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Latin America
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25/04/2015: Historic handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, turmoil in Venezuela, and stalled reforms in Bolivia – as well as crises in Brazil – symbolise a new turn in Latin America and the Caribbean

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France
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Australia
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Britain
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US
40,000 Seattle workers get pay rise

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Climate change
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Scotland
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Britain

The road to New Labour

www.socialistworld.net, 09/10/2010
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Neil Kinnock’s speech to the 1985 Labour Party conference signalled the start of a purge of Marxists from the party and anticipated the creation of New Labour.

Andrew Price, who was expelled from the Labour Party 25 years ago, looks back.

Article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)

MANY YOUNGER READERS will only remember the Labour Party as New Labour – a bourgeois political party based on the ideas of neo-liberalism. For most of its history, however, it was rooted in the organised working class and was formally committed to socialism, albeit producing leaders such as Ramsey MacDonald, Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Neil Kinnock, who were far more interested in accommodating themselves to capitalism than promoting socialism.

The party was born at a time of heightened class tensions. In 1918, the same year as the party conference was addressed by a representative of the Russian Bolshevik Party, it adopted Clause IV, Part 4 of its constitution, formally committing it to the socialist transformation of society. (see box)

Such origins are a million miles removed from the sanitised party of Blair, Mandelson and the Milibands which, as the current leadership election demonstrates, is still wedded to neo-liberalism. Because of its prior existence as a bourgeois workers’ party, it made sense for the forerunners of the Socialist Party – Militant supporters – to be individual members of the party and its youth wing, the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS).

In 1983, in the wake of a massive election defeat, the party elected Kinnock as leader. He and his followers were ruthlessly determined to rid the Labour Party of Marxists, as I found to my cost when I was expelled from Cardiff South and Penarth Constituency Labour Party (CLP) 25 years ago. Ultimately, Kinnock was successful in driving out the Marxists – at the price of destroying the Labour Party as it had existed until then.

Ruling-class pressure

THE 1970s WAS a decade of class struggle that radicalised growing sections of the working class. This in turn affected the Labour Party, as CLPs and party conferences endorsed a number of left-wing policies. The decade ended with the defeat of Callaghan’s right-wing Labour government and the coming to power of Margaret Thatcher whose brutal brand of Toryism was unique in post-war Britain. During the 1980s, support for Militant grew considerably in both the CLPs and the LPYS, particularly in Liverpool.

Thatcherism accelerated the radicalisation of the working class and the shift to the left as many workers expected Labour to champion the working class with the same passion as Thatcher represented the ruling class. Coupled with the radicalisation of the party was an organised campaign led by Tony Benn and the late Eric Heffer, a Liverpool MP, to democratise the party and ensure that future Labour governments did not drift into right-wing policies.

These developments were viewed with consternation by the ruling class which, through the mass media, expressed concern at the growth in support for socialism in the party. They urged their shadows in the Labour Party to take action to reverse these trends. The demand was raised for disciplinary action against Militant supporters, branded as ‘infiltrators’ into the Labour Party. This was an outright lie. From Labour’s inception, Marxists had been party members. And, as a relatively democratic party, Labour had always allowed like-minded individuals to organise. What irked our opponents was our capacity to be better organised than most.

In 1980, Michael Foot became party leader. He was from a left-wing background, had once edited the left paper, Tribune, and had suffered in previous witch-hunts against supporters of Aneurin Bevan. In 1983, however, Foot buckled to pressure and initiated the expulsion from the party of the then editorial board of Militant: Peter Taaffe, Ted Grant, Lynn Walsh, Clare Doyle and Keith Dickinson. Foolishly, Foot and others believed that by cutting off the head of Militant its growth in the Labour Party would stop. This did not happen because working-class men and women had endorsed Marxism of their own volition – not through the ‘manipulation’ by infiltrators.

Labour fought the 1983 election with its most left-wing manifesto since 1918. It called for the reversal of all Tory cuts, scrapping Britain’s nuclear weapons, repealing anti-union laws, and the restoration to public ownership of all industries and services privatised by the Tories.

The Tory press kept up a remorseless campaign against the ‘dangers’ if Labour won. The attacks on three Marxists – Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall – standing as official Labour candidates in Coventry, Liverpool and Bradford, were particularly vicious.

Kinnock’s betrayal

THE LABOUR PARTY lost the election, with the Tories securing a massive parliamentary majority (albeit losing 685,000 votes). Clearly, the Tory press campaign, including its promotion of the alliance between the Liberals and a right-wing Labour split-off, the Social Democratic Party, had its effect, but some within the Labour Party also hoped for a defeat. In Cardiff South and Penarth, where Callaghan was standing for re-election, people attending what they thought was a routine election meeting heard Callaghan attack Labour’s defence policy in front of representatives of the international media!

