The deed is done. This evening, Labour’s right-wing dominated NEC voted to proscribe four left-wing organisations from the party, including Socialist Appeal.
This scandalous and cowardly decision is a direct political attack on the whole of the left. Starmer and the right wing have thrown down the gauntlet. The entire left must mobilise and respond with militancy and audacity.
Statements of support and solidarity flooded in prior to today’s meeting of Labour’s ruling body – both from high profile figures (including Jeremy Corbyn) and from grassroots activists.
“Comrades, the attempt to ban Socialist Appeal and other groups, with the aim of expelling them from the party is an absolute disgrace,” stated Ian Hodson, president of the bakers’ union, in a message of support.
“At the same time as expelling good socialists, Starmer is welcoming former Tories with open arms and shifting the party to the right. We must not allow them to get away with this purge. My union is totally opposed to bans and proscriptions and the return to McCarthyite thought control.” – In solidarity, Ian Hodson, President BFAWU
Key left-wing organisations such as Unite the Union and Momentum have also come out against this right-wing aggression.
There is a clear recognition that today’s NEC decision is the beginning of a wider attack, designed to purge the left from the party and break the influence of the unions.
“Acts of political machismo like this latest move to proscribe groups within the party, neither advance the party with the voting public nor appease the right-wing media which demand them,” Unite’s statement asserts. “History teaches that this will only be the start.”
Similarly, Momentum’s official release warns that a “small and detached clique” is attempting to “drive Momentum and the broader left out of the party”.
Our statement on the Party Leadership's proposed use of proscription and the auto-expulsion of members. pic.twitter.com/g2cipMTWYx— Momentum 🌹 (@PeoplesMomentum) July 19, 2021
The same perspective was emphasised in a statement from the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour councillors, who quoted Tony Benn on the question of attacks against Marxists in the Labour Party:
“If the Labour Party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxists, the media – having tasted blood – would demand next that it expelled all its socialists...to form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives…
“Thus British capitalism, it is argued, will be made safe forever, and socialism would be squeezed off the national agenda.”
As Tony Benn suggested, if the Labour Party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxists, the very notion of socialism itself could squeezed off the national agenda.— Socialist Campaign Group of Labour Councillors (@SocialistCllrs) July 20, 2021
We urge all NEC members who believe in democracy and fairness to vote against tonight's proposals. pic.twitter.com/yV2oiwJMsd
Fears of a wider purge have been strengthened by reports from inside Labour HQ, which indicate that the bureaucracy already has over 3,000 expulsion letters ready to send out.
Even by the most generous estimates, this goes far beyond the supporter base of the four groups officially banned today.
This shows the real intentions of the right wing: to use these proscriptions as the thin end of the wedge to drive out the whole of the left; as a tool for expunging all traces of socialism and ‘Corbynism’ from the party.
Left NEC members opposed the move to proscribe Socialist Appeal. In advance of today’s meeting, they too released a statement condemning right-wingers for “bureaucratically silencing those with opposing views” and repressing the “fundamental right to organise politically” within the party.
Our joint statement on proscription ahead of tomorrow’s NEC meeting 👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/3qQ78WZsti— Nadia Jama - #GrassrootsVoice (@MizJama) July 19, 2021
Nevertheless, with Starmer and his supporters in the majority, the proscription motion was passed, along with proposals to establish a new NEC panel to act as judge, jury, and executioner in future similar cases – again, preparing the ground for further waves of expulsions.
While NEC members debated online, hundreds of grassroots members and activists rallied outside Labour HQ at Southside to denounce this latest episode in the #LabourPurge.
Speakers from the newly-proscribed groups and from the labour movement spoke to the assembled crowd, highlighting the political motivations behind this attack.
Left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell sent in a message of support, which was read out from the platform:
“I totally oppose the use of bans and proscriptions to force socialists out of the Labour Party.
“Labour was founded as a democratic socialist party composed of individuals and groups of socialists drawn from a wide range of political beliefs and analyses.
“From Fabians to Co-operators to Marxists, the party of Bevan, Attlee, Laski and Benn has embraced all these traditions and has been stronger for it.
“Members of the party who are supportive of the ideas advocated by Socialist Appeal have loyally worked hard voluntarily for Labour candidates to be elected and have been at the forefront of many campaigns and trade union struggles.
“Banning or proscribing members associated with the ideas of Socialist Appeal flies in the face of what Labour has always stood for.
“If any member of the party has broken the party’s rules, there are already procedures to deal with this.
“There is no need for this resort to bans and proscriptions.
“The question that must surely come to mind, is if it is those associated with the policies and ideas of Socialist Appeal who are targeted now, who is next on the list for proscription.”
Socialist Telly is live:— Socialist Telly (@SocialistTelly) July 19, 2021
Tonight we are discussing Starmer’s purge.
Socialist Appeal have been in Labour for 3 decade. Tomorrow they’ll be expelled from Labourhttps://t.co/79XYDzwpJA
Left-wing director Ken Loach also provided a solidarity message to the protest:
“The destruction of democracy in the Labour Party is shameful.
“Local parties are closed down, their officers replaced or suspended, meetings cancelled, all with little regard for the rule book.
“Good people are being forced out, some made ill with the pressure. The most principled activists are leaving in tens of thousands.
“And all this takes place without a word from the mass media. Why? Because Starmer is their man. They know he will change little or nothing. He makes small debating points, but on the big principles – ending privatisation, rights at work, protecting the environment, a foreign policy based on human rights and international law – he is silent.
“He wants a smaller party, with no troublesome activists. This attack on party democracy is driven by a determination to appease the power of the establishment.
“It is a return to the opportunism and support for corporate power of the Blair years.
