ANGER over Labour’s decision to extend its sweeping attacks on the left must not lead to despair.
The targeting of dedicated Labour members who have expended time, money and often huge emotional investment in volunteering for the party will be distressing, as it has been for the many who have already been subjected to such treatment.
While often well intentioned, calling for Labour to maintain its “broad church” or recognise the positive contributions of left and right risks blunting the class analysis required to understand why the right is so relentless in its drive to extirpate the left.
The right never suffered sleepless nights over “unity” when organising, through tactics from co-ordinated resignations to derailing policy launches with media smear campaigns, to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn could not lead the party to victory.
After 2017, when Labour’s vote not only soared in general but rose across Tory and Labour heartlands alike, the excuse that Corbyn would be an electoral disaster was no longer credible.
It was not a campaign to unseat an unelectable leader for the party’s sake: it was a campaign to prevent a socialist prime minister being elected, conducted on behalf of Britain’s ruling class. Only a minority – then MPs John Woodcock and Ian Austin, for example, now ennobled for their services to capitalism – said so openly, but much of the parliamentary party was involved.
It is because the motivation was always to protect the system from serious reform, and nothing to do with the success or otherwise of Labour as a party, that the right are continuing to hack away at the party’s grassroots, even though this has brought the organisation to the brink of bankruptcy and shredded its credibility.
The right has not changed since Corbyn led the party. But the left must.
We must start from as clear-eyed a position as the right. The Conservative Party is in government, but it rules in the interests of the same rotten status quo the Labour right is so desperate to protect. The question is at root not “how do we build unity against the Tories?” but “how do we challenge an exploitative, unjust system that is ruining lives and poisoning the planet?”
The fight within Labour is an important part of that. But it is not the whole fight.
We must show solidarity with victims of Labour’s witch hunts: making it clear that expulsion from the party in its current state is no dishonour, and using what influence we have as active socialists and trade unionists to ensure people are not dropped from union, campaign and event platforms to appease MPs who go along with this charade.
Socialists holding positions of authority in local, regional and national positions should also be pressed to resist and make clear to MPs the enormous damage being done to Labour’s ability to campaign.
But we must also be clear that it is Labour, not the left, that is walking away from the major political and economic dilemmas of the day.
CWU leader Dave Ward recently noted in this newspaper that building collective struggles with grassroots organisations, working with local Labour parties and administrations where these are involved in good work, is a better way to advance the changes we need than trying to win over Westminster.
In Labour we have seen heartbreak at the apparent ease with which the huge movement for socialist change of a few years ago is being cut to pieces.
The deeper tragedy would be if those drawn into radical politics then abandon the fight.
The left, in and outside Labour, must work to ensure such activists know we face huge political tasks in the fight against unemployment, against unsafe workplaces, for a new and stronger welfare state, for better public services, for peace against a warmongering Establishment.
These struggles face us whether Labour engages with them or not. We need every shoulder to the wheel.
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