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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Unite and organise for Labour

by New Worker correspondent

JUST OVER 100 years ago, at the second Congress of the Communist International, Lenin characterised the British Labour Party as “a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie”. That was not just an accurate description of the situation in 1920 but was a brilliant prophecy about the situation in 2021.

Many Labour Party members, who are by no means Marxists, are coming round to the view that the Sir Keir Rodney Starmer, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, Queen’s Counsel and Member of Parliament, is not best suited to lead the party – although in his defence he perfectly matches Lenin’s description of the very model of a modern Labour leader.

At a time when opposing the Tory Government should be as easy as shooting a barn door, Starmer is way behind in the opinion polls. But as Leader of the Loyal Opposition, Starmer has not done much actual opposing beyond suggesting that Boris Johnson should have done on Monday what he did on Thursday.

On Monday calls were made for an urgent special conference to be held online. A new Reclaim Democracy, Recall Conference (RDRC) campaign was launched in protest over motions being suppressed and members being suspended. Other contentious issues include Starmer’s hiring Assaf Kaplan, a former Israeli ‘cyber spy’, to monitor the Labour Party’s internal opposition.

Momentum and other groups say Clause VI of Labour’s constitutional rules gives the NEC the power to recall conference before September, which could make this a reality.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it supports an immediate conference to “address the party’s glaring crisis of policy, party democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of discussion”.

Unite the union has deplored Starmer’s plans to sack the party’s community organisers recruited by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BAFWU) is also presently consulting its members about the wisdom of continuing its affiliation to the party by asking the question: “Who Exactly Are Labour Representing?” A sensible enough question. The BAFWU cites Labour’s recent position on the “Spy cops” Bill and for being biased towards landlords instead of tenants.

The union mentions it has “been involved with representatives of the Labour Party across three centuries” from 1893, and that it “also worked very closely with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in helping to shape Labour Party policy”. They could also add that it worked with Labour leaders such as Ramsay MacDonald and Hugh Gaitskell, so you have to take the rough with the smooth. Holding a perforated affiliation form for ease of tearing up whenever you lose a few votes in a row is not a very convincing stance.

For unions even to contemplate disaffiliation is simply music to the ears of the right wing, who aim to reduce the influence of unions and the working class in the party.

Although a knee-jerk reaction to Starmer and his ilk is understandable, the example of transport union RMT should be examined.

During the reign of Tony Blair, it deliberately got itself expelled from the Labour Party by allowing some branches to affiliate to the tiny Scottish Socialist Party shortly before that organisation devoured itself in a colourful split over its leader’s recreational activities.

Also unimpressed by Starmer are two Labour Party Black groups who say they are on “a campaign strike”, claiming Starmer has failed to “tackle anti-Black racism and Islamophobia” in the party. Grassroots Black Left and Labour Black Socialists are calling on supporters to boycott campaigning. Both groups claim that they have reached “breaking point” with Sir Keir for pushing “issues of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia … way down the pecking order” according to Battersea & Wandsworth Labour Councillor Maurice McLeod, who said: “We’ve just got to a breaking point where members have said look no, we need to say this and we need to say it publicly.” Andrea Gilbert, a woman’s officer in the same borough’s Labour party, described Starmer as “an absolute shambles when it comes to racism”.

There is plenty of left opposition to Starmer, but it needs to be effectively united and organised.