A reply to South Birmingham Momentum

August 26, 2016


Momentum South Birmingham published an article on their blog on 24th August attacking the Socialist Party, focusing in particular on a recent interview by Channel 4 News of our general secretary, Peter Taaffe.

We have responded and look forward to Momentum South Birmingham posting our reply in order to take the debate forward. 

Below is our response followed by the article in question:

It was very disappointing to read on a Momentum page the article headed “Tom Watson’s Trots and Peter Taaffe’s delusions of grandeur”. This hardly appears to be the promotion of ‘nicer politics’.

Putting disappointment to one side, what does the article argue?

Firstly it’s author –named ‘JC’- argues disingenuously that (Trotskyists) ‘have publicly refused to join the Labour Party’. But that’s not what Peter Taaffe said is it? In fact the article goes on to accuse Taaffe of endangering Jeremy Corbyn by saying he expected to be back in the Labour Party. ‘JC’ cannot have it both ways!

In fact the Socialist Party has given clear support to Jeremy Corbyn. It moved policy in the CWU that secured that unions support for Jeremy. In UNITE they won support for democratic measures including reselection of MP’s.

In the event of Jeremy’s re-election we have called for consolidation of that victory by creating a fully democratic and socialist Labour Party and made clear we would like to affiliate to such a party.

Currently socialists who have publicly and electorally challenged the Blairites over 20 years are being told they must abandon their colleagues and associations –and presumably ideas- to join only as individuals – this while the old machine still rules undemocratically leaving no clue as to whether the machine will allow them to join anyway.

More’s the point Militant supporters were expelled from (New) Labour. They did not run away from it.

Once the Marxist left ceased to be merely workhorses for MP’s and councillors and over time became officers, councillors and MP’s (who, like Dave Nellist -and embarrassingly for right wing MP’s- found they could live quite happily on just a workers wage!) the right wing sought to drive them out of the Labour Party.

For the crime of fighting Maggie Thatcher in Liverpool many councillors were expelled (despite winning the best electoral results in Liverpool’s history). It was an expellable offence to be an organiser of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation campaign that defeated Mrs Thatcher and sank her.

The right wing went on to abandon the socialist Clause 4 part 4 of Labour’s constitution and transformed into a Tory-lite party that has seen Labour lose 5 million votes and create many policies such as privatisation, PFI, academies etc on which the Tories have gleefully built upon. It was no accident that when asked what her greatest achievement was Mrs Thatcher said “New Labour”.

The second charge is that Peter Taaffe by appearing on TV damaged Jeremy’s re-election bid by being part of a red scare story. But Jeremy himself said Watsons comments were nonsense. He said he’d look forward to a chat with Peter Taaffe. Why then, on Momentums pages, is this derogatory piece repeating the use of “Trot” as an insult? To do so is to play the media’s game. We would point out that Jeremy did move in Parliament for Trotsky to be rehabilitated.

‘JC’ says; “He (Taaffe) knew the effect that these words would have,…the awkward position it would put the leadership team. It would be yet another round of bad headlines to fend off”. JC suggests Taaffe did it ‘to sell a few more papers’ and then clearly implies that Taaffe would be happier if Jeremy lost.

Can we be clear? We –alongside colleagues including Bob Crow and the Rail Union RMT and others – believed that with New Labour being a Tory second XI, working people needed a new party to stand up for them, and we worked to establish the roots for one. Now with the possibility of the transformation of Labour, true working class representation could be achieved without having to start from square one and WE WELCOME and seek to aid that possibility.

Of course the rabid media sought to use the Socialist Party to attack Jeremy Corbyn. But they use Rail journeys to attack him too. Should Jeremy be condemned for travelling by train?

What were the Socialist Party who were bureaucratically expelled from the Labour Party for fighting the Tories supposed to say? ‘No Comment’? We won’t appear or speak?

Would that have called the media hyena’s off? No of course it wouldn’t. It would have intensified the media attacks on socialists and on Jeremy. It would have been tantamount to saying ‘We know we’re villains, so we’re lying low’. Socialists must answer the attacks made by Britain’s elite, not hide when attacked.

