Saturday, 7 May 2016

Text of Resignation Letter to Labour Party Dated Today

Dear X –

It is with regret that I resign from the Labour Party. Could you remove me from all membership and e-circulation lists? I do not think this will come as a surprise but it strikes me as good mannered to give some reasons. It would appear that I made a mistake in re-joining the Party and it is for me to take responsibility for my misjudgement. The reasons may, however, be instructive because I am not alone in my concerns. 

1    Lack of Respect for Dissent Within the Tradition

The insulting response by the Labour In Europe representative to my dissenting position on the European Referendum and the failure of the Chair to offer any reasonable opportunity for a reply would not in itself be sufficient cause to leave.

What provided sufficient cause alongside other issues of concern was the discovery that a Party Conference decision was not merely the basis for the decision of the Party Leadership to unite around the pro-Remain policy (which is reasonable) but that it was clear that those who disagreed with the policy would, more generally, not be treated with respect but rather treated as the enemy within.

I was not alone across the Party in finding pressure, often bullying (though I would never accuse anyone in XXXXXXXXX CLP of this), being placed on Members not to promote a dissident view but to follow a ‘line’, an attitude that I thought was one that went out with the old Communist Party. This lack of respect for reasonable dissent within the democratic socialist tradition was, frankly, shocking.

2     Lack of Respect for Evidence-Based Debate

The recent furore over Livingstone’s radio comments was equally disturbing. In fact, Livingstone had expressed an opinion based on a reasonable interpretation of certain facts. He had not expressed any anti-Semitic opinion whatsoever and that was clear at the time. Another MP then barracked him aggressively in public and in an un-comradely way.

Again, if this had resulted in an open debate about what Livingstone said, it would be classed as political education. It may be that the balance of opinion might reasonably have contested his position. Instead, Livingstone was virtually witch-hunted in public and the MP who verbally attacked him not only escaped any censure for his appalling behaviour but was protected by the Whips.

The matter was then ‘framed’ in the media  as one of general antisemitism (which was un-evidenced) in terms that bode ill for future freedom of debate and speech. Once again, the Party appeared to be moving towards the adoption of ‘lines’ and the rejection of open debate and away from a strategy of public political education which is the only way to engage honourably with the British people.

One aspect of this farrago was that the thuggish behaviour of the Labour Right and the intemperate arguments of the Labour Left were both derivative of the fact that each had its own constituency based on identity, Jewish or Left-Muslim in this case, which leads me to the third reason …

3     The Infiltration of the Party by Identity Politics

One thing that has radically changed since my earlier period with the Party is the further intensification of American-style identity politics as an acceptable ideology for a democratic socialist party. I find myself very uncomfortable with identity politics because it collectivises not the people as a whole but sections of the population around their attributes and beliefs. It is an indirect concession to fascism.

This is not to argue against action against discrimination and inequality when it disproportionately affects people with certain attributes (gay, black, female or whatever) but only to argue that action on discrimination and for equality is based on people being persons first and having attributes second. Identity politics creates communitarian blocs in which activists purport to speak for others.

Locally, I was disturbed at the dominant role played by radical feminism and was particularly disturbed to find local activists both giving a platform to a rival party (the Women’s Equality Party) and organising and publicising an event which would be ‘women only’, discriminating against men and using the Party brand for a sub-ideology of exclusiveness.

There is no issue here with supporting the Women’s Equality Party or with having women-only or men-only events in a free society. There is every issue with a democratic socialist party conniving in this or any other form of sectarian behaviour. It would be equally disturbing if we were offered Muslim only meetings or LGBT only meetings under the Labour ‘brand’. I want nothing of this.

What do all these have in common? They represent a closed-in exclusive activist ideology that is deeply alienating to dissent within the democratic socialist tradition – a person can be disrespected because they are a) critical of the European Project, b) educated, meaning here willing to test opinions against facts and undertake a civilised debate, and c) male (and, no doubt, the wrong skin colour in some contexts).

Enough is enough. The Party was founded on general working-class representation and on Enlightenment principles based on educational improvement and equality. The post-Marxist infiltration of the Party has created something else entirely – a liberal-left middle class party that expects group-think as a matter of course and reinstates communitarian ideology in place of political pragmatism and liberation ideology.

This has little to do with Left and Right – I am a Corbyn supporter and the Labour Right have led on the promotion of identity politics – but everything to do with civilisation and progress. The Labour Right are far more culpable in general than the incoming Left but I am reluctant to waste the rest of my life trying to contribute to a Party in a state of near-civil war, one in which my core values are clearly not respected.

Having said all that, I want to emphasise that there is no rancour or issue with the local Party (other than the failure to challenge visiting officials and identity activists). I know that the members are hard-working, decent, intelligent and good people who have made great strides in a very conservative local environment.  I wish them individually well but it would be wrong to stay silent.

Unfortunately, I cannot wish a Party well that I fear would bring its new habits of discrimination, authoritarianism and evasion and avoidance of challenging debate into high office. Armed with the machinery of the State, there is a serious risk that this culture of disrespect for dissent, of rejection of open debate in favour of media brawling and of discriminatory identity politics could become oppressive.

It is simply not enough to say that we should put up with these flaws in order to ensure a Labour Government, especially one that can reverse neo-liberal austerity measures. History teaches us that a Government that does not have core values based on reason and respect is a very dangerous Government and an anti-austerity culturally authoritarian Government could be very dangerous indeed.

If the Labour Party wants to win my vote (since that is now what it has come down to), it will have to demonstrate to me and to others that it represents the interests of the whole working population and not that of special interests, that it adopts pragmatic evidence-based policies and that it can accommodate reasoned debate and criticism on major existential issues.  At the moment, the Party is not for me.

The resignation is effective immediately.

Kind Regards

Tim Pendry

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