In what has been dubbed the “biggest leak of confidential files in British political history”, recently-released four-part Al Jazeera documentary The Labour Files provides damning evidence of the Labour right wing’s purge against the left.
Starting from Jeremy Corbyn’s election as party leader in 2015, and continuing up to the present day, this explosive series explores the many methods used by the establishment to discredit Corbyn and the movement behind him.
Most notably, the documentary shines a light on the right wing’s pernicious and cynical use of identity politics as a weapon to attack the left – a strategy that the ruling class continues to pursue today.
Presenting evidence and testimony from a range of sources and insiders, The Labour Files confirms the analysis that Socialist Appeal – the Marxist tendency in the British labour movement – has consistently put forward in relation to Labour’s civil war, and the rise and fall of the Corbyn movement.
It shows the real role of Starmer and the right wing, as conscious agents of the ruling class inside the Labour Party. And it proves that the witchhunt against the left had nothing to do with rooting out antisemitism, and everything to do with expunging socialism from the party.
The second episode in particular, named The Crisis, provides a paper trail of evidence showing the right wing’s campaign of manufactured antisemitism claims against the left.
One such example is that of Euan Philipps, from ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’, who was revealed to have been putting in false complaints of antisemitism under the pseudonym ‘David Gordstein’.
Another scandalous incident shows how the Labour right wing were willing to get into cahoots with the far-right English Defence League in order to harass pro-Corbyn Jewish members of the party.
The reason that the right wing has the confidence to act so ruthlessly in this fight is that they have behind them the support of the bosses and billionaires, who will use any means necessary to rout the left.
The aim of these gangsters has been clear since the beginning: to smash any left-wing elements; restore the party to the grip of the right wing; and return Labour to being a ‘safe pair of hands’ for capitalism once again.
For most viewers, The Labour Files is unlikely to tell them anything they didn’t already know. Much of the evidence provided in the documentary merely corroborates what has already been uncovered by the infamous #LabourLeaks report, and more recently by the Forde inquiry.
Nevertheless, left-wingers watching this series will no doubt feel vindicated; reassured to hear further confirmation that they were actively gaslighted and harassed by the right wing for years.
But the revelations provided by The Labour Files aren’t just of historic interest. The lessons from these events also have enormous importance for activists in the labour movement today.
After all, the methods outlined in this latest documentary aren’t just isolated within the Labour Party.
This isn’t the first time that identity politics have been used as a weapon to attack the left in the labour movement – and it won’t be the last,
More recently, we can see that the same tactics for crushing the left have also been attempted inside the trade unions.
Blocked on the political plane, and facing a deepening cost-of-living crisis, workers are increasingly turning to the industrial front. This has served to push the unions to the left, and bring a new militant layer of activists to the fore.
At the same time, in unions that have been dominated by right-wing bureaucracies, these grassroots activists have come into conflict with the old apparatus – just as rank-and-file Labour members clashed with the officialdom and apparatchiks at party HQ.
These unaccountable bureaucrats enjoy significant perks and privileges from their positions, and would rather jump into bed with the bosses than support the workers they claim to represent. They fear nothing more than a genuine leftward shift that would threaten their position.
Of particular focus for these attacks was the democratically-elected president of the union, Paul Holmes, who was targeted by the right wing for leading the charge of the grassroots’ attempts to transform Unison into a fighting weapon for its members.
Drawing straight from the Labour right’s handbook, the Unison bureaucracy joined forces with the employers to carry out a ruthless operation of slander and victimisation against the left majority on the NEC, and against Paul Holmes.
As part of their campaign in Unison, the right wing cynically leant upon the committees of certain self-organised groups – such as those for black or disabled members – in order to baselessly accuse the left-led NEC of ‘white privilege’ and other forms of bigotry and discrimination.
The similarities with the Labour civil war are clear. There, the right wing enlisted the services of self-proclaimed representatives of the Jewish community, such as the Jewish Labour Movement, in order to whip up this antisemitism hysteria against Corbyn and his supporters.
In Unison, meanwhile, the right wing has relied on careerists committees that are completely divorced from the lives and interests of ordinary members – black and white; male and female – in order to sling mud at the left.
Unfortunately, as was the case in Labour, the machinations of the bureaucracy proved to be highly effective.
The left majority on the NEC, assisted by the capitulations to identity politics by groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, completely gave in to these accusations, offering all manner of concessions in a futile attempt to appease the right.
This was precisely the outcome in the Labour Party.
Rather than boldly and politically responding to the false claims of antisemitism – and coming out with a clear class position that would cut across all the lies and smears, explaining the capitalist interests served by their accusers – the ‘lefts’ prostrated themselves in front of the right, accepting these trumped-up charges and naively holding out an olive branch.
For example, the left believed that the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism – which conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism – would be enough to get the right off their back and end the whole debacle.
Instead, such compromises only intensified the attacks, prompting a fresh round of apologies. Weakness only invited further aggression.
As has been shown time and time again, the right wing are rabid and ruthless. They will stop at nothing to destroy the left and defend their paymasters in the establishment. Attempts to reconcile with these scoundrels can end only in utter defeat and demoralisation for the left.
This is exactly what happened with the Corbyn movement. As a result of their timidity, the left was purged from the party, and the right now sits firmly in control.
And it is exactly what has happened inside Unison, where the bureaucracy has safely neutered and collared the ‘left’ majority on the NEC.
The woolly, weak politics of the ‘lefts’ makes identity politics a particularly poisonous weapon in the arsenal of the ruling class.
The establishment knows that these pessimistic layers have no fighting perspective, programme, or strategy, and will therefore immediately buckle under pressure.
This demonstrates the real lesson of the Corbyn movement and The Labour Files: the need for a bold, determined leadership – one that will take a clear class position, and stand firm in the face of the belligerence of the bosses and bureaucrats.
Only on this basis can the labour movement be transformed into a truly fighting force, free from the agents of capital that wish to derail workers’ struggle at every opportunity.
Only with fighting socialist leadership can we cut across the lies and smears that will be thrown at the left, as the ruling class attempts – like King Canute – to hold back the rising tide of class struggle.