This year’s Labour conference – held in Brighton from 25-29 September – is likely to see a vicious battle between the right and left of the party.
Due to the pandemic, this will be the party’s first conference for over two years. With the event taking place in-person, coming on the back of months of attacks by the leadership against grassroots members, it will be an open and bloody conflict.
On one side, there are the insurgent Blairites and bureaucrats. On the other is the left-wing membership, who are fighting a rearguard battle.
The Labour right wing is in ascendancy, holding the leadership, the general secretary position, and a firm majority on the NEC. As such, they feel as if they have the wind in their sails.
In fact, recent months have seen the Labour right wing acting drunk with power – with emphasis on the drunk.
Just the other week, for example, the party had to rescind a threatened investigation into Young Labour chair Jess Barnard. The email from Labour HQ in relation to this matter was sent to her at 1am. Her apparent crime? Opposing transphobia!
This is not a joke, but deadly serious.— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) September 10, 2021
The Labour Party have officially placed @YoungLabour chair @JessicaLBarnard under investigation - for opposing transphobia.
Here is her letter sent to NEC members - passed to me - and here are the tweets she’s being investigated for. pic.twitter.com/qnzcC0fLWm
Balance of forces
Despite these antics, however, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the right wing are not 100% confident of their actual strength on the conference floor.
It is true that a number of CLPs have been taken over by Blairites, often through gerrymandered AGMs or with the help of regional officers. In many instances, the right wing have rigged conference delegate elections to ensure that their people are sent. And the exodus of demoralised left-wing members has also contributed to their success.
At the same time, however, it is worth highlighting that the left has won all internal national party elections since Starmer became leader: from the NEC, to Young Labour, to the recent contest for the Conference Arrangements Committee.
In some local parties, meanwhile, the left has retained hold of CLP executive committees; and whole delegations to conference are reported to be solidly left-wing.
It is therefore unclear what the actual balance of forces will likely be at conference – especially when the weights of the various trade union blocs are added to the mix. It could well be that votes are won or lost on the narrowest of margins.
What can be guaranteed, however, is that Keir Starmer and David Evans will be trying to force through rule changes to entrench their position.
Already, the leadership is looking to bring in mandatory training for any member that stands for selection to be an MP or councillor. They will also impose a probationary period on membership. And, most importantly, rumours are circulating that they will try to pass a rule change that would make it more difficult for there to be any leadership challenge.
On the other hand, the left are also gearing up to resist these proposals, and to try and pass rule changes of their own.
In particular, the vote to endorse (or reject) David Evans as general secretary will be a notable flashpoint, with heavyweight union Unite set to mandate their delegates to vote against Evans, and left-wing CLP delegates encouraged to do the same.
In conjunction, Momentum is also hoping to put forward a rule change calling for the general secretary to be an elected position.
Given this uncertainty, the right wing are increasingly resorting to using dictatorial methods to ensure victory. As such, Starmer’s second-rate Stasi agents have gone into overdrive, targeting left-wing conference delegates across the country and threatening them with expulsion.
Like a Blairite Big Brother, they have trawled through ordinary members’ social media profiles to find ‘evidence’ to justify their ‘auto-exclusion’.
The ‘evidence’ for many of these expulsion threats is extremely spurious. One delegate was expelled simply for liking comments on Facebook by fellow members who were considering leaving the party. Yet they themselves had not said anything of this nature.
1/3 Comrades and fellow socialists, advice and help needed, please RT: I appear to have been expelled from the Labour Party. My crime? I liked a few comments on a Facebook post I made where I said I was considering leaving the party. I didn’t leave in the end. pic.twitter.com/4u7TM1S4Tk— Kneale Faragher (@knealefaragher) September 13, 2021
Other delegates have been targeted for being members of certain Facebook groups; liking tweets or Facebook posts; attending public meetings; or, in one instance, simply taking a photograph!
Those targeted have been given just seven days to respond and provide evidence against the accusations. For those charged with the ‘crime’ of being a supporter of recently proscribed organisations, comrades must prove that they are not members – in other words, they are assumed guilty until proven innocent.
The common thread has been the targeting of conference delegates, with many comrades receiving their emails from party HQ on the same day as each other.
But the right-wing bureaucracy’s approach has been somewhat scattergun, with ordinary non-delegate members caught in the crossfire.
One such member is Mike Hogan of Liverpool Wavertree CLP. Mike joined the Labour Party in 1977, and is a well-known and dedicated activist in Merseyside. Yet due to his proud support for Socialist Appeal, he too has received a letter threatening him with ‘auto-exclusion’.
Just as with other recent expulsions, which have targeted left-wing members and activists, such as Ken Loach and Pamela Fitzpatrick, the party bureaucracy is stepping in to get rid of socialists they deems dangerous.
