International Socialists for Corbyn is a phrase I’ve dreamt up in the last 24 hours. I have no intention of inflating the membership figures of my new group. Today it stands at a proud one. Me. I am speaking on my own behalf. Every democrat is responsible for their own rhetoric and action (and inaction), and no one else’s. No family member nor friend bears any blame for anything I get wrong. Having no membership of the International Socialists, no one has to be consulted by me before I offer a set of proposals those who think along similar lines. They are all free to dismiss everything I say as false from start to finish. But I suspect many will not.
Am I satisfied with having such an exclusive membership of my ‘group’? Yes and no. To be frank, I’m not too bothered at the moment. I haven’t joined Labour yet, but if I lived and worked in England I would at least have applied for membership. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in Scotland have a great deal of work to do before joining Labour as a block. He has more enthusiastic supporters in other parties, and of no party, than Corbynites who been allowed to organise within the ranks of Kezia Dugdale’s Scottish Labour. And I fear that may not change anytime soon. Strategy and tactics need to be debated in Scotland for many reasons:
- we are tragically split at the moment into so many parties, all competing for a limited share of the vote, so badly split that even proportional representation can’t come to our salvation.
- the almost inevitable second independence referendum, made more problematic by the splits on the left in Scotland as elsewhere over Brexit
- the proportional representation escape ladder our English comrades have just lost due to the Brexit vote makes Scottish independence look increasingly attractive for many Scots, a cause of despair for many of our English socialist brothers and sisters.
However, while Scotland has a lot to think about, in England there is nothing to debate: join Labour, and do it immediately. If you don’t apply today, then keep debating the pros and cons with those asking you to join. Think things through by all means; but don’t take too long because a snap general election may be just around the corner. And if we get this wrong, even though we know Theresa May would only have won by default, we would have helped facilitate another five years of a Tory government claiming a mandate to push through the politics and economics of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, even though it could be elected with three quarters of the electorate or more not voting for it.
What if your request for Labour Party membership is rejected? In such circumstances, be in no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn will do whatever he can behind the scenes to secure justice for you. But it does take two to tango. If your request to join Labour is in the first instance turned down, for whatever reason, appeal. Insist that you are told in detail what you need to do to get such a decision reversed. Work with Labour members while you’re waiting to be allowed to join. If you throw in the towel so you can stand as a candidate against Labour, then you are allowing your heart to overrule your head, playing into the hands of Tom Watson and the rest of the Blairites; you would be making it possible for them to continue to keep you out and, thereby, bring forward the day they finally get to expel Jeremy Corbyn himself as well as all the members who have displayed such loyalty to him – that being the overwhelming majority of members of both the party and the trade unions.
When so-called ‘Trots’ do succeed in joining Labour, simultaneously joining Momentum is just as essential. But what if those who control it reject your right to join Momentum? Then Labour’s left can hardly be blamed for forming an alternative seriously left wing pole of attraction within the Labour party. But don’t seek this other than as a last resort.
Every left-wing group within Labour, as well as those on the outside, should be in no doubt that Theresa May and Amber Rudd will have implanted their Bob Lambert undercover cop agent provocateurs within your group: occupational hazard, I’m afraid. Caucusing in such circumstances is not the panacea some ‘entryists’ once supposed it to be. When off the record, letting-your-hair-down jokes are played back by Murdoch or BBC ‘journalists’, rank and file Labour members be manipulated. Taken out of context, so-called ‘Trots’ careless words can be damaging to all of us. What this means for practical purposes is that if ‘International Socialists’ are not made welcome inside Momentum, then we can expect them to attend ‘secret’ caucuses while paying lip service to whatever aims and values the new group draws up, while secretly just making notes, maybe recording every word, wired for sound – vision too, possibly.
Should ‘International Socialists’ set up rules to keep their critics at bay? Yes and no. Groups that bar us from their meetings can hardly complain if we reciprocate. What’s good for the goose, etc. Many so-called ‘Trots’ will be excluded from Momentum before too long unless their leading group stops conciliating the Soft Coup saboteurs over and over and over again. International Socialists inside Labour needs to be as all-embracing as they can be. At some point, we can look forward to ‘Trot’ groups dividing once more over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, given a push by Amber Rudd’s police spies fomenting paranoia, heresy-hunting at the drop of a hat… You can’t stop groups splitting, but serious socialists can always try to make the case against this.
I am hopeful that Chris Harman’s supporters will all join Labour in England before too long, as they did back in the 1950s and early 1960s. Elections matter. And splitting the vote under first-past-the-post is a luxury we simply can’t afford when Labour is a broad enough church to tolerate the real left, the internationalists and socialists, the ‘International Socialists’.
In this centenary of the Russian Revolution, there is nothing to be gained by turning our backs on the leaders of that revolution. Lenin and Trotsky were not an embarrassment to Marxists like Rosa Luxemburg. But in today’s circumstances, calling ourselves ‘Leninists’ or ‘Trotskyists’ invites questions we won’t be given enough time to address: who is responsible for disunity within the ranks of the exploited and oppressed? Point such people to Rosa Luxemburg’s unpublished booklet on the Russian Revolution, the concluding paragraphs.
The Russian Revolution was believed, correctly, by both Lenin and Trotsky to be a triggering event for an international socialist revolution based on the immanent alternatives globally of socialism on the one hand and barbarism, on the other. It was this stark reality, in combination with overwhelmingly powerful working class organisations built up over the previous generations by supporters of Marx and Engels and others for the purposes of expropriating the expropriators, that made splits during World War 1 both necessary and absolutely unavoidable. Today we face a somewhat different political landscape.
We Marxists now need to educate the overwhelming majority of the exploited and oppressed all over again about this exploitative and anarchic reality of capitalism, and of the gravedigger it keeps building for itself. We Marxists don’t need to grab spades to get the job done: capitalist politicians (including Blairites), as well as their agents within the mass media and state agents, keep doing that job for us, as do the surplus value vampires themselves.
What Marxists do need to do is bring the exploited and oppressed up to speed about their own history going back to the beginnings of capitalism and all exploitative system that preceded it: feudalism, slave societies being the most important. Teach the masses, but also learn from them too. We want a dialogue, not a noisy monologue. Let a thousand flowers bloom. In England, join the Labour Party immediately. And once we have access to the eyes and ears of all the party’s rank and file, expose the ballot-rigging McCarthyites.