Labouring Under an Illusion

The view from Whistable. Photo: Things to do in Whitstable, KENT

JVL Introduction

“Recently, ” writes Frankie Green, ” I received a reminder from the Labour Party that my subscription was due. ‘What a coincidence!’ I replied. ‘I was just about to write to you.’ I explained that, far from owing them anything, I felt I was due a refund.”

And so, by way of various undemocratic and unpalatable experiences, chronicled below, Frankie Green explains why she has had enough.

We understand why she has come to that conclusion but would encourage others who feel like her nonetheless to stay and fight (see Don’t Leave Organise).

Reproduced with the author’s permission.

This article was originally published by whitstableviews.com on Thu 2 Jul 2020. Read the original here.

Labouring Under an Illusion

My brief sojourn in the Labour Party had been ‘interesting….’

Recently I received a reminder from the Labour Party that my subscription was due. ‘What a coincidence!’ I replied. ‘I was just about to write to you.’ I explained that, far from owing them anything, I felt I was due a refund.

A brief sojourn in the party had been ‘interesting.’ As attested to by long queues down the street in Whitstable to vote during the disgraceful attempt to oust Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, many people had joined in good faith, hoping that the principles and policies he represents could be actualised; there seemed to be a chance of a new model of leadership and the kind of change which is so desperately needed. Successive Tory and New Labour governments having caused devastating damage, only a radical change of direction could bring about some social and economic justice. This wasn’t utopianism, or uncritical engagement – just a spark of hope in an otherwise bleak political landscape.

Yet the description on membership cards claiming the party to be ‘democratic’ and ‘socialist’ turned out to be misleading: we watched the undemocratic treatment of socialists systematically unfold. Jeremy Corbyn was traduced and vilified not simply by the usual suspects and right-wing mainstream media but by his own party members and representatives. Thousands of people were subjected to McCarthyite purges, their social media accounts trawled through and used against them to subject them to ludicrous false accusations, as the influence of Israeli interests took precedence over due process.

‘My’ own MP, Rosie Duffield, a person with no apparent qualifications for the post when compared with the previous, usurped candidate, dismayed many people by colluding with those trying to undermine Corbyn and being proactive from the start in this reprehensible smear campaign, which was fabricated in order to deflect criticism from Israel for its crimes against humanity and block politicians who actually know something about international politics and have an understanding of the Middle East situation (and therefore threaten the USA/Israel/Britain neo-liberal axis.)

It is not really possible to make sense of the furore around anti-semitism in the Labour Party without knowing the purpose and context of its manufacture: the furthering of Israeli influence on British politics and its cynical strategy of redefining criticism of Israel’s apartheid and atrocities so as to conflate such criticism with racism against Jewish people.

While attempts to hold democratic debate and moves to justifiably criticise or censure her were quashed by authoritarian, top-down machinations, our MP supported the adoption of the risible IHRA definition of anti-semitism, publicly insinuated that the party itself is institutionally anti-semitic, smearing local members with this nefarious accusation. For such reasons and a failure to be accountable to the CLP, it was suggested that she had shown herself to be unfit for positions of responsibility.

Then came the leaked report confirming members’ perceptions, exposing appalling levels of corruption within the Party and that ‘within the Senior Management Team of the Labour party itself there was a secret plot to prevent Corbyn becoming prime minister by ensuring that Labour lost the election. Half of ‘our’ team was actually batting for the other side! … they fuelled the anti-Corbyn propaganda machine, planting stories and misinformation … while their wages were being paid by the subscriptions of party members, the very people who’d elected him as leader.’

As these people had no intention of the Labour Party being either democratic or socialist and indeed made a mockery of the very idea, it seemed that many members had been deceived, and logical therefore that our fees should be returned. As for the people who worked hard to ensure we could not have as PM a person of integrity who might actually put people before profit, try to turn back the tide of privatisation destroying the NHS, halt the horror of austerity, seek justice for Grenfell, stop persecuting people seeking asylum, close down draconian detention centres, restore public ownership, fund housing and education and possibly pursue a foreign policy that showed more solidarity with the oppressed than the oppressors … I’m not, thus far, aware of them being held to account.