Following the 1983 election, the ruling class and its shadows in the Labour Party argued that Labour’s defeat resulted from a left-wing manifesto with too much emphasis on socialism. None of the proponents of this view were able to explain the results in Liverpool. Given a big national swing to the Tories, Liverpool, where Labour was clearly identified with the left, recorded a swing to Labour which, if repeated nationally, would have been sufficient to form a Labour government.

Such details were ignored as Labour was urged by its political enemies to ‘modernise’, including a purge of Marxists from its ranks. This was the key issue in the leadership election following Foot’s resignation in 1983. One candidate was Roy Hattersley – a Labour right-winger mistrusted by many party members and trade unionists for his record in government. This mistrust led a section of the ruling class to hold back from promoting him as the candidate to bring about the desired counter-revolution in the Labour Party. Another candidate, Kinnock, was not tainted with such mistrust and claimed to be left-wing.

In reality, his links with left-wing ideals were very tenuous. In 1981, he and his supporters effectively sabotaged the chances of Tony Benn becoming deputy leader of the Labour Party. Some Tory newspapers warmed to Kinnock, referring to him as ‘soft left’ – in contrast to the ‘hard left’ of Benn and Heffer and the ‘illegitimate’ left of Militant – and he won by a large majority, with Hattersley as his deputy.

Kinnock’s efforts to ‘modernise’ the Labour Party were frustrated by two major developments. In March 1984, the provocative behaviour of the Tories led to the epic miners’ strike, which lasted until February 1985. At grassroots level most Labour members saw the Tories determined to smash the miners and their union, and expected Kinnock to support them. But Kinnock regarded the strike as the last thing he wanted given his modernisation agenda. In private, he attacked the strike. In public, he maintained a craven silence.

The other development frustrating Kinnock’s plans was the election of a Labour council in Liverpool led by a number of Militant supporters, as explained in the book by Peter Taaffe and Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool: A City That Dared to Fight. Liverpool Labour council was determined to lead a fight-back on behalf of a city whose people had been brought to their knees by poverty, unemployment and bad housing. From the outset of the struggle, Kinnock was implacably opposed to the strategy of Liverpool Labour council, even when it won what most saw as a major victory over Thatcher in 1984. One year later, when the determination of the Liverpool labour movement led Thatcher to consider more concessions, Kinnock blew the prospects of a settlement out of the water with his disgraceful speech to Labour Party conference (see box). In this he broke an elementary rule that anyone describing themselves as a socialist should abide by: he attacked workers in struggle.

The following day the gutter press praised him for his ‘brave speech’. Ordinary party members, particularly in Liverpool, were stunned by his breathtaking hypocrisy. He failed to mention a single one of the huge achievements of the council that had succeeded against all the odds in dramatically improving housing and employment in the city. Despite his lies, not a single worker lost his or her job as a result of council policy, in contrast to the many Labour-run councils that responded to Thatcherism with massive redundancies.

Labour’s purge trials

THIS SPEECH WAS the green light for a mass purge of Marxists from the party. Quietly the word went out: where witch-hunters were in the majority, expel; where not, as in Liverpool, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) would do the dirty work. The Liverpool socialists were referred to the NEC which, in 1986, after ten meetings and at an incredible cost of £250,000, expelled nine party leaders with a combined party membership of 141 years.

In November 1985, Cardiff South and Penarth CLP began proceedings to expel myself and two others, Dave Bartlett and Diane Mitchell. As I attempted to address the CLP executive committee against my proposed expulsion, I appealed to the chair to stop being howled down by Callaghan supporters. The chair responded by joining in himself. Faced with such hooligan behaviour, I had no option but to walk out of the meeting, learning later from the South Wales Echo that the executive had recommended ending my almost 20-year membership of the Labour Party.

Throughout the country, Militant supporters were being subjected to such treatment, and this led many of us to initiate legal action. In every case this was taken with great reluctance, as many workers had understandable reservations about taking the Labour Party to court, and was never a substitute for a political campaign.

The experience in Cardiff, after the establishment of a defence fund endorsed by a former mayor of the city, was that money flowed in for our legal costs. One donation was from a South Wales miner who had fought in the Spanish civil war with the international brigade. With the help of a good barrister, we showed that the Cardiff South and Penarth witch-hunters had systematically broken Labour Party rules in our treatment. Within weeks our party membership was restored.

