The scandalous expulsion of left-wing film director Ken Loach has provoked widespread anger amongst Labour’s rank and file. The fight against the purge must be both a struggle to clear out the right and a struggle for bold socialist policies.
Last Saturday, 14 August, Ken Loach announced via Twitter that he had been expelled from the Labour Party.
This shameful move by the Labour right wing follows the recent NEC decision to proscribe Socialist Appeal and other left-wing groups; and the expulsion of leading left activists, such as Ben Gliniecki of the Socialist Appeal editorial board.
In a series of tweets, the esteemed film director stated that:
“Labour HQ finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party, as I will not disown those already expelled. Well…I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge. There is indeed a witch-hunt…Starmer and his clique will never lead a party of the people. We are many, they are few. Solidarity.”
‘I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge. There is indeed a witch hunt….’ KL
— Ken Loach & Sixteen Films (@KenLoachSixteen) August 14, 2021
This disgraceful decision by Labour’s McCarthyite witch-hunters saw an outpouring of anger across social media. And while August is usually a quiet time for labour movement meetings, this has not stopped grassroots activists from making their voices heard.
There has been a wave of solidarity for Loach, who is well known for his socialist views.
Brighton Pavilion CLP took the lead straight away, passing an emergency motion – by 27 votes to 4 – condemning Loach’s expulsion on the same day that the news broke.
No hanging around – Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party has just passed an emergency motion 27-4 to condemn the explusion of @KenLoachSixteen and express solidarity with the filmmaker. First of many party units no doubt
— Stephen Smith (@SteveNickSmith) August 14, 2021
Following this, members of Bath CLP (Loach’s own), put out an open letter of solidarity. They also call on their local party executive committee – now controlled by the right, following a stitched-up AGM – to organise an emergency meeting for ordinary members to be able to discuss the situation. So far their request has been ignored.
Last night, Louth and Horncastle CLP also unanimously passed a motion of solidarity with Loach, correctly saying that “to expel such a fine socialist who has done so much to further the cause of socialism is a disgrace”, and demanding his immediate reinstatement.
Ken Loach has since published an open letter, rightly saying that “Starmer and his allies have declared war on the left”, and urging “all those who consider themselves in leading roles on the left of the party to speak out publicly…and do all in their power to oppose them”.
No room for Ken Loach in Keir Starmers Labour Party?
No room for opposing Tory Corruption?
No room for Socialists?
No room for Unity in Starmers Labour?
No Room for Starmers Manifesto promises?(Lies?)
No room for the Forde Inquiry?
No room for Solidarity?#IStandWithKenLoach pic.twitter.com/HALoBv2VhE
— Alan Kelly (@AlanRedKelly) August 14, 2021
The Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) of MPs has also put out a statement calling for the reinstatement of Loach – the director of acclaimed films such as I, Daniel Blake and Land and Freedom.
The SCG highlighted the disgraceful fact that while Loach has been expelled, “Islamophobes are welcomed”.
This is a reference to the readmission of Trevor Phillips, who was previously suspended for describing British Muslims as “becoming a nation within a nation”, and for remarking on how few Muslims wear Remembrance Day poppies.
Phillips is also a senior fellow of Policy Exchange, an infamously right-wing think-tank.
Reinstate Ken Loach. pic.twitter.com/jrrmnFvlr7
— Socialist Campaign Group (@socialistcam) August 16, 2021
This whole episode sums up Starmer’s Labour Party: right-wing Islamophobes (not to mention renowned former Tories such as John Bercow) are welcomed into the party with open arms; meanwhile, lifelong socialists are booted out and smeared as racists.
The SCG’s statement also correctly states that “these attacks are aimed at demoralising and pushing socialist members away from the party”.
The Labour right wing knows that by attacking left leaders, rank-and-file members will leave in disgust and despair, demobilising the grassroots movement that was the motor force for change inside the party under Corbyn’s leadership.
