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Just around the corner in the Labour civil war

Labour civil warFor me personally, much of Bennite politics boiled down to attending endless internal caucuses designed to scupper Cllr Bloggs’ appointment to Tower Hamlets allotments subcommittee, on account of his insufficient solidarity with the Nicaraguan revolution.

I gather things got even more vicious the nearer you got to the top, although given the intensity of our ideologically-driven local struggle to force toddlers to sing baa baa green sheep from the safety of nuclear-free zone council nurseries, it seems difficult to credit.

But even though I remember the early 1980s rather fondly for many reasons, I’d rather skip a rerun of Labour divisions of the period. I just hope Nietzsche is wrong about the doctrine of eternal recurrence, because clearly these were not happy times for the party.

Let’s not go there, guys. All I want – all the Labour left as a whole wants – is for all sections of the party to work constructively together to make the new leadership a success, and secure Labour victory at the next general election.

I wish the Labour right felt the same way, and to be fair, perhaps the majority of it does. But a certain poisonous subsection is clearly not in a ‘one love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright’ frame of mind.

Just look at last week’s vote for Parliamentary Labour Party committee chairs, the suspension of Andrew Fisher, and some of the coverage in Sunday morning’s broadsheets. Mum, they started it!

Left Futures has already charted some of the insurrectionary noises off emanating from the 4.5%. These include John McTernan’s explicit demand for a coup by rulebook, Simon Danczuk’s willingness to act as a stalking horse in a bid to topple Jeremy, and Frank Field’s treacherous call for dozens of forced by-elections.

Just to add to the feeling of deja vu all over again for those of that were around last time, there is even talk of reincarnating the SDP. Consider this extract from a piece by Adam Boulton in the Sunday Times last weekend:

The first hope of the Blairites and Brownites appalled by Corbyn’s election was that all but a tiny rump of Labour’s 232 MPs would defect to a new party in such numbers that they would become the official opposition. Backers were prepared to put up millions of pounds for the new party, provisionally called the Progressive Democrats, which would have left the Labour Party behind with its debts.”

No names, no pack drill. But Boulton is a senior political journo with a great contacts book, and it isn’t difficult to imagine that the usual suspects have been engaged in such blatant two-faced clandestine dishonesty.

Incidentally, the moniker was last used by a party that existed in Ireland between 1985 and 2009, at times participating as a junior coalition partner. Although socially liberal, at least in Irish terms, its economic policies were based on out and out free market neoliberalism. That, rather than social democracy, would the likely orientation of any British iteration.

Oh, and just because the motivators have decided not to proceed with the Gang of Four revival right now, that doesn’t mean the scheme could not be resuscitated at any time.

The question is, how should the Corbyn camp respond? So far it has seemed happy to roll with the punches. The new leadership has issued no counter-threats; it has not intervened to prevent the exclusion of socialists seeking to join the Labour Party; nor has it stitched up the single parliamentary selection to have arisen since last May. Given that they are both atheists, Jeremy and John have been positively saintly.

Presumably this is down to the judgment call that it is best to do nothing that could inflame the situation, given that the right’s machinations have yet to concretise. Even so, the net effect is to hand the initiative to those who have declared themselves our enemies. What happens when – and it is a case of when, not if – the right decides to move up a gear?

One obvious preparatory move would be to strengthen the existing organisations of the Labour left, including the Labour Representation Committee, Red Labour, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

If the terrain of the coming battles are internal, these groups will be better placed immediately to defend Corbynism than Momentum, which is still in the process of formation, and which is externally focussed.

And while hostility to the Murdoch and Barclay Brothers press is deeply embedded in the Labour left’s collective DNA, our failure to grasp such opportunities as do exist to get our message out through the mainstream media is increasingly noticeable. Social media presence is necessary, but not sufficient.

Team Corbyn needs to let the rest of us know whether there is a battle plan, and if so, what it is. We’ll take it from there.

Image credit: Left Futures in homage to the Clash


  1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    “concretise” come on, at least give us a clue?

    What language is that ?

    But then that too, (the language thing,) is a also a real problem for many of us; who for example will ever really forget David Nicholson’s bemused and bemusing rambling about the NHS following the revelations about the abuse at Mid Staffs ?

    I doubt if more than handful of the people listening to him had even the faintest idea what he was supposed to going on about, other than that he somehow felt that non of it was really his fault or his responsibility.

  2. Jim says:

    Corbyn should embrace PR. Scottish system. The “Left” will never command more than 25% of the vote so any future (unlikely) mandate will be about as valid as the one the Tories have now. The future is coalition, with a reborn Liberal Party or the inevitable ‘soon to split’ from Labour SDP faction. Get used to the idea or get ready for 100 years on the wilderness.

