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‘Picking sides’ – A short reply to Owen Jones

OJElectoral politics, especially in a two-horse race or First Past the Post system, is perhaps politics in its crudest form. They can lead us to uncritical cheerleading, to the politics of ‘lesser evilism’, and putting-up while shutting-up, rather than making nuanced arguments, offering critical support, or demanding policies that are not yet on the table. Resisting this ‘with us or against us’ mindset under Ed Miliband was what brought the Labour Left in from the wilderness, staking out our opposition to austerity, to the legacy of Iraq, and arguing for another way forward for the left. It is in that spirit of rigorous debate and criticism on the left that two articles this weekend, by prominent Labour-supporting (indeed, Corbyn-supporting) journalists, are to be welcomed.

In a lengthy piece on Medium, Paul Mason set out his proposal for a ‘Progressive Alliance’ of anti-Tory parties, along with a larger set of recommendations to the party, to see Corbyn’s Labour win in 2020. It is a strategy similar to that of Compass’s Neal Lawson, who is far less supportive of the current leader.

Yet the other article, attracting much more media attention than debates on the Labour Left usually do, was from Owen Jones. Titled, “Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer”, Jones argues Labour are heading for a disaster due to a lack of strategy from Corbyn’s team, and asks supporters the following: How can the disastrous polling be turned around? Where is the clear vision? How are the policies significantly different from the last general election? What’s the media strategy? What’s the strategy to win over the over-44s? What’s the strategy to win over Scotland? What’s the strategy to win over Conservative voters? How would we deal with people’s concerns about immigration? How can Labour’s mass membership be mobilised?

All of these are valid questions – they deserve carefully thought-out answers, and in time I’ll come to offer my thoughts on all of them. It’s also important to stress that Jones has not ‘sold out’ or ‘betrayed’ anyone on the left, and that his intervention is a well-intentioned and honest contribution to further the prospects of the socialist left in Britain. Yet in a leadership election in which, though Corbyn can be expected to win comfortably, the result is not yet known, what are the stakes? In other words, what happens if you aren’t yet convinced of the answers to some, or all, of Jones’s questions?

At one point early in the piece, Jones argues:

Some are claiming that Labour’s current plight is like the Miners’ Strike. You just have to pick sides. You may have reservations with the strategy being pursued, but voicing those concerns achieves nothing but playing into the hands of the enemy.

This is where Jones misses an important point. For many on the Labour Left – the current leadership contest is like the Miners’ Strike – there are two clear sides, and while one might disagree with the way a political battle is being conducted, you still rally behind your side, because defeat and capitulation to the other side is still much worse. In fact, just as Thatcher (aided by Kinnock’s reluctance to support the strike) used the dispute to smash Britain’s most powerful union, Blairites are using the Labour coup to smash the left within the party, to regain control over the leadership, and shut us out – permanently.

It is not just a fight, as the Guardian’s Gary Younge put it, ‘as a battle for the soul of the Labour party’, but more a fight as to ‘a battle to see whether Labour should have a soul at all.’ David Wearing laid out the alternatives, the ‘side’ against Corbyn brilliantly, when he argued the battle was not simply Corbynites v. Blairites, but whether we should even stand for progressive change.

One question Owen Jones actually poses in his article without stating it explicitly, is, what should the left do in the leadership election? Offering critical support to Corbyn and concluding the Corbyn project as beyond salvation are two very different things, and many readers have been left wondering which side Jones is on, with his article lacking a final conclusion as to what we should do with our ballots, faced with the choice before us.

Perhaps this is because the Labour Left has not been vocal enough about what is at stake. While there has been plenty of analysis of Smith, and before him Eagle, and the coup plotters, and the political trajectory they would set the party on, a key argument has too often been missed. It is not at all that these self-styled “electables” are insufficiently radical in their politics, that they would compromise on policies to leave people in poverty through cutting their benefits, nor simply too close to business or tainted by an illegal war which killed thousands. Nor is it that their way, the ‘Third Way’, is simply splitting the difference between Left and Right, between Labour and Tory – it is that such a strategy, over time, leaves wealth and power intact, hardens public opinion against welfare claimants and migrants, and enables more radical right-wing politics from the Tory government that inevitably supersedes them. It is more than a capitulation – it is a losing strategy.

Should the unthinkable happen, and Owen Smith be elected Labour leader, the party would lurch to the right ahead of the 2020 General Election in an attempt to triangulate both the Conservatives and UKIP, being tougher on welfare than the Tories, being tougher on migrants than the Tories, accepting the economic consensus as it is – regardless of how many people it left behind. There is no conceivable way that such a bankrupt strategy would secure Labour 323 seats. But were the party to be elected, we could expect a re-run of what happened under New Labour. The party would shift to the right in government, the electorate would shift with it, with the terms of debate redefined further onto the right.

Writing a year ahead of the 1997 General Election, the author David Coates argued that were Labour to go into government under Blair, and on the terms he was proposing, it would lead to a ‘revitalised, right-wing conservatism’, where Blair’s policies would act as trailblazers for further and deeper privatisation of the state. Coates was remarkably prescient, as Cameron took Labour’s PFI and turned it into the Health and Social Care Act, looked at Labour’s welfare reforms, such as the Work Capability Assessment, and made them even more brutal, and noted their fiscal rectitude, but argued it didn’t go far enough, so gave us austerity. All the rhetorical groundwork for Cameron’s Britain had been fashioned by New Labour. I would make a similar prediction were a Labour Party led from the right once more to secure power, with compromise quickly giving way to outright conservatism.

This is the battle being played out in the party right now, those are the stakes, those are the ‘sides’ that we are forced to pick. Engage in constructive debate about Labour’s strategy – Left Futures is happy to play host to that, and I’ll respond to Owen Jones’s points in full in good time – but let’s be clear about what the current alternatives to supporting Corbyn really are: a massive step backwards not just for the left in Labour, but for any progressive politics whatsoever.


  1. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I was born in 1953 and I have seen division within Labour in the 80s. The difference between then and now is that today the split is far deeper.
    The majority of Labour’s MPs do not support their leader. This is a dangerous situation for any organisation. You do not need to write long analytical articles to diagnose the problem. It is that the leader is not supported by his lieutenants. It will be fatal to the organisation if it is not resolved.
    The solution is not complicated but it is radical. It has to be, dangerous times require drastic action.
    Septembers leadership contest has to be followed by a purge or resignations. If the present leader wins the MPs that supported the coup have to resign or be removed. If the coup is successful the leader and his supporters have to be removed, not just as shadow ministers but deselected.
    The important part to this is that these stakes, the consequences have to be understood by all beforehand, now.
    Labour cannot carry on an internal war for control of the party or it will become an irrelevance.

    1. Barry Hearth says:

      The turmoil within the Labour Party is terminal for SOMEONE, and that’s most likely to be the party itself.
      If the Left win, then erring MP’s who continue that right wing way will have to go, but if the right win the left will be obliterated.
      The media will hail this outcome as a victory for moderation and common sense, but a vital part of Labour will be lost.
      That will most likely result in a massive haemorrhage of newly enrolled members withdrawing from politics completely, and that;s a danger in itself.
      If Corbyn wins, as is almost certain, some within the PLP will return to the supporting ranks, but a largish proportion will remain, do they continue with their boycotts, their booing and other antics, or go elsewhere? History for that scenario is not good for them, so that path is unlikely to be followed. The most likely outcome is that they will sit quietly while plotting another leader challenge and this time they’ll have a more serious challenger than poor Owen Smith.
      Therefore it seems to me that the ONLY course of action for either side is to bite the bullet and deselect all who oppose the “new” regime, whichever way it goes.

  2. Bernard Crofton says:

    A lot of the more sensible criticism ( I include Owen Jones as well as Danny Blanchflower) is bemoaning Corbyn’s “failure” to turn his policies into hard proposals for legislation.
    That is not the Leader’s job. The details must always be worked out by those with special expertise, whether MPs of friendly academics. But Labour MPs effectively withdrew their Labour when Corbyn won. Even now as another thumping defeat loons for them, they plot a split, rather than a policy debate.
    Who knows, if they actually got stuck into trying to formulate detailed policies, they might find a modicum of compromise….or even unity!

  3. David Pavett says:

    My comment got badly mangled somehow. I asked Left Futures to correct it as below.

    James says FPTP can lead to uncritical cheerleading and ‘lesser evilism’. I support PR but I think it should be pointed out that these reflexes are attached to politics generally and not not to a particular electoral system (see for example the way PR works in Israel.). But while I strongly agree that we should resist the ‘with us or against us’ mentality I think that James fails to entirely avoid this. I am glad though that he has welcomed Owen Jones expression of extreme concern about the problems of Corbyn’s leadership instead of shouting “betrayal”, “back stabber” and the like (as even on Left Futures some contributors have been inclined to do).

    James agrees that the questions poeed by OJ are valid and promises a reply to them. Good, a debate about them is badly needed. But worryingly he undertakes an overall response to OJ prior to considering his specific criticisms. He asks “what happens if you aren’t yet convinced of the answers to some, or all, of Jones’s questions?”. I find it hard to see how such an approach can avoid becoming a ‘with us or against us’ argument. James says that OJ is missing the point by saying that the situation resembles the miner’s strike in the demands for uncritical support. But he then adds that it is like that strike in that there are two sides “you still rally behind your side”. James seems unaware that the Scargill’s hectoring leadership actually demanded uncritical support and that the total failure of the strke led a terrible body blow to the whole Labour movement. What kind of a model is that?

    And before anyone claims that the miners would have won had everyone rallied behind them I suggest that they go back and look at some of the arguments, demands and tactics of the NUM. The demand, for example, that only physical exhaustion of coal seams without economic considerations could justify pit closure was insane. No thinking person could ever have agreed that such a view was serious. But the NUM leaders were immune to criticism and preferred rhetoric to a serious examination of the balance of forces involved. Again, not a good model.

    James says that the argument is about “whether we should even stand for progressive change” at all. Here I think that it is James who misses the point. “Progressive change” is a nebulous term which means many different things to different people. It would be absurd to claim that the majority of MPs who voted no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn do not believe in and work for “progressive change” in some meaningful sense. That is not at all the real dividing line. That line is between those who believe not just in “progressive change” but also in a fundamental change in social power relationships and in restructuring Labour’s internal democracy to put the members in charge of the fight for such a change. Indeed James goes onto recognise that the issue goes much further than that of “progressive change”

    James’ predictions about what would or would not happen under a Smith leadership may be right or wrong. Political events of recent years, and decades, should have made all of more circumspect about political forecasting. On the other hand, I think that it would be safe to assume, as James says, a resurgence of Labour’s old guard and renewed confidence of the apparatchiks in their ability to control and manipulate. At the same time this would take place in entirely changed conditions (e.g. a massive expression of desire for change within Labour, abandonment of, or at least soft peddling on, austerity even by the Tories). We all know that the Labour right would want to return to the status quo but their ability to do so would depend on many factors, including the response of the Labour left.