Having proven so successful in this tactic, Starmer and the right wing are now using it again with Loach, expelling him for the spurious ‘crime’ of showing solidarity with other victims of the witch-hunt.
The SCG’s statement then goes on to say:
“The only way to return our socialist and internationalist principles to the heart of British politics is for Labour members to stay in the party and champion them. The socialist leadership that hundreds of thousands of you made possible need not be consigned to the past of our party. It can be the future. Let’s fight for it together.”
These left Labour MPs are correct to highlight that the battle is not yet over. Despite the exodus of members under the Starmer regime, the left still has the potential to fight back.
This much can be seen from the recent results of the elections for the Conference Arrangements Committee, which saw Momentum-backed candidates Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes narrowly win.
Elections for the Labour Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) are currently ongoing.
In terms of nominations from constituency parties, the Left slate is ahead by a significant margin.
➡️ Left Slate: 168 (71.5%)
➡️ Labour to Win: 67 (28.5%) pic.twitter.com/Wtnq4SuszO
— Stats for Lefties (@LeftieStats) July 7, 2021
This shows that the left outweighs the right inside the party, on a numerical basis. However, to realise this potential, this quantitative strength must be turned into a qualitative force – and this requires organisation and bold fighting leadership.
As the SCG comrades say – the socialist future of the party must be fought for. It is clear Starmer and the right wing will not ‘change direction’, any more than a leopard will change its spots. In fact, it is increasingly obvious that the Labour right wing would sooner drive the party into oblivion than offer any kind of meaningful socialist policies.
The Labour Party is in a severe financial crisis due to its hemorrhaging of members. But rather than address the root cause of this problem (the turn away from left-wing policies towards pro-business one), the Blairites and bureaucrats plan to ‘restructure’ the party.
Unveiled in a presentation by general secretary David Evans this week, this ‘restructuring’ will involve cutting 90 jobs. One Labour source aptly summarised the party’s internal crisis, saying “they’re trying to turn a tanker while cutting a third of the crew”.
Evan’s presentation even features incomprehensible corporate-speak: talking about adopting “a product-mindset using agile ceremonies”, which are “empowered to make decisions and encouraged to focus on rapid prototyping, deployment and iteration”.
Such nonsense sounds more like the language of a management consultancy firm than a mass workers’ party. And no doubt that is how Starmer and Evans see the party – as a reserve tool for big business, not as a weapon for the working class.
Labour Left For Socialism
It is welcome therefore to see the launch statement of a coalition of Labour left groups and trade unions, including Socialist Appeal, who are coming together to “build the resistance” to Starmer and the Labour right wing.
As a starting point, a one-day event is planned for Saturday 18 September. This will be the first in a series of events to rally the forces of the Labour left.
We believe this should be the start of a fight back to remove Starmer and the right wing, and to reclaim the party for socialism.
From Corbyn to Beckett to Loach: it is clear that the Blairite gangsters will not stop until socialist members are entirely expunged from the party. The Labour left must therefore organise and fight to drive out the right wing, and to reclaim the party for socialism.
Now is not the time to bury our heads. It is Starmer and the Blairites that are out of step with the revolutionary mood developing in society.
From attacks on wages and conditions; to housing evictions; to NHS privatisation and pay justice: the working class need a socialist Labour Party to fight back against the onslaught coming our way, as the bosses look to make us pay for their crisis.
Bold socialist policies – not meek reforms or attempts to patch up capitalism – are urgently needed.
Starmer and the right can try to expel Marxists from the party, but they cannot stop an idea whose time has come. History is on our side, not theirs. We therefore call on grassroots activists to defy the right wing, fight the purge, and join us in the fight for socialism.
The current Tory government is the most right-wing in living memory and people are suffering terribly as a result. The COVID-19 virus has made around five million people sick, put almost half a million people in hospital and led to more than 150,000 deaths in the UK. But Labour has not organised or mobilised opposition.
