The Labour Party Shambles

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Auld-bod
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Jun 30 2016 14:44
The Labour Party Shambles

The Labour Party Shambles

The current infighting in the Labour Party has deep roots. This is how I remember the history.
I’ve over simplified this though I think it is fairly accurate.

The main decision making body used to be the National Conference (N.C.). This body decided the main policy of the party, though how the policy should be implemented was in the hands of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), consisting of Members of Parliament. I don’t remember exactly the percentages of voting rights allocated to each section; the PLP; affiliated unions, party members.

The most contentious issue was always the union block vote, which was based on the number of members who paid the political levy in each union. Each union’s executive decided how their votes should be cast, and importantly most never consulted their members before this was done. The right wing dominated most union executives until the nineteen sixties, when left leaning leaders emerged from the shop steward’s movement. This bit into the right’s domination at conferences. Shirley Williams for example (she became one of the gang of four), sat on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, and did so because of her union backers.

As the right’s grip on the unions was loosened the issue of the undemocratic block vote became an issue. The cry went up (mainly from the right wing) for ‘one member one vote’ and an end to the block vote. As I remember it, first the Labour N.C. was neutered and reduced to a policy showcase, similar to the Conservative Party, who had never pretended to be democratic. As a sop to the hard and soft left in the party, one member one vote was introduced as the union block vote was dissolved. The unions do of course still have power, to the extent they help fund the party.

The party membership could exercise their MP selection rights from an approved list of candidates. Over time this has led to a PLP to the right of most members of the party. The PLP selects the list from which the members may choose their leader. Corbyn was thought to have no chance of election so a few soft left MPs were persuaded to sign up for his nomination. Boy, did they get a shock when he was elected.

This is the situation we have today.

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Jun 30 2016 16:24

Thanks auld-bold. If i can carry on a couple questions from the other thread:.how much of the current struggle has to do with protecting blair et al from war crimes trubunals, how much is it ideology, and as fingers ( i think) suggested, how much is it corbyn isn't beholden to the party machine or is it a combo of all the above?

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Jun 30 2016 18:15

I'm not sure gunning for Corbyn (which Blair seems to be doing) is going to do much to shield Blair from War crimes stuff. Isn't it more likely to do with regaining control of the party?
As you said the Tories are less democratic but they still have a vote of party members for leadership unless it's uncontested.

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Jun 30 2016 18:24

Absolutely dreadful counter-revolutionary article in Freedom. Shocking stuff: https://freedomnews.org.uk/the-end-of-dogma-keepcorbyn-as-a-transitional-demand/

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Jun 30 2016 18:43
Serge Forward wrote:
Absolutely dreadful counter-revolutionary article in Freedom. Shocking stuff: https://freedomnews.org.uk/the-end-of-dogma-keepcorbyn-as-a-transitional-demand/

Gordon Bennet, first we have Tory bashing on the voting thread worthy of the the winner of liberal of the year and then this chancer turns up to do a bit of thunder stealing. Check this shit out...

Quote:
This new contest for the Labour leadership, in which Corbyn has refused to resign against a vote of no-confidence amounting to 172 MPs, can help to pave the way for a project of Left unification. Of course this idea is not new, but all attempts in recent times to work towards that unity have not moved in the direction of class struggle, which right now is focused on the socialist (or ‘kinder politics’) Corbyn project. Anarchists are joining the Labour Party alongside previous Green Party members, Liberal Democrats and the undecided, and for good reason. This is not about Corbyn. This is not about Labour as we have always understood it to be. It is about class struggle, using the institution that we usually abhor to make transitional demands.

Tory bashing? Corbyn supporting? Fucking hell, it's like Facebook on a bad day.

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Jun 30 2016 19:29

The author seems to not understand that anarchists are not the Left.

"Daniel Dawson is a reluctant anarchist, poet and musician from Coventry."

Isn't the whole article just espousing the standard issue Leninist crap?

Freedom say that tomorrow, they will be publishing a response to this position.

