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Socialism and immigration – a reply to Don Flynn

Don Flynn claims that I argued “that support for the right of migrants to freedom of movement is the same as support for the free movement of capital”. Readers of my article can see that I said no such thing. It is  possible to support one and not the other. Armed with this confusion he says that my argument is that in “curbing the right of people to move freely we would also be restraining the domination of capital”. Well yes, a constraint on capital to force the movement of population would be a constraint on capital. But that was not really my point. The main point, which Don avoids, is that uncontrolled large-scale population movements across national boundaries are incompatible with the social planning to which most socialists aspire.

Socialist fundamentals and capital movements

Don says that “in the world of actually-existing capitalism the gains that have been won for the rights of people to move across the world as migrants have to be counted as advances – limited and partial though they might be – for the working class”. Having wrongly criticised me for equating the free movement of capital with that of labour he then goes on to say “It is because capital has the right to move so freely that the right of wage earners to move within labour markets to position themselves for the available job opportunities has always been fundamental to the socialist cause”. In fact the free movement of capital is a development of modern neo-liberal capitalism. But again, it is what is assumed as a given that is most interesting. For Don the right of workers to move across national boundaries is a corollary of the free movement of capital which he doesn’t question. How can such a view be regarded as “fundamental” to the socialist cause? The post-war Labour Party, like Keynes, was committed to capital controls. That some socialists now accept the free movement of capital as a given is a major triumph for neoliberal ideology.

The analogy made with the urbanisation of the 18th/19th centuries will not withstand analysis. That movement was a consequence and not a cause of the ending of feudal bondage. By the 17th century bondage was over bar lingering traces (see for example The Decline of Serfdom In Medieval England by R H Hilton). The population movements of the following centuries supplied industrial capitalism with cheap labour. That the suffering of the urban poor later contributed to awareness of the need for social reform is true but is hardly a commendation for the ruthless economics of capitalist development which forced rural workers to exercise their “right” to move. It would be a strange logic that would see that as a justification for no controls on population movements across national borders. Socialist analysis would then be restricted to softening the effects capitalist economics. It should challenge the economics of capitalism.

Don agrees that the ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ has a significant role in socialist analysis but says that early socialists using the idea never “responded to this challenge by saying that those who were being dispossessed of their livelihoods in rural areas should be confined to the parishes of their birth in order that their counterparts in towns and cities might benefit from this artificially induced shortage of labour”.

Of course they didn’t. But then no socialist in this debate is arguing that there should be no migration.
We could discuss the views of early socialists on immigration but what is plain is that the issue presented itself very differently when information about life in, and travel to, other countries was hard to come by and when international transport was more expensive and less available. Immigration did not present itself as a major political issue in the 19th century because it was on a small scale. The graphs below show an evolving situation. It should be clear that the increased scale of migration raises social issues of concern to socialists.

Denying advantage to others

Ignoring any possible negative aspects of immigration Don says that opposing totally free movement is contrary to socialist principle because it denies others the way out of chronic disadvantage and high unemployment. But then this apparent strong point is immediately negated when, in the discussion on his article, Don explained that the Labour Campaign for Free Movement is only about free movement within the EU Single Market (which is nowhere stated in their material). So much for the universal case. He says “… the LCFM is not in a position to extend the right of free movement to everyone in the world at the point when Brexit happens …” but then it is not in a position to extend it for the EU either. The LCFM is on the horns of a dilemma. The problem of advocating free movement as a matter of principle but then only seeking to apply it in Europe should be evident to all socialists.

It is apparent that this argument is anything but universal. Is it contrary to socialist principle to deny others free access to one’s personal savings and other facilities as a way out of their disadvantaged situation? No one would agree to that and most would say “I want to help the disadvantaged but it has to be done in a controlled way via taxation/benefits and other policies and not as a free for all”. At an international level all socialists agree that we should do more to help the poor world but would also believe that it has to be done in a regulated way and not by simply having an open house on our national wealth and resources.

The case for control

The idea of totally free movement across the globe is indeed so far-fetched that it is difficult to believe that anyone imagines that it is a serious political proposition. The essential socialist case for some sort of control can be simply stated.