    Finally, James’ central complaint is that OJ doesn’t make a clear recommendation to vote for Corbyn even though he makes explains that he has worked hard for the Corbyn campaign and that all his hopes and aspirations are invested in the political left. I think that this is because he (OJ) believes that the failures of the Corbyn leadership run so deep and that the dangers of these continuing into a renewed Corbyn leadership are so great that he wanted his points to have maximum impact. Had he ended with a vote Corbyn message that would have been what would have been most noted.

    To be clear, I will vote for Corbyn but I will do so with a strong sense of foreboding. The combination of leadership amateurism and the sub-political behaviour of the majority in the PLP have brought us to the point where it is difficult to see a good outcome. Only if the leadership team opens itself to criticism and if they make good in their promise to democratise the party will there be any hope of avoiding disaster.

  4. Bill Brandwood says:

    I have said for a long time and certainly prior to Jeremy Corbyns election that whilst the party might have traditionally a ‘left’ and ‘right’ that could work together . What is termed the ‘right’ are in fact so devolved from the membership and democratic accountability that they have almost put themselves outside of the party. Put simply they should not be in the Labour Party at all.

    As far as I can tell a section of the PLP have declared war on not Jeremy Corbyn but the party its self as presently constituted.

    We are still waiting to find out why former members of the Shadow Cabinet were not suspended from the party by the NEC pending an investigation into their conduct.

    I think we are spending too much time putting out fires that our opponents are setting, and I rather agree that we need to be much more active in what we want to achieve from a Corbyn lead party.

    The fact is that of the policies advocated so far most are modest and I would say mainstream.

    Of urgent need and not to be overlooked is to overhaul and then clarity the rules on nomination for Leader & Deputy Leader of the Party. It is very clear that the PLP now or in the future cannot be left with the task.

    I would suggest that the role of the PLP should be reduced so that candidates only require a proposer and seconder. Candidates standing for Leader or Deputy Leader would then need the support of 20% of CLPs to be on the ballot.

    Extending democracy further, and it would not automatically beneft us, any motion at Party Conference could be referred to the entire membership if 20% of delegates voted for it. Members could opt in or out of this process and the votes would be conducted on line.

  5. Robert Green says:

    Jones’s critique can come across as sort of covert support for the Smith candidacy because he has taken advantage of the weaknesses Jones points out to put forward some rather concrete, all be they not very good, positions and policies. The vagueness of the Corbyn crowd’s programme, the lack of socialist meat on the anti-austerity bones, plays into the hands of the right to some extent. It would definitely be a shame if Corbyn got outflanked by a fake lefty.

    But what the labour movement actually and desperately needs is a programme for working class power and the transition to socialism behind which the working class can muster and which offers the whole of society a route out of the capitalist coffin. We need radical policies that will challenge the rule of the capitalists such as a regime of full-employment, workers’ democracy to replace the fat cats, a People’s Bank with a monopoly of credit, socialization of the corporations, cartels and monopolies, a Federation of Sovereign Nations to replace the Westminster Union and a New European Settlement to sweep away the EU that represents workers’ interests.

  6. Paul Dias says:

    Absolutely spot on, James Elliott!

  7. Carmen Malaree says:

    I agree with what you say in ‘ A Short reply to O Jones’, but I would like to add that Jones left out completely in his article the increase in membership of the LP thanks to J Corbyn. This clearly shows that his policies have support. He also ignored the venomous influence of the mainstream media trying to destroy Corbyn mentally (often there were innuendos) and Jones did not weighed out the consequences of his article in this sort of very negative atmosphere. Did he not think for a second how the mainstream media and LMPs opposing Corbyn would profit from what he says in the article at this critical time? He even had the temerity to suggest a replacement of Corbyn by Lewis, the MP who represents a constituency in Leeds. Therefore where I disagree with you is in Jones’s intentions when he made his article available to the public. I am very sorry, but I do not trust him anymore.

  8. Karl Stewart says:

    I just can’t work out how he can feel so negative and despondent when politics is so positive at the moment.

    A socialist leader for the first time, half a million members – the most ever.
    Thousands of people across the country come out to hear him speak.

    Such is the left-shift in politics that even the person challenging Corbyn from the right feels it necessary to call for a “…cold-eyed, practical, socialist revolution…”

    Even the Tory leader feels it politically necessary to say that workers need a pay rise.

    I can’t remember a time, politically, when everything looked so positive.

    And the EU can no longer stop us.

    What’s Owen Jones so miserable about?

  9. Hugh Weldon says:

    Yes there is a choice. But to choose Corbyn is to choose belief over pragmatism, principles over power, slogans over strategy, and ultimately impossibility over possibility. Thousands join up and throng meetings while it just looks like cultish self-admiration to the millions who stay at home, see Theresa May on telly and think she seems to know what she’s doing. And you get your split and your 40 MP socialist party and it is a betrayal of the weakest and most vulnerable while the Tories go ahead, privatise everything that’s left and praise Mammon for evermore. Wonderful.

    1. Barry Hearth says:

      The fact is that unless the tories call an election, they are free to do as they wish until 2020.
      Theresa May…..she knows what she’s doing? Really? Is this the Theresa May that flopped around as Home Secretary?
      Are you really saying that she’s that good?

  10. Verity says:

    I see Owen Jones as primarily a Journalist, i.e. someone who makes commentary on affairs and does not see the need to consider the timing of his contributions or the political effect of them. In my own constituency that contribution is promoted by proud Blairites as evidence as the need for the change from Corbyn rather than as a reinforcement of the backup support he requires to make a success of proposed radical change.

    That does not mean that we should not be thinking and developing the strategy and policies required for political advance. We should be doing that in order to progress beyond the indulgence of commentators. The mistake I believe we have made is that we have all looked to the leader to initiate or Momentum to organise.

    The leaders have had to balance a number of considerations and have chosen a different approach, i.e. to go much slower and more cautiously and get the timing right for maximum political advantage and minimum damage. Initiating in parallel or outside the structures of Labour can be threatening and could have been counterproductive. It would be a reasonable observation to try to suggest they have made misjudgments, but we do not yet know that. What I believe we should have done is taken the reigns ourselves and not waited for the leaders to begin that process. There have been calls to do so, but we lacked the mechanism for initiation, which may need to out of public every time an idea is explored. Other than my shallow grasp of economics, there is nothing preventing me from forming an economic advisory panel and promote discussion and proposals. Are we culturally conditioned to await the leader to tell us to start forming groups? Or are we fearful of being challenged as an underground or parallel Bolshevik organisation? History has certainly contributed to some of fears.

    I agree with the lead article in challenging the ‘Journalist – Commentator’s’ timing – I believe it arises out frustration at not being able to make a bigger contribution much earlier and more significant than repeated cheering on the same assertions of what would constitute political advance.

    Following Corbyn’s possible re-election, either the leadership initiates or we do so.

  11. Cazz says:

    I have been a labour surporter for35 yeas and so my parents before me but we will not or can’t surport Jeremy Corbyn he just doesn’t represent us

    1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

      Cazz, would you like to explain how Jeremy does not represent Labour, likewise I have been an active member since 1974.

      I would also be interested to hear how so many people that deserted New Labour and re-joined because of Jeremy Corbyn, could possibly be so wrong in your view.

      Genuinely interested.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    How about “A Question For Owen Jones – who are you voting for?”

    1. Carmen Malaree says:

      O Jones probably thinks he is above political commitment.

    2. Paul Dias says:

      I reckon Owen will vote for the man who said this, Karl:

      “We, the Labour Party, are overwhelmingly for staying in, because we believe the European Union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment.

      But also because we recognise that our membership offers a crucial route to meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century, on climate change, on restraining the power of global corporations and ensuring they pay fair taxes, on tackling cyber-crime and terrorism, on ensuring trade is fair with protections for workers and consumers and in addressing refugee movements.”

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        We can speculate, but unless the boy actually says, then we won’t know will we?

        I just think it smacks of arrogance to tell us we “need” to answer his nine questions, but he won’t even answer one simple question himself.

        1. Barry Hearth says:

          Do you know, I don’t care who Owen Jones votes for, he’s a journalist and my dear long dead Mother told me that they were the scum of society, but scum does rise to the top.
          I’m just happy knowing who I’ll be voting for, and it won’t be for my countryman.
          Wet and windy here in Wales tonight.

  13. Bazza says:

    Read Owen’s piece and felt it was as dull as ditchwater and full of negativity and I don’t feel he has really grasped what is happening.
    All he can see is a cliff when some of us left wing democratic socialists are surfing the stratosphere with ideas and organisation skills, and tons of talented working class and progressive middle class people are swelling our ranks and our collective ideas and dreams could be the source of victory.
    We perhaps don’t need the great men and women of history of the Right and perhaps don’t need those who think they are leading light thinkers when infact they are perhaps running furiously to try to catch our tailwind.
    But there are TWO battles to win; one to beat the top down Right in Labour and replace them with 174 left wing democratic socialist Labour MPs, and get power back to Labour members.
    The second is against the more bourgeois socialist left who may be our side but who perhaps wish to lead the change and perhaps take power for themselves when we need grassroots, bottom up, participative, left wing democratic socialist practice.
    Win both and with our brothers and sisters at home and abroad we can transform the UK and the World.
    I support JC because he is refreshingly honest and stands for what he belives in plus I believe he is in tune with members power but hopefully if we can get JC re-elected the focus should then be on putting flesh on the bones of policy.
    If Momentum etc. from the top will not lead on this then Momentum members etc. need to lead the process from the below.
    As someone said of members at a recent nomination meeting (speaking in favour of JC who won) “Take the power, take the power, take the power!”
    I have always argued the greatest achievement of Neo-Liberalism is to stop the Left from dreaming and perhaps we need to smash the glass ceiling of timidity.
    Neo-Liberalism believes everything has a price and you can have anything in life you want as long as you pay for it but perhaps its drive for cheap labour has reduced the capacity of working people to purchase commodites and hopefully it will fade because it knows the price of everything and the value of nothing!
    Some see cliffs and some see mountains and some perhaps are already on the summit, join the visionaries, the view is wonderful!

  14. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

    Taking up Verity’s points, it is exactly right that we from the bottom up should be taking the arguments to the leadership. We should be shaping the debate, and not following the sterile road show about who is fit to lead. I don’t need a leader to think for me, but am capable of thinking for myself.

    Sometimes I wonder whether even the people on the left actually understand the Neo-Liberal agenda, what is for certain is that most people in this country and around the world don’t.

    I am afraid I have lost confidence in Owen Jones and have watched him sliding backwards almost hedging his bets, he likes to be liked, and sometimes that is not doing the job he needs to do.

    I ask the question, why doesn’t he challenge Neo-Liberalism by explaining how works against the interests of everybody. Who is behind it and who’s interests it really serves.

    I suspect he has a very shallow view of the world and doesn’t want to rock too many boats, but feels safe nudging at the difficulties facing Jeremy Corbyn, when in fact the pressures mounted against Jeremy have been under-rated, but when Owen Jones was insulted by the Homophobic language expressed by a Sky Presenter, he tore off his earpiece and ran away, instead of standing his ground, then preaches to Jeremy that he needs to flesh out his ideas more precisely.