    1. James Martin says:

      wow, do you also know the lottery numbers for next Saturday?

    2. Robert says:

      What a 100 years of the Tories in power not very likely is it.

      I do think labour will have a break away but it will start off with ten or twelve right winger giants, who will demand the right wing will go to some form of Progressive Democrats . They would love to keep the name labour, but it would be a battle they’d never win, but how many would go how many would be willing to move to a new party which will need massive funding to set up local constituencies, and those MP’s who move on, will they win in the local constituencies, it will be interesting. I suspect the democrats will end up seeking a home in the liberal or the Tories.

      I think a more likely out come will be an internal battle to remove Corbyn and then the massive loss of membership and then labour will get a right winger in the job who will sound more like Blair or Cameron and the people will decide that the Tories are a better bet.

      Yes my Christmas ball told me all this and a few snorts of the amber liquid.

  3. David Ellis says:

    Unfortunately the New Labour are not stupid enough to launch an SDP 2 initiative. If they did it would be fantastic. Corbyn should actually be trying to force it by developing and pushing a radical agenda because that would mean the bulk of the New Labour scum disappearing into politicla oblivion along with the Tory collaborating Lib Dems. But they know their enemy (not the Tories) and the political situation. They also know that retaking control of the Labour Party would mean the end of the Labour Party and perhaps the emergence of something new that they have nothing to do with. They are planning a long guerilla war up to the 2020 general election which they hope Labour loses and then they can slip back into power with the left defeated and an alternative no longer an option. If Corbyn does win and they are still around they will sabotage the government at every turn. Believe me many of these people would rather vote BNP than see socialism in Britain.

    As David says: `Team Corbyn needs to let the rest of us know whether there is a battle plan, and if so, what it is. We’ll take it from there.’

    1. John P Reid says:

      Why would it be fantastic last time they left they took 10% of the vote with them ,it took 14 years and Neil Kinnock,having some of the worse years of his life, to get us back in, we had to swing so far to the right to regain power,after the first term, it was hardly worth it

    2. Richard says:

      The problem if they did split is not simply that we’d lose a chunk of votes, it’s that they wouldn’t all go. Some would stay behind and wheedle their way back into power over a disillusioned membership, just as the right did in the 1980’s, by convincing members it was the only way rather than trying an avowedly socialist policy.
      Having said that, my view is that the civil was has already begun so the left need to respond. I’d start a propaganda campaign in the party and beyond along the lines of what have they got to be scared of with mandatory re-selection? If they are hard working MP’s and support the party they won’t lose their seats. Then they either come on team begrudgingly or we get rid of them.

  4. Will says:

    Apart from vague accusation of “neoliberalism” what exactly is he disagreement about?
    OK, there’s Trident, no doubt an important issue to many people, but in terms of policy what is all this fussing and fighting about.
    Looking at it from the outside I probably share with many others frustration that the Party can’t get its act together when it is united in opposition to so much that the Tory’s are doing.

    1. David Ellis says:

      But it is not united in opposition to what the Tories are doing. New Labour agrees with the measures the Tories are taking to save capitalism. That is the reason the party was collapsing and will continue to collapse if Corbyn doesn’t start punching with all the weight his overwhelming victory gave him.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        Good point.

    2. John P Reid says:

      Good point

  5. verity says:

    The areas of division between the Left and Right are too numerous to be worth listing as they stem from a fundamental outlook rather than tactical matters, but I consider the central ones to be the economic programme for future investment and distribution and the nature of democracy and its organisation in the Labour Party. Getting root progress on those two would allow more time for others to be advanced. Although the EU is a little more imminent and Trident may be provoked by circumstances and by others. The Left is still rather in a stupor about its election and so nothing much has happened except the exposure of the different styles and conduct between a former ‘radical opposition’ and the ‘privileged insiders’. One reason for the stupor is because it is assumed that the Left should wait for the leadership (Corbyn and McDonnell) to take the lead. I think they have so much on and in any case are rather hampered by diversions created by the PLP and the shadow guerrilla movement or cells. I agree with the suggestion that it is necessary for parallel forces to tie on leadership. Ideally it would come form the new energy in the CLPs – but the new energy is not built into the working practices of the old structures ,and will not be, until there is an introduction real political debate at local level. So stimulation has to come in the form of Momentum and the Labour Representation Committee. But it cannot and should not be led by (the non – member) new Supporters or the ‘outside – Labour’ Left as they do not have the same legitimacy and the long term proven commitments.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      “But it cannot and should not be led by (the non – member) new Supporters or the ‘outside – Labour’ Left as they do not have the same legitimacy and the long term proven commitments.”

