Marxist Student Federation statement on the expulsion of Owen Walsh from the Labour PartyMay 27, 2016
Recently we have become aware of the news that one of our members, Owen Walsh, has been expelled from the Labour Party. The reason cited in his letter of expulsion was membership of Leeds University Marxist Society.
Owen has been a member of the Labour Party since he was 16 years old and has never supported any party other than the Labour Party. Neither has LUU Marxist Society in its several years of existence. Now however it has been “discovered” by the party’s Compliance Unit that being in a Marxist University club automatically excludes an individual from Labour Party membership!
A clear case of political discrimination
The grounds for Owen’s expulsion are entirely spurious. There are numerous political organisations operating within the Labour Party – from Progress on the right wing to groups like Momentum on the left. As far as we are aware, however, Owen is the only case of an individual being banned from the Labour Party for the crime of membership of a University Society! We are inclined to ask the Compliance Unit whether membership of Amnesty International Society or the Wine and Cheese Society are also incompatible with Labour Party membership?
The Labour Party has always identified as a “broad church” within which all trends of socialist thought from social democracy through to Marxism ought to be discussed in a spirit of freedom and democracy. Since the Marxist Social Democratic Federation participated in the founding steps toward the creation of the Labour Party there have always been Marxists in the party and it is this – being an active Marxist – which is Owen’s only “crime”.
In actual fact we suspect that this expulsion has both a political and a personal character due to the leading role that Owen played in raising local opposition to the support that some Labour MPs gave to the bombardment of Syria last December. Owen moved a motion earlier this year that went to Hilary Benn’s Leeds Central Constituency condemning the bombardment of Syria and demanding the removal from the shadow cabinet of all Labour MPs who supported the bombardment.
We suspect that the right-wing of the party have been rattled and, unable or unwilling to defend themselves in open and democratic debate, are resorting to underhand bureaucratic methods and acts of petty revenge against individuals.
End the witch hunt! Democratise the party! Fight for socialism!
The actions of the “Compliance Unit” against Owen and other Marxists comes on the back of a media-driven attempt to undermine the Corbyn movement with accusations of anti-Semitism, the expulsion of prominent left-wingers from the Party and the attempt to conduct a wholesale purge of the Party (called Operation Ice Pick) during the period of the leadership election last year.
The “Compliance Unit”, which is responsible for taking this action against Owen and other comrades, in reality is an unaccountable bureaucracy within the Party. Since the election of Corbyn the Labour Party has been completely transformed: we have the most left-wing leader in the history of the party and membership has doubled. However, this only paints half the picture as the right-wing, crushed in the leadership elections, continues to fight a guerrilla struggle against genuine socialists.
In reality there are two Labour Parties: there are the hundreds of thousands who elected Corbyn, whose focus is on defeating the Tories, and who are fighting for a socialist Labour government; meanwhile there continues to exist the old Blairite wing of the party, consisting of careerist MPs and party bureaucrats, who have the full sympathy of the Tory press and big business. This layer clearly continues to resent Corbyn’s victory and are waiting for the opportunity to stab him in the back. Our demands then are clear:
1) Reinstate Owen and any other comrade expelled in the witch hunt!
2) Democratise the party! Abolish the Compliance Unit!
3) Defend Corbyn against attacks from the right wing!
4) For a united struggle against the Tories!