But what is ‘JC’ really arguing? That Marxists, ‘Trots’ etc should not be allowed in the Labour Party? That Kinnock’s and Blair’s expulsions were right? That if anti-austerity Greens wanted to join Labour that that would be embarrassing or ‘awkward’? All this to placate –and without any success- a right wing determined to destroy Jeremy’s leadership?

Is ‘JC’ arguing that smaller political organisations should not be allowed to affiliate to and support Labour under Jeremy’s leadership? Other organisations already do.

Finally there is one other issue we’d like to answer. Intentionally or not, ‘JC’s article could be read by some as saying Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership could be the cause of a split in Labour. The left must strongly and clearly explain that any split in Labour will not be the work of Jeremy Corbyn -or the Socialist Party- but of the right wing who want to both defend the free market economy and to preserve their careers.

To do this they have been happy to damage Labour’s prospects of beating the Tories. Working people deserve better, a party that offers complete change and a new society, and we must be resolute, not afraid in pursuing that.

To ‘JC’ we ask please concentrate determined fire on the Blairite right wing, not on socialists.

Birmingham Socialist Party


'Tom Watson’s Trots and Peter Taaffe’s delusions of grandeur'

The red-baiting, McCarthyite “Trotskyist infiltration” (non-) story has probably been one of the low points of this leadership election so far, and considering the apparently limitless willingness of our party’s bureaucracy to subvert this contest and exclude as many people as possible, that is saying something. It’s little more than a surprisingly amateurishly executed pound-shop Zinoviev Letter and has also had the unfortunate effect of bringing the lamentable and unendurably smug Michael Crick back into the limelight for another five minutes of fame and a few book sales.

The idea that the Trotskyist left, which I suspect numbers less than a thousand active members in the UK and whose two “largest” groups have publicly refused to join the Labour Party (and the evidence I see before my eyes in Birmingham is that they are keeping that promise, much as they find it enormously frustrating) is patently ludicrous. The party membership has tripled in the last twelve months. It is a conspiracy theory propagated by people who know it to be a lie, and it is all the more loathsome for its brazen dishonesty.

The usually sure-footed Tom Watson, source of this nonsense, has not covered himself in glory at all these last couple of weeks. People will not forget this. He has disgraced himself and his office.

We knew the right would throw everything they could at Corbyn. It was always going to be a dirty election and it has delivered. The stakes are high and we are dealing with people with no scruples.

But rather more surprisingly, former Militant Tendency (now uninspiringly called the Socialist Party, a major drop down in the left group naming stakes) godfather, Peter Taaffe, still going strong at 73, has got himself a few cheap headlines by telling anyone who will listen that he expects to be re-admitted to the party if Corbyn is re-elected.

Normally I would just dismiss this as a bit of mischievous, albeit slightly embarrassing publicity seeking by a man whose best days are long behind him. But there is a serious point here and it does him and his organisation no credit.

He is no fool. He knew the effect that these words would have, the effect it would have on Corbyn and the awkward position it would put the leadership team. It would be yet another round of bad headlines to fend off, would cement in the minds of a few waverers that Corbyn’s leadership would inevitably split the party, and give credence to Watson’s nauseating tosh.

So why do it? Why make the job of a man and movement you claim to support that much harder? Are a couple of days of headlines, a handful of extra recruits, a few more papers sold, website clicks and maybe the chance to relive the glory years, when the Militant actually meant something and was able to impact on British politics, really worth it?

If Corbyn loses, and let’s not pretend this is a done deal, and this story can be in anyway seen as a turning point, would it have been worth it then? And would it help to prove that the hundreds of thousands of people who joined the Labour Party in the hope of a better world were wrong all along and that we could never try and make the Labour Party a mass movement for democratic socialism, and that “comrade” Taaffe was right all along? Was that his goal?

And if not, what on earth was he thinking?



Written by workers for workers.

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