“How Starmer is Strangling Democracy in the Labour Party”

Whatever Happened To …

… the mass movement Labour Party that from 2015 exploded into life tripling membership and winning the votes of 2/3 of those under 40 to get behind the Green Revolution, Wealth-Sharing and Pro-Peace policies that Jeremy Corbyn brought to the fore?

… huge crowds of fired-up suddenly hopefuls, unexpectedly invigorated after decades of apathy to support something they found real and meaningful at mass rallies up and down the country, regardless of endlessly repeated mostly completely baseless smear campaigns?

… the popular direction-changing 2017/19 Labour manifestos full of policies famously found to be highly popular even in deepest blue Guildford by ex Tory Giles Brandreth on walkabout when the name Corbyn was left out?

Are we to believe either that the establishment carried out a smear campaign to protect itself, or that the hundreds of thousands who joined Labour under Corbyn in hope of a better world were all ‘deluded antisemites’ and should be consigned to history by the ‘saviour’ Starmer? Image source: https://www.durhamminers.org/message_of_hope

The guest piece below shared in full from Whitstable Views by citizen journalist Norman Thomas tells a story that many in S Devon and nationally would agree is banished to small news sites and social media by dint of the very narrow window offered by state-corporate media, which, many allege with strong evidence behind them, fronted the establishment’s demonisation of status-quo-threatening Corbyn while he was leader, and continue to promote the establishment line by backing Starmer in ‘saving Labour by purging the Left from it’ still today.

Norman Thomas goes a long way in answering the questions asked above, explaining how the party has gone 180° in a year and a half under the authoritarian Starmer, going back on his own pledges, members’ support and the socialist principles and policies Corbyn rekindled, purging Socialist members relentlessly across the country, with even iconic filmmaker Ken Loach now in line for expulsion, while bankrupting the party in the process.

Totnes Pulse welcomes Comments from any ex and current members / supporters of Labour, any local Labour officials, and from the whole political spectrum, in the name of democracy-serving debate.

 

“HOW STARMER IS STRANGLING DEMOCRACY IN THE LABOUR PARTY”: BY NORMAN THOMAS

Labour Party headquarters, London, July 2021: all photos by Guy Smallman

PURGE

So the purge in Labour goes on. Now they’re kicking out anyone who’s the member of four “poisonous” left-wing groups. I am a member of one of those groups.

Well, no-one could have accused Starmer of hiding what he was about. From the day he got Jeremy Corbyn suspended, it was obvious that he had his sights set on one thing and only one thing: the destruction of the Labour Party he had become leader of.

He had to destroy the Labour Party because under Corbyn it had changed so much. It had gone from under 200,000 members to over half a million. It had become the biggest political party in western Europe.

It had become a party that really believed in the NHS, in fairness in housing and education, in full employment, in world peace, in equality and anti-racism, and in tackling the biggest problem of our times: the threat to the planet. This was a party that was not just paying lip service to these things — but really believed in them.

Neither the establishment in the UK or the US could ever allow the leader of such a party to come near to power in this country or, shudder the thought, even have a role on the world stage.

The early days after Corbyn became leader calmed their worries. With so many of his own MPs in open revolt against him, and the mainstream press finding every trick in the book to demonise him as a friend of terrorists, a Russian spy and, of course, an antisemite, the global establishments told themselves that he wasn’t going to last long. The next election would sweep him to oblivion.

But the next election was in 2017 and, far from sweeping Jeremy Corbyn to oblivion, it brought him within a few thousand votes of parking his rickety bike outside No 10.

Shockwaves shook the establishments so hard that you could almost see the little pieces of the ceilings of palaces and state rooms coming down on the heads of the rich and powerful.

That’s why they redoubled their efforts to discredit the Labour leader. By this time it was clear that the totally unfounded smear of antisemitism was by far the most effective way of dealing with Corbyn. What better way to attack a lifelong campaigner against racism than by accusing him and his allies of racism against Jewish people?

Here Corbyn’s establishment enemies received sterling — and secret — assistance from a fifth column in his own party: the paid bureaucracy charged with maintaining Labour’s disciplinary and organisational systems.

While, in theory, politically neutral, like the civil servants in Whitehall, most of these right-wing characters are in fact dedicated to the dream of one day installing as Labour leader a new Tony Blair — David Miliband? Blair himself? Hugh Grant?

To them, socialism is a dirty word, believed in only by loony Labour volunteers who they call Trots and who they spend their time fighting every which way they can. To these Labour bureaucrats, you don’t have to be particularly radical to be a Trot — just a little to the left of Gordon Brown is enough.

