reaffiliated to the TUC in 1946. Now, however, surely, it is time for the PCS to reaffiliate to the Labour Party. Force another change in the law.

9. There has to be a shift in the party, away from the HQ, regional officers, the leader’s office, the Parliamentary Labour Party, etc. CLPs must be empowered. Towards that end there has to be proper financing. CLPs should be allocated 50% of the individual membership dues. That will help with producing publicity material, hiring rooms, paying for full-time officers, providing transport, setting up websites, etc. That way, our CLPs can be made into vibrant centres of socialist organisation, education and action.

10. Our goal must be a Labour Party that, in the words of Keir Hardie, can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”.[6] We therefore need rule changes to once again allow left, communist and revolutionary groups and parties to affiliate. As long as they do not stand against us in elections, this can only but strengthen Labour as a federal party. Nowadays affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the Left, the Cooperative Party and, problematically, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. Encourage the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Communist Party of Great Britain, Left Unity, Socialist Appeal, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, etc, to join our ranks.

11. Being an MP ought to be an honour, not a career ladder – not a way for university graduates to secure a lucrative living. A particularly potent weapon here would be a rule requiring all our elected representatives and officials to take only the average wage of a skilled worker – a principle that was indeed upheld by the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution. Our MPs are on a basic £67,060 annual salary. On top of that they get around £12,000 in expenses and allowances, putting them on £79,060 (yet at present Labour MPs are only obliged to pay the £82 parliamentarian’s subscription rate). Moreover, as leader of the official opposition, Jeremy Corbyn not only gets his MP’s salary: he is entitled to an additional £73,617.[7]

Let them keep the average skilled worker’s wage – say £40,000 (plus legitimate expenses). Then, however, they should hand the balance over to the party. Even without a rule change Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott ought to take the lead here.

12. Relying on the favours of the capitalist press, radio and TV is a fool’s game. Yes, it worked splendidly for Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. But, as Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband found to their cost, to live by the mainstream media is to die by the mainstream media.

The NEC should, by rule, establish and maintain our own press, radio and TV. To state the obvious, tweeting and texting have severe limits. They are brilliant mediums for transmitting simple, short and sharp messages to the already converted, but, when it comes to complex ideas, debating history and charting out political strategies, they are worse than useless. We should provide time and space for controversy and the whole range of different opinions within the party. Without that our media will be dull, lifeless, pointless. We should also take full advantage of parliamentary immunity to circumvent the oppressive libel laws. Then we can say the unsayable. That would prove to be electric in terms of shaping and mobilising public opinion.

13. We should adopt a new clause four. Not a return to the old 1918 version, but a commitment to working class rule and the aim of a stateless, classless, moneyless society, which embodies the principle, ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. That is what socialism is all about. Not a measly £10-per-hour “living wage”, shifting the tax balance and a state investment bank. No, re-establishing socialism in the mainstream of politics means committing the Labour Party to achieving a “democratic republic”.[8]

[1]. http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps.

[2]. www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament.

[3]. www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament.

[4]. http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps.

[5]. http://labourlist.org/2016/02/mcdonnell-and-woodcock-clash-over-plan-to-scrap-member-checks.

[6]. Independent Labour Party Report of the 18th annual conference London 1910, p59.

[7]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader_of_the_Opposition_(United_Kingdom).

[8]. Labour Party Marxists July 7 2016.