As if this wasn’t enough, new leader Keir Starmer declared support for ‘Zionism without qualification’ and made a u-turn on the party conference’s decision regarding Kashmir, another ‘bloody legacy of the British empire.’ Acquiescence to the Board of Deputies’ move to control internal affairs by issuing their ‘ten commandments‘ further revealed a lack of commitment to party democracy, as members had assumed decisions were democratically decided at a conference, not by demands made by external religious bodies.

Adding insult to injury, Starmer commented that a statue of slave trader Colston should not have been pulled down but removed by consent (while disingenuously trying to have it both ways by saying it shouldn’t have been there.) Perhaps he was unaware that Bristolians have long petitioned for its removal but councillors voted repeatedly to keep it in place. For how much longer do people of colour have to ‘go slow’, as the Nina Simone song says, and be expected to heed white supremacist politicians who assume the entitlement to tell them how to seek atonement for the reprehensible history of this country?

Subsequently, we’ve seen the ludicrous but opportunistic sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow front bench, and her replacement by someone who ran Owen Smith’s campaign to displace Jeremy Corbyn as leader, which ‘confirms the total exclusion of the socialist left from leadership positions in the party.’

This sacking provides an opportunity to bash the National Education Union for their position on schools reopening, and betrays the ideals of the 2019 manifesto’s Green New Deal. Backtracking on dealing with climate crisis would have profoundly serious ramifications. We have precious little time left to change our relationship to the land and other species with whom we share the planet, to live responsibly in the recognition that we are just one part of a complex ecosystem. Socialists should act as caretakers, protecting our planet against predation by capitalist profiteers, thinking outside the parameters of private ownership, resource exploitation and conventional agricultural practice, demonstrating the need for reciprocity and sustainability.

The immediate primary effect of the sacking was obviously to contribute to Israel’s continued attempt to suppress discussion of the global military and surveillance collaboration in which its role is key; its weaponry is marketed as ‘field-tested’, using as it does a captive population under siege for ruthless target practice.

Annexation of the Palestinian West Bank is the next step for this brutal regime’s egregious violations of international law, land theft, military occupation and institutionalised racism which has led to increasing support for the call for Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment. Consolidation of Israel’s expansionism would tighten the screw of vicious daily persecution, dispossession and suffering of the indigenous people of Palestine.

An opposition party needs to speak out forcefully and take a stand against this intensification of what Ariella Aïsha Azoulay called, ‘the insane project to destroy Palestine.’ (Potential History – Unlearning Imperialism, Verso 2019). However, Labour doesn’t exactly have a good record when it comes to condemning imperialism, racism, militarism and war; in fact it’s long been seen as a mechanism of the state deployed to co-opt energy and hopes for social and economic justice. Such wasting of radical movements is far from new. The challenge of the Women’s Liberation Movement to the roots of patriarchy and capitalism, e.g., has always to resist being watered down into a diluted faux-feminism, which applauds as positive women being in power simply by dint of their being women, regardless of their politics. This despite the historical examples and legacies of the likes of Thatcher, May, Meir, etc. A feminism without a socialist dimension is as meaningless a dead-end as is the reverse situation, or either movement without a commitment to decolonisation and anti-racism.

In the context of the deadly pandemic wreaking havoc under this Tory government, no-one can doubt that a Corbyn-led one would be enacting totally different policies, and would therefore not have caused the huge numbers of deaths we are suffering due to the criminal negligence of the Tories as they continue to siphon off public money into private pockets, handing out contracts to their cronies. An inescapable conclusion must be that everyone in the Labour Party who worked so hard to prevent a Corbyn-led government from winning the election – the right-wing party machine, treacherous MPs, officers and activists who ensured that even a mildly socialist government could not be elected in this country – must bear some responsibility for the current chaos and terrible, avoidable loss of life.

