‘You Will Not Drive Socialists out of the Labour Party – We’re Here to Stay’

Yesterday, Liverpool Walton CLP secretary Alan Gibbons was the latest target of Labour's mass suspension of socialists. Today he has a message: members make the party, not bureaucrats – and they will fight for their rights.

Sometimes you really can’t make it up. I found out that the Labour party had ‘administratively suspended’ me yesterday on walking through the door after volunteering for a few hours at the Walton Vale community hub. The food co-op provides local people in our ward of Warbreck, north Liverpool, with £15 worth of shopping for their £3.50 membership.

It felt like a punch in the guts. Was this the way a democratic socialist party treated its grassroots members in Labour’s safest seat of Liverpool Walton? I’ve voted Labour my whole life, but like hundreds of thousands of socialists, I finally joined the party when Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

For the first time in decades, a political party was offering a genuine alternative to a status quo that has left so many in poverty, without a steady job or secure housing. We had a leadership that stood on picket lines with NHS and transport workers, a leader whose first visit was to the refugee camp in Calais. Instead of trying to play safe in the pursuit of some unspecified middle ground that seemed to be forever shifting, the party was standing on a socially transformative platform.

I’d campaigned on issues such as food poverty, poor housing, trade union rights, libraries and solidarity with refugees for years, working closely with campaigners and trade unions to fight those battles that only working-class communities have to fight. And I’ve been lucky to continue this work alongside hundreds of my fellow Labour Party members in Walton – some of the finest, most resilient people I have ever known.

We have fought to keep fire stations open, we have supported public sector workers resisting cuts, and we’ve mobilised to chase fascists out of our city. We have distributed thousands of leaflets outside our football grounds opposing the evil of racism. We have worked in food banks and street teams supporting homeless people. We even recognised our socialist traditions by holding a 600-strong march to the grave of socialist writer Robert Tressell, as well as hosting annual Eric Heffer memorial lectures.

We may be in the safest Labour seat in the country, but we are not complacent. We organise in our wards and we fan out across the North West at election time in marginal seats. We don’t just hold meetings or hand out leaflets. We get stuck in and campaign on the issues that matter most to our community. We do this off our own backs, with very little support from party staff, because we care, and because we believe this country needs to change.

I think this is the Labour Party at its best. It’s socialism in action and if we worked this way everywhere maybe the ‘Red Wall’ would not have turned blue. But right now, too many members are experiencing the Labour Party at its worst. Across the country, ordinary members and socialists are being unjustly suspended by Labour Party staff simply for standing up for the democratic rights of local parties to organise and debate freely, or for expressing a view over former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s shabby treatment at the hands of the new leadership.

So, when I found out that I had been suspended by the Labour Party, with no evidence, it didn’t demoralise me. It stiffened my resolve. I am determined to see members suspended for showing solidarity returned to the party. It’s not pleasant to feel like you’re being driven out of a party you have given so much to. And it’s easy to want to give up. But I will not give up and I urge every suspended member and everyone who supports them to stay, organise and fight.

There’s too much at stake to leave this fight behind and let the Tories off the hook. I am organising with other wrongly suspended members, and with the thousands of socialists who oppose the crackdown on principled, socialist Labour Party members. And I want to say, firmly and politely: Mr. David Evans, you will not drive socialists out of the Labour Party. We’re here to stay.