Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 20 February 2019 at 18:52 GMT

Some of the Liverpool 47 socialist Labour councillors at the Durham Miners Gala, 14.7.18, photo Dave Nellist

Some of the Liverpool 47 socialist Labour councillors at the Durham Miners Gala, 14.7.18, photo Dave Nellist   (Click to enlarge)

Defending the city that dared to fight

Response to the Guardian's Hannah Jane Parkinson on the record of Liverpool City Council and the Militant Tendency

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (formerly Militant) general secretary

Over the last 30 years, hundreds and thousands of attacks have been made on Liverpool's socialist-led city council and on the record of Militant, predecessor of the Socialist Party, in the 1980s.

Many pens dipped in much poison have been pressed into service to undermine the record of struggle in the city.

In her comment responding to former council deputy leader Derek Hatton's re-admittance to Labour, Hannah Jane Parkinson writes not in the usual manner of the Guardian but viperously attacks the left in a fashion more associated with the Daily Mail. More importantly the article is factually wrong from start to finish.

Hannah argues that the Militant era in Liverpool was a disaster from start to finish. But this was not how things were seen by the working class of the city.

The council had mass support. It was never defeated in an election. The Liverpool 47's leadership of the council attracted higher votes than in any election since the second world war.

In other words, when the policies corresponded to the needs and aspirations of the working class, then support was forthcoming.

Instead the socialist leadership of the council was removed undemocratically by a combination of Neil Kinnock, now a lord and then Labour leader, the right wing in the Labour Party, the press and the Law Lords.

Kinnock started it with his move to expel socialists and the Law Lords finished the job with the penalty fine.

Why has this come up now? Because we had such influence in the trade unions and in the Labour Party. Today those joining the Labour Party would give their eye teeth to have the situation that existed then - monthly meetings of 500 people with democratic discussion and debate.

All decisions of the council were made democratically with opposition allowed to put their point of view.

Hannah's article is a travesty of the truth. Even Lord Reg Underhill, who made the first attempt to expel Militant supporters from the Labour Party, was effusive on the housing record of Liverpool City Council.

That's because the legacy of the socialist-led council is undeniable. It includes: 6,300 families rehoused from tenements, flats and maisonettes; 2,873 tenement flats demolished; 1,315 walk-up flats demolished; 4,800 houses and bungalows built; 7,400 houses and flats improved; 600 houses/bungalows created by 'top-downing' 1,315 walk-up flats; 25 new Housing Action Areas being developed; six new nursery classes built and open; 17 Community Comprehensive Schools established following a massive re-organisation; 10 million spent on school improvements; five new sports centres, one with a leisure pool attached, built and open; 2,000 additional jobs provided for in the Liverpool City Council budget; 10,000 people per year employed on the council's Capital Programme; three new parks built; and rents frozen for five years.

For those who have suffered, suffer or are at risk of homelessness from today's housing crisis, this approach, instead of that taken by Blairite-led Labour councils, should be celebrated and fought for.

There was mass support for the Labour Party in the city - for Tony Mulhearn as its chair, for Derek Hatton as deputy council leader.

Tom Sawyer, at the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in February 1986, said: "I defy anyone to tell me how you can go to Liverpool and defeat Militant by argument".

Because this was not just a case of what the working class received but workers and young people taking a democratic part in the decision process.

Derek Hatton

Derek Hatton played an important and heroic role. He made sacrifices in the battle. But he moved away from us.

We don't take responsibility for his subsequent actions. But this attack is about trying to discredit the role we and he played in Liverpool council, which has been recognised by the working class in Merseyside and internationally.

But these facts are not of interest to those who wish to denigrate the important lessons of Liverpool.

Hannah writes: "Hatton's nadir came when he hired taxis to deliver redundancy notices to the council's 31,000 staff, on the basis that the council couldn't afford to pay them, as a 'tactic' to extend negotiations of the Whitehall stalemate".