But the party machine continues to grind on, subjecting people to the nonsensical Kafkaesque witchhunt, demoralising and angering many members, and it will be pleased no doubt that ‘… the net effect … [of removing Long-Bailey] will be the departure of members in huge numbers, which is what one wants if mass membership is considered largely a hindrance and there are national executive committee elections coming up.” (Morning Star, Sunday, June 28, 2020.}

Due respect and good luck to those who in good faith believe they can remain within the Labour Party to change it, but for many people it is an impediment to progress, as irrelevant as the whole Potemkin village of Westminster as a means of bringing about a just society. Instead, the kind of alternatives for urgently needed change are more evident in the grassroots movements such as we see with worldwide environmental, indigenous and feminist activism and the glorious burgeoning of Black Lives Matter (which the hubristic Starmer has managed to insult and misrepresent even as I type.)

Labour being just one arena in which people can strive for political change, for those who choose to bypass such institutions, preferring more imaginative radical forms of resistance, free from the absurd strictures of a party and its control freakery, there is plenty to do. For starters, challenging militarism, racialization, ecocide and misogyny, joining the dots between the intersecting oppressions bedevilling our world, and getting behind the movements resisting them. There’s much cause for continuing optimism about transformative activism, for a hopefulness about building a real opposition.

And so, as I explained in response to the request for payment, I wouldn’t be renewing my membership, hoping to join others contributing in any way possible to fighting racism, patriarchy and capitalism. I didn’t expect a reply, but one came: they don’t offer refunds, and deny anything fraudulent. Unsurprised, I donated what would have been a party membership fee to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the organisation which works tirelessly against settler colonialism in support of the quest for justice and human rights.


© Frankie Green, July 2020

Frankie Green lives in Whitstable and has been taking part in various political activities since the 1960s anti-apartheid movement, the Vietnam war, the Gay Liberation Front, the Women’s Liberation Movement and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She helps run a feminist music archive and collects stuff on a blog

Comments (29)

  • DJ says:

    Spoken from the heart. Respect.

  • @troublingtome says:

    Agree Frankie

    those that argue to stay and fight in Labour for democratic socialism forget history of the last 35 yrs
    I don’t forget fighting for it as Kinnock and all who followed tried their best to first water it down and then have Blair go and get rid of Clause IV , replacing it with a word salad ‘new’ Clause IV
    So those that champion staying and fighting are either too young or not aware that we have been having this fight for 35yrs
    And, until Corbyn, to no avail
    And yes, Corbyn needed to fight the right wing of Labour
    but it wasn’t in his make-up…….much to our dismay….though a man of such principles is welcome, in the dirty politics game, it’s not enough
    And make no mistake……..Starmer and the Third Way Labour will not allow socialists to have a say, except as a sop

  • Julian says:

    I heartily agree. I was horrified about the leaked report, and regard Starmer as worse than useless.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Brilliant article.

  • Emma says:

    Good to read your article Frankie, I agree with what you say. Of all times when we need someone like Jeremy Corbyn in power,the time is now and we have been denied that.
    It is profoundly depressing and worrying how people have behaved to undermine Corbyn in the media,labour itself and not to mention the conservatives.I wonder what will happen about the leaked report.
    I feel there is no one to look up to in the leadership role. Mr.Corbyn and so many of his front bench brought life and fight to the table with genuine concern and attention to help make life better and to bring fairness and justice and hope to the many.I have no doubt things would have been handled so much better if Corbyn and McDonald had been in power now. I really wish they were.

  • andygarcia48 says:

    So well said. Thank you. I joined Labour to support Jeremy Corbyn. My worst fears were proven when I was suspended for calling Labour MPs who tried to oust JC “Treacherous”. McNicol and his Stasi had declared this a banned word.

    Eventually, I was allowed back. What a joke.

    Anyway, I’m off in September. The Labour Party is so corrupt I could not dream of being part of it.

    My brief time as a Labour Party member also feels like I’ve been in an abusive relationship.

    So sad really.

  • DAVID ROGER says:

    This is a simply marvellous letter encompassing so eloquently what many of us are trying to express and mirroring what many of us sadly are also going through
    Thankyou

  • Les Hartop says:

    Agree with the sentiments, but NOT the plan.

    Leaving is like not registering to vote… The logic is the same… ‘where did it ever get us ?’

    But the people who are glad to see you go Frankie are the war-mongering Blairites that have recaptured the party for a while, including Rosie Duffield and her star struck accolytes (mostly in denial about what a mistake she has been) in our local party.

