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Ex-Labour ex-MP Tom Harris raises the Confederate flag

tom harris and confed flagSigmund Freud used the term ‘projection’ to describe what happens when human beings deny unpleasant impulses in themselves and attribute them to others instead. And to judge by the mindset of the Labour right at the moment, the cocaine-addled Viennese headshrink may have had a point.

Corbyn wants to mount a ‘purge’, they repeatedly charge. He is ‘threatening deselections’, and planning to ‘plunge the party into civil war’. In reality, the only people getting excluded from the Labour Party are revolutionary socialists, and Progress supporters are being chosen for safe seat by-elections. Just like old times, almost.

Despite all this, the fighting talk is coming exclusively from the ranks of disgruntled Blairites. Some are clearly desperate for a spot of blood-letting, to judge by a string of ever-more incendiary, but doubtless nicely remunerative, newspaper polemics.

Tom Harris, for instance, is one of the 40 out of 41 Scottish Labour MPs who should rationally have woken up on May 8 and started wondering if a rethink was in order. I mean, you never can be entirely certain, but it’s just possible Scottish voters had been trying to send Labour a message the previous day.

But rather than blame defeat on the deracinated ruin that Scottish Labour had become in the two decades since 1994, he has taken to pouring out his bile on the new leadership instead.

Thus we were earlier this week treated to a calm and reflective article in the Torygraph, under the not-at-all-sensationalist headline of ‘The Labour Party I love is in hock to Trots, Islamists and woman-hating Twitter trolls’. Note how he says that like it’s a bad thing, too.

Just days later Tom was back, commenting on the elections for the chairmanships (sic) of Parliamentary Labour Party Committees, with a sensitive and loving little hit piece called ‘Labour MPs have just given Jeremy Corbyn a big “screw you”.’ Nice.

The standfirst includes the immortal words ‘Corbynite comrades run wild’, which would have made an excellent title for a 1950s B-movie, wouldn’t it? Sadly, all that plotting, scheming and clandestine caucusing to undermine Labour’s miniscule remaining outposts of moderation leaves most of us with all too little time for sex and drugs and rock and roll these days. Well, me anyway; can’t speak for the youth.

But let this little gem of a quote about the outcome of the PLP vote sink in: “This is the shelling of Fort Sumpter (sic) by Confederate troops. And Jeremy Corbyn is no Abe Lincoln.”

Yes, you read that right. The shelling of Fort Sumter – I can spell it correctly, Tom, even if you can’t – represented the opening shots in a four-year civil war that killed 620,000 people. For Harris, it’s all of a bit of hoot to paint his political co-thinkers as successors to those who fought for their right to enslave black people.

The Abe Lincoln jibe seems a similarly misplaced reversion to the Great Man Theory of History, too. All us Trot-trained historical materialists know that the North, thanks to the superiority of its capitalist social relations of productions and hence more progressive ideological superstructure, would have won whether Lincoln had been around or not.

The Confederate battle flag remains to this day a symbol of white supremacist hate, which Black Lives Matter campaigners only succeeded in getting removed from the South Carolina capitol a few months ago following the Charleston church shootings. Now an erstwhile Labour MP turned wannabe Johnny Reb is happily wrapping continuity Blairism in its colours. For shame.

I know, I know. It’s only a throwaway analogy; a joke, even. But it would be difficult to think of a more shocking or more inappropriate wisecrack. To get all Freudian again, it’s a joke that tells the rest of us rather more than the joker intended.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the Confederates lost. Just thought I’d point that out.


  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    The only antidote to the policy takeover is more democracy, making conference the decision making body.

    Democracy is always a messy affair, but essential if we are to survive the plutocrats.

    1. Sandra Crawford says:

      Yes, the only way to deal with this is for members to become more involved and choose their MPs wisely.
      Anyone within the Party who is mudslinging at Corbyn is not a democrat and probably has little understanding of what socialism and Labour are really for. They have little understanding of the suffering people underwent before the days of the NHS. It really did kill the poor in droves. There are many other examples like junk economics and elimanating the deficit. We do need to either educate the right wing or vote them out, but it must be democratic.
      This article defeats itself however by suggesting that it is revolutionaries who are being purged.

      I attended a momentum group in my home town. They were all middle class, mostly in their 50s and 60s, or young people. Most of them are very worried about the NHS, the young, student and mortgage debt and the difficulties of leaving home and getting a job.

      They were asked by established members what they wanted to get out of the meetings and all of their suggestions were rejected.
      They are normal people who are being ushered into boredom by the blind leading the blind. The leaders are so brainwashed that they have suspicions of any one who does not want self destruction by austerity – the new belief.

