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FOLLOWING from conference, Keir Starmer’s office and their assorted press contacts appeared buoyant about the heckling he had received throughout his speech.
Bizarrely, the heckling appeared to have been factored into his performance following a tense conference in which the Labour right gerrymandered, rigged and corrupted disciplinary processes and CLP delegate AGMs to secure a narrow win for Starmer on several proposed rule changes, designed to disempower members and hand uncontested authority to MPs.
In a clearly premeditated press briefing, Starmer supporters told journalists that delegates had heckled the leader during a section of his speech in which he had discussed the death of his mother — an out-and-out fabrication which was clearly at odds with the video footage of the event. The press, of course, blindly printed these lies anyway.
The strangely jubilant responses from the Labour right to headlines about yet more Labour rows is based in an unevidenced and clearly incorrect assumption that images of Starmer and his allies stomping down on Labour members and reneging on his promises and principles would be good optics for the party: they made the mistake of thinking that the public hate moderate social democracy and social democrats as much as they do.
The immediate post-conference opinion polls show otherwise, with small declines in Labour support. The public actually have no desire to see Labour members humiliated, berated and bullied by Starmer and MPs on live television in a direct affront to those who have fought so hard for a Labour government over the past five years.
Such things are obvious to most of us outside the Labour right bubble. But they point to a problem for socialists. If Starmer does well at the next election, it will now explicitly be on the basis of his gratuitous and open repudiation of socialist values and principles.
Look at the Green New Deal, housing, Palestine or workers’ rights: no sooner had members passed policy at this conference than a shadow front bench minister was brought forward to renounce the policy and insist that it was not going to make the next manifesto.
The contempt for members, their values and the commitment to socialism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn was made clear in repeated public statements from the front bench, as well as at length in Starmer’s speech.
For a long time, most socialists have been “disciplined” into voting Labour for fear of the Conservatives. But never has a vote for Labour come with such stringent and open ideological caveats.
At the height of his powers, even Neil Kinnock stood on a platform of nationalisation, mass council house building and taxing the wealthy — a platform which made the 2017 manifesto look like weak tea. Labour was still a socialist party under Kinnock — although it is clearly not today.
The idea of continued Tory rule is enough to turn most socialists’ stomachs. But there is a serious question; is repudiating our entire tradition, our entire worldview and weakening our cause for decades, the price we are willing to pay for a slim (practically non-existent) chance of ending that, in favour of Starmer’s brand of washed-out liberal elitism?
Workers will continue to be exploited and mistreated under a Tory government. But if we have any faith in our ideas at all, the extinction of socialism from mainstream British politics would have far greater long-term effects on the lives and living conditions of working-class people than another Tory term.
It would be a defeat for decency in politics, a defeat for morality, truth and reason — all issues which would have huge and unquantifiable impacts upon our body politic.
Conversely, a defeat for Labour under its explicitly anti-socialist banner could force a reckoning for the Labour right, in which the moral, intellectual and popular legitimacy of socialist values within the Labour voting coalition was validated and recognised (and their own rabid cynicism and bigotry was weakened).
Many Morning Star readers will be lifelong Labour voters — and lifelong Labour members. Not voting Labour has until now, been unthinkable.
But the stage we are getting to is such that success for Labour in the present conditions would be detrimental to the development of a truly progressive political agenda, and the advancement of our cause.
Whether you remain a member of Labour or not, unless you have particular mitigating local circumstances (such as a properly socialist local candidate running for Labour) then Labour is currently asking you to vote for the destruction of everything you believe in.
The people making this demand are well aware of how humiliating this is — and how depressing. They are also aware that a socialist movement cannot ever thrive if it is not proud of itself, dynamic and confident. This is yet another intended humiliation to put our ideas and principles back in the box.
Don’t do what you are being asked to do. Don’t vote to trash your principles or our hopes for a better world. Future generations of workers require that we stand tall, proud of our beliefs and confident in the future.
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