Last Friday evening, I received the news that Iain McNicol, Labour’s general secretary, had resigned from his post to “pursue new challenges”.
It is no surprise that McNicol has gone. He is a reflection of the past; a relic of the pre-Corbyn era.
McNicol - the unelected head of the Labour apparatus - was central to the attempts of the right wing to undermine Corbyn and halt the huge shift to the left in the party.
It was McNicol who played the key role in attempting to rig the Labour leadership elections. It was he who barred thousands of new members from voting, even appealing against a court decision in order to do so. And it was McNicol and his bureaucracy that sabotaged Labour’s chances in the last general election by purposefully starving pro-Corbyn candidates in marginal seats of resources.
Since the general election, however, Corbyn is pretty much bombproof. The huge numbers of new members are beginning to make their presence in the Party felt on the ground. A ‘democratic review’ is underway to address the democratic deficit within Labour’s structures. And the left now has a clear majority on the NEC. The right wing are clearly on the back foot.
Under these conditions, McNicol’s position had become increasingly untenable.
Reverse the purge
For me and hundreds of other socialists, Iain McNicol’s departure has an additional importance. McNicol was the architect of the Labour purge.
During the 2015 and 2016 leadership elections, thousands of people were prevented from joining the Party thanks to McNicol and his shadowy machine. Hundreds of others were expelled for factional reasons.
I was expelled for the ‘crime’ of selling the Socialist Appeal newspaper.
Let’s be clear though: I’ve been selling Socialist Appeal since the first issue in 1992. I’ve sold the paper openly for all of that time, both in the Party and in my union. I’ve represented Tynemouth CLP as a delegate to the Labour national conference. I was a member of the UNISON Regional Labour Link Committee in the Northern Region. And I represented the region several times at the National Labour Link Forum.
On top of this, I had 36 years of continuous membership in the Party. I’ve never joined another party; never stood against the Party in elections; never supported any anti-Labour candidates.
The truth is that the attacks on me, on other supporters of Socialist Appeal, and on hundreds of other socialists are because of our defence of socialist ideas and support for Corbyn.
The right-wing bureaucracy and the notorious ‘Compliance Unit’ have fallen over themselves to attack the left. Meanwhile, the likes of Progress and Labour First are free to organise and undermine the leadership, whilst promoting their big business agenda.
The party is now being transformed from the bottom up as new members become involved. The branch AGM in my ward used to attract about a dozen people. Now it attracts dozens. Bureaucratic manoeuvres won’t stop Labour moving to the left. It’s shifting because of the social and economic crisis in British society.
Democratise the Party! Fight for socialism!
The new general secretary will come into a Party which is radically different from the one McNicol inherited. There are growing pressures to democratise the Party, to end the purge of socialists, and to reinstate those who have been expelled.
We haven’t gone away. It is impossible to separate the ideas of socialism and Marxism from the Labour movement.
The reason is quite clear. These ideas represent the most clear and relevant answer to the problems that young people and workers face today in capitalist Britain. After 38 years of fighting for socialist ideas, I’m more convinced than ever.
- Democratise the Party!
- End the purge!
- Reinstatement now!