    We hope you’ll help wipe the smiles back off their faces as soon as possible Frankie…. by rejoining us, your local comrades.

  • Abe Hayeem says:

    Thanks for putting everything in such an eloquent nutshell. You have expressed what many of us who joined Labour for Jeremy Corbyn, see with despair the brazen dismantling of everything he and his Labour supporters stood for. Starmer will go down in history as another robotic nonentity, dashing the hopes of a better future for this country and the world.

  • AC says:

    Thank you, Frankie, superbly written.
    I want my money back, AND my precious time.

  • An Excellent Letter .
    My final straw with the labour party starts when Starmer was elected leader and signed those ridiculous 10 demands by the unaffiliated BoDs and then told them he was going to root out the poison that is antisemitism in the labour party and expell those responsible.
    The Stupid thing about this is if there was the amount of antisemitism in the labour party that the BoDs were saying there was Then those very members who were getting expelled for false allagations of antisemitism would have been the first ones to come out and condem it themselves Because myself other members
    who were wrongly expelled and other good supporters of the party Condemn real antisemitism and all other forms of racism and want it rooted out themselves.
    But when they are accused of antisemitism for doing no more than condemning the Israeli Government and its leader for the atrocities they are carrying out against the Palestinian men women and children Just like any caring human being would if other countries were carrying out these atrocities And the thing that angers members more than anything is that the party who is supposed to be a party who are against such atrocities with a leader that recieved his title of Sir for fighting to protect the human and cival rights of people can not come out and condem what is now becoming an Apartheid Government by the terrible atrocities it is carrying out against the Palestinian People while taking their land And instead it is the caring and compassionate people of the JVL who do not hesitate to condem such atrocities and who try and make it clear that it is not antisemitic to condem the Israeli government for what it is doing and who try and inform the labour party of this
    Yet their voices just like those other members voices who criticise the Israeli government seem never to be heard and the unaffiliated BoDs are allowed to still influence the party on what they say and do
    And its Wrong

  • Dee Howard says:

    I’m with you Frankie in all your comments but I’m damned if I will give up MY party without a fight. They will have to drag me out kicking and screaming if they don’t like my brand of Socialism!

  • Jon Kurta says:

    Excellent piece, I came to similar conclusions about Starker and have simply stopped my direct debit.
    Co-incidently I live in Whitstable though I’ve never met Frankie. I can concur with her views of ‘our’ local M.P. She won by less than 200 votes in 2017 and still chose to stick the knife into Corbyn. When I raised, by email, concerns – from my own Jewish perspective – about a speech she gave about anti-Semitism I didn’t get I reply….

  • Christine Ladyman says:

    It’s reassuring to read someone’s point of view that matches mine. It gets wearing being caked out as cynical, tod to back the new Leader and, ‘ don’t cause division’ ! That last one makes my head explode! It’s still painful to think of the smugness all around as the results came out last December. So, thank you Frankie Green! And, I’d like my subs back, too. I’ve no support for these traitors masquerading as the Labour Pay.

  • Rafi says:

    Sorry to sound repetitive but being so demoralised with what has transpired in the Labour Party I will be resigning.
    I don’t have the strength anymore to fight the good fight. My views are never listened to, I am always shouted down and my party never wins over the masses.
    Perhaps let me, a washed up Socialist, retire to my little insignificant space.

  • Stephen Williams says:

    Sympathetic as I am, I disagree.
    Play the ball; make the party take action, right or wrong….don’t facilitate its desired result without making officers work for it. Hard and time-consumingly.
    After all, its a win-win situation for Starmer et al when we choose to walk out. Every departure induces cheers among the Zionists and in the Israeli Embassy. It’s exactly what they wanted….Corbyn out and those of us who shared his ideals to follow.
    My desire is to be as awkward as possible.

  • Valerie Elson says:

    There is nothing I find in this article that I can disagree with

  • RC says:

    Interesting though predictable that Raab has not included single present or past member of those Israeli cabinets who have systematically persecuted the Palestinians for at least 72 years…

  • ian duncan kemp says:

    Great article Frankie. I am just about sticking with Labour. At the moment I live in hope that things will change. But the sad actions of so called labour MPs and others have left a soured test in my mouth when I think about it.

