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THE Labour Party appears to be crumbling at the base. For the left in general, this cannot be just a spectator sport.
The crisis in Gaza is the immediate cause of the accelerated disintegration, but it is rooted in the deeper discontent with the fraudulent and authoritarian Starmer leadership.
In the last month, Labour has lost control of three significant councils — Burnley, Norwich and Oxford — as a result of councillors resigning from the party.
In addition, groups of councillors have quit in Blackburn, Walsall, Kensington and Haringey and individual representatives elsewhere. In Newham in east London, an independent has won a seat from Labour.
Nearly sixty Labour councillors altogether have resigned, and far from all are from the Muslim community.
Nor should the successful group of independent councillors in Liverpool and the Aspire majority on Tower Hamlets council, supporting Lutfur Rahman’s mayoralty, be neglected. These represent earlier departures from Labour.
In many localities, the ex-Labour councillors are backed by a support network which includes some who remain within the party.
Many thousands, of course, do not remain members, with the torrent of resignations over Gaza to be added to the hundreds of thousands of already-departed Jeremy Corbyn supporters.
There are significant fissures in Parliament, too, although those involved have not resigned but instead fallen victim to Starmer-ordered exclusions. Four MPs in the Socialist Campaign Group are currently without the Labour whip — Corbyn, Claudia Webbe, Diane Abbott and Andy McDonald.
The last two are suspended pending the outcome of “investigations” which take an age to arrive at their pre-ordained conclusion.
Two further left MPs — Mick Whitley in Birkenhead and Beth Winter in Cynon Valley — have been deselected, in both cases after cynical manoeuvring by the apparatus to impose the desired result.
This accumulating division has been given sharp political focus by Starmer’s full-throated backing for Israel in its murderous assault on the Palestinians.
But it is about more than that — the wholesale repudiation of Corbyn-era politics and the cynical abuse of party democracy are the main factors.
So far no-one has stepped forward to attempt to give political coherence to this mass of discontent, although praiseworthy work is being done to co-ordinate the newly independent councillors.
Absent such initiative, there is a strong likelihood of the movement dissipating and eventually either drifting back to Labour or being snuffed out at the polls.
Some on the left deprecate all this. Labour under all circumstances is their mantra, and do nothing that might risk exclusion from the party.
That is not a position to be sneered at, the more so when there is no ready, and plausible, alternative to hand and trade unions remain affiliated to Labour, if often too politically passive.
However, it is a perspective that offers no prospect of imminent success and which leaves most progressive people, for whom Labour is an option but not a religion, cold.
There is no need for socialists to aim to definitively resolve the intractable problem of either working through Labour or building an alternative at this moment.
The object should rather be to seize the political initiative and give some expression to the boiling discontent with the pro-imperialist Starmer leadership. Such a movement would be pro-Palestinian, pro-party democracy and pro-social justice.
The alternative is drift and disillusionment. The prize could either be breaking, or at least modifying, the Starmer regime in Labour through external pressure, or creating a long-term viable vehicle for promoting socialist politics.
“Engage, then we’ll see” was Napoleon Bonaparte’s military maxim. Today, the left needs to engage in a co-ordinated and purposeful way. It has nothing to lose but isolation.
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