Many Labour Party members will no doubt be relieved – even jubilant – that Jeremy Corbyn has been reinstated back into the party, following a three-week suspension. But we should not get too carried away.
It is true that Corbyn’s readmission will come as a blow to the party’s right wing. They were hoping that he would not simply be suspended, but eventually expelled. The decision will also be a blow to Starmer’s political authority, after he personally endorsed Corbyn’s removal from the party.
‘Sir’ Starmer will not be pleased. After all, the capitalist press had applauded him for punishing his predecessor, comparing this incendiary move to Kinnock’s war against Militant and Blair’s attack on Clause 4, the party’s commitment to socialism. The establishment urged the Labour leader to stand his ground.
We welcome Corbyn’s readmission. But we must not rest on our laurels. We cannot let out a sigh of relief, as if everything is now back to normal. For starters, Keir Starmer has scandalously refused to restore the whip and allow Jeremy back into the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Grassroots activists must mobilise and fight for the whip to be immediately restored, and pass motions of no confidence in Keir Starmer and David Evans, the Labour general secretary.
The struggle continues
Corbyn’s readmission to the party is a partial victory, won because – under pressure from ‘left’ MPs and trade union leaders – he backpedaled on his original comments, publicly prostrating himself. “I hope this matter is resolved as quickly as possible,” Jeremy stated, recanting for his supposed sins. In other words, he had to eat his words.
And while Corbyn’s individual suspension may be lifted, this does not mean a truce in the ruthlessly one-sided civil war being waged by the Labour right wing against the left. The issue is not about one man, but the entire left-wing membership, the party, and its direction.
We should have no illusions. This ‘victory’ was the result of the left giving ground to the right wing. And despite these concessions, the right will be stepping up their attacks on the left in the next period. They will be busy plotting their revenge.
According to insider reports, the suspension was removed thanks to the efforts of Jon Trickett MP and Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary. These mediators were involved in behind-the-scenes talks to ‘de-escalate the row’ and lay the basis for Corbyn’s return.
But in reality, Jeremy’s readmission was not the product of clever backroom ‘negotiations’ or ‘softly softly’ methods. Rather, the NEC panel examining the case was forced to allow Corbyn back into the party due to a groundswell of protest from tens of thousands of Labour members and trade unionists across the country.
This grassroots response took place despite repeated threats from the party’s general secretary, including the suspension of members in places such as Bristol West CLP.
Eating humble pie
The price paid for this ‘settlement’ was a new statement put out by Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday morning. In this, the former Labour leader backtracked on his original criticisms about how the EHRC report and allegations of anti-semitism were being cynically hyperbolised for factional purposes.
“To be clear,” Corbyn said, “concerns about anti-semitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’,” in contradiction to his original statement. “I regret the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community and would wish to do nothing that would exacerbate or prolong it.”
Jeremy had clearly been pressured by the ‘lefts’ around him to retreat and eat humble pie for the sake of party ‘unity’. This was only the latest in a series of weak-kneed responses from the ‘left’ in the wake of Corbyn’s suspension.
Many of Corbyn’s own allies were even critical of him for taking a stand. They joined his right-wing opponents in calling for ‘unity’. They whispered that it was all Corbyn’s fault; that he had brought this punishment upon himself. “Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut in the first place?” was their attitude.
Even the mild ‘protest letter’ from the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, was only signed by a small number.
Retreats and apologies
The track record of the left leaders has been pathetic in resisting the right wing. The right wing have waged war on Corbyn and the left. But the response, especially by Momentum, has been pathetic. Ever since 2015, they have failed to confront the right, refusing to bring in open selection for MPs.
When the right has the upper hand, they are ruthless. By comparison, when the ‘left’ has the advantage, they buckle. If only they had been prepared to act in the same ruthless fashion when they were in control – then the situation would be dramatically different today.
This weakness arises from their wooly politics. Their reformist illusions lead them to believe they can work within capitalism and reform it. This leads them to compromise with the Labour right wing, who are the agents of big business.
On the other side, the capitalists fear the lefts – not for their abilities, but because of the pressures that they can come under, which can force them to go far further than they intend.
The right has consistently slapped the left in the face. But every time they have turned the other cheek.
For example, former Labour MP Chris Williamson was also suspended, accused of anti-semitism for saying the same as Corbyn: that the question of anti-semitism was blown up for political reasons. Williamson was later readmitted, but then immediately suspended due to a right-wing backlash. Throughout, the left refused to lift a finger.
The issue of anti-semitism continues to be weaponised by the right wing, in order to conduct a witch-hunt against the left. But all the left does is retreat and apologise for causing offence. But no amount of repentance will ever be enough for the right wing, who are baying for blood.
Appeasement will not satisfy the right wing around Starmer. They are determined to drive out the left-wing membership through purges and demoralisation. As a result of their provocations and attacks, tens of thousands have torn up their party cards in disgust.