  • Immigration can be a good thing and often is. No one of any stature on the right or the left is arguing that there should be no immigration. The socialist case should be for controlled immigration which benefits all countries involved. Some migration does this and some doesn’t. Socialists should be concerned to know the difference.
  • We live in a world of nation states and even with the development of supra-national institutions we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Crossing national borders obviously has many implications that do not arise for movement within national borders.
  • Moving beyond capitalism will require a higher degree of social planning of resources than exists at present so that it is used to maximise general well-being. That will require both national and international planning i.e. sovereignty exercised at different levels.

A “critical insight”

Towards the end of his piece Don tells us that the “critical insight” offered by the free movementeers is that “fifty years of neoliberal economic policies across the world have created labour markets in which the workers of different countries have been obliged to compete with one another in order to have access to a decent standard of living. This has come about not merely through the effects of migration, but as a consequence of access gained to labour markets abroad through strategies that hinge on the outsourcing of jobs, foreign direct investment and other approaches that aim at getting access to the labour of workers across the world”. Don says that I have “missed” this “insight” but far from being “critical” it is a banal statement of fact. Absolutely no one has missed the fact that modern technology facilitates competition between workers without migration. The problem is to know how Don thinks the intensification of labour market competition through communications technology is a justification for intensifying it through population movements. Besides, the possibilities are limited since hotel rooms can’t be cleaned, and vegetables can’t be picked via the Internet.

Don agrees that international competition tends to drive wages down to the lowest common denominator but he strangely concludes that international migration is a means of redressing this tendency. The idea seems to be that this is a redress because the downward pressure of the “predations of capital” is matched by a right to free movement “which is the equal to that claimed by capital”. This argument is so bizarre that it is difficult to know how to respond. It pitches free range for one social force (free movement of capital) with another (free movement of labour) while making no criticism of the system that creates the pressure for both. Whatever this argument is it is neither critical nor socialist.

Scraping the barrel

Don ends his article with distortion and abuse. He says “David Pavett prefers to sell us the idea that migrant workers are nothing more than agents of the neoliberal capitalism system”.

I am not “selling” anything. I am making a case. Migration is and always has been a fact of human existence. There are many reasons for it among which are neo-liberal economic pressures. That does not make all migrant workers into “agents of the capitalist system” and I suggested no such thing.

Don says that I am motivated by a “desire to promote the most grievous and deep divisions between the working class” and that this puts me “on the side of the most reactionary elements of global capitalism”. I leave the reader to judge this assertion about my motivation for him/herself.


  1. I fully agree with this statement.
    The next step is to make a rigorous, empirically based cost-benefit calculus of past and expected future immigration from each different source country and of each different sort of population. This cost-benefit calculus should encompass both the host country and the source country. Then the way will be free to set up preferences among migrants according to explicitly stated, empirically backed crietria that are subject to legislative review.

  2. Imran Khan says:

    Well argued but it won’t convince the ” No borders” crowd because they have nailed their colours to the mast. As far as they are concerned any border controls or restrictions on immigration are fascist. Don Flynn is wriggling and long may he continue to do so.

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    Excellent piece David. Very well argued and presented.

    The “campaign for free movement” is probably the most downright dishonest pressure group since the so-called “taxpayers alliance.”

    It presents itself as being in favour of all the noble humane aspirations – but the reality is a front for viciously unregulated and exploitative international capitalism.

    David, you’ve exposed them for what they really are, ultra-Blairite neoliberalists.

    Great article David – and great to see a Socialist article here on Left Futures after the recent right-wing rubbish.

    1. Imran Khan says:

      I agree, until you become a conspiracy theorist. No borders is an ultra left totally unsustainable and undefensible position especially to those who are struggling to find accommodation and reasonably well paid work.

      It is nothing to do with Blairism or any other ism except the juvenile self indulgent narcissism of the far left. Until the left begin to deal with this they have no credibility whatsoever! There is no point in calling for a massive house building programme to solve the housing crisis when also calling for most of the third world to arrive with the M25.

  4. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I hope I am not too late to join the debate. There is a strong fundemental libertarian and conservative argument for a state to have no restriction to the movement of people. This ‘no borders’ policy is logical and attractive but must be introduced alongside a policy of ‘no welfare state’.
    The outcome for a country that adopts this dual position is the need for its government to raise any income tax.

