The suspension from the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser Andrew Fisher, for tweeting joke support for Class War against prospective Labour MP Emily Benn, makes it clear what is happening. Blairites are trying to paint the mass democratic Corbyn surge in conspiratorial terms, and “criminalise” the wider left. They want to undermine the new leadership.
Emily Benn publicly supported the Women’s Equality Party, but with impunity. Insiders say some hundreds of Labour Party members or would-be members remain expelled or excluded from the patchy and partially-reversed purge during the leadership contest. At least one has been expelled since. I have received a letter from Labour’s Compliance Unit, dated 14 October, expelling me for allegedly “having been” a member of Workers’ Liberty. At least three other comrades, Labour Party members of many years standing who support the ideas of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, remain expelled from before September: Vicki Morris, Daniel Randall, and Liam McNulty. AWL is a revolutionary socialist organisation that has not stood candidates against the Labour Party in recent times and called for a Labour vote at the last general election. Under any reasonable due process, someone who has had an allegation made against them should not be summarily “punished”. The allegation should be evidenced, and the accused given both a right to hear the charges and an opportunity to respond. Not when it comes to the Labour Party’s shadowy and unelected Compliance Unit. None of us was presented with any specific allegations, let alone any evidence, or the source of the allegation. Even though the letters made no mention of a right of appeal, all four have appealed. The rule cited for exclusions was Chapter 2 clause 1.4.B, to the effect that any member “who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party... shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member.”
This rule is very vague. Any political organisation other than an official Labour group — CND? LRC? Friends of the Earth? It could not be enforced literally without mass expulsions. It therefore functions as an arbitrary, bureaucratic instrument, used for administrative exclusions on ideologically-driven grounds. Socialists who have argued and fought for a Labour vote in the labour movement have been expelled yet, for example, Frank Field publicly talks about supporting non-Labour candidates in elections (and has done so in the past), and Simon Danczuk writes a regular newspaper column attacking the party.
There is also a sound precedent for current and avowed members of AWL being accepted as Labour Party members. The Labour Party used to have a “proscribed list” of groups whose members were banned, mostly groups linked to the Communist Party. That list was abolished in 1973. The Independent Labour Party, which was a founding group of the Labour Party in 1900, split away in 1932 and contested parliamentary elections against Labour up to February 1974. In 1975, it decided to redefine itself as a “political pressure group”, but was explicit that the new ILP continued the old ILP. It was accepted back into Labour, and rightly so. It’s still around. The same approach should apply to Workers’ Liberty as to the ILP. And, for sure, no-one should be excluded for “thought-crime” of being interested in the ideas of Workers’ Liberty, circulating Solidarity, or attending discussions organised by Workers’ Liberty. The left in the Labour Party needs to stand united against the purge. We should take up a joint campaign, not only against these expulsions, but against the worrying lack of due process and selective use of administrative exclusions in the party. We should demand an end to witch-hunting and assert that the Labour Party should be open to all socialists who pledge to support Labour in present and future elections. Unless we do this all them longer-term opportunities presented Corbyn’s victory, to reforge a militant socialist labour movement will be pushed back.