A Moment in History 967

Sometimes we do not know when small actions could have the most momentous effects. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand loved his wife, which was most unusual for a Hapsburg. She was not of royal blood and strict protocol meant she could not appear in public ceremonies with him in Vienna. Which is why he chose to undertake a royal visit to the obscure Serbian provincial city of Sarajevo for her birthday. The rest, as they say, is history.

AJP Taylor liked to list Franz Ferdinand’s love for his wife as a cause of the First World War, a reminder that history is the study of human beings. Of course the massive arms race between the imperial powers, and the nationalist and democratic forces acting on old heterogenous dynastic empires, lay at the root of the First World War. But Taylor’s absolutely correct point is that even the greatest store of paraffin will not ignite without a spark, and perhaps the spark may never come. I am with Taylor on this, against the rigid determinists.

The vast transfer of wealth from everybody else to the bankers in the great banking collapse, and the huge growth in wealth inequality and obscene concentrations of wealth in a tiny number of private hands, are the underlying causes of the collapse in old political party structures across the western democracies and the rise of insurgent politics in all its various forms, mostly under the careful control of the elite using all their media control to misdirect popular blame for mass poverty against immigrants.

There are however genuine examples of insurgent politics seeking to craft a fairer society in the UK, of which the SNP and Yes Movement in Scotland, and Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in England and Wales, are the most important examples.

Unusually for me, this article is addressed primarily to Corbyn supporters down in England and Wales. You don’t have to be an Austrian Archduke to stand at the moment when your own small actions can have profound, indeed historical ramifications. If just a few score less ordinary people had listened to and acted on Camille Desmoulins’ great speech as the revolutionary impulse teetered, the world might have been very different. Corbyn supporters are at that moment of historic decision right now – and mostly do not realise it.

Jeremy Corbyn represents the only realistic chance the people of England and Wales have been given in decades, to escape from the neo-liberal economics that have impoverished vast swathes of the population. But he leads a parliamentary party which is almost entirely comprised of hardline neo-liberal adherents.

The majority of the parliamentary Labour party are the people who brought in academy schools, high student tuition fees, PFI, who introduced more privatisation into the health service than the Tories have, and who brought you the Iraq and Afghan Wars. They abstained on the Tory austerity benefit cuts and on May’s “hostile environment” immigration legislation. They support Trident nuclear missiles. Many hanker after bombing Syria, and most are members of Labour Friends of Israel.

Even before the current disintegration of UK political structures, there was no way that these Labour MPs were ever going to support Corbyn in power in seeking to return the UK towards the mainstream of European social democracy. They have spent the last four years in undermining Corbyn at every turn and attempting to return Labour to the right wing political Establishment agenda. In the current fluid state of UK politics, with sections of Labour MPs already having split off and others threatening to, it is even more important that the very large majority of Labour MPs are replaced by people who genuinely support the views and principles for which Jeremy Corbyn stands.

Regrettably Labour MPs do not automatically have to run for reselection against other potential party candidates, but under one of those hideous compromises so beloved of Labour Party conferences, they have to notify their intention to again be the party’s candidate for the constituency, and there is then a very brief window of a couple of weeks in which local branches and trade union branches can register a contest and force a challenge.

That process has now been triggered and it is ESSENTIAL that every Labour Party member reading this blog acts NOW to try to get rid of those dreadful Blairite MPs. If you do not act, the historic moment will be missed and the chance to move England and Wales away from neo-liberalism may be permanently surrendered.

The right wing forces have the massive advantage of inertia. The local MP is very likely a crony of the chairs of the relevant local branch institutions and of the appropriate local trade union officials (and there is insufficient public understanding of the fact that historically the unions are very much a right wing force in Labour politics). I am willing to bet that in the vast number of constituencies local officials and MPs are pretty confident of getting through this without the large majority of their members – especially the vast new Corbyn supporting membership – even noticing that anything is happening.

