Fight for an anti-austerity, socialist party – readmit expelled socialists
In recent weeks the strategy of the pro-capitalist Blairites – to surround Jeremy Corbyn and gradually strangle him – has clearly been stepped up. Unfortunately, the response of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to this has been to retreat in the face of the onslaught. There is now a real danger that the possibility of creating a democratic, socialist Labour Party is squandered by conciliation with the right. It is vitally urgent that no more concessions are made and that a clear campaign is launched to consolidate the landslide victory that Jeremy won back in September.
One of the terms that has been banned as 'abusive' by the Labour Party NEC is 'Blairite'. Yet surely this is a fair description of the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party who voted en masse against the motion demanding Blair be held to account for 'misleading' parliament in the run up to the Iraq war.
It was a mistake for Jeremy Corbyn, a leading figure in the mass movement that opposed the Iraq war, to bow to the pressure of right-wing Labour MPs by not taking part in the vote. Only five Labour MPs dared to vote for Blair to be held to account. Jeremy Corbyn was elected by hundreds of thousands of people who want to see Labour transformed into an anti-austerity, anti-war party. Yet the pro-austerity warmongers are still running the show!
This is also true at local level. Labour councils are currently discussing implementing further huge austerity. Most recently Newham Labour council has announced plans to tear up its workers' contracts, sacking them and then re-employing them on worse terms and conditions. Doing so would take £1.8 million out of the pockets of Newham's workforce. Yet the council has £161 million in its general reserves! Correctly Unite is organising a campaign to stop these savage cuts, but Jeremy and John need to make clear that they support Unite's campaign.
If this isn't done the right will claim that there is unanimous support for these kinds of savage cuts. For example, one of the Labour National Executive Committee's (NEC) councillors' representatives, Alice Perry, claimed that at the November NEC Corbyn supporter Rebecca Long-Bailey MP praised Labour councils and rejected calls for councils to set 'illegal budgets'. This is a red herring – the issue is not 'illegal' budgets but the setting of no-cuts budgets that refuse to implement any more misery on council workers or destroy any more vital services. It is urgent that the left leadership of Labour make clear that they do not support the further savaging of council jobs and services by Labour councils.
An essential part of transforming Labour into an anti-austerity party is the campaign for the party to be democratised; including fighting for mandatory re-selection of MPs, restoration of trade union rights, and re-admitting expelled socialists.
Printed here is the correspondence that has so far taken place between Ian McNicol, general secretary of the Labour Party, and Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party. Hannah is writing on behalf of 75 people demanding readmission to the Labour Party having previously been expelled or excluded because of their socialist ideas.
Unsurprisingly, Iain McNicol has not responded positively to the application. As Labour's general secretary, he has presided over the exclusions of many tens of thousands of Labour Party members during the attempted coup against Corbyn, in a vain attempt to try and stop his re-election. However, the decision is not McNicol's to take. We urge all socialists and trade unionists who want to see Labour transformed into an anti-austerity party to support the campaign for the next meeting of Labour's NEC to agree to readmit these and other expelled socialists (see socialistparty.org.uk/main/readmit_expelled_socialists).
The 75's application also asks the Labour Party NEC to look favourably on requests for affiliation from socialist organisations. This could form a vital part of the transformation of Labour into a democratic, socialist party that brings together all those forces that want to fight austerity. The affiliation of the Co-operative Party demonstrates that, even under the current undemocratic Labour Party constitution, there is no impediment to socialist organisations affiliating; other than the desperation of Labour's right wing to prevent it taking place.
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, was reported as making that absolutely clear at the recent Labour First conference, by declaring: "Trotskyist entryists tried to ruin Labour 30 years ago, I won't let 75 back in to ruin Labour again." If the ideas of Tom Watson – who said at Labour's conference that "capitalism is not the problem!" – dominate Labour, it will be ruined.