      That’s an interesting and the more I think about it damning perspective, essentially having asked for our support and got it; you’re now more or less asking us to wait outside until you’ve decided to tell us what you want us to do.

      I and several people that I know had expected that, (after I’d paid my £3 quid to vote for Corbyn,) after we’d successfully got him elected, (remember that we’re among the people who actually elected him,) that we’d shortly find myself involved in and rejoining the Labour party as a full members, in fact the opposite seems to be true, Labour have dropped the ball and those of from outside the Blair labour party who supported Corby will probably not, be still be here for very much longer if something doesn’t change.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        For example the selection of Jim McMahon who I regards as appalling; a right wing political ambulance chaser, (who apparently dislikes the sick, the disabled and the unemployed,) to succeed the late Micheal Meacher as our MP, by those very same people with what you describe as, “legitimacy and the long term proven commitments,” (exactly the same people in fact who lost Labour the last election,) has already pretty much ensured, (all other thing being equal,) that I for one won’t be able to vote Labour at the next general election, much as I might otherwise want to.

      2. Verity says:

        There are few that will argue that we do not need the campaigning help of Supporters and others in the (non -Labour) Left. The more work we do the greater will be the effective leadership contribution. My argument is that Labour Party members cannot be expected to see as most legitimate those for which there may be a latent resentment about ‘Jonny/Jackies – come – lately’ formal leadership roles within the Labour Party. Remember Labour party members also voted overwhelmingly for Corbyn and tolerated much in the years to get to this position.

        1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

          Thanks for taking the time to respond and you make a sound point as you generally, do which requires a response.

          First of all, too often, far too often in fact, the very same people that you refer to above are mostly themselves and in a very real sense, “Johnny come latelies,” who own nothing to traditional of Labour values, (few of them, like the wretched Milibands, have ever really had to work for a living in any real sense,) are not socialists and owe their, (entrenched and generally entirely self serving,) influence to the most pernicious kind of, “me and my mates culture,” in fact they pretty much exemplify everything that’s gone wrong with the British Labour party under Blair and since and are the very reason why Labour lost the last election so convincingly.

          And secondly we are not new Labour members, many of us would have once voted labour without a moments hesitation and largely uncritically; before, Mid staffs, the war against Iraq and Afghanistan, the cynical demonization and scapegoating of the unemployed and the disabled etc and the escalating financial corruption so conspicuous, (but not only on,) on the Labour front bench, had Blair not worked so hard to exclude and alienate us.

          Corbyn came as chink of light, but it’s a light that is already flickering and gutting and without him there would be absolutely no reason to support the Labour party at all.

          I’ve said this previously but it will bear repenting here that the logic of unity and of us all making a common cause against the Tories will require people who actually loath and despise each other to put aside those often principled differences and work together and I see no prospect now of that happening.

        2. Robert says:

          Very well said.

  6. SimonB says:

    The anger from self-styled moderates seems mostly based upon their suddenly changed career prospects. They had built solid foundations in a PLP based on patronage and suddenly they turned out to be built on sand. I’m pretty sick of their entitled sniping but I’m also pissed off by puritans happy to say good riddance if there’s a split. The party needs to be diverse, like the people it claims to represent. I’ve proposed to my CLP that we make representations to the NEC asking for stronger efforts to bring the factions together. I’ll certainly look at the groups cited in the article too.

    1. David Ellis says:

      What a load of nonsense. A party does not need to be `diverse’ it needs to be principled. It should be constantly struggling through open democratic debate and practises for a common understanding of the situation which finds its expression in its manifesto or programme. What you are proposing is pure opportunism. That is not to say that the programme should not be fought for politically and that the labour movement should not be trying to win other classes behind its banner but it will only do that through principles or it will end up at the mercy of some vile little self-serving sect with its own sources of funding injected into the movement by the class enemy. Call it, I don’t know, New Labour.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        Nice one.

      2. John P Reid says:

        Or Militan.. I mean momentum

  7. Double Luxembourg says:

    Just go for PR then socialists and social democrats can go their separate ways,oppose each other in elections and then form coalitions if the numbers stack up.Honest politics .

    1. Robert says:

      The cost to a Progress democrat party setting up, and how many would decide to walk away from labour meaning that they may well get voted out and the next election, or would they be sacked by labour causing a bye election , massive risk to the right wingers look at the last time this happened they ended up in the liberals.

      1. John P Reid says:

        And many in the Tories, Andy Cooper Andrew Lansley, Chris grayling, Danny Finkelstein, David Owen, for a bit, George brown.

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