This is all part-and-parcel of the Labour right’s ruthless attacks on the democratic rights of members. Delegates are elected by fellow members of their CLPs. By choosing to expel these comrades, therefore, the right wing are denying local parties the right to choose who represents them at conference – the party’s sovereign body.
Fight the purge!
This conference will very much be a battle for the life and soul of the Labour Party. Socialist Appeal supporters will be present on the conference floor, fighting alongside other grassroots activists to ensure a left victory.
But no matter who comes out on top in this battle, the class struggle shows no signs of slowing down. Society today is like a pressure cooker. Titanic events – including a tsunami of austerity and attacks – are looming on the horizon. And sooner or later, the discontent accumulating amongst workers and youth will explode to the surface.
Blocked on the political front, workers will increasingly turn to the industrial struggle. Indeed, this process is already taking place, as seen by the recent victories of the left wing in the Unison NEC elections and of Sharon Graham in Unite.
Starmer and the Blairites are on the wrong side of history. By contrast, in the coming period, the ideas of Marxism will gain a broader and bigger echo.
We therefore invite all serious class fighters and militant activists to join us today in the fight for socialism: come to our fringe meeting in Brighton on Saturday 25 September; donate to our crowdfunder to fight the right at conference; subscribe to our paper; and help build the Marxist tendency – Socialist Appeal, the Marxist voice of labour and youth.
Saturday 25 September, 7pm
Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Brighton
In July of this year, Socialist Appeal was proscribed by the Labour Party NEC. This move is part and parcel of Starmer and the Labour right’s war against the left wing of the party which has been waged ever since he became leader.
This decision to expel our supporters from the Labour Party is not a new idea. It is part of a long history by the right wing to eradicate Marxism and its influence from the party.
Behind their attacks on us and the left of the party lie the establishment and the ruling class – the masters who they faithfully serve. Their aim is to make the Labour Party safe for capitalism; nothing more, nothing less.
But Marxism has a long history in Britain, longer than even the Labour Party. And whatever the right wing does, there is no way that Marxism can be separated from the Labour movement.
At this special fringe meeting, Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, will be speaking on the fighting traditions we defend, and why we need to build a Marxist tendency in the labour movement – a Marxist voice for labour and youth.
Socialist Appeal Labour Conference Fringe Meeting: Why Are They Really Banning Us?— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) September 2, 2021
Come and meet the Marxists Starmer hates at this year’s Labour Party Conference!
Event page: https://t.co/j4elLQFIHO pic.twitter.com/bKnaEsoyQH
It is clear that Starmer and the Labour right wing will not stop until socialists are entirely expunged from the Labour party.
From Jeremy Corbyn to Ian Hodson; from Ken Loach to Pamela Fitzpatrick – they are determined to clear the party of its left wing, from top to bottom, in order to secure their rule on behalf of big business and the establishment.
This is also why Starmer and the right wing have proscribed the most determined class fighters within the party: the Marxists of Socialist Appeal.
Already they have expelled a member of our editorial board and dedicated activist, Ben Gliniecki. No doubt more ‘auto-exclusions’ are on their way.
But we will not bury our heads in the sand. Now is not the time to lie low and hide our ideas. Starmer and the Blairites are completely out of step with the revolutionary mood developing in society.
The fact that they are launching this purge while workers are suffering and dying as a result of the Tory government’s criminal incompetence and corruption speaks volumes. Starmer and the right wing have no answer to the crisis of capitalism, in Britain and internationally. In fact, they are part of the problem.
From attacks on wages and conditions; to housing evictions; to NHS privatisation and pay justice: the working class needs a socialist Labour Party to fight back against the onslaught coming our way, as the bosses and Tories look to make us pay for their crisis.
Bold socialist policies – not meek reforms or attempts to patch up capitalism – are urgently needed. And they will be demanded by more and more workers and youth as the crisis truly begins to bite.
Starmer and the right wing can try to expel socialists and Marxists from the party, but they cannot stop an idea whose time has come. History is on our side, not theirs.
Nevertheless, we still need resources to fight this struggle. As Cicero said, finances are the sinews of war.
We therefore call on grassroots activists to help support us – with your pennies and pounds – to fight back against the right, and to struggle for socialism.
In order to fight the purge, we will need to bring legal challenges, which will likely incur costly fees.
We are also planning a big intervention at this year's Labour conference in Brighton, where we will lead the charge against the Labour right wing and their shenanigans.
This means producing a daily newsletter; running public stalls across the city; and hosting a fringe meeting to spread the ideas of Marxism, and to let the bureaucrats and Blairites know: we’re not going away!
Big business are happy to pour funds into right-wing organisations and factions such as Labour To Win, Progress, and Renaissance. By contrast, we rely only on the support of our supporters in the labour movement – and we are proud to do so.