Socialist Worker: vote for genocide!

Article on Socialist Worker website: 'How should socialists vote in the local elections?'

On 2 May local elections took place across Britain. Normally they are of little significance since the candidates of the major parties are always committed to setting local authority budgets which are legal and which therefore continue to cut jobs and essential services for the working class. However, this year the ruling class and its media were concerned first, to see how far the Tory Party’s electoral support had disintegrated, and second, to determine whether there has been a significant hit on Labour Party fortunes both because of its naked support for continued austerity, and for its defence of the genocide in Gaza.


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Socialist Appeal: communism or social chauvinism?

Socialist Appeal posters as 'Are you a communist?' (image: Hammersmith Communists)

In October 2023, the Socialist Appeal organisation, a British Trotskyist organisation which is a descendant of The Militant, announced that its newspaper would become The Communist from January and that it would rebrand itself as the ‘Revolutionary Communist Party’ from May 2024. The question is: how can an organisation so steeped in social chauvinism imagine that it becomes communist by dint of declaring itself as such? The answer lies in the ideological weakness and fragmentation of the communist movement internationally and especially in Britain. It means that any self-defined protest group can pretend to be a communist party, with or without adding ‘revolutionary’ or ‘Marxist-Leninist’ – to the point of stretching the notion to the preposterous.


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Labour Defends Genocide

The outrage that followed the refusal of the Labour Party leadership to back the call for a ceasefire in the parliamentary vote on 15 November was inevitable: it was the final straw for hundreds of thousands of people who had been demonstrating against the blitzkrieg on Palestine. Throughout the war, the Labour Party has sided with the Zionist state and deliberately ignored all the prima face evidence of Zionist war crimes and of its genocidal intent. Instead, leader Sir Keir Starmer gave a green light to collective punishment of the people of Gaza, blaming the suffering of the Palestinian people on the 7 October military action of the resistance forces. It shows once again that the Labour Party is first and foremost an imperialist party. It has to defend the interests of British imperialism and that means it will never abandon its Zionist ally, the guarantor of Britain’s interests in the Middle East. Robert Clough reports.


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Labour vicious, racist and anti-working class

In what amounted to a declaration of war on asylum seekers, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told The Sun that ‘we rightly talk about the importance of climate change, terrorism and hostile foreign powers when it comes to our national security. But we now need to put dealing with the threat of people smugglers on the same footing.’ What better way to push the idea that asylum seekers crossing the channel are but one step short of being terrorists? Whatever the details of Labour asylum seeker policy, the notion that it is time to ‘smash the gangs’ is intended to be the presentational framework. Tory ‘illegal immigration’ will become Labour ‘illegal immigration’, confirming that a Labour government in 2024 will be no less reactionary than the Tory one it replaces. If there is any doubt, look to the Labour decision not to revoke licences to develop the Rosebank oilfield in the North Sea even though every scientific opinion is against it. Robert Clough reports.


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'Revolutionary Marxism’ vs Marx

Labour Revolt in Britain 1910-1914
by Ralph Darlington, Pluto Press, 2023, £17.99 pbk

Labour Revolt in Britain is on the face of it an extensively researched account of one of the most significant periods of trade union militancy in British and Irish history, cut short by the outbreak of the First Imperialist War. Not since the Chartist movement in the 1830s and 1840s had there been such a period of sustained working class activity, one which coincided with struggles for Irish self-determination and women’s suffrage. The background was the increasing pressure that British capitalism had come under since the turn of the 20th century, expressing itself in economic stagnation and inflation. Falling living standards for the better-off unionised sections of the working class shook trade unions from a half-century of torpor briefly interrupted by the 1889-91 revolt of unskilled workers.


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Labour – reactionary through and through

Keir Starmer

The disintegration of the NHS, the threadbare conditions of social care, the effrontery of the water companies first apologising for the uncontrolled discharge of raw sewage into rivers and onto beaches and then demanding customers pay an extra £10bn to stop it, the enormous monopoly profits of the energy companies and the banks, the state of the privatised railway system, all would enable any serious opposition to demolish the Tories. But that would involve challenging the way asset managers load debt onto the water companies or residential home companies in order to cream off profits. This Labour will not do: in government it will have to foster conditions where monopolies and the banks are able to maximise their profits. Its performance in the local elections depended on keeping quiet about immigration and asylum seekers: it will not challenge the evermore strident racism of the government for fear of alienating the racist sections of the electorate whose support it needs to win a general election. 


