Tag Archives: Scotland

NEC elections: Grit your teeth and vote for Jon Lansman!

Ballot forms for the three additional places on Labour’s National Executive Committee began to be distributed yesterday. The left on this leadership body was recently strengthened with the election of the pro-Corbyn Richard Leonard as leader of the party in Scotland (the expectation is that he will probably personally fill the Scottish NEC seat created in the aftermath of the party’s 2016 conference – or, if not, at least appoint a delegate supportive of the left leadership.) The election for these extra three seats, to be decided by an all-member vote, is an important opportunity to consolidate this progressive shift on the leadership and give it a slightly more comfortable majority.

For this reason, Labour Party Marxists recommends an unconditional, but highly critical vote for the slate supported by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance, Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy including a vote for Jon Lansman, the controversial ‘owner’ of the Momentum brand. It is not surprising that for some on the left, support for Lansman is hard. The pattern of nominations from the CLPs clearly shows some left comrades taking a vicarious revenge for the crass internal coup that Lansman and his close allies launched in January 2017. That, coupled with the ugly amalgam nature of the CLGA itself – essentially a lash up with right-leaning candidates – further muddies the water. (There are supporters of Manchester councillor Yasmine Dar and national policy forum representative Rachel Garnham who might well have their own reasons for not putting a tick next to Lansman’s name) there were obviously some squeaky-bum moments in in the pro-Lansman camp that have put the man’s election in some doubt.

Interestingly, the joint CLGA/Momentum/CLPD campaigning website for the NEC elections unusually enquires if supporters had voted for “the full team (Yasmine, Rachel and Jon)” or just “part of the team”. They are clearly aware of the fact that quite a few members cannot bring themselves to vote for Lansman (but the CLGA/Momentum/CLPD still wants to record them as supporters and be able to harvest their data).

We hear of lefties even agitating for a vote for Sarah Taylor instead of Jon Lansman; she is a disability campaigner and Momentum member, but without much of a profile in the party. She picked up just six nominations from Constituency Labour Parties against Lansman’s 148. It’s unlikely she would win; but she could split the vote sufficiently to allow a rightist like Eddy Izzard slip in through the middle.

No doubt, the political hostility to Lansman specifically is well-founded, given the shameful manoeuvres in Momentum. However, that must be put aside for this election. Lansman is a leading figure on the left of the party. He shares many of the flawed politics and bureaucratic practice of the wing of our party. LPM will not let-up in our political criticisms of the man anymore than we will stop criticising Corbyn and McDonnell themselves. However, in this election he and the platform he is part of should be critically supported in order that our leadership is more safely in the hands of people who reflect the views and political aspiration of our mass, left wing membership.

If you can’t beat them…

The Labour Party right remain strong in terms of the grip its tentacles continue to have on the apparatus/’civil service’ of the party. However, there is no question that it has taken some devastating hits over the past period. Take, for example, the aforementioned election of Richard Leonard and its implications for the balance of power on the NEC.

Of course, it was the right wing which managed to sneak through the anti-democratic organisational innovation at last year’s party conference that led to the creation of two new NEC seats. These would be in the gift of the leaders of the party in Wales and Scotland; both then in the hands of right wingers, of course. Times do have a way of a-changing, however. Now, Scotland has gone ‘Corbynite’. There are rumblings from Wales as the membership’s outrage grows against the leadership’s contempt for basic democracy in elections for the leader and the new post of deputy leader. (And let’s not forget that the ‘registered supporters’ category that swung so powerfully behind Corbyn in the election contest/s was another wizard wheeze of the right.)

What’s a poor right winger to do?

Well, some seem to have reached the conclusion that ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!’

Reports reach us of hard-line rightist councillors pitching up at Momentum meetings; of local Momentum secretaries who, after much nagging, have finally been given lists of Momentum members in their area only to find – yes, you’ve guessed it – rightwing councillors and dyed-in-the-wool anti-left zealots listed as members.

At the same time, worrying news comes from Sheffield where the Momentum branch has voted – by 29 to 25 votes – to exclude from Momentum membership comrades that the witch hunters in the party have excluded on political grounds.

Are we seeing a creeping ‘domestication’ on Momentum? A process of incorporation and political dissolution? If any readers have noted an out-of-place face turning up out of the blue at your local Momentum meeting or right wing councillors beginning to tout themselves as Momentum supporters, let us know! And do call them out in meetings, because others should know who has snuck in.