Which is why you need to act. Phone the chair of your local constituency today and demand that they tell you how to go about forcing a reselection battle. Make sure that they give you the phone numbers for any local branches or institutions you have to go through. If you do not know the phone number for your local constituency chair, phone Labour HQ and get them to tell you. If you are a member of an affiliated trade union or organisation, take action there too

Do not be put off. Do not follow any instruction from anyone, not even Momentum, about MPs who ought not to be challenged. Politics is a dirty game and full of dirty deals. Use your own judgement. Certainly any of the Labour MPs who abstained on Tory welfare cuts, failed to oppose the “hostile environment” immigration policy or voted to bomb Syria must be subject to challenge. I would recommend that you challenge any Friend of Israel, given that Israel is now openly an apartheid state. Remember, you may be able to influence two constituencies – that where you live, and through your trade union branch that where you work.

Whether or not you are a Labour Party member (and remember I am not), please bring this article to the attention of any and every Labour Party member you know. Progress reports in the comments section would be extremely welcome, as would anyone willing to take the time to draw up “hit lists” based on the kind of criteria I outline above.

While the media are concentrated on the Tory shenanigans, it is the Labour Party members who have the chance to make choices which could have in the long term much more important effects upon society; if people act as I recommend, this could be a historic turning point. Otherwise it will just be one of those moments that passed, and the Corbyn insurgency a small footnote of might have been.


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967 thoughts on “A Moment in History

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  • michael norton

    Mr.Corbyn has written to Mr. Sedwill
    and Mr.Sedwill has written back, then Mr.Corbyn wrote back to Mr.Sedwill.

    There is as yet no outcome, nor is there likely to be found a culprit.

  • Bobbie Carnegie

    Republicofscotlant: Your link requires an Independent subscription, and can’t be accessed
    by the likes of me who isn’t a subscriber. What are you – an advertiser for the Independent?
    Not to worry – I daresay if I search some other online source one can enjoy the scene freely.

  • remember kronstadt

    thanks gpcus
    gut wrenching – and ‘Israel’ gets a whole paragraph.

    • michael norton

      It seems Political Correctness really has taken over the Lunatic Asylum.
      One MP is suspended for questioning the Antisemitism Political Correctness but another MP who tries to get that MP removed from the Labour Party cannot be challenged, because she is pregnant.
      This seems that the current situation is telling us you can have a Labour Party MP but only one who is a close follower on the latest fad of Political Correctness.

      • michael norton

        So the question is, who in the Labour Party gets to decide which Political Correctness is currently important, obviously not Corbyn or his mate Williamson.

        • michael norton

          Labour descended into panic as a poll found its support has slumped to 18 per cent – equalling a joint worst under Gordon Brown during the financial crisis.

          They have to stop obsessing about Anti-Semitism
          and concentrate on normal stuff.
          They should remember that they have agreed to Article 50
          and have agreed to accept the will of the people as expressed in the 2016 Referendum.

  • Sharp Ears

    How terrible it is that a fighter for freedom and human rights is spending his 48th birthday in prison. It sounds trite to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to him in these circumstances His father has said it for us.

    ‘Julian Assange’s father has celebrated his son’s 48th birthday in Melbourne, saying his son is determined to fight for his freedom.
    John Shipton joined a crowd of supporters at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Wednesday to record a video message singing Happy Birthday to the Wikileaks founder.

    Mr Shipton lamented that he’d prefer to celebrate with his son in person.

    “It’s very distressing and one can’t think too much about it without becoming overwrought, so it’s best to attend to practical matters, to assure that Julian can come home and we can have a cup of coffee together at Fed Square,” Mr Shipton said.’


  • Sharp Ears

    The comments thread on the ‘Gulf of Credibility’ post have closed. That post concerned the Iranian tanker ‘attack’.

    Yesterday, Ms Mordaunt’s boys in the Royal Marines detained an oil tanker in Gibraltar. Ostensibly it was en route to a refinery in Syria. From whence had it come and where was the crude oil taken on?

    Royal Marines detain oil tanker on way to Syria

    The tracking for Grace 1 – https://www.vesselfinder.com/vessels/GRACE-1-IMO-9116412-MMSI-355271000
    Another site says ‘Location unknown’.


    • Sharp Ears

      People on the Lifeboat News consider the UK action to be an act of piracy.


      They also note the anti-Assad propaganda in the BBC report.

      Sky News are running a Boys Own/Gung Ho story on their lunchtime news including commentary from Mr Ricardo in Gibraltar. They also quote the Spanish PM who has said that the UK is carrying out orders from America in the anti-Iran project.

