It has been over 50 days since the leaked Labour report was released. This incendiary document revealed disgusting cases of bullying and racism from within the upper echelons of the party’s bureaucracy. And it demonstrated scandalous attempts by the Labour right wing to sabotage the 2017 election and Corbyn’s leadership. Yet there has still been no action against those implicated.
There has, however, been a renewed round of suspensions of grassroots members. We may be seeing the beginnings of a new purge of left-wing Labour members.
Starmer signals his intent
The most shocking case so far has been that of the ‘Wavertree 4’ in Liverpool. A Socialist Appeal supporter here in Sheffield Hallam CLP has also been suspended. And we can expect more to come, under the new right-wing regime.
The comrade in Sheffield was suspended just three days after the appointment of the new general secretary, David Evans. This is very unlikely to be a coincidence.
Starmer has clearly signalled his intentions by plumping for Evans, an arch Blairite. His aim is to steer the party away from the days of Corbyn’s left-wing leadership.
But in doing so, Starmer and the Labour right wing will inevitably come into conflict with the thousands of rank-and-file members who joined to support Corbyn and push for socialist policies. Blair himself said that the only thing standing between Starmer and a new New Labour was the “unrealistic” and “sectarian far-left” membership.
Evans is a technocrat and a former assistant general secretary of the party under Blair. He has gone on record as saying there should be no democracy within the party, and that the role of trade unions diminished. His appointment therefore demonstrates the direction of travel that the Labour right wing wishes to take the party.
Starmer intends to take the party out of the hands of the left-wing membership, and put it back into the ‘safe hands’ of a bureaucratic clique, acting on behalf of the establishment. They will not allow another Corbyn ‘mistake’. But this will not happen without a fightback.
Smears and slanders
Purges of grassroots members are nothing new. Iain McNicol, the former Labour general secretary, oversaw the expulsion and suspension of hundreds of socialist members. Rank-and-file party activists were smeared as entryists and anti-Semites.
These purges were extensive. Nor were the party bureaucracy afraid of going after high-profile left-wing figures such as Jackie Walker or Chris Williamson.
The aim of this witch-hunt was clear: to deter radicalised workers and youth, in an attempt to regain control of the party for the Blairites.
Unfortunately, the smear of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ within Labour was allowed to run on and on, in the absence of firm opposition from the left leadership. From Jon Lansman to John McDonnell - many left leaders sadly went along with these trumped-up allegations. And wherever they gave an inch, the right wing took a mile.
Mobilise to defend members
Members must therefore mobilise now to fight against any renewed purge. This means organising a grassroots campaign within every CLP to defend those who are victimised. And the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and councillors must give this campaign a voice at a national level.
The best defence is a good offence. We must therefore be bold in demanding:
- The reinstatement of the ‘Wavertree 4’. No more attacks on socialist Labour members!
- An amnesty for all those expelled or suspended unjustly during Iain McNicol's time as general secretary.
- The democratic right for the membership to elect the Labour general secretary.
- The introduction of mandatory open selection processes for all sitting Labour MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates.
- That all MPs and party officials take only the wage of a skilled worker, with the surplus donated back to the labour movement.
The establishment is afraid of the power of the rank-and-file, who are becoming ever more radicalised in this era of deep economic crisis, with the pandemic exposing all the faultlines in the Tory Party and capitalist state.
The ruling class in Britain are therefore determined to reverse the ‘Corbyn Revolution’ in the Labour Party and restore it to being a safe pair of hands for big business.
Socialist Appeal stands firm against any purge of left-wing members. It is the Blairite renegades and gangsters in the PLP and in Labour HQ - not grassroots activists - who must be swept out of the party.
Members must organise and continue to fight for a socialist, democratic Labour Party, free of bureaucrats and big business interests!
A Liverpool Wavertree CLP member
Four officers of Liverpool Wavertree CLP have been suspended, three days after a personal statement by them appeared in our members bulletin. When this was news made public, many local members expressed their concern and anger at this unjust victimisation.
The statement concerned an article by our MP, Paula Barker, in the Jewish Telegraph. In the article, she referred to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, before going on to say that many were shocked by the resignation of Luciana Berger, the former Wavertree MP, from the Labour Party.
The statement published in the members bulletin, written in a personal capacity, criticised Barker for presenting this version of events. The implication in Barker’s article was that local members should be apologetic towards Berger. The Labour right wing (most notably Tom Watson) had claimed at that time that Labour members in Wavertree CLP had bullied their former MP out of the party.
We have a regular bulletin that is sent to Labour Party members. This has been going only since the end of March, as a way of keeping members in touch, and to provide an exchange of information and views during the lockdown.
All members can submit statements and articles to this bulletin. And in its eight issues so far, there have been over 60 submissions by a total of 21 members. The vast majority were relating to the pandemic.
The day after the latest bulletin was sent out, an article appeared in the Jewish Chronicle attacking the four officers. A response was then issued by a group claiming to represent the executive committee, which also attacked the officers and accused them of abusing membership data.
The last charge in this anonymous statement is nonsense. The four officers were expressing their personal opinion, as had the other 17 members who have written in the bulletin. What is clear is that the right wing - and unfortunately some on the ‘left’ - object to the platform that members have been given. Instead, they want to stifle discussion.
A data breach has now become apparent, as the names of the four have appeared in the Liverpool Echo. The partner of one of the four reported that this has led to an abusive phone call and a knocks on the door from critics.
There was no deception on the part of the four officers. The statement in the members bulletin did not say "On behalf of the EC", as two previous statements had - one on the leaked Labour report, and the other critical of Starmer's performance on the pandemic.
On Friday of last week, three days after the bulletin statement, the Echo reported that the members in question were suspended, accused of anti-Semitism. Compare this to the zero suspensions in relation to the evidence of racism and tolerance of racism that appeared in the leaked Labour report, over 50 days after this came to light.
The Echo wrongly stated that the MP had been 'publicly criticised'. The fact is that only those who have attacked the four have gone public. What is under attack is the right of Labour Party members to criticise their MP, even within the party.
Selective reporting has implied that the four officers objected to reaching out to the Jewish community, even though their statement actually supports such a move.
What is most of concern is the implication that the criticism and concerns raised by local members towards Luciana Berger last year were based on anti-Semitism. This is false.
As John McDonnell pointed out at the time, our problem with Berger was because - in a radio interview for LBC - she refused to say whether she would support a Corbyn-led Labour government. The CLP overwhelmingly supported Corbyn and had a problem with an MP who was undermining him.
Similarly to Jeremy Corbyn, members in Wavertree were subjected to accusations of anti-Semitism at the time. We were all called 'racist thugs' by Tom Watson, who hid behind parliamentary privilege.
Just as Corbyn has done recently, the Wavertree 4 have attempted to put the record straight. And again, as with Corbyn, all four have a record of fighting for equality and against racism.
We thought our new MP understood this. Last year she used the supportive hashtag #IStandwithWavertree. The four suspended members were enthusiastic participants in the campaign to get her elected. One of the four was the first comrade I heard promoting Paula Barker as our future MP last year.
The issue at stake is the right to criticise an MP. This should be inalienable - internally, as in this case, or in public. This is a basic democratic right.
The hypocrisy of the bureaucracy and leadership - with the unequal treatment of the Wavertree 4 compared to those implicated in the leaked report - has not gone unnoticed by grassroots members.
Labour members across the country should defend the Wavertree 4 and demand their reinstatement. We urge activists to sign the petition in support of these suspended members, and to fight for the right to hold our elected representatives to account.