The aim of the right wing is to make the Labour Party a ‘safe pair of hands’ for capitalism. This ultimately means purging the party of its left-wing membership.
Any weakness from the ‘left’ – and there has been plenty of this over the last three weeks – has simply emboldened the right, who are fully backed by the capitalist press and establishment. Weakness invites aggression, encouraging further attacks from these right-wing bullies.
No to false unity
Corbyn’s readmission is clearly not the end of the matter. 15 other Labour MPs are facing investigation for anti-semitism. Left-wing Labour councillor Jo Bird is also being investigated for questioning the findings of the EHRC report.
On Monday, meanwhile, party officials began investigating newly-elected left-wing NEC member Gemma Bolton, following a complaint of alleged anti-semitism made against her – due to a comment she had made in 2018, where she stated that Israel is an apartheid state.
This is where the left’s acceptance of right-wing anti-semitism allegations leads to.
Confirmed understanding that Labour is looking into a complaint against new NEC member Gemma Bolton, who tweeted in 2018 "If I run the risk of getting suspended for calling Israel an apartheid state then so be it".— Sienna Rodgers (@siennamarla) November 16, 2020
Elsewhere, rank-and-file members in Bristol West CLP and other local parties have been suspended for daring to allow motions to be discussed that condemned Corbyn’s suspension. But nothing has been said about whether they too will be readmitted.
It is misleading to talk about ‘victory’ until – at the very least – the party whip has been restored for Jeremy Corbyn, and all those who have been suspended are brought back. Corbyn should have spelt out these steps as conditions for his readmission.
Len McCluskey, however, has poured water on this idea. The Unite general secretary said that Labour had to “move forward” in implementing the EHRC’s recommendations. We must “redouble our efforts to inspire voters” about Sir Starmer’s policies, McCluskey stated, in order to act as a “unified and strong” party.
But this so-called ‘unity’ is nothing but capitulation to the right wing. We must be absolutely clear: the right wing will never give up their struggle. They are on a mission to restore the Labour Party into the hands of big business.
In this, they have the full backing of the capitalist establishment. Given the mess within the Tory Party, the ruling class wants a reliable reserve team to guarantee their interests. Starmer’s attempts to turn the party to the right are an effort to prove himself worthy as a ‘reliable statesman’ – a political leader who can be called upon by the establishment to defend capitalism. When the time comes, he will gladly join a national government with the Tories.
Hasta la victoria siempre!
The decision to readmit Corbyn will be called a retreat by the Labour right wing. It has enraged the Blairite bloodhounds.
Starmer has already said that Jeremy’s apology is not enough. The Labour leader’s own statement was not exactly an olive branch.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism,” Starmer asserted. “In those circumstances, I have taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn.”
This position was echoed by the Jewish Labour Movement, who said that Corbyn’s latest remarks were “insincere and wholly inadequate”. Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added: “What message does this send? Zero tolerance either means zero tolerance or it’s meaningless.”
The Jewish Board of Deputies are up in arms. They claimed that Corbyn’s apology did not go far enough. But no amount of contrition will ever be enough for them. No amount of backtracking will appease them.
The co-chairman of the Conservative Party, MP Amanda Milling, has joined this deafening chorus. Writing to Starmer, Milling said: “You have claimed that Labour is ‘under new leadership’, but now is the moment to prove it – Mr Corbyn should be expelled permanently.”
Clearly, these enemies of the labour movement are not interested in words, but deeds – even if this means destroying the Labour Party. Attempting to appease the right-wing careerists and saboteurs will go nowhere, as they are doing the bidding of the capitalist class.
The Labour left needs to get up off its knees and begin a genuine fightback. No more concessions! No more compromises!
Instead of seeking ‘unity’ with the Blairites and bureaucrats, we must fight for a real socialist Labour Party, empowering grassroots members through the mandatory reselection of MPs and councillors.
We cannot afford to retreat and backtrack anymore. At this time of deep capitalist crisis, the working class needs a party that will fight for a genuine socialist programme – to eradicate the capitalist system and create an economy based on needs, not profits.
This branch/CLP welcomes the readmission of Jeremy Corbyn as a Labour member. However, we are outraged by the decision of Keir Starmer not to restore the Labour whip, and thus to exclude Jeremy from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
This spiteful decision demonstrates that Jeremy's suspension had nothing to do with fighting anti-semitism, and everything to do with carrying out a political attack against the left. The subsequent suspension of other Labour members for condemning Jeremy's punishment only adds further weight to this assertion.
This branch/CLP therefore demands the immediate reinstatement of Jeremy Corbyn as a Labour MP, along with the immediate reinstatement of any members who have been unjustly and bureaucratically suspended for showing solidarity with Jeremy.
We also affirm that we have no confidence in Keir Starmer and David Evans, who have demonstrated that they are unfit to lead and manage our party at this time when the working class desperately needs a Labour Party that will offer a united fight against the Tories, and for bold socialist policies.