A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Compass suffering from entryism?

Soft left faction Compass is holding its internal elections. Such is the organisation's administrative chaos that ballots have been emailed to non-members, including high-profile Labour moderates who have forwarded them to me.

Compass seems to have an entryist problem. At least four of the candidates in its committee elections are prominent former activists in the "Student Broad Left" faction in NUS. SBL runs candidates against official Labour candidates. It is the student front group for Socialist Action, the secretive Trot grouping that was Tariq Ali and John Ross' IMG (International Marxist Group) before deciding to enter into the Labour Party. Previously Socialist Action has had influence disproportionate to its size in CND, UAF, Socialist Campaign Group News and the inner circle of advisers around Ken Livingstone.

It is interesting they now see the increasingly leftwing Compass as fertile territory.

And tragic that Compass people like Neal Lawson and Sue Goss who fought Militant when they ran the old LCC now have a "no enemies to the left" tolerance of SA.

15 Comments:

Anonymous unseen said...

I thought I was the only one who noticed the IMG/SA infiltration of Compass.

Who are the three that you've spotted? I might know a couple more if you publish the full list.

9:42 pm, July 19, 2009

 
Anonymous John said...

We have Parliamentary Candidates who were SBL, that I've met, and who are just decent people with Labour values who were wholly and entirely understandably alienated by NOLS.

9:44 pm, July 19, 2009

 
Anonymous Ian Gilbert said...

If Compass have a few students in it who don't take their line from NOLS then I'm not sure that's an awful thing.

We can't all be as tightly controlled as Labour First...

10:59 pm, July 19, 2009

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I was always very hostile to Militant. However, I met many of the Socialist Action people when I lived in Huddersfield and I thought they were in a different league. As their work with Ken Livingtone, an excellent Mayor of London, suggested.

NOLS are a really vile bunch of machine politicians and careerists. I saw how they operated when I did my Masters degree - carving people up who weren't biddable, in the very worse pattern of union politics. Iy convinced me that a progressive party should not be dominated by the unions, whether of the left or right in party terms, and nothing has changed my mind since.

At least Compass are not workerists whicvh both right wing union hacks like Labour First and their left wing opposites appear to be.

11:37 pm, July 19, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like unseen I've only noticed 1.
Name and shame!

12:19 am, July 20, 2009

 
Anonymous James Thurston said...

I have to say that I do not have the stomach for returning to the politics of Old Labour....

However I also do not have the stomach for anymore of the Neo-Liberal "Old New Labour" clap-trap that is currently gripping the Labour Party and is consistently spewing out of the present Government....

It would be well advised for senior members of the Labour Party and yourself to take a hard look at what James Purnell said in the Guardian on Saturday....

Essentially Mr Purnell said that the Labour Party is now a hostage to its past.... still living.... in terms of policy and ideology in the mid/ late 1990's.... a Labour Party gripped by small 'c' Conservatism....

Sure.... many of us (including me) are nostalgic about and strongly supported the early years of New Labour.... however it was far too timid in directly taking on the arguments presented by the Conservatives/ political Right Wing for fear of upsetting "Swing Voters"....

In any case the political landscape has.... particularly since the start of the Global Economic Storm that has engulfed the Country and the Globe.... radically and profoundly changed....

It is incumbent on the Labour Party to renew itself using the textbook of Tony Blairs New Labour but applying it to address the political issues of the New Britain we find ourselves living in Now....

I am consistently disappointed with your almost constant criticism of Compass Luke....

As I have stated above I am no Died-in-the-Wool Socialist.... far from it....

However it is in my undeniable belief that it is Compass that is producing many of the exciting ideas on the Centre-Left.... ideas which would resonate very well and be very popular with the electorate....

When it comes to the Progress thinktank however.... I can only say that it has rather run out of progress.... much of what it has to say appears "Old Hat".... its ideas seem to tread the now discredited .... tired and deeply unpopular Neo-Liberalism of Old New Labour....

I wish James Purnell well with his self declared intention return to his thinktank roots of his 20's.... and particularly wish him well with his 3 year "Open Left" project at Demos....

Many people in the Labour Party have branded James Purnell as a "Tory" an "Uber-Blairite".... it is therefore very encouraging that he will involve influential members of the traditional Labour Left such as John Cruddas and Alan Simpson.... as well as those on the Right in his project....

Some people in the Labour Party.... especially Government Ministers would do well to reflect on and learn from James Purnells thoughtful example....

7:11 am, July 20, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Tragic" that they should be "tolerated"? What are you implying? That people should be prevented from participating in elections because they're more left wing than you are?

This is precisely the sort of control freakery that make people so sick of right-wing New Labour. And which massively damaged the party during the first London Mayoral elections.

Maddie

10:22 am, July 20, 2009

 
Anonymous David Floyd said...

Well, those in the know have repeatedly informed me that Socialist Action is not an organisation and does not exist.

But those who would be members if SA did exist have been in and around Compass for some time.

