"I never felt totally comfortable in the Labour Party."
(Chuka Umunna, former Labour MP who split with others to form the so-called Independent Group.)
A ferocious civil war is going on inside the Labour Party - one that will determine its future. The party's right wing, largely confined to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), have unleashed a torrent of lies, abuse and misinformation. They are backed up to the hilt by the hyenas in the capitalist media, creating a climate of McCarthyite fear and intolerance over allegations of anti-semitism.
It was Joseph Goebbels who said that if you repeat a lie often enough and loud enough it becomes accepted as the truth. This is what the establishment are attempting to achieve in relation to this witch hunt against the Labour left. The ranks of the Labour Party, we are constantly told, are a hotbed of anti-semitism.
Failing to dislodge Jeremy Corbyn since his election in 2015, the Labour right wing have stumbled on the toxic question of anti-semitism to relentlessly attack Corbyn and his supporters. The fact that Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against racism is brushed aside.
Break with Blairism
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was a fundamental turning point in the history of the party. His victory came as a colossal blow to the ruling establishment and all those who maintained the Labour Party as a ‘safe pair of hands’ for capitalism.
The three Blairite candidates who stood in the Labour leadership contest in 2015 were trounced, as was Owen Smith in the election that followed the infamous ‘chicken coup’ attempt. For the first time, the right wing and the ruling class had lost control over the Labour Party.
This had seemed unthinkable. It wasn't that long ago that Tony Blair and his disciples ruled the roost. This constituted the high point for the capitalist domination of the Labour Party, which was well on the way to being transformed into another Tory Party, or a British version of the Democrats in the USA.
These Blairites who today scream about ‘intimidation’ and ‘bullying’ were absolutely ruthless in imposing their rule over the party through such methods. They suspended and closed down local Labour parties, shut down the Young Socialists, expelled socialists, and turned the annual party conference into nothing more than a jamboree. All dissent was marginalised or rooted out.
Blair purged the left from the PLP, imposed his friends as candidates in safe Labour seats, changed the name of the party to ‘New Labour’, abolished Clause Four, and systematically weakened the links with the trade unions. The democracy of the party was completely undermined. Power was concentrated into the hands of a cabal at the top. Such was the legacy of these great defenders of ‘democracy’. We must never let them forget their shameful past.
When the 82 year old stalwart Walter Wolfgang, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis, dared to heckle Jack Straw over the Iraq War at Labour conference in 2005, he was physically manhandled and bungled out of the conference hall for his insolence. His conference pass was confiscated and he was detained under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act (2000). Dissent was not tolerated in Blair's Labour Party. As the Guardian reported at the time:
"The Labour Representation Committee claimed there had been intimidation of delegates, allegations of corruption of the democratic process and 'blatant gerrymandering' of the conference agenda. "It alleged that emergency resolutions to the conference had been excluded for 'spurious' reasons, that delegates received text messages from party officials telling them which way to vote and that speeches had been 'planted' by party officials. "Labour MP John McDonnell, chairman of the committee, said: 'Enough is enough - we cannot put up with this treatment any longer. 'We need a thorough independent investigation into the whole New Labour culture of intimidation, suppression of dissent and the gerrymandering of conference.'" (The Guardian, 29th September 2005).
This gives you a tiny glimpse of the authoritarian regime under Blair’s New Labour. If these ladies and gentlemen ever took back control of the party, they would show no mercy in clearing out the left, no holds barred.
Where was Tom Watson, now deputy leader of the Labour Party, in this Blairite ‘counter-revolution’?
Mr Watson supported this repression and played a personal role in it. He had helped implement the party's ‘suppression of dissent’. He had been the Chair of the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS) from 1992-3. After this, Watson worked for the Labour Party as its national Youth Officer. Here he was instrumental in closing down the Labour Party Young Socialists and turning the party’s youth group into a careerist rump. In 2006 he became a junior defence minister under Blair.
This great ‘champion’ against anti-semitism and racism had no qualms about taking £540,000 from his good friend and billionaire Max Mosley, the son of fascist Oswald Mosley. In 1962 Oswald and Max Mosley were members of the fascist Union Movement, which paraded through East London’s Jewish areas, chanting “Jews out!”
As the Movement’s election agent, Max Mosley published a pamphlet during a by-election which claimed "coloured immigrants" spread "terrible diseases like leprosy" and should be sent "home". He refused to apologise for his racist past.
