Having strengthened their grip at the recent party conference, the Labour right wing are undertaking a fresh wave of expulsions of Socialist Appeal activists. But Starmer’s purge cannot break the link between Marxism and the labour movement.
Earlier this year, on 20 July, the right-wing majority on the Labour NEC voted to officially proscribe Socialist Appeal. Now the right wing are starting to step up their witch-hunt.
Over the last week, swathes of Socialist Appeal supporters and sympathisers have received threatening letters, all of them euphemistically titled ‘Notice of Allegation’. These inform the comrades that they are being investigated for a ‘Prohibited Act’.
In all instances, the ‘Prohibited Act’ in question is simply comrades’ support for Socialist Appeal: a Marxist newspaper funded by workers and youth; written by workers and youth; and fighting for workers and youth.
Included in these letters are various pieces of evidence showing comrades’ support for Socialist Appeal. Nobody is denying this ‘crime’, however. Those targeted are proud Marxists and supporters of Socialist Appeal.
One of those to have received a letter is Socialist Appeal supporter and Labour member for 47 years Kevin Ramage, formerly of Bristol West CLP.
In his youth, Kevin was a chair of the Labour Party Young Socialists. He has been a dedicated activist for the party for decades – including as an unpaid volunteer for 11 weeks during the 2019 general election.
Despite his years of service to the movement, Kevin is now threatened with expulsion.
Responding to this attack, Kevin has highlighted the fact that the party bureaucracy is telling the accused to keep silent about their investigation. This has “more in common with Stalinism than the traditions of the labour movement”, Kevin rightly says in his reply, which can be read in full below.
Of course, unlike Stalin, Starmer hasn’t exiled left-wing members to Siberia or murdered them in cold blood. But the bureaucratic methods and arguments used are crudely similar. In fact, Ken Loach put it most succinctly when he was expelled, calling the Labour leader “Mr Bean trying to act like Stalin”.
Another member who received such a letter recently is Daniel Morley of Hackney South CLP. A loyal party member for 14 years, Daniel will now also likely be expelled.
Responding to this in a post on social media, Daniel highlights the hypocrisy of his potential expulsion, with Socialist Appeal writers being kicked out of the party, whilst Starmer faces no reprimand for scandalously writing for Murdoch-rag The Sun:
“Keir Starmer recently wrote an article in The Sun newspaper, much to the indignation of socialists throughout the country. If supporting the paper Socialist Appeal is prohibited, why is writing for The Sun – widely recognised as the most anti-working class, anti-labour movement newspaper in Britain – not?”
Spying and blacklisting
Insidiously, Starmer and his bureaucrats have also engaged in spying on members in order to conduct their McCarthyite witch-hunt, including in online Zoom meetings.
Vic Dale, for example, a long-standing supporter of Socialist Appeal and legendary party activist on the Isle of Wight for many years, has also received a letter threatening him with expulsion.
Shockingly, the evidence used against Vic is a screenshot from an open meeting about the purge of Socialist Appeal. In a dystopian twist, it seems that even talking about the purge puts one at risk of being purged!
Sadly, this method of spying on members is not new. In fact, one Socialist Appeal supporter who was elected as a delegate from his CLP to the recent Labour conference was expelled just days prior to travelling to Brighton for attending the very same online event.
Another of those threatened with expulsion is Russ Blakely. Russ is a proud Marxist, an active trade unionist, and has been a member of the Labour Party for many years.
As a construction worker, organised in Unite, Russ has suffered from the scourge of blacklisting that has plagued the industry for decades.
Russ is exactly the kind of militant worker that the Labour Party should be welcoming. But instead, having already faced the bosses’ blacklist, he is now on Starmer’s blacklist as well.
#UnitePolicyConference delegate and Socialist Appeal supporter Russ Blakely proposing Composite 15 on a new Clause 4.
This commits Unite to backing “the common ownership, under democratic control and management by working people, of the commanding heights of the economy” pic.twitter.com/KiFmICcP8N
— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) October 22, 2021
Whole groups of activists and Socialist Appeal supporters have received similar letters too. This includes a number of Labour and Momentum activists in Portsmouth South CLP, and others in Canterbury CLP.
As we said at the time, the proscription of Socialist Appeal will be – and is being – used as carte blanche to attack the whole of the Labour left. Next in line will be Momentum members, and anyone who opposes Starmer’s Tory-lite politics.
