Notes from the front – of 13/7/2016
Labour right aren’t defeated yet. All out for Corbyn!
The coup plotters in the Labour Party have suffered a significant set-back with the decision of Labour’s NEC not to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from being on a leadership ballot. Thwarting this blatant denial of democracy, by 18 to 14 votes, is an important victory for the leader, the entire Corbyn movement and Labour’s membership.
But the coup plotters have not been routed. They have scandalously manoeuvred to deny a democratic choice to more than 100,000 Labour members and huge numbers of other Labour supporters, including in trade unions.
The right wing pushed through the NEC procedures for this election entirely different to last year’s, so as to significantly curtail party democracy. Only Labour Party members who joined prior to 12 January this year will be allowed to participate. Last year the cut-off date for joining the party, and for registering as a supporter or affiliated supporter, was a couple of days before the dispatch of the leadership election ballot papers. This year the membership cut-off date is more than seven months prior to the ballot. Plus the period for registering as a supporter has been narrowed to less than three days, beginning on 18 July, from the three month period permitted last year, whilst the registration fee has been increased eight-fold, from £3 to £25.
Unfortunately, after winning the key vote on whether Corbyn will be on the ballot paper, the left on the NEC then lost a series of votes on the procedure for this leadership election, including the vote on a Unite proposal for a 24 June membership cut-off date, which was tied at 14 votes for and 14 against.
These changes to the procedure are transparently elitist manoeuvres, designed to limit Corbyn’s support. While the Corbynistas are busy rebuilding Labour as a mass party, the right want it to be a small careerist-dominated network.
In addition, all normal meetings of local Labour Parties, at constituency and branch level, have been suspended for the duration of the leadership campaign, except for meetings making supporting nominations. This is designed to prevent collective discussion on issues so that a Tory media can exercise the maximum influence, as well as reducing the accountability of MPs. The right wing’s media operation aims to obscure the fundamental policy differences, particularly over austerity, and instead peddle spurious allegations of bullying, violence, homophobia, anti-Semitism or any other slander that might prove useful.
Together, this all clearly demonstrates the continued and determined resistance of the right, with their utter ruthlessness in pursuit of the interests they represents. Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to austerity, war and increasing racism are policies which are anathema to those interests, big business and big capital. There are no devices they will not stoop to, no lies or smears they won’t make, and no rule they are not willing to break in pursuit of their aim of ousting Corbyn.
This must inform how the Corbynistas pursue this next stage of the fight. Clearly, the left should not emulate the tactics of its opponents. Corbyn’s strongest hand is his policies. War, austerity and racism are extremely unpopular among the majority of Labour members. But vital new issues have also arisen. Labour’s leader needs to champion policies that will make the bulk of the population better off. This means a clear determination to remain in the EU’s single market including accepting freedom of movement, which increases prosperity. And, if an extremely right-wing Tory government is to be held to account on EU negotiations, to protect living standards, environmental protections, workers’ rights and so on, then Labour should insist there that is a referendum on the terms of any exit deal the Tories negotiate. Otherwise the Tories can simply push through any reactionary programme they can get away using their slim parliamentary majority.
The Labour right wing takes organisational matters extremely seriously. The left must do so as well. The right have been plotting for months on changing the composition of the NEC and attempting to keep Corbyn off any ballot. The party machine obstructs the leadership on key issues, significant parts collude with the right wing and have stepped up the suspension and expulsions of the left. Important rule changes are needed, to ensure Corbyn never faces this type of challenge again and that due process is introduced to Labour’s procedures. The party machine ought to serve the elected leadership and party membership.
In the forthcoming campaign politics comes first. Corbyn will win if there are proper debates on policies. The entire left, all those who oppose more wars, the whole of the anti-racist movement and all those who oppose austerity have a direct interest in re-electing Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
All out for Corbyn!