The election campaign for Labour Party leader is in full swing, with huge rallies for Jeremy Corbyn. Liverpool is leading with up to 10,000 turning out and with large meetings in Hull and Leeds. This is the response of members and supporters to the attempt by MPs to oust him. Some 172 MPs voted no confidence in Corbyn, trying to blame him for the Brexit vote. Having failed to force him to resign, thanks to Jeremy’s steadfastness and his massive support amongst the membership, they were forced into mounting a leadership challenge, while hoping to exclude Jeremy from the ballot paper.
But despite consulting lawyers, they were unable to get the National Executive Committee (NEC) to go as far as excluding the incumbent party leader. They did however succeed in using a contrived hue and cry about bullying to pressure the NEC into cancelling all party meetings (except for a single, incredibly short meeting in each CLP for leadership nominations), thus closing the party down for the duration.
Not satisfied with this they have now turned to gerrymandering. The NEC decided that all party members who did not join before 12 January 2016 would be disenfranchised. Secondly, all existing registered supporters would lose their vote for the leadership apart from those who willing to pay £25 within a 48-hour time slot. However to the plotters’ surprise, some 180,000 did this anyway. Undaunted, the Compliance Unit has “knocked off” 40,000 of these, and there are suggestions that they will do the same to another 10,000.
Another setback for the plotters occurred when a High Court judge ruled the exclusion of the pre-January members unlawful, though the Procedures Committee of the NEC is appealing the decision.
Now it is reported that some 25 of the anti-Corbyn MPs are preparing to split the party. Website LabourList has verified a Daily Telegraph report that their plan is “to choose an alternative figurehead in the Commons and pick their own shadow cabinet, as well as approaching Commons Speaker John Bercow to try to be named the official Opposition on the basis of having a greater number of MPs”. The report adds that they “could even launch a legal bid to take control of the Labour Party name and assets”.
Cooler heads are counselling the rebel MPs to challenge Corbyn “again and again as his failings and the untenability of his position become more and more apparent, until eventually he is defeated”. They hope they can pre-occupy the left with this civil war and prevent us from launching a fightback against the Tories.
Of course Owen Smith – the fake left candidate the right have put up – has disavowed any such intentions himself, but nevertheless he warns, “I think there is every likelihood that the party will split if Jeremy wins this election. I don’t think it’s a risk, I think it’s a likelihood.”. In short this is crude blackmail by the MPs to frighten the membership into voting for Smith.
Whatever the policies Smith has purloined from Jeremy Corbyn, Smith’s PLP backers all want a return to the “realistic” pro-market, austerity-lite policies that brought the Labour membership to below 200,000 and lost it two general elections. Smith is the standard bearer of a counter-revolution that would destroy the Labour Party.
The answer to the three months’ lockdown of the party membership has been given by the both the membership and by supporters via the #KeepCorbyn campaign and Momentum: get out to the meetings, get onto the streets, recruit to Labour.
Jeremy has suggested that he would bring some of those who have participated in the coup back into the Shadow Cabinet. Journalists like Owen Jones and Paul Mason have advised likewise. Jones in particular advocates near complete surrender to the right’s blackmail. Mason advocates not only inviting Smith and Co. into the Shadow Cabinet but inviting the Greens, Plaid Cymru and even the Lib-Dems into a coalition government on the pretext of keeping out the Tories and UKIP. This could never be a government that breaks with austerity and neoliberalism, let alone one that took anti-capitalist measures to defend itself from economic sabotage and mutiny by the forces of the state.
We will have more serious tasks in hand on the morrow of another Corbyn victory. We need to make sure that the MPs, the NEC members and party officials at all levels who plotted to gerrymander the electorate, who enforced the closing down of party life, and who expelled loyal members are deprived of all positions of authority and replaced with people who really represent the views of the membership.
At the head of the anti-Corbyn apparatus at the Party HQ in Victoria Street is Iain McNicol, the General Secretary, formerly national political officer of the GMB under the arch right winger, Sir Paul Kenny. This incompetent foe of the membership needs to be removed by the new NEC or by Conference.
We need to change the party’s constitution so that a coup against the membership such as occurred this June and July could never happen again. Indeed a special conference needs to be called so that the entire structure of the party can be democratised, the role of the membership enhanced so that hundreds of thousands more can be integrated in its campaigning, the links with the affiliated trade unions strengthened at local level.
Sooner rather than later Momentum needs to hold a national policy conference, with delegates elected directly from the local groups instead of via the current regional tier, and a Momentum national leadership elected with a clear political mandate on the basis of the outcome of its constitutive conference debate.
But Momentum also has to do all in its power to win party branches and constituencies to active involvement in the class struggle outside parliament and the council chamber, to support strikes like those of the junior doctors and the wide variety of anti-cuts, anti-racist and anti-war campaigns.
We need local Labour parties to take a lead in creating anti-cuts committees in every town and city, based both on their own delegates and those from trade union branches, anti-cuts campaigns (Keep Our NHS Public, Disabled People Against Cuts, etc.) and residents’ and tenants’ groups.
We need to transform Labour into what millions of workers and youth have repeatedly fought for since it was founded; a party that can not only defeat the Tories at the ballot box, but one that can install a government, backed up by a movement of millions, that can effect a socialist transformation of society.