Polemic was wrong on Lewisham

Submitted by Matthew on 13 November, 2013 - 12:05

I am writing this letter in personal capacity since the consensus of Lewisham People Before Profit was against us replying to your attack on us as a group in Solidarity 301 (“Lewisham: Our plans to go on winning”, 29 October), largely since many of those present at our monthly meetings do not read your paper and believe that very few Lewisham voters do.

However, your defamatory political attack has proved to be the preliminary to your involvement in an authoritarian bureaucratic manoeuvre of the kind one would associate with Stalinists or Cliffites. Namely, the moving of a new set of standing orders for open meetings of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, which, by demanding that resolutions for the open meeting be tabled one week before the organising committee meetings, mean that if the present schedule of the two bodies is adhered to, we would have to give three weeks’ notice of any resolution.

This is plainly designed to make it more or less impossible to alter or criticise the line of the organising committee, dominated by the Labour Party and its close allies, such as yourselves.

The article wreaks of McCarthyism in its attempt to link People Before Profit with “the Communist Party or similar”. Nobody in the organisation is currently in any Communist Party as far as I am aware.

The fact that a couple of leading members may have been members of the old CPGB before 1991 is hardly relevant to the political situation in Lewisham in 2013, and the fact that another member was once in his youth, even longer ago, a member of a Maoist organisation with “Communist” in the title even less so.

The vast majority of our members have never been in the Communist Party; we have more people in our ranks who at some stage in their lives were Labour Party members, and many more ex-Labour voters, and as far as I am aware most of our members were never in any political party prior to their involvement in PBP via community campaigning against cuts and privatisation.

Nor have we made some abrupt left turn in relation to the Labour Party. We stood against the Labour Party in every single ward in Lewisham (bar one where the Socialist Party were standing) in 2010 and we have stood in a number of council by-elections and a GLA election over the last three years.

We have always said that, at a local level, Lewisham Labour Party was committed to a programme of cuts, outsourcing, privatisation and PFI, most recently the PFI scheme for lampposts. Equally, we have always held Blair and Brown to blame for PFI at the national level.

Workers’ Liberty has made a right turn since 2010 when Jill Mountford stood for Parliament in Peckham against Harriet Harman, and the occasion some years earlier when she stood against Labour in a Lewisham council by-election in which I went round the doors campaigning for her.

Your frantic desire to hold on to (or regain) Labour Party membership cards does you no credit at all. The reason the Labour Party has gone into overdrive against PBP since the 10,000-strong November hospital march and the 40,000-strong January hospital march is a fear of a popular electoral revolt along the lines of what happened in Kidderminster/Wyre Forest, which impacted at the parliamentary and not just local council level.

They know that, as the most consistent fighters against cuts, privatisation, and PFI in the borough, we would be the electoral beneficiaries of such justified popular revulsion against the destruction of the NHS by creeping privatisation and PFI and therefore seek to destroy and smear us by any means possible.

You must be well aware of the way the PFI debt will eventually strangle either Lewisham Hospital or the Greenwich Queen Elizabeth hospital or both. The detailed figures are available on the PBP web site.

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