    1. JohnP says:

      Good demolition of Flynn’s scurrilous article.

      Our regular troll from the extreme “all taxation is evil” wing of neoliberalism , Mackinnon, is attracted to the “No borders” argument too , BUT only if there is no welfare state too ! Another recruit for Don Flynn’s totally unworkable , neoliberalism-saturated, campaign there then !

      I repeat my reminder here about the underlying utter capitulation of Don Flynn to the neoliberal status quo , with the additional reminder that mixed economy state-led economic planning , including rigorous capital controls and management of immigration/labour supply was universal (outside the US) amongst all the major economies until the deregulation of the financial markets from the 1980’s onwards, and on freedom of movement, really only in the EU after the Maastrich Treaty. Yet the state-led planning rich , highly regulated financial sector, post war period up to the 1970’s is now seen as a “golden age” of capitalist growth by economic historians:

      To understand its underlying neoliberal mindset, see this classic throwaway line from the entirely non-socialist Don Flynn as part of a comment on David Pavett’s September 13th article “a Spectacular own Goal”

      “… Isn’t all that jazz about “planned mixed economy” just the hogwash of our time, with not a scrap of evidence to show that sovereign nations have showed any propensity or interest to step any significant way in achieving this pipedream outcome ?”


      “…The comprehensive failure of the only alternative to neoliberalism in the second half of the 20th century – the sort of Stalinist regimes that you seem to favour – ought to mean that the left takes seriously the social and economic forces that have been assembled within world markets and as the question if they provide a point of resistance to the rule of capitalism…”

      That so many people have been fooled by this transparent , though concealed, long term advocate for globalised neoliberalism, who has used their laudable concern for the migrant workers of our current neoliberal world order, to actually promote the ACCEPTANCE of and campaigning for that neoliberal tyranny , rather than campaigning to replace it with socialist state-led planning, is deeply tragic.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Do you know why I know that you dont know what your talking about?
        Its because your comments are always orotund (you prattle on a bit). Not only that, you have a tendency to repeat yourself, sometimes contradict yourself. Also, and this is important, and a wee bit personal, try and not get too angry here; you obviously get quite emotional when you comment. That is not all bad but it can sometimes cloud your judgement.
        Try and be a bit more like me. Look at the facts and then analyse them. Listen to other people. Try and keep the emotions in control.
        Here is an example of what I mean by ‘look at the facts and analyse them’. Please go along with me here. I am sure it will help you, not only with this subject, but if you adopt my advice, possibly with all your ‘incontrovertible’ beliefs. I am going to take as an example a piece of information that looks random and you probably think is totally irrelevant, but I am going to ask you JohnP to see if you can find any possible link to the subject ‘free movement’.
        Do you know that every NHS hospital in the country has a list of language translators on call (at a price) to facilitate communication between staff and patients?
        (‘at a price’ is a clue).
        See how you get on with that . Does is piece of what appears useless information support the argument for free movement of people or does it support the opposite position; that ‘free movement’ is an unworkable concept.

        1. J Rustler says:

          MacKinnon, this is libertarian satire, right?

        2. David Pavett says:

          I have no idea what point you are making.

          What does a hospital list of translators prove one way or the other?

          BTW no one in this discussion is saying that “free movement” is an “unworkable concept”. Some of us are saying it is very workable but in a neo-liberal free-market sense. With all your admonitions about “looking at the facts” you perhaps forgot to pay sufficient attention to what participants, especially the ones you disagree with, are actually saying.

          1. JohnP says:

            I think MacKinnon is , as usual, extrapolating a “Straw Man” position that a socialist rejection of completely unlimited labour supply/complete freedom of Movement into the UK (or any other state), in favour of socialist planned immigration and labour supply PLANNING, somehow automatically precludes there being any immigration at all into the UK !

            Whereas surely ALL socialists/social democrats would expect therein fact to be considerable immigration into an planned UK economy, just on a carefully planned/managed basis, such as to encourage UK employers to actually engage in the training/apprenticeship of UK workers on a large scale again, and to avoid a unlimited labour supply either overloading local housing and education and health services, and allowing employers to pay low wages. (though a Left government would also obviously impose minimum pay laws – a glut of labour in any sector tends to make this also the MAXIMUM pay rate, not just the minimum).

