10 OCTOBER 2022 | NEWS
The far-left organisation Socialist Labour Network (SLN) has voted to begin the process of forming a new political party, we can reveal.
The motion, seen by Wolves, was voted through practically unanimously by the group last week, with some abstentions but no votes against it. The SLN consists largely of former members of the Labour Party who are suspended or have been expelled from it in the past two years since Sir Keir Starmer assumed the leadership.
A great many of these former members are people who either joined or re-joined the Labour Party in 2015 in order to support the campaign of former leader Jeremy Corbyn. At the time, it was possible to obtain voting rights in the leadership contest as a ‘registered supporter’ for £3.
It is understood that the motion was drafted and introduced by Richard Brenner, the Editor of the Workers’ Power monthly newspaper.
This is not the first time the group of activists have considered forming a new party, although it is the first time they have directly voted for it.
The development follows the merger of the Labour Against the Witch-hunt (LAW) movement with the Labour In Exile Network (LIEN). Both former groups had previously been proscribed by the Labour Party, as had the Socialist Labour Network that they subsequently became. The Labour Left Alliance, which consists of many similar members, has also been proscribed.
Membership of or association with any of these groups is highly likely to lead to automatic expulsion from the party, internal sources confirm.
The motion also demands that the Trades Union Congress (TUC) should call a general strike, which would mean a mass walk-out of workers across industry. This last happened almost a century ago in May 1926. It further calls for “indefinite strikes for above-inflation pay rises”.
Referring to a call for this by British film director Ken Loach, who was expelled from the Labour Party last year owing to his membership of the former LAW organisation, the motion states that “the Socialist Labour Network will campaign for an all-Britain conference of working-class organisations, including trade unions, local cost-of-living increases groups, tenants’ campaigns, ex-Labour Party members and socialist groups to discuss the formation of a new mass political party of labour”.
While the group has extensively discussed the formation of a new party before, over the past year and a half, there had previously been resistance to the notion amongst its membership. Although it has stood candidates in local council elections in the past – none of whom were elected – these had always been under an independent banner.
Whereas the LAW faction was opposed to the formation of a new party, preferring continued engagement within the Labour Party, LIEN supported it. During the merger process, the LIEN faction defeated LAW in a vote on the matter, after which the LAW members all resigned from the new joint Steering Committee.
The organisation has already been setting up ‘Shadow CLPs‘ (‘Constituency Labour Parties’) around the country, including in Newham, Plymouth and South Thanet. A ‘Shadow CLP’ is an organisation formed after an existing CLP has been effectively suspended by the party leadership. It acts as a representative body of its membership, just as a normal CLP would.
A Labour CLP can be suspended in practice by simply suspending all of its officers, meaning it has ‘no competent business’ and cannot officially meet, or pass resolutions and motions – suspending the entire membership is not necessary.
But the Shadow CLPs have also been carrying out all the activities normally associated with an official Labour CLP. Aside from general political activism, leafleting and holding meetings, this has also included running food banks, most notably in Newham.
The motion voted upon by the SLN also proposes the creation of “action councils in every town, city and borough”, which would be designed to “bring together the hundreds of thousands signed up to Enough is Enough, Don’t Pay, People’s Assembly, Acorn, rank and file trade union members and campaigns”.
It further states: “With the ruling class divided, the middle class in uproar over mortgages and pensions and the working class seething with rage at rising prices and falling real wages, if a real lead were given by the labour and union leaders, who can doubt millions would answer the call?”
If the group is successful in establishing a new political party in the way that it envisages, this would mean it would have a membership of anywhere from tens to potentially hundreds of thousands of people, drawing upon the memberships of other mass groups that are in principle apolitical at present.
Such a development could well split the left-wing vote in key constituencies across the country at the next General Election, to the detriment of the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is also expected to see a split in the right-wing vote from challenger Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party.
Westminster voting intention for Labour as of 8 October 2022
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Militant Tendency carried out similar, though ultimately unsuccessful manoeuvres within the Labour Party, although most of its members were still active within the party at the time. It later became Militant Labour from 1991 to 1997, before establishing itself as the Socialist Party thereafter.
But the movement from 40-50 years ago did not have the links with other mass-membership groups that the SLN plans to use today, although some SLN members are also veterans of the original movement.
Additionally, in this case, the SLN’s members have already been ejected from Labour under what they would term the “purges” by incumbent leader Sir Keir Starmer over the past two years, meaning they have no remaining loyalty to the party.
Responding to the news, a Conservative councillor in the North West told Wolves: “These developments just highlight the disunity of the radical unionist left, and show that they will always put their own interests ahead of those of the country.
“They can form as many new parties as they want, but their extremist, anti-Britain ideals will never change.”
The Labour Party Press Office did not wish to comment on the matter.