Left must fight against anti-socialist bans

13 April 2022

By KD Tait

Labour’s NEC has voted to proscribe three leftwing organisations, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), the La- bour Left Alliance (LLA), and the Labour Socialist Network (LSN).

Proscription means that anyone found to be a member or supporter of the organization can be expelled–even just for being interviewed. Last year’s proscription of Socialist Appeal has led to several expulsions of members for interacting with social media posts.

The AWL was proscribed based on rules which forbid membership of organisations which are declared by the NEC to be ‘inimical to the aims and values’ of the Labour Party, in this case because it ‘possesses its own programme, principles, policy’.

The LLA and LSN were proscribed based on their links to anti-Zionist groups proscribed last year after being falsely accused of antisemitism. Contrary to basic rules of natural justice, none of the organisations were permitted to put their case to the NEC.

In common with last year’s purge, the total number of members concerned is dwarfed by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands who have simply walked out of the party in disgust at Keir Starmer’s broken promises, his tailing of the Tories, and demoralisation at the failure of the Left leaders to fight.

In the past few months not only has Starmer expelled socialist groups and individuals, but threatened 11 ‘socialist’ MPs from signing a Stop the War statement on Ukraine because it criticised Nato. Shamefully they all capitulated.

But the wider political situation is key here. Pressure is mounting within the trade unions to fight for meaningful pay rises that keep pace with inflation. Meanwhile Labour councils like Coventry, organise scabbing against their unions which triggered a series of suspensions of councillors from Unite the union.

The purge is a signal to Britain’s bosses – and trade union leaders – that Labour’s ‘new management’ will side with management and ‘balance the books’ before it gives workers a decent wage. No more talk of wealth redistribution and public ownership: Corbyn’s brief but popular reign is long gone.

Their values—and ours

The NEC resolution cites (without evidence) Party ‘custom and practice’ of tolerating left wing ‘ginger groups’ like Momentum and rightwing factions like Labour First and Progress, but claims that those expelled without a hearing violated the party’s (unstated) ‘aims and values’.

If these mean Tony Blair’s rewritten Clause 4, any revolutionary, reformist or liberal could live with that vague pledge. In truth, however, they mean whatever the leader says they mean.

What they are not is a programme agreed by trade union and constituency delegates: not policies voted year after year by conference for re-nationalisation of utilities, mail and rail; repeal of the anti-trade union laws; ending outsourcing, privatisation and PFI; creating a national education service; equal rights for refugees and migrants, and so on.

On ‘custom and practice’ the NEC at least has precedence on its side: of expelling socialist groups, like Militant in 1982 and the AWL’s forerunner Socialist Organiser in 1990, as well as periodically closing down Labour’s own youth organisation.

The fact that Starmer is conducting the first purge for 30 years proves this a return to the ‘custom and practice’ of class war against the party’s Left, in order to insulate Labour from the growing demands for a militant fight against the capitalist crisis, just as it did in the 1980s.

The Labour Party claims to be the ‘broad church’ party of the working class in Britain. Its membership and electoral support are overwhelmingly working class, and it gets practically all its funding from the main workers’ organisations—the trade unions.

But the claim expresses only one half of a contradiction. It has always been ruled by an alliance of trade union bureaucrats and career politicians united in their loyalty to British imperialism and defending a ‘mixed’, that is, capitalist economy. It is only a broad church so long as the left wing accepts this.

Fight back

Momentum, which still claims tens of thousands of supporters, has not been proscribed—yet. As long as it continues to avoid a serious struggle against the right wing leadership, it will be spared in order to serve as a harmless talking shop, a ceremonial fig leaf for Starmer’s increasingly totalitarian setup.

Local parties and affiliated unions should pass motions to NEC and Conference opposing the proscriptions; refuse to recognise politically-motivated expulsions; and support efforts to build an industrial and social resistance to the cost of living crisis, Tory austerity, and cuts imposed by Labour councils.

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