Watson was pressured to return the tainted money by John McDonnell, but he refused. This says everything you need to know about him and his principles.
Jump or push
When the original group of seven splitters abandoned the Labour Party to form the Independent Group (TIG), joining hands with three Tories, Corbyn correctly attacked them for supporting austerity. He rightly demanded that they should resign their seats and fight by-elections.
Watson and the rest of the Labour right wing, of course, were full of sorrow that their political friends were leaving. Most revealingly, Watson said the split was “premature”. They should stay and fight, the deputy leader and others argued.
The deputy leader claimed that Luciana Berger's resignation marked "the worst day of shame in the party's 120-year history". But why? Luciana Berger, a right-wing career politician, was an open political enemy of Corbyn. She actively worked to undermine the election of a Corbyn Labour government, to the disgust of her local party.
This was the real reason for the attempts by activists in Berger’s Liverpool Wavertree constituency to bring a motion of no confidence against her. It had nothing to do with bullying or racism, as alleged by Berger and repeated ad-nauseum by Watson and the press. By resigning, she simply jumped before she was pushed.
The motivations of the other splitters were no different. Many of them - such as Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, and Joan Ryan - had received votes of no confidence from their local parties.
Watson seems to have forgotten the real “day of shame”: when Blair decided to launch the Iraq War, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, and tearing the country apart. This war was responsible for the monstrous rise of the Islamic State and its acts of barbarism. For Watson, this butchery apparently pales into insignificance compared to Berger's desertion. Not surprisingly, Watson voted for the Iraq War.
When there was a vote to hold the warmonger Blair to account for misleading Parliament over the Iraq War, the party's right wing, including Watson, shamefully rallied (along with the Tories) to block the vote. This speaks volumes about the moral standing of these people.
When Tony Blair himself was asked his opinion of the split, he said he “had a great deal of sympathy with what they are doing”, stating that: “yes, they were courageous in having done it.” Blair couldn't give them more support and encouragement than that.
Blair said, however, that he was staying in the party to fight against Corbyn and his supporters. The ‘hard left’ had taken over. He lamented the change and recalled the days when “we were expelling Militant”. The former leader added that Tom Watson had “shown great leadership”.
The split of the eight traitors from the Labour Party, joining up with disaffected Tories, has been used to exert pressure on Corbyn. Unfortunately, this had an effect. “We achieved more outside the Labour Party, than inside,” sneered Umunna, the Independent Group’s designated spokesperson.
Tom Watson has led the charge, stating that dozens more are threatening to defect. A figure of 70 further potential resignations was given. The purpose of this was to rally the right wing and blackmail Corbyn. The split has empowered Watson, who has used the threat of more desertions to demand concessions from Corbyn.
Watson immediately demanded that the shadow cabinet be ‘broadened’ to include the Blairites. He then announced was setting up a ‘social democratic’ faction to lead the right-wing fight back, supported by the sizeable donations and massive resources at his fingertips.
This is odd. The Blairites already have Progress, which is very well-funded. They also control the Tribune Group of Labour MPs. Clearly, Tom Watson wants his own power base, well organised and backed by big business. In recent days, the deputy leader has dropped any pretence of supporting Corbyn. He has become the figurehead of the anti-Corbyn forces in the party - the de facto leader of a ‘party within a party’.
Tom Watson’s rival leadership was demonstrated recently when he was asked on the BBC if Jeremy Corbyn was fit to become prime minister. Watson struggled to answer. “He could easily be…but we could do without the anti-semitism.”
Watson and the right wing have consistently used the issue of anti-semitism to whip up an atmosphere of McCarthyism in the party. Undermining the official disciplinary procedures, however, Watson has appointed himself as Witchfinder General. The deputy leader had the effrontery to insist that he would take personal charge of monitoring all cases and allegations from now on.
This caused Jennie Formby, the general secretary of the Labour Party, to send out a sharply worded letter to Watson, copied to the PLP, calling on him to stop interfering in the party’s processes. His irresponsible actions, Formby stated, would “confuse and pollute the existing formal process, compromising it and slowing it down”.
But Watson is on his high horse and has refused to back down. If there was ever a case for suspending an MP, it is now. Watson should be brought to heel for his reckless behaviour.
There is clearly one law for the right wing and one for the rank-and-file. These Blairite saboteurs are holding the party to ransom. It is about time we stood up to these Tory entrists and exposed them for what they really are.
