Last week’s meeting of the Labour NEC hit the news after the party’s ruling body scandalously voted to proscribe Socialist Appeal and several other left-wing organisations.
This outrageous decision was not the only important matter discussed at this meeting, however. Amongst the other items on the agenda was a report on the dire state of the party’s finances.
There are a number of causes for Labour’s financial woes. For one, expensive legal cases have stacked up, costing the party hundreds of thousands in out-of-court settlements.
Another factor is the decrease in funding from the trade unions. Last year, for example, Unite voted to cut funding by 10%, in protest against the misuse of party funds for paying off saboteurs, amongst other things.
More recently, GMB leaders have signalled that they intend to do the same. Already this week, the union has withdrawn funding for the Labour Party in London. And the CWU and BFAWU are also hinting that they will review their contributions and affiliations as well.
Perhaps most devastatingly is the effect of the party’s rightward shift on membership figures. Around 150,000 members have left the party since Starmer became leader. Some estimates have suggested that this could equate to a loss of £3 million per year in membership fees.
Labour’s current financial crisis is all the more shocking given the strong party finances that Keir Starmer and general secretary David Evans inherited.
Under Corbyn’s leadership, the party swelled to become the largest in Western Europe, reaching well over half a million at its peak. As a result, in 2018, the Guardian even named Labour the richest political party in Britain.
So what solution do Starmer and Evans have for addressing this crisis? Fire and rehire, of course!
Prior to the NEC meeting, news was leaked that at least 90 staff members at Labour HQ were at risk of redundancy, with the party only able to afford one month of pay. These reports were subsequently confirmed at last Tuesday’s meeting.
Officials at Unite and GMB, who represent Labour’s staff, have since come out to express their disappointment and anger, as they were not even consulted over these redundancies.
Most shockingly, at the same time as sacking these permanent staff, the party is intending to hire up to 50 temporary workers on six-month contracts, in order to carry out a bureaucratic purge of socialists from the party.
In the job advertisement for these roles, the party’s recruiters even state that these short-term staff will have to use their own laptops. At this rate, one wonders whether Southside can even afford to keep the lights on.
From blacklisting; to bypassing the trade unions; to implementing fire-and-rehire tactics: Starmer and the right wing are no different from the most unscrupulous bosses in industry. Not only are they capitalists in word, but increasingly they’re capitalists in deed!
Given these recent developments, it is deeply ironic that this week the Labour leadership also announced its “new deal for working people”, with plans “to make Britain the best place to work”.
Promises such as outlawing ‘fire and rehire’ are clearly to be welcomed. But given that the party is now engaged in such shameful practices themselves, voters will be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of this pledge. Where is this ‘new deal’ for Labour’s own workers?
So Keir will make Britain the best place to work - unless you work for @UKLabour He has made 90 staff redundant. But is also recruiting workers on insecure temporary contracts with worse employment conditions #FutureOfWork https://t.co/3CbUeEKuCY— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) July 28, 2021
It makes no difference to workers whether their boss is British, American, Chinese, or any other nationality, for that matter. Under the laws of capitalist competition, workers will continue to be exploited all the same.
Labour’s latest policy announcement also sets out the aim of “making, buying and selling more in Britain”.
Promises of protectionism, however, are not a path towards improving workers’ lives. Rather, this is a signal to British big business that a Labour government will back them, not nationalise them.
Capitalism is in a deep crisis – its worst for over 300 years. On top of this is the special crisis of British capitalism, with industry facing a long-term decline, as the capitalists pour their money into speculation and gambling, rather than investing in real production.
In this context, dishing out government contracts to British business will not solve anything for the working class. Instead, it will just allow the fat cats and private parasites to continue enriching themselves at our expense.
Instead of this ‘patriotic’ Keynesianism, Labour should be offering bold socialist policies to address the urgent issues facing the working class.
But Starmer and the right wing would sooner destroy the party than put forward a genuine socialist programme. For them, it is not simply a case of rule or ruin, but rule and ruin.
There is a clear and direct link between these pro-business policies and the financial crisis facing the party.
The reason that hundreds of thousands joined Labour under Corbyn was precisely because of the class-based policies that he put forward, which offered real change for millions of workers and young people.
And the reason that these same members are now leaving in droves is because Starmer has not only jettisoned such policies, but has also ruthlessly attacked the very activists who joined because of them.
The purge of Socialist Appeal supporters from the party is only the tip of the iceberg. Across the board, party democracy has come under attack: members have been silenced; CLPs have been shutdown; and the right-wing has manoeuvred in order to gerrymander votes.
Just this last weekend at the London Labour Conference, for example, left-winger Kathyrn Johsnon, the outgoing chair of the Conference Arrangements Committee, dared to criticise Starmer’s clampdown on democracy. In response, regional officials closed down the entire online meeting, bringing the conference to an abrupt end.
Left speechless by Stalinesque move by #LabourParty HQ pulling plug on electrifying, closing words by Kathryn Johnson at #LondonLabour2021 because she reminded conference what the Labour movement is about 🌹✊🏽 speaking for the many not the few #KathrynJohnson4LabourLeader— Apala Chowdhury (@raspberryberet2) July 25, 2021
The crisis facing Labour is an increasingly existential one. But it’s financial problems cannot be separated from its political ones.
The barbarity of the capitalist system has been completely exposed by the pandemic. The class struggle is only going to intensify in the coming months and years. There is a revolutionary mood among the youth.
Yet Labour under Starmer cannot provide a single answer to the problems facing workers, the oppressed, and young people. In fact, the right-wing Labour leadership is actively repelling all three of these key bases of support for the party.
The only solution to both Labour’s financial and political crisis is to put forward a bold socialist programme that can really provide the working class with a new deal – one that commits to doing away with the capitalist system.
But Starmer and the right wing will never be convinced of such a vision. They are agents of big business and the establishment, whose sole mission is to make the Labour Party a safe pair of hands for capitalism.
That is why they must be shown the door and replaced with class fighters who – instead of attacking grassroots members – will attack the Tories with clear socialist policies.
Only then will Labour once again become a rallying point and a mass party for workers and young people seeking to transform society.