Soft-left, Remain-supporting Labour MPs such as Clive Lewis and Nadia Whittome have recently relaunched themselves as the ‘Love Socialism’ group. But behind their ‘socialist’ rhetoric lies a programme of compromise and class collaboration.
A group of Labour MPs formerly known as ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ (LSHB) have rebranded themselves as simply ‘Love Socialism’. But don’t be fooled by the name. Behind the veneer of socialist-sounding language lies a mess of failed policies, compromise, and class collaboration.
Love Socialism is a marriage of the soft side of the Corbyn-supporting Socialist Campaign Group of MPs (SCG) and the ‘pragmatic’ Open Labour faction, brought together by their shared opposition to leaving the European Union.
The name change coincides with Labour leader (and former LSHB panellist) Keir Starmer ordering his MPs to back any Brexit deal Boris Johnson brings to the Commons – assuming one is agreed at all. Apparently, now that Corbyn is out of the way, it’s time to respect the referendum result.
Lacking the Brexit drum to thump, these second referendum crusaders now hope to carve out a new niche for themselves.
In a founding statement in the Independent, leading Love Socialism members Clive Lewis (MP for Norwich South), Rachael Maskell (York Central), Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton Kemptown) and Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) set out their agenda – albeit in the vaguest possible terms.
This is not a new “faction”, they say. Nor do they seek to “deepen division”. Rather they are “[a] bridge, reaching into the heart of our party, to challenge injustice and advance progressive change”. Clear as mud.
There’s lots of waffle about “radical constitutional and electoral reform”; “deepening our democracy [and] expanding it”; and “dissipat[ing] political power and institutional constructs of wealth and privilege”.
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— Love Socialism ? (@LoveSocialism) November 27, 2020
But taking it down to brass tacks, this grouping of soft-left MPs has three main stumps.
Firstly, “a rejection of the top-down, bureaucratic, authoritarian tendencies in our movement”.
Secondly, support for internationalism and a rejection of all forms of racism – starting with “implementing the EHRC report” on antisemitism.
And finally, “respectful debate and pluralism…with other progressive movements, both inside and outside of the Labour Party”.
On their website, Love Socialism further demands an “eradication of poverty and inequality and the pursuit of public well-being”, along with “an economy that prioritises the principles of public, democratic ownership”. They also call for a solution to the climate crisis and a progressive road out of the COVID-19 nightmare.
“Our vision may be radical, but also pragmatic,” they say. “We call on those of the broad left of the Labour movement to be part of this journey with us.”
A lot of this will be music to the ears of some frustrated Corbyn supporters, tired of the constant battles within the party, and horrified at the rotten state of capitalist society, with a seemingly endless pandemic and a bumbling Tory government.
But we should not be fooled by the siren song.
The main minds behind Love Socialism are the same ‘allies’ who spent years applying pressure ‘from the left’ to force Corbyn to embrace a second referendum position. Clive Lewis even resigned from his frontbench position in 2017, shortly before a general election, to this end.
The constant toing and froing turned Brexit into a bleeding sore that eventually became gangrenous in the 2019 general election. Corbyn was forced to accept a ‘Remain in All But Name’ position, contributing substantially to Labour’s heavy defeat in Leave-voting constituencies.
Only by respecting the result of the referendum, calling for a bold programme of class-based demands, and fighting for a socialist Britain as part of a Socialist United States of Europe, could Labour have cut across the toxic Brexit divide.
Rather than taking up this demand for class unity and genuine internationalism, LSHB nailed their colours to the EU’s mast – deepening the reactionary Brexit divisions that they are now so eager to heal.
As a consequence, these Remainer MPs bear much of the blame for the callous and inept Tory administration we are currently lumbered with. They might talk about socialism, common ownership, and an end to inequality, but their actions have accomplished the exact opposite.
Siding with the witch-hunt
On the question of resisting “top-down, bureaucratic, authoritarian tendencies in our movement”, where does Love Socialism stand on the current McCarthyite witch-hunt being pursued by Keir Starmer and general secretary Dave Evans?
Looking at the MPs listed on the Love Socialism website, one can spot most of those from the SCG who chose not to sign the group’s open letter calling for Corbyn’s reinstatement in November.
