Tony Greenstein | 30 August 2016 | Post Views:

Momentum’s Inertia is Turning Victory into Defeat

Jon Lansman – unelected leader of Momentum is leading the Left towards a glorious defeat

The Brighton rally for Corbyn – as with many meetings there was an overflow of hundreds outside

The unprecedented attack
on Jeremy Corbyn is not because of any perceived personal failings of his, but
because of the politics he is seen to represent.  Corbyn’s politics pose a direct threat to the
Establishment and those who own and control the wealth of this society.

Even worse he isn’t a
British nationalist.  He doesn’t go along
with militarism and flag-waving.  In not supporting
NATO and Trident, Corbyn represents a threat to the  bipartisan consensus around foreign, military
and security affairs.  The idea that we
all have common interests abroad is the basis of class collaboration between
Labour and Tory parties.  It leads
inexorably to ‘reforms’ to the welfare state in the interests of foreign
interventions and wars.  Labour was the
party, which under Clement Attlee, first developed the nuclear bomb and fought
in Korea.  That was the basis of the
first cuts in the NHS and the introduction of prescription charges, which led
to the resignations of Aneurin Bevan and Harold Wilson from Attlee’s cabinet.  Bipartisanship means that we have common
interests with the United States in suppressing popular movements abroad.
To the Labour Right, it
is an article of faith that nuclear weapons are a deterrnent.  New Labour’s support for ‘independent’
nuclear weapons was a symbol of its support for US imperialism.  In breaking from that consensus, in however timid
and hesitant a fashion, Corbyn has unleashed the fury of the British
establishment.  To question Queen and
country and to fail to bow before the monarch or sing her dirge of an anthem,
is symbolic of a lack of respect for the institutions of the capitalist state.
New Labour’s weakness
is that it hasn’t any political alternative to the Tories.  It is one reason why Owen Smith has been
parodied as Corbyn-lite.  He literally
has nothing on offer bar a second referendum on Brexit.  New Labour can offer no reason as to why
people should vote for it.  Its
‘electability’ is a myth.  In 1997 Blair
gained a  victory over a discredited and
divided Tory government, circumstances which will never repeat themselves.  In the subsequent 13 years, New Labour lost
4m votes.
The rally of ten thousand in Liverpool for Corbyn
It is Corbyn’s
radicalism which appeals to people who have become disillusioned with a
political and economic system which has long ceased to deliver for them.  A system with an enduring housing crisis that
only gets worse, an NHS that is in terminal decline and public services which
are being slashed to the bone.  There was
a time when you could take a degree and survive on the grant whilst not having
any fees to pay.  It was New Labour which
abolished grants and introduced the concept of full cost fees. 
It was New Labour that
demonised those on benefits.  They
broadcast ads which talked about ‘benefit thieves’.  Tax thieves eluded Mandelson’s attention.  The first thing they did on coming into
office was to cut single parents benefit. 
It was the cuts to benefits including the cap combined with declining incomes
and people being forced into zero hours jobs and precarious employment which enabled
Corbyn to be the recipient of that frustration last summer.  From the rallies this year it would appear
that that sentiment has not declined.
Corbyn speaking to the Brighton overflow
The same forces of
alienation that produced 4m votes for UKIP are also driving the base of
Corbynism.  Those who saw controls on
immigration as a priority were really talking about bad housing, declining
living standards and NHS cuts.  They saw immigrants
as being responsible for the decline of public service but they were and are
open to more radical solutions.
The Labour Right has
reacted with fury to the breakup of the bipartisan consensus.  New Labour signed up to free market
capitalism and neo-conservatism as much as Thatcher did.  It is not for nothing that Thatcher said that
her greatest achievement was New Labour.
With Labour Party General
Secretary Iain McNicol trying to rig the election, it is impossible to be certain
that Corbyn will win the leadership contest still less that he will win by a comfortable
enough margin.  The Right has ensured
this time around that there was only one right-wing candidate, Owen Smith.  Angela Eagle, who couldn’t even secure the
support of her own constituency, became a laughing stock when the press deserted her for an announcement from Andrea Leadsom.
Unlike last year, when
indecision reigned as to the Right’s best response to the prospect of Corbyn
winning, when just 4,000 registered voters had their votes nullified (including
me!) this time a smooth operation is underway to debar thousands of potential
voters.  There isn’t even a pretence that
this is not aimed at Corbyn supporters. 
Ron Draper the suspended leader of the Bakers Union
Smith supporter Michael Foster can get away with calling Corbyn
supporters Sturmabteilung storm troopers (SA brownshirts) in the Daily
Mail, without any consequence but if you call someone a Blairite then you are
suspended and debarred from voting.  [ex-miner John Dunn is guilty of speaking truth
to power – so the Labour Party have suspended him!
]  Ron Draper, President of the Bakers Union has
been suspended for no discernible reason other than that he is on the Left. [Long serving trade union leader banned from