Out come the Blairites

As the results rolled in the ghosts of New Labour began to rise. Charles Gradnitzer of Labour Party Marxists reports

Since the general election there has been a constant barrage of rightwing Labour figures talking about the party’s failure to address middle class ‘aspiration’ and include ‘wealth-creators’ in its programme as part of a last-ditch effort to elect another Blairite leader and shift the party back to the right.

It is telling that these people have nothing to say about the electoral catastrophe in Scotland, the effect this has had on the English electorate, and the successes of the Left Platform MPs who publicly stood against austerity and won, some being returned to parliament with increased majorities. The rightwing Progress group is dead – one of its fringe meetings at the last Labour conference attracted only 15 people. Yet its spirit lives on.


On May 11 David Miliband gave an interview to the BBC in which he blamed the failure of Labour to secure a majority on its unwillingness to appeal to “aspirational” middle class voters.1 This was a clear attempt to smear the left by rolling out the ‘sensible’ brother ‘Red Ed’ stabbed in the back in order to lead the Labour Party to electoral ruin. There was no other reason to interview David Miliband. Once he lost the leadership election, he resigned as an MP, abandoning his constituents, to earn six figures in America – perversely as the CEO of a charity dedicated to helping the victims of the very war he voted for in 2003.

On May 10, Peter Mandelson put it more bluntly, claiming that Labour had spent too much time saying the poor “hate the rich, ignoring completely the vast swathes of the population who exist in between.”2 On the same day Chuka Umunna spelled out exactly what was meant by an “aspirational voter” when he said: “there was not enough of an aspirational offer there … I don’t think you can argue you are pro-business if you are always beating up on the terms and conditions of the people who make business work.3 But the most sick-making comment came from Ben Bradshaw, when he said Labour must “celebrate our entrepreneurs and wealth-creators and not leave the impression they are part of the problem.”4

Ben Bradshaw’s statement is both perverse and ironic. The “entrepreneurs” and the “wealth-creators” – or rather capital and the capitalists – are exactly the problem. It is widely accepted, even by the bourgeoisie itself, that the global economic crisis and recession was set in motion by the US subprime mortgage crisis. Moreover, the capitalist class is the problem because it violently perpetuates and maintains the very economic system that exploits the majority, all the while demanding that the working class pay for the crises that are intrinsic to capitalism itself.

It is ironic because Labour really has distanced itself from the actual “wealth-creators” – the working class – by repeatedly attacking the trade unions, weakening the union link and announcing that it would continue to punish workers with austerity, in a desperate attempt to court the capitalist class. On May 11 Mandelson spoke of the trade unions’ “abuse and inappropriate” influence over the Labour Party.5 It was the unions themselves that voted to loosen the historic link with the Labour Party in 2014. However, in a sense Mandelson is right when he claims the unions abuse their influence in the Labour Party, but this is not in the interests of the left or the working class. Instead union officials act as the enforcers of the right’s hegemony.

It is clear what the Blairites mean when they talk about appealing to “middle class aspiration” and “wealth-creators” – they are talking about capital. They want to finish their project of transforming Labour into a bourgeois party, ridding it of “trade union influence” and hoping working class voters will have nowhere else to turn.

Scotland and Ukip

The Blairites’ silence over the electoral wipeout in Scotland is telling. Scottish Labour’s credibility as a party that could represent the working class was seriously undermined by its engagement in the cross-class Better Together campaign in the run-up to the September 2014 referendum.

Labour was unable or unwilling to attack the Tories. In the August referendum debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond, Darling was unable to respond to allegations that Labour were “in bed with the Tories” because they were. It also allowed Salmond to attack Labour from the left, promising to save the NHS and stop the welfare cuts if Scotland voted ‘yes’. It was during this time that Labour began to be known in Scotland as the ‘red Tories’. For the most part this moniker was probably well deserved, although in the case of Katy Clark and other the signatories of the Left Platform it was clearly untrue.

Another enormous mistake was the election of Jim Murphy as leader of Scottish Labour. This man is an unreconstructed Blairite. During his time as president of the National Union of Students he had one vice-president unconstitutionally suspended for simply attending Campaign for Free Education meetings, which opposed Labour’s introduction of tuition fees. His behaviour as NUS president was so bad there was even an early day motion submitted by Labour Party MPs condemning his “dictatorial” behaviour. The EDM was amended by Alex Salmond.6

Salmond and the rest of Scotland know exactly who and what Jim Murphy is and quite rightly found his claims that he would “end austerity in Scotland” absolutely risible. If he would not even oppose Labour policy when he was supposed to be representing the interests of students, how could he ever represent the interests of the Scottish working class?