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Trade union leaders hobble strike action

Though the wave of strikes that started in summer 2022 has continued through spring, there is as yet no sign that the tight control exercised by trade union leaders over their conduct is being significantly challenged. Although members of the Royal College of Nursing rejected the NHS offer, the balloting process for a new round of strikes after the end of the previous six-month mandate required by anti-trade union laws will take a month to complete. Long drawn-out campaigns by educational and university unions are designed to ensure that the campaigns of industrial action do not lead to significant unrest. The Enough is Enough campaign set up by trade union leaders and left Labour MPs last autumn has already disappeared.


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Union leaders stifle strikes

Bordeaux is burning… as are the French cities of Paris, Nantes, Marseilles and Brest. Across France, millions of people have been out on the streets since January to demonstrate against the raising of the pensionable age from 62 to 64, forcing King Charles to cancel what would have been the first state visit of his reign at the end of March. The hugely unpopular reforms were forced through by the government of Emmanuel Macron using a constitutional mechanism to bypass a vote in the National Assembly. The refusal of President Macron to back down in the face of rising popular anger resulted in the torching of the City Hall of Bordeaux on 23 March.

As we go to press, the strike wave that began last autumn is beginning to ebb as trade unions start to agree settlements to their pay disputes. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) agreed a below-inflation pay increase in early March; the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has settled with Network Rail although its dispute with 14 train operating companies continues; the health services unions have received an offer which has led them to suspend strike action and the University and Colleges Union (UCU) are currently in negotiations through ACAS, the arbitration and conciliation service. Civil service and teachers’ unions remain in dispute.


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Labour: waiting in the wings

With Labour 20 points ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls, it is now highly likely that it will form the next government when the general election is held sometime in December 2024. That is, if the Tories can survive until then: their record of incompetence and corruption suggests that this will not be easy. There is little doubt that the ruling class wants them gone – it sees Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as a safer pair of hands. Yet it does not have the direct influence over the Tory Party that it had in the past, and if it cannot engineer Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s resignation, it will have to wait out the next 21 months. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.


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Ruling class set for Labour

While the pro-Labour left continues with its shrill ‘Tories out’ demand, the ruling class has grown impatient with a Tory government characterised by incompetence and corruption, one whose every move is dictated by the needs of parliamentary survival. Under its third prime minister, Rishi Sunak, the government lacks any plan in which the ruling class has confidence, with major decisions liable to almost immediate reversal. In the meantime, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has positioned himself and his shadow cabinet as a competent pair of hands to manage the crisis of British capitalism, and is energetically signalling that the Corbynite left has been comprehensively crushed. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.


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Trade union leaders shackle resistance

Rampant inflation, rising energy prices and stagnant wages have driven the organised sections of the working class to act against a decade-long decline in their living standards. Strikes have taken place across health, transport, the civil service, post and airport baggage handling. Industrial action has now reached a 30-year-high with 1,628,000 days lost between June and November 2022 – more than the total days lost for the five years 2015-2019:


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NEW LABOUR: don’t vote for class enemies

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown

FRFI 135, February/March 1997

Within three months there will be a general election. The electorate is going to be asked to vote Labour to get rid of the Tories. But can there be any real argument for voting for Tony Blair and what even The Observer describes as Labour’s ‘uncritical support for the free market and social authoritarianism’? Some argue that New Labour’s positions are merely an attempt to win extra votes, and that if Labour becomes the next government, it will inevitably adopt more socialist policies. The opposite is true. Labour’s policies express Labour’s class standpoint – middle class privilege and arrogance. New Labour’s purpose is to protect capital and the interests of the affluent minority. ROBERT CLOUGH argues a vote for Labour is a vote against the interests of the mass of the working class.


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Editorial: don’t vote for Labour

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown

FRFI 135, February/March 1997

Gordon Brown has declared war on the working class. That is the meaning of his pledge that an incoming Labour Government will neither raise tax rates during its possible five-year life nor change Tory public spending plans for the next two years. In other words, vote Labour and there will be no change. The Tory tax robbery system will stay in place. This means that the richest 10 per cent of earners will continue to benefit to the tune of £16 billion each year compared to what they would have paid in income tax in 1979. Whilst they pay 23 per cent of their income in all forms of taxes, the poorest pay 39 per cent, penalised as they are by VAT and council tax; they have lost £13 per week since 1979. And if those on benefit find low-paid work, they face an effective tax rate on earnings of up to 98% through deductions from benefits. Meanwhile tax on business stands at 5.9 per cent of GDP compared to an average 10.5 per cent of GDP for the G7 group of leading capitalist countries. But Labour will not change any of this! By ruling out even an increase of the top tax rate from 40 per cent to 50 per cent they are ensuring those who earn £100,000 or more that they can hang on to the £43,000 they have pocketed from to tax policies.


