Jon Lansman, the founder and former chair of Momentum, and a former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) wrote an article for Labour List yesterday that typifies all that is wrong with the left of the Labour Party. Writing about the NEC decision to ban Jeremy Corbyn from ever again standing as a a Labour candidate, he correctly describes the triumphalism that the Labour right displayed after the 2019 General Election defeat.
He was sat next to Alan Johnson in the TV studio on election night in 2019 when Johnson “delivered his death sentence upon the Labour left for ‘the worst results since 1935’, to sniggers from Ed Balls and George Osborne across the room. ‘I want them out of the party, I want Momentum gone,’ he said. That defined the image of the result that the Labour right wished to project before a single result had come in, as well as the extent of the revenge they intended.”
We have seen the full extent of that revenge under Starmer: local party democracy closed down by decree from General Secretary David Evans; imposing candidates against the wishes of local constituency parties; expelling dissenters and left-wingers on trumped up charges, including the expulsion of Jewish members for antisemitism! The Socialist Campaign Group of MPs has been prevented from speaking out on NATO and Stop the War on pain of expulsion. Shamefully, their desire to cling onto their seats outweighs their principles and any loyalty they might once have shown to Jeremy Corbyn.
Lansman is no better. He recognises that the Labour right is waging a sectarian war against the left. He writes that “Barring Corbyn is wholly unjustified.” Then in the same breath he argues, “But I hope he won’t stand as an independent”. That is because Lansman believes that first and foremost socialists must stand for the election of a Labour government. And for Labour to win it needs to be a broad church. This means that the party must appeal to a wide range of voters by fielding a wide range of candidates.
This ecumenical approach works after a fashion until one side institutes a witch hunt against its opponents and makes heresy a hanging offence. The Labour right have made that move. Their tolerance of the left was always predicated on their own continuing dominance of the leadership of the party. This tolerance extended to former left-wingers on a rightward trajectory like Neil Kinnock. Corbyn challenged all that with his principled support for democratic socialist politics, and so they set out to destroy him and make it impossible for the left to ever again lead the party.
Unlike Lansman the Labour right believes that the degeneration of the Conservatives into a corrupt and incompetent party of little Englanders means that centrist Labour can now win power without the left. All Lansman has to offer is the wish that Corbyn goes quietly so that, when the Starmer project comes unstuck, the Labour left will once more be allowed to dine at the table. Meanwhile we are expected to be grateful for whatever crumbs of comfort come our way.
When you compare this to the confidence, the resilience, the sheer fighting spirit of trade unionists taking on the government with strikes and protests and mass pickets you have to wonder what the Labour left is for. Rise like Lions? Stand Up? Solidarity? Instead of #MeToo we have #MeNext #Maybe #Sometime #Never. That is not the way to change the world.
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