            So , yes, MacKinnon , we do fully recognise the huge contribution of non UK workers to our NHS, long may it continue. But we also recognise that the NHS is draining skilled health workers, including doctors from other ,less developed, EU and non-EU states, and failing to train up UK citizens to fill these posts, precisely because of the availability of the easy health workers trained at no cost to the NHS by other countries.

          2. Richard MacKinnon says:

            I thought I made my point clearly. I will try again.
            The Welfare State cannot not work if the movement of people into the UK is not controlled. Why? Because if we do not control movement and we want a welfare state system people will move from other countries where there is no welfare state, to take advantage of ours. I can understand why someone would want to come here for health treatment when they cant get it at home. I would do the same if I had a bad hip and relatives that would put me up.
            But it is not sustainable to operate the two in tandem. Resources are finite. It would be nice if we, the UK could afford to treat unlimited sick people from abroad. Sometimes I think there are those on the left and on this site that think we can. But we cant.
            I hope you can see this.
            Free movement of people as I understand it – is no control of borders. No borders in other words.
            This is my point coming up so please concentrate at the back of the class, if you take anything away from my considersations here make it this – you cannot have free movement of people and run a welfare state system.
            You can have free movement of people but you cannot have both. For what it is worth I think this proposition has merit.
            I would be happy to list all the advantages and disadvantages that would come from the deconstruction of the welfare state, but I cant just at this time and I think this is an opportune time to finish as it will allow a time for reflection.

          3. David Pavett says:

            @Richard MacKinnon (Nov 10, at 4:59 pm)
            Okay, you are arguing that proper planning of social provision is not possible without also planning (and therefore controlling) population movements. That was indeed what I argued in both of my articles.

          4. JohnP says:

            McKinnon writes:

            ” I thought I made my point clearly. I will try again.
            The Welfare State cannot not work if the movement of people into the UK is not controlled….. ”

            Nope, still not clear at all. Far too many “nots” . Maybe it all just seems so clear inside your own small head ? we though remain hazy as to what you are on about . Tell us again about all taxation, and budget deficits, being a mortal sin though . And Margaret Thatcher saving the UK . We really enjoyed that stuff !

          5. JohnP says:

            David, Whilst MacKinnon appears to agree with your argument that it isn’t logically possible to provide adequate (free) welfare state services to an unpredictably fast ever-increasing population deriving from completely open borders. But of course, being an extreme neoliberal , entirely in favour of unfettered capitalism, McKinnon is therefore IN FAVOUR of completely open borders and global unlimited movement/unlimited labour supply for his capitalist friends – and he hates any kind of state-led planning. So for him its free welfare/health provision that has to thrown out the window !

            Still, that actually still makes him MORE rationally calculating about the obvious consequences for the ability of a society to provide free welfare provision under completely Unlimited Movement /open borders than Don Flynn !

  5. C MacMackin says:

    Thank you, David, for this well argued and courtious piece in response to Don Flynn’s attack. I find your arguments convincing.

  6. Karl Stewart says:

    Brilliant comment from John.

    Today’s news that wage rates are starting to rise again as a consequence of Brexit is further proof that this is a good position for the working class.

    And the capitalism class are getting very worried about it.

    Why oh why is a site called “Left Futures” promoting neoliberalism just when we’re finally moving away from it?

  7. R.B. Stewart says:

    Excellent piece by David and subsequent response from John.
    Reminds me of a poem wot I wrote:
    The old order (Neo-Liberalism) is dying.
    But the new cannot yet be born.
    Perhaps we are all being tested.
    And only stars will ride the storm.

  8. Danny N says:

    “Why oh why is a site called ‘Left Futures’ promoting neoliberalism…?”

    The only possible answer, surely, is that those who control Left Futures are shifting towards neoliberalism. This in turn reflects the absence of anything midway between socialism and neoliberalism. There is no cosy social democracy to which Labour can cling, somewhere in the middle. The fates of the 1974-79 Labour government, the Mitterand presidency and Syriza in Greece all point in this direction.

