How Labour Party Marxists’ viewed the 2020 leadership election
We know, of course, that Jeremy Corbyn is not, and never has been, a Marxist. He is a sincere, but dithering, left reformist who will do anything to try and appease his opponents rather than fight them – we have had plenty of opportunity to witness this political weakness over the last five years.
And yet we have to admit to still being gobsmacked by his proposed nominations for the House of Lords.
Firstly, the man is supposed to be a republican. Why on earth would he nominate anybody for this wretched symbol of privilege? We note that Labour’s manifesto in the 2019 election promised to replace the Lords with an elected “senate”. Why?
In 2015 during his first leadership campaign Corbyn told Channel 4 News he saw “no case” for appointing new peers. A position he should have stuck to.
He quickly backtracked, and successively nominating, among others, Shami Chakrabarti in 2016 and, in 2018, former witch-finder general Iain McNicol.
As general secretary of the Labour Party, McNicol helped to launch and maintain the witch-hunt against Corbyn and the left and appointed many of the right-wingers who still control layer upon layer of the party bureaucracy.
His nomination was a way to sweeten and hasten his overdue departure from the general secretary post. LPM would have preferred if Corbyn had tried to get him sacked outright – was there no chance of a majority on the national executive committee for that?
Still, we can understand why Corbyn went down this route: it was a way to get rid of one of his biggest and most powerful opponents in the middle of the civil war, when he had everything still to play for.
The situation today is vastly different – Corbyn has finally been forced out of his job. Which is why we really cannot see any rational reason for him nominating Tom Watson, just before his own departure as leader of the Labour Party.
For four and a half years, Watson did everything in his power to undermine the leader. He orchestrated both coups against him, launched a number of open letters, and cohered the right wing inside the Labour Party. So, even if Corbyn had foolishly promised him a seat in the House of Lords in order to get rid of him just before the election, the result of that election surely should have led him to rip up that promise – after all, Watson’s activities have played a huge role in making sure Labour under the ‘unelectable’ Corbyn got trounced.
But the fact that Corbyn seems to feel the need to honour that promise just shows that he is and remains very much part of ‘the system’ – an honourable and thereby rather ineffective Labour politician.
That said, we are more than puzzled that Corbyn’s close comrades, Karie Murphy and Katy Clark, would be interested in taking up a position in that house of privilege. Like the hundreds of people who have over the years rejected the so-called ‘honours’ bestowed by the monarch, real socialists should just say no.
This is part of the astonishing legacy that Corbyn leaves. Yes, there was a mass influx into the party, a real sense of hope that things could be different. But we have to be honest: the political opportunities that opened up with Corbyn’s election were all but wasted.
There has been almost no progress in terms of the democratisation of the party. Corbyn squandered the opportunity to reintroduce the mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates at the 2018 conference, by instructing Len McCluskey to use Unite’s block vote to stop open selection.
Worst of all, Corbyn and his allies have silently stood by and watched, as hundreds of his supporters were thrown to the wolves in the ongoing witch-hunt.
The refusal by Corbyn and his advisors to stand up to the right is already having serious political consequences that go far beyond the Labour Party: council after council is banning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which before long could well be declared anti-Semitic and thereby illegal.
Perhaps we will soon see official regulations characterising anti-Zionism as violating official anti-racism, being closely associated with terrorist tendencies and therefore notifiable to the Prevent bureaucracy (I am little bit surprised it has not happened already). Any war in the Middle East, especially if it involves Israel, will increase the intensity and scope of the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. Anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism could easily fall into the net too.
This is, of course, why most of the candidates in the Labour leadership elections have been falling over themselves to sign up to the so-called ‘10 pledges’ published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They all want to appear respectable and be seen to be doing ‘everything in their power to eradicate anti-Semitism from the party’.
However, most members know this is based on a lie. Anti-Semitism is not rife in the Labour Party. There have been a tiny number of genuine cases, while most allegations were trumped up in order to smear Corbyn.
No wonder that Rebecca Long Bailey’s enthusiastic support for the pledges has been hugely controversial on the left. Support for her leadership campaign, only ever lukewarm, has cooled considerably as a result.
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy ditched its decades-long demand for the mandatory reselection of all parliamentary candidates, because Jeremy Corbyn was reluctant to go for it (in one of his many futile attempts to keep the right on board). And in the run-up to the 2018 party conference, Momentum argued against open selection, pushing for the lame reform of the trigger ballot instead.
However, when the campaign for mandatory reselection became absolutely huge in the party, Lansman changed tack and jumped on the bandwagon – one week before conference, only to jump off it again at conference itself, when Corbyn let it be known that he favoured the reform of the trigger ballot.
While over 90% of the Constituency Labour Party delegates voted in favour of the rule change, the unions voted it down and went with the NEC compromise on reforming the trigger ballot.
We have seen how useless that rule change has been – the few trigger ballots that did take place ended up with the confirmation of the sitting MP.
Emily Thornberry will hopefully soon go the same way as Jess Phillips, who has just stepped down from the leadership race – into political oblivion. Phillips proved to be absolutely useless, even when playing to a friendly media.
Thornberry, on the other hand, has managed to alienate the left and the right and is bound to drop out of the race soon, having secured zero nominations, either from CLPs or affiliates.
Lisa Nandy, has done surprisingly well. She quite successfully positioned herself as the ‘sensible candidate’ between the cold careerist, Starmer, and the Corbyn continuity candidate, Long Bailey.
She probably does appeal to many of the over 100,000 new members who have joined since the 2019 election (the majority of whom will probably be somewhere on the political ‘soft left’, rather than the hard left or right of the party).
In this context, it is interesting to note that only 15,000 people have paid £25 to become ‘registered supporters’ of the party in order to vote. Compare that to the 180,000 who made use of this provision in 2016 – overwhelmingly to support Jeremy Corbyn.
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