Similar debacles took place in many other CLPs. This later led the Labour Party to establish the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), to streamline expulsions. Having had my party membership returned, by 1988 I was referred to the NCC. Following a very serious illness, when time was ever more urgent, I decided to concentrate my political efforts on Militant and trade union work in the lecturers’ union, NATFHE. I resigned my Labour Party membership with few regrets, after more than 22 years membership. Meanwhile, Kinnock was showing how correct our perspectives had been. He had turned from purging Militant to purging party policy. Every one of the gains made by the left was removed.

Paving the way for Blair

THE MAJOR PROBLEM with Kinnock’s plan to make the Labour Party more electable was that it failed to impress the voters. In 1987, after a very presidential election campaign, in which the 1985 speech attacking Liverpool council was used in an election broadcast, Thatcher was returned with a majority only slightly less than the Tories had in 1983. In the dying years of her premiership, however, Thatcher scored a spectacular own goal with the introduction of the poll tax. Throughout Britain millions of working people could not, or refused to pay this iniquitous tax. On the ground, Militant supporters responded by organising anti-poll tax unions, giving support to non-payers. A Sun editorial referred to the advocates of non-payment as ‘Toy Town Trots’. Following their lead, as ever, Kinnock employed the same term in a speech attacking non-payment with far more force than the poll tax itself. At the height of the non-payment campaign, the Tories dropped Thatcher as leader. Militant – certainly not Kinnock and the Labour Party – deserves the credit for her downfall.

Kinnock’s eventual replacement, John Smith, elected after the 1992 election defeat, was another moderniser. After his death in 1994, he was replaced by the moderniser of all modernisers, Tony Blair and, in 1995, Blair persuaded the Labour Party to drop Clause IV, a truly defining moment in the party’s history. The party with a working-class base and capitalist leadership had now become a bourgeois political party. In this sense, the war on Marxism unleashed by Kinnock had been won, but at the terrible price of destroying the Labour Party.

Looking back on all this, it is still difficult not to get angry. During their heroic strike, I met miners who with their families had been to hell and back. Their communities today are still ravaged, and their youth have turned to drugs. What contempt do these brave men and women have for the multi-millionaire Kinnock ensconced in the House of Lords? Our crime was to devote ourselves tirelessly to fighting the Tories, the employers and advocating socialism. Our departure paved the way for upper-middle-class upstarts like Blair, Mandelson and the Milibands to take the party over. They were the real infiltrators, helped on their way by Kinnock and others.

Clause IV, Part IV of the Labour Party constitution:

“To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”.

Kinnock attacks Liverpool council at the 1985 Labour Party conference:

“I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end with the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council! – hiring taxis to scuttle round the city, handing out redundancy notices to its own workers”.



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NEWS

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27/04/2015, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
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27/04/2015, From web-site of ControCorrente (CWI in Italy):
From Mare Nostrum to Triton

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24/04/2015, Jonas Brännberg and Juha Tapio for CWI in Finland:
Finns Party second biggest in parliament

Scotland: Labour face annihilation as millions seek an answer to austerity
23/04/2015, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI in Scotland):
The SNP, according to the polls, will win 53 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster MPs

Video: Paul Murphy speaking at anti-water charges demo in Dublin
23/04/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Socialist Partty (CWI) and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD speaks at march of tens of thosuands against water charges on April 18

Video: Interview with Jawad Ahmed, famous Pakistani singer and activist
22/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Jawad Ahmed, Singer and central committee member of International Youth and Workers Movement (IYWM) from Pakistan spoke to CWI about the work of IYWM.

South Africa: Organise against xenophobia – a programme for our communities
21/04/2015, Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) leaflet text:
Build a country-wide socialist civic movement. Fight for jobs, houses and services for all

Video: TUSC 100% anti-austerity election broadcast
20/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Broadcast goes out on all 5 national terrestrial channels

Britain: Labour - party of cuts
19/04/2015, Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Oppose the ’logic of capitalism’

Video: Paul Murphy attacks bosses’ victimisation of strikers
17/04/2015, Socialistworld.net:
Socialist Partty (CWI) and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD speaks in Irish Parliament

US: National day of strikes and protests for $15
17/04/2015, Socialist Alternative (CWI in US) reporters:
Snapshot of the movement – the fight for $15 in 7 major cities

Video: Kshama Sawant on Democracy Now
16/04/2015, socialistworld.net:
Socialist Seattle councillor debates Hillary Clinton run for President

Ireland North: Hundreds protest against racist arson attack
15/04/2015, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI), Belfast:
Build a united mass movement to challenge racism, sectarianism and all forms of bigotry

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14/04/2015, Deirdre Grégoire, Alternative Socialiste (CWI in Quebec):
Students take strike action against austerity