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Jun 30 2016 18:59

On twitter there was stuff saying Corbyn was being kept from meeting with his shadow cabinet. Anyone know what the story with this is?

Sleeper
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Jun 30 2016 19:33

The Labour Party was created by the organised working class within the Trade Unions. It was created to represent working class interests within the existing parliamentary system. It is the only enduring movement created by the British working class. It has history and an emotional meaning to politically minded working class people.

Some of us understand that. Some don't.

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Jun 30 2016 20:15

The Labour Party was created by the trade union bureaucracy to represent the interests of the trade union bureaucracy. Open to correction on this, but I think it's only under Corbyn that Labour has adopted a default position of supporting strikes.

Sleeper
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Jun 30 2016 20:42

No it was created by working class people organised in their unions and cooperatives, and other organisations, to further their interests as against the interests of the ruling class as represented by the Liberal Party and the Whigs at the time. There was no such thing as bureaucracy at that time smile

Joseph Kay wrote:
The Labour Party was created by the trade union bureaucracy to represent the interests of the trade union bureaucracy. Open to correction on this, but I think it's only under Corbyn that Labour has adopted a default position of supporting strikes.
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Jun 30 2016 21:07
Sleeper wrote:
There was no such thing as bureaucracy at that time

Weird then that the TUC's own history of itself describes measures by officials to clamp down on a militant rank-and-file a decade before the foundation of the Labour Party...

TUC wrote:
The trade union 'old guard' used this calmer period to consolidate their position. A change in the TUC standing orders in 1895 introduced the block vote, and trades councils (regarded as hotbeds of militancy) were banned from sending delegates to the annual congress of the TUC.
potrokin
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Jun 30 2016 21:35

I can understand people wanting to vote for Corbyn- then they might be able to eat before the revolution finally happens, or not be worked to death or not be kicked out of their homes. Theres alot more people who want to vote Labour or who are Labour members than are in the anarchist movement or who want revolution, lets be honest, many, many more. Also a Social-Democratic government is, lets face it, going to be kinder to working-class people than a neo-liberal one. He's not the solution to all our problems but unlike most politicians, Corbyn isn't seeking to fuck over the poor.

Sleeper
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Jun 30 2016 21:18

It never ceases to amaze me in what a lowly opinion most so called 'revolutionaries' actually hold the working class. They seem to have no respect for our organisations, our history or our ongoing struggles.

Sleeper
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Jun 30 2016 21:28

You introduced the word bureaucracy, it's not in the TUC history article you link to either. Stop making shit up to suit your flawed anti-working class argument.

Joseph Kay wrote:
Sleeper wrote:
There was no such thing as bureaucracy at that time

Weird then that the TUC's own history of itself describes measures by officials to clamp down on a militant rank-and-file a decade before the foundation of the Labour Party...

TUC wrote:
The trade union 'old guard' used this calmer period to consolidate their position. A change in the TUC standing orders in 1895 introduced the block vote, and trades councils (regarded as hotbeds of militancy) were banned from sending delegates to the annual congress of the TUC.
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Jun 30 2016 22:20
potrokin wrote:
I can understand people wanting to vote for Corbyn- then they might be able to eat before the revolution finally happens, or not be worked to death or not be kicked out of their homes. Theres alot more people who want to vote Labour or who are Labour members than are in the anarchist movement or who want revolution, lets be honest, many, many more. Also a Social-Democratic government is, lets face it, going to be kinder to working-class people than a neo-liberal one. He's not the solution to all our problems but unlike most politicians, Corbyn isn't seeking to fuck over the poor.

I also understand why people support Corbyn and wouldn't blame anyone for having illusions in the Labour left. Nor would I criticise anyone for buying a lottery ticket. After all, we all need something to hope for occasionally. This article, however, has no place in an anarchist publication, as it's always been our duty to point out the dead end of reformism and throwing in your lot with the left wing faction of capital. Years ago, there was some real shit in Freedom, particularly when it was in it's woolly radical liberal incarnation in the 80s. But even then, I don't recall it ever carrying such pro-Labour drivvel.

