The Labour Party’s full-time office machine, much of it inherited from the Blair-Brown era, is running its own campaign to neutralise, indeed if possible to change, the Labour leadership contest.
Large numbers — no-one knows how many — have been summarily expelled or suspended in recent months, including Bakers’ Union general secretary Ronnie Draper. In addition, something like 100,000 members (again, no-one knows) have yet to get ballot papers or how-to-vote emails: this is explained as “administrative difficulties”. The full-time office machine did the same during the 2015 leadership contest — expelling or excluding an estimated 40,000 people — and has continued one-by-one expulsions, mostly on grounds of alleged association with Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal, ever since.
The Stop the Purge campaign has been relaunched and has a meeting, with suspended Harrow councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick speaking, in London on 7 September. Stop the Purge has launched a new statement against expulsions and for democracy in the party. It was signed by over two hundred activists, including many prominent figures, in its first half day. It has also promoted a motion on these issues for Labour Party conference. Workers’ Liberty will do everything we can to build the campaign – both because we have had members expelled and because an open regime is important for the future of the Labour Party. We want to make the witch-hunters feel they cannot operate with impunity. Corbyn and McDonnell are, understandably, focused on winning the leadership election.
But stopping the purge is both the right thing to do for a leadership that has loyalty to its supporters, and necessary in order to take on the bureaucracy that has consistently undermined them. We will be demanding from Corbyn and McDonnell a push to stop the purging, reinstatement of those expelled for being left-wing activists, and the transfer of membership disputes and disciplinary matters from the Compliance Unit to an accountable body that will operate with clear rules and due process. Beyond that, the party machine needs to be purged. General Secretary Iain McNicol should go.
The left on the NEC should work with the leadership to take control of the situation. In addition to Stop the Purge, another campaign, Labour Against the Witch-Hunt, has been set up, mainly by activists accused of anti-semitism. Some accusations of anti-semitism have been cynically and opportunistically used by the right and the bureaucracy to attack the left. The problem is that many on the left are driven by their “absolute anti-Zionist” politics to deny that there is a problem at all, and to defend the indefensible. As it fights the witch-hunt, the left must have clean hands on anti-semitism.
• Sign the Stop the Purge statement