Tribune leader, 12 July 1991

The humiliating defeat of Militant’s Lesley Mahmood by Labour’s Peter Kilfoyle in last week’s Liverpool Walton by-election has caused widespread rejoicing on the democratic left.  Ms Mahmood’s miserable per­formance shows conclusively that Leninist vanguard politics is incapable of securing popular support in this country unless it has the cover of the Labour Party.
Indeed, considering everything that appeared to be going in her favour – in particular Liverpool City Coun­cil’s redundancy programme but also Militant’s uniquely strong local base – Ms Mahmood’s showing was derisory. She and her comrades in Britain’s largest Leninist party, backed to the hilt by Britain’s second-largest Leninist party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, have made revolu­tionary vanguard politics of any variety a laughing stock.
In the process, they have also managed to give added impetus to the Labour Party’s attempt to rid itself of Militant. Campaigning for anti-Labour candidates is rightly considered one of the most serious disciplinary offences in Labour’s constitution, and those who cam­paigned for Ms Mahmood, many of them shipped in by Militant, are now going to get their come-uppance: expulsion from the Labour Party. They deserve no sympathy and they will not be missed.
Members of Militant who did not campaign for Ms Mahmood, particularly the two Militant MPs, Terry Fields and Dave Nellist, pose a thornier problem. This is not because it is somehow wrong to expel members of Militant from the Labour Party. The Militant tendency, more properly speaking the Revolutionary Socialist League, is a manipulative authoritarian sect with its own disciplinary structure and its own (deranged and in many ways reactionary) programme. Its ideology and practice are utterly incompatible with democratic socialism, and it has no legitimate place in a democratic socialist party.
Rather, the difficulty is the practical one of ensuring that those expelled for Militant membership really are members of Militant. Democratic socialists who accepted Labour’s rules were often in the past disciplined merely for expressing opinions at odds with those of the leader­ship, and it is better to err on the side of caution than to allow that to happen again. If, in the aftermath of Walton, Labour decides that it is time to accelerate the currently steady but slow process of expelling Militant, it is essen­tial that the party adheres scrupulously to the principle of presumption of innocence and uses reliable evidence only.
Kaufman’s capitulation
The announcement by  Gerald  Kaufman,  Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, that a Labour government will remain in nuclear arms reduction talks until all nuclear weapons are eliminated was rightly reported as an indication that he believes Britain should keep nuclear weapons as long as anyone else has them. As such, it represents a breath-taking capitulation to the Conserva­tives. Instead of simply ignoring Tory jibes that Labour remained unilateralist at heart, Mr Kaufman has panick­ed. In the process, he has effectively promised to retain the “independent deterrent” well into the next century if not for ever, even though it has no function other than reinforcing Britain’s delusions that it is still an imperial power. With half-a-dozen ill-chosen words, Mr Kaufman has gone against the spirit and letter of Labour policy, which is based on a rejection of nuclear deterrence.
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