Notes from the front of 15-09-16
The Labour Party leadership ballot closes on 21 September, so supporters of its left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn have a few days left to campaign for any remaining votes. The leadership election result is due to be announced on 24 September before Labour’s women’s conference in Liverpool, with Corbyn widely expected to win.
A Corbyn victory will represent a set-back for the right wing as they had hoped to depose him this summer with the attempted coup. But capitalism is totally opposed to him continuing as leader, so the campaigns against him remain in place with a new series of battles already underway.
As John McDonnell recently stated, the political, media and business establishment is working to bring down Corbyn, including ‘part of the establishment’ within Labour. That is correct. Capital of course uses the private and state institutions it controls, including the labour bureaucracy. Its agents within Labour will seek yet another leadership election, preferably under altered rules, where Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the ballot paper has been overturned and where members and supporters have less influence.
Corbyn’ supporters need to be equally determined in resisting these attacks. The meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on 20 September and the annual conference that starts on 24 September will be important in this fight.
The proposal by MPs that they elect the Shadow Cabinet is one of the latest battles. If this is agreed by the NEC and then by Labour annual conference, right wing MPs will use Labour’s frontbench as a platform to attack Corbyn. They will also try is get control of all three front bench places on Labour’s NEC. Right wing MPs have recently taken control of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party and replaced Dawn Butler with Jess Phillips.
The right would also like various anti-democratic rule changes put on to the annual conference agenda to be agreed there. These can only get on the agenda of this year’s conference if the NEC agrees.
The right would ideally like to change Labour’s rules on electing its Leader. It also wants more powers to remove left wing members and to attack left organisations such as Momentum. Currently the powers to suspend Labour members rest with the NEC. The right wing would like to move these powers to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC), which operates as a more right-wing body and could permit a more thorough purge of the left. Only a few thousand left wing members have been blocked from voting for Corbyn this year. This is totally unacceptable to the right-wing, which wants the disciplinary rules and structures overhauled.
The right is organising to get motions on to the conference agenda that attack Corbyn’s political positions.
Also at the conference there will be an election for a constituency party representative on Labour’s NCC, contested by the right and the centre-left.
The Tories’ Boundary Review, alongside the restrictive changes already made to electoral registration, effectively gerrymander parliamentary constituencies to Labour’s disadvantage. The boundaries of most seats will change, meaning political parties will be selecting candidates for a new set of constituencies. Within Labour the right fears that these new local Labour Parties will want to select candidates that represent the membership’s views. Labour’s current rules heavily protect sitting MPs. If a new seat retains at least 40 per cent of the previous electorate of an MP they have the right to contest the selection in that new seat. The left is starting to pay more attention to Labour’s selection rules and issues such as ‘trigger ballots’ and selection votes.
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Pat Doherty MP and Niall Murphy, solicitor and Human Rights Lawyer speaking at a House of Commons meeting on Loughinisland Massacre
The Loughinisland Massacre has been raised in Parliament, with a short debate and Questions to the Prime Minister. Theresa May replied that the police service was investigating and that all ‘misdemeanours’ would be dealt with.
The misdemeanour was the massacre of 6 people in 1994 as they were watching a soccer match in a bar. The Police Ombundsman of Northern Ireland Michael Maguire has reported that the RUC, which was then the police force in the North, effectively orchestrated and participated this massacre, which was part of a wider campaign of terror by Loyalist gangs under the direction of British state security forces. Maguire suggests that the UDR and other British security agencies were also closely involved, although this was beyond his remit.
There is now a police investigation into the massacre.
Britain has always falsely claimed that it was a peacekeeper in Ireland. The Maguire report is the first official admission that British state forces were central to the armed conflict. In effect, Britain ran Loyalist death squads in Ireland. Both Unionist and Nationalist parties are agreed that there should be some sort of truth and reconciliation process, which is formally part of the Good Friday Agreement. It is the British Government which is resisting implementation of this aspect of an international Treaty. These crimes should be investigated fully, and the Good Friday Agreement provisions implemented in full.
Racist violence in Britain has sharply increased since last year, with hate crime surging during and after the EU referendum campaign. Over the nine week period, starting one week before the 24 June referendum, the weekly number of reported incidents was on average 32 per cent higher than the equivalent period last year, with the scale of individual weekly increases ranging from 12 per cent to 58 per cent.
The chart below, produced by the Guardian, summarises the increases in reported hate crime from 16 June to 25 August recorded by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). 63 per cent of the incidents involved violence against a person, with 76 per cent being racist and 7 per cent religious hate crime.
These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. As the NPCC itself admits hate crime is overwhelmingly not reported to the police. For example last year the Crime Survey recorded a level of hate crime five times the level reported to the police.
Some recent attacks have been covered by the mainstream media, including the killing of a Polish man Arkadiusz Jozwik outside a takeaway in Harlow and the violent racist assault on a pregnant Muslim woman in Milton Keynes, who as result lost her twin babies.
An intensified reactionary offensive lies behind this rise of violence and abuse. In government the Tories have maintained a steady stream of propaganda against migrants, refugees and Muslims. Initiatives such as Theresa May’s ‘Go Home or face arrest’ vans in London and a range of legislation has been framed to sustain this ideological barrage. This was then stepped up for the EU referendum. Immigration and the EU’s free movement of people were made central issues by the principal Brexit campaigns, with Cameron’s Remain campaign going along with the racist agenda.
As would be expected, hostility to immigration was found to be significantly higher amongst Brexit supporters. Lord Ashcroft’s poll of referendum voters indicated that less than 15 per cent of leave voters considered immigration a force for good, where as more than 50 per cent of remain voters think it is good. So as the Independent reported, the degree of surge in anti-immigrant hate crime appeared to relate to the strength of Brexit vote in a geographical area.
As living standards continue falling, due to austerity combining with the consequences of the Brexit vote, the Tories are stepping up racist scapegoating and are playing down the consequent violence. Contrary to the clear NPCC evidence, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has claimed the level of hate crime is back in line with 2015. An obligingly NPCC has now decided to stop collating weekly hate crime figures.
Over the next two plus years of EU negotiations the ‘hard Brexit’ supporters in the Tories and UKIP will keep fighting to end freedom of movement. Opposition to immigration is their prime focus, regardless of the damage it would inflict on the economy and people’s living standards. The right’s arguments need to be challenged head on. Immigration and freedom of movement are central to raising living standards. Any concessions made to anti-immigrant mythology strengthen xenophobia and the forces of reaction. Progressive people of course oppose this new upsurge of racism and Islamophobia. They will find the forthcoming conference, ‘Confronting the rise in racism’, useful. It will be addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Kate Osamor and takes place on Saturday 8 October (10.30am-4.30pm) at Friends Meeting House, Euston Rd, London NW1 2BJ. Hosted by Stand up to Racism, more details can be found here.