I have tweeted about this, but want to set out my thinking in more depth than can be squeezed into even a long string of 140 character tweets.
I deliberately qualified this appeal to English socialists. I did that because – unlike Jeremy Corbyn and most of his supporters – I think a great deal more work needs to be done to develop a sensible political strategy for the left north of the border: Labour’s core vote and activists have been repelled for decades to such an extent here that they won’t be won back without taking into account the incredibly powerful left wing currents inside both The SNP and Greens, not to mention a handful of smaller left wing splits. All these parties, as well as Scottish Labour, could very well split over the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. And that means socialists north of the border need to play it by ear or our divisions could play into the hands of the Tories, which is surely the last thing any of us want.
When I call on English socialists joining as fast as possible, am I not preaching to the converted? Surely I don’t have to tell those masses at Glastonbury or the Durham Miners Gala that voting for Jeremy Corbyn isn’t enough: older comrades and young activists will be queuing up to become Labour Party members to help him push through his radical revolutionary vision. They obviously won’t be attracted by the Greens nor other parties on the left under present circumstances – not this side of a change in the electoral system. First-past-the-post is repulsive to democrats as it exploits the anxiety that by voting for the candidate we most want, we risk handing power to the candidate we least want. This is a disaster of an elecctoral system, and the sooner it goes the better for everyone.
If voters intend to join Labour regardless of what I argue, why am I wasting my time posting this to my blog? Here is why: I am making this appeal specifically to left wing Greens and to all the socialist organizations on the left that have contested elections since Tony Blair tore up Clause Four, with its historic commitment to public ownership in the means of production, distribution and exchange.
The most important socialist electoral machine in England at the moment remains TUSC. Time, imho, for them to disband their independent electoral operation to promote official Labour Party candidates. This should have happened before the last election, but better late than never.
While TUSC never managed to negotiate their membership of Labour prior to this year’s [first?] general election, they did have the sense not to split the vote which could only have helped the Tories had they had any success. This unilateral gesture will strengthen their hand in negotiating a speedy mass ‘entry’ of TUSC members into Labour, although refering to this as ‘entryism’ should be avoided as it implies a short term smash and grab operation. Tom Watson will imply that is what I propose, and nothing could be further from the truth.
It goes without saying that TUSC won’t be welcomed by all Labour politicians. But McCarthyite witch hunters have lost all authority. Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity with voters, with members, with activists, Glastonbury youth, Durham Miners Gala etc gives bitter Blairite splitters nothing to bargain with. Should they launch a second Chicken Coup with Yvette Cooper as their standard bearer, CLPs will have no option but to get rid of them. Blairite MPs are on probation. Alas, we can expect many to keep smearing Labour members until they provoke their own expulsion. We have to be clear that expulsion can’t be ruled out, but it must remain the very last of last resorts.
Blairite MPs are desperately trying to provoke their expulsion. They calculate that if they’re kicked out against their will, they can lumber the Labour Party with responsibility for any split in anti-Tory votes. By far, the better strategy is to give Blairite MPs the option of redeeming themselves. But if CLPs find Blairites endlessly bring their party into disrepute, we will see what they’re made of when they lose their right to stand for the Labour Party ever again. If they choose to split the vote [as most of these right-wing egotists no doubt will], they’ll face electoral humiliation, with most of them losing their deposits.
Rejecting the option of expelling Blairite MPs – other than in the most extreme circumstances – won’t be popular with many on the left. Nevertheless, it’s an absolutely necessary concession. Politicians value the passion and radicalism of youth, but as we mature we increasingly appreciate the need to think with our heads as well as our hearts. The left has to promote the benefits of unity of all the exploited and oppressed. If Blairite MPs won’t tolerate democracy, rebel at being reduced to nothing more than just one more rank and file Labour Party member, then that’s their problem. If they want to split to form yet another party of illegal war criminals, arms dealers and capitalist austerity privatisers, then good luck to them. They’ll need it.
Not purging all Jeremy Corbyn’s critics is key if we want to get all England’s socialists on board the Labour Party. All those who will join will disagree with Jeremy Corbyn about something from time to time. And they’ll all disagree with each other. They’ll even disagree with themselves as they are persuaded to change their minds. Others won’t agree with the majority decision, but will accept they were defeated in a fair vote, and not sabotage the majority decision.
There is nothing wrong with socialists disagreeing with each other. And Corbyn has nothing to fear from a mass influx of socialists who don’t agree with everything he, or others have argued in the past. Respectful debate has to be cherished, and TUSC members joining need to bend over backwards to establish their credentials in this respect. To the extent that caucusing takes place by enemies of Jeremy Corbyn – Progress, for instance -, TUSC should be free to hold their own. Nevertheless, it isn’t going to work due to every group infiltrating every other group with their own spies, and Special Branch and The SUN infiltrating all of them too. We should accept that as a fact of life. If we do, then we won’t ‘let our hair down’ to indulge in tasteless jokes as we know recordings will be broadcast on Panorama or Dispatches to ‘prove’ something that isn’t true.
TUSC needs to join Labour not just to ‘teach’ the massed ranks of the party, but to learn from them too. Labour is where the radical democrats of twenty first century Britain are coming together to debate how to improve society. And it’s where those who think they have answers need to be to participate on an equal basis. No one will be attracted by a noisy monologue from self appointed ‘scientific socialists’ who understand the iron laws of history. TUSC has to join Labour in order to listen. And to listen with respect. Even where they/we think we’re being disrespected, they/we need to turn the other cheek. TUSC will be provoked by those who were desperate to keep them out. At least some of those who will be trying to drag CLPs into screaming political sewers will be in the pay of Theresa May and Amber Rudd. They’ll include today’s generation of Bob Lambert type rapist police spies. Special Branch agent provocateurs must not be allowed to get away with dividing the left nor with tricking immature youths into daft, wholely counterproductive adventures that will land them behind bars.
If TUSC thinks there is any point maintaining an existance independent of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party when both the leader and the rank and file warmly hold out membership cards, then they need to set out their reasons for this. I don’t think they’ll find any good ones, but am willing to address any they propose. Over to you, comrades. Over to you.