Much has been written about the right-wing press’s wrong-headed coverage of the battle against the Haringey Development Vehicle, with its focus on a supposed “Momentum takeover” of the Labour Party obscuring some of the wider housing issues underneath.
We have a new contender now, however, for most boneheaded analysis, and the odds are on that the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) will win the prize.
Reading her copy of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism over morning coffee, Claire Kober, the Blairite leader of Haringey Council, will be surprised but delighted to learn that, contrary to every other report, the Labour left in fact lost the recent round of council selection meetings.
The RCG is a small sect long led by guru David Yaffe, which has biodegraded into a form of Stalinoid Third Worldism from its roots as one of the oppositions in the old International Socialists/Socialist Workers Party (IS/SWP).
It holds that “Cuba carries the banner of socialism as the leading example of what is possible when the working class and oppressed take power to transform society,” a view which does as much to traduce the notion of socialism as it does to valorise the ruling Stalinist bureaucracy in the Cuban state.
The RCG is perhaps best known, however, for its analysis of the Labour Party “as a racist, imperialist party”, and its boast “that of the main publications of the British left, our newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! called on workers not to vote Labour in the 1979 elections and has consistently argued against supporting the Labour Party over 30 years.”
This conclusion flows from an analysis which sees Britain as deriving “monopoly profits from the super-exploitation of oppressed nations”, allowing it to “split the working class by creating a privileged section of workers within the country”, a “labour aristocracy” which “dominates the British labour movement and ties it to imperialism” and which “expresses itself politically though the Labour Party and…controls the trade union movement.”
Such an analysis leads, and can only lead, to the RCG taking a sectarian position, hostile to the British labour movement and its institutions, abandoning in advance the fight to combat bourgeois and reformist ideas in the workers’ movement. As such, the RCG will use its presence on demonstrations largely to attack the Labour Party.
This is a one-sided analysis, which fails to capture the tension between Labour’s working-class base and historically politically bourgeois (and yes, often racist and imperialist) leadership, and offers no guide to action for Marxists wishing to shape and ultimately transform the labour movement.
The RCG’s article on Haringey is a case in point. It is, in reality, not an article about the struggle in Haringey at all but an attempt to justify the RCG’s preconceived “line”. The timeless “analysis” dictates the “facts”, so the article could therefore be written by anyone armed with the “theory” yet acquainted in only the most passing manner with what is actually going on.
Worse, the article calls time on a living, breathing and ongoing struggle, arguing not only that the tactics of the StopHDV campaign and the Labour left in Haringey are mistaken, but that the campaign is actually failing.
First, the article is simply wrong when it states that: “While a handful of councillors have been deselected across Haringey and replaced with anti-HDV candidates, the majority of the Labour council still supports the leadership of Claire Kober.”
In reality, now a vast majority of Labour candidates oppose the HDV, and Claire Kober is politically isolated. Of course, a council election has not happened yet, so the current Labour councillors are still pro-HDV, but who can honestly deny that pushing through the redevelopment plan is more difficult now than it was before the Labour Party selection process? The HDV has never had any mandate; it now has even less.
“What the failure of this deselection attempt shows is that despite all the talk and press, Momentum and the Corbynites are not able to fight the HDV inside the Labour Party and actually challenge the strong right-wing Labour councils.” Wrong again. The deselection attempts have not failed, as a majority of the pro-HDV councillors were not re-selected.
The RCG then sets up a false zero-sum binary choice between “a real street movement, one that involves the working class communities affected” (because no Labour Party members are working-class, or affected!) and “an internal struggle within the Labour Party”, which the StopHDV campaign is said to be limiting itself to.
As is clear to anyone living in Haringey, the StopHDV campaign has not limited itself to a fight in the Labour Party, but draws in a wide coalition of forces, and has used demonstrations, engagement with residents on estates, legal challenges and other strategies to expose the Council’s plans and turn the tide against the HDV. Indeed, the battle inside the Labour Party would not have been possible without the rising tide of sentiment building up both within and without the party, as a result of the wider campaign.
Finally, the RCG writes that “the campaign pins its hopes on next May’s council elections,” a strategy said to be “a wing and a prayer”, as if the election of a majority of Labour candidates pledged not to support the HDV would not be a major step forward.
In “Left-Wing” Communism, Lenin wrote that: “There can be no doubt that the Gomperses, the Hendersons, the Jonhaux and the Legiens are very grateful to those “Left” revolutionaries who, like the German opposition “on principle” (heaven preserve us from such “principles”!)…advocate quitting the reactionary trade unions and refusing to work in them.”
In the same spirit, socialists could render no greater service to the Kobers, Stricklands and Lendlease shareholders than to follow the sage political advice of the RCG and abandon the field of battle inside the Labour Party.