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Staff on West Coast rail line strike for pay increase

Avanti West Coast train

Rail workers on the Avanti West Coast rail line have been forced into strike action by the rising cost of living. Most train drivers have had no pay increase since 2019, while inflation continues to soar. Negotiations have stalled as the Department for Transport, headed by minister Grant Shapps, sets the limits on public funding for rail operators and has effectively refused to sign off on any further pay rises. The Tory government is determined to reduce the workforce, increasing the rate of exploitation of the remainder in work and replacing workers with electronics such as ticket machines in place of ticket offices. Strike action organised by RMT, ASLEF and TSSA for 1 and 5 October will target 13 companies in all.


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Unions postpone action over death of queen

RMT picket line in Brixton, London

Rampant inflation and rising energy prices, combined with stagnant wages, are fuelling anger and desperation among increasing sections of the organised working class. This simmering resentment and willingness to act against worsening conditions drove a surge in strike action by unions in Britain over the summer. The first strikes announced in June by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), were followed by action from dockers in Felixstowe and Liverpool, and postal workers from the Communication Workers Union (CWU), challenging Royal Mail in a dispute over pay and working practices. But this rise in organised working class resistance was brought to a grinding halt on 8 September, when the main unions announced they were postponing strike action as ‘a mark of respect’ following the death of Queen Elizabeth.


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A summer of discontent?

The wave of strikes which started with the Rail, Mari­time and Transport Workers (RMT) union on 21 June has now excited the political attention of the candidates for the leadership of the Tory Party, with Liz Truss promising further anti-trade union legislation. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer then sacked a junior shadow transport minister, Sam Tarry, for joining a picket line on 27 July. Further strikes on the railways, in the Royal Mail and BT are taking place over the summer as workers fight for wage increases in line with soaring inflation.


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P&O Ferries workers left high and dry

Pride of Burgundy leaving dover

The heartlessness of the British ruling class was exposed by its response to the actions of the Dubai-based board of P&O Ferries on 18 March. By the stroke of a pen, 786 workers were thrown into unemployment at a time when the cost of living is skyrocketing and the welfare ‘safety net’ is more threadbare than ever. The execution was particularly brutal: after being shown a video message informing the workers of their immediate redundancy, ex-military security guards equipped with handcuffs boarded the ships to ensure there would be no resistance to clearing staff from the decks where many have lived and worked for years. These guards had no power of arrest or detention and using the handcuffs would have amounted to assault.


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A carnival of reaction

Ukraine Solidarity Campaign rally, April 2022

We are living in the most reactionary of times. The depth of the economic crisis has raised inter-imperialist rivalries to a new pitch. War in Ukraine is in essence a war between US, British and European imperialism on the one hand, and Russian imperialism on the other. Behind Russia, however, looms China, whose GDP is set to surpass that of the US by 2028. In its efforts to delay its inevitable relative decline, the US has stepped up its aggression; its determination to crush its far weaker Russian imperialist rival lies behind today’s war in Ukraine. As the US also attempts to bring European imperialism to heel, in particular Germany and France, Britain moves in lock step, its shrill denunciations of Russian ‘aggression’ revealing that post-Brexit, it has no independent influence or role. This was graphically demonstrated when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov casually swatted away his British opposite number, Liz Truss, at their meeting on 10 February prior to the Russian invasion.


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Labour: the patriotic party

Keir Starmer with slogan 'Security, Prosperity, Respect'

The spectacle of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrapping himself in the Union flag – the Butcher’s Apron – at his major speeches may be laughable, but it is central to winning back the electoral support of the reactionary layer of the working class which defected to the Tories in the 2019 General Election. Opinion polls suggest that Labour could win back 42 out of 45 of the so-called Red Wall constituencies in the Midlands and the North of England which returned Tory MPs. The improvement in Labour’s position in the polls however is mostly a consequence of the continued revelations of Tory Party corruption and Downing Street parties breaching public health regulations during the pandemic. 


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Labour and the changing working class

Labour’s defeat in the Hartlepool by-election on 6 May demonstrated the terminal nature of its condition. The Labour Party does not provide any opposition to a completely reactionary government which through its incompetence and corruption has killed tens of thousands of people. Instead, its policy of ‘constructive engagement’ with the government has made it complicit in the appalling outcome of the Tories’ Covid-19 pandemic response. Labour is now demonstrably incapable of assembling the electoral coalition necessary to win a general election. Irrelevant to the backward sections of the working class that dominate so-called Red Wall constituencies, it also cannot begin to answer the needs of millions of skilled graduates undergoing rapid proletarianisation. It faces disintegration. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.