Even Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, has warned that 'people are becoming disillusioned with capitalism' and will seek alternatives. No wonder! For the majority it means falling living standards and increasing insecurity. A democratic socialist Labour Party would be able to win mass popular support for a clear anti-austerity programme. However, achieving this means standing up to the pro-capitalist wing of the Labour Party, who are determined to crush the movement around Corbyn.
Enclosed you will find a joint application to the Labour Party NEC for membership of the Labour Party. It is from 75 people, all of whom have previously been expelled or excluded from the Labour Party because of our socialist ideas. Among the 75 are members of the Militant Editorial Board, including Peter Taaffe, now general secretary of the Socialist Party; Tony Mulhearn, one of the leaders of the struggle of Liverpool City Council in the 1980s; and Dave Nellist, previously Labour MP for Coventry South East. We are socialists, trade unionists, community activists and young people. Between us we have over 1,000 years of Labour Party membership.
Because many of us who found ourselves outside the Labour Party rightly continued the struggle for socialism though membership of other organisations, we know that our applications for re-admittance will be denounced by the establishment media as 'left wing infiltration'. However, we have no wish to hide our background, hence this collective application for membership.
As our application explains, in our view the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader represents an opportunity for the Labour Party to be rebuilt as a clearly anti-austerity socialist party, with an open and democratic structure. We want to play our part in that struggle and urge the NEC to aid this process by admitting us, and others who have been similarly expelled or excluded, into membership and also by deciding favourably on requests for affiliation from any socialist organisation that so applies.
Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary and Labour Party member 1985 -1991, Labour Party NEC 1988-89.
Dear Ms Sell,
Thank you for your letter.
If individuals wish to join the Labour Party they can do so by using the 'join' function on the Labour Party website. In the case of individuals who have previously been expelled from the Labour Party, they must write individually to the NEC requesting that their membership application be considered. They can do so by writing by post to me at the address above and the NEC will consider those membership applications in due course and in the normal manner for all of those who have previously been expelled.
I should add that the Labour Party's rules do not allow members of other political parties to join the Labour Party. Specifically, "Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the Party, having their own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda, or possessing branches in the constituencies, or engaged in the promotion of Parliamentary or local government candidates, or having allegiance to any political organisation situated abroad, shall be ineligible for affiliation to the party."
Dear Mr McNicol,
Thank you for your reply. We understand that it is not appropriate for individuals who have previously been expelled to apply via the 'join' function on the Labour Party website and that instead we should apply to the NEC. That is what we have done. Can you please assure us that our application will be passed onto the NEC for their consideration?
You also refer to the Labour Party rule which states that "political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the Party, having their own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda, or possessing branches in the constituencies, or engaged in the promotion of Parliamentary or local government candidates, or having allegiance to any political organisation situated abroad, shall be ineligible for affiliation to the Party."
I assume you are raising this because some of us are members of the Socialist Party, which we have not sought to hide. Clearly, it is possible for members of other political parties to join the Labour Party. That is the case with the Co-operative Party, for example. The Co-operative Party has an electoral agreement with Labour but clearly has its own "programme, principles and policy" and possesses "branches in the constituencies". On their website they state: "The Co-operative Party is an independent party. It maintains its own membership, staff, national executive committee (NEC) and policy platform, all of which are independent of Labour's." However, members of the Co-operative Party can also be members of the Labour Party. Again, on their website they state: "Our electoral agreement means that an exception is made for those who wish to be a member of both the Co-operative Party and the Labour Party. This is by no means required though, and many of our members choose solely to be Co-operative Party members." In order to strengthen the anti-austerity movement we would like to enter a discussion with the NEC about how other socialist organisations, including the Socialist Party, could come to a similar arrangement. It is in this spirit that our joint application has been submitted and we hope it will be considered accordingly.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your letter.
As we explained before, we cannot accept joint applications for membership. Any application must be individual and fulfil the requirements for membership set out in the rule book.
We will not entertain membership applications from members of another political party. If members of the Socialist Party apply to join the Labour Party these applications will be rejected in line with the normal procedures and rules of the Labour Party.
Our agreement with the Co-operative Party is a historic link with a sister party agreed and endorsed by our Annual Conference.