    In a democracy, if people understand the meaning of the word, politicians should seek a consensus for the policies they want to adopt, but in the Neo-Liberal world we live in we have become used to lying politicians who tell people what they want to hear and then do exactly what they intended to do in the first place. Anybody think Fracking is a good idea????

    I have placed these documents on these threads before and find very few people actually mention them, but these documents are historical facts about the direction of travel that we have gone through spelling out what Neo-Liberal governments have pursued over the last forty years. Please read them, and start telling people, nothing that is happening to happened by accident, but is deliberate policy.

    This first document from 1977 was written by Nicholas Ridley and explains how they would denationalise the state, subvert the Unions, use the security services of the state against organised Labour, and build up stocks of coal to take on the miners. All of this before the Miners even got a whiff of what lay ahead.

    This next document is Margaret Thatcher’s secret 1982 cabinet papers, “the longer term options.”

    These papers describe in detail how the Tories would dismantle the state, circumvent public resistance, force people to pay for public services.

    I have said it before but to view this document click on where it says SHOW IMAGES.

    Information is key, these documents show clear intent, and history shows that is exactly what they have done. New Labour have been instrumental in carrying on the agenda, which is why Blair and Brown made it their first task to invite her as their first guest to 10 Downing street. It really is obvious, but whilst we sit on this information and not get it into the public domain, we miss the whole point of opposition.

    1. Bazza says:

      Good points Mervyn but your links unfortunately are hard to read.
      But people do need to understand what has been and is really going on with Neoliberalism.
      A quick Google gets a descriptive history of Neoliberalism on Wikipedia.
      There is also a pretty good readable piece by George Mombiot ‘Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of our problems’ in The Guardian 15/4/16 (people should just Google it) and George makes the excellent point that the Left needs to come up with its own alternative and I in my own small way have been putting forward ideas regularly on left wing, grassroots, bottom up, participatory, democratic socialism.
      Funny coming from poverty I remember often being down to my last fish finger (being unemployed for a short while in my youth and sat in my council flat) before the Giro finally came.
      And when I was the first in my working class family to go to University a few years later how I laughed outloud when reading lower middle class Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom’ especially when he declared, “Welfare is tyranny!”
      Funny how this right wing ideology has redistributed wealth from us all to the rich.
      The more who understand this then their game is up!

  15. Karl Stewart says:

    He’s demanded answers on a set of questions, but he’s repeatedly refused to answer one simple question himself.

    It’s not a difficult question.

    Owen Jones, who are you voting for?

  16. Sue says:

    I believe you are correct in your analysis James. I hope Owen Jones reads it because I think he’s sort of missed this point.

  17. Rachel says:

    Owen Jones is right to be worried about the future of the left. The current electoral system, Is brutal, undemocratic and after boundary changes will be more weighed in favour of the Tories than it is now. Labour MPs from all parts of the party are saying they now support PR. I’d love to think its because they want a far more democratic voting system but more likely they have done the electoral maths and understand the chance of LP ever winning a
    majority on its own are very very slim. Elections are won,
    sadly in swing seats and the LP has to win a large number of these, that are Tory leaning to actually win an election. Large crowds, especially in LP supporting areas mean very little in terms of winning elections. Both Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock experienced that. We need LP fit and capable of working with others wanting to get rid of Tories. Many believe the Tories have already won the next scheduled election. If they do call a snap election they have.

    sadly in swing seats, and the LP would need to win 50 or

    so in these prone to Tory voting seats, where currently ive heard polling for the LP is even lower than other polls. (Not checked this info so may or may not be correct) In current circumstances in terms of winning an election, it dosnt matter who is LP leader. We need a LP capable of working with others to try and beat the Tories. Thats the bottom line. The mess in the LP had the potential to bring the left to oblivion.

  18. Peter Rowlands says:

    A case can be made out that the slightest criticism of Corbyn (JC) in the election period is tantamount to helping Owen Smith, but I hope that we need not go that far on this blog at least, as what is said here is unlikely to have much effect either way.
    Having said that I shall vote for JC, although not particularly on the grounds given by James, as I do not think that either side has demonstrated that they have the policies or understanding to begin to cope with the very serious problems that confront us. This is however more likely to develop under JC as there is at least a recognition that there is a crisis, whereas many on the Smith side seem reluctant to recognise this at all. Neither is it a question of policy.Although more should have been done by JC to develop this the debate has already got out of hand on both sides, and should recover a sense of proportion.
    There are two main reasons why JC should be strongly supported. Firstly, to do otherwise would be to condone, even in part, the disloyalty, irresponsibility and stupidity of most of the PLP in precipitating a vote of no confidence in JC which let the Tories off the hook when they were at their most vulnerable, showed complete contempt for the membership and threatened a major split which could have catastrophic consequences. There is also little doubt that behind the coup were many of those who have never accepted JC as a legitimate leader and would prefer, as Blair said, not to have a Labour government of the JC type.
    Mandelson was no doubt prominent, someone who should have been expelled for his undermining of Ed Miliband, let alone JC. I am not prepared to have people like this determine the nature of the party I belong to.
    The second reason for voting for JC is to sustain and help to fruitfully develop the huge upsurge of support there has been for JC and what he represents over the past year or so, something which no-one who thinks of themselves as a socialist can fail to be impressed by and fully support. A Smith victory would mark the end of the road for such a movement, at least for the time being, and would be an enormous waste.
    Having said that I welcome Owen Jones’s article, and look forward to participating in the debate over the points he raises.

  19. Giles Wynne says:

    NUTS 2 U- But Owen Jones is correct “Corbyn has No Clear Vision” “The Radical says he is “doing complicated when he should be doing simple” it read on

  20. Bazza says:

    Just read Kate Green is Owen Smith’s campaign manager and her CLP (Stratford & Urmston) just nominated Jeremy Corbyn 72-46!

  21. Bazza says:

    Oops Stretford!

  22. John Penney says:

    Specific context is the issue we on the Left have to consider when analysing the purpose and intention of Owen Jones’ “questions” article – and other recent ambiguous articles on the Leadership.

    The Labour anti Corbyn Right have concluded, correctly, that the huge influx of Left-leaning members , affiliates and supporters into the Party, and the Right’s evident theoretical and policy poverty, means that to argue any sort of neoliberal policy option will simply amplify their 2015 defeat by Jeremy. They have therefore opted to try and simply ignore politics altogether – through the outrageous conceit of the utterly non-believable policy position put forward by Owen Smith that he is “fully on board the Corbyn Left policy shift for Labour” – but offers himself as a “unity candidate of competence”.

    Hence the entire thrust of the attack on Jeremy is on his supposed “incompetence”, his “lack of detail policies” and the claimed “irrational intimidatory menace of his supporters”. Now I don’t for a moment deny the so far inadequacy of Left policy development by the Corbynite left (though to suggest Blaire for example ever had a detailed policy agenda worked out and clearly offered – or Teresa May just the other week, beyond a few general outlines and platitudes, is simply a joke.) But for any commentator to intentionally support and feed the cynical agenda of the Right that Jeremy is especially unelectable because his policy bundle isn’t yet fully developed, or that , in the context of continual disruption and sabotage from both the PLP majority and the Party machine, Jeremy’s stewardship of the Party is somehow especially “incompetent, is imply to deliberately aid the Right in building their diversionary anti Corbyn narrative.

    Owen Jones has deliberately fed into and helped the Right’s anti Corbyn narrative for many months – in fact ever since shortly after his Leadership victory Jeremy made it clear he wasn’t going to have his agenda dictated by Owen Jones (on not appointing John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor for instance). Owen Jones will DEFINITELY vote for Owen Smith. He is no ally of the Left – and has always been an obvious political opportunist – simply using a short term “radical Leftist persona” for personal career advancement.

    Similarly all the hand-wringing stuff from the likes of David Pavett is feeding off and deliberately into the now quite clear diversionary agenda of the Right to avoid fighting Jeremy on his actually perfectly clear (but admittedly undeveloped) Left agenda – in favour of vague smears about “amateurism”, “lack of leadership skills” , etc. I don’t for a moment believe David Pavett will actually vote for Jeremy. His entire agenda has been for months simply to undermine our Left agenda , whilst claiming to be “on our side”. In the same way the comment blogosphere is full of Labour Right wingers bogusly claiming to have voted for Jeremy in 2015, but now have “seen the light” and will vote for Smith.

    1. Verity says:

      Surely it is the effects of what people do (or say) rather their supposed intentions which is of interest or value to us?

      In any case we all have different capacities to calculate intentions and sometimes do get it wrong. It is so obvious to me that Owen Smith is like a second hand car salesman but I appreciate that (amazing to me) others do not see that in him, so what is the point of me insisting on what is obvious. I need to demonstrate by what he does or says of my perspective.

    2. John Walsh says:

      Respectfully, can I disagree with two of your points above John Penny? Firstly, given his track record, I find it hard to believe that Owen Jones is dishonest in his claims to be supportive of the left. Secondly, although he seems perfectly capable of speaking for himself, given his contributions to discussions here I find it not useful to be criticising David Pavett in that way

      For some time now a number of commenters here have been arguing for ways to enable more meaningful involvement by members. I don’t think that Owen Jones quite gets the importance of this, otherwise his argument would be easier to put – the left is unwittingly being part of the destruction of the Labour Party because it is failing to mobilise the membership.

      As the argument goes (broadly), transforming mass membership into the grassroots movement which can engage with the wider electorate will involve a new conception of membership which is based in a participatory political culture, where for example, we would be meaningfully involved in policy discussion and formation. As far as I can see, this isn’t happening and it doesn’t look like happening anytime soon, especially in Momentum locally to me. Nevertheless, the only thing to do is to keep trying and that’s what I’ll be doing at a Momentum meeting this evening …

      1. Robert Green says:

        Owen Jones has a point. Corbyn and Co. are very vague on perspective and programme and even vision and Owen Smith is taking advantage of that fact with his list of concrete proposals all be they bogus. The whole purpose of a socialist leadership is to give the working class a common perspective and understanding of the period and to develop a programme that leads inexorably to working class power and the transition to socialism. Other wise what is the point of anybody calling themselves a socialist?

        Let’s have some socialist meat on the anti-austerity bones and I’m talking about more than nationalizing the hugely loss making railways. Full-employment, People’s Bank, socialisation of the property and profits of the corporations, cartels and monopolies, workers’ democracy, Federation, socialist Europe, etc. That is how you mobilise the masses.

        1. John Penney says:

          This is pretty low, even for the twice banned from this site, David Ellis, aka, Robert Green.

          Ellis wants Jeremy Corbyn to adopt a full cream ultraleft revolutionary socialist programme , on the ludicrous premise that “global capitalism is now in its final death throws – and no reform or amelioration of the lot of the working class is possible”. So Ellis therefore offers aid and comfort to Owen smith’s blatant anti Corbyn agenda by claiming “he has a point” – simply so he can then demand , yet again, that Jeremy and the Labour Party becomes the revolutionary Party. Tragic stuff , even for you David.

