by W Stephen Gilbert
Hands up if you know what a Trot is. Could you recognise one at thirty paces? Could you confidently engage her on the matter of dialectical materialism? Would you, having lost the argument, leave the room if she instructed you to?
Yes, the bogeymen are back. Tom Watson, who was (as I understood it) elected deputy leader of the Labour Party because he was smart enough to take it to the Tories, has heard the stirrings of reds under the bed and cannot sleep for worry.
It’s very hard to keep a straight face in the face of this farce. John Harris wrote a hilarious account of his time as a weepy 16 year-old Labour youth being upbraided by Trots because he hadn’t done his homework, something any teenager can identify with. In the time-honoured manner, he goes for the ad hominem attack rather than a policy or strategy argument. So the Trots are guilty of “trademark displays of righteous belligerence”. I once heard Harris on Any Questions? and the words ‘pot’, ‘kettle’ and ‘black’ spring to mind. (As far as I know, he’s never been invited back). But if you start looking for “righteous belligerence” among Corbyn’s critics, you can write off the weekend.
‘Trot’ is one of those handy terms that preclude thought. As with ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’ and ‘chav’ and ‘perv’, it invites a kneejerk response of “I know what you mean” without any examination having to take place. Indeed, in Watson’s demonology, ‘Trots’ shades into ‘pervs’ because, as he alleges, impressionable young recruits to Labour and especially to Momentum are being ‘groomed’ – not the word he uses but the image he intends – by wicked old lefties who have designs on their inclinations.
Watson has presented Corbyn with a “dossier” – oh, the terminology takes you back; we’ll have depositions next – that “proves” Trotskyists are using “entryism” to take control of the Labour Party. Following the links that Watson provides, one finds that the most striking thing on the various websites is the lack of any mention of Leon Trotsky anywhere. What the cited groupings highlight and share is Socialism. I may be mistaken, but I thought the Labour Party was in the business of supporting Socialism, at least until Tony Blair became its leader, at which point it became a supporter of Thatcherism.
The Watson dossier – I shall henceforth call it the Wossier – of course proves nothing. It tries to recreate the perfervid atmosphere in which the dauntless Neil Kinnock took on the might of Liverpool scallywags more than thirty years ago. Something Watson might usefully create is a second Wossier about the entryism of rightwing spoilers into the Labour Party responding to Lord Kinnock’s call for people to join the party in order to defeat its democratically elected leader, a piece of political malice not even perpetrated by that bitter old loser Ted Heath against Margaret Thatcher.
Thoughtful people will instantly recognise the Wossier for what it is, a howitzer in the propaganda war. But it had better not be discounted because of that. Watson needs to be challenged to stand up his argument: name names, name CLPs, give a credible estimate of the extent of the “problem”. The media will gleefully demonise anyone he does name, but the tools available for countering that are much more extensive now. Big crowds can be summoned by text and email at no notice. Social media can circulate counterarguments and ridicule at great speed as well as far and wide. Petitions can rack up huge numbers of signatures overnight: I launched an on-line petition telling Ian McNicol that Corbyn had to be on the leadership ballot (one of several on that theme) and it had 10,000 supporters in four days.
Whereas the number of genuine Trotskyites in the Labour Party would almost certainly fail to fill a small committee room, the number of those who admire Corbyn remains legion. The more desperate the malcontents become, the more determined Corbyn and his supporters grow. That’s the important thing.
-  ‘If Trotsky is back at the centre of things, there’s chaos ahead’ [The Guardian August 12th]
-  ‘Tom Watson Sends Dossier Of Hard-Left Entryism to Jeremy Corbyn’ [Huffington Post August 10th. The dossier is reproduced on the website]
-  Asked what her greatest achievement was, Thatcher said “Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds” [Speech in Hampshire 2002]
-  Thatcher incidentally was universally derided as “unelectable” when she became Tory Party leader in 1975 and was thought of as no more than a stopgap.
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Baron Hardup Kinnock (for it is he):
“I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid neoliberal dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour Party – a Laybore Party – hiring taxis to scuttle round the country handing out membership application forms to its own right-wing members….”
The rather quaint book and new film Swallows and Amazons was written by the husband of Trotsky’s personal secretary, buried in the Lake District in a valley called Rusland which means “Russia” in German ….funny old world! http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/leeds/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8388000/8388891.stm
That describes Louis Proyect’s trolling here at the Off-Guardian pretty well.
The Labour Party, sadly, took the word ‘socialism’ out of its charter in 1958. I know this little tidbit because I happened to meet some elderly English socialists a few years ago who bemoaned that very fact, telling me that, from that moment on, it ceased to be the party of Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan.
Well, well! This whole attack-of-the-Trots thing has worked so well in Britain that I’m not surprised it has now jumped the pond. Some Democratic Party flunkee has now “exposed” Jill Stein (of the Green Party) as a Trotskyite! By the way, in the article, Jeffrey St. Clair totally nails it:
Slandering Stein and the Greens for being “Trotskyists” (or “Trokskyites,” in Naiman’s quaint verbiage) is as intellectually vapid as it is vile. Everyone knows that most of Leon’s former disciples in the US have long since morphed into neocons and thus can be spotted in Georgetown cafes polishing their resumés for slots on Hillary’s foreign policy team.
I seem to be an ‘entryist’ and ready to be groomed! Sadly, I don’t fit the profile that they want to attack as I’m mildly Marxist (is that allowed?) but have leanings towards Buddhism (basically, don’t be horrible to people). Oh, and I’m 59 years old (and have a beard) and have been waiting for the labour party to represent grass-roots working people for decades. My apologies to the right wing of the party (who should really consider a move to the Tory party) but I’ll be voting Corbyn (a teeny bit left of centre) if I get the chance!