      Royal Marines storm super tanker using helicopters and speed boats
      No shots were fired during the mission which saw an air and sea-based assault on the Grace 1.

    • Northern

      I’ve been waiting all day for the BBC to let on who the tanker belonged to. Qu’elle surprise, it’s Iranian!

      BBC gleefully taking the opportunity to take a few more pot shots at Assad in the process. Shame that FT article is pay walled, would be intrigued to know the real story here. Admittedly, my middle east infrastructure knowledge is thin but seems hard to believe that if the Iranian regime wanted to supply crude oil support to Syria, they would employ tankers navigating Africa and the med to do so? Surely transiting Iraq would be less perilous and more cost effective?

      • michael norton

        It is surprizing that the U.K. government has ordered this, we must assume it was agreed at cabinet level.
        May, Hunt, Hammond, Mordant?

        • Northern

          Yeah must have been OK’d at the highest level if you think about the potential ramifications. At the very least Mordant, more likely May herself. Apparently it’s at the animus of the Americans, but I’m still trying to grasp what exactly it is they’re gaining from this besides a load more negative Iran/Syria news coverage? I would doubt it will have much material affect on the Assad regime’s capabilities in real terms.

          Had to laugh at the ministers falling over themselves to praise the ‘brave’ SAS soldiers yesterday. I’m sure securing a mid-size tanker full of unarmed sailors was very challenging for them..

          • michael norton

            A court in Gibraltar has ruled the ship, Grace 1, can be detained for a further 14 days.

            Iranian official threatens to seize British oil tanker

            Oil exports from Syria used to make up one quarter by value of Syria export trade, they are not big importers of oil.
            Perhaps it was suspected that arms are in hidden compartments of Grace 1?

  • Borncynical

    I am still scratching my head in puzzlement. Genuine question. Can anyone enlighten me as to the grounds on which the UK seized the Iranian oil tanker? I have seen a UK spokesman has been quoted as saying it was in accordance with EU Council Regulation 36/2012.


    Unless anyone can tell me otherwise, it is Article 6 which refers to sanctions on trade in crude oil in the context of Syria. As with all EU legislation, this Regulation is giving instructions to EU Member States; the EU has no jurisdiction over non-EU countries mutual trading arrangements. The EU Council can only tell EU Member states what they can and cannot do in relation to trade with each other (intra-Community trade), or in relation to imports into the EU from non-EU countries (third country imports). And Article 6 only refers to oil originating FROM Syria and being imported INTO the EU. Transportation of oil from Iran to Syria is nothing to do with the EU.

    Grateful for anyone else’s comments on this.

  • Anon-1

    “Neo-liberalism”?? Shouldn’t that be neo-Nazi – they hated the poor, sick, elderly, disabled, lefties, communists, Russians etc.

    • michael norton

      Has the Royal Navy boarded and taken control of Grace 1 because of E.U. sanctions against Syria?
      Iranians now saying Grace 1 was not going to Syria
      but as of now that will not disclose its destination?

  • Carlo Della Croce

    An interesting argument. However, a few worries: one does not need to be a determinist to observe that a crucial ingredient in the First World War was the fact that a network of powerful nations backing smaller nations in an attempt to secure peace catastrophically backfired. Determinism, can also be understood in terms of degrees. The First World War was simply extremely likely, sooner or later. Similarly, one might argue that enthusiastic support of Corbyn is unlikely to ever do much good. Throughout history, for one reason or another, left wing politicians have been a disappointment: Blaire, because he was centre left, Castro because the US pressured him to focus on power, Lenin because he was betrayed by Stalin, Obama because he was stiffled by Congress. The list, comprising a mixture of good excuses with less convincing ones, one way or another, drags on. If Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival is to be believed, Castro for example, really did seem to have a point.
    Lenin however, arguably far less so. It has been argued that since it can never be known whether Lenin ordered the massacre of the Romanov children, whats the point in fussing about it? However, what strikes me with great severity is the fact that the butchers in question felt rather comfortable that Lenin would not punish them. A fact so ghastly and worrying that it seems to me no surprise that the Russian revolution turned into a nightmare.