  • Paul France says:

    When I went to a meeting of the Bury Socialist Forum, ( I had been before) the Guest Speaker was Frank Allaun who used to be a Labour MP in Salford.
    At one point he asked the attenders for their background.
    I stood up and told him of my years of Morning Star readership and my youth in the YCL. He told me to join the Labour Party and fight my corner. “There will be plenty of members who will welcome you. And some less so. Stay and fight your corner”.
    That was 1993. I joined and I’m still here. The only people who applaud when a Socialist leaves the LP are those that make you feel like leaving!!!!

  • Nixxy says:

    Beautifully put! I wish you were my Prime Minister. Perhaps in an alternate universe you are.

  • Andrew Carmichael says:

    Well said!

  • Linda Scurrah says:

    Oh dear Frankie I agree with every single point here.I too have left the party but am rethinking this as we need to keep fighting from within.It’s hard and can be soul destroying but let’s please support the Corbyn legacy and keep it alive ❤

  • Ian Bruce says:

    Thank you Frankie for encapsulating my thoughts exactly. It is encouraging to find someone more eloquent than I can be, putting the arguments so succinctly.

  • Alexander Gavin says:

    I got the same blurb when I said to them I believed they had got my membership fee fraudulently as they were supposed to be trying to get into power but their management were doing the opposite.
    They don’t half make you laugh, here’s another, they think they are going to win back Scottish voters!! I look forward to hearing that plan! 😂

  • Mervyn Hyde says:

    The question not faced by those that leave is where do you go, the left continually splinters into factions without any real direction or influence.

    At least within the party we can form a group big enough to resist the right and promote ideas that gain support whilst highlighting the clear hypocrisy of Starmer. We could with enough members regain control of NEC, and conference etc.

    What has also been forgotten is that far too many on the left were ideologically wedded to the EU which was why they supported Starmer and thinking that he was not what some of always knew he was. I believe there are those same people that have had their eyes opened now and ready to accept that Starmer led them down the garden path. So the numbers are quite possibly there to mount a challenge to him and further more do unto those that would do unto us.

    In essence we have four more years before another election plenty of time to put our message across about the kind of society we could have.

    Some of us are mounting a campaign to re-instate Rebecca Long Bailey, colleagues have written up an analysis of the fabricated story to get rid of her and challenged Starmer that if he doesn’t reply or re-instate her within a week that we will be making an official complaint, needless to say nothing was heard and so we go to the next stage where we are collecting signatures in support of our action. it won’t of course just end there, the process will continue until we succeed.

    This is the analysis in full: https://arsnotoria.com/2020/07/01/rebecca-long-bailey-a-wrongful-dismissal-for-anti-semitism-that-wasnt/

    This was the open letter sent last week to Starmer, note some of the signatories: https://www.unitynews.co/an-open-letter-to-keir-starmer/

    We will shortly be asking members of the Labour Party to join us in signing a letter to the party itself, calling for action in response to RBL’s sacking etc., where if those agree with the content of the letter add their signatures to it.

    We are not sitting back hoping the party will act but engage in a process that will force them to do the right thing.

  • Dittany Morgan says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve left and joined the Socialist party. I will forever grieve for what could have been.

  • Barry Powell says:

    Wonderfully written. Spot on

  • rob gardiner says:

    Hi Frankie Just read your piece and I can agree with every syllable and nuance, and feel you are speaking for me. I am still a member at this precise moment but am wondering why. Maybe waiting to cast my vote in the NEC elections for the Grassroots Alliance, and Jo Bird and Matt White. But I have no conviction and resolve left, with each day marking another point of dissension. You have enumerated and described so exactly my thoughts and feelings that I feel I am repeating myself. And there is a sense of loss, for what might have been, what could have been. Finally, thanks for expressing on my behalf those thoughts and feelings. Currently it is like watching a rerun of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with them sounding sometimes like socialists but there is something missing. There is no sense of conviction or passion in what they say or how they say it. Off to that dark room of the soul and lament.

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