  2. Roger McCarthy says:

    Tom Harris wants to shell Fort Sumter – lets recall General Sherman’s reply:

    “If [the Confederates] want eternal war, well and good; we accept the issue, and will dispossess them and put our friends in their place. I know thousands and millions of good people who at simple notice would come to North Alabama and accept the elegant houses and plantations there. If the people of Huntsville think different, let them persist in war three years longer, and then they will not be consulted. Three years ago by a little reflection and patience they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late. All the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken, for in war we can take them, and rightfully, too, and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives. A people who will persevere in war beyond a certain limit ought to know the consequences. Many, many peoples with less pertinacity have been wiped out of national existence.”

    (quoted from

  3. John Penney says:

    Good article. I think the Labour Right are suffering a number of hubristic delusions at present. Firstly that the entire purpose of the Labour Party is as a support group for a bunch of entirely self-serving career politicians. The second is that they, the PLP, with its overwhelming right majority, can with the aid of the Tory press, sabotage and generally cause such mayhem in the Party that our election results are so dire in the short term that by some sort of procedural coup the Jeremy Corbyn victory and all it represents can simply be be set aside – for a return to corrupt neoliberal supporting “political business as usual”.

    The crucial delusion of the Right however , in my view, is that the “Corbynista influx” of new Left wing members is a passing fad of a few immature, naïve, flighty youth – easily seen off by right wing manoeuvring at Westminster and systematic cold shouldering of the newbies by the entrenched Right in so many LP branches. And here I think , as with their other delusions, the Right are very wrong. Well I’m 62, and in common with so many dedicated Corbyn supporters am far from politically naive, and am in this for the long haul. We, the new Left influx haven’t in many cases even been able to get to a local LP branch meeting yet, never mind get Momentum organised at local level. My branch meets QUARTERLY, and it is only the pressure of the new members (120 newbies out of a total branch of 220), with the willing support as it happens in my local branch of longer term Left activists, that the branch meetings are to be made much more frequent, and local campaigning ramped up.

    It will take a while to build up previously semi dormant crony-dominated CLPs into genuine activist entities. But it will happen, and then the arrogant Labour Right will really have something to worry about.

    Mass reselection/deselection, using the golden Madame Guillotine opportunity of the forthcoming constituency boundary changes has to be a key objective for the Left if we are to have any chance of turning the Labour Party into a real socialist party, or even a tepidly Left social democratic one. The Right will never give up their determination to return Labour to its corrupt neoliberal recent past ways. There is a life and death struggle ahead for the party’s soul. We on the Left must not buckle and compromise in the face of the Right’s total obduracy – as we did in the late 1950.s and 80’s , or we will be defeated again under the ideological bondage of the mantra of “party unity above all else”.

  4. John P Reid says:

    I have to question the ruin of Scottish labour in the last 20 year as it went from 49 labour MPs in the nineties to up to 6 months ago, even with, a cut in the number of MPs the same if ,not more.

  5. Richard Tiffin says:

    I know Harris is a fool and it’s easy to laugh this off, but us on the left will be making a mistake if we do.
    There are various sections of the community that matter to us, or at least they ought to. There are members, labour voters and potential labour voters.
    In the battle for the party the opposition to the left are small in number but large in influence and they will have a demoralising effect through a press happy to promote their position. This will affect those who support Corbyn but whose engagement with politics is less intense than the ‘activists’ as they don’t search widely for countervailing views.
    It will have an even greater impact on labour voters who will view the party as split, perhaps unelectable and the greatest impact of all on potential labour voters.
    So what will happen come May if Labour faire poorly in the Scottish, Welsh, London mayoral and local elections? This will happen if these press stories continue.
    The right are looking for a coup. They need the membership to either support or acquiesce to this else they face the threat of deselection and true civil war in the party. This is the point of the resignations, of the press briefings, the articles, control of the PLP committees and so on. They want to get the less active membership in the mind to accept the coup. That way they can avoid deselection and civil war if they topple Corbyn.
    What do we do? We get clever and ridicule them on barely read websites but they win the war.
    We need a better strategy than this so I hope you are all active in momentum. I hope you are countering the shit that people like Harris are spouting.
    If you don’t, if you are happy to simply laugh at this ridicule then we have already lost, and you can kiss goodbye to the party, pasokification awaits.

  6. Robert says:

    The deselection is about five or six of the right wing labour party, who will lose seats in the coming Boundary changes , Two of them are Chuka and Hunt and of course both have been arguing about labour not allowing them to stand in neighboring constituencies, but of course the rule book states they can, so they have now come out with deselection.

    What is worrying them they may well be standing in constituencies with left wingers who may well win, because of course why would you want Chuka and Hunt both will be gone, and that does not suit them.

    But labour has to hold tight let these people go and then once the Chilcot report is out and dusted we can rebuild the party, for 2025 I doubt labour can win in 2020 but one can of course hope.

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