Labour Leadership vote
It is crucial that
there is an instant response now to what is blatant poll rigging.  Momentum, if it has any purpose in life, should
be mobilising for demonstrations outside Labour Party HQ.  We should be going further, with
non-cooperation locally with the suspension of parties and individuals. 
We should take reports
that 100,000 people have been barred from voting in the leadership elections with
a pinch of salt.  If true then the result
may indeed be in doubt since it would mean that, including the 130,000 new
members who have already been barred, up to quarter of a million people would
have been prevented from voting as part of the Rights’ project to restore Labour
Party democracy! 
One thing the present
crisis has demonstrated is the hollowness of the Right’s commmitment to
democracy.  The present system of
elections replaced the electoral college because the Right wanted to free the
Labour Party from union influence.  It
was the Right who campaigned on one member one vote. They believed that the
rank and file membership of the Labour Party would support a continuation of
the Blair project.  This has proved to be
a fatal miscalculation.
But we should be under
no illusion.  If 80% of those who have
been deprived of a vote are supporters of Corbyn, then a decisive victory may
be a steep hill to climb.  The Court of
Appeal’s decision to overturn the judgment of the High Court and
bar new members voting, was an overtly political decision.  It accepted the rationale of McNicol that
there was a genuine fear of people having joined solely in order to vote,
despite the fact that noone in January 2016 foresaw that there would be another
leadership election a year after the last one. 
The decision to accept that the Right’s bogus fears of entryism outweighed
the contractual entitlement of members who had joined, reflected the concerns
of the political establishment at the loss of a safe and reliable second party
of capitalism.
Ignoring members
contractual rights, the Court of Appeal held that the NEC’s right to freeze the
date of eligibility to vote in the elections could be backdated.  Normally the word ‘freeze’ is understood as keeping
something as it is.  Backdating it flies
in the face of the commonly understood meaning of the word.
If we assume that even
the best attempts of McNicol and Tom Watson MP to rig the elections are
insufficient and that Corbyn wins the leadership election against Corbyn, the
question is what next?
If Corbyn does not win
at least 60% vote of the vote, despite the widespread suspension of members and
the mass removal of members’ rights to vote, then any victory is going to be
treated by the Right and the mass media as a defeat.  Even if Corbyn does win more than 60% of the
vote, one thing is certain and that is that the Right are not going to accept
the election result.  To Progress and a majority of Labour MPs, the
leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would be illegitimate even if he
gained 99% of the vote. 
Despite the attempts
of Owen Smith to portray himself as Corbyn lite, there is no possibility of any
compromise between Corbyn and his detractors. 
The belief of the leadership of Momentum that they can appease the Right
if they whisper the words ‘unity’ long
enough is delusional.  It is an act of
self deception.  No strategy for victory by Corbyn and his supporters is feasible or
practical if it is based on the Right seeing reason or accepting the democratic
decision of the membership.
majority of the PLP will never accept Corbyn’s leadership.  The only thing they will understand is
deselection.  The redrawing of the
boundaries provides an ideal opportunity to be rid of Labour’s Tories.
There is a fundamental
political gulf between what Corbyn represents and people like Hilary Benn. At
the heart of Corbyn’s anti-austerity programme, however it is dressed up in
soft keynianism, lies a direct challenge to the market economy and those who
own and control the vast majority of wealth in this society.  Corbyn represents the movement to reverse the
transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich that began with the age of
Thatcherism and continued under Blair and Brown.  It raises the question of socialism – is production
to be for need or for profit?
The most important
social questions are those of housing and the NHS.  It is here that the bankruptcy of the market
is starkest.  We cannot solve the
question of housing need and homelessness via the market.  Rent controls and security of rent are essential
mechanisms to ensuring that housing is no longer seen as an investment
opoprtunity.  Social need rather than profit
poses a direct threat to those who have made their fortunes out of a booming
housing economy.  It also makes sense
economically.  Investment in land is an
absurd waste of resources.  There is no .increase
in productive capacity.  The swing in property
prices poses a direct threat to financial stability.
Support for the
‘special relationship’ with the United States is one reason why support for Israel
and opposition to ‘anti-Semitism’ has been so prominent in the attacks on
Corbyn.  Support for Israel and Zionism has
been a litmus test of adherence to the Blair/New Labour Project.  Opposing ‘anti-Semitism’ allows our rulers to
dress up their support for war and terror abroad in the language of
anti-racism.  Like the British in India, New
Labour doesn’t rationalise imperialism in terms of plunder and exploitation but
as one of civilisation and anti-racism. 