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Jul 1 2016 03:23

So, I have to say, I'm surprised at the level of principal being displayed by the PLP at the moment. They are - for the first time in their lives for many of them, I imagine - putting ideology over electoral success.

Corbyn represents the first groundswell in Labour politics in a generation and they're willing to throw that away in the name ideological beliefs, which is a level of principal I thought Labour MPs incapable of. It just turns out their ideology is reactionary and openly displays the recuperative nature of "working class" political parties.

Sleeper, you're talking rubbish.

Quote:
They seem to have no respect for our organisations, our history or our ongoing struggles.

You're mistaking the interests of the trade unions and the political parties for those of the working class. Or, if I really want to be wanky about it, you're confusing representations of the working class with activity of the class-for-itself.

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Jul 1 2016 07:05

It is not what the working class is, nor what it thinks it is, but what it must become.

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Jul 1 2016 07:28

Chilli #16
‘So, I have to say, I'm surprised at the level of principal being displayed by the PLP at the moment. They are - for the first time in their lives for many of them, I imagine - putting ideology over electoral success.’

I think this ‘principled’ stance is more apparent than real. They believe their jobs are on the line as they have no faith that Corbyn will deliver electoral success. So they have seized the opportunity of the referendum result to try and remove him, and by so doing help secure their positions, and regain control of the party machinery.

The sides have presented two different models of democracy: the PLP claim that as the UK is a representative democracy they have the right to represent the best interests of the millions of people who voted for them – so Corbyn must go because ‘they’ demand it; the Corbyn side claim they represent a ‘new politics’, a social movement, based on the wishes of the people from the ground up – it is the PLP who wish to usurp this basic democracy. I think there is an element of self-interest on both sides.

If many in the PLP thought Corbyn could bring job security and electoral success like good apparatchiks, they would line up behind him.

EDIT
An example of this PLP craving for electoral success is Angela Eagle, who against the wishes of her own constituency party has come out against Corbyn and may foolishly stand against him for the leadership (she is foolish in the sense that she is being used as a cat’s paw by the right wing, who normally would not give her the time of day).

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Jul 1 2016 07:55

I know my views of Boris are a bit controversial but love him or hate him he would be quite a spectacle as PM. On the other hand Jezza is a pretty cool cat with the ability to soothe the nerves. They would have provided an excellent foil for each other. The contrast with Gove whatever grey form of Labour sludge is rather depressing for those that enjoy the thrill of the parliamentary soap opera. Pity. It could have been such fun.
The Labour Party is indeed in a right old Naomi Cambells but whatever happens the conclusion will be a tepid, even more bastardised incarnation of their supposed 'socialism'.
Oh, and by the way Prolekin, Labour are a a neo-liberal party. Blair and Brown were the kings of that shit and as that is what capitalism requires I can't see them ever being anything else.

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Jul 1 2016 09:12

I think something worth noting is Corbynism as an expression of what Aaron Bastani calls 'political promiscuity', i.e. (mainly young, unaffiliated) people flooding into one thing to achieve some immediate end or fight some particular fight, then swarming somewhere else, with minimal ongoing committment.

A lot of people I wouldn't expect are 'joining' the Labour Party, but that involves paying £3, voting for Corbyn, then forgetting about it. With that minimal cost of entry, critiques of electoralism based on it being necessarily zero-sum with direct action might miss the mark. I'd be interested if older comrades think this phenomenon of low-committment, short-term organisation-joining is a new thing, or just a 'networked' version of the veritable left habit of 'ooh, shiny...'.

I do think it's still problematic. For starters, while Corbyn is being attacked partly for his principled refusal to give in to nativism, while he's being attacked, criticisms of e.g. him equivocating over calling the Met Police institutionally racist get forever postponed. And we don't talk about how Labour are already in power locally, and implicated in the worst kinds of social housing gatekeeping, collusion with property developers etc.