Mountains and molehills
The Blairites, for their own ends, are making a mountain out of a molehill. They have deliberately ‘weaponised’ the issue of anti-semitism, using it to justify their campaign against Corbyn and the left.
The allegation of widespread anti-semitism within the party is the most potent weapon the Blairites have. This racism, they claim, is tolerated and encouraged by Jeremy Corbyn. According to them, Corbyn represents an existential threat to Jewish people.
This line was carried in several Jewish newspapers, reflecting their political stance. The whole thing has been clearly orchestrated. But this view is completely rejected by grassroots Jewish members in the Labour Party, including organisations such as Jewish Voice for Labour.
In the more than five decades I have been involved within the Labour Party, I have never heard a single anti-semitic comment. Where it exists - online, and in a small handful of cases on the fringes of the party - it can be dealt with appropriately.
Statistics provided by Jennie Formby demonstrate this, indicating that less than 0.1% of party members had been involved in accusations of anti-semitism. This flies in the face of the Blairites’ claim that the party is infested with racists.
It goes without saying that we oppose anti-semitism and all forms of racism. Anti-semitism means the hatred of or discrimination towards Jewish people. This has nothing to do with the legitimate opposition to the policies and actions of the Israeli government, or of Zionism. After all, Karl Marx was Jewish, as were Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky. Many of the Bolshevik leaders were Jewish. But none of them ever accepted Zionism.
Friends of Israel
It is no accident that the Labour Friends of Israel is dominated by Blairites. Jeremy Corbyn’s support for the Palestinian cause is an anathema to them, as well as to the Israeli government. It was Benjamin Netanyahu who first attacked Corbyn for supporting Hamas and terrorism.
Many of the MPs who quit Labour to form the Independent Group are still members of the Labour a Friends of Israel. The multi-millionaire pro-Israeli lobbyist, David Gerrard, is now funding the Independent Group. Ian Austin, another MP who quit Labour, but did not joined TIG due to differences over Brexit, has received around £20,000 from Gerrard since May 2016. He is also a member of Labour a Friends of Israel.
The chair of Labour Friends of Israel is Joan Ryan, the eighth Labour MP who joined the Independent Group. She received nearly £7,000 in 2016-2017 from Gerrard. In the same period, Chuka Umunna and his office received nearly £40,000. The latest register shows Gerrard has donated almost £20,000 more since. Umunna is also a member of Friends of Israel.
Before she first entered Parliament in 2010, Luciana Berger worked for years as the director of Labour Friends of Israel. This might explain the fact that David Gerrard has given £1.5m to TIG. There have been many other donations to this new political formation. And he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Incapable of winning the political argument, the Blairites have reverted to slander, threats and pure invention. Over-the-top exaggeration is the stock-in-trade of these hypocrites. Dame Margaret Hodge, for example, when she was called to order for shouting "f***ing anti-semite" in Corbyn's face, compared her ordeal to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany!
One of the Blairites, Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, recently drew the conclusion on BBC Radio 4 that, “it is very much part of their politics - of the hard left’s politics - to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financiers of capital.”
McDonagh was then asked: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti semitic?” She replied: “Yes. Not everybody, but absolutely…these people are not Labour, have never been Labour, but we now find them in our party.”
In fact, without realising, in trying to prove her false point, she repeats the anti-semitism trope that banking and finance are controlled by Jewish people.
“This [anti-semitism in the Labour Party] is a recent phenomenon, and it coincides with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader,” states the Blairite hatchetman John McTernan.
“The tide of enthusiasm that swept Mr Corbyn to the party leadership brought with it people and beliefs that had been carefully excluded from the party by its former leader Neil Kinnock,” asserted McTernan. “Now these individuals are back.”
“So, being pro-Palestinian bleeds into anti-Zionism. Opposition to a, or indeed any, state of Israel cannot be separated from anti-semitism.”
McTernan goes on:
“All of these [tropes] feature in the criticism of Israel and the so-called Israel lobby. They can be easily moulded into a critique of capitalism, too. Rhetoric about the 1 percent and economic inequality has the same underlying theme - a small group of very rich people who cleverly manipulate others to defend their interests. So anti-capitalism masks and normalises anti-semitism.”
This is the exact same argument as that made by Siobhain McDonagh. They are reading from the same script. Using this argument, if the Labour Party is to be free of anti-semitism, then it cannot be anti-capitalist. It must wholeheartedly embrace capitalism and the market economy and give up the struggle to change society. This is the warped logic of the Blairites.