Corbyn’s past history, however much he has rowed back on it, has become
a lightning rod for attacks on his leadership. It matters not one jot how many
times Corbyn rebuts allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ nor however many inquiries
he sets up into a non-existent anti-Semitism, his critics will not be silenced.  The ‘anti-Semitism’ of the Zionists is not
the same anti-Semitism that most people understand as anti-Semitism. [Daily
Mail, 7.8.15. EXCLUSIVE: Jeremy
Corbyn’s ‘long-standing links’ with notorious Holocaust denier and his
‘anti-Semitic’ organisation revealed
].  Nor was it just the right-wing press which indulged
in this act of political defamation.  The
Guardian and Jonathan Freedland, were foremost in the ‘anti-Semitic’ attacks on
Corbyn. [see Labour and the left have an antisemitism
Anti-Semitism functions as an false, establishment
anti-racism.  Jews in Britain today are
not under attack, they do not suffer economic discrimination, low wages or
state racism such as police racism and deaths in custody.  British Jews are White.  Geoffrey Alderman, a Jewish
Chronicle columnist observed that British Jews had, by the 1960’s moved
decisively into the Conservative camp.  By
1961, more than 40% of Jews were located in the upper two social classes
compared to less than 20% of the general population. [The Jewish
Population in British Politics, p. 137, G Alderman, Clarendon Press, 1983].  William Rubinstein, the former President of the Jewish Historical
Society, wrote of: ‘the rise of Western
Jewry to unparalleled affluence and high status’
which ‘has led to the near-disappearance of a Jewish proletariat of any
size; indeed, the Jews may become the first ethnic group in history without a
working-class of any size.
’ [W.D. Rubinstein, ‘The Left, the Right and the
Jews’, p.51, Croom Helm, London 1982]. 
In what way then are Jews oppressed in this society?
Anti-Semitism is confined to the fascist
margins.  Ironically the fascists aren’t
considered anti-Semitic because they are pro-Israel!  In Israel’s anti-Semitic friends Ruth Smeed,
spokesperson for the Board of Deputies of British Jews admitted that ‘‘The BNP
website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than any of
the mainstream parties in its support of Israel’. [The
, April 10th 2008]
Anti-Semitism as
traditionally understood is hostility, violence, hatred and stereotypes of Jews.
This anti-Semitism does not concern supporters of Israel.  Zionism has never had any problem working
with anti-Semites since they both accept that Jews don’t belong in non-Jewish
society.  One of the main protagonists in
the battle to prove that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic has been the Jewish
Chronicle and its editor, Stephen Pollard. 
Pollard is a member of the cold-war Henry Jackson Society 
In 2009 the
Conservatives left the pro-federalist Christian Democrat group in the European
Parliament for the Eurosceptic far-right European Conservatives and Reform
Group.  This group was chaired by Michal
Kaminski, of Poland’s Law and Justice Party. 
Kaminski in his earlier life had been a member of a neo-Nazi group.  Pollard had no problem defending Kaminski
from accusations of anti-Semitism.  He
wrote that Poland’s
Kaminski is not an antisemite: he’s a friend to Jews
In 1941 hundreds of Polish Jews were burnt
alive in a barn in the village of Jedwabne, not by the occupying Nazis but by
fellow Poles.  This was the subject of a
book by Polish-Jewish historian Jan Tomasz Gross  [Neighbours: The Destruction of the
Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland
May 2000]  The
book caused a far-reaching public debate that split public opinion. [The Legacy of Jedwabne]
In July 2001 on the 60th
anniversary of the massacre Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski apologised
on behalf of the Polish people for what had happened.  A memorial was erected in Jedwabne.  Kaminski led the campaign against the
memorial and apology and suggested that it was the Jews who should apologise!
For Pollard and the Jewish Leadership
Council (a Zionist body then consisting of large Jewish capitalists), even mild
criticism of David Cameron for his support of Kaminski was outrageous.  [Leaders
split over David Cameron’s Euro allies
What concerns the
Zionists who have led the bogus campaign against Labour Party ‘anti-Semitism’ is
opposition to Zionism, what they call ‘new anti-Semitism’.  According to this redefinition of anti-Semitism,
Israel is the ‘Jew among the nations’.
It would have been
simple to put an end to the lie of Labour Party anti-Semitism if Corbyn had
declared that he opposed both anti-Semitism and attempts to portray supporters
of the Palestinians or anti-Zionists as anti-Semitic.  Instead Corbyn prolonged and continues to prolong
the campaign by accepting that it has substance.  Everytime he opens his mouth and declares
that there is an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour Party he makes a rod for
his back.
Strangely despite the consensus
about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, there are virtually no examples of
this phenomenon.  Jewish philosopher
Brian Klug, summed up this bogus campaign against ‘anti-Semitism’ when he said,
in a lecture in the Jewish Museum in Berlin that, ‘a label can turn into a libel when it is
pinned on the wrong lapel. Antisemitism has rightly been called a ‘monster’
false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too.  For all these reasons and more, the word
matters a great deal.’