With the SNP landslide an absolute certainty, the Conservatives mobilised a section of the electorate against Labour with well-alliterated scaremongering about an SNP-Labour “coalition of chaos” that would “break up and bankrupt Britain”.7 This mobilisation is reflected in Labour’s failure to capitalise on the Liberal Democrat collapse by taking marginal seats from the Tories. In many of them the Lib Dem collapse saw a swing to the UK Independence Party, whose national-chauvinist rhetoric Labour proved incapable of countering. Labour’s anti-Ukip campaigning was couched in purely bourgeois terms about the economic benefits of EU membership and the net contribution of immigrants to the British economy.

Even when the party attempted to produce a policy that sounded as though it vaguely championed working class interests, such as the ban on “exploitative agencies”, it still engaged in fear-mongering about foreigners stealing jobs and suppressing wages. But for the most part it tried to out-Ukip Ukip, selling “Controls on immigration” mugs for a fiver on the Labour website. Mugs with which the totally delusional Ed Balls promised to toast a Labour victory.

Left Platform

The success of the anti-austerity Left Platform Labour MPs in the election should give everybody pause for thought. Barring the Scottish signatories of the statement, who were doomed to failure thanks to the Better Together campaign, 92% of the platform’s sitting MPs were re-elected.

John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Mearns, Michael Meacher, Ian Lavery, Grahame Morris, and Kelvin Hopkins all secured majorities comfortably above 50% – Corbyn, McDonnell and Morris won more than 60%. John Cryer, an initial signatory of the platform, enjoyed a 15% swing, which secured him a 58% majority. For his part, Chris Williamson failed to win his seat by just 41 votes, but he did manage a 3.5% swing to Labour.

The Left Platform reconvened on May 12 to discuss what to do next. John McDonnell told the meeting that the next queen’s speech would be the most reactionary the country had ever seen. He also pointed out that there would be no left candidate in the leadership election, given that a candidate now needs to be nominated by 35 MPs. An “unrealistic proposition” – especially now that the number of MPs that the Weekly Worker considered worthy of critical support has been reduced to just 15. With there being no possibility for a left candidate, comrade McDonnell, both in the meeting and in an article for The Guardian, argued that Labour needed to “return to being a social movement aiming to transform our society” and “link up with the many other progressive social movements that people are increasingly forming”.8

At the same meeting Ted Knight argued: “We’ve been marching. We’ve had the politics of protest and we’ve got a Tory government! We need to get people together – not to exchange horror stories, but to discuss how to take control of the economy, how to change society.” The problem, however, lies in transforming such rhetoric into concrete proposals and a concrete strategy.


1. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32697212.

2. www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/10/miliband-made-terrible-mistake-in-ditching-new-labour-says-mandelson.

3. www.ft.com/cms/s/2/6ffcde0c-f6fd-11e4-99aa-00144feab7de.html.

4. www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/alan-johnson-labour-aspirational-voters-tony-blair.

5. www.itv.com/news/update/2015-05-10/mandelson-labour-must-end-unhealthy-unions-dependence.

6. www.parliament.uk/edm/1995-96/991.

7. www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/17/david-cameron-labour-snp-coalition-of-chaos.

8. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/12/forget-leadership-contest-new-labour-roots-social-movement-supporters-save-party.

Nation, class unity and political strategy

Despite the ‘no’ vote in the Scottish referendum the national question has not gone away. Roger Freeman argues for self-determination and a federal republic

Unlike the narrow economism that passes for common sense on too much of the left, the LPM does its best to take a Marxist approach to the UK state. As a minimum demand – ie, within the technical limits imposed by the capitalist system – we emphasise, bring to the fore, class (as opposed to sectional) demands that challenge the logic of the market, such as the provision of health, education and benefits based on need. We give no less emphasis to political demands which challenge how we are ruled. Hence we demand the abolition of the monarchy, the secret state and the House of Lords; we demand a people’s militia, disestablishment of the church of England, election of judges, etc.

What about the national question? Once again we take an approach which seeks to forge class unity and challenge how we are ruled. Hence the demand for the abolition of the acts of union, self-determination for Scotland and Wales, and a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales (the initial form we envisage working class rule taking in Britain).

