07/01/2019 by socialistfight
John Rogan’s Empire Loyalist Attack On Socialist Fight
Labour — Entryism and Northern Ireland.
by John Rogan
Labour’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, presented a dossier on August 10, alongside a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, highlighting his concerns about Trotskyist entryism in the Labour Party. The reaction of Corbyn and his supporters was to dismiss the dossier as either full of “conspiracy theories” or deliberately distorting what he said.
Corbyn’s reply to Watson’s accusations was,
“At no stage in anyone’s most vivid imagination are there 300,000 sectarian extremists at large in the country who have suddenly descended on the Labour party.
“Sorry Tom, it is nonsense — and I think he knows it’s nonsense. Let’s get on with campaigning Tom. Thanks.”
Except that is not what Tom Watson said. Here’s an excerpt,
“Some of these people are deeply interested in political change, in building a more equal society, and are just on a journey in politics that they’re new to, and I don’t want them to feel that I’m labelling them because I’m not. But there are some old hands twisting young arms in this process, and I’m under no illusions about what’s going on. They are caucusing and factionalising and putting pressure where they can, and that’s how Trotsky entryists operate.”
In the same interview Corbyn talked of “alleged entryism” of Labour when he referred disparagingly to Michael Crick’s book, “Militant”. The use of the word “alleged” here speaks volumes. It is a willful, deliberate ignoring of the (easily verifiable) facts of entryism by Militant (aka the Revolutionary Socialist League) which started in the 1950’s. The same can be said of Corbyn’s “300,000 sectarian extremists” comment. A perfect example of a “straw man” argument if ever there was.
A small, dedicated, disciplined group like the Socialist Party (unlikely to be more than 2,000) can, in alliance with others, take leadership roles in major trade unions. For example, the SP and allies control the PCS civil service union with a membership around 200,000 (PCS figures).
Of course, Trotskyists are perfectly entitled to stand for election to Parliament and trade union leadership. What they are not entitled to do is to enter Labour to destroy it for their own benefit. Democratic socialism and revolutionary socialism parted company with the establishment of the one party state in the Soviet Union. One key moment was the suppression of Russia’s fledgling parliament, the Constituent Assembly, in February 1918 by the Bolsheviks (who had achieved only 25% of the popular vote).
So, what’s going on? Why are Corbyn and his supporters so keen to downplay, ignore and distort the evidence of Trotskyist groups targeting the Labour Party, in particular the tens of thousands of enthusiastic “Corbynistas”.
What we’re seeing happen is a resurrection of the alliance of the Labour Left and the Trotskyist Left which last occurred in the 1980’s. In one sense, it didn’t really die as the flickering flame was kept alive by the Labour Representation Committee as I wrote about before. At the moment though, Corbyn and his supporters are just denying there’s a problem while the integration of Trotskyists into Labour is supported by most of them and starts to become (almost) acceptable. It is also the case that any on the Labour Left who do not subscribe to this view are in danger of being ostracised. Dissention can mean withdrawal of support.
Let’s look at a few cases in point.
(b). The (pro-Corbyn) Grassroots Alliance (GA) won the recent CLP NEC elections. However, beforehand GA backed NEC member Ann Black had voted for the suspension of Brighton CLP (the one where an “ex” SP member and an AWL member had just been elected onto the CLP executive). This incurred the fury of the LRC executive who stated they would never support her again. This was not long after they had lifted the suspension of Gerry Downing’s membership of the LRC. The same Mr Downing who believes 9/11 should never be condemned, the working class should give “tactical support” to Isis and whose organisation is seen as anti Semitic.
(c). Shortly after her election to the NEC, Rhea Wolfson gave an interview to the AWL’s newspaper, Solidarity, where she stated she opposed “political expulsions”. She is also on the executive of “Labour Young Socialists” which is another alliance of the Labour and Trotskyist Left containing both AWL and Socialist Appeal members (some of whom have been expelled from Labour).
(d). The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CDLP) has opposed the expulsion of AWL and Socialist Appeal members. Its secretary, Pete Willsman, was also part of the Grassroots Alliance and elected onto the NEC.
Perhaps the most telling comment came from John MacDonnell in February when he said he’d “like to scrap the Compliance Unit completely”. These are Labour Party staff who, among other duties, investigate entryism.
Not surprisingly, what will happen to the “Compliance Unit” in the future depends on the result of the Labour Leadership election. If Jeremy Corbyn wins, expect to see wholesale “reforms” of the Compliance Unit.
There is one point about Tom Watson’s dossier I think needs clearing up. When he talked about “infiltration” of Labour by the SWP, a more precise term would be “intervention”. The SWP are very much anti-entryism and have been for a long time as they see Labour stuck in “electoralism”. In their opinion, revolutionaries lose their principles quickly if sucked into the reformist game of trying to win elections. The documents Watson linked to highlight that fact. They wish to be seen to support Corbyn against the “Labour Right” but keep their Party separate in order to pick up the pieces when, in their view, a future Corbyn Government buckles under to international capitalism.
