Whilst the press attention has been on the “dangers” of so-called Trotskyist “entryism”, a number of right-wing groups inside Labour are hard at work preparing to sabotage the Party and undermine Corbyn’s leadership. Momentum, the trade unions, and the whole Corbyn movement need to respond by getting organised and fighting for a bold socialist programme.
Labour’s right wing – or Blairites, as they no longer like to be called – have spent the last few weeks and months complaining non-stop about party members, trade unionists and youth who are set on undermining the privileges of these careerist MPs by supporting Jeremy Corbyn and raising the issue of deselection. These right-wingers have gone on and on about the organised threat from Momentum etc., and the dangers of Trotskyist “entryism”.
In fact, it is the Tory entrists who are the biggest threat to Labour, as the Establishment plots to try and rig the Labour leadership election and set in motion new attacks against Corbyn if, as even they now are resigned to accept, he wins the ballot.
A number of right-wing groups inside Labour are hard at work preparing their next steps. That the Right are seriously organised cannot now be doubted.
Further confirmation of this has come with a recent circular doing the rounds, signed by Luke Akehurst on behalf of an organisation called Labour First. This group was founded in 1988 and acted as a “pre-Blairite” (to quote the New Statesman) organisation, happy to support the ABC candidates – Anyone But Corbyn – in the 2015 leadership contest. Akehust himself was on the NEC some years ago, but has not been able to get back on, being thrashed in this year’s election by the left slate.
Here is what Mr Akehurst has to say:
“…Immediately after conference Labour First will be focussing on creating local groups in as many areas of the country as possible so that people can meet together to organise against Hard Left attempts to take over local parties and deselect MPs and councillors. As a first step we need a lot more information about who you all are, so we have the geographical and other data to create regional and local networks and networks in specific unions, socialist societies and Young Labour.”
So no attempt to hide what they see as the task ahead: exactly the same “offences” that the right wing have levelled against socialists inside the party!
Looking ahead to Labour Party conference and beyond, the letter continues:
“We are going into conference having secured a very strong position in the election of CLP delegates, and with an unprecedented level of organisation by moderates. This means we can secure good results at conference whatever the outcome of the leadership election.
“Ahead of Liverpool, the ‘Road to conference’ event series will discuss what we can expect on the conference floor, what the main issues surrounding Labour party conference are likely to be and the rule changes and policy motions we anticipate coming up. The event series is organised jointly by Progress and Labour First.”
We will return to Progress later. Meanwhile note carefully the phrase “unprecedented level of organisation”. Most of the rest of the letter is concerned with how to support the Owen Smith campaign. In truth, the “independent” Smith campaign is being completely run and funded by the right wing, who are happy for now to let Smith try and be as “left” as possible in order to win votes on the basis of a vague and ambiguous stance and a supposedly “radical” programme.
New Labour zombies
These Blairite groups – Labour First, Progress, Labour for the Common Good, and so on – are all completely tied into the Establishment and the Labour machine. The same names keep on popping up time and time again. Labour First has been overshadowed by the more high-profile Progress over the years, but given the crisis now facing the right wing in Labour, they have had to start working together in the “common” (i.e. the Blairites’ and the bureaucracy’s) interest.
These organisations are never very clear about who backs them and how they work, but it is possible to get some revealing information from the public records relating to Progress – an organisation which was called “a party within a party” a few years ago, and which used to spend its time praising all things Blair, until his name became a toxic brand for the careerists who infest its ranks.
According to the Progress website, “Progress is funded by Labour party members who support our aims and values, together with sponsorship of events at Labour party conference and advertising in our monthly magazine.”
But what does this mean in practice? Progress has a nice glossy magazine that no-one ever buys or even gets asked to buy. They are registered as being at Westbury, 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PY – an address shared with around 7,000 other companies. Presumably their working offices are elsewhere, although this is not made clear. In 2014 (the last total year available) they had £429,886 in income. They get £65,000 every three months from Lord Sainsbury. and in 2016 Lord Mandelson also chipped in with £5,500, as he seems to have done most years.
Progress has also received hefty donations in recent years – or sponsorships as they call it, often linked to Labour Party events – from such bodies as Labour Movement for Europe, BVCA, Maitland Political, O2, Portland (lawyers), Hitachi Rail Europe, TalkTalk Group, Smart Energy GB, Shawbrook Bank via Stand Agency, PwC, and so on. A number of political groups linked to Labour and some genuine charities, etc. have also acted as sponsors.
No doubt some of these were for the best of intentions as a way of getting their voice heard in the right places. However, a number of these sponsors are lobbyists. BVCA may be the British Veterinary Chiropractic Association, but on Google it comes up as the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, which the records at the Electoral Commission for Progress Ltd. confirm the donors as being.
Also of interest is that on the 20th October 2005, drugs firm Pfizer made a sponsorship payment to Progress of £11,750, along with earlier payments of £7,050 in June 2004, £15,862.50 in February 2004, and £5,875.00 in October 2003. Another drugs firm Pharmacia made similar sized donations before being purchased by Pfizer in 2003. Coincidently, Owen Smith worked for Pfizer from 2005 onwards as an advisor. It’s a small world indeed….
Puppets of the Establishment
Far from being organisations of the Labour rank-and-file, these groups are fronts for big business and the Establishment, linked to the capitalist class by a thousand threads. No wonder they never mention the word socialism. They form part of a cabal linking together the bosses, the Tory press, the Tories and Lib-Dems themselves, the state, and all the other reactionary elements of capitalist society – including the Labour bureaucracy, which has given up all pretence of being “neutral” in the current leadership election.
The vested interests who have been funding Progress (and probably all the rest) have not being doing so out of an interest in promoting informed political debate, but because they see something in it for themselves – or, more importantly, for the class they represent.
That the right wing are intending to get more organised – possibly with the aim of creating a split-away party from Labour; an SDP mark two – should act as a warning to all party members and Corbyn supporters. Left movements like Momentum can no longer afford to be naïve about this. While left activists have been out campaigning for Labour in various elections, the Right have been plotting to undermine the membership and the fight against the Tories.
We must now fight to gain control of our own organisations and clear out the plotters once and for all.