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No Vote for Labour Racists

Thatcher and Kinnock - black people's blood on their hands (photo: POPPERFOTO)

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No.68, May 1987

Election fever is running high as the three main political parties prepare themselves for a probable June General Election. This is supposed to be the highpoint of ‘democracy’ for British people. But in reality the choice we have is between one gang of racist, war-mongering liars and another. What is surprising about this election is that with rampant unemployment, escalating poverty for millions, a galaxy of anti-working class laws, and after eight years of the most reactionary rule punctuated by scandals and crookery, Margaret Thatcher and the Tories are likely to retain power. Kinnock’s Labour Party is unlikely to win, and may even take third place to the Liberal/SDP Alliance. Socialists of all varieties on the British left are arguing that you should vote Labour because it is traditionally the party of the working class – a lesser evil compared with the Tories. The RCG says that we don’t want Thatcher back in power, nor Kinnock and his cohorts who do not represent the working class in Britain. Those who call for a vote for Kinnock, sowing illusions in the class nature of the Labour Party, will stand in the way of building a fighting working class movement whose first task will be to destroy the Labour Party and every rotten tradition it stands for. If you vote Tory, Labour or Alliance you will be voting for British Imperialism.


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The Left after the Election: A flight from reality

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No.107, June/July 1992

Reviewing the general election in the New Statesman recently, Jeremy Seabrook wrote that ‘the small frightened freedoms that we enjoy are underpinned by a global system that requires that they be paid for by rigorous and intensifying dispossession of the poor of the earth’, and argued that ‘Labour’s promises of a better life depended absolutely and solely on the further success of the global economy further to enrich the people of Britain by means of the same flow of wealth from the poor to the rich of the world.’ ROBERT CLOUGH examines the issues.


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Changing nature of the British working class

Liverpool dockers on strike

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 130, April/May 1996

As New Labour has moved ever further to the right in its efforts to court the votes and support of the middle class, debates have started within the left about how it should relate to the working class. Such a debate begs a more fundamental question — what is the working class in Britain? because how you define it decides who you relate to and how. ROBERT CLOUGH discusses the issues.


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New Labour: Don’t vote for class enemies

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 135 February/March 1997

Within three months there will be a general election. The electorate is going to be asked to vote Labour to get rid of the Tories. But can there be any real argument for voting for Tony Blair and what even The Observer describes as Labour’s ‘uncritical support for the free market and social authoritarianism’? Some argue that New Labour’s positions are merely an attempt to win extra votes, and that if Labour becomes the next government, it will inevitably adopt more socialist policies. The opposite is true. Labour’s policies express Labour’s class standpoint - middle-class privilege and arrogance. New Labour’s purpose is to protect capital and the interests of the affluent minority. ROBERT CLOUGH argues a vote for Labour is a vote against the interests of the mass of the working class.


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Whose Unions?

Timex industrial action

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 113, June/July 1993

The recent wave of trade union militancy – the miners, Timex, railway workers, firefighters etc – has been seen by the left as an upturn in struggle which contains possibilities for socialist renewal. They clearly do present possibilities, but what is the left's strategy? – to demand that the TUC and trade unions organise these struggles and give them more support.

However, GAVIN SCOTT shows that the changes that have taken place in union membership since the 1970s, their character now, and the record of the TUC over that period, are evidence that such demands push the fighting sections of the working class into the arms of their most dangerous foes - the new labour aristocracy. The 1991 Labour Force Survey presented in the Employment Gazette of January 1993 provides graphic evidence that the trade union movement does not represent the mass of British workers – whether in unions or not. It does not represent women, the low paid, part-time or temporary workers. It does not represent the unemployed. The report confirms that trade unions are increasingly dominated, controlled and directed by a new labour aristocracy of non-manual workers – a tiny minority of educated managerial, professional and associated workers.


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State of the unions

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 132, August/September 1996

In Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 120, we analysed the major developments within the trade union movement drawing on data collected by the Labour Force Survey in 1991. The article, Whose Unions? by Gavin Scott, showed that the trade unions were becoming increasingly dominated by ‘educated, managerial, professional and associated workers’ — ie the middle class. The Labour Force Survey has recently reported on 1995. ROBERT CLOUGH assesses whether the trends apparent in 1991 continue to assert themselves, and what implications they have for building a union movement that can organise the mass of the working class.