One thing the SWP share with the most fervent Corbyn supporters though is that there will be a Corbyn Government. Sadly, for them, I think their hopes will be dashed and dashed very hard.
What the SWP said about Labour being imbued with “electoralism” is true. Members believe that Labour needs to be in Government to change things for the better. The big split is that while the PLP believe Corbyn is the main obstacle to power, many of his supporters believe it to be the PLP.
I believe the 80% of the PLP who have no confidence in Corbyn winning to be absolutely correct. Why? Let me examine one issue.
Jeremy Corbyn (along with John McDonnell) was among those on the Left who gave critical support to the Provisional IRA “against British Imperialism”. He may, in the leftist parlance of the time, not have agreed with some of their methods but they were deserving of solidarity. Now this is being dishonestly dressed up as Corbyn being ahead of his time and helping to bring about the peace process by talking to the Republicans. This refusal to face what Corbyn’s views actually were could be a major factor in destroying the Labour vote in many parts of the country (eg Birmingham, and Warrington to take the obvious examples).
For those who are willing to take the time, I suggest you read the articles in the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. To summarise, Jeremy Corbyn was on the editorial board of “London Labour Briefing” (LLB) in the 80’s. After the Brighton bombing in 1984, LLB ran an editorial condemning it. Cue an angry reaction from readers and the next editorial ran an apology for the condemnation and reemphasised its support for Sinn Fein and the IRA.
In May 1987, the Sunday Express ran a front page story where it said Jeremy Corbyn stood for a minute’s silence for eight IRA members who had been killed by the British Army in Ireland.
Afterwards he was quoted as saying, “I’m happy to commemorate all those who died fighting for an independent Ireland.” The meeting had been organised by the “Wolfe Tone Society” which was set up in London in 1984 to support Sinn Fein and its policies, including support for the IRA.
Here’s how I picture that might look on a Conservative Party billboard in a General Election campaign.
Imagine that billboard in Birmingham or in Warrington during a General Election campaign. Imagine it throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. In Glasgow, where I come from, sectarian and political tensions would be dangerously stoked up. And, if Corbyn supporters believe all this talk of supporting the IRA is a “smear”, let’s wait until a General Election debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May — “Were you or were you not at the Wolfe Tone Society meeting where you stood for a minute’s silence for IRA terrorists, Mr. Corbyn? Were you or were you not a member of the editorial board of London Labour Briefing who supported the IRA bombing of the Conservative Party conference in 1984, Mr Corbyn?”
Would the Conservative Party be at fault for publishing such a poster?
In my opinion, it would not. Conservatives want power, they want to win and they are perfectly entitled to use all legitimate political means to achieve that end. Highlighting Jeremy Corbyn’s backing for the IRA would be part of that.
The blame for such a poster being published would lie entirely with Jeremy Corbyn and all of his supporters who know his views and history regarding the IRA and back him for Labour leader. I would also blame those prominent supporters (particularly Trade Union leaders) who have heard these accusations but either don’t want to investigate the truth of the matter or know the truth and want a quiet life.
They would all be responsible for Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour to a devastating, catastrophic rout at a General Election.
As I am writing about Northern Ireland, let us remember that a major part of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is our membership of the EU. A major part of the Brexit negotiations will be how to square the circle of reconciling leaving the EU and keeping the GFA.
Let’s recall that Corbyn called for Article 50 to be invoked immediately on the morning of Friday June 24. Meanwhile, Owen Smith calls for any Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU to be scrutinised by Parliament and subject to another referendum. I would ask all who support the Northern Ireland peace process which candidate for Labour leader do you think would best be able to keep the peace process on track? One who called for Article 50 to be immediately invoked with no thought to the consequences and no consultation with his Shadow Cabinet? Or one who believes the effects of Brexit (including on the peace process) should be debated thoroughly. There is only one serious choice and that is Owen Smith.
If any Sinn Fein members or supporters happen to be reading this, you should put your feelings of nostalgia and gratitude towards Jeremy Corbyn’s support for the Republican Movement to one side for the moment and look at the following.
Jeremy Corbyn is a founder member of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) as is John McDonnell (its Chair for many years). At the LRC AGM 2012on November 12, the following motion, moved by Gerry Downing’s Socialist Fight grouping, was passed:
A report in “Weekly Worker” stated the following —
Prison officer David Black was killed by “dissident Republicans” on November 1st 2012. Caitriona Ruane Sinn Fein MLA called his killing a “pointless murder” and Martin McGuinness even expressed a willingness to go to his funeral . Understandably, the family were not happy for Sinn Fein representatives to attend.
Meanwhile, eleven days after the murder of David Black, the LRC (Chair John McDonnell, founder member Jeremy Corbyn) supported a motion not only calling this killing “political” but also for the freeing of the perpetrators. In other words, an act of political solidarity with those, (the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA etc), who would wish Northern Ireland to return to the worst days of the “troubles”.
Perhaps one day, the Chair of the LRC, John McDonnell MP will offer an explanation for that organisation’s political solidarity with “dissident Republicans”. Perhaps, one day, a founder member of the LRC, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, might offer his view on the LRC’s political solidarity with the killers of David Black.