Our Trot-bashing bureaucrats were fighting Corbyn right from the first leadership election that he won so spectacularly, trying to keep his supporters out of the party — and if they did join, trying to stop them gaining influence in the local parties.

DIRTY TRICKS

But after the scary result of the 2017 election, they went into overdrive, using every dirty trick in the Guinness Book of Dirty Tricks to stop Corbyn-supporting local parties from getting Corbyn-supporting candidates elected to Parliament.

I suffered personally from all this. At the time I was chair of South Thanet Labour Party. After a hard-fought selection process we chose as our parliamentary candidate the exemplary Corbyn-supporting Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt.

We were happy — for about a couple of days. Then we discovered that the Labour Party’s national executive committee (NEC) had decided to withhold its endorsement of Rebecca on the usual — totally spurious — grounds.

We fought for months to get Rebecca endorsed as our candidate, and finally we had to rerun the selection process. Rebecca won again but this time by a much bigger majority.

We hardly had time to celebrate than we were catapulted into the 2019 election campaign. If our shortage of time to prepare wasn’t enough of a handicap, we now found our bureaucrats busily diverting resources and supporters from Thanet to the campaign to keep Rosie Duffield, darling of the right, in her Canterbury & Whitstable seat.

Like so many other Labour candidates who found their own party’s hierarchy tougher opposition than the Tories they were supposed to be fighting, our Rebecca lost.

But it was after Starmer became leader that the attack on the left came out in the open. Starmer stood for leader as the “unity candidate”. He lied. His idea of unity was to kick out everyone except the people who agreed with him.

Expulsions and suspensions rocketed. My partner was expelled for wishing good luck to the Corbyn-supporting MP Chris Williamson. Even saintly Jeremy himself was suspended. The NEC unsuspended him, but Starmer refused to let him back in the Parliamentary party. He’s still not back.

Corbyn’s treatment caused fury in the party — even among many on the right. By the end of 2020, over 70 officers of local parties were suspended simply for allowing their members to debate Corbyn’s punishment beating. Over half of them remain suspended. I am one of them — and proud to be so.

Since then, Starmer’s storm troops have suspended and expelled so many more members. They’ve even suspended whole local parties, such as the neighbouring left-wing parties of East Ham and West Ham. They have rigged and sabotaged and subverted local parties’ annual general meetings — anything to stop the “wrong sort of members” sending the “wrong sort of delegates” to Labour’s national conference. That’s another way of simulating “unity”.

PROTEST

Now, as I said, they’re banning the groups who have tried to fight back against this onslaught on the left. They’ve started with a handful, but this is just the thin end of the wedge. Many more are in the firing line.

We held a protest against the purge outside Labour Party’s head office in London. Hundreds of members turned out to express their anger about what’s happening. A statement was read out from the film director Ken Loach, a man whose films have offered the most searing exposes of the social justices of our times.

He said: “The destruction of democracy in the Labour party is shameful … Local parties are closed down, their officers replaced or suspended, meetings cancelled … And all this takes place without a word from the mass media. Why? Because Starmer is their man. They know he will change little or nothing. He makes small debating points, but on the big principles – ending privatisation, rights at work, protecting the environment, a foreign policy based on human rights and international law – he is silent …

“He wants a smaller party— with no troublesome activists. This attack on party democracy is driven by a determination to appease the power of the establishment … It is a return to the opportunism and support for corporate power of the Blair years …

“Keep telling the truth of what is happening, it is our strongest weapon!”

THE END?

Is this the end for the left in Labour? Is it the end for the Labour Party?

I don’t think so. Not if enough of us fight back, it isn’t. Not if we fight hard enough. Not if we can break the media blackout and get this story to the outside world. There have already been protests outside Labour offices led by suspended members in Bristol and London. But now we need to do much more, and we need the support of all on the left to pull it off.

We need to take direct action to show Starmer up for the cut-price Kinnock he really is: a miserable hitman brought in simply to clear the way for the next Tony Blair. Wherever Starmer goes, every public appearance he or his Parliamentary cronies make, the left needs to go, sticking up for the Labour people he has expelled, suspended or bullied out of the party. We need to shadow him, confront him, speaking out for the socialism Starmer is dedicated to rooting out.

We have to show the world we are the real Labour Party, the true opposition people desperately need to protect them from the Tories. This is our Labour Party: why on earth should we abandon it to an unrepresentative right-wing clique led by an unremarkable idea-free political non-entity?