    The inescapable logic, I regret, is that there really needs to be a complete rupture between the right-wing Momentum/tiny leadership clique and the socialists in the Party who favour a planned economy based on public ownership as the dominant form of property ownership, introduced through transitional demands. New blog, different NEC slate, and ultimately different leadership candidates.

    Socialists may well not presently have the forces to do ANY of these things. But this is no reason to kid ourselves that there is common ground between socialists and the pro-capitalism “Left”.

    1. JohnP says:

      Unfortunately I strongly suspect that the current pace of political crisis and related collapse of the Tories in the UK, has simply resulted in we radical planned economy socialists running out of time to do the vital things you list, Danny.

      By virtue of long term , utterly fruitless, occupancy of the largely moribund organisational structures of the Labour Left, the unexpected channelling of the Europe-wide “radical Left surge” in the UK into the Corbyn phenomenum in the Labour Party, the Lansman circle of backroom manoeuvrers who surround Corbyn , ARE , by default, the “Leadership ” that will be in charge as a future Corbyn Labour government has to face off with the ruthless sabotage of domestic and global capitalism , and the PLP saboteurs, in the not too distant future !

      It’s a grim prospect, and a truly historical DEFEAT of the entire UK Left could be remarkably close, ironically arising from what today appears to be a story of unprecedented advance and triumph for the UK Left over the last two years. It looked like that too , in Greece in 2015, with Syriza’s victory. Six months later, with crap politics at the top of Syriza, the Left was smashed, and Alex Tsipras was heading up a party purged of its Left Wing, as a crocodile tear shedding enabler of the continued Troika’s asset stripping of Greece .

      But given that “we are where we are” we just have to fight on to argue the socialist case against the Left liberalism that engulfs Momentum, and , yes, even grudginglyvote for the three new anointed Momentum NEC candidates too! And hope that the backroom undemocratic deals that produced witch hunter in chief, Ann Black, as a Centre Left supported NEC candidate in 2016, hasn’t led to the nomination of yet another covert supporter of the PLP Right this time round too !

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      I am someone who believes that Labour needs to do much more to popularise its ( social democratic) policies and engage the membership if it is to win an election in the near future. However, what Danny Nichol is suggesting is ultra left nonsense that serious socialists know would if attempted split the party, particularly if combined, as I think he would want, with a push for’ Lexit’.It would destroy, perhaps for some time, the most promising opportunity for the left for a long time, and must not happen.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Sure, nobody wants a split.

        But what are we getting this rubbish right-wing pro-capitalist nonsense from Blairites like Tom O’Leary and Don Flynn?

        1. Stewart says:

          I agree, Karl, Nobody wants a split. But we should purge the party of the current Blairite right-wing PLP faction at the next re-selection opportunity so that we have MPs who are in tune with the vast majority of members of the Labour Party, membership which overwhelmingly voted, not once, but twice, for the current leadership. Left in its current state, this PLP faction risks eroding recent gains the party has made. Yes, split we don’t want. But it is even more dangerous to have Fifth Columnists in our midst.

          Regarding the issue or non-issue of free-movement, it will be interesting to know the funders of this campaign. It’s obviously big business. LCFM keep harping on about the fact that the majority of LP members voted Remain, and indirectly, for this so-called ‘free movement’. What they are failing to explain and acknowledge with their right-wing Tory soul-mates and their sympathetic press is the fact that Corbyn campaigned on the platfform of ‘Remain and Reform’. As John has clearly explained in his rebuttal of Don’s previous article, this so-called ‘free movement’ is nothing but ‘…the working classes of the world having to constantly uproot themselves from their communities to pursue ever more mobile capital’s job markets all over the globe !…’. This is not what LP members voted for.

          The debate should be on the Reforms LP want implemented in EU. Again, as the current leadership has stated, these reforms have to be brought about by engaging other left parties in Europe, who will work towards implementing them when they assume power in their respective countries. Issues like uniform minimum wage across Europe (adjusted for the respective countries’ Cost of Living Index), uniform employment laws, uniform taxation, uniform welfare payments, uniform migration policy, etc., in order to level the playing field continent wide. And, without sounding overly optimistic and too ambitious, this can be extended to encompass other regions of the globe (via organizations like the UN, WTO,etc.), not just Europe. Once these issues are addressed, then we can have a proper debate about true freedom of movement. That will be proper globalization that benefits ‘The Many, Not The Few’.