Did either Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell vote for Motion 4? I’ve no idea. Maybe that question will come up in the General Election too.
I’ll try to be charitable and say the LRC, alongside Corbyn and McDonnell, are perfect examples of ultra-left, student union politicians. An “anti-imperialist” motion like this would have been voted for without thinking of any consequences. It’s not as if it would really have any affect on the Northern Ireland peace process. After all, it’s not as if Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell were holding leading positions in the Labour Party then.
They do now though.
John McDonnell said in 1998, in an interview with An Phoblacht (the Sinn Fein newspaper), “An assembly is not what people have laid down their lives for over thirty years. We want peace, but the settlement must be just and the settlement must be for an agreed and united Ireland.” Reading this, I, for one, am glad John McDonnell was not a Sinn Fein leader during the negotiations which lead to the Good Friday Agreement.
In an ideal situation, I would like both Jeremy Corbyn to immediately resign from the Labour leadership and for him and John McDonnell to announce that they do not intend to stand for Parliament again. It’s unlikely that will happen. That means that it is essential that Owen Smith is elected leader. One clear policy difference between him and Corbyn (which has immediate relevance) is the attitude to Brexit. It is absolutely necessary that Labour, a pro-Remain party, has a leader who wishes us to stay in the EU. Theresa May’s insistance that “Brexit means Brexit” is as comprehensible as “Flaggleduff” means “Flaggleduff”. Until negotiations are started with the UK and the EU, and there is an end result, what Brexit means is a great unknown.
Corbyn or Smith, catastrophic rout or holding ground and (hopefully) advancing, student union protest politics or debates about what a Labour Government might be able to do. The only choice is, really, Owen Smith.
If Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour leadership (again), I would paraphrase George Orwell and say, if you want a vision of the future, imagine the Tories laughing in Labour’s face again and again for the next ten, fifteen, twenty years (at least).
From London Labour Briefing (Number 21 July 1982)
Trotskyist Entryism through the ages.
Mike McNair (Weekly Worker) wrote a couple of in depth articles (here and here) in 2010 which give a pretty comprehensive history of Trotskyist entryism into Labour (and others) since the 1930’s. Hopefully, he’ll do an up to date follow up at some point to include Weekly Worker’s very own Labour Party Marxists.
Socialist Appeal have provided a copy of “Problems of Entrism” which was the blueprint as to how the Revolutionary Socialist League (aka Militant Tendency) entered and worked in the Labour Party. There are also follow up documents about the split in the organisation in the 1990’s.
John McDonnell MP update (25 February 2017).
The following letter appeared in the “Weekly Worker” (1140, Feb 2 2017) regarding the LRC excluding the IRPSG from affiliation. The main point of interest is where it says that “motions in defence of the civil rights of republican prisoners…were passed with the support of John McDonnell and other leftwing MPs and only those most pro-imperialist groups and individuals opposed”.
Does this mean that John McDonnell voted for Motion 4 above? Who were the “other left-wing MPs” I wonder?
I’ve put out a tweet (Feb 25 17) asking if John McDonnell did vote for it.
The following letters have been sent to the Labour Representation Committee:
“Dear LRC national committee comrades,
I wish to appeal against the disaffiliation from the Labour Representation Committee of the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.
The organisation has successfully moved motions in defence of the civil rights of republican prisoners for several years. These motions were passed with the support of John McDonnell and other leftwing MPs and only those most pro-imperialist groups and individuals opposed. Just this past weekend (January 27–30) we sent a delegation of nine members and supporters to Derry for the 45th anniversary of the state massacre of 14 innocent victims on a peaceful march in 1972. This followed the interdiction of internment in August 1971, the massive torture of republicans and the random killings in the Ballymurphy massacre — a series of incidents involving the killing of 11 civilians by the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment of the British Army in Ballymurphy, Belfast, during Operation Demetrius. The shootings have also been called ‘Belfast Bloody Sunday’ — a reference to the other massacre of civilians by the same battalion a few months later.
You can appreciate the families of these 25 victims and those seriously wounded in those months want justice. Who ordered these brutal killings and who covered it all up and when will anyone at all ever be held accountable for these state murders?
These are vital questions for the whole Labour movement and for the LRC, who claim to be its most politically conscious leftist leadership. Like laws against terror, which are ostensibly passed against the IRA or Islamic fundamentalist ‘terrorists’, they will soon be used against the labour movement itself, when it begins seriously to fight back against the appalling austerity imposed on us by the Tory-led capitalist system.
We therefore appeal to allow the IRPSG to affiliate again to the LRC and thereby raise its concerns with the wider labour movement, as we have successfully done so often in the past when we were affiliated.”
Press Coverage of the LRC AGM 2012 and Motion 4.
On 2 October 2016, the Sunday Times ran article “McDonnell in links to Irish terrorists” about John McDonnell and anti peace process Republicans. The LRC AGM 12 is mentioned.
The Belfast Telegraph next day also covered the story as “Labour’s John McDonnell and the link to dissidents”.