Not sure this is a sign that Compass is moving to the left. If SA's general enthusiasm for claiming the mantle of radical leftist while supporting orthodox Thatcherite economics is replicated by Compass as a whole, it's more likely to mean the opposite.

11:22 am, July 20, 2009

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Hmm... I'm still dubious Socialist Action exists... I worked in various groups with various supposed members of the "organisation" and I was never invited to join! All the other ones tried at some point. I think I had a year when Socialist Organiser were convinced I was Socialist Action or some nonsense (yawn yawn yawn).

The interesting thing I would draw from your comments is that in fact Compass takes precisely the opposite view to the one you suggest (no enemies to the left) - all their enemies are to their left. Their leadership at any rate has been largely hostile to the rest of the Labour Left and while Compass seem to have few enemies outside the Labour Party, the Labour Left seem to very much represent the beginning and end of their enemies!

Disappointingly. While I find them fairly tiresome (one or two people excepted) eventually some sort of new grassroots alliance between the LRC and Compass is probably the only way to maintain a Labour Party after the next election.

I might add though, with regard to this Student Broad Left thing, that your lot weren't so bothered about people standing against official Labour candidates if those official Labour candidates happened not to be Blairites... After all, your colleague Lee Findell became an SU President in an election in which he stood against the official Labour candidate. I assume this regrettable action hasn't marked him for life as beyond the pale in your eyes...

It also ought to be borne in mind that NOLS at that time was a truly disgraceful organisation that prided itself on its ability to fix elections (I remember training sessions on it at NOLS Council for God's sake!). As such these 'official candidates' were not properly democratically elected candidates but some Labour First Buggins or other whose turn it happened to be. It's ancient history, and it was politics at a level that it's hard to get excited about now (were it not for the fact that many who came up through that most dubious of routes are no so influential in the movement). If anybody thinks I'm excagerating, ask somebody who was present at the count for an honest answer to the question: 'who got more votes for NOLS Vice-Chair, Michael Dugher or Mike Bunney?' Then 'who was declared the winner?' and see if the answers match...

5:38 pm, July 20, 2009

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Yes, Duncan, that was my era - and at the time I was a keen new Labourite but the old-style machine politics of NOLS suggested there was nothing New, just more of the old-style union politics.

6:26 pm, July 20, 2009

 
Anonymous James Thurston said...

Luke

Many people who are (or were) staunch Labour voters.... especially in areas such as The Welsh Valleys would be absolutely outraged with the fixation by some in the Labour Party with faction fighting....

Instead of faction fighting - as intruiging as it might be - such people should focus their energy and attention on helping the Steel Industry.... other aspects of what is pitifully left of Manufacturing in the UK....

The Labour Governments message: "We are on your side" rings hollow.... and furthermore could well be seen as one ghastly sick joke....

This Labour Government is a total disgrace.... I thought that it was the Conservatives who dogmatically left manufacturing/ industry at the mercy of the markets and as a consequence consigning parts of society to terminal and inevitable decline....

It is true that the Government has provided much assistance to the unemployed - via the New Deal programmes - but they are rendered nothing more than a waste of the Taxpayers/ Governments money and resources when the number of jobs are drying up due to industry suffering from decline as a direct result of market dictat and a refusal by Government to help these ailing parts of industry....

It is a fact that until Labour jetisons its ridiculous Laissez-Faire attitude to industry and worker conditions it itself will suffer inevitable and terminal electoral and political decline....

The writing is on the wall.... it is for no reason that the Conservatives topped the poll in Wales in the Euro-Elections.... the first time they have achieved this feat for over a century....

If the Labour Government thinks it can arrogantly sail on in the same vain then it is far more deluded than I thought was possible....

It is my fundamental belief - and that of many others I have spoken to - that it is addressing the bread and butter issues of jobs and supporting industry.... undertaking a wholesale review and modernisation of Labour ideology and policy.... that must be concentrating the minds of certain people in the Labour Party.... not the indulgent and petty faction fighting and navel gazing....

The Labour Party needs to get a grip.... and very soon before it is far too late....

9:22 pm, July 20, 2009

 
Anonymous James Thurston said...

Here is a link to the Press Association article in which James Purnell calls for the Labour Party to concentrate on answering the Big Policy Questions and not indulge in in-fighting....

www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5hkPlt810wZDdoCyuTflli0WcfslA

Take note Luke (and those on the hard Left)....

10:02 pm, July 20, 2009

 
Anonymous Ryan Thomas said...

Why are you so opposed to those with differing views to yourself? Has nobody ever informed you, cliche though it may be, that the Labour Party is, always has been, and must always remain, a broad church?

6:24 am, July 23, 2009

 
Anonymous T_i_B said...

Note to Blairites. Labour has long since lost any claim to monopolose the left. if you want to build support then you have to look outside the Labour party.

Labour's "big tent" has indeed become a gazebo, thanks in no small part to the paranoia of people like yourself Luke.

10:44 am, July 23, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not just there - it seems Friends of the Earth have a number of ex SBLers too

10:49 am, July 23, 2009

 

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