          1. Danny Nicol says:

            I disagree. It is fanciful to suppose that supranational organisations like the EU and WTO can be reformed in the way you propose, Stewart. The very objective of those organisations was to limit national democracy by insulating certain capitalist policies such as free trade against popular opposition. Turn to the history books and this was stated in terms in the history of the EEC (curbing the French electorate’s disdain for free trade for instance). It was no less the objective of the WTO – concocted by Ronald Reagan’s administration for goodness’ sake! In that regard the very design of the EU and WTO have also been the product of the demands of transnational corporations.
            There is an academic literature on the influence of the Kangaroo Group of corporations on the design of the European single market, for example. The tendency of supranationalism to advance capitalist causes is also reflected in newer proposals such as the TTIP and CETA.

            The hopelessness of reforming the supranational regimes is reflected in the rigidity of their constitutions, i.e. the difficulty in amending their provisions, exemplified by the way in which the EU Treaties (which includes of course the design of the European single market) may only be reformed by common accord of all Member States.

            There may well be a case for a socialist Labour government building up new international organisations which are not wedded to the consolidation of capitalism, but starting with the existing supranational regimes purposefully established to place capitalism on a more secure footing is a complete non-starter as far as advancing socialism is concerned.

    3. David Pavett says:

      I agree with John that we have to try to make the best of the situation we are in, even to the point of voting for left NEC candidates chosen with no effort at democratic consultation. I also share his pessimism of the likely outcomes of the process. I agree also with Peter that calls for a left split from the LP in its current state are ultra-left nonsense.

      If there were a strong left in Labour bristling with policies and analysis which had the participation, backing and understanding of a large section of the membership then the situation might be different. If in such a situation the left had majority support but was being blocked by a right-wing in charge of the party apparatus then calls for a split might make some sense.

      The reality is that the left is not bristling with policies and analysis. It is weak on both and divided amongst itself. In such circumstances a left split would itself be riven by factionalism and would simply take the left down the path to oblivion.

      That is why I see the pronouncements of anathema (e.g. asking why Left Futures allows “neoliberals” to express their views) as really unhelpful. I was glad that Don Flynn got involved in our debate about free movement. With the material of Labour Campaign for Free Movement and the defence put up for it by Don Flynn we have the opportunity to show just how weak the case is. Without open debate that would be much harder. I was really pleased that Don contributed, despite his personal abuse. The exact nature of his argument is now there for all to see.

      What those of us concerned to see the development of a consistent and clear left have to do is ourselves to contribute to developing left an analysis and policies to fill a policy cupboard which, frankly, is currently almost bare. Heresy hunting and not allowing open debate between contrary views is, in my view, the opposite of what we need.

      Don’t complain that some of the articles are pulling Labour in the wrong direction. Get stuck in and write articles showing why they are wrong and proposing a different approach. My view is that open debate is the only way forward and that it is the right that benefits mostly from the lack of it because people then tend to fall back on assumptions taken from the dominant ideology. Attempts to ‘no platform’ people we disagree with are not the way to go.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Good point DavidP

        Let’s hear more from people like you and JohnP.

      2. Danny Nicol says:

        I did not in any way, shape or form, call for a Left split from the Labour Party. To do so would indeed be ultra-left nonsense. I was arguing for the socialists on the Labour Left to at least consider forming its own blog, and wondering whether that might in turn spur a socialist slate for party positions.

        The LF blog stinks. You say “get stuck in and write articles”. That is precisely what I have done. James Elliot purported to welcome an article I had written on the EU and nationalisation some six or eight weeks ago. It has not been published. How can there be “engagement” in the face of such censorship? We need a blog with far more free speech.

        A more-open blog would actually serve to foster a far more extensive debate between what I may politely term “left-liberals” and socialists. In LF we do however miss out on discussion of Left strategy BETWEEN socialists in addition to ding-dong between neoliberals and socialists, and a socialist blog would provide an venue for such debate.