The Labour group decided on the tactic of issuing 90-day redundancy notices to the 30,000 strong workforce.

Yes, this was a tactic - to buy time to balance the books and to put pressure on the Labour leadership to support the council's no-cuts budget strategy. But it was a mistake.

We warned Derek that Kinnock would use it. And moreover it is vital that if you make a mistake you always admit it, in order to correct it.

Derek had to make a decision on the spot - and the workers understood when it was explained. But it is always necessary to visualise how your enemies will exploit things.

In this case Kinnock and Charles Clarke, subsequently a right-wing MP in Blair's pro-war cabinet, were waiting to pounce.

Nonetheless not a single worker was made redundant by Liverpool City Council. Can Labour councils today make the same claim?

What the Liverpool 47 achieved was historic. They defeated Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher. They won 60 million for Liverpool.

And it was not achieved through strong arm tactics, through bully boy methods, but on the basis of open democratic discussion and debate.

Thatcher was fighting on two fronts - Liverpool and the miners' strike. Once she had defeated the miners she turned on Liverpool.

With this the counter-revolution in the Labour Party began in earnest - it started under Kinnock, followed by John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

And it ends in the 'grotesque chaos', to quote Kinnock, of trying to hold the mighty British labour movement to ransom, always aided and abetted like today by the right-wing press.

But they will not succeed in this - shown by their measures today where the Blairites MPs are hooking up with Tory renegades to cobble together a new centrist-type party.

Oppressed groups

The scandalous attacks on the Militant have zero basis in reality. But truth is not of interest to those who wish to attack socialists.

Hannah claims we had an "opposition to policies that focused on particular oppressed groups". It was Militant supporters who launched the Campaign Against Domestic Violence (CADV) in 1991.

CADV put domestic violence into the public domain. We raised it in our trade unions, organised conferences on it, wrote to newspapers, organised a national demonstration and then simultaneous protests outside prisons around the country to raise awareness on the need for legal change.

CADV aided trade unionists and campaigners in negotiating policies in relation to domestic violence that would look sympathetically on sick leave and requests for transfer, for example.

Many employers and councils adopted these policies. That was an historic victory for women.

Hannah also raises the appointment of Sam Bond as the council's race relations officer. The issues raised by the Sam Bond affair were rooted in the long history of the black communities of Liverpool.

More than any other city in Britain, Liverpool was built on the slave trade. The Black Caucus was self-appointed as the leadership of the black population with no democratic legitimacy in Liverpool 8.

We consulted the community and made clear proposals on the issue of full-time employment of a layer of long-term unemployed, particularly black young people - as a result of the racist discrimination they faced - in deprived areas of Liverpool.

Hannah's attacks have been echoed by John Mann. His lies have been answered by us many times. For instance in May 2016 when he joined in the right-wing attacks of anti-Semitism on the left, Socialist Party executive member Clive Heemskerk wrote in a letter, that the Guardian refused to print, that Mann "was a leading figure in an anti-Militant organisation known as Clause Four and, for two years, the chair of NOLS [National Organisation of Labour Students] (1983-84).

"Within the NOLS, Militant was falsely attacked by the Clause Four group for 'not supporting the Palestinians' because we stood for the right of two states - Israel and Palestine - to exist side by side, which we argued would be possible on a socialist basis.

"The Clause Four-led NOLS, on the other hand, argued that the national rights of Israelis must be subsumed into a single, capitalist state - a 'secular, democratic state in the whole of Palestine'."

In other words Mann has done a 180 degree turn because it suits his political needs.

The re-admittance of Derek Hatton, Liverpool deputy council leader 1983-86, to the Labour Party poses the re-occurring question under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of opening the party up to socialist fighters and the need to transform it into a 100% anti-austerity party.

Now that three Tories have joined the Independent Group with the eight anti-Corbyn Labour MPs the picture is clear.