          1. John Penney says:

            Oops, That should of course read “Owen Jones’ blatant anti Corbyn agenda …

    3. David Pavett says:

      It is not easy to have a calm debate when the holders of different opinions all see very great stakes involved in their views being accepted. If we want an intelligent debate on the left about Labour current crisis we need to stick to substantial policy and organisational issues. These need to be debating carefully while remaining aware that even people we disagree with may have something to say that is worth listening to.

      If, on the other hand, we simply want a gather of the righteous where all those seen as outside the group can be condemned a cowards, turncoats and liars then that requires no effort at all. This sort of evangelical stuff is nevertheless worse than a waste of time. It is destructive of meaningful politics and therefore harmful to the great and difficult cause of changing society in the direction of socialism.

      1. It is entirely wrong to say that all those questioning Corbyn’s competence as a leader and as an initiator of policy change come from a hostile position. For example Clive Lewis in a recent Guardian article admitted to mistakes made which needed to be corrected. He is hardly an anti-Corbynite. (This six-minute interview with CL is worth watching.) In far more detail Paul Mason has made a detailed analysis of the problems in which he describes Corbyn’s leadership as “shambolic” before going on to propose a way forward and making clear that he is supporting Corbyn in the leadership election. Mason doesn’t say he is unelectable. He says that there is lots of work to be done if he is to become electable.

      2. Is it not something of a massively coy understatement to say of Corbyn that “his policy bundle isn’t yet fully developed”? I wonder which you consider to be the developed bits.

      3. The question of Corbyn’s competence as leader must be treated objectively – either there are significant problems or there are not. It should not be treated as a matter of which one cannot speak for fear of aiding the enemy. The most incompetent armies are the one in which no feed back on the problems of one’s own side is possible.

      4. James Elliot took a mature stance on handling the criticisms and questions posed by Owen Jones by avoiding imputations of bad faith. You clearly felt unable to do the same. Instead of different evaluations you see bad faith and dishonesty. This, of course, removes the need to listen carefully to the points made. This is how political (and other) groups become sects. You claim that “Owen Jones has deliberately fed into and helped the Right’s anti-Corbyn narrative for many months” is ridiculous. He sees problems which in his view will threaten the suprise ascendancy of the left in the LP. He is doing what any intelligent person would do in such circumstances by trying to draw the attention of others to what he sees as problems.

      You say “Owen Jones will DEFINITELY vote for Owen Smith”. You have no knowledge of that and such statements are the product, I’m sorry to say, of a witch-hunting mentality.

      5. You claim that “the likes of David Pavett” are feeding off and deliberately into the now quite clear diversionary agenda of the Right”. So there’s the bad faith on my part, based on nothing more than the fact that you disagree with my evaluation of the current state of the Labour crisis. Then you go further and call me a liar: “I don’t for a moment believe David Pavett will actually vote for Jeremy”. You add that my “entire agenda has been for months simply to undermine our Left agenda”. I have no idea what left agenda you think I am undermining or in what way you see me as doing that. I have no need to justify myself but I think that I can claim that over the last few years I have made more effort than most in my 70 or so articles on Left Futures to get some elements of a left agenda in place.

      I had hope that you would step back from your accusations and denunciations but it seems that this is not to be. I frankly don’t have the time for a lot of this nonsense. I will carry on making my contributions as best I can and if you continue in this mode I will simply stop taking any notice of your contributions.

      I have no need to justify myself and I will not attempt to do so in response to you again. It is enough to have the ludicrous ad hominem notes from Peter Wilsman on LF without you joining in as well. I have no reasons to assume that you write in anything other that good faith. You have none to make such an assumption about me. The decent thing would be to apologise but I won’t be holding my breath. Short of that I would like you to think about the off-putting nature an accusatory atmosphere for those thinking of dipping their toes into the waters of political debate. Inclusive it is not.

      1. peter willsman says:

        DP,as always I will ignore your insults,but can we take it that you are voting for JC?I am sure JC will be overjoyed to have such an intellectual giant on his side.

        1. David Pavett says:

          Peter, I did not insult you. I referred to your repeated use of ad hominem arguments which you clearly feel are in order. It is there in the record for all to see. Now you feel that adding sarcasm will help you to make your points. It really doesn’t help anyone.

          As to the way I intend to vote I have stated it over and over again here and elsewhere. If you were interested in my voting intentions, rather than trying to make a sarcastic quip, you would know.

          1. peter willsman says:

            Thank you David;an understanding of insults is something else we disagree about,I don’t see ‘ivory tower’as an insult, but you do.I think what you said was a tad insulting,but you don’t!Have you managed to get your CLP to nominate JC?Yours in comradeship,PW.

          2. David Pavett says:

            Peter, I’ll have try and imagine that you think that repeatedly saying to someone that their arguments are formed in an ivory tower is some kind analytical comment on their ideas.

            My CLP has not nominated yet. I will be one contributor among many so it is not a question of me determing the result. If you were not trying to score points you might imagine that I will do my bit.

          3. peter willsman says:

            As you know,I use the term of ‘ivory tower’in the sense of making arguments in isolation from the social and political context.

          4. David Pavett says:

            Peter, you haven’t yet understood that giving a name to something (abusive or not) is not to explain it.

            If I say that an obect falls to the ground because of the “force of gravity” I have explained nothing. All I have done is to give a name to the phenomenon. People commonky believe that when they can give a name to something they have explainef it. That appears to include you.

            If you want to show that something I, or anyone else, has said is said in “isolation from the social and political context” then that is what you have to do, you need to show it. Intoning “ivory tower” really doesn’t do the job. To appreciate this you need to underdtand the difference between name calling and counter argument.

          5. peter willsman says:

            DP,on the NEC no one is as evasive(or as pompous)as you.I have made it clear that my basic objection to PR is that it would deny the working class the protection of a majority Lab.Govt,indeed would cause our Party to split into several fragments and would give us the further obstacle of some 100 Ukip MPs. Both myself(many times)and Prof.Danny Nicol(elsewhere on Leftfutures)have put this fundamental objection,but real answer,there has been none.On the NEC I would at least get some sort of answer from the few that are keen on PR.But from Leftfutures’ answer to Keith Flett, all we get is little, petty jibes.

          6. David Pavett says:

            Peter, you say “on the NEC no one is as evasive(or as pompous) as you” etc AND don’t answer the point.

            Enough already. I rest my case.

        2. peter willsman says:

          DP,we seem to be going round in circles.My basic point is that your case for PR abstracts from the concrete reality of the class struggle,ie you argue as if in an ivory tower.You look at the issue in the abstract,not in terms of how it would work out in the reality of the working class struggle.Thus you ignore/dismiss the fact that our class would lose its most effective weapon and ,also,we’d have some 100 UKIP MPs.You have not yet answered this basic point.You simply rabbit on about ad hom.

          1. David Pavett says:

            Saying the words “reality of class struggle” is not the same as real analysis based on it. Your idea that a major shift in the balance of class power can be carried out without majority support is a fantasy that abstracts from everything we know about class power.

          2. Peter Willsman says:

            DP,you are now making a fetish of the notion of ‘majority’.Social change is a dynamic process.Voters are influenced by what a party does in power.A progressive(1945 style) majority Labour Govt,carrying out policies that benefited the majority could build mass support that could propel it further.But your beloved PR would mean no real chance of majority Lab.Govts.indeed would lead to the splitting of our Party into many ineffective fragments,and would give UKIP and the far right a huge boost.

          3. David Pavett says:

            Peter, you think that it is a “fetish” to believe that a democratic majority is required to see through fundamental social change. You think this process can be launched on minority support, with the help of electoral bias, and, despite the enormous difficulties it would face could pick up majority support along the way. You cite the ’45 Labour Government even though it did not challenge capitalist hegemony and lost support during its time in office. Strange argument.

          4. peter willsman says:

            DP,I am using ‘fetish’ in the sense KHM talked of fetishism of commodities ie abstracting something from the day to day reality and giving it a special and artificial significance.I think,if you check,that in 1950 Labour had more votes than in 1945.You persist in ignoring the basic point I make,that your ‘way forward’ would mean our class losing it’s most effective weapon,would mean our Party splintering into many fragments and would create some 100 UKIP MPs.My way would be difficult,yours is a no-no.

        3. peter willsman says:

          General Election 25/10/1951 Labour had 48.8%–our highest ever %(Tories 48.0%).

          1. David Pavett says:

            Should we take it that for you this is proof positive that a majority cannot be won for left policies and that the left therefore needs the help of a biasing electoral system to give it a majority in Parliament?

          2. peter willsman says:

            I was correcting your mistake,where you said Labour lost support,when in fact the opposite was the case.In other words,a progressive Lab.Gov’t increased its support,which is the basis for my way forward.Your way only exists in your ivory tower.In reality it would benefit the ruling class by rendering the working class defenceless.Thus my Lenin and ‘useful idiots’.

          3. David Pavett says:

            Pity you didn’t answer the main point. Or is that an “ivory tower” thing? So here it is again: you think that a majority cannot be won for a left government and that a biasing electoral system is therefore needed to provide a Parliamentary majority. Is that right?

          4. peter willsman says:

            DP,I have answered your point several times.Of course I think a majority is.poss.To achieve it would be a on-going process.A majority Lab.Govt carrying out progressive policies to benefit the majority,then building on this and going further.We have seen enough of PR to know it would rule out majority Lab.Govts(although not in your ivory tower)and would land us with some 100 or so UKIP MPs.Thankfully the working class have more sense and would never vote for a system that would leave them even more defenceless than they are already.

          5. Barry Hearth says:

            Peter, you’re so right.
            Here in Wales we now have UKIP Assembly members , all came in on the “list”. That is the rigged system that gives seats to those who are rejected by the voters in the constituencies. For years the Liberal leader, German, got in by this method. He did try a constituency but was rejected, so got in by the rigged system.
            In Britain we understand FPP, it works for us and has for many more years than I can remember, and as you say it does mean that political parties don’t have to think coalition before a vote is cast.

          6. C MacMackin says:

            Peter Willsman, Sweden has proportional representation and the Social Democrats (supported by the Communists) were hegemonic there for 30 years. While it does not have proportional representation, the first social democratic government in Saskatchewan received 53% of the vote and received an outright majority on a number of other occasions. Clearly it is possible (though that is not to say easy) to build majority governments with PR. Allende had a radical government made up of a coalition and his downfall was certainly not due to this arrangement. In contrast, Attlee ended up losing to Churchill in 1951 despite having gotten the highest ever share of the popular vote–the vagueries of first past the post cut both ways. Even if they don’t form government or only form a minority government, left wing parties can have influence which they can build on to win more votes; Canada would probably not have nation-wide universal healthcare or as comprehensive a welfare state as we do (not that it’s great) if we did not have a social democratic party, despite the fact that they have never been in power federally. In fact, in Canada the cause of the left has been hindered due to the lack of PR and nearly everyone from the ill-defined “progressives” to the revolutionaries support bringing it in. Obviously, in all of these cases, the situation was quite different from that in Britain today, but it shows that left wing politics can succeed under PR. To claim that they can not is absurd British-exceptionalism which ignores the, in some cases substantially greater, achievements of the left in the rest of the world.

