By KD Tait
Jeremy Corbyn is on the ballot for the Labour leadership election. First the plotters tried to bully him into resigning. Then they tried to keep him off the ballot so they could crown a stooge of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Outraged by the back-stabbing of the MPs and the bias of the media, over a hundred thousand people joined the Labour Party to support Corbyn and his policies. A massive campaign by grassroots members, organising meetings, petitions, rallies and demonstrations, defied the rebels and forced them to face Jeremy and the membership in an open contest.
Defeated in their attempt to prevent Jeremy even standing in a leadership election, the rebels turned on the membership instead. In a motion which was not on the agenda of Tuesday’s NEC, the anti-Corbyn faction ruled that hundreds of thousands who joined after 12 January will not have a vote in the leadership election – unless they pay £25 to become a registered supporter.
This prohibitive 800% hike in the fee for supporter status, taken when the full NEC was not present, is a blatant attempt to rig the election and makes a mockery of Labour’s claim to be a democratic party of the labour movement.
The fundamental basis for democracy in a party is that its members have a vote in electing the party’s leadership and representatives. The rigging of the rules is a spiteful, but desperate, last ditch effort that highlights the rebels’ political impotence and contempt for ordinary members. The fact that NEC votes were carried out by secret ballot exposes the cowardice of those elected representatives who refuse to make themselves accountable to the members.
If reports that John McDonnell has accepted this are true, then that is a betrayal of thousands who joined to support Corbyn’s leadership. Labour Party members and supporters should not accept this illegitimate and undemocratic gerrymandering. We should demand that the NEC be immediately recalled in order to establish democratic procedures for the election.
What can we do?
First off, a renewed surge in membership of the party and the trade unions will be a powerful endorsement of Corbyn, demonstrate our overwhelming numbers and strike a powerful psychological blow against the Blairite rump and the soft-left conciliators.
So if you haven’t done so – don’t wait, join Labour today and become a supporter of Momentum too.
Current and new members should also join the appropriate affiliated trade trade union. The unions are a decisive arena of the struggle for Labour’s future. We can’t just rely on the general secretaries to back Corbyn or his policies. Unless the members are organised enough to make them keep their word, a sudden turnaround is always possible – especially if the MPs threaten to split the Party. We need to revitalise and expand Labour party organisations within the unions to ensure that the leaderships endorse Corbyn and develop an industrial strategy to help fight austerity.
At the same time as denying as many as a third of the members the right to vote, the NEC rump also banned local parties and CLP’s from meeting to discuss anything apart from nominations or local elections. Despite this, we need to convene CLP and branch meetings as soon as possible both to discuss the situation and to secure endorsements for Jeremy.
Try to pass a motion at your local meeting condemning these undemocratic measures; if the chair rules it out of order, insist on an indicative vote. We need to do everything to rouse the justified anger and democratic instincts of members and create ways for them to express their views collectively.
If your local Labour Party backs Jeremy, hold street stalls to sign people up and demonstrate Labour’s real voice. If not, organise one through one of Momentum’s 90+ local groups.
The Labour rebels want the election debate to be conducted through the media, whose billionaire owners will be only too happy to provide them the headlines and column inches to denounce Corbyn and anyone else who calls for serious economic and political reform. Like them, the BBC will be quick to broadcast any anti-Corbyn rumours and report every kind of dirty trick uncritically.
The most effective way to counter the rain of lies, distortions and ‘opinion polls’ we will be subjected to is to get out on the streets and communicate Corbyn’s message to Labour members and voters directly.
That’s why it will be even more important to repeat what made the Corbyn movement a success last summer: mass rallies and meetings with Corbyn and his parliamentary allies can give people a chance to hear first hand what his alternative is. Then provide a way in which every single person can contribute something – whether it’s handing out leaflets, sharing things on social media, or encouraging family and friends to sign up.
Momentum needs to make contact lists available to local organisers to ensure every supporter of Corbyn can be contacted and offered ways to participate in the campaign.
Above all, though, we should remember that the purpose of re-electing Jeremy is because it will be a defeat for the right and open the way for a debate involving hundreds of thousands of people about what kind of party we need to fight austerity – and what kind of government and movement could really achieve fundamental change in society.
If we can inflict a decisive defeat on the establishment candidates, then the campaign for a working class party with a socialist programme that embodies the working class struggle to eradicate exploitation, oppression and conflict can really begin.
- Overturn the rigged election rules – reconvene the NEC and re-enfranchise the members!
- Nominate Jeremy Corbyn – Labour left caucuses should organise to endorse Jeremy’s candidacy and discuss his policies and how to implement them
- No backsliding – defend free movement of workers across borders, oppose war and Nato militarism, reaffirm and develop the progressive polices Corbyn stood on in 2015
- A united front – organise meetings, debates and street stalls to recruit to Labour and the unions in order to combine our forces to stop the Tories’ attempts to make workers pay for Brexit