CHRIS WILLIAMSON explains to the Labour Heartlands readers why he has decided to stand in Derby North as an independent
I am standing as an independent in Derby North, on a policy platform that will be the most Corbyn-friendly of any candidate in the country. We have a strong campaign team and hundreds of volunteers, locally and from around the country. We have experience, local credibility and local knowledge on our side.
The Labour Party should stand aside in Derby North and allow its members to campaign for me. Imposing a new candidate at this stage is unfair on CLP members and constituents alike. If the party fields a candidate against me, it could split the left vote and potentially thrust a Conservative on the people of Derby North. This would be disastrous for our fight against austerity and our bid to transform the country.
I would be the only MP in the next parliament with a fearless track record of challenging state-funded operations like the Integrity Initiative, which used taxpayers’ money and military intelligence officers to subvert democracy by smearing Jeremy Corbyn under Foreign Office direction.
My exposé of the Integrity Initiative and my complaint about its parent organisation, the Institute for Statecraft (IfS), led to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator mounting an investigation. That inquiry has just been published and ruled that IfS “was not meeting the charity test required…[and] trustees had breached their duties…to a serious extent.”
My last act as an MP in the previous session was to write to the Foreign Secretary demanding to know where the funding for this intelligence project is going now.
This fearlessness is what the Labour Party lacks today. As we head towards the election, it is essential that socialists know what they’re fighting for and against. I encourage Labour Party members to stay in the party and fight for its soul, but you should not be under the illusion that it is a socialist party — yet.
There are two crucial barriers to socialism in the Labour Party: a lack of internal party democracy and the threat of social imperialism. These barriers are constructed not by our foes on the right but by those who many members see as stalwarts of the left.
Why discuss this during an election campaign? Because those who seek to reverse the gains of the past four years under Jeremy’s leadership are working in overdrive now to plan the party’s future after that election. We must be prepared.
Also, these problems are intertwined. And they affect Labour’s policy platform, influencing it away from Jeremy’s own transformative, anti-imperialist worldview. When members are less influential, power blocs arise that can entrench regressive policies. This is a serious threat, especially when a Labour majority at this election would not mean a socialist majority.
We’re in that position because some of the party’s union backers have blocked our campaign for Open Selection — in other words a primary system that would allow grassroots members to decide who stands for Labour before every election.
To trade unionists who are concerned about the unions’ say in selections, I say trust the members. As the great Nye Bevan said: “The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away.”
I urge everyone to continue the fight for Open Selection while organising the left in CLPs. In spite of resistance from the Parliamentary Labour Party, Jeremy told me last year to “keep going” with my campaign. I certainly will.
I’ll also fight the threat of social imperialism that runs deep in our movement. Contrary to Jeremy’s wishes, if Labour wins this election, it would aim to be socialist in words and deeds at home but imperialist in words and deeds abroad. That’s partly due to factors currently out of our control, such as how the state’s foreign policy apparatus defines the “national interest.”
But in this field, two important power blocs inside the Labour Party are a barrier to socialism. There are some union officials and MPs who argue that British defence contracts — of the sort that lead to Yemeni children being incinerated in school buses — are necessary for the sake of jobs. That’s not socialism, it’s racism. We build socialism by learning from and being connected to liberation struggles around the world. And we create the stable jobs of the future by applying technology to solve problems, not by empowering the Saudi crown prince.
That’s why I strongly support the creation of a Defence Diversification Agency, to protect and grow high-tech jobs away from defence, which has, in any event, already haemorrhaged two-thirds of the jobs that were in the industry 35 years ago.
Momentum, too, has been a barrier to building an anti-imperialist, socialist movement. At the same time as organising activists, it is busily engaged in targeting younger members with the inflammatory message that zionism and anti-zionism are morally equivalent. It deploys divisive and emotional arguments to suggest that zionism (an ideology that many Jewish socialists in our movement have honourably fought against) is essential to Jewish identity. In doing so, it is replicating a tactic used to crush the pro-Palestinian movement in Germany and criminalise Palestinian activism in France.
I have every confidence we can win this election and end the decade-long Tory nightmare that has resulted in the decimation of our public services. We will do it with a transformative plan on housing, education, the NHS and the economy that I look forward to talking to voters about in the coming weeks. But we must do it as an outward-looking movement that takes inspiration from the success of socialist movements around the world. Onwards!