The AWL, elections and controversies

Submitted by cathy n on 20 January, 2020 - 2:02

Over the next two weeks the left wing Labour group Momentum is holding internal elections in which we are participating and we have already seen agitation focused on damaging candidates who are supporters of the AWL and other candidates with whom we have worked. What's going on?

Over the last three to four years, since the Labour Party became a hotbed of factional in-fighting, individuals and small groups of Labour Party members have from intermittently organised social media campaigns of lies and distortions against the AWL. This agitation always coincides with Labour or left elections in which either the AWL or our allies and friends are standing. It is a way of trying to smear us and those with whom we work, to try to stop people listening to, and judging us, on what we say, and as an alternative to developing political arguments to oppose us. Some of these demagogues may be vaguely against Marxism or revolutionary socialism or "Trotskyism". All of them want to protect their clique positions and potential careers in the labour movement.

Defamatory agitation against the AWL was started by Labour's right-wing as a strand in a campaign against Corbyn. In incidents such as Owen Smith trying to smear the left by accusing Workers' Liberty of antisemitism (while he was running against Corbyn for leader of the Labour Party)! But, over some years now, some on the so-called left have been just as dishonest. They have based their "baiting" on taking snippets of articles, ripping them out of context, falsely claiming those distortions represent the "real AWL" in the face of all the evidence of the millions of words we have written. In other words all of the agitation is at least garbled, and most of it extremely crude "fake news".

The clear aim of the current smear campaign, which comes from the main clique grouped in Momentum Renewal, is to use the AWL as a "chopping block" against their main opponents, Forward Momentum. "Why haven't you disavowed the AWL?" ask the Twitter warriors?

Whilst it is the case that some agitation builds on a real historical incident, it is not in reality as described in that agitation. In 2018 we reflected and produced a critical response to our actions in relation to that incident. We reman open to dialogue and discussion on any concerns or disputes about this; and we've summarised the facts here.

The allegations that have been bandied about during this election are ridiculous in the extreme and, if they weren't being used cynically, they would have the character of conspiracy theories.

One allegation says that because the 2003 AWL policy conference had a discussion on the “age of consent” this proves we are not to be trusted on the issue! Why did we discuss it? Because in 2003 the issue of child protection was in the news, because it is an important issue and because the legal framework for child protection in the UK is “the age of consent”. In 2003, among other things decided, we confirmed a long-held support for “the age of consent”.

Another thing that has been said is: "the AWL organised a conference at which the Paedophile Information Exchange turned up with at risk children". This bizarre, ludicrous, reckless and entirely made up allegation has its origin in a Facebook post made in 2016 by the Red London Facebook group. This group are Red-Brown trolls, they ran a campaign against the AWL from 2016; they are discussed in articles linked to below.

People who pass on these lies should ask themselves: where is the evidence? Of course there is none; yet putting into circulation these careless claims threatens the livelihoods of the very many AWL comrades who are school workers, health workers, community and youth workers and so on. This is a vile, anti-socialist thing to do. And this at a time when we face mass unemployment and have so much to fight for in our working-class communities.

The links below give more detailed refutations and background which we hope will provide factual clarity on any of the issues raised and explain how and why the AWL has become such a target in these and other elections. We would urge everyone interested in building a culture of democracy and pluralism on the left to read them and to contact us with any questions they have.

The basics

Who we are, what is Trotskyism, what we campaign for in the Labour Party and the unions

Current issues in the Momentum elections

Why I am standing for the Momentum NCG by Ruth Cashman.

How Forward Momentum banned me from standing by Ruth Cashman.

Undemocratic backroom politics in Momentum Issues in Forward Momentum.

Momentum and clique politics

The inverted pyramid of fake politics. How the method of slander on social media has infected the left. How a 2003 article condemning child abuse was "reinterpreted" as the opposite. How we have always supported an "age of consent" (contrary to a recent allegation).

Fake news inside the left. Background to the malicious targeting of one AWL comrade, originating with the online Stalinist Red London group.

A statement by Janine Booth. Explaining how she was the subject of a defamatory social media campaign.

• A briefing about the ultra-Stalinist Red London group which has influenced some in Momentum Renewal. Red London, in their own words.

Article answering the charge of "cultism". How this is a factional line promoted against us by cliques in and around the Momentum left.

David Broder: did the AWL “harass his mother”? An allegation recently raised.

Answering other accusations - a small selection

• "AWL is transphobic"
Our collective view on solidarity with trans people, fighting for trans rights: Gender, the right to choose.
Answering a charge of transphobia in Lewisham Momentum.

• "The AWL supported the Iraq war"
On the so-called "pro-imperialism" of the AWL

• "The AWL is Islamophobic"
On Boris Johnson's "letterboxes" hate speech
Momentum Renewal’s untrue claim that we support school ban on hijab
What the 2006 article on Marxism and religion really says. Also here. Plus our 2013 debate on the issue.
Momentum Renewal and Islamophobia

• Answering the "Momentum Against the AWL" Twitter campaign.

What is to be done about trolling?
Why do people on the left lie?

Views of non-AWL observers
On the right to organise by Edd Mustill
Statement by the Anti-Capitalist Platform.

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