Saturday, August 31, 2019

Good luck comrades


Since it took me twenty minutes the other day to manage a five minute walk round the block I am not one of the hundreds of thousands demonstrating against the suspension of Parliament today, but I am pleased and proud to see the scale of the opposition which is being expressed around the country.

Johnson’s plan is clearly to set things up for a General Election in which he will seek to stand for “people” against Parliament – but the actual mobilisation of the people is taking place in opposition to his Government.

This mobilisation offers the possibility of carrying forward the momentum of opposition to prorogation into support for Labour’s socialist policies in a General Election (and beyond that, into the mass popular mobilisation which will be necessary if a socialist-led Labour Government is to be defended for long enough to be able to do any good).

Labour politicians calling for support for today’s protests are doing exactly the right thing, as are the Labour Party members who are – as I write this – in the streets of towns and cities up and down the country.

Johnson’s audacious move in announcing the prorogation of Parliament won’t be the last move from this reactionary Government, which is aiming at the twin goals of a hard Brexit and a Tory majority in Parliament – and we need to be prepared to respond with similar audacity and with agility if we are going to defeat our enemies.

The movement which has arisen in response to Johnson’s announcement is only beginning to unfold. Labour Party activists can neither predict nor direct how the movement will develop – but we can do all we can to win the respect, and therefore assume the leadership, of this emerging movement.

To win respect we must show respect – and we cannot build unity by lecturing any of those who are coming out on to the streets. EU flags may – in truth – be as irrelevant to the needs of the moment as SWP placards, but those who turn up with either are an audience for our views. Whilst the movement which is developing is (unavoidably) opposed to Brexit no one prepared to defend democracy can be (or will be) turned away.

The anger which has been sparked by the undemocratic Tory manoeuvre could now be focused into support for an alternative (Labour) Government (and beyond that for social transformation and constitutional change) – or it could dissipate and presage no more than a decade of defensive struggles against the majority Tory Government that is Johnson’s central objective.

Congratulations to all those protesting today. This is only the beginning.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Politics is not a spectator sport - it is up to us to defend democracy


Politics is not a spectator sport. The Government intend to obstruct Parliamentarians seeking to avert a “no deal” Brexit – for which no one voted.

The objective of the most reactionary Government of our lifetimes is to extract the UK economy from the European Union in order to find a new role, subordinate to Trump’s USA, as a low-tax, low-wage, low-regulation haven for global capital.

This presents all manner of challenges. Those MPs who have spent the last three years polishing their anti-Brexit credentials will need to decide whether to support a motion of no confidence before the Government can achieve its goal.

Liberals and Tory “rebels” will have to decide whether their opposition to a socialist-led interim Government is more important than their opposition to a “no deal” Brexit.

Labour MPs (and former Labour MPs) who – mistakenly – believe in “honouring the result” of the 2016 referendum will have to choose between petty nationalism and loyalty to the Party which made them.

However, this is not simply a matter for MPs. Parliamentary democracy does not exist because of things which were said or done in the Palace of Westminster.

Parliamentarians did not create our Parliamentary democracy, and cannot be relied upon to defend it.

Our ancestors fought for democracy, at Peterloo, and in the struggles of the Chartists and Suffragettes.

What we need from our Labour Party and movement (which is far far more than our representation in Parliament) is not simply a motion of no confidence in Johnson’s illegitimate Government, but a mass mobilisation – on the streets – in defence of democracy.

This is about much more than the UK’s membership of the EU – this is about defending democracy in order to be able to defend the interests of our people. If we haven’t heard a clear call from the top of the Party and the trade unions for a mass mobilisation within days it will fall to local Labour Parties and trade union branches to mobilise our members.

Politics is far too important to be left to politicians.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Labour Party members should choose Labour Party candidates - now


With a General Election on the way there is controversy surrounding the selection of Labour candidates in seats where we expect to win. Even Dave Prentis has got in on the act.

There is something more than a little unappetising about how much disputes about the selection of candidates in winnable seats, which are essentially contests about individual political careers, take on the misleading appearance of disagreements about political principle, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon.

It is because this is a problem with a long history that I sympathise very much with comrades in Vauxhall Labour Party who have protested that their local democratic desire for an All Women Shortlist (AWC) has been denied by the National Executive Council (NEC).

Whilst one might think that it would be an easy matter for a local Party to ensure that they selected a woman candidate if that was their wish, this would depend upon there being a selection process in which local members could express their views.

Those who remember the imposition of Kate Hoey by the NEC in 1989 will appreciate, however, why members in Vauxhall are worried that a local Party saddled with an MP they didn’t select for the past thirty years might end up in the same boat again if, as in 2017, the NEC has to take over selecting candidates when a General Election is called.

The answer to the dilemma confronting the Party, in Vauxhall and elsewhere, is surely to get on with open democratic selection of candidates in every constituency (including those with sitting Labour MPs).

For those of us who don’t have a sitting Labour MP – and are not at the top of the list of target seats – even we would still like to have a say about who our candidate will be. There are thousands of loyal Labour Party members who are preparing to spend several weeks campaigning for candidates across the whole country – not only in seats we expect to hold or gain.

In 2017 we were taken by surprise and it was understandable that candidates had to be selected – and imposed – by the NEC. Since we have been watching this General Election approach for months now it would be much less understandable if we were to deny our mass membership their democratic right to choose candidates at constituency level again.