Weakness invites aggression
The Labour right-wingers will latch onto anything to beat the leadership. Their treachery shows no bounds.
When left-wing MP Chris Williamson tried to put the anti-semitism question into context during a speech at a Sheffield Momentum meeting, for example, his comments were used by the right wing to create a hue and cry.
The Blairites demanded Williamson’s head on a plate: immediate suspension from the party. 38 members of the Tribune Group of MPs immediately wrote to Formby demanding his suspension. Unfortunately, the leadership gave in to this blackmail and he was duly suspended.
In fact, this very action served to confirm the point that Williamson was trying to make: that the party was making too many concessions to the Labour right wing over this issue, accepting the allegation that the party is “institutionally anti-semitic” and allowing the left to be witch-hunted.
Weakness invites aggression. The leadership's response in the case of Chris Williamson and the associated right-wing barrage was to retreat and give in. But this only emboldened the right wing further. These people will never be satisfied until Corbyn has been removed, the party purged of its mass membership, and the reins placed safely back in the hands of the Blairites.
It is pitiful to see Jon Lansman, the self-appointed leader of Momentum, and Guardian journalist Owen Jones accepting the idea that the Labour Party has a problem of endemic anti-semitism. They shamefully supported Chris Williamson’s suspension. “Chris Williamson has just been suspended,” Owen Jones tweeted. “That's the right decision, and should be part of a healing process with Britain’s Jewish community.”
These leading figures are naive if they think that such concessions will satisfy Watson and the Blairites. In fact, as expected, the Blairites have seized upon their remarks to push their rabid campaign even further.
Momentum has now produced a video on anti-semitism, ‘educating’ members on the Rothschilds and other conspiracy theories. Labour members can apparently be taken in by these conspiracies and inadvertently express anti-semitic views. This is so much patronising nonsense. Few would have ever even heard of the Rothschilds, let alone think about campaigning against Jewish bankers. In fact, Momentum’s actions are making matters worse, simply giving credence to the right’s campaign.
Fortunately, the rank-and-file of the party have not taken these scandalous right-wing attacks lying down. Local parties have passed resolution after resolution calling for Chris Williamson to be reinstated and for the real “enemy within” to be cleared out through trigger ballots.
As Marx once said, the whip of the counter-revolution can push forward the revolution. The left continues to make gains across the party. At the recent London Labour Party conference, for example, the left slate swept the board (with the exception of one position), a massive turnaround on previous years.
War to the finish
What is taking place in the Labour Party is a war for the very nature of the party. There can be no compromise with the Blairites. They are out to destroy Corbyn. It is a war to the finish. The Blairites represent the class interests of capitalism, while Corbyn and the ranks rest on the interests of the working class.
The Blairites are nothing more than Tory infiltrators - a Fifth Column within the Labour Party. Having lost control of the party, they have adopted a policy of "rule or ruin". Acting on behalf of the ruling class, they are determined to prevent a Corbyn Labour government.
When their two attempts to defeat Corbyn failed, they were forced to lay low for a time. They hoped that Corbyn would lead the party to a humiliating defeat in the 2017 general election. But in the end they were shocked at the advances made by the Labour Party. Once again, they were forced to bide their time until they could move against Corbyn.
The Blairites have championed the demand for second referendum on Brexit. This chimes with the interests of big business, their pay masters. The dominant section of the capitalists see Brexit as a disaster. But the ruling class has lost control over the Tory Party, which it had always relied on to do its bidding. Now the Tory Party has gone mad.
Furthermore, the ruling class has also lost control over the Labour Party. Their only support within the party is the Blairite rump. These Blairites hoped they could overturn the referendum result by a ‘People's Vote’. They even managed to get this demand adopted by the Labour conference, but in a watered down form. Above all, they saw the question of a second referendum as another stick to beat Corbyn with.
Sir Keir Starmer, a smooth operator on the Labour right wing, has succeeded in pushing the leadership to call for a second referendum. A handful of shadow cabinet ministers, together with Watson, also twisted Corbyn’s arm. But there is no majority in Parliament for such a vote at this point, as a large layer of Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas will oppose it.
Saboteurs and splitters
The reason for the recent right-wing split was that these MPs could see the writing on the wall. They were completely out of step with Labour Party members and were in line for deselection.
While there may be a few more resignations, the bulk of the Blairites in the PLP will stay - for the moment. They are exactly the same as the Umunnas and Bergers, but are remaining behind to create as much damage as possible and prevent a Corbyn Labour government.