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New Labour’s Manifesto: The road to social fascism

Thumbs up for the middle class (Labour manifesto cover - 'New Labour's pledge'

Labour’s new manifesto was launched to a huge fanfare on 4 July. ‘The Labour Party has changed’, it announces. ‘Now we are seeking the trust of the people to change Britain’. A ringing sentence indeed: but what does it signify? Nothing, for as The Economist pointed out, ‘neither in economics, nor in health, nor in education, nor in welfare reform does this pro­visional manifesto justify the claim that [Blair] and his party make that they are seeking to change their country.’ For The Economist and other ruling class opinion-formers, what is reassuring about New Labour is how little it differs from the Tories: ‘...the thrust of Labour’s macroeconomic policies is much the same as that of John Major’s Tories, differing only in detail. Indeed that is their appeal. Labour now embraces free trade, free markets, and fis­cal and monetary stability…’


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Labour: never the time for opposition

Keir Starmer

In the lead-up to the Tory government’s 3 March Budget when newspaper reports suggested Chancellor Sunak might wish to raise the rate of corporation tax, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds argued that ‘now was not the time’ to raise any taxes, a stance echoed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. ‘Now was not the time’ in September 2020 to oppose the Overseas Operations Bill at its second reading in the House of Commons. This would exempt British armed forces personnel from prosecution under the European Convention on Human Rights. Ten United Nations human rights special rapporteurs said the Bill would violate the ‘UK’s obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law’. This was not enough to move Starmer. And nor was he prepared to oppose the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill when it came before Parliament in 2020 even though it would allow senior police officers to grant immunity to undercover agents whatever crimes they committed. Starmer insisted the Labour MPs abstain on its second and third readings; it was approved with tacit Labour support.


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 Liverpool Labour left capitulates

Liverpool Town Hall

‘Keir Starmer may want to fight the Labour Left – but we won’t stand for it in Liverpool’ (Alan Gibbons, former SWP member and now secretary of Walton Constituency Labour Party, The Independent 26 February 2021)

Fighting words, indeed, but words that would eventually signify nothing. The occasion was a decision by Labour head office to restart a selection process for a candidate to represent Labour in a mayoral election in May. Three possible candidates had been nominated by Liverpool Labour councillors; members were due to vote at the end of March on who would go forward.  However, for reasons it chose not to explain, the Labour leadership suspended the process, re-interviewed the three councillors, decided that they could not longer stand, and replaced them with two others. Cue outrage from the Labour left, with talk of getting one of the original candidates, black councillor Anna Rothery, to stand as an independent in the way Ken Livingstone had when he was prevented by the Blair leadership from representing Labour in the 2000 London mayoral election. Rothery, who had unexpectedly received Jeremy Corbyn’s endorsement when many of the left favoured another of the three, Ann O’Byrne, announced that she would take Labour to court over the fiasco. That cost her £65,000 as she lost her case to be put back on the shortlist.


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Labour hires former Israeli spy

Asaf Kaplan (Facebook)

Since taking over as leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer has wasted no time reinforcing the party’s firmly pro-Zionist roots, continuing the campaign against Palestine supporters and shoring up anti-Palestinian forces within the party. In December the party hired Assaf Kaplan, a former Israeli spy, as a social media manager for the party. Kaplan worked for Israeli military intelligence from 2009 to 2013 and was a member of the notorious Unit 8200, which has been exposed for carrying out mass surveillance, hacking, blackmail and extortion against Palestinians. In 2014, a group of whistle-blowers revealed that the Unit had systematically used information about Palestinians under surveillance – including individuals needing to travel to Israel for medical treatment or personal secrets like marital infidelity or sexual orientation – to blackmail them into becoming informants. Kaplan also has ties with the Israel lobby in Britain, including Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy agent who was ejected from Britain after being exposed for plotting against British politicians. Kaplan will lead Labour’s efforts monitoring conversations on social media and ‘challenging disinformation online’ about the party.

In an interview last year, Starmer declared in no uncertain terms: ‘I support Zionism without qualification.’ Kaplan will no doubt fit very comfortably into the imperialist, anti-Palestinian Labour Party.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 280 February/March 2021


The rise and fall of Corbynism

Corbyn with Len McCluskey after leadership victory
  • Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corby by Garbriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire, Bodley Head, 376pp, £18.99 hardback.
  • This Land: The Story of a Movement by Owen Jones, Allen Lane, 336pp, £20 hardback.

Reviewing these two books on Corbyn and his meteoric ascent into the leadership of the Labour Party after decades on the back-benches, and his disastrous performance in the 2019 general election requires a conceptual framework which can explain both. Neither of these books presents one which adequately explains this period in the history of the Labour Party. Both concentrate on the internal battles within Labour and how the party under Corbyn’s leadership responded to media pressures, but are unable to answer two basic questions: why was Corbyn elected, and was his defeat inevitable?


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