          7. peter willsman says:

            CM,my point is that progressive Govts can build solid majorities,which is precisely what happened in Sweden.It would be surprising if at sometime,somewhere in the world,a Left Party did not get elected with over 50%.Well done,you have found it,Saskat.,which doesn’t have PR.The obvious question to ask is,would it have got a majority if there was PR?.I very much doubt it.The question for us is,could a Left Party in UK start off with over 50%?I don’t know,nor do you,nor even does DP,nor does anyone else.Nor do I know how many angels could occupy the head of a pin.What I do know is that at the present moment, within the class struggle in the capitalist mode of production,PR would mean no majority Lab.Govts,indeed would lead to the break up of our Party into lots of bits and would land us with some 100 MPs.I can understand why the B

          8. peter willsman says:

            To finish-I pressed the wrong button!!
            ….would land us with some 100 or so UKIP MPs.I can understand why the Blairites and the CBI support PR,but not why Lefties do at this crucial moment in the struggle.

          9. David Pavett says:

            Peter, So now we can tease out, from your various responses on PR, what you are actually saying. It is this.

            We must oppose PR because:

            1. It would give right-wing parties a level of Parliamentary representation commensurate with their support in the electorate;

            2. It would mean that a radical left party could never form a government because majority support for those policies cannot be won BEFORE forming a government;

            3. we need a system that can produce Parliamentary majorities from minority electoral support because a radical left government can be formed, initially at least, in no other way;

            4. an electoral majority can only be built AFTER a radical left government has been formed and has started to implement its policies.

            At least that is now crystal clear so thanks for helping to establish it. It is a position that could never win the day in open public debate but I guess that doesn’t interest you. It is so untenable that a growing number of voices are being heard in support of PR. Rccentl examples are John McDonnall and Clive Lewis. Now doubt your answer will be that they spend too much time in their ivory towers but maybe you will come to realise that this limited line of argument is itself the result of a rather insulated form of political existence, it has no traction with people who don’t already share your views.

          10. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to DavidP at 5.18pm 16th Aug:

            David, PR is a fundamentally less democratic system than FPTP.

            Under FPTP, every voter gets their won MP.

            Under PR, they don’t.

          11. C MacMackin says:

            Karl Stewart, that depends on the system. Broadly, there are three types of PR. One is pure PR in which all MPs are elected from a list, as done in Israel. As you say, no voter has their own MP and for that reason I oppose this system.

            Then there is a “top-up” system, as seen in Germany. Everyone has a local MP and then there are some extra MPs (with no constituency) who are used to balance out the representation in Parliament. This has the advantage of being fairly easy to understand, but there is always the issue of citizens not being able to control who is selected from party lists. I have also heard questions raised about what the MPs without constituencies are supposed to do instead of constituency duties. I don’t know what is done in the countries actually using this system.

            Finally, there are forms of PR with multi-member constituencies, such as used in (southern) Ireland and in European Elections. In this case, each constituency would have a number of MPs (I think 5 is a typical number) and these are assigned to, as best as possible, represent the local vote distribution. If this is done with a preferential ballot for individual candidates (rather than parties) then this avoids the problem of unaccountable party lists. While there is the disadvantage of resulting in much larger constituencies, I favour it because it has an important ameliorating factor. As it stands, MPs are supposed to represent their constituents and their party, the interests of which may be opposed (for example, if an MP only won due to vote splitting). An individual may also feel unable to raise a concern with their MP if said MP is from a party which they don’t support. Having multi-member constituencies allows the MPs to represent the portion of constituents who support their party, neatly avoiding (although, of course, not completely eliminating) those problems.

          12. peter willsman says:

            DP,we do not seem to share common ground.I am only concerned with fighting for the exploited class within a system that is weighted against them at every turn.To me you are akin to someone worrying about how many angels on a pin and gaga about a system that at this moment would do the working class massive harm and give UKIP a huge boost.None of that seems to bother you;all you are concerned about is making a fetish of an Electoral System,which in comparison to the battle we are fighting does not matter a toss.Ask John and Clive to put their case on Leftfutures and let’s see if they are in the same irrelevant bag as you.They may have a class analysis for their position and I’d be interested to read it.

          13. C MacMackin says:

            You are right, Peter Willsman, we do not seem to share common ground. There are two important moral causes at play here which, put simply, are: 1) the struggle to make society better for working people (socialism) and 2) the struggle to ensure that people have the ability to control their lives by seeing the policies which they support enacted (democracy). I’m sure that everyone on here supports both of these principles.

            The question then becomes, what happens if these two goals are in conflict: i.e. if a majority of people would not support radical left policies. Clearly, you believe that struggle #1 should win out in that case, whereas I believe that struggle #2 should. Presumably David Pavett does too, although I don’t want to put words in his mouth. We all argue about various pragmatic considerations (could a radical government be formed with PR, could a radical government be successful if it didn’t have majority support going in, etc.) but I think these are all side issues and our real disagreement is this fundamental clash.

            I know I won’t change your stance, but I thought I’d just briefly lay out where I’m coming from. I am strongly of the opinion that if the working class do not want socialism, then it should not be forced upon them. It is that simple. I’m not trying to accuse you of being a Leninist or supporting dictatorship or anything like that, but your logic does seem rather like that used to support the banning of opposition parties during the Russian civil war, which shows where this can lead if taken to an extreme. As socialists we’re supposed to believe in people coming together to build the future they want and that must mean allowing them to make the ultimate decision. To borrow a quote from one of my favourite authors: “You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.”

            PS: This does not mean to imply that PR is the single most important issue to me or that I think everything will be great if it were adopted. It’s not an issue I usually even think about very much, compared to things like economic democracy. It just happens to be one particular policy among many others which I support.

          14. John Walsh says:

            Likewise CM (August 17, 2016 at 9:34 pm), PR isn’t something I’m overly focused on, but I wonder if there’s a “free will” concern with your argument? When you say “I am strongly of the opinion that if the working class do not want socialism, then it should not be forced upon them”, is there an assumption of free will, that the capitalist system is a level playing field in terms of, for example, education and the provision of information? Of course, social theorists going all the way back to Marx would argue no – that’s the point of the capitalist system, it’s a system that does not want free will. Hence, Max Weber’s ‘iron cage of capitalism’, which is (arguably) strengthened in our (cultural) neoliberal age. In short, it’s a problem arguing that it’s “our choice”.

            This is a tricky area to think around as it’s very easy to fall for the “I have free will, those people don’t” position, which is partly the reason why in the early US (e.g. the Puritans and later as part of the Constitution) the notion of ‘maintaining the quality of the electorate’ was very much in play. All in, this is an interested but difficult area. Just about the only easy conclusion is that the notion of ‘free will’ is a problem.

          15. C MacMackin says:

            John Walsh, there is certainly truth in such “false consciousness” arguments. Nonetheless, I do not believe it is ethical to force something on people if they do not want it, even if they are mistaken. For example, I think we would agree that it is unethical for the state to force an adult to undergo chemotherapy for cancer if they do not want to, even if said adult has been misinformed by, for example, alternative medicine quacks.

          16. John Walsh says:

            CM, is it the case that we’re talking about two different things here? When you say “false consciousness” (and then go on to make a very reasonable philosophical argument for individual moral choice) I’m thinking, oh, hang on that’s an outcome, and it’s the system which is the issue. Isn’t this Pete Willsman’s focus and point – it’s the capitalist system which is the central issue regarding the exploitation of the working classes, and because of the nature of the system, you can’t have democracy until the system is changed?

            Therefore, when you say above that “struggle #2 should [prevail]”, the response would be that it simply isn’t possible for democracy to prevail within a capitalist system. PW might then go on about the uselessness of philosophical debates about democracy – i.e. it’s the capitalist system that we have to defeat at any cost, and arguments about democracy are just ‘academic’. I wonder if there’s a discipline specificity at work here, that a (societal) system level vs. individual level analysis is at the heart of our different ways of thinking?

          17. C MacMackin says:

            JW, I’m not 100% sure if I’m clear on what you’re saying. But on the point that you can’t really have democracy under capitalism, I think you’re overstating that. Of course it is true that democracy can not reach anywhere near its potential under capitalism, given that it does not extend to the economy. However, we shouldn’t understate the democratic capacity which we do have. Relative to what has been available for the vast majority of human civilization, it is incredible. That is worth protecting, fighting for, and expanding as best as possible, even before we are able to bring about socialism. Furthermore, democracy needs people to support it in order to work. That is just as true for socialist democracy as it is for liberal democracy. So while you say that “it simply isn’t possible for democracy to prevail within a capitalist system”, it would not be able to prevail in a socialist system either unless a majority agreed with it.

          18. peter willsman says:

            John,you are spot on,I can see why you are a CLPD member.The capitalist mode of production is based on exploitation,inequality and unfairness and to abstract from this one aspect,the electoral system,and to make a fetish of this is daft for someone that wants to free the working class from the chains-PR would leave our class defenceless,would split our Party into fragments and would produce some 100 UKIP MPs.Lets get on and win for JC,not bother about how many angels on the head of a pin.

          19. David Pavett says:

            Peter (August 17, 2016 at 12:33 pm) you again portray yourself as a fighter against capitalism and me as obsessed with inconsequential problems. What you don’t get is that the constant repetition of this stuff doesn’t constitute a political argument. And after all that you didn’t answer any of my points about your view on PR!

          20. peter willsman says:

            DP,before I address your angels on a pinhead questions could we get an answer to a bigger question.Namely, why are you gaga about a system that would leave the working class defenceless in a mode of production that is based on their exploitation,would split our Party into ineffective fragments and would land us with some 100

          21. peter willsman says:

            To finish!!! ….some 100 UKIP MPs.You have never expressed any concern at this at all.At least some PR wonks accept that it would initially set the working class struggle back,but,of course, they glimpse a nirvana at the end of the rainbow.You seem to be magisterially unconcerned.

          22. David Pavett says:

            Peter (August 19, 2016 at 8:12), If only you were able to listen to yourself you would hear how ridiculous your style of argument is. Try reading this slowly

            … before I address your angels on a pinhead questions could we get an answer to a bigger question.Namely, why are you gaga about a system that would leave the working class defenceless in a mode of production that is based on their exploitation,would split our Party into ineffective fragments …


            This is the absurd style of a McCarthyite inquisitor. And that was in response to a straightforward question as to whether I had summarised your views on PR correctly. Is this the way you argue on the NEC?

          23. peter willsman says:

            DP,please see my reply of 20 Aug.above-I’ve put it in the wrong place!! Hopefully this wasn’t a subconscious comment on the quality of your argument.