I think you are trying to mislead us all – a typical entryist tactic, if I may say so.
Your description has all the hallmarks of a covert humanist.
It is time you came out – and came clean!
Tom Watson, a dossier, and weapons of mass distraction. Says it all.
As we have not had the peasants’ revolt in the UK yet, I am minded to ask what relevance Trotsky’s post-revolutionary views have in Britain today?? His views were expressed in the backdrop of the Bolshevik Revolutions of 1917 and the semi-collapse of Europe in the wake of WW I.
What were Trotsky’s views in around 1912 ,when the Romanovs were still ruling the steppes?
As we have not had the peasant’s revolt in the UK yet
Odds bodikins, my Liege! Thou hast! Yet mayhap thou hast missed it? ‘Twas in 1381.
Aye verily, and it hath as much relevance to today as Milord Trotsky, too – to whit, none whatsoever. Yet it maketh a merry mickle for a scrote of Milord Watson’s ilk.
Thanks for that. Put a grin on my face.
Refer to your history books old chap. See: The Peasants revolt led by the erstwhile Wat Tyler in 1381. The peasants marched on London to present their grievences to the King, but poor old Wat was slain by the dastardly Sir William Walworth Lord Mayor of London. There is a long street in South East London -where I grew up- Walworth Road which is named after him.
Excellent article W Stephen Gilbert -I remember you and your plays. I was at BBC drama for a while in the early 70s.y first job before moving to LWT and then the Labour party as a Press Officer I liked your previous article here too. Rosie Brocklehurst.
Perhaps we could agree to use ‘fascist’ to describe fascists and not just anyone we don’t like? And, while we’re at it, use the word ‘misogynist’ to describe people who HATE women and not just someone who has different views on gender?
The problem with the Labour Party’s current membership arrangement is that it remains open to right-wing entryism. Were Labour under Corbyn to ever show the potential to win a general election, an investment of £1m (say 300,000 new members at £3) could be made to remove Corbyn from the leadership. This would be a miniscule sum given the £billions at stake. Corbyn should look at a new definition for the Labour Party – one to which all members would have to adhere. It’s all very well criticising Bl;air for removing Clause IV. At the time, it probably wasn’t even supported by the majority of Labour members. A few years after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe, it certainly wasn’t supported by the majority of Labour voters.
But Clause IV, or something a little more nuanced (after the experience of Mandelson’s father in law’s interpretations of it) has the virtue of meaning something.
I remember, in about 1966, asking a recently joined Labour Party member (recently joined and running for City Council) at a Selection Committee meeting, how he interpreted Clause iV, which was printed on the front of his membership card. The man in question, who had recently left the Liberals, was an obvious careerist. I’d like to hear what Tom Watson, who must have spent years paying lip service to Clause IV, would say if asked about it today.
Because the truth is that it is no longer possible, after 2008, for MPs to waffle about the beauties of the Capitalist system and the inexorable progress of the people towards prosperity and social justice. Clause IV makes good sense: if the people are not going to run their economy Philip Green et al will. It is an either/or thing.
So far as Trotskyists are concerned their major recruiting tool has always been Labour’s right wing, its denial of democracy within the party and its commitments to imperialism and capitalism. Nobody would think of joining a Trotskyist sect if the Labour Party was working properly.
The leaders of the sects are well aware of this. They know that their ranks are depleting and new recruits (check the University orientations this year) are drying up. And all because of the slim chance of being able to build socialism through the Labour Party. Naturally enough the deserted “theorists’ wearing the mantles of Mandel, Cliff and Grant (to name but a few) are putting a brave face on it and claiming that they aren’t losing supporters merely re-directing them to the Labour Party.
The right wing of the Labour Party has always needed Communists, of one sort or another, to whine about in order to frighten the ruling class’s more idiotic adherents into thinking that the Watsons and Kinnocks of this world are saving them and their property from the horrors of bolshevism and having to work for a living. In reality Kinnock and Watson create the conditions in which Leninism thrives by discrediting democratic socialism: a creed which they interpret as being neither democratic nor socialist.
Watson should cart his obese brain over to the Liberal party where he and his like would be at home.
By all means, re-adopt Clause IV. But, if you want to have a prayer of being elected, someone will have to go out and make the argument for it. If the Labour leadership doesn’t explain what is meant by ‘common ownership’ and how it would function, the Tories will happily fill the void. Following his evasion of answering questions about NATO in last night’s debate, Corbyn doesn’t look like he’s up to the challenge.
On the highly complex question related to NATO allies – and given the time frame for answers – it was impossible for anyone – you, me, Smith or Corbyn – to have provided a sensible answer.
Take, for example, the recent shooting down of a Russian aircraft by Turkey.
Should the allegation that the aircraft was in Turkish air space have been interpreted as a Russian attack on Turkey?
If “Yes”, should a British Prime Minister have immediately declared war on Russia and launched all our missiles?
Would it be right for a UK Prime Minister possibly to be manipulated by NATO ally Turkey into acting in this way?
What now to make of the fact that Erdogan has recently visited Putin in Moscow and that they are on friendly terms?
Might precipitous military action on the part of a British Prime Minister have negatively affected this rapprochement?
Yes or No – what would YOU do?
Clearly, this is a ridiculous scenario to have to contend with and Jeremy Corbyn was right to evade the question.
There rarely are simple answers to apparently simple questions.
They only exist in the world of sound bites – no where else.
Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour
Who was Mandelson’s father-in-law? You aren’t referring to Herbert Morrison are you? He was Mandelson’s grandfather on his mother’s side. (Yes, from Wikipedia, I know…and amusingly, Mandy was in the Young Communist League as a teenager it seems. Probably only joined for the uniform).