        As for heresy hunting on the NEC slate, my complaint is that the mysteriously-concocted slate does not allow me to vote for people who share my views on the most basic question of replacing or retaining capitalism. Back in the day, I voted Benn, Heffer, Skinner, Maynard, Wise, Richardson, people who (however much I disagreed with them on certain issues) nonetheless wished (most of them, either durably or at certain times) to replace the capitalist system with a democratic socialist one. It is hardly heresy-hunting to point out that the current lot, with their vague talk of “anti austerity” (like Nicola Sturgeon!) and “transforming Britain” (Thatcher and Blair did that too!) probably seem to want to keep capitalism and are therefore people with whom I probably disagree on the most basic of issues. They are welcome to correct me on this if I am wrong.

        If however I am right, I feel I simply have nothing in common with these people. Call that heresy-hunting if you will!

        You are right that debate with such people would be good. Unfortunately, unlike in the heyday of Tony Crosland’s “Future of Socialism”, most of the left-liberals/right wing of the Corbynistas, do not tend to come out with what they really think, relying instead on Blair-era-style manipulation. This, combined with LF’s censoring of the socialist contingent, means that this blog only facilitates left debate in an unacceptably patchy manner. It is precisely LF’s inadequacy of open debate which means it should be replaced by something better.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          Yes, Danny Nichol is right in saying that he did not call for a split, and David Pavett was wrong in saying that I did, although I otherwise agree with his remarks. What I did say was that the pursuit of what Danny is advocating would inevitably lead to a split, which is not the same thing, although the net result would be the same.
          On the EU, Danny’s view, that the EU is unreformable, is held only by a minority of socialist parties in the EU. The pro reform majority are mainly grouped within the umbrella Party of the European Left. The Varoufakis DIEM25 group also support reform.

        2. David Pavett says:

          Danny, I agree with a great deal of what you say in your comment although I am perhaps more inclined than you to see shades of grey where you see black and white.

          I am sorry that I over interpreted your call for a “complete rupture” between ” the right-wing Momentum/tiny leadership … socialists in the Party who favour a planned economy based on public ownership …”. Apologies to Peter R also for misreading him as well.

          I share your concerns about the control of Momentum by a small group of people with virtually no effort to inform and involve its members. I share your objection to electoral left slates appearing from nowhere. I would add that I am further concerned that most of the people elected on this basis feel no obligation to help keep the members up to speed with what is taking place on the bodies to which they are elected on in the LP more generally. Some of them don’t even feel any obligation to reply to polite email requests for information about what they are doing on this or that committee. If this is not a democratic farce then it is surely close to one.

          It is also evident that not only are right and left in the LP pulling against each other but within the left itself the centrifugal tendencies are strong.

          Finally, I agree that the preferred mode of operation of the right is not open debate and I am glad that you agree that this is what we need so that those with whom we disagree are required to articulate and justify their views. It would then be up to us to reply with something better.

          Your article on nationalisation (which was originally published on the Renewal blog) was forwarded to Left Futures and is currently sitting on its admin dashboard, fully formatted, and ready to go. I don’t know what it has not been published. The same goes for a piece I wrote on the Labour Party democracy review which I sent in over a month ago. I was told that it was being declined because it would give ammunition to the right (a classic way of shutting down genuine debate). Others have sent in articles and not even had the courtesy of a reply for their efforts.

          So I cannot but agree that currently LF facilitates left debate in an unacceptably patchy manner. The way it is run needs to be changed or, as you say, it should be replaced by something better. A number of us have written to LF to propose that it is run in future with a proper editorial board which would enable it to solicit a wider range of original articles (which would, among other things, avoid the need to resort to second rate dross from other blogs). Our letter was sent on 19th October. After a reminder we received the promise of a reply but as yet none has been received. I fully agree with you that something has to change. We need open, robust (but comradely) debate on the Left on a large number of issues. Currently LF comes nowhere near providing that role. This has got to change. If LF can’t change its modus operandi then it will be necessary to go elsewhere.

  9. David Pavett says:

    I just looked at Don Flynn’s Twitter feed. He describes his article on Left Futures as a response to “left nationalist attempts to trash solidarity with migrants”. Given the abuse in his article I suppose it is not surprising to find more on his Twitter feed. Describing my argument for the management of large-scale population movements across borders as an attempt to trash solidarity with migrants is like describing the introduction of building regulations as an attempt to trash the effort to build houses.