Instead of supporting Corbyn, Clive Lewis and Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome, for example, condemned the former Labour leader’s (accurate) claim that accusations of antisemitism have been exaggerated and weaponised by his opponents in order to discredit him and the left.
Recently, Whittome spoke against a motion – passed by an all-members meeting of her CLP – which called for Corbyn’s reinstatement as a Labour MP, the lifting of disciplinary measures from activists, and the removal of Evans.
Whittome then went to the press claiming that the “atmosphere and tone” of the meeting was “wholly unacceptable” after one member left in protest, alleging antisemitic abuse from activists. These accusations have been firmly rejected by other members of the CLP.
Subsequently, the CLP chair was suspended. In response, Whittome merely reiterated “the importance and urgency…that the spirit and letter of the EHRC report is [sic] respected and fully implemented at every level of the party”.
Here we have a self-described socialist MP who, whilst signing up to a culture of “respectful debate”, at the same time supports censorship and persecution of party activists simply for wanting to exercise their democratic rights.
Whittome has previously made a name for herself by taking a worker’s wage as an MP, defying Starmer to vote against the Overseas Operations Bill (which seeks to let British personnel off for war crimes), and resisting forced deportations.
But her unwillingness to take a stand against the aggression of the right is a serious disappointment – one that speaks volumes about the ‘democratic’ credentials of Love Socialism.
Under the regime of Starmer and Evans, ‘top-down’ bullying of members by the Blairites has reached unprecedented levels. If Love Socialism really cared about fair and open debate, they would firmly and clearly condemn all attempts to gag and suspend party activists. Instead, they are participating in the suppression of the left, discrediting themselves in the process.
When these MPs talk about ‘pluralism’ and ‘open debate’, what they really mean is cosying up to the Labour right, and members of pro-austerity parties.
Love Socialism’s idea of pluralism can be seen in Clive Lewis’ appearance at the founding rally of the Compass Labour Network on Monday, alongside the likes of Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran. This cross-party body is being launched to promote “positive collaboration” between Labour and other parties, with the aim of forming a “centre and left alliance” to beat the Tories.
The Compass Network is itself a rebranding of the Progressive Alliance, which attempted to broker an anti-Brexit electoral pact between Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens in 2019 – with disastrous results.
Self-described ‘Marxist economist’ (and now full-time Starmer cheerleader) Paul Mason has offered his fulsome support to this initiative. This is very much in line with his bankrupt strategy of a “unity of the left and centre” to defeat the coalition of the “right and far-right.”
There is nothing progressive about the Liberial Democrats. They infamously propped up the Tories in the coalition government, helping to carry out vicious austerity measures, attacks on benefits, and hikes in student fees. And more recently, at the last election, they took on board right-wing renegades such as Chuka Umunna and Lucianna Berger with the primary aim of damaging the prospect of a Labour government.
These yellow reactionaries have also consistently lent their full support to the establishment press and Blairite wreckers who have sought to destroy the Corbyn movement that Love Socialism pretends to inherit. They represent totally alien class interests and fully support the capitalist system. This is an attempt at unity between the axe and the neck.
Love socialism? Complete the Corbyn Revolution!
The likes of Lewis and Mason talk about empowering grassroots activists, and reaching across the movement to accomplish progressive change. But rather than joining the struggle inside the Labour Party on the side of activists, they support those who are bureaucratically manoeuvring to crush the left.
In reality, they have no faith in the independent power of workers and youth. They look at Brexit and the election of Boris Johnson in horror, exclaiming that racist idiocy has taken hold of big sections of the working class, and seeking allies elsewhere.
This is why they urge ‘unity’ with bourgeois liberals and ‘moderates’, against the more openly reactionary representatives of the capitalist class. Following Labour’s defeat in 2019 on a left-wing programme, they are now searching for a shortcut; a ‘new way’ to victory.
But theirs is an old song. This kind of popular-frontism has nothing to do with socialism. Instead, this strategy has ended in betrayal and disaster every time it has been attempted in history.
The defeats faced by the Corbyn movement have seen a differentiation within it. Its softer, more liberal elements are beginning to play a reactionary role: waxing lyrical about creating a better society, while pushing pacts with our class enemies, watering down political demands, and assisting the right in suppressing members.
We must see these false friends for what they are, and continue to fight for the genuine traditions of class struggle and socialism – the only road forward for workers and youth.