        4. peter willsman says:

          DP,I thought you wouldn’t answer the basic point from me and Danny,because it would open your case to attack.At the end of the day it would come down to an act of faith on your part that working class interests would be best served by a system supported by the CBI and Blairites.I think our class need something a bit more convincing than an act of faith.As info.comes along, showing that PR would benefit the ruling class rather than the exploited class, I will make a point of bringing it to your attention.But,when someone is gaga about something, no amount of info.will cause them to lose faith.Perhaps I should give you the nickname of ‘Lord Gaga’.Looking forward to the next time,PW.

      2. John Penney says:

        I am fully expecting Owen Jones to finally declare, “with much handwringing and sorrow”, for Owen Smith, shortly after voting commences.

        Once you have done your own little bit, as you have done for months now, to damage the Corbyn campaign, by your constant nitpicking of his competence and leadership skills and policy development shortcomings, and regular defence of the “soft Left” who have so blatantly failed to support him all year, from a supposed position on the Left (so much more effective in the current battle for the dominant narrative than criticism coming openly from the Labour right), will you too finally, (sorrowfully and with much hand-wringing”) declare for Owen Smith at the opening of voting, David ? I strongly expect so.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          And if David asserts that he voted for JC you will no doubt call him a liar, as only those of the true faith like yourself can be trusted.
          Labour is in a dreadful position, mainly the fault of its MPs, but there is a chance that unity can be maintained. However, with people like you around there is less chance of that, as any compromise will be seen as capitulation. If you and your ultra left ilk, in an unholy alliance with the Labour right, do succeed in destroying the party I hope you will explain to the rest of us exactly how this has helped the socialist cause.

  23. Karl Stewart says:

    Robert and David are quite wrong. Jones certainly doesn’t “have a point” at all.

    The “crisis” he and his namesake Smith refer to is entirely the creation of Smith and others who walked away from their Shadow Cabinet responsibilities in a manner calculated to cause the maximum political damage possible.

    On the morning after the EU referendum victory, the Tories were in disarray, and Labour were perfectly placed to seize the political initiative by setting out a positive and robust Labour-Brexit plan.

    Corbyn, as the only party leader not to have campaigned alongside the discredited Cameron, and just a month after a solid and victorious performance in the mayoral and local authority elections, was ideally positioned to lead this.

    But Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle, Owen Smith, Lisa Nandy and others decided that was the right time to try to create a crisis within the Labour Party. These morons decided that this was the right time to take the pressure off the Tories.

    Supported by mainstream media commentators like Jones, Toynbee and others, these idiots managed to achieve a crucial breathing space for the Tories, allowing them to readjust and replace their leader.

    John McDonnell was absolutely right about these characters – f*****g useless the lot of them.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Karl, you have a very optimistic take on current events. Time will tell if you are right. I doubt it myself.

      But surely something is wrong when you find yourself concluding that Owen Smith and Lisa Nandy are “morons”, then further that OJ along with Polly Toynbee is an “idiot” and that all these people are “f*****g useless”. Being able to disagree with people, even strongly, without seeing them as either stupid or badly motivated is surely a precondition for conducting an intelligent public debate.

      You say that you don’t think OJ made any valid points in his article. That makes me wonder how carefully you have read it. This is not at all the approach taken by James Elliot in his piece above where he wrote of the issues raised by Jones “All of these are valid questions – they deserve carefully thought-out answers”.

      1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

        David: I am all in favour of mulling over and delivering considered answers, but whenever we need to challenge those on the right with a stark rebuttal, your answer is to tell every body else they are doing their case harm.

        When are we going to hear a genuine rebuttal against them from you, instead of attacking those who are supposedly on the same side as you.

        I can’t honestly have ever heard you complain about the so called opposition, or denounced the smears and slander these people generate.

        Isn’t it is a sign of weakness for these despicable people to degenerate into these kind of tactics, or do you think it acceptable to slander people like Jeremy because the 172 are greater in number.

        The case has been proven against the PR company and its activities, The BBC has been exposed in rigging a resignation to harm Jeremy and to steal his plunder, Windowgate proved that Angela Eagle has been lying, the office fiasco was bullying at it’s worst whilst claiming to be the victim.

        At what point David do say enough is enough, and that a little bad temper is allowed now and again, or is that strictly reserved for the perpetrators who connive against us as we speak.

        In response to your defence of the weak Owen Jones, whom I no longer trust, ask yourself this, 1 year ago he was backing Corbyn, what has changed between then and now? Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t, After numerous victories in the face of the vilest propaganda campaign this country has ever seen, certainly in modern times. There is of course academic evidence backing that up, so why are you giving our so called opposition ammunition to beat him even further down; when you and Owen pretend to support him.

        1. David Pavett says:

          Mervyn, I am entirely in favour of stark rebuttals but this does not require the use of personal abuse or intemperate language. Their use reflects a lack of substantial argument and gets in the way of reaching out to those who are not yet convinced.

          In his acceptance speach on becoming Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an end to personal abuse and for a kinder form of politics. I am with him on that but it is rather clear that this is not the case for some contributors to Left Futures who say they are Corbyn supporters. Do you think I am wrong about this?

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            I’m sorry David, I’m just not into that ‘turn the other cheek’ nonsense.

            Someone scabs, I’ll call them a scab.

    2. John Penney says:

      Quite right, Karl.

  24. Karl Stewart says:

    Come on David, this is a serious political fight, not a Sunday afternoon game of cricket.

    Smith, Nancy, Jones, Eagle, Toynbee, Benn etc have consciously decided to place themselves on the other side, with the establishment and against socialism.

    So we fight them politically – this involves robust exchanges of views.

    1. David Pavett says:

      A robust exchange is fine with me. But it does not require the use of personal abuse or intemperate language.

      In his acceptance speach on becoming Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an end to personal abuse and for a kinder form of politics. I am with him on that but it is rather clear that this is not the case for some contributors to Left Futures who say they are Corbyn supporters. Do you think I am wrong about this?

    2. Jim Denham says:

      Karl: a scab is someone who crosses a picket line during an industrial dispute, not a Labour Party member who votes for a right wing candidate. They may be wrong and they may indeed have unworthy motives, but they are nort scabs. Just as “left wingers” who supported Brexit have boosted racism and isolationism and set back the working class very considerably: but they’re not scabs: just idiots.

      I’m actively supporting JC in case anyone wonders.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Brexit was the right position to take Jim. People on the left who supported ‘Leave’ made absolutely the right call.

        And the profound leftward shift in mainstream political discourse which we are now witnessing is bearing out the correctness of the ‘Left-Leave’ position.

        Most of those on the left who supported ‘Remain’ did so out of a genuine belief that this was the best way forward. And they deserve full respect.

        But sadly, a tiny minority of left-wing ‘Remain’ supporters used the debate as an opportunity for sectarian point-scoring.

        This would not be too serious if that was all they did, however, such was their desperation that some of these elements started hysterically accusing all ‘Leave’ voters of being motivated by racism.

        Firstly, this is a revolting smear on left-wing people with a long history of actively fighting racism.

        But the effect on the smeared individuals of that is of far less consequence than the false impression given to the racist right that 52 per cent of the population quietly agrees with them.

        It was the lies and the smears of a minority of the ‘Remain’ people that gave the racists that impression.

        Jim, this smearing of the left by you and people like you has been the most disgraceful campaign I think I have ever known.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          “And the profound leftward shift in mainstream political discourse which we are now witnessing is bearing out the correctness of the ‘Left-Leave’ position”: what fantasy-land are you living in, Karl? Try selling that nonsense to the victims of the well=documented increase in racist attacks since the referendum result.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            We all need to unite against racist abuse and attacks. I think the biggest single thing that could really make a big impact would be to achieve the permanent residency guarantee for all EU nationals who came here before the vote.

            The reason, in my opinion, why the tiny minority of racist boneheads may have felt emboldened by the EU vote may have been partly due to morons like you and others who said all leave voters were racists. The constant repetition of that lie by a small minority of idiots among the Remain camp may have led these sick individuals to think that 52 per cent of the population quietly agreed with them.

            As to the fact that mainstream political discourse has shifted leftwards, and continues to do so, this is evidenced by, for example, the Labour leadership challenger from the right feeling it necessary to call for, among other things “…a cold-eyed, practical, socialist revolution…”

            Compare the situation in the 2016 leadership election, with the challenger desperately trying to ‘outleft’ the incumbent, to the prevailing discourse in the 2015 leadership election, with all the talk of ‘aspiration’ and of business leaders being ‘heroes’.

            Also, among the Tories, compare the rhetoric coming from the new Prime Minister about how workers deserve a pay rise, and about how the life chances of working-class youth need to be improved, and the criticism of the treatment of black youth by the police.

            I’m not for one moment suggesting the Theresa May means any of this, or that Owen Smith means any of this, but surely it must be recognised that the fact that the Tory Prime Minister and the right-wing challenger for the Labour leadership feel it politically necessary to engage in such ‘progressive’ sounding rhetoric is clear evidence of a significant leftward shift in mainstream political discourse.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            Karl: I have never said all leave voters are racists – but the truth is that the Leave campaign revolved around the question of immigration and a Leave vote was – however you want to dress it up – a vote against immigration. The considerable (and continuing) increase in racist attacks and racist incidents was not down to a “tiny minority.” But I don’t blame workers who were mislead by the lies and racism of the various Leave campaigns: I *do* blame those sections of the “Left” who gave a “left” cover to this by peddling the nonsense of a “Left Exit” or whatever. These irresponsible idiots and/or opportunists represent all that’s wrong with a section of the “left”: an amalgam of Stalinists, little-Englanders and kitsch-Trots who are really followers of the discredited politics of the late 19/early 20th century “anti-imperialist” wing of the US Democratic Party. Wait for the return of bi-metallism and new dialectical creationism. I can only hope they don’t rediscover prohibition – nobody could deal with this shite without a drink.

      2. Robert Green says:

        I believe Lenin described Zinoviev and Kamenev as scabs for opposing the taking of power by the organs of the proletarian revolution in October 1917. I think it is possible to be a political scab. For instance those who recognise Israel or who refused to support the Syrian National Democratic Revolution or to oppose the invasion of Ukraine.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          Robert, to back up your Stalinist re-writing of history, perhaps you’d like to direct us to the passage(s) in which Lenin refers to Zinoviev and Kamenev as “scabs”?

          The nearest I’ve been able to find is him describing them as ‘deserters’ (not the same thing by any chalk – even allowing for translation) before they were welcomed back to the fold (something you wouldn’t do with a “scab”. In his Testament Lenin wrote that although the incident was ‘no accident … the blame for [the October Episode] cannot be laid upon them personally.’

          All of which goes to demonstrate that serious socialists need to watch their language and not devalue the word “scab” with inappropriate use.

          Now, to repeat my question: when and where did Lenin use the term?

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Five minutes of ‘googling’ picked up several references to the episode Robert Green describes.

            Here, for example:

            …from CW V26, referenced as a letter to the party’s central committee calling for the expulsion of them both from the party. I’ve counted the use of the term “strike-breaker” eight times in the letter and the use of the term “blackleg” seven times in the letter to describe the actions of the two.

