Intrepid opponents of the Labour purge of pro-Corbyn supporters braved freezing weather to be on a lobby of the party’s National Executive Committee today. They included members of Grassroots Black Left, the Labour Representation Committee, Jewish Voice for Labour, Labour Party Marxists and Brighton and Hove Momentum. Organised by Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), the high-spirited demo sighted party leader Corbyn, his political advisor Katy Clark and Campaign for Labour Party Democracy secretary Peter Willsman, an NEC member, going into the meeting at Labour’s Southside headquarters in central London. But, mysteriously, despite the people on the lobby being outside the office block an hour before the NEC meeting started, no more members of Labour’s 39-strong ruling body, where the Corbyn-backing Left recently took control, were seen – suggesting they may have slipped into the building from a back entrance to avoid being questioned. The campaigners chanted: “Stop the witch hunts”, “End the suspensions”, and “Implement Chakrabarti now”.
Former Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker, who has been suspended by Labour for almost two years, said: “We welcome the resignation of general secretary Iain McNicol and his replacement today by Jennie Formby, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter whom LAW has critically supported. Things are definitely changing in the party, but they are not changing fast enough for a lot of members who remain suspended or expelled based on trumped-up or false charges or simply because they are active supporters of Corbyn.”
Grassroots Black Left’s Marc Wadsworth, the veteran anti-racist campaigner suspended by Labour in June 2016 whose expulsion hearing is on April 25, was on the lobby with Walker and Tony Greenstein, who, despite being Jewish, has been expelled on a false charge of anti-semitism. Wadsworth said: “We demand that the recommendations of the 2016 Chakrabarti report in respect of natural justice and due process are implemented without any further delay. The NEC’s failure to so far make the long-overdue changes has brought the party, that prides itself on upholding justice for all, into disrepute. The divisive purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters has prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while costly Labour resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change.”
Labour Against the Witchhunt welcomes the resignation of Labour Party general secretary Iain McNicol. He was directly in charge of the unelected and discredited compliance unit, which has purged thousands of pro-Corbyn members from the party.
We see his resignation very much as an important symbol and an integral part of our fight to radically transform the Labour Party, which is undergoing a long overdue Democracy Review, to which we have also contributed.
The automatic and instant expulsions and suspensions overseen by McNicol – especially those based on alleged anti-Semitism and those based on members’ alleged “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B – have brought the party into disrepute: They have prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while valuable resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change. The purging of pro-Corbyn activists has been a major stumbling block to Labour winning a general election, which requires maximum unity.
We ask the NEC – which now has a strong majority supporting the leader of the party – to implement the following changes urgently:
the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report dealing with the party’s disciplinary procedure based on natural justice and due process should be brought in:
all those summarily expelled or suspended without due process should be immediately reinstated;
an accused member should be given all the evidence submitted against them and be regarded as innocent until proven guilty;
membership rights should not be removed until disciplinary procedures have been completed;
disciplinary procedures should include consultation with the member’s CLP and Branch;
disciplinary procedures should be time limited. Charges not resolved within three months should be automatically dropped;
the first part of Rule 2. 1. 4. B (‘Exclusions’) should be deleted: it currently bars from Labour Party membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party”;
the party should reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism which, in its list of examples, conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the rights of the Palestinian people;
the party should immediately abolish the ‘compliance/disputes unit’. Disciplinary decisions should be taken by elected bodies, not paid officials.
Background: The so-called Corbyn Review aims to produce a report to the 2018 annual conference in Liverpool. It is not a blue-sky-thinking exercise, however: Submissions invited are limited to answering 32 pre-set questions on six themes with a 250-word-limit on each of the questions.
None of these deal with the compliance unit (Disputes) or the fate of expelled and suspended members per se (or, for that matter, with the important demand for mandatory selection). We have therefore picked a relatively open-ended question that we think it worthwhile filling with some of LAW’s demands.
Here is what you can do:
1. Please submit the proposal as an individual here in the section: ‘How do we get our increased membership more involved in the Party?’ Deadline is March 23.
2. Please submit it to your Labour Party branch and/or CLP and/or other party unit – and submit it again online in their name if they approve it.
