First they came…

By Dave Levy

The Labour NEC has voted to proscribe four organisations and thus to allow the Party bureaucracy to auto-exclude their supporters. Two of the organisations (Labour In Exile Network, Resist) are basically outside anyway and one (Labour Against the Witch-hunt) is practically defunct.

This leaves Socialist Appeal, who are irrelevant to the left-right struggle in the Party. Arguably their small size and often sectarian practice makes them unpopular within the left, giving the witch-hunters hope that they can be singled out as an example and others will stand by.

This is the wrong direction for the Party to be going in. The current rules fail to conform to the principles of natural justice and thus do not need to be augmented. The Rule concerned, Rule 4.I.2.B, is contrary to the ECHR’s right to a fair trial as the decision is taken in secret, there is no defence and there is no appeal.

The concept of proscription defines a collective offence. No personal culpability of anti-Party activities or abusive behaviour is to be assessed. One would have thought that after three rule changes, officials would already be able to expel people for racism and have all the rules they need. Secondly, we are in stupid position where people can self-identify as BAME, women, LGBT+ and disabled, but not as socialists, although as I discovered recently, the word socialism does not appear in the rule book. Thirdly, they won’t stop here: Neil Coyle MP has already argued that Jewish Voice for Labour should be next. The real target is to cow Momentum, drive people out and put a no-entry sign up on the door.

Finally, it’s a piece of theatre, designed to create the momentum that Blair created by fighting the left, orchestrated by people left over from that time. The Militant were expelled 40 years ago and Clause IV amended in 1995, 26 years ago.

But politics has changed, and the so-called Corbyn surge was something real beyond an ultra-leftist resurgence. Still, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. The strategy, as Phil Burton-Cartledge notes,

“was rubbish in the 90s, and in the age where radical structural transformation is needed to mitigate climate change, tackle the health challenges, deal with Britain’s continuing economic decline, and manage the multiple crises of housing, adult care, the decay of social security and the public sector, it’s the most foolish, electorally toxic, self-indulgent course of action available to the Labour leader.”

The end game of this strategy is obvious to see: a Labour Party run by people without vision or hope – as it was in 2010 – and unable to offer any, and whose only sense of journey is to attack their core support. Today, this includes the young, property-less city dweller/worker who voted Remain.

This petty purge is an existential threat and anyone who thinks of themselves as left wing or even decent must oppose it. They would do well to remind themselves of the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller: “First they came …. “

Dave Levy is a member of the executive committee of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and blogs at https/davelevy.info/blog

Image: Socialist Appeal supporters. Source: London May Day / Kill The Bill 2021. Author: Socialist Appeal, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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