            Come on JimD, of course, you’re pedantically correct, in that these terms do have a very specific industrial definition, but they’re also widely used to describe treacherous behaviour in other contexts too.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            Responsible, grown-up labour movement people need to be careful about their language, Karl, especially when bandying about terms like “scab” which has a very specific, and serious meaning within the labour and TU movement. I guess you half-recognise that when you say ” of course, you’re pedantically correct”…

            I mean, my vciew is that people on the left who advocated Brexit are irresponsible and/or stupid idiots unfit to hold office or be taken seriously within our movement: but even I wouldn’t call them “scabs” because I have some grasp of what the word means.

  25. Bazza says:

    Just watched the debate and Jeremy is almost too nice and decent when he is up against a political viper.
    Smith is also no democrat; I didn’t like the Referendum result but you have to accept the decision of the people!
    Anything genuinely radical and the fake socialist said he agreed to try to neutralise the message as the Right of Labour after using what it could be argued is tantamount to domestic violence have tried to neutralise the messenger; but it still is the greatest CON since the Greeks gave the Trojans a wooden horse!
    If we come under attack from nuclear weapons millions of human beings men, women and children would be obliterated.
    In retaliation we would fire our weapons IN AN ACT OF PURE REVENGE and millions of different human beings – men, women and children would be obliterated.
    So we need to ask the candidates would you obliterate millions of human beings – men, women and children at the press of a button.
    So what is it to be Jeremy and Owen – decent human being or psychopath?
    JC should perhaps outline his really radical ideas – free HE, public ownership of rail and more, a 35 hour week perhaps etc. and see if to quote the Platters (Mr) “Yes I’m The Great Pretender” agrees.
    Which he probably will do as deceit is part of the Neo-Liberals in Labour’s strategy; then if they win THE BOSSES IN LABOUR ARE BACK IN CONTROL and it’s back to Labour members being seen but seldom heard.
    But what can they do with a 500,000 Labour member public – abolish them?
    The question is can this great act CON enough members, affiliates, and supporters?
    Or WILL WE SMASH THE GLASS CEILING OF TIMIDITY otherwise Neo-Liberalism in Labour wins but only for a very short while.
    Meanwhile hundresd of thousands of big boys and girls are waiting in the wings to transform society and working with our brothers and sisters internationally to transform the World.

  26. Historyintime says:

    Obviously JC has to win. Equally obviously he has to lift over the next 12 months and be seen as a credible Prime Minister. That will require “disciplining” the Blarite crew while keeping Labour First in the Party.

  27. Bazza says:

    So Smith wants a Labour Government then with his call for another referendum on the EC (not accepting the democratic will of he people) the first thing he does is slap 17m Out voters in the face and a significant number of these are potential Labour voters!
    Also as a political psychopath he says he is willing to press the nuclear button to valproate millions of human beings – men, women and children at a stroke thus alienating millions of voters who are anti-war!
    Then didn’t he abstain and sit on the fence when the Tories were forcing through more welfare cuts so he ran away instead of standing by the poor again alienating millions of low income citizens!
    If Jeremy said we should take the moon into public ownership Smith would say he agrees pretending that you can be Left and vote for him too but I don’t do fake – I vote for the real thing!
    The Neo-Liberals in Labour are trying to carry out the greatest CON-TRICK since the Greeks gave the Trojans a wooden horse!

  28. Karl Stewart says:

    Corbyn should hit hard against the challenger’s nonsense ‘second referendum’ proposal.
    The right-wing want to force us to keep voting until they get the result they want – same with the EU as with the Labour leadership.

    Corbyn made an excellent point to the challenger, when he asked why he walked away from his cabinet responsibilities.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      I’m afraid I agree with Karl: the voters have to learn and experience, first hand, the disastrous consequences of what they voted for. Socialists should not seek to ameliorate this by going for a second referendum or arguing for “Brexit – lite”: just let ’em have it. Then the misled workers who voted “Leave” will learn the error of their ways: eventually the UK ruling class will, on bended knee, plead to re-join: and socialists will, obviously, support that plea.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        With respect JimD, I think you’ve misunderstood my view.

        Personally, I think the ‘Leave’ decision was absolutely the right call and I doubt anyone’s going to regret it.

        Politics has shifted, and continues to shift, to the left. The politics and the economics of socialism are now mainstream.

        It’s an exciting time to be active in politics and voting ‘Leave’ will turn out to be one of the best decisions we ever made.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          karl: “It’s an exciting time to be active in politics and voting ‘Leave’ will turn out to be one of the best decisions we ever made”: leaving aside the verifiable, recorded rise in racist incidents since the “leave” vote, what else is progressive about it?

          Do you know any thing about Third Period Stalinism, and the slogan that te Comintern used in Germany? It was “After Hitler, Us!”

          Idiots like you follow in that tradition,

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Hey moron, try observing actual reality, you know, like here in the actual real world.

            (And take it easy with the sauce my friend!)

          2. Robert Green says:

            Idiots like you compare voting to leave a reactionary imperialist alliance with allowing the Nazis to take power.

          3. Jim Denham says:

            I find it frankly incredible, and very depressing, that leftists can write off a measurable and significant rise in racist attacks and abuse in the aftermath of a racist and nativist political campaign, as somehow insignificant and the work of a “few boneheads”: have never heard such a reaction to a rise in racism before: amazing, sickening and shameful!

            However, though some politicos are clearly in denial, at least a socialist comedian has taken up the issue:

            I’ve long been a fan of Bridget Christie, and her words in the Guardian about her current show in Edinburgh merely confirmed me in my admiration:

            “I totally reject this notion, which is coming from a lot of people on the left, that we mustn’t criticise leave voters,” said Christie. “Everybody has to admit that there were a lot of people who voted leave for not noble and legitimate reasons. Just look at the 500% increase in race hate crimes after Brexit.”

            She continued: “And people saying that the middle classes and the educated elite are demonising the working classes as racists. Well, I’m working class and I don’t accept that at all. Racists are being demonised; it doesn’t matter what their socio-economic background is. We have to talk about it – in the media and in comedy.”

            I put it a bit more tactfully in an unpublished letter to the Morning Star:

            Dear Comrades,

            A number of articles and letters in the Morning Star over the past few weeks have objected to anyone mentioning the plain fact that the Brexit vote has been followed by a “spike” in racist incidents.

            The pro-Brexit left seems to object to having the consequences of their irresponsible foolishness pointed out to them: this denial reached its apogee with the editorial of August 1st, which stated “”Singling out anti-EU and labour movement campaigns for blame is even more reprehensible”: I can assure you, comrades, that those of us who warned about the consequences of your reactionary stance will continue remind you of your shameful role in encouraging racism and backwardness for the foreseeable future.

            Workers who voted “Leave” must be approached with sensitivity: the “left” who pandered to backwardness and reaction must never be allowed to forget what they did. As for the fantasy that a “left exit” is on the cards: get real and face reality, comrades!

        2. Jim Denham says:

          Karl: I’ll eschew the word “moron” and references to “the sauce”. I’ll merely observe that anyone who thinkls the Brexdit vopte marked a shift to the left in British politics needs their head examined and should, maybe, speak to some ethnic minority people. Also read up on Third Period Stalinism (a very relevant precedent Robert); anyway, we are where we are, but irresponsible idiots on the “left” who advocated Brxit have already been proved wrong on every single poiny they rased:

          1/ No “left” shift in UK politics, but an unprecedented, measurable rise in racism

          2/ No collapse of the Tory Party, but a smooth transition to a hard-right Tory administration under May

          3/ Labour in disarray

          4/ If there is a general election in the near future, the Tories will be almost certain to win.

          How is any of this remotely progressive? When will the “Left Exit” idiots start living in the real world and have the honesty to simply admit they were wrong on every count?

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Ok, to respond to your points one-by-one.

            1. Racism: We all need to unite against racist abuse and/or racist attacks. I think one very important issue would be to win the permanent right to remain for all EU nationals who came here before the vote.
            As for the reason why the tiny minority of racist boneheads may have felt temporarily emboldened in the days following the EU vote was due to the lies of some within the Remain camp who said that all Leave voters were racists. This may have given the tiny minority of racist scumbags the wrong impression that 52 per cent of the population quietly agreed with them.
            People like yourself and a tiny minority of others within the Remain camp who made this argument are responsible for this.

            2. The leftward political shift: We have a situation where the incoming Tory Prime Minister feels it politically necessary to say workers need and deserve a pay rise, that the life chances of working-class youth need to be improved as a priority, and that we need to move away from an austerity agenda. I’m not saying she means it, or that there is any solid move in this direction in terms of government policy, but it is a significant shift in discourse.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            …(accidentally posted before I’d finished)

            …we also have the Labour leadership challenger from the right feeling it politically necessary to call for a “…cold-eyed, practical socialist revolution…” and to set out a broad political and economic agenda including nationalisation, return of workers’ rights, stronger legislation on a living wage and whole range of other policies which are a million miles away from what was being said by the non-Corbyn leadership candidates just last year.
            Again, I’m not saying Smith actually means all this, but this again is clear evidence of a significant leftward shift in political discourse.

            3. The state of Labour: An enormous and unprecedented growth in membership to over half a million, an unprecedented shift to the left in terms of Labour’s centre of political gravity, is not ‘disarray’ it’s hugely positive.
            The ‘disarray’ narrative is the narrative of the anti-Corbyn right. The narrative of ‘chaos’ that the right is trying to establish is a traditional part of the right-wing playbook. This is what the Chile coup plotters did in the lead up to 1973. Don’t fall for it.

            4. The next election: There won’t be an early general election. Again, this is part of the ‘panic’ playbook of the Labour right. Theresa May would need to either win a two-thirds Commons majority for an early election (for which she would need the support of 100 non-Tory MPs), or to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliament Act altogether (which would be extremely complicated and would itself take at least two years to pilot through both Houses). An early election won’t happen. The next election will be in 2020 and Labour will win.

          3. Robert Green says:

            Jeremy Corbyn should have led a labour movement Leave campaign. He would have put himself and Labour at the heart of British politics and would not be getting all the credit for bringing down Cameron. It would be the Tory Party in disarray and Corbyn riding high but the left opportunists ditched 40 years of principled opposition to the EU and its predecessors and decided to back what is in effect an imperialist alliance for the joint exploitation of Africa and the Middle East, the mutual strangulation of the member nations and for the making of permanent war on the European working class and socialism. As it is they are trying to blame Corbyn for the Brexit vote even though it was the New Labour Remainers who really lost it simply by canvassing for it. People who might have voted Remain took one look at those gargoyles, Blair, Mandy, Johnson, Campbell and the rest and thought `nah, I’ll vote out’. Corbyn has at least said he will recognise the Brexit vote which means he has more chance of holding northern seats than the northern coup plotting Bremainer Labour MPs. What he needs to to now is come up with radical vision for a socialist post-Brexit Britain and a New European Settlment that doesn’t treat workers like migrating cattle.

          4. Jim Denham says:

            I find it frankly incredible, and very depressing, that leftists can write off a measurable and significant rise in racist attacks and abuse in the aftermath of a racist and nativist political campaign, as somehow insignificant and the work of a “few boneheads”: have never heard such a reaction to a rise in racism before: amazing, sickening and shameful!