Plus this swarming from Syriza, to the General Election, to Corbyn for Leader, to the Referendum, to Corbyn for Leader (again) in a succession of 'temporary' commitments does seem to still squeeze out participation in more sustained work around housing, work, police violence etc.

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Jul 1 2016 09:20

All that said, the sheer craven dishonesty of the anti-Corbyn spin, and its uniformity across the media, is really something to behold. All to render a modest social democrat who wants to renationalise the railways and have a bit of redistributive taxation utterly beyond the pale (while putting fash on the TV and front pages to explain why they're not racist, they just really love this country...).

More theoretically, I think we're witnessing the redundancy built into the ruling apparatus. When we talk about a 'structural critique' of the state, it's this kind of thing: even if you can capture one point in that apparatus, the rest of the apparatus turns on you.

Spikymike
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Jul 1 2016 10:44

Surely if nothing else the antics of the MP's in both the Tory and Labour Parties in particular before and after the Referendum in their opportunistic battles within and between their respective parties will have damaged what's left of the facade of parliamentary representative politics in the eyes of many workers - or am I being too hopeful about that - could maybe fuel ultra-right rather than ultra-left politics on the ground so to speak?

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Jul 1 2016 12:55

Auld, don't worry man, my last post was a bit tongue-in-cheek wink

JK, that was a good post.

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Jul 1 2016 13:59

This has some useful thoughts on "electability":

Jack S wrote:
To be “electable” as I understand it is essentially to have an appropriate programme for the period of history which you are living through. In most cases this means agreeing to continue running the state largely as it is currently being run. In two 20th Century elections it meant agreeing to dramatically change the way the state and society functioned, so that the state might resolve a particular crisis (post-1973 stagflation for Thatcher, the need to restore state infrastructure and social stability post-war in 1945).

In both cases, actively seeking “electability” is ultimately a pointless act. In “stability” elections, “electability” inevitably means repetition. You’re managing the same state, appealing to the same electorate, subject to the same economic, social and cultural forces. Your answers will largely be the same and your party is in effect redundant as anything other than a carrier of political aspirations and identity.

In the second case your policies will not appear to most politically-experienced people to be “electable”. You will be characterised (as Thatcher and Attlee were) as a political outsider, advised to take a more moderate course, told it is unlikely that you will ever appeal to the majority of the public. It is unlikely that the wider political elite will perceive the shift in prevailing conditions until quite late in the process, with orthodoxy becoming hard-wired after years of offering (now-redundant) expertise.

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Jul 1 2016 17:14

Here's another mildly amusing text from some other Leftists:

'You're about to read a plea from an anarchist group to back the leader of a political party...'

https://www.facebook.com/sabcatprinting/

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Jul 1 2016 17:44

Just about every significant political issue now seems to reveal loads of 'anarchists' to be leftists.

radicalgraffiti
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Jul 1 2016 18:50

so apparently the SPEW have decided the most important thing is to support Corbyn

Quote:
The People's Assembly and Stand Up to Racism have called a "No more austerity - No to racism - Tories must go" demonstration in London on Saturday 16th July.
The Socialist Party has sent the following letter to the organisers.
To the organisers of the People's Assembly and Stand Up to Racism demo on 16 July
Re: Call to adopt central slogan of 'Keep Corbyn' for 16 July demo.

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/23164/01-07-2016/letter-to-organisers-of-16th-july-demo

Mark.
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Jul 2 2016 11:12
Joseph Kay wrote:
This has some useful thoughts on "electability"

From that article:

Jack S wrote:
What does electability mean now for the leader of one of these parties? I don’t think anyone really knows. Certainly the Labour MPs currently mounting a coup in its name don’t seem to have much of an idea. Some, like Tristram Hunt, seem to be under the impression that restoring the party’s hegemonic position can be achieved by offering a warm “One Nation” response to the rising tide of English patriotism, a tendency echoed by his soft left colleague Owen Smith just yesterday in his call for “progressive” immigration controls in order to win over the supposedly UKIP-flirting alienated Northern (white) working class.