Doubtless, John Major, Tony Blair, Peter Hain, Gerry Adams and Alex Salmond have unwittingly done us a great service here. They have shown that the UK constitution is neither timeless nor natural. It is plastic, a product of historical making and contemporary remaking. What has been rearranged from above can be transformed from below.

While there must be an objective dimension when it comes to assessing what is and what is not a nation – eg, a common territory – that hardly means discounting what people think. The coming into being of a British nation in the 18th century cannot be put before the palpable feelings of masses of people in Scotland and Wales today. Millions sincerely believe they are nationally disadvantaged, held back or even oppressed. A subjective factor that only a hopeless dogmatist would discount and therefore fail to harness by offering positive solutions.

Those who rigidly adhere to third-worldist anti-imperialism cannot possibly bring themselves to countenance self-determination for ‘unworthy’ peoples – the most obvious example being Israeli Jews and the British-Irish in the six counties of Northern Ireland. Given its junior role in founding, administering and exploiting what was a vast British empire, that should logically include Scotland too. After all, historically even “left-of centre”1 Scottish nationalists sought not to end that empire, but demanded, as a “mother nation”, equal rights with England to rob and plunder it.2

Interestingly, though the motivations are transparently different, a similar argument can be heard coming from cosmopolitan liberals. According to the ethical philosopher, Allen Buchanan, self-determination for non-oppressed nations risks endless fragmentation. Unless there has been “a long train of abuses”,3 there ought to be no justification in international law for the “right of self-determination”.4 Only if “serious injustices” have occurred can a case be made for secession as a “remedial right”. Without that safeguard, without that restraint, every region, every community, every street could claim their right to self-determination and thus bring about the complete breakdown of society. Territorial integrity must therefore be upheld.

Marxists are not interested in preserving the unity of capitalist states, but in winning allies and neutralising enemies. After all, the Bolsheviks were prepared to grant self-determination even to the Cossacks. Not, of course, because the Cossacks were deserving, kind and suitably oppressed. No, on the contrary, they were the tsar’s chosen oppressors. A privileged military estate or caste. But that is exactly the point. The Bolsheviks needed to split, if possible win over, the Cossacks. Hence they started to treat them as “an ethnic or national group”.5 Without such a shift the camp of revolution could only but be weakened and the counterrevolution strengthened. In March 1920 Lenin can be found delivering a thoughtful speech on the international situation to the first all-Russia conference of working Cossacks.6

So the demand for self-determination is not some unwarranted sop to petty bourgeois reactionaries, or an unrealisable panacea, a cure-all for capitalism’s national antagonisms. Rather self-determination is one of many weapons in the armoury of Marxists. If properly applied, it advances the interests of the working class.

One can legitimately debate whether or not the Basque country, Kosovo, Quebec, Kurdistan or Scotland tick all the boxes of a classic bourgeois nation. The main point in each and every such case is what people inhabiting each specific territory think. We neither invent nor ignore national movements. We positively deal with problems where they exist, overcome national resentments, conflict and antagonisms by ending involuntarily unity and move towards voluntary unity through the struggle for socialism. That is how the positive dialectic runs, and through winning a wider and wider democracy the majority needed to secure the proletarian revolution is engaged, organised and made ready for decisive action.

Having left no room for doubt that the right to self-determination is fundamentally a political, not a moral question, let us proceed. To state the obvious, when Marxists advocate Scottish self-determination it is not the same as advocating independence.

An oft used metaphor is divorce. Saying a woman should have the legal right to split from her husband is not the same as recommending that contented wives should end their marriages. Of course, as shown by the September 18 referendum, Scotland is far from contented. If Scotland is really ‘better together’ with England why did 45% vote to finish the 300-year union? What was a marriage of convenience has clearly soured.
Scotland, as a matter of principle, ought to have the right to freely decide its own future. That is elementary democracy. However, it does not follow that Marxists are indifferent to how that right is exercised. The unacceptable status quo must be ended. Nowadays it fuels division and disempowers the working class. That is why the various left-loyalist ‘no’ campaigns were so badly mistaken. The marriage has to be renegotiated and renewed on a democratic, socialist basis.

Marxism favours the closest possible voluntary unity of people in general and workers in particular. That means accepting the right of people in Scotland to vote for whatever constitutional arrangement they happen to choose. But at every stage Marxists should resolutely fight for their programme.

