As we have reported previously, over the past few months a number of Socialist Appeal supporters have been expelled from the Labour Party by the Blairite bureaucracy of the Compliance Unit. We publish here a letter from Tomasz Pierscionek, one of the expelled comrades, who outlines the scandal surrounding these manoeuvres.
As we have reported previously, over the past few months a number of Socialist Appeal supporters have been expelled from the Labour Party by the Blairite bureaucracy of the Compliance Unit. Despite repeated attempts to gain an appeal, these expulsions remain unresolved, and have now been swept under the carpet in the chaos of the right-wing coup against Corbyn. It is possible that further expulsions by the Compliance Unit will now be seen as the Labour Establishment tries to further stack the scales against Corbyn.
We publish here a letter from Tomasz Pierscionek, one of the expelled comrades, who outlines the scandal surrounding these manoeuvres. This was originally published by the Morning Star on 12th July 2016.
Before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in August 2015, amassing 59.5 per cent of the vote and beating three vapid candidates, the party’s Establishment and its allies in the media began their blitzkrieg.
Corbyn’s unexpected appearance in the leadership race caught the attention of many ex-Labour members and voters who felt their party was doomed to forever be haunted by the spectre of New Labour.
He offered these individuals the chance to experience and be part of a new politics, one that served the majority rather than the few. The hope felt towards this political paradigm shift led thousands to join or rejoin the Labour Party.
The powerful and wealthy have always had the Tories there to advocate for their interests. The rest of us have had to accept a Labour Party whose leaders have, at best, tried to face both ways at once and whose allegiance to the party’s base has only momentarily reappeared around election time.
Thousands of those who signed up last summer to become Labour Party members or supporters found their applications rejected by the “compliance unit,” with the excuse that they did not support the “aims and values of the party.”
Though it is unclear exactly how many applications were rejected, estimates run in the low thousands. It comes as no surprise that the majority of those turned away sought to vote for Corbyn.
Like many others, I first heard of the compliance unit’s existence only last summer. This unelected body, of which little seems to be known, is apparently overseen by the Labour Party bureaucracy and is entirely removed from the control of grassroots members.
Following Corbyn’s election, the compliance unit set about purging the party of a number of longstanding members, who found themselves expelled on spurious grounds with little or no right to appeal.
Unable to launch an all-out attack against Corbyn straight out due to the intense fury their autocratic methods would arouse, the Blairites and their allies sought to erode his base, tarnish his image with the support of media allies, manufacture the appearance that Corbyn could not lead the party and pretend anti-semitism was rife within Labour.
We now have a democratic crisis. Thousands of Labour Party members support a leader whom several dozen MPs and their friends are trying to oust. The guilty MPs have abandoned all trust bestowed upon them by their constituency parties and voters. If they were honourable, they would now resign.
However, their democratic deselection would now seem the only way to stop them destroying the Labour Party, with its long history of being at the forefront of progressive change. Precisely because Corbyn can offer an alternative to the status quo, one which puts to shame much of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and offers a real challenge to the Tories, the heirs of New Labour are working overtime to make their coup a success. In doing so, they betray the trust of their constituents, the hope of the working class and the magnanimity of their leader.
In May this year, I fell victim to what has been named “Operation Icepick”, in reference to Labour’s purge of the left 40 years ago.
Labour’s compliance unit sent me a letter stating that I had been expelled from the party on the grounds that I was “actively involved with and/or a member of Socialist Appeal.” Several other supporters of both Socialist Appeal and the Marxist Student Federation received virtually identical letters around the same time.
After digging out the sender’s email address — not provided in the letter itself — I requested an appeal and asked how the unit had reached its decision.
My rebuttal was simple: I pointed out that Socialist Appeal was not a proscribed organisation, nor was it a political party. It is a tendency of activists within the labour movement campaigning for socialist ideas within the Labour Party. (The Labour website itself described the party as “a democratic, socialist party.”) I added that Socialist Appeal does not campaign or stand candidates against Labour, and openly supports the aims and values of the Labour Party.
I also mentioned that a fellow member of Socialist Appeal, expelled last year, appealed and had his expulsion overturned after the appeals panel determined that there was no contradiction between his involvement with Socialist Appeal and membership of the Labour Party.
Having not received a response — as seemed to be the case for others — I sent a second message and a short while later I received a response. It stated that there was “no right of appeal against automatic exclusion,” which “is only implemented when a member has acted in such a way that is clearly and incontrovertibly in breach of the party’s rules.” It then set out the criteria for organisations “ineligible for affiliation” to Labour.
And again, another reply, this time challenging the unity’s claim that I had “clearly and incontrovertibly” broken the rules, asking for the decision to be looked at once more and noting the clear precedent of an appeal and readmission.
Another element I noted was that the rules cited by the compliance unit in its second email, regarding an organisation with its “own programme, principles and policy,” apply to a whole range of organisations within which thousands of Labour Party members are active.
Within the party there are supporters and members of organisations such as Progress, Momentum and CND, not to mention unaffiliated trade unions such as the RMT.
Are these rules to be applied to these members too? If not, then why had Socialist Appeal been singled out? And what was the “supporting evidence” the unit claimed to have to back up expelling me?
Defend Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
So far, I’ve not heard back. In the meantime, I am informed that sources on Labour’s national executive committee have confirmed that neither it nor party conference has ever proscribed Socialist Appeal or the Marxist Student Federation.
Several other recently expelled supporters of Socialist Appeal and I shall continue fighting for our chance to be back within the Labour Party.
Exactly why should loyal members be forced to leave the Labour Party, while MPs who show no support for their leader and betray their electorate with a vote of no confidence, is a mystery to me. They are far removed from the aims of Labour’s founding members and that of its current membership. It seems that brazen attacks against Corbyn in the media are likewise not grounds for expulsion.
Corbyn and his parliamentary allies are under siege but they have colossal support outside the PLP from thousands of Labour members and the leaders of the major trade unions. These individuals have fought and waited for years to have a leader like Corbyn in power and are not about to abandon the fight and surrender the working class’s only party to a small band of career politicians who have sojourned in the Labour Party for far too long and whose deselection and rapid replacement is long overdue.
We need Corbyn to lead the Labour Party and he needs trusted members like us to help him in the struggle.