Sunday 26 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and Hard Left "Infiltration"

The press are not neutral arbiters when it comes to the Labour leadership contest. If they can use the debates between party members as a way of deepening divisions in the party, they will. At the forefront of these attempts is the so-called quality "paper of record" The Times, which of late is transforming itself into a straight propaganda sheet. Earlier this week, a fairly innocuous piece by Charles Falconer setting out his support for Andy Burnham was spiked with the headline "Women are not tough enough to lead Labour". It was misleading bollocks as he said nothing of the sort. Nevertheless, it had the desired effect. The 'Burnham is sexist' meme got a lift before, the day after, The Times issued their mea culpa.

And now they're at it again. The front page legend goes "Hard left plot to infiltrate Labour race", with the subby "Harman urged to halt leadership vote". It reads "140,000 new activists are projected to have joined ... with many signing up to back the hard left candidate". And "The Communist Party of Great Britain has called on supporters to join and back Corbyn as part of its revolutionary "strategy"". Then we we "Labour MPs say" their CLPs are being flooded with lefties (of course, these sources go unattributed). Let's unpack some of this.

First off, taking my very old friends the cpgb as evidence of any movement at all is the thinnest of thin gruels. Here's a 30-strong collective who've spent over three decades peddling their politics to little effect. They've also participated in practically every left regroupment project going, managing to alienate virtually everyone they've ever come into contact with. By far left standards, that's some feat. The Times also goes on to say that some TUSC candidates have also signed up. That may be the case, but some proof would be nice. Furthermore, the two main forces on the far left - the rape cover-uppers in the SWP, and my increasingly stop-the-world-we-want-ti-get-off erstwhile comrades in the Socialist Party are standing aloof from what's going on. Any real political movement of tens of thousands of politicised people is a real risk to their coherence as organisations. There's that and the fact the organised "hard left" outside of Labour would be hard-pressed to muster 6,000-7,000 members and supporters. The numbers we're talking about dwarf that pretty pitiful figure.

On that flood of new members, it says a great deal about the mindset of The Times and the briefers quoted. They cannot grasp that real people have all kinds of views, and that some might be attracted to a party when a menu of different options are unveiled. They cannot conceive how anyone would join Labour of their own volition to support a candidate without some plot or shadowy clique behind the scenes manipulating things. I can only speak for my CLP, but since the start of 2015 about 100 people have joined sturdy old Stoke Central and 70 of them signed up after the election. From those that have come to meetings, most are not there just to vote in the leadership contest. They've joined because they want Labour to win nationally against a cruel and stupid government. Some of these are Jeremy Corbyn supporters, but by far and away the most important - and numerous - contingent of that constituency are established members. If the doomsayers want either Andy, Yvette, or even Liz to win they need to shut up and try and understand where the Jez supporters are coming from.

Half-way in we get to John Mann MP, the one "urging" the suspension of the Labour leadership contest. Acting as the party's cut-price Simon Danczuk while he is temporarily indisposed, he says it's "becoming a farce" as long-standing members are getting "trumped" by people who don't care about the Labour Party. Too right, John. We can't let any old any old swamping the members, can we? Except, according to this piece John penned for Progress, he'd go even wider and let anyone choose the party's parliamentary candidates, including - presumably - "people who have opposed the Labour Party and want to break it up". What a tool.

Of course, John - and also-quoted Labour donor/David Miliband groupie Assem Allam and Lord John Hutton - are being useful idiots for Conservative/Murdoch ambitions. They've seen Scotland, they've seen how it is possible to completely rout the party in its traditional core areas. And they want to repeat the same in England and Wales. Their inspiration here is German politics, how the left is split between Die Linke and the SPD. The former contains the radical, anti-austerity elements and the latter the so-called moderates. In practice where national politics are concerned, it has doomed the former to perpetual opposition and the latter to shoring up Angela Merkel. It would suit Murdoch and the Tories if such a scenario could be imposed on British politics as it makes the possibility of the centre left ever forming a government again incredibly unlikely. If Labour MPs and other senior figures want to avoid this, they'd do well to stop fanning hysterical attacks on Corbyn, they'd do well not to give the Murdoch press and its Express, Telegraph, and Mail allies reasons to put the boot in. Because they're not only - yes - scabbing on the party, they're putting their own careers on the line too.


Boffy said...


I was just starting to write something on this myself, and spotted your post, which I thought I'd read first.

I pointed out earlier in the week that Blair has let the cat out of the bag. He admitted that he would not support leftist politics even if they were what are required to win elections. Mary Creagh said the same thing. In other words, Blair and his supporters are prepared to lose elections for ever more rather than accept politics that benefit the majority of workers as opposed to the rich minority.

Secondly, Mann's intervention shows that they have no commitment to democracy. Mann knows there is no such large scale intervention. He simply wants the process stopped so that next time round Corbyn doesn't get the required MP's signing up to put him on the ballot. That shows why we need to change that undemocratic restriction on electing future Labour Leaders.