This is an attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and to derail the Corbyn revolution which promised an end to austerity and a programme to create jobs and housing and offer a future to young people - including a world safe from environmental catastrophe denied them under capitalism.

Readmit socialists

We hope that now Labour's doors will be thrown open - to the workplaces, the estates, the school students protesting for the planet and all others who have been expelled from Labour for no other reason than standing up for the working class.

In November 2016, 75 expelled and excluded socialists, with over a thousand years of Labour Party membership between them, applied for re-admittance to the party.

This approach was backed by hundreds of signatures of trade unionists and community organisations. The application was rejected by the (then) general secretary Iain McNicol.

Here is the link to correspondence between the Socialist Party and Jenny Formby, Labour Party general secretary, on our request to affiliate to Labour from September 2018.

We wrote: "We think this [open discussion about Socialist Party affiliation] is particularly urgent given the dramatic stepping up of the war against Jeremy Corbyn's leadership by the pro-capitalist Blairite wing of the Labour Party, backed to the hilt by the capitalist establishment and media.

"We see a very urgent need to organise and mobilise all those who support Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity policies into a mass campaign to democratise the Labour Party, allowing the hundreds of thousands who have been inspired by Jeremy's leadership to hold to account, and to deselect, the Blairite saboteurs.

"These saboteurs have made clear that their priority is not the election of a Labour government but the removal of Jeremy Corbyn at any cost.

"We believe the Socialist Party can play a useful role in the campaign to transform Labour, and would therefore like to discuss affiliation."

The record of the Socialist Party's predecessor Militant in Liverpool is clear. The Militant-led Liverpool City Council built council houses.

It expanded council services. It had apprenticeships for council jobs. This stands in stark contrast to the record of Blairite-led Labour councils today who pass on Tory austerity leading to homelessness, job cuts and increasing child poverty.

This is why Labour needs to be transformed - so that it can fight these attacks on working class people - not implement the current 'grotesque chaos'.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 20 February 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


Related links:


triangleMay elections: Tories and Labour's Khan both vying to slash public services

triangleMillionaire tendency regains control of Scottish Labour

triangleTUSC to hold local elections conference in February

triangleTUSC 2021 local elections conference

triangleUnison get sec election shows left can win NEC


triangleRyan Aldred: Why I'm standing for Usdaw's EC

triangleNottingham City Council: Major battles against cuts ahead

triangleWelsh trades councils rally against the pay-freeze


triangleMass testing - we need trade union oversight and full pay for all

triangleLockdown: suspicion and anger

triangleBeware the billionaires bearing gifts


triangleHow far can the Starmer counter-revolution go?

triangleSocialists, including Labour MP, spied on by police and security services

Labour Party:

trianglePeace and Justice Project - no way forward for socialism

Working class:

triangleUSA in crisis - the need for a socialist alternative

Socialist Party:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Saving the music industry from pandemic and austerity

Jeremy Corbyn:

triangleShould Corbyn stand for London Mayor?

Tony Mulhearn:

triangleCardiff Socialist Party: Tribute to Tony Mulhearn

Peter Taaffe:

triangle100 years since the foundation of the Communist Party of Great Britain

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis


Socialist Party

Socialism the podcast: 2020 episodes



May elections: Tories and Labour's Khan both vying to slash public services


Jeremy Corbyn

Peace and Justice Project - no way forward for socialism



USA in crisis - the need for a socialist alternative



News in Brief



Millionaire tendency regains control of Scottish Labour



Vaccine confidence - a worker's response


Social Media

Trump Twitter ban: only independent workers' voice can defeat right



Make the super-rich pay, not the poorest


Working class

The Tory blame game: scapegoating the working class - 100% pay for all now



Covid: Bosses chase profit and put workers in danger



Latest Socialism podcast: The outlook for class struggle in 2021



Global capitalism at most dangerous conjuncture since the 1930s



Fully resource the vaccination programme now



Covid vaccine nationalism threatens pandemic response

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

January 2021