Under our specific circumstances the federal republic slogan fits the bill perfectly. It encapsulates the democratic right to self-determination and the radically transformed unity of the working class in Britain against the Cameron-Miliband-Clegg devo-max constitutional monarchy. In addition, the demand for a federal republic encapsulates the unity of the working class in Britain against the divisive nationalism of Salmond, Sauter and Sheridan.


1 . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Party_of_Scotland.
2 . The policy committee of the National Party of Scotland – one of the forerunners of the SNP – passed the following resolution on November 17 1928: “The party, having regard to the large contribution made by Scotland in building up the British empire, is desirous of increasing the affairs of the empire to the extent her contribution warrants and, as a mother nation, thereby demands complete recognition of her rights as such in the empire … the party cannot, in these circumstances agree to acquiesce in any situation that does not permit of a mother nation excursing her right to independent status and her right in partnership in that empire on terms equal to that enjoyed by England.” In other words, Scottish nationalists wanted a partnership based on the model of Austria-Hungry after 1867 (resolution quoted in C Kidd Unions and unionism: political thought in Scotland 1500-2000 Cambridge 2008, p287).
3 . American declaration of independence 1776.
4 . AE Buchanan Justice, legitimacy, and self-determination Oxford 2003, p331.
5 . P Holquist Making war, forging revolution Harvard Mass 2002, p121.
6 . See VI Lenin CW Vol 30, Moscow 1977, pp380-400.


For a federal republic
Motion proposed by Labour Party Marxists

As declining post-boom British imperialism attacked post-war concessions, in the absence of a viable socialist movement resistance in Scotland and Wales often took a nationalist form, deploying a mythologised past.

We socialists stand for:
● working class internationalism, not cross-class national unity; unity with the world’s working class, not with our ruling class;
● opposition to all forms nationalism, exclusiveness or superiority; in particular, British/English national chauvinism and Scottish or Welsh nationalist narrow-mindedness: these obscure the fundamental antagonism between labour and capital;
● replacing the hierarchy of capitalist states by world socialism – working class rule – in transition to classless, stateless, communist society: socialism cannot survive in one country or continent;
● the voluntary merging of nations; the right of all peoples to fully develop their own culture; a democratic solution to the national question, wherever it arises, through upholding the right to self-determination, including the right to merge, stay together or separate.
As the immediate democratic solution to the national question in the UK, we socialists stand for:
● unconditional support for the right of the people of Ireland to reunite: the struggles for socialism in Britain and national liberation in Ireland are closely linked;
● replacing the existing UK constitutional monarchy, along with its House of Lords, established church and secret state, with a radical federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales, with the right of Scotland and Wales to secede.



The following letter from Bob Davies appeared in the July issue of the Labour Representation Committee’s Labour Briefing (http://labourbriefing1.wordpress.com/):

I was interested to read Vince Mills’ article, ‘Socialists and Scottish Nationalism’ (Labour Briefing, June 2013).

The comrade is absolutely correct to point out the inherent dangers in the arguments of those who pursue independence as a means to counter government austerity. Striving to cement and develop an already fragile unity of the peoples and working-classes of Scotland, England and Wales to resist such attacks is hardly going to be strengthened by political trajectories which enhance the separation of people facing an attack from the same source – the British state – even if we acknowledge that that separation may well be given a radical left political twist and bent.

But let’s not kid ourselves either that a reliance on the ‘Union’ as it’s currently constituted is sufficient enough to provide long term solutions to genuine grievances which the Welsh, Scottish and English experience on a regular basis – grievances which are political, as well as economic in nature. Indeed, why on earth should socialists, in an attempt to counter the divisive political trajectory of nationalism, remain somewhat muted when exposing the weaknesses and failures of a unionism that has curtailed democratic aspirations and goals of Britain’s nationalities over the years?

The (just) furore over issues relating to self-determination since the mid-1990s highlights the need for socialists to take not only the question of self determination seriously but the question of unity too. With this in mind, it is surely incumbent upon socialists operating in whatever country they find themselves in within GB to fight for that country’s, and its neighbours’, right to full self-determination – a parliament with full powers with the right to secede – as well as advancing demands that challenge unionism yet strive to achieve the highest organisational unity of our class? Agitating for a federal republic would fulfil such a political perspective.

In solidarity,

Bob Davies, supporter, Labour Party Marxists, South Wales