Does anyone have a link for Owen Smith's statement? I'm interested as it looks as if he may end up as the leadership challenger (assuming the coup attempt hasn't already fizzled out).

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Jul 2 2016 14:17

Mark #28
‘assuming the coup attempt hasn't already fizzled out’

I think it unlikely that the right in the party will give way. Kinnock has just asked Corbyn to think of the party and leave office. In the past the left has been more loyal than the right in trying to preserve party unity, and that is what they are relying on this time. The right has enough contacts in the establishment to know that if they leave they will find a nice cushy number awaiting them. The real question is will Corbyn and the left bottle it, or will they risk the party splitting?

The democratic farce of making policy inside the Labour Party has been exposed when it appears Corbyn has been told some of ‘his’ policies may be retained if he leaves quietly.

The party policy is supposed to be shaped by the National Policy Forum (NPF):

‘The NPF meets several times a year to make sure that the direction of our policy reflects the broad consensus in the party. Between meetings, the representatives that make up the body liaise with the members, supporters and public who submit to Your Britain. NPF representatives will respond to submissions made, ask questions and engage in on-going debate about the issues that matter to you, feeding them back when the NPF meets to move our policy forward.

The National Policy Forum includes representatives of CLPs and regions, Labour Councillors, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies, the PLP, the EPLP and other stakeholder groups within the Party.’

In fact it’s a complete dog’s diner, and the real power lies within the PLP and the leadership. It is said Tony Blair used to make government policy sitting with a few pals on the settee in Downing Street.

Perhaps this farce will lead to a recognition by the membership of the hopelessness of Labour’s road to socialism.

EDIT
Kinnock said "If he has any sense of political team spirit, he should do his duty and resign."

factvalue
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Jul 2 2016 14:39

Well, if there's anyone who knows about getting elected it's Kinnock. I still remember his little terrified face staring out the back window of the limo as it arrived at Ealing the second time, after the weird bombast of the rallies: "We're all right! We're all right!" Fucking priceless.

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Jul 3 2016 13:08

Ex member here, whose still been on about a dozen Labour party e-mail lists and well known to my local branch.

As a summary Auld is largely correct, the only conference I ever went to was completely stage managed. All questions and motions, and who would speak for them were pre approved, and the delegates were quizzed on them before hand.

Though the influence of the TUC isn't just funding, affiliated Union members are balloted, so its still factored into leadership and National Officer elections. When Ed won it, it was widely reported that it was the votes from union members that clinched it for him over his brother.

The candidate selection for MP's is rather opaque, local branches can nominate people and get the vote to choose but the National organisation can parachute in candidates from anywhere, and manage the selection process. Usually the out of towners all came with big friends, like a Union recommendation, or a local party groups support.

Joseph Kay wrote:
The Labour Party was created by the trade union bureaucracy to represent the interests of the trade union bureaucracy. Open to correction on this, but I think it's only under Corbyn that Labour has adopted a default position of supporting strikes.

Yes and no, motions supporting strikes have been passed before, then forgotten. Officially the Labour Party is committed to being "neutral" on strikes while its in government. That is of course usually bollocks, its intervened plenty of times when it fears a strike will destabilise the country.

Sleeper wrote:
It has history and an emotional meaning to politically minded working class people.

This is correct, however that is the problem with the Labour party. Far too many people still associate what the Labour party is and does with socialism this is why nearly every other group with socialism in the name is obsessed with nationalisation.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
So, I have to say, I'm surprised at the level of principal being displayed by the PLP at the moment. They are - for the first time in their lives for many of them, I imagine - putting ideology over electoral success.

I'm afraid this isn't the case, the main justification the right wing of the labour party has used for years now is that in order to be electable the Labour party must move to the right in order to win a general election. They believe in making the Labour party as close to the Conservative party as possible. There motivated purely by a belief in electoral success.