But this is much more than a struggle inside Labour. This is a battle for the future of left-wing politics everywhere. If we lose, I fear, all the left lose.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the battle for the left, make a date to come to the Rialto Theatre in Brighton on the last weekend in September. There we’ll be holding an alternative Labour Party conference at the same time Starmer’s holding his “official” tea party on the seafront. This could be fun. More details on www.labour-in-exile.org.

 

Original article by Norman Thomas on Whitstable Views website HERE.

 

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Terry Deans
Terry Deans
3 months ago

It’s a very good and totally accurate article and account by Norman Thomas.

I’m an ex RN Falklands War veteran. I joined Labour at the age of 54 in September 2015 after never even having voted before. I was born and raised in the sectarian conflict of N Ireland in the 60s and 70s.

Since joining Labour I have witnessed bullying, gerrymandering, misinformation, blindsided, rigging of internal election processes and the demotivation of new members by the incumbent role holders and their lackeys. I myself was a victim of an unprovoked assault in February 2017 by a local Plymouth councillor in the Labour office, witnessed by, among others, the Parliamentary candidate and soon to be elected MP for Sutton & Devonport. My complaint was buried and trivialused and an allegation of assault totally ignored by a party who were tripping over themselves to ‘call out ‘ anything they deemed to be ‘uncomradely’ behaviour and then thought it was just fine to accuse members of unsubstantiated allegations of Antisemitism without hearings and due process that anyone in any walk of life would expect as standard good practice. Guilty if you were simply accused, simply if you were ‘left’ and active.

There are 17m people who do not vote at General Elections in the UK. I was one of them for 38 years of my adult life. The huge majority of those non voters being amongst the poorest and worst affected by political policy. Too preoccupied by their own survival or too demoralised by being victims of the same abusive relationship I witnessed first hand to be moved to think their vote means anything. 17 million non voters, when 12 million can get you into government in this country.

Someone earlier said ‘ winning elections is about getting enough people to put an x in the box’.

That is true. But to ignore the propaganda, coercion, spin and misinformation pumped out by the mass media and the highly professional Public Relations mind games so expertly and deftly conducted by our political puppet masters is exactly the profile I’m referring to which makes those people, too, classic victims of that abusive relationship which is politics in the UK.

And while you may scoff and denigrate those who do not vote or those who do not ‘win’ elections, just remember that bad things don’t happen because of the things that bad people do, but because of good people who do nothing about it.

Jane Carter
Jane Carter
4 months ago

His manifesto for leader was patently a ploy to win over Corbyn supporters and he had no intention of keeping those promises. He showed that the day he sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey for retweeting Maxine Peake’s tweet on Palestine. That was it for me. I joined the Labour Party at age 16 when we had the fantastic Labour Party Young Socialists and the charismatic Andy Bevan in charge of that group. Obviously he was purged under Kinnock. It was not a decision I took lightly but I couldnt continue paying subscription fees to a party hierarchy happy to spend my money on sabotaging the left. It’s enough. There is no Labour Party, only a centrist party focussed on being slightly more competent than Johnson.

Tony
Tony
4 months ago

The trick to winning elections is to get lots of people to put a cross next to your candidate’s name. I’ve been hearing Norman’s excuses for the failure of socialism all my life – if it’s not the media/the establishment/the PLP/the BBC/the Jews (delete as appropriate) it’s the working classes for being too dumb to know what’s good for them. You win large majorities by persuading enough non-affiliated voters to join you not by pandering to the obsessions of party activists. Labour has done this 5 times in history – Attlee and Wilson once each and the unmentionable TB three times. Sadly, the Labour left loves heroic losers rather than winners. I’ve no doubt that if Corbyn had ever scraped into no. 10, he’d wouldn’t have been in power for long before Norman and his friends would be accusing him of betraying socialism and stomping off to found a splinter group, though possibly not one called New Labour.

John Bernard
John Bernard
3 months ago
Reply to  Tony

The article mentions the Rialto jolly in the last weekend of September which is being organised by Labour in Exile, ( now in permanent exile), and Resist will be there too in recognition of the need more than ever for solidarity as opposed to factional splitting on the left – Resist will decide at it first AGM in October whether to register as a political party. The Resist position is that staying and fighting in Labour is pointless, and we should be building an alternative. It is very difficult to understand why, not least since the proscriptions (meaning you can “fight” but not “stay”) people keep banging on about fighting back – the horse has not just been flogged – it has been eviscerated!. What are you fighting for? – certainly not socialism, which mostly the Labour Party has never been about. I’d suggest that all those who are trying to breath life into what is now a political corpse for the left are doing, is wasting time.
https://www.resistmovement.org.uk/

Last edited 3 months ago by John Bernard