Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/781/17482

From The Socialist newspaper, 25 September 2013

Book review: Militant Liverpool - A City on the Edge

Between 1983 and 1987 Liverpool's Labour council, then led by socialists, refused to transfer the burden of Tory government cuts, introduced by Margaret Thatcher, onto the backs of Liverpool's working people. The 'Liverpool 47' councillors adopted the slogan of 'better to break the law than break the poor', first used by the jailed councillors of Poplar in 1921.

Liverpool council -which included supporters of Militant, the Socialist Party's predecessor - was the only local authority that successfully extracted extra funding - 60 million - from Thatcher's government.

The council was never voted out, but pushed out by a combination of the Tories, the national Labour leadership (under Neil Kinnock, now a Lord), and the courts using retrospective legislation. The councillors had carried out their socialist promises, but there has been an attempt to bury the council's achievements in an avalanche of distortion.

Here, one of the Liverpool councillors, Tony Mulhearn, a Militant supporter and now Socialist Party member who was also president of Liverpool District Labour Party (DLP) from 1980 to 1986, reviews Militant Liverpool - A City On The Edge, by Diane Frost and Peter North. This book was published by Liverpool University Press this year.

Michael Gove recently paid Ed Miliband the ultimate insult, claiming he was a worse Labour leader than Neil Kinnock. Gove ludicrously refers to the Unite union's doomed attempt to transform New Labour, saying: 'While Kinnock moved bravely and remorselessly to eradicate Militant's influence... Miliband has done nothing to stop the takeover of his own party.'

So, a timely reminder of the ruling class's fear of the example set by the Liverpool 47 heralds another book on the city's socialist council. Three decades on, the authors say: 'this book sheds new light on what is for some a dark period in the city's past best forgotten, while for others is a memory of the city that refused to lie down and die, and a continuing inspiration.'

The introduction, headed 'The Militant years: mad, bad and never coming back', and the first chapter, entitled 'Liverpool from world city to basket case' seem to belie their claimed objectivity.

Indeed, the introduction quotes Kinnock's attack on Liverpool council in full, describing it as 'what many thought was the speech of his life'. It must now be the most repeated speech since Churchill's 'blood, tears and sweat' in 1940.

However, further reading suggests the authors' methodology was ironically suggesting the ugly, proceeding with the good, and finishing with the bad.

The authors draw extensively from Liverpool - A City That Dared To Fight (see below), but the wide range of quotes from friendly and hostile sources indicates comprehensive research.

Quotes gathered from members of the 47 and its allies are faithfully recorded. The 47's programme and achievements are given due prominence and the charge by detractors that the council created its own problems is blown out of the water. The city's economic history and the catastrophic situation that the 47 inherited is accurately outlined.

A balance sheet of contributors suggests, however, that undue weight is given to people opposed to the 47. Of the 17 interviewed nine are hostile, five are friendly, with three neutral.

Surprisingly, among the neutrals is professor Michael Parkinson, author of the 1985 book Liverpool On The Brink, who appears to have modified his animosity when he says that blaming Liverpool's misfortunes on the 47 is 'misplaced'.

The book dwells on the charge that the 47 intimidated their opponents. Apart from Kinnock and former Labour MPs Peter Kilfoyle and Jane Kennedy, the most baleful charges are churned out by ex-councillor Gideon Ben-Tovim and councillor Steve Munby, the latter an ex-Communist Party member and now staunch council member who has not voted against a single cut. Despite him never being seen at a District Labour Party meeting, Ben-Tovim ludicrously claims that any opposition to the 47 at DLP meetings was suppressed by intimidation.

He also makes the absurd claim that the council disregarded the plight of the black working class. He wallows in academic reports and distortions surrounding the Sam Bond affair, which is the book's largest passage.

Much is made of the opposition to Bond's selection as Principal Race Relations Officer. There is no focus on the poisonous amalgam of the Tories, Liberals, the Nalgo and NUT union leaderships, and the Communist Party leadership or the media's hysterical role with the Liverpool Echo, Murdoch and Maxwell fermenting opposition to the appointment.