Alongside David Evans and a whole host of Blairite has-beens, Starmer and the Labour right wing are driving through a counter-revolution. Having lost control of the party under Corbyn, these agents of capitalism are maneuvering to ensure that they do not make the same mistake twice.
Unfortunately, the ease with which this counter-revolution is being carried out is down to the failure of the left leaders to stand up to these Blairite gangsters. If a determined fightback against the Labour right had been launched, then the tide could have been turned.
But the left leaders repeatedly failed to seize the initiative. And now, instead, tens-of-thousands are leaving the party, demoralised and disillusioned.
Marxism on the march
Nevertheless, Starmer’s purge cannot break the link between the Marxists and the labour movement. Already, the ideas of Marxism are gaining an echo in the trade unions.
For instance, it was Russ Blakely who recently proposed a motion on a new socialist Clause 4 at the Unite policy conference, which passed unanimously. This commits the union to supporting the nationalisation under workers’ control of the commanding heights of the economy.
This shows the appetite for Marxism and bold socialist policies in the workers’ movement, and in wider society. No matter what bureaucratic obstacles come our way, the Marxists are on march.
A reply to the GLU purgers, by Kevin Ramage
Dear comrades of the Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit
I am accused, with the threat of immediate expulsion, of supporting a socialist newspaper banned by the NEC, Socialist Appeal.
During the first COVID lockdown, as the Bristol West Constituency campaign coordinator, I initiated and produced eleven editions of an all-members’ newsletter, to maintain communication between members in those initial hard months.
Alongside this activity, I also wrote articles for the socialist press. The articles cited as ‘evidence’ of my ‘prohibited’ activity are:
i) An article reporting an action by the community union Acorn in Bristol protesting against eviction threats during lockdown.
ii) An article outlining the history of Labour’s youth movement, the LPYS, in the 1970s and 1980s.
I am proud to admit that I wrote both these articles for Socialist Appeal, a paper which is entirely financed by its readers. Can you say the same about Keir Starmer writing for The Sun?
If I am to be expelled for writing for a socialist paper, will similar measures be meted out to Keir Starmer for his shameful act?
Even though you haven’t asked me, I am pleased to confirm that in the 2019 general election I worked flat out for a Labour victory. I canvassed in Bristol West and also in the neighbouring marginal Kingswood at the start of the 2019 general election campaign. With my partner, I donated £100 to the constituency election fund. We then headed to work for four weeks as unpaid volunteers in the marginal Truro and Falmouth seat.
Will Peter Mandelson – who boasted in 2017 that he worked ‘every single day’ to work to undermine the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn – be expelled for bringing the party into disrepute?
In my twenties, I served for four years as the unpaid national chairperson of the Labour Party Young Socialists – a vibrant campaigning organisation with over 500 branches, until it was effectively destroyed by the bureaucratic measures of Tom Watson.
In 47 years’ continuous membership of the party, unlike many members of the Parliamentary Labour, I have never voted or advocated voting for any other party, and always opposed deals with other parties whose aims do not share those at the heart of the Labour Party – transforming society along socialist lines.
Let us call things by their right names: expulsions of socialists on spurious organisational grounds (I and Socialist Appeal have never stood against Labour or argued for support for other parties against Labour) are nothing less than a political purge.
This purge is because, after the fright of Jeremy Corbyn so nearly winning the 2017 general election (despite the daily efforts of right-wing Labour MPs and people like Mandelson to undermine him), the ruling class and their acolytes inside the party leadership have determined that the party has to be ‘made safe’ for capitalism, so that it can be called in as a ‘second eleven’ when this corrupt Tory government’s days are over.
But organisational measures will never overcome political ideas whose time has come.
I stand proudly as a lifelong socialist and a Marxist. Marxism has always been a component part of the traditions of the party.
This attack on Socialist Appeal is not because it is a tiny ‘sect’. If it were, there would be no point to it. No! It is precisely the opposite; it is because the ideas of Marxism – the recognition that capitalism as a system has no future to offer working people – are growing in support in all areas of the labour movement, as capitalism lurches on a world scale from crisis to crisis.
Individuals may be removed from membership. But ideas whose time has come will never be cut off from the labour movement.
Socialist Labour Party member continuously from 1974 to the present
PS: If your ‘behind closed doors’ process cancels my membership, I demand the return of the proportion of the £53 annual membership fee you accepted from me a little over a month ago.