John Rees looks at what we’ve learnt so far from the response to the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party
1 As the great cry of ‘unity’ goes up from some of Jeremy Corbyn’s allies we should recall the fundamental truth of Labour Party politics: the Labour Party right wing is more loyal to the political establishment than it is to the labour movement and the Labour left always collapses to the right because it values the unity of the party above its principles.
2‘Stay calm’ is often good advice in politics. But not when you are being dragged to the gallows. Then the best advice is to fight like your life depends on it until the hangman lets you go.
3 The mantra ‘don’t leave, that’s what they want’ isn’t true. They don’t care whether you stay or go as long as you shut up, or they can shut you up. So actually it’s far better to be out and proud than in and cowed. Some in the Labour Party will argue that there is a third option to stay and fight. But, firstly, this is what Jeremy did and that’s what got him suspended. And if it can happen to the former leader it can happen to anyone. Secondly, some of those prominent figures who say stay and fight are actually staying and compromising.
4 Don’t entrust your defence to the organisation whose strategy helped create the problem, whose leaders have already quit the field, and whose best known media stars are half-defending Starmer. Yes, that would be Momentum.
5 The next generation of apostates, the modern Nick Cohens and Christopher Hitchens, are born from the media commentators and Spads who were happy to ride the Corbyn wave but now want out. Of course it’s all dressed up as ‘tactical disagreement’ but in reality they are turning their coats.
6 Neil Kinnock’s witch-hunt of the Militant in the 1980s was relatively easy because it came after the massive class defeat of the miners strike and its first target was an entrist group. Corbynism is much bigger...but there are too many around him who are afraid to fight. Say what you like about the Militant, at least they fought back.
7 There is no other way of defending the left than a full on fight. Starmer isn’t interested in keeping the left in the Labour Party and the left should only be interested in staying if it is free to speak its mind and defend its political positions. There is no ‘keep your powder dry, fight another day’ strategy that can work. Left wing principles are like muscles in the human body, they grow weak if they aren’t used, and they can only be strengthened if they are exercised every day.
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John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher), ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German) and The Leveller Revolution. He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.
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