    On the same Twitter account Michael Chessum, who writes for the New Stateman and the Guardian, describes Don’s article as “An excellent response to some of the anti-free movement nonsense you get on the left”.

    At least Michael Chessum allows me to be “on the left” (while talking “nonsense”) as opposed to Don Flynn’s description of me as “left nationalist” trasher of solidarity with migrants. “Left nationalist” sounds a bit like “national socialist”. Could that be what he meant?

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Don’t take it personally DavidP, what the Blairites are doing is that they’re trying to set the terms of this debate as “reactionary nationalists versus progressive internationalists”.

      The struggle over the contextualisation of a political debate is as important as the substance of the debate itself.

      What we need to do is to reject this terminology altogether and assert that the essential and fundamental nature of this debate is one between socialists and capitalists.

      Don Flynn, Tom O’Leary and Jim Denham are essentially mounting a political defence of capitalism.

      They seek to mask their underlying support for neo-liberalism and global capitalism behind their fluffy rhetoric of “freedom”.

      No doubt they will also dub us “Stalinists” as well.

      And their smears will become ever more desperate as they continue to lose the substantive arguments.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I don’t take the insults personally since they are handed out to anyone who disagrees.

        At the same time I think we need to try not to do the same thing in return. I am sure that Don Flynn’s concern for the welfare of migrants is genuine and deep felt. I am sure too that his intention is not to mount a defence of capitalism. I disagree with his advocacy of uncontrolled migration but I I have no wish to cast him as the enemy.

        The left is too small and too factious. We need to set welcoming and inclusive standards of debate so that we can have robust disagreements without any excommunication reflexes.

      2. Verity says:

        This is a good argument to question the Left Future’s editorial decisions to be extended the article inclusions too broadly to those who seek to use their success as secondary political advantage – possibly gaining a greater airing than they may otherwise have done.

        1. David Pavett says:

          Verity, I am not sure that I fully understand the point you are making.

          One thing is clear however. You suggest that there is a problem with LF’s editorial decisions. I think that this derives from LF having been created as, in effect, a personal website. Now it needs to break out of that mode and to be run by a properly and openly constituted editorial board. Some of us have suggested this to LF but we are still waiting for a response to our suggestions. If LF cannot step up to the plate to meet the intense need for open debate on a wide range of issues facing the LP then those of us who understand the need for that will have to go elsewhere or create a new blog. My first preference would be that LF is changed to be run by an editorial board of people in contact with different stands of opinion, activity and research.

          1. Danny Nicol says:

            Surely it’s unduly optimistic to suppose the authors of the Momentum coup will have such an attack of power-sharing and broadmindedness.

            My own Comments on this blog are vetted and censored, and on occasion have appeared days even weeks after I sent them. Can’t remember why I am subject to this sanction.

  10. Karl Stewart says:

    This is excellent by the way:

    “Describing my argument for the management of large-scale population movements across borders as an attempt to trash solidarity with migrants is like describing the introduction of building regulations as an attempt to trash the effort to build houses.”

  11. David Pavett says:

    Re-reading Don F’s criticism of my original article it strikes me that there are some very powerful, unjustified assumptions at work among the proponents of free movement.

    (1) Free movement is a uniformly good thing so there is no need to examine its impact in different circumstances.

    (2) Racists and xenophobes dislike immigrants so anyone who questions a policy of free movement has joined the camp of racists and xenophobes. They therefore are so totally lacking in judgement and keep such bad company that there is no need to debate with them civilly. It is okay, as a consequence, to impute really base motives to them.

    This inability to debate in a meaningful way is regrettable since those supporting free movement clearly have decent motives and have many good points to make about the treatment of immigrants – points which are shared by those those on the left who oppose free movement. There is room for a comradely dialogue so it is a pity that none appears to be taking place.

    (3) Questioning a policy of free movement means that one is opposed to immigration and immigrants and can therefore be described as being opposed to showing solidarity with immigrants who suffer from abuse and other forms of prejudice.

    The free movementers are so convinced of these assumptions that they feel no need to justify them. The assumptions are demonstrably false. That is why they find it impossible to mount a decent argument for their case – when, that is, they get around to making any argument at all (the LCFM website is remarkably lacking in any).

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