After the leadership election
Of one thing we can be
certain and that the Right will refuse to accept a Corbyn victory.  There is no possibility that they will accept
the validity of the election.  What form
this will take at this point is difficult to know.  There was talk of forming a breakaway group
in Parliament under the label of the Co‑op Party.  That appears to have been scotched.  There is a strong possibility that New Labour
will form a separate group in Parliament. 
What should our response be?
We should recognise
that Hilary Benn, Caroline Flint and their co-conspirators are closer to the
Conservative Party than they are to the Left of the Labour Party.  Whatever minor disagreements they have with
the Tories, they are as nothing compared to the chasm between themselves and socialists
in the Labour Party.
Corbyn will have even
less time or space for manoeuvre than he did this time last year.  If Corbyn is to retain the leadership of the
Labour Party in the face of an all out attack from the Right, a number of
things are essential. 
Firstly it is crucial
that Corbyn begins to act as a leader of the Labour Party.  That means we have to put an end to a
situation where the unelected civil service of the Party, represented by Iain
McNicol spends its time plotting against the elected leader.  At the moment Corbyn is in office but not in
power.  Iain McNicol has to go along with
the Compliance Unit.  Corbyn should have
learnt this from his mentor Tony Benn. 
To fail to control the civil service is to fail.
Secondly it will be
impossible to win over at least half of the PLP.  Some people will make their peace with the Left
but there are those who will never reconcile themselves to the Left such as
Chuka Ummuna and John Woodcock. 