Thirdly, as you say Mann was one of those who wanted to set up this ridiculous "Primary" form of election where Tories could intervene to get the Labour leader they wanted. Its why in the past, socialists argued that people who vote in Party elections should have had a minimum length of membership, why we thought such votes should be taken after a period of collective discussion rather than being individuals sitting at home only influenced by the Tory media - you can still take such collective decisions on the basis of one member one vote, unions used to do it at mass meetings all the time.

Where was Mann and others, when it came to objecting to Tories like Sean Woodward being taken straight into the party, and made Labour Ministers, or Digby Jones being made a Labour Minister without even being a LP member?

But, they seem to not even know the history of the LP itself. If it were not for Marx and Marxists who worked with the Chartists, with the Trades Unions to form the First International, there would be no Labour Party. It was people like Eleanor Marx who worked with Tom Mann who was instrumental in the setting up of the North Staffordshire and other Trades Councils, for example, and which created the basis for the founding of the LP.

They seem not to know the history of their party and movement, for example the fact that until the late 1920's about 25% of LP members had dual membership with the Communist Party, and that was not surprising given that the LP was a part of the Socialist International, an organisation that openly proclaimed its adherence and origins to Marx and Marxism (even if in reality it was based more on the principles of Lassalle and the Fabians).

The reality is that it is people like John Mann, and the Blairites who are the interlopers and entryists into our movement.

Jim Jepps said...

Strange to hear Labour MPs complaining about their own leadership rules doing precisely what they were intended to do - ie bring new supporters into the party with the incentive of influencing the result.

Personally I won't be signing up as a supporter (or get a vote through my union as they keep begging me to do by phone, newsletter and email) because I don't support the Labour Party and I don't think it's right that I should pretend to do so in order to vote for Corbyn (who I wish all the best and hope he wins). I think if I was a Labour supporter I'd feel very uncomfortable with people like me voting in your leadership election.

You say " If the doomsayers want either Andy, Yvette, or even Liz to win they need to shut up and try and understand where the Jez supporters are coming from." I think that's true and that the YouGov survey is very helpful on this.

Full numbers here;

For simplicity if we just look at first prefs.

43% overall are going for Corbyn.

Break it down though.

57% of TU affiliates and supporters are backing Corbyn - which is staggering and, on the numbers provided, could well be decisive on who wins in the end.

Corbyn gets 50% support from those who joined the party since the general election. 42% support from those who joined after 2010 and 37% support from those who've been members since before 2010.

That's really interesting and shows that "Old Labour" is stronger among new members than the more established membership. Corbyn's campaign knows this and is utilising it - can the others do anything to address their lack of support among the post 2010 generation? Seems unlikely on current form...

Gary Elsby said...

My own gut instinct felt that once a left candidate got on the ballot paper it was a two horse race between the left and right.
This led me instantly to commit to 50% can't be wrong and the right(er) candidates will fight over the other 50%.

It comes as no surprise to me that the ever increasingly irrelevant candidates of the even righter run insanity stories. Their whole life ethic is being destroyed.

On the numbers given in this blog that newer members want 'old Labour' with longevity favouring a lean to the normal right, I believe the answer is simple.

Newer members are more idealistic than longer serving members as a general rule.
Long serving lefties never show open disloyalty to themselves and have always championed one last push.
Kinnock ran with that for years but gave up and produced his own manifesto (which unbelievably lost).
Tony Blair (it could have been anyone) won a landslide and built new everything. Point proven that right wing Labour was right always.
It's nonsense, but Mandy was up at the crack of Dawn to take the piss out of Ed on every TV station in the land.
In my view, somewhere along the way, the notion that shadowing the conservative agenda is the safest option (Ed copied Tony on Tory spending/austerity)and it would be lunacy not to.
I personally don't accept this at all.

The Tories won the election because they fired both barrels.
The Scottish are coming and we (they) are the only one's offering a vote in the EU.

I see nothing in Jeremy that I didn't see in Foot or Kinnock.
Running a pro-people agenda is an easy sell to the public but the biggest and nastiest arguments will be had regarding nuclear weapons.
As Jeremy is targeted as a lunatic Chinese spy who loves terrorists, he will then be nailed as leaving us open to nuclear attack.

Oh, I remember those times very well.
You ain't seen nothing yet.

Sarah AB said...

Phil - I don't suppose you'll be surprised to learn that I'm not voting for Jeremy Corbyn, but I found this article in the Times by Tim Montgomerie very annoying.

For example:

"On BBC television yesterday the man who may be the next leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, wouldn’t deny that he was a Marxist."

This sensationalises what JC actually said in that interview.

This is another OTT moment - perhaps particularly the way Piketty is dropped in:

"The efforts of tweeting provocateurs, trade union leaders and anti-capitalist authors (I’m looking at you Monsieur Piketty) have had their effect."