Over 50 Labour members gathered in Birmingham on January 30 for the city’s launch of LAW. Jackie Walker spoke first and got straight to the point – the witch-hunt is about weakening Corbyn’s position as leader and forcing the next Labour government to the right by removing left activists. She reminded us that the ‘problem’ of anti-Semitism in the party arose from nowhere when Corbyn became leader. She explained that LAW isn’t just about defending the victims and providing solidarity: it also demands fundamental change in the party’s disciplinary processes.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi gave examples of left activists in her part of London who’ve been suspended for over a year on the basis of trumped-up charges. She urged LAW to quantify the scale of the problem by getting the NEC to reveal how many members are suspended pending a hearing, how long have they been waiting and how many automatic exclusions have occurred.
Marc Wadsworth called for the immediate implementation of the Chakrabarti report in respect of the party’s disciplinary procedures. That would introduce the concepts natural justice and due process, and enforce time limits for each stage.
The discussion that followed revealed that unjust suspensions and expulsions are nothing new in Birmingham – they’ve been going on for decades. And those responsible in the party’s regional office are still in place today.
From the floor Stan Keable explained how clause 2.1.4.B of the party rules has been used to exclude him, and how any member can be deemed to be contravening it. He also questioned the emphasis other speakers placed on legal challenges, and relying on the courts to force the hand of the Labour bureaucracy. His suggestion that instead we should mobilise the membership to challenge unjust decisions was met with applause.
The meeting concluded with a commitment to organise further LAW activity in the city.
(this appeared first as a letter in the Weekly Worker)
Around 40 supporters (and a few witches) showed up today, January 23, to help us lobby the Labour Party NEC to demand an end to the witch-hunt against left-wing and pro-Palestinian Labour members. Expelled and suspended members (amongst them Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and Tony Greenstein) spoke to NEC members and lots of press. Continue Reading “LAW’s lobby of the Labour Party NEC”→
You can pay via Paypal below or transfer the amount directly into our account (Labour Against the Witchhunt, Sort code 30-94-73, Account No 21409868). In both cases, please also send an emailtelling us that this is for badges – and let us know how many you want of each design.
I have been asked to distribute this to people and ask them to submit the following to the Democracy Review at firstname.lastname@example.org. It has to be in by Friday 12th January 4pm.
I am also enclosing the Grassroots Black Left (GBL) criticism of Momentum owner Jon Lansman’s proposals on BAME. They are very critical of the fact that Lansman has wound up all the liberation strands in Momentum and is in the process of winding up the Youth Section as well.
Here is the link to Lansman’s Open Letter with which the GBL agree. At the moment BAME is in the hands of the Right and is a rotten borough which excludes 99% of Black and Asian members of the Labour Party.
The Grassroots Black Left proposals reject the term BAME as a white term. In particular they reject the concept of ‘ethnic minority’ which is ill defined and can include people who are not oppressed. They call for a Labour Party Black Socialists group with 2 representatives, not one as Lansman proposes on the NEC. They also call for an annual not a biannual conference.
If you agree with the Grassroots Black Left Proposals can you please submit them in your own name, with your membership number attached and contact details by tomorrow January 12, 4 pm at the very latest.
Thank you, Tony Greenstein
Please accept this as my submission to the Labour Party Democracy Review. I request an acknowledgement of receipt.
According to the Guardian’s Rajeev Syal Democracy review may put Keith Vaz’s position on Labour NEC at risk, fewer than 800 members voted for Keith Vaz as the BAME NEC member in August, despite an estimated 72,000 black and minority ethnic members. This is unacceptable. As presently constituted BAME Labour appears to be a self-selecting elite club which is not open to the vast majority of Black and Asian members of the Labour Party. As presently constituted some 1% of Black and Asia Labour Party members are members of BAME Labour and yet they elected Keith Vaz as the BAME member of the National Executive Committee. It is clear that as presently constituted BAME Labour is a rotten borough. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader was supposed to lead to a wind of change, not a consolidation of the undemocratic practices of New Labour. The old undemocratic institutions of New Labour need to be overthrown. Continue Reading “Grassroots Black Left Submission to Labour’s Democracy Review”→