China’s feminists: A victory for protests in China and worldwide
14/04/2015, chinaworker.info reporters:
Five women activists released in rare climb down by Beijing regime

France: First one-day strike against austerity gets big response
13/04/2015, Report from website of Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
300, 000 people marched on demonstrations across France on Thursday 9 April

Australia: Budget - Who should pay for the economic crisis?
13/04/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in Australia) editorial:
Federal government preparing the ground for their second budget

Britain: UKIP blame immigration for problems facing working class
12/04/2015, Editorial of The Socialist (issue 851), weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Workers’ unity to defend pay jobs and services

Panama 2015 Trade Union and Social Alternative Summit
11/04/2015, The Committee for a Worker’s International, via its Venezuelan Section Socialismo Revolucionario, greets the Panama 2015 Trade Union and Social Alternative Summit.:
For an end to imperialism and capitalism, long live socialist and revolutionary united solidarity in our Americas!

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10/04/2015, Shaun Arendse, CWI South Africa:
Growing regional destabilisation

US: 40,000 Seattle workers get pay rise
08/04/2015, Kailyn Nicholson, republished from 15Now.org:
Coalition of students and workers demand $15 minimum wage at University of Washington

Scotland: Dundee porters and Glasgow council workers on indefinite strike
08/04/2015, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI) Reporters:
Build solidarity now!

Australia: Anti-racist protesters vastly outnumber ‘Reclaim Australia’ Melbourne rally
07/04/2015, Socialist Party (CWI Australia) Reporters:
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Climate change: Looking for a cheap fix
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The cyclone that devastated the Pacific island of Vanuatu in March, the most severe ever recorded in the region, highlighted again the very likely connection between extreme weather events and global warming.

Nigeria: Ruling party crumbles in historic election
05/04/2015, By National Executive Committee Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM – CWI in Nigeria):
But only mass struggle can guarantee the interests of workers and poor masses under buhari’s presidency

Scotland: Is the SNP: a threat to the political establishment?
04/04/2015, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI):
The SNP (Scottish National Party) looks set to win the majority of Scottish seats in the general election

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Latin America: A new turn?
25/04/2015, Tony Saunois, article from May issue of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Historic handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, turmoil in Venezuela, and stalled reforms in Bolivia – as well as crises in Brazil – symbolise a new turn in Latin America and the Caribbean

Iran: Proposed nuclear deal reflects transformed Middle East
24/04/2015, Robert Bechert, CWI:
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18/04/2015, Serge Jordan:
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15/04/2015, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the CWI England & Wales):
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03/04/2015, Lynn Walsh, article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
The sudden plunge of oil and gas prices has underlined the volatility in the world capitalist economy

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Political vacuum pushes FIOM to take initiative

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23/03/2015, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
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Belgium: No agreement reached between unions and government over austerity
20/03/2015, Eric Byl, LSP/PSL (Belgian section of the CWI), Brussels:
New action plan against right wing government takes off

Ukraine: Conflict unresolved after ’Minsk-2’ agreement
18/03/2015, Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow:
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Greece: Syriza’s first months in power
07/03/2015, Andreas Payiatsos, from Xekinima (newspaper of the CWI Greece):
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Quebec: Towards a hot spring
02/03/2015, Deirdre and Bruno, Socialist Alternative (CWI Quebec):
Disrupt them like they disrupt us!

Greece showdown
26/02/2015, Article to be published in the March issue of Socialism Today (magazine of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales):
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Libya: War-torn country becoming new hub for IS activities
25/02/2015, Serge Jordan (CWI):
Libyan people bearing the brunt of NATO’s fiasco

Europe: Eurozone time-bomb
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Greece: Syriza retreats under Troika threats
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History: The political legacy of Malcolm X
21/02/2015, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative:
50 years after his assassination

Spain: Is ‘Podemos’ the Spanish Syriza?
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Dangers of “moderation” and domestication

Egypt: Regime brutality on fourth anniversary of revolution
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Masses will regain confidence and willingness to fight

Greece: Not a single step back!
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Conflict between SYRIZA government and EU escalates

Kurdistan: ‘Islamic State’ driven out of Kobanê
02/02/2015, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Will the end of Kobanê’s siege turn the tide against IS?

Greece: Why did Syriza and the KKE fail to reach agreement?
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Greece: Syriza comes to power, as old ruling parties collapse
27/01/2015, Niall Mulholland, socialistworld.net, interviews Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI Greece):
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Cuba: Diplomatic relations with US restored, embargo eased
24/01/2015, Tony Saunois, CWI:
Threat of capitalist restoration accelerates