The people need and deserve an opposition worthy of the name. Below are just some of the pernicious government actions that Labour needs to organise around and lead opposition to the Tories:
- Britain has had one of the highest per-capita COVID death tolls in the world – plus many now suffering from long-term health problems
- The impact of the pandemic has not affected communities equally: disabled people, women, people from African, Caribbean, Asian and other racially marginalised communities, those on low incomes, older people and frontline workers have been hardest hit
- Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, enabled by draconian anti-trade union laws, and thousands more will be lost when furlough ends
- The NHS is being privatised at speed, vast sums of public money have been squandered and corruption is rife in the allocation of contracts
- The Tories are using the worst ‘divide and rule’ tactics, whipping up racism and promoting ‘culture wars’ to divert attention from their disastrous handling of the pandemic
- Climate change poses a growing and existential threat and the Tory response is pathetic
- Our rights to protest are being severely curtailed
- Undercover police are being permitted to commit crimes, including murder
- British military forces can now commit war crimes and not face prosecution.
These are just some of the many reactionary policies of the current Tory government.
Unfortunately, on almost all of these issues, Labour has not effectively opposed the Tories; on many of the issues, Labour has rather echoed the Tories’ approach, as in its racist treatment of black members and with Islamophobic and anti-traveller positions put forward in election campaigns and much more.
This has enabled most of these policies to be adopted with ease, thereby encouraging the Tories to go further to the right, deepening their reactionary offensive confident in the knowledge they will face no serious opposition.
A consequence of Labour’s failure to stand up against the Tory government has been the party’s steady decline in the polls since last summer, overwhelmingly poor local election results and huge loss of votes in three by-elections.
Meanwhile, the democracy of our own party is under threat. A growing number of local parties have been taken over by unelected officials; the Forde inquiry report has not been published; many members who have spoken out have been suspended or expelled; proscriptions have been introduced against socialist groups; Jeremy Corbyn remains without the Labour whip. As a result, over one hundred thousand members have resigned from the party over the last year.
We will not stand idly by and allow this to continue. We are, therefore, coming together in solidarity not only with the people who are being so gravely disadvantaged by this government but against the purge of the left, which is key for the Leadership to achieve its aim of reversing the socialist policies brought in under Corbyn and to make the Party a safe place for capitalism. We stand firmly against proscriptions, and stand in solidarity with every grouping that is proscribed solely for holding socialist views. We will always oppose the proscription of any groups that remain committed to supporting Labour and that do not stand or support other candidates.
As part of the ongoing fightback, a conference has been called for Labour members and activists to discuss the changes in the party that are urgently necessary and how to achieve them. The conference will be led by party members active at local and national level and by key trade unions, and organised around specific demands:
- Restoring and strengthening democracy throughout the whole of our Party
- Ending the wave of suspensions, lifting those already unjustly imposed, reversing bans and proscriptions against the left
- Committing Labour to repeal all anti-union laws, ending zero-hours contracts and “fire and rehire”, demanding fair statutory sick pay
- Ensuring that the Labour Party is actively anti-racist and supportive of international solidarity issues
- Ensuring that the Labour Party is demonstrably committed to equalities in its practice
- Ensuring that Labour becomes a place for open and respectful political discussion and learning.
- Building on, with no retreat from, socialist policies, for example as developed after 2015.
Labour must oppose the Tories and once again make the case for a socialist transformation of society. We must fight and organise to get our party back.
INITIAL SIGNATORIES SUPPORTING THE STATEMENT
Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD)
Campaign for Socialism (CfS), Scotland
Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
Grassroots Black Left (GBL)
Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL)
Labour Representation Committee (LRC)
Labour Black Socialists (LBS)
Labour Left Alliance (LLA)
Labour Women Leading (LWL)
Northern England Labour Left (NELL)
Red Labour (RL)
Socialist Appeal (SA)
Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG)