Yesterday I had the honour of speaking on behalf of the Socialist Labour Network at the event marking Jeremy Corbyn’s 40 years as MP for Islington North. Here’s the text of my speech… * * * * Greetings from the Socialist Labour Network and from Newham Socialist Labour. Congratulations, Jeremy, on your lifelong struggle for the cause of socialism – all the more so for the forty years you fought on the most difficult of all battlefields: parliament. I know something of the appalling pressures you must have felt: my father Sydney Silverman was a left Labour MP for 33 years until his dying day. And he received just the same treatment from his so-called allies as you. He too had the whip withdrawn: twice! Once by Attlee, once by Gaitskell. And he only avoided the same fate yet again under Wilson by dying just in time! In 1951 he was expelled from the Parliamentary Labour Party for opposing the Labour Government’s pro-NATO rearmament programme. In 1961, he had the whip withdrawn again, for voting in line with Labour’s conference vote in favour of nuclear disarmament, and for calling on Gaitskell, the Starmer of his day, to resign as party leader. Finally, just a year before his death, he denounced Harold Wilson, saying “just for thirty pieces of silver he betrayed us”. When the Chief Whip tried to appease him with patronising compliments, he replied: “The only memorial I would value is that I have given a lifetime of service in the Labour Party’s continuing effort to establish a socialist society.” It was a fitting epitaph. He died only months later, in 1968, that goal no nearer realisation. If that’s how he thought of Attlee, Gaitskell and Wilson… what would he have said about Sir Keir Starmer? The man who won the leadership promising to continue your radical programme, and immediately launched a mass purge. Starmer has systematically crushed the democratic rights of the membership. Literally thousands of members have been excluded without a hearing, and many more have simply dropped out in disgust. This is not just another swing of the pendulum; it’s a systematic purge. True, there have been witch-hunts in every generation; but they complied with at least the trappings of due process. Each one of the Liverpool councillors, for instance, had the right before their expulsion to put their case in person before the NEC; and when the Militant editorial board were expelled, Ted Grant himself was given the right to appeal directly in a five-minute speech to the entire Labour Party conference. And now? Thousands of party activists have been expelled by a mere click on a keyboard: an email notifying them that their membership is “terminated”. In Alice In Wonderland, it’s true you got the sentence first, but at least then you got some kind of trial afterwards. Even Stalin felt it necessary to stage at least a show trial. The nearest parallel to justice in Starmer’s Labour Party is Kafka’s novel The Trial. Most disgusting of all: Starmer has branded Britain’s foremost campaigner against racism… a racist. How dare he? Jeremy, history will show the truth. Your record is spotless. It was Labour’s right-wing Home Secretary Morrison – Peter Mandelson’s grandfather – who shut the door to Jewish refugees from the Nazi holocaust. It was Labour’s right-wing Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin who sank the ships carrying Jewish survivors of the concentration camps in the Mediterranean. And they dare to talk about anti-semitism? Jeremy, it’s time the truth was told. You led the party in 2017 to its best ever vote apart from Scotland – in spite of sabotage from your own officials. And even in 2019 you scored a higher vote than Miliband in 2015, Brown in 2010 and even Blair in 2005 – when Labour won. Starmer has goaded any remaining left members to walk out: “If you don’t like the changes we have made… the door is open and you can leave…” One of his henchmen has blurted out his real motives: “If… you don’t agree with support for business… then this party isn’t for you.” Meanwhile, trade union leaders are being expelled, and shadow ministers are banned from joining picket lines. Now you may say, that’s nothing new? Remember that In 1976, serving Labour cabinet ministers stood on the Grunwicks picket line – including even Shirley Williams, who soon afterwards defected to the Social-Democratic Party. So how do we overcome the duopoly of the twin-headed Tory/Starmerite dictatorship? In just the same way that Labour displaced the Tory/Liberal regime over a century ago! In 1900 the trade unions severed their link with the Liberal Party and established the Labour Representation Committee. The only difference today is that David Lloyd George was incomparably more radical than Sir Keir Starmer. If there was ever a need for a genuine party of labour, it is now. And Jeremy, you’re the comrade to lead it.
Image – Official portrait of Jeremy Corbyn crop 2, 2020.jpg” by Richard Townsend is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/?