The anti-Corbyn majority in the Parliamentary Labour Party is losing the battle for the Labour leadership.
The membership – seemingly, in its big majority - wants a Labour Party which will tax the rich, rebuild the NHS, introduce free education and abolish the anti-union laws. The members want to remake Labour as a party that fights for the interests of workers.
The Labour right finds the movement behind Corbyn threatening and they are becoming increasingly desperate. The Labour machine has attempted to rule out thousands of members from voting in the leadership election. Wallasey Constituency and Brighton, Hove and District Labour Parties have been suspended.
Now Tom Watson is attempting a “Trotsky” scare. Watson accuses “the Trotskyists” of “caucusing and factionalising and putting pressure where they can,” and “arm twisting.” In fact, this is a description of Watson’s own, normal, natural behaviour. (As we have documented elsewhere, Watson was a “fixer” for Gordon Brown during the early New Labour years: see here.)
In contrast Workers’ Liberty’s influence has been won through open debate, and by acting as honest activists inside the movement.
The Guardian (10 August) reports Watson demanding Corbyn supports bans on the Socialist Party and on us, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). Watson attempts to adopt a reasonable, matey tone – but he’s not very good at it. He is a hack, someone who wanders around in the background, causing trouble.
Corbyn and the left should certainly defend the right of all socialists to be Party members. The Party should only require that socialists back Labour candidates in elections. The AWL backs Labour in elections.
As Watson knows very well the Socialist Party and the AWL are very different types of organisation. The Socialist Party has spent over two decades denouncing the Labour Party as irredeemably bourgeois. And as Watson also knows the Socialist Party boss, Peter Taaffe, has spent a considerable amount of energy attempting to stop his members joining the Labour Party.
Taaffe’s position is idiotic, as usual. Nevertheless – with the exception of, perhaps, a handful of strays – no Socialist Party member currently has a Labour Party card.
So why all the fuss about the SP? Watson’s target is really Corbyn, but he can’t directly denounce Corbyn. So he picks on the Socialist Party because of its Militant past. Then he pretends the Socialist Party are a threat to the Labour Party. He links the Socialist Party with the AWL because he wants to spread around as much muck as possible. Nothing about this narrative makes sense. But that doesn’t matter given the press and the media are on Watson’s side and don’t care if he makes sense, or not.
The AWL is nothing like the SP, or its forerunner, the Militant. We are not a closed, secretive sect.
The AWL openly debates differences in our paper, Solidarity. Our events are open. Our conference documents, constitution and positions can be found in plain view on our web site. Read them and find out what we do.
And we are consistent advocates of class-struggle socialism. You would not find a clown like Derek Hatton, for example, acting as our spokesperson.
The Socialist Party’s main concern in the Corbyn surge is to recruit a few members, encourage a scandal, and get some headlines. Our main concern is to defeat the Labour right wing and transform the labour movement. By acting as honest militants within the movement - people who are concerned for the movement’s strength and political health - we think we will grow in influence and also membership.
And do you know how big we are? We have 120 full AWL members. Tom Watson knows very well that we are a small group among half a million Labour members. This is the extent of the Trotskyist threat.
And yet, in the end, Tom Watson – despite his intention – has half a point. We are a potential problem for people like Tom Watson. Not because we manipulate behind the scenes - but because our message is becoming increasingly popular in the Party. We are serious Marxists, serious about ideas and consistent about their application.
Watch out, Tom Watson.