    In his debate with Zizek, Will Self argued that the trouble with voting Corbyn into power was that money would leave the City like water leaving a bathtub that had just had a hand grenade thrown into it. If Self is correct, this either means that Corbyn will never win, or, that his reign will be so damaged by Economic problems that it will be a severe disappointment. Would I vote for Corbyn? Yes. Can I get enthusiastic about the issue? Not sure. Ultimately, the only sort of Left Wing politics I tend to get enthusiastic about are the sort witnessed in 1960’s America, that is, Socialism mixing with Hippyism. In a Britain absolutely littered with hippy communes, and so an alternative infrastructure to help cope with the loss of Capitalist investment in the nation, I observe both the possibility of a Corbyn victory and a succesful reign. In the absence of such preparatory work, (as a Marxist preparing for the revolution might argue), I struggle to take Corbyn particularly seriously. Sometimes I even struggle to take the hero Varroufakis seriously. In a recent debate, he smiled and pointed out that Marx had no interest in justice or overcoming inequality, that his sole argument was that Capitalism was inefficient. I’ve read very little Marx, (pretty much only Fromm’s book on Marx and Freud), but even I know Varroufakis is talking nonsense here. Exploitation of the worker is a problem because of what it does to the worker’s life, not because there might be a more efficient way of exploiting him. In conclusion, are left wing leaders and heroes suprised by the general lethargy and hopelessness, by the fact that so many of us left wingers simply no longer have any heroes? In Ibiza, for example, an Island which for so long has been divided by Capitalist nightclubbers and hippies, and which recently has seen Capitalists pretty much win the war, hippies seem to have grown indifferent to the left wing politicians who pay them no attention and have seriously let them down. Their focus instead has been on survival, on buying mobile homes and finding funds for a decent existence free from exploitation. Slightly selfish, maybe, but utterly understandable. They are still interested in politics, but have lost most faith. As have I!

  • Cathy Toulet

    This article is absolutely right. This is our one chance to bring the Corbyn project to fruition. Please look up online who is a member of Labour Friends of Israel and who signed Tom Watson’s letter asking for Chris Williamson (the one MP who has given everything to support Corbyn) to be suspended again. If you are a constituent of any of these MPs, please contact your CLP (Constituency Labour Party) and ask how to begin a reselection.
    Labour MPs who are particularly determined to defy the membership are: Wes Streeting; Margaret Hodge: Ruth Smeeth; Jess Phillips; John Mann; Peter Kyle; Louise Ellman; Stephen Kinnock; Mary Creagh; Stella Creasy; Ben Bradshaw. There are many more. Please look up how your MP voted on the above issues and on war in Syria. We need MPs who will support the manifesto. Please take action.

  • michael norton

    The Labour Party seem to be on self-destruct,
    the Conservative party hopefuls have more or less claimed that we are leaving the European Union, this year, come what may, now it has taken them three years to get to this position, their reasoning, is that they will be toast, if they continue to prevaricate.
    Yet the Labour party are choosing to prevaricate and to do so for quite some more time.
    They do not seem to have a worked out view of delivering Brexit, they are even starting to suggest that they will have yet another Referendum, where Remain must be on the paper.
    If they are not very careful, they will loose millions of Brexit supporting Labour voters, also Brexit leaning constituencies, is this really what they want?

  • Alyson

    From the canary – But Williamson … toured around the country in a ‘Democracy Roadshow’, campaigning for open selection. As the Guardian reported, he risked the “wrath of centrist colleagues” as he campaigned for greater democracy in their constituencies, which could ultimately result in them losing their jobs.

    Cynical manipulation

    Williamson’s campaign helped expose too many Labour MPs and union leaders as power-drunk elites hiding under Labour banners. The prospect of open selection generated fear and anxiety in Labour grandees. And Williamson’s strident support for Corbyn and his anti-imperialist foreign policy only pushed him closer to their crosshairs.

    The real motive behind Williamson’s suspension is elite anxiety over losing power to the membership. It’s a cynical manipulation of the very real issue of antisemitism for political ends. And it’s utterly foul.

    • Bill Waghorn

      I am tired of them being called “centrist” and “moderate”. They call those who support the leader of their party “Corbynistas”. So I call them what they are: “Contras”, the vicious and destructive residue of an earlier regime who will use whatever foul means they can to restore their power.

  • Janice Carr

    Hi Craig

    Thank you for yet another brilliant insight. I would like to subscribe but is there a way other than via PayPal?

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