Momentum Cowardice
When I stewarded the
Corbyn rally in Brighton we got instructions from Momentum not to mention the
word ‘deselection’ if we were interviewed by the press.  This has to cease.  Changing the composition of the PLP is vital
to the success of the Corbyn leadership. 
Far from being ambivalent about deselection a democratic Momentum has to
embrace the need to change the composition of the PLP.  MPs have to reflect and act as the instrument
of the Party.
The second step is for
the Left to become organised.  Momentum must
become democratic and have a life of its own. 
It has to be taken out of the hands of Jon Lansman and ex-public
schoolboys like James Schneider.  At the
moment it is a phone bank organisation that organises large rallies.  Rallies are what dictators not democrats do.  At the moment Momentum sees its role as holding
the left back, not mobilising it.  It acts
as Corbyn’s cheerleader, fostering a cult of personality whilst heading towards
a catastrophic defeat for the Left in the Party.  If Momentum doesn’t democratise, it will be
necessary for the left to form other organisations 
The unelected
leadership of Momentum is paralysed by indecision.  In Sheffield when Corbyn spoke, the local
group was told not to even have a stall at the rally.  They ignored the instruction, had a stall and
recruited 100 members and raised £600.
Momentum should be organising
a mass campaign against the gerrymandering of McNicol and Watson.  That includes court action and also
demonstrations outside Labour Party headquarters and MP’s offices.  The proposed national conference of Momentum must
be brought forward from February to October or November.  Corbyn may not be leader by February unless
the Momentum organises.  The present
leadership of Momentum operates by way of patronage and school chumminess.
We should oppose this personality
cult around Corbyn.  He is a human being
with all the frailties of a human being. 
He is widely admired and quite rightly so for his long period of
opposition to war and Blair.  His refusal
to be corrupted and the fact that he was almost alone in being untainted by the
expenses scandal, but he is fallible. 
Corbyn’s walking out
of the NEC once he had got on the ballot paper and failing to notice the
proposal on the agenda to bar 130,000 members from voting was a catastrophic mistake.  There is clearly an element of truth in the
criticism Corbyn’s inability to get on top of policy and organisation.  We should ourselves be critical, not in order
to destroy someone as the Right desires, but in order to spread the collective
weight of responsibility.  Corbyn has
surrounded himself with a group of advisors led by Seamus Milne whose advice
has been lamentable.  They have served
him ill. 
One failure is not to
respond to media attacks and try and ignore them.  One thing New Labour got right was their
instant rebuttal unit.  Don’t let lies
build up momentum.  Deal with them at the
time.  Corbyn also has to shape up and
become more aggressive and determined.  Corbyn
admires Harold Wilson, When Wilson was faced with rumours of a coup and plots before
he became Prime Minister he told the Labour Party conference that people had
been asking what was going on:  ‘I’m
going on’ was his response.  That should
be Corbyn’s response too. 
There seems to be a
woeful lack of preparation for Prime Minister’s Question Time.  It was predictable that Cameron would welcome
Labour infighting and attack Corbyn remaining as leader.  It wouldn’t have taken much to have retorted
that an attack from Cameron was proof positive that his decision to stay was
the right one.  
Supporters of Corbyn
comprise a large range of the Left.  It
is an alliance that may succumb to war weariness.  Momentum has to show that there is a path to
victory, that change is possible and that those who stand in the way, the
dinosaurs of the PLP will be relegated to history.  Deselection has to be adopted as a weapon in
the battle to change the Labour Party.
Policy is still an
area where the present leadership is, to be blunt, woeful.  There still has not been a housing programme,
with a clear call for rent controls, security of tenure and an end to the right
to buy.  Simple and popular demands.
Nationalilsation of
the utilities has dropped off the agenda despite it being extremely popular
since fuel poverty is a real issue as are water bills.  The crippling debt that the NHS faces because
of the PFI scandal brought about by New Labour should be met with a
determination to reverse this theft of the nation’s resources.  There should be a statutory reversal of the
unfair and one-sided contracts that New Labour signed.  It won’t be popular with the rich and
powerful and goes against the grain of the capitalist law of contract but if
the banks and privatisers can buy national assets on the cheap they can be
bought back again cheaply.
Corbyn’s proposals for
rail privatisation are completely bonkers. 
To wait till the current contracts mature will take 15 years.  If a Labour Government is to have any
momentum it has to nationalise rail in one go, like the Attlee government
did.  This means minimal compensation to
the rail companies and immediate nationalisation.  It is only possible to overcome the
fragmentation of rail if it is nationalised as a whole, not piecemeal.
Without boldness and a
determination to begin deselection and take the fight to the Right there will
be an increasing demoralisation in the ranks of the Left.  Corbyn’s supporters are not an
undifferentiated mass.  Those who put
their hope in him will, sooner or later, succumb to the argument that Corbyn
cannot win a general election.  Of course
we all know that the policy of the Right is to secure defeat rather than
victory under Corbyn which is why appeasing the Right is pointless and
counterproductive.  The only way Corbyn
can become Prime Minister is to serve notice on his opponents and their paymaster
Lord Sainsbury, that it is time they departed for another party.  Then and only then will the Left in the
Labour Party be able to organise for victory.
Tony Greenstein

[1]           What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Antisemitsm’? Echoes of shattering glass, “Antisemitism in Europe Today: the
Phenomena, the Conflicts” 8–9 November 2014

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