Thursday 17 November 2016

Corbynism and the Socialist Party

Picked up by Howie and Coatesy after getting some coverage from the BBC and The Graun, the leadership cadre of my erstwhile comrades have formally applied to rejoin the Labour Party, and launched a campaign to gain admittance. To this end, the Socialist Party has produced the requisite round robin letter and a petition.

Admitting these folks to the Labour Party is an obviously bad idea, so I won't be repeating well rehearsed arguments. Nor is it at all likely their applications are set to get the NEC's nod. For one, they remain a separate organisation who routinely stood candidates against Labour until this year's local elections. And second, they show no intention of winding themselves up. It is then a complete waste of time. I know their campaign isn't going to succeed. The "75" know as well. Then why bother?

Exploiting the little bit of interest the media have shown in the SP since sundry rebels tried dubbing Momentum the new Militant Tendency is something any publicity-hungry organisation filled with its sense of world-historic importance would try and do. That the annual Socialism jamboree took place last weekend and the campaign's launch and attendant publicity probably wasn't entirely serendipitous. There's a bit more going on as well.

The rise of Corbynism caught the SP completely on the hop. That's nothing to be ashamed of as few others saw it coming either. Yet for the SP, events exposed how wrong their political perspectives were. While recognising there were political differences between Labour on the one hand, and the Tories and LibDems on the other, since the early 90s - coincidentally when what was left of Militant abandoned its entry work - Labour has been treated as a bourgeois party with no qualitative difference separating them from the rest. If it isn't a working class party, then it stands to reason the prospect of a new leftwing movement surging through its stagnant structures would never happen. But it happened. To re-orientate themselves and to avoid saying those fatal words, "we were mistaken", the SP have gone through the sort of grimacing contortions that make Ed Balls appear deft and light-footed. And so now they have the weird perspective that Corbynism represents the birth of a new workers party (which the SP have been agitating for for years) within a hitherto bourgeois party, thereby proving that the SP was right all along. Ho hum.

Yet the SP know it has to orient to Corbynism in some way. Hundreds of thousands of people have been politically activated, and they've passed the farsighted vanguard of the working class entirely by. For the SP, which doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast, this mass radicalisation is an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Hence why they've hung around Jeremy Corbyn rallies selling papers and getting newbies to sign their 'kick out the Blairites' petitions, but they are still spectators with no influence at all on events. Taking up the campaign to reinstate expelled socialists is designed to intersect with the justifiable anger against this summer's cackhanded expulsions, and build a periphery of SP-sympathetic folks in Labour. Who knows, perhaps a few of them would (quietly) join up as well?

The second issue the SP have got is that while they try and profit from Corbynism, they have to inoculate the organisation against it. For those comrades who joined the SP because they found Labour before Jeremy repellent, what's the point of sticking to the fringes now socialist ideas are totally mainstream? For activists who were always more interested in building a new workers party than a revolutionary outfit, they've been shown in no uncertain terms it was present all along. Those in the SP because they were the best of a bad bunch, well, there's now another option available. And those who subscribe to the word according to Ted Grant, that Marxists should go where the workers are, well, they're certainly not filling out the SP's ranks - despite their perennially upbeat official optimism. Anecdotally, there has been some leakage from the SP. We're not talking existential crisis here, but a fair few dozen long-term but not-very-well-known (at least in labour movement circles) cadre have made the leap to Labour. Whether they're individuals or "sleepers" on a quiet entry job the SP Exec only knows, but it's probably a mix of the two. For example, looking at the list of "the 75", there are quite a few naughty folks who took out Labour Party membership while remaining leading SP cadre with positions of responsibility, and subsequently got their heave-ho letters. In short, Corbynism is undercutting them. By taking a leaf out of the infant Communist Party's book and trying to wrangle an affiliation to Labour, and when they're rebuffed the eternal General Secretary can say they tried. That might not mean much to you and me, but in the emotional economy of small groups it can help keep the already-invested stay invested.

Unfortunately for the SP, it doesn't appear the campaign is going anywhere. To try and create a sense of momentum, it boasts that some 300 people have signed their petition. These include "Janice Godrich PCS President, John McInally PCS Vice-President, Fran Heathcote, Katrine Williams and Marion Lloyd PCS NEC, John Reid RMT NEC, Suzanne Muna UNITE NEC, Jane Nellist and Simon Murch NUT NEC, Ian Hodson BFAWU President". All of whom are fairly well known SP members whose names regularly show up in issues of The Socialist. Were there any real traction, we definitely would have heard about it. Instead, you are left with the impression that they're talking to no one but themselves.


jim mclean said...

They should call a 24 hour General Strike

John Edwards said...

I can't see what the Labour Party might gain from letting them in although Dave Nellist was quite a good MP and local councillor.
Did the RSL become the SP or does it still exist as a covert organisation?

John Rogan said...

Surely the whole point of this exercise is to "expose" Corbyn and his supporters as "weak" in their fight against the "Blairites".

Imagined SP CC meeting -

Taaffe - "Comrades, we must show the young workers that Corbyn represents a Left Populist Centrist tendency that is vacillating in its fight against the pro-Capitalist Blairites and will ultimately sell-out the working class.

But, we can't attack Corbyn directly as too many have illusions in him! We must place a "Transitional Demand" on him to let us back into Labour! That way, we show the Masses that it is not our fault that we are not in Labour fighting for Socialism but the fault of the Blairite Machine and (though we can't state this openly) the weakness of the Corbyn, McDonnell etc for not letting us in. Our demand to be let back in will echo throughout the Labour Movement!

Oh, btw, nothing to stop anyone sticking the boot into Jon Lansmann. He's fair game these days."