Forty Years of Hurt: Socialism’s Coming Home!

neil k

Speaking earlier today John McDonnell argued that at least part of the reason for Labour’s electoral failure owed to “a long history of maybe forty years of neglect”.

So, what did he mean by four decades of neglect? Well, arguably what McDonnell was highlighting was the right-wing takeover of the Labour Party and the hollowing-out of democracy that was undertaken throughout the 80s (by Neil Kinnock) and then continued in more recent years by Tony Blair and his capitalist fellow-travellers. Forty long years of hurt!

Although in recent years McDonnell has adopted a more conciliatory approach to the Blairite MPs that dominate the Labour Party, the Labour Representation Committee (of which McDonnell is President) has spoken more openly about the problems creating by having rightwing MPs undermining socialist ideas at every turn.

For example, in February 2018, shortly after it was announced that finally internal elections meant that the majority of the Labour Party’s NEC no longer actively opposed Corbyn’s socialist ideas, the Labour Representation Committee issued a statement noting:

The Parliamentary Labour Party and the Party bureaucracy remain firmly in the hands of the right wing. They seem determined to rule or ruin. Dirty tricks, sabotage and witch-hunts are their stock in trade.

This problem however never went away, and last month the Labour Representation Committee highlighted the “cowardly choice” taken by the NEC when they refused to endorse Chris Williamson as the Labour Party candidate for Derby North. Their statement (“Outrage as NEC blocks Chris Williamson,” November 6) noted:

“This cowardly choice will not put off the pack of wolves baying about ‘Labour antisemitism’. It will embolden them, and could do immense harm to Labour in the middle of an election campaign.

“The bizarre and inconsistent stance of the NEC amounts to Labour shooting itself in the foot in the middle of the campaign. The sneaky way the decision has been published, when every Labour loyalist sees their utmost priority to get the vote out against this hated Tory government, is incredibly stupid and counterproductive.

“Labour supporters will be wondering, as they put their feet up after a day’s canvassing or leafleting, whether we really have a left-controlled NEC.”

These are important points.

Of course, we all know that Labour’s policies were never going to get a fair hearing in the Tory press, but when such a smear campaign is aided and abetted by elected members of the Labour Party, winning is that much harder. This Blairite hurdle was all the more difficult to overcome when not long after Corbyn assumed Labour’s leadership, those same right-wingers successfully pushed for Labour to back Remain position in the European Referendum and then campaigned relentlessly in their attempts to overturn the Leave vote.

This damage has however already been done to Labour, and what now needs to be discussed is Labour’s future leadership and how the Blairite problems – or the forty years of democratic deficit — might be overcome.

For one, it is clear that Labour has no choice but to ensure that the leadership of the Labour Party reflects the democratic and socialist views of its membership, which for a start would mean that it should reintroduce the principle of mandatory reselection for all elected positions. It is simply unthinkable that Labour will be able to mount any serious opposition to the Tories with so many elected Labour MPs and councillors still opposing the socialist reclamation of the Party.

Take for example the recently revealed opinions of Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth – formerly considered by many to be a passive supporter of Corbyn — who two days before the election was outed in the media for secretly harbouring plans to oust Corbyn as Labour’s leader. He explained to his Tory friend that he hoped that Labour would be able to move forward and get a “half-decent leader next time round”. On talking about earlier attempts to depose Corbyn, Ashworth continued:

“God knows … because we f***ed it up. We f***ed it up in 2016 when we went too early. People like me were internally saying this isn’t the right moment, but I got ignored.”

These views are in keeping with Ashworth’s preference for amplifying the attacks on Corbyn via the smear of anti-Semitism levelled against his leadership. Thus in March, Ashworth was happy to undermine Corbyn on the issue of Chris Williamson; while in July 2018 he attacked Corbyn on the issue of Labour’s definition of anti-Semitism (with respect to that proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition); and in March had sent a message of solidarity to the anti-Corbyn “anti-Semitism” protest that had been organised in London by Luciana Berger and various other Blairites.

Needless to say, internal opposition to Corbyn is also rife at a local council level too. Thus to take just one example: on the day of the General Election, six Leicester Labour Councillors took the opportunity to smear Corbyn in the local press saying that Labour was now also anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.

It just so happens that these six councillors were recruited and maintained in their local Labour positions by Keith Vaz, an MP who had disgracefully shut down democratic processes within his Constituency Labour Party for many years. Not coincidentally, like Vaz, these six Corbyn critics are all vocal supporters of the far-right Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his governing BJP. Hence it is fitting that these councillors’ attacks on Corbyn only amplified the vile racist campaign that was waged against Vaz’s Labour successor by the actual Tories based in Leicester East.

Moving forward it is clearly a large task to undo forty years of neglect. But what is certain is that it is only through a process of thorough internal democratisation that the Labour Party will ever be able to fight for socialist ideas without being shot in the foot by its own elected representatives.

The Blairites are of course already calling for Corbyn’s head and for an end to the Corbyn Project, and so these attempts to move the Party backwards must be fought against tooth and nail. The essential task that now lies ahead is to fight to ensure that the socialist ideas that have been brought out in the mainstream under Corbyn’s leadership continue to be the policies of the Labour Party.

Lessons do need to be learned about why Labour failed to win this General Election, but these will not be the lessons that the corporate media will want us to learn. This is because the only way to win the working-class fight for socialism is by coming out and fighting on the streets in an uncompromising way for the socialist ideas that can bring all aspects of the economy under democratic workers control.

What is certain is that there can no longer be any compromising with those enemies of socialism that still exist with the Labour Party. Tough decisions need to be taken, and taken soon if Labour is to become the mass workers party that it needs to be if it is oust the Tories in the coming years.

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