            However, though some politicos are clearly in denial, at least a socialist comedian has taken up the issue:

            I’ve long been a fan of Bridget Christie, and her words in the Guardian about her current show in Edinburgh merely confirmed me in my admiration:

            “I totally reject this notion, which is coming from a lot of people on the left, that we mustn’t criticise leave voters,” said Christie. “Everybody has to admit that there were a lot of people who voted leave for not noble and legitimate reasons. Just look at the 500% increase in race hate crimes after Brexit.”

            She continued: “And people saying that the middle classes and the educated elite are demonising the working classes as racists. Well, I’m working class and I don’t accept that at all. Racists are being demonised; it doesn’t matter what their socio-economic background is. We have to talk about it – in the media and in comedy.”

            I put it a bit more tactfully in an unpublished letter to the Morning Star:

            Dear Comrades,

            A number of articles and letters in the Morning Star over the past few weeks have objected to anyone mentioning the plain fact that the Brexit vote has been followed by a “spike” in racist incidents.

            The pro-Brexit left seems to object to having the consequences of their irresponsible foolishness pointed out to them: this denial reached its apogee with the editorial of August 1st, which stated “”Singling out anti-EU and labour movement campaigns for blame is even more reprehensible”: I can assure you, comrades, that those of us who warned about the consequences of your reactionary stance will continue remind you of your shameful role in encouraging racism and backwardness for the foreseeable future.

            Workers who voted “Leave” must be approached with sensitivity: the “left” who pandered to backwardness and reaction must never be allowed to forget what they did. As for the fantasy that a “left exit” is on the cards: get real and face reality, comrades!

          5. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to JimD at 5.16pm:

            JimD, no-one’s ‘writing off’ racist attacks and racist abuse. We all need to unite against them.

            Attacks and abuse have been met by solidarity, and mobilisations against the racists, which have started to push these scum back into the sewers they belong in.

            Those within the ‘Remain’ camp, like yourself and some others, who continually described all ‘Leave’ voters as racists, may well have given the wrong impression to the tiny minority of bonehead racists that 52 per cent of the population quietly agreed with their abhorrent views.

            That’s entirely your fault JimD, and entirely the fault of others within the ‘Remain’ camp who also put about that smear.

            Yes, racism is a problem to be confronted. Yes it must be confronted and beaten back. No it’s not a brand-new phenomenon. It’s manifested before and it’s been beaten back before.

            The left, as well as staunchly confronting racism, and as well as fighting for the substantiation of EU nationals who came here before the vote, needs to make full use of the left shift in mainstream political discourse to unite around socialist Brexit programme.

          6. Jim Denham says:

            “Those within the ‘Remain’ camp, like yourself and some others, who continually described all ‘Leave’ voters as racists”: what a lot of bollox, Karl. I have repeatedly made ikt clear that (a) I don’t regard *all* Leave voters as racists (just most of them) and (b) the majority who are, need to bne debated and argued with, not simply denounced. That’s how our movement has always dealt with backward workers and false consciousness.

            No, te people who must be denounced are the likes of you, the SWP, ‘Counterfire’ and the Morning Star, whose role was shameful and inexcusable, even if insignificant. The “left” Brexiteers are a disgrace whose ignorance, political illiteracy and opportunism can never be forgiven: I for one will continually and continuously denounce, taunt and insult these people.

          7. Tim Wilkinson says:

            If Jim Denham gets a chance to take time out from his important work of taunting the insignificant, perhaps he could explain what his problem is. At the moment he seems to be purveying a spittle-flecked version of Underpants Gnome reasoning:

            1. Arguing for Lexit
            2. ???
            3. UTTER DISGRACE (QED)

          8. Jim Denham says:

            To allow error to go uncorrected is intellectual immorality.

          9. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to JimD at 2.09am:

            Firstly, posting a comment at 2.09am…seriously???

            Anyway, there’s no ‘error’ over here pal. The ‘left-leave’ position was the right one to take and the leftward shift in mainstream political discourse is ample proof of this.

            I’ve repeatedly provided evidence of this leftward shift, and you haven’t responded with any counter-arguments at all to the points I made have you?

            Sadly, all you seem to be interested in is dishonestly shifting the blame for racist abuse onto anti-racists.

            I’ve explained repeatedly that you’re completely wrong on this, but again, you ignore the points made and just respond with rambling nonsense.

  29. Bazza says:

    Ooops! Vaporate!

  30. Robert Green says:

    It seems increasingly obvious that if Corbyn wins again, and provided the gerrymandering of the NEC has not be successful he should, that he is still not going to take decisive action against the coup plotters but will use the occasion to make more calls for party unity. This will open the door to more coups and more provocations from the PLP and the party apparatchicks that will eventually see the Labour Party imploding never to recover as an electoral force. It may be that Corbyn will eventually use the excuse of plummeting poll numbers as a result of the right wing imposed civil war to hand the party back to the right wing. That won’t save Labour. It will only insure that a dead duck gets properly buried and the left with it.

    The only way for Labour to have any chance not just of winning in 2020 but surviving as a party is if Corbyn’s re-election sparks a serious campaign to sweep the coup plotters and their facilitators out of the party. Even if Corbyn remains as the leader if all those coup plotters also remain as Labour’s candidates Labour will be reduced to 30 or 40 seats if it is lucky as the general public even if Corbyn isn’t are aware that they will never allow a Corbyn government to form and would more likely bloc with Lib Dems and Tories to prevent it. Voting for them would literally be the equivalent of voting Tory. Time to withdraw the whip, de-select and choose new candidates that are pledge to form a Labour government with Corby as PM should Labour win the general election. Where they cannot be de-selected candidates should come forward to stand against them that will not stand in the way of the formation of a Labour government.

    1. Verity says:

      The initiative needs to be with the grassroots in the CLPs. It does not add to the new wave of democracy to make these moves from the top, especially it the local Party is behind them. If ever there was a call for change by the grassroots it is to enforce the discipline of their local MPs.

      1. John Walsh says:

        Forgive me for feeling the need to spell this out, but when Verity is saying “the initiative needs to be with the grassroots in the CLPs” and Robert Green is arguing “[Corbyn laying out detailed policies] is how you mobilise the masses” (above – August 4, 2016 at 11:33 am) what we are seeing are the viewpoints of two very different ‘wings’ of the left, especially in relation to the role of the membership.

        The former envisions that the membership will drive change, that a bottom up anti-hierarchical grassroots movement will devise new policy initiatives, work out how to reform the Party and will be at the forefront of connecting Labour with the wider electorate. The latter sees the Party leader (and local ‘leaders’) as the providers of inspiration and motivation for the mass membership, that we will be inspired to knock on more doors and deliver more leaflets (with the leaflets provided by our leaders). The former is an open, inclusive viewpoint and is espoused on this website by a small minority of commenters. The latter is by far the dominant view and is often very forcibly asserted.

        In an Afterword to his Labour: The Way Ahead (referred to above by James Elliot), Paul Mason’s pessimistic view is that the Party is in trouble if it maintains the dominant view that “social movements [are] adjuncts to radical leaders”, that to succeed we need to create a Podemos style grassroots movement …

        “Corbyn is a placeholder for creating a different kind of politics, a new strategy and a more radical Labour Party. Possibly the most relevant criticism would be that Corbyn comes from a wing of the left that sees social movements as adjuncts to radical leaders. And there is certainly a danger that in the enthusiasm of mass recruitment Corbyn’s supporters try to win using the classic, old left rhetoric that parties like Podemos and Syriza represent a break from”.

        Owen Jones’ take on this is laid out in his piece Mass membership alone doesn’t make a social movement. A synthesis of Mason and Jones might be that the left is unwittingly being part of the destruction of the Party if it doesn’t change course and allow the creation of a real grassroots movement.

        Locally to me I recently proposed to the Momentum group leaders that we think about and write a policy document for John McDonnell on how to reform the Party machine (we have a lot of suspensions and so witness the machine at close quarters). This went down like a lead balloon – the reply was along the lines of “here’s some more leaflets – get walking the streets, boy”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s a badly written, poorly focussed leaflet produced by the leaders – oh well, you can but try …

        1. Robert Green says:

          Let’s not let the leaders off the hook. They have a responsibility to lead and that means enunciating perspective and programme as well as strategy and tactics. A leadership that defers to the rank-and-file is no leadership. In fact they are dangerous. Similarly a leadership that has severed all links with the rank and file is merely a sect or a club for opportunists. We need a mass democratic movement with a steeled and trusted leadership that actually leads.

  31. David Pavett says:

    There is a useful supplement in today’s Guardian by Owen Jones to the essay discussed by James Elliott.

    There is also a helpful account of pro-Corbyn activists by Ellie Mae O’Hagan.

  32. Bea Jaspert says:

    I’m assuming the current Labour purge of Corbyn supporters will not succeed. If it does, the damage to the integrity and credibility of the party will be so severe I doubt it will ever recover.
    Of course – perhaps that’s what the coup plotters want. After all, there are less than 200 of them, all of whom doubtless stand to profit personally from the destruction of the Labour left.
    But if the purge fails, and Corbyn wins with the huge majority predicted, certain actions need to be taken immediately to protect the party from future anti-democratic attacks.
    Here are a few ideas:-

    1. The party’s “rule book” must be rewritten as a constitution, and vague ambiguities removed from its terminology so that, for example, there can be no question in the future of barring members on spurious, selective, unproven and undemocratic grounds.

    2. The MPs who have been campaigning against the democratically elected leader of their party must be asked to make a choice – work with the leader, or face deselection.

    3. An investigation needs to be undertaken into the power and money behind the right wing Labour pressure groups Progress and Saving Labour and any other similar organisations. Links to private finance corporations like Pfizer, private healthcare providers, and right wing organisations like the Henry Jackson society need to be exposed and outlawed as against the ethos and principles of a left wing socialist political party.

    3. A code of practice needs to be adopted by the Labour Party to which MPs, activists and members suscribe, which prohibits lies, smears, slurs, dirty tricks, threats or abuse. Examples of breaching the code would include levelling unfounded accusations at party members – for example calling Corbyn supporters Nazi stormtroopers – and making allegations that the party leader is anti-women or anti-Semitic without offering any evidence to back up these insinuations.
    Legitimate criticisms/protests would of course be welcomed, provided they put forward supporting evidence and always allowed a right to reply.
    Breaking the code of practice could lead to a tribunal to decide if the person should be barred from the party, but safeguards such as the necessity of clear evidence, a right to representation, and the right of appeal would guard against abuse of tribunals and sanctions by future plotters seeking to oust their enemies.

    These are just a few ideas to start with.
    Let’s hope we can get the Labour Party back as a Democratic Party of the left. There really are just a couple of hundred individuals actively participating in the PLP/NEC shady behind-the-scenes machinations. They are few. We are many. Even with the entire mainstream media backing them, we stand a good chance to fight them off if we just stick to our principles and refuse to back down.

    Remember – principles ARE power!
    But power without principles is corruption.

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