Last week, Labour’s NEC voted against restoring the whip to Jeremy Corbyn.
In the same meeting, the NEC also endorsed retroactively applying the proscription that was introduced last year against Socialist Appeal and other left groups. This means that socialist Labour members can be expelled on the basis of activities from before the ban was voted through by the right wing.
The result is that Jeremy Corbyn still cannot sit as a Labour MP, and will be unable to stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election. It also means that the witch-hunt against socialists will continue.
These two votes are yet another example of how ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer and the right wing – backed by the establishment – treat the left of the party with utmost disdain, ruthlessness, and hostility.
Under Starmer’s leadership, the party is being driven sharply to the right.
Following this NEC meeting, left-wing CLP rep Laura Pidcock resigned from her position on Labour’s ruling body. In a scathing letter, she referred to her frustration with the shift to the right that the party has taken under Starmer.
“We weren’t to know exactly how Keir Starmer would handle matters within the party,” Pidcock writes. “What has ensued is a barrage of top-down changes which is making it hostile territory for socialists, from those of us on the NEC, to those in CLPs across the country.”
“This leadership is devoid of ideas, lacking vision,” the former North West Durham MP continues. “I can’t and won’t negotiate with these people anymore. The summit of their ideas are just small tweaks to the status quo. They challenge virtually nothing.”
Pidcock is certainly correct to attack the Labour leadership in this way. Under Starmer, the party has moved dramatically to the right. From right-wing rhetoric on foreign policy and patriotism; to writing for The Sun and boasting about ‘backing business’: Starmer has sought to turn Labour into the Tory-lite party.
As Pidcock notes, this has demoralised thousands of members, and alienated many more working-class supporters. At the same time, Starmer and the right have found new friends from across the floor in the House of Commons.
The recent defection of Tory MP Christian Wakeford to Labour, welcomed with open arms by Starmer, Pidcock states, is a sign of how far the party has shifted to the right – and how out of touch the Labour right wing are with working-class people.
Unity, unity, unity
Unfortunately, it seems it’s not just the actions of the right which led to Pidcock’s resignation – but those of the Labour left too.
In her same public statement, she reveals frustrations with the attitude of others on the left in the party. “Perhaps with the best of intentions, some people seem to think that we can negotiate our way to justice by appealing to the right of the party to do the right thing,” Pidcock states. “That has never worked and certainly will not work in the current circumstances.”
Pidcock is correct to voice her exasperation with those on the left who have continually sought unity with the right wing above all else.
In fact, it is exactly this approach that led to the victory of the right in the first place. Rather than wage an all-out struggle against the Blairite fifth column in the PLP, the leaders of the Labour left unfortunately chose to pursue a strategy of conciliation, compromise, and appeasement.
A section of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs has now taken this approach to its extreme, forming a new ‘left’ group that will seek to work with and alongside Starmer and the right wing.
The truth of the matter, however, is that the Labour right cannot be reasoned with or compromised with. For them, it is rule or ruin. This is because they are establishment agents within the party, representing enemy class interests – those of capitalism and big business.
Unfortunately, the left reformists’ soft, woolly approach to fighting the right stems from their soft, woolly politics, seeking to compromise with capitalism, and not do away with it.
Unions in ferment
One can sympathise with Pidcock’s resignation. With the party swinging to the right, and the Labour left largely demoralised and in disarray, it is understandable that she feels her efforts are better spent elsewhere.
Indeed, while Labour is moving to the right, the trade unions are shifting to the left.
Under Sharon Graham’s leadership, for example, Unite the Union has been on a warpath against the bosses, with members fighting for pay increases in a record number of disputes in recent months.
And importantly, Unison – once the bastion of the right wing in the labour movement – now has a left NEC.
Meanwhile, other unions like the UCU and the RMT are under pressure from their members to take action and fight back. This will only increase as the cost of living catastrophe facing families across Britain begins to bite.
Sooner or later, this radicalism may feed back into the Labour Party and transform the balance of forces within it.
Until then, it is these key struggles in the trade unions that left activists should be getting involved with and supporting.
What’s more, the lessons of the Corbyn movement should be carried into the struggles taking place in the unions. Compromise and collaboration with those who seek to hamper and dampen the militancy of rank-and-file members cannot be tolerated.
Instead, we must fight to transform the organisations of the working class into fighting organisations, fit for purpose.
Join the Marxists!
The key lesson of the Corbyn movement is the need for bold leadership, armed with determination and a clear perspective on the way forward.
The left reformists are demoralised and directionless because they have no confidence in the working class; no vision for genuine change – for the socialist transformation of society.
Capitalism is in its deepest ever crisis, however, with no end in sight. And industrial battles will continue to intensify as the class struggle heats up, in Britain and internationally. In the process, new layers of workers, determined to fight, will be drawn into action, shaking up the status quo.
The need for a resolute leadership – a Marxist leadership which understands that capitalism cannot be patched up, but must be overthrown – will become all the more necessary.
This means building the forces of Marxism, in the labour movement and on the streets. We urge all those wanting to fight back against the Tories and the bosses to join us in this task.