The Blairites are likely to remain in the party until their masters - big business - instruct them to split. If there is a general election and Corbyn gets to Number 10, the Blairite saboteurs will escalate their activities.
They will harass and pressure Corbyn to do the bidding of big business. They will revolt against the Labour leader in Parliament. And when they think they have done sufficient damage to undermine the government, they will split away and join the pro-European Tories and the TIG grouping.
They will try to lay the basis for some kind of National Government, just like Ramsay MacDonald in 1931. MacDonald stabbed the Labour Party in the back and crossed the aisle in order to carry out the austerity that capitalism demanded.
This is the same right-wing tendency that split from Labour in 1981-82 to form the SDP and divided the Labour vote. It was Tony Blair who then subsequently invited them back to help with his New Labour project. They are going to do the same again, but create even more damage.
This is a serious warning to the Labour movement. We cannot have unity with such people, who only want to bring us down. The unity we need must be around a socialist programme. Let the rest join the Tory Party where they belong.
We must mobilise the rank-and-file of the Labour Party to defend Corbyn against these careerists and infiltrators. The question of mandatory reselection must be taken up in every Labour Party, to allow the party membership to decide who their representatives are. This is a basic democratic right and a matter of urgency.
Some believe that such a struggle should be postponed, or even swept under the carpet for fear of what the Tory press may say. “Mr Watson could be swept away if a figure loyal to the Labour leader mounted a challenge for deputy leader,” comments the Financial Times. “But one Corbyn ally is sceptical: ‘What would that achieve? We’d have yet more months of headlines about Labour being at war, no one wants that.” (FT, 1/3/19)
This is a big mistake. We say ignore the sceptics and fair weather friends. If we had listened to them, Corbyn would not be leader of the Labour Party. We have an urgent job to do. It must not be delayed, just because of concerns about what our enemies might say. To hell with them. We will not be browbeaten.
For a socialist Labour government
This struggle must go hand-in-hand with that of transforming the Labour Party into a fighting socialist party - a party whose aim is not to patch up capitalism, but to do away with it. The battle to cleanse the Labour Party is the fight for bold socialist policies. We must restore Clause Four, the original socialist commitment from 1918, later scrapped by Tony Blair. We must campaign for a socialist Labour government.
We need to build a genuine left in the party that we can trust. We have had enough of fake ‘lefts’. We can recall how the likes of David Blunkett, Neil Kinnock, Margaret Beckett (all now drawing their salaries in the House of Lords), and others, who were paraded as ‘left-wingers’ at Socialist Campaign Group meetings at Labour Party conference. They were politically rotten then, and they are rotten now. We have had too many poachers turned gamekeepers. Enough of these false ‘friends’.
Angela Rayner, a rising star who has been promoted to the shadow frontbench, has been recently lauded as a left-winger, with commentators emphasising how she is a single mother and comes from working class roots. But she was caught dining with Lord Levy, a close friend of Tory Blair, who raised £100 million for the former Labour leader.
Later, after an interview given by Blair on the Andrew Marr show, this budding ‘left-winger’ tweeted that she was delighted by Blair’s comments on the programme. “One of the best interviews I've seen from Tony Blair on #Marr. All shades of red are needed in our @UKLabour party to take on this nasty Tory government who are wrecking our country,” she tweeted.
Let us be clear: Blair is an agent of the ruling class. He backs the split away group. He detests Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘hard left’ in the Labour Party. He took the country into the devastating Iraq War and is widely viewed as a war criminal. And yet, Angela Rayner embraces him with open arms. One wonders if this has anything to do with her meeting with Lord Levy “to discuss education”?
Simply coming from the working class does not make you a class fighter. We have had many working class types climbing the greasy pole. Their careerism was summed up perfectly by the joke: “I'm in favour of the emancipation of the working class - one by one - beginning with myself.”
That is why we call for ‘workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage’. Labour MPs are on £80,000 a year - way above even the average wage, let alone that of low-paid workers. Let them live in the real world. They would then fight a damn sight harder for those they are supposed to represent.
We want class fighters - genuine lefts - to represent us, not careerists. We want dedicated socialists who are keen to break down all obstacles. Only when the Blairite Fifth Column is shown the door will the party be restored to the role envisaged by its founders and pioneers. Only then will we have a movement that is fit for purpose: to carry out the fight for the socialist transformation of society.