Although I don't share their politics, I don't see those signing up to vote for Corbyn as 'infiltrators'- unless, of course, they are Tories.

BCFG said...

Corbyn’s success would indicate that those who believe Labour are the vehicle for real progressive change are correct, but I actually think it points to the opposite. I mean what happens when Corbyn loses? Surely that will mean the Blairites have really fully stolen the party and they will use Labour to ensure the radical left message that has an audience in this nation will be stamped upon. It will be ensured that only New Labour people get the chance to be elected, so Labour will not escape pasokification.

The message is still clear, in order for the left to make grounds the centre left must collapse. Leftists should be leaving the party, not flocking to it. The only caveat on that is that the centre left end up going to the far left and diluting it as we have seen with Syriza, so we could say Syriza are going through pasokisation!

If Corbyn wins then I suspect he won’t last a month? The true nature of Labour is being revealed.

Lidl_Janus said...

Useful link from Jim - completely uncommented on (here or elsewhere) is how apparently, Jeremy Corbyn is massively popular with the ladies - 20 pt lead versus 12 amongst men, and 14 ahead in the runoff.

mat said...

The fact is whether people like it or not the Labour party is a a broad movement if it could quite (maybe not) happily contain Tony Blair in his pomp and Jeremy Corbyn I don't see why it can't contain Jeremy and Liz, who I would argue is in practice somewhat to the left of Blair (she is good on the Living Wage and Social Care for example).

All four leadership contenders and the vast majority of their supporters seem to be genuinely committed to Labour but have differing visions, which is what a leadership race is all about.

Phil said...

Ah, but for the centre left to collapse BCFG we need to be in a political culture somewhat closer to a revolutionary situation. And that is a million miles off, if ever it's going to materialise (I think there's something about the complexity of modern, advanced industrial societies that rules even 1968-style revolutions out).

Dave Levy said...

They aren’t entryists

You’ve stirred something up here and you’re right, there aren’t enough trots and tankies to make a differenc, particularly if you exclude the SWP & Militant, and even if some of the new joiners have a past with such groups we also need to allow people to change their mind. (I think you’d agree.) Some of the people who left during the 2001-2005 administration are rejoining which is a problem for the John Mann’s and the old New Labour people. The irony is that they were applauding Ed Miliband as he finessed the London Labour Party & the Trade Union leaderships by introducing a closed primary for the Mayoral selection and the Leadership. It’s been a persistent fantasy that people that don’t vote or attend meetings are moderate and they’ve been fighting and manoeuvring to include these non voters to outflank the activists for decades. There is little doubt that every change since the election of John Smith as leader has been to diminish the power of local labour party leaderships. They thought they had it stitched up, it’s all rather amusing.

There’s a lot of them and they’re changing the party.

If 140,000 people have signed up most will have done so as Full Members, maybe as much as 2/3rds . My estimate is that the selectorate is 75% full members, although the Union recruitment drive may change that over the next week. I think YouGov’s estimates on class of membership overestimate the impact of registered supporters and underestimate full and affiliated members. To me the most interesting angle on the YouGov poll is their assertion that ~50% of the membership have a membership longevity of under one year and that 2/3rds of the membership has under five years. I believe this to be true but the ratios are becoming even more biased toward the new joiners as more join. The vast majority of the Labour Party joined to rebuild it after the 2010 & 2015 defeats. The corollary of the newnesss of the membership (the real New Labour) is that the substance of the PLP’s mandate needs to be questioned, in humility, by themselves. They were (nearly) all originally selected by a very different party.

Another thing the PLP need to consider is the anger felt by the Party membership at their custody of the Labour Party. (They’re a bit unlucky, we could equally be asking what the NEC was doing?) While much of the centrism of Miliband’s manifesto stems from decisions he took himself and his unity agenda, the dead weight of the PLP and Labour’s right wing ensured that the manifesto was more informed by, at least the titles of, “Two Steps forward, One step back” than the “Communist Manifesto”.

And also

A further aspect of the anger felt with the PLP is that a choice of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall was unacceptable to the membership; it was a collective act of arrogance trying to extend the life of the spadocracy beyond it’s sell by date.

In retrospect we shouldn’t have got rid of shadow cabinet elections; it’s an important safety valve for the PLP and a check on the power of the Leader. The election failure wasn’t Miliband’s alone and people are angry at the suggestion it was, added to this was the PLP’s offer of continuity via the three other candidates and their reaction to Corbyn’s nominators when he got on the ballot and began to win.

@mat good for you for finding something good to say about Liz, she is more complex than many of her ilk, but for most of us it’s the economy stupid. Perhaps Jeremy could offer her defence (without Trident), or local government. The increasing demonisation of the "other" doesn’t auger well for reuniting the party after the leadership election, whether it’s calling them Tories, entryists or just new; to me the biggest challenge is to offer the new joiner’s a worthwhile role. That includes listening to what they want. There are three candidates and many MPs who don’t yet seem ready for that.