“But Starmer, feeble and unimpressive, is no Blair.
“The Labour Party is one area of struggle, alongside grassroots campaigns and trades unions. The right wing operates in the shadows. Keep telling the truth of what is happening, it is our strongest weapon!”
Adam Booth, editor of socialist.net, also spoke at the protest, discussing the real reasons behind the proscription of Socialist Appeal.
“The only ‘crime’ that we are deemed guilty of is that of being socialists,” Adam remarked.
Adam went on to highlight the disgusting hypocrisy of the Labour right wing, who accuse Marxists in the party of not sharing Labour’s ‘aims and values’.
“This is extremely rich coming from the right wing: From the Blairites and bureaucrats who sabotaged the 2017 general election; the people who relentlessly undermined the twice-democratically elected leader for five years; the same people who scrapped Labour’s socialist Clause IV, replacing it with praise for a ‘dynamic market economy’.”
“The right wing accuse us of being ‘organised’; of being ‘entryists’; of being a ‘party within a party’,” Adam continued.
“But are factions such as Progress and Labour First not also organised? And aren’t they well-funded by outside interests in big business?
“Are they not entryists, on behalf of the establishment? Are they not a ‘party within a party’ – a party of Tory infiltrators within our party?”
“The aim of Starmer and the right wing is clear,” Adam stated. “They want to purge the entire left from the Labour Party; to expunge socialism from our party; to make Labour a safe pair of hands for capitalism.”
“That is why it is vital that the left takes a stand now – that we unite and fight against these attacks.”
“We won’t be intimidated by their aggression and repression, however,” Adam concluded. “These attacks just make us more determined.”
“They can try to ban and block as many of us as they like. But as the great French writer Victor Hugo said: no force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. And it is the ideas of Marxism and socialism that represent the future.”
This is the perspective that we must return to. As the philosopher Spinoza remarked: Our task is neither to weep, nor to laugh, but to understand.
Capitalism is in its deepest ever crisis. Unlike in the Blair era, it is not reforms, but attacks and austerity that are on the agenda. Starmer and the right wing have nothing to offer but patronising flag-waving and appeals to big business.
Sharp class struggles lie ahead, in Britain and internationally. Enormous pressures are building within society, and particularly within the working class. And one way or another, these will burst to the surface, finding a reflection both on the streets, and in the Labour Party and the trade unions.
In this process, the mass organisations of the working class will be transformed and re-transformed. And the ideas of Marxism will become even more relevant.
This is why we are not demoralised or downtrodden by today’s NEC decision. Instead, we are even more determined to set about the task at hand: to build the Marxist tendency – Socialist Appeal, the Marxist voice of Labour and youth.
To all those who have been expelled, or who have left the Labour Party in disgust with Starmer’s leadership, we urge you to join us in this task.
🚩 MODEL MOTION: Say no to proscriptions! #FightThePurge! 🚩— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) July 20, 2021
Today, the #Labour NEC decided to proscribe Socialist Appeal & 3 other left-wing groups.
We call on activists to pass this motion in your CLP, and as a motion for conference.
Motion text: https://t.co/Z5giX8MSxg pic.twitter.com/B8xdXYPszZ
Letter from a lifelong Labour member
I am writing this in response to the proposal at today’s party NEC today to ‘auto-exclude’ certain members. The very phrase ‘auto-exclude’ is something out of Orwell’s 1984, not the traditions of the Labour Party that I have been a proud member of since I joined at the age of 17 in 1974.
In 47 years of continuous membership of the party, I have NEVER voted for any other party; NEVER advocated voting for any other party; ALWAYS opposed deals with other parties whose aims do not share those of the Labour Party – transforming society along socialist lines.
As a youngster I served for four years as national chairperson of the Labour Party Young Socialists – a vibrant campaigning organisation with over 500 branches, until it was effectively destroyed by the bureaucratic measures of Tom Watson.
Like many, sickened by the Iraq war and the importation of capitalist free-market economics into the party, I was less active during the Blair years. Also like many, the fire of socialism was re-kindled with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party.
Since moving to Bristol, I canvassed in Bristol West and Kingswood in the 2019 general election before heading with my partner Jayne, to work for four weeks as unpaid volunteers in the marginal Truro and Falmouth seat.
During the first COVID lockdown, as the constituency campaign coordinator, I initiated and produced eleven editions of an all-members’ newsletter, to maintain communication between members in those initial hard months.
If I am ‘auto-excluded’ for the crime of supporting a socialist newspaper, Socialist Appeal, a paper which has never campaigned against Labour, I ask comrades of all sides of the party to ask yourself: Is this really what our party is about? Unite and other trade unions think not.
Let us call things by their right names: expulsions on spurious organisational grounds (I and Socialist Appeal have never stood against or argued for support for other parties against Labour) are in reality a political purge.
This purge is because, after the fright of Jeremy Corbyn so nearly winning the 2017 general election, the ruling class and their acolytes inside the party leadership have determined that the party has to be ‘made safe’ for capitalism – able to serve as a ‘second eleven’ when this corrupt Tory government’s days are over.
But organisational measures will never overcome political ideas whose time has come.
I stand proudly as a lifelong socialist and a Marxist. Marxism has always been a component part of the traditions of the party.
This attack on Socialist Appeal is not because it is a tiny ‘sect’. If it were, there would be no point to a purge. No, it is precisely the opposite; it is because the ideas of Marxism – the recognition that capitalism as a system has no future to offer working people – are growing in support in all areas of the labour movement, as capitalism lurches on a world scale from crisis to crisis.
Individuals may be ‘auto-excluded’ – but ideas whose time has come will never be cut off from the labour movement.
Kevin Ramage, Labour Party member 1974 – ?