An Open Letter to the Labour Party from an Expatriate Kentucky Socialist

An Open Letter to the Labour Party from an Expatriate Kentucky Socialist

In this Open Letter, Morgan Giles responds to the UK Labour Party’s recent decision to suspend its former leader Jeremy Corbyn.


To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing to announce my resignation from the Labour Party of England & Wales. I joined the Party after Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.

To be honest, until then, your Party had never interested me much. Like the Democratic Party in my home country, the Labour Party is now a shell, a corporate entity masquerading as a political party, a bureaucratic mediocrity staffed by Oxbridge-educated vampires that feed on the unions and give little in return to the working class. And like the Democrats, too, you have consistently aimed for a target market — the center-right — which hates you, while ignoring the left, the young, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQI+ people, all of whom you take for granted, even as you desperately tried to signal to racists over 65 that you’re the party for them. I moved to the UK in 2009, and I remember Gordon Brown having to grovel for rightly calling a woman who complained about Eastern Europeans “flocking” here a “bigoted woman.” I remember Ed Miliband standing in front of a giant stone tablet promising “controls on immigration.” And I remember thinking then that I would have a hard time ever convincing myself to vote Labour.

But things change. It must be said: Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was a compromise on the part of the left. Those of us who were disgusted with the Labour Party for betraying its socialist values agreed to hold our breaths for a moment and see if your Party could remember its roots. We joined (or rejoined) your Party, and we threw our financial and practical support behind it and, effectively, the entire mechanism of electoral politics, though most of us still didn’t believe in that, really. We wanted to believe, though. And after everything we still wanted to believe in you, in the dream of the Red Sleeping Beauty whose spell will one day be broken.

We spent rainy days going door-to-door and donated so others could go campaigning too; we held rallies and clubs; we talked endlessly in pubs, on the shop floor, in the office. For the first time in my life someone I agreed with more than 25% politically was in a position of power. I remember most of all an overriding feeling of joy, a warmth that persisted in my very body and which I could sense within others. There was a glow in all of us, too, borne from a flame which we had all nurtured through the hardest of times, through the years when we had little hope with which to feed it. Do you know what that feels like? To feel love like blood rushing through you for your comrades? I don’t think you do.

I knew that the machinery of your Party was against us. Of course I did — it had been clear from the beginning, the way the Parliamentary Labour Party itself resisted the Party becoming a mass movement due to its fears that an emboldened left-leaning membership would push for “open selection,” or what as an American I’d call “primaries.” No one expected it would be easy.

The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn…is the final push I needed to leave a party that has made it abundantly clear that it is not willing to be an institutional vehicle for genuine Socialist principles and that it will stop at nothing, not even fanning the flames of anti-Semitism at a time when the right is throwing gasoline around, in order to maintain the status quo.

I didn’t expect that the greatest harm would come to Jewish comrades, who have seen genuine concerns about anti-Semitism be used in ways that are, I believe, anti-Semitic themselves. As the late David Graeber wrote, it doesn’t matter whether those exploiting Jewish issues are even aware that they are doing so — the end effect is the same: rancor, panic, resentment, and division. The exhaustion on the faces of Jewish friends for the last few years told the whole heartbreaking story, long before the leaked report on how the Party HQ deliberately undermined and sabotaged Corbyn and his supporters did. I expected the right of the Party to try to fuck over the left. But the real hurt that you have caused to Jewish people in their own name for your short-term political gain is unforgivable.

The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn for saying the same in a far nicer way is the final push I needed to leave a party that has made it abundantly clear that it is not willing to be an institutional vehicle for genuine Socialist principles and that it will stop at nothing, not even fanning the flames of anti-Semitism at a time when the right is throwing gasoline around, in order to maintain the status quo.

I am leaving the Labour Party because it does not want me or people like me, or our energy, solidarity, and passion. While there’s still a world to win, we can do it better when we as Socialists dream together without division. Even now, as the winter sets in again, we remember the glow and the warmth of before. We are the Red Sleeping Beauty we once hoped you might be, and one day, sooner rather than later, we will awaken.

Image: Post-1982 Japanese exit sign (“running man”) designed by Yukio Ota in 1979.

About Morgan Giles

Morgan Giles is a Kentucky socialist and Japanese-English literary translator living in London. Her translation of Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station: A Novel has been short-listed for the 2020 National Book Award.