However, the book records that the 47 pumped more investment into the predominantly black Granby area of the city than any other area and, in addition, employed more black youth than any previous administration.

By contrast, both Munby and current Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson have continued with a catastrophic decline in the council's employment of both white and black workers. When the 47 left office in 1987, over 30,000 workers were employed directly by the council. That figure is now below 8,000.

The book recognises the 47's massive popular support, reflecting Liverpool's desires and aspirations, even going beyond Labour's traditional working class vote. For instance the authors quote a 'besuited investment manager' at a recent drinks reception for green investors who defended the council, saying: 'What did you expect us to do back then, give up and die?'

The final chapter on the aftermath makes no mention of right-wing Labour's catastrophic role. Following the undemocratic dismissal and surcharging of the 47, the new council put up rents, introduced redundancies, implemented the poll tax and crushed democracy in the party. This resulted in its rejection by the working class, leading to Labour's decline by the mid-1990s to an insignificant rump of 12 council seats.

The closing pages give prominence to more hostile observations. Shamefully the 47's deputy council leader, Derek Hatton, justifies Mayor Anderson's cuts policy claiming that what happened in the 1980s could not be repeated.

The key question of the catastrophic absence of leadership today is studiously ignored.

Compared with some, this book offers a reasonably balanced evaluation of the Liverpool events, but to acquire a full understanding Liverpool - A City That Dared To Fight is still essential reading.

What was achieved


Manchester: Rally and exhibition - Liverpool's 1983-87 socialist council

Monday 30 September. Rally 7 - 9pm. Exhibition opens 5.30pm, with refreshments.

Methodist Central Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester

Speakers include Peter Taaffe and Tony Mulhearn, co-authors of 'Liverpool - A City That Dared to Fight'

Hosted by Manchester Unite local government branch.


Socialist Books

Militant Liverpool - A City on the Edge by Diane Frost and Peter North 16.99

Liverpool: A City That Dared To Fight by Peter Taaffe and Tony Mulhearn 11.99

The Rise Of Militant by Peter Taaffe 11.99

All prices include p&p

PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD

020 8988 8789

Order online from Left Books at: www.socialistbooks.org.uk

bookshop@socialistparty.org.uk

Please make cheques payable to Socialist Books

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 25 September 2013:


Socialist Party NHS feature

Mass Action Can save our NHS

Another crackpot scheme for the NHS


What we think

Labour conference - no socialist policies


Socialist Party feature

Rotten, wasteful capitalism has to go - the case for a socialist alternative


Socialism 2013

Socialism 2013


Socialist Party news and analysis

Labour to scrap bedroom tax in 2015 - we demand an amnesty now!

Them & Us


Socialist Students

University unions' ballot: Students and staff - unite and fight!

Socialist Students gains new members

'Success' for owners - zero for workers


International socialist news and analysis

Greece: Neo-Nazis murder Pavlos Fyssas, a left activist and rapper

Greek teachers show the way forward


Socialist Party workplace news

Bakers rise against Hovis: Victory shows zero-hours can be beaten

Support Teachers' fight to defend education

Industrial and political battles at Hull city council

Stop privatisation of the Probation Service

Glasgow Unison strike wins important victory

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reviews and comments

Book review: Militant Liverpool - A City on the Edge

Obituary - Steve Draper


 

Home   |   The Socialist 25 September 2013   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Militant:

triangleThe Socialist Party is being evicted - we need you!

triangleNHS: use the 3 February protests as a launch pad for a mass movement

triangleBirmingham Central Socialist Party: From Militant to the Socialist Party

triangleObituary: Maureen Mulhearn 1945-2018

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: A socialist look at the Vietnam war

Liverpool:

triangleNorth London Socialist Party: When Liverpool council defied the Tories

triangleMerseyrail protest

triangleLobby pushes Liverpool council to oppose privatisation

triangleStrikers rally in Liverpool

Council:

triangleNo fudge with the right wing

triangleIn Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street

triangleThreat of action defeats pay cut at Surrey council

Labour:

triangleBuilding support for Corbyn's anti-cuts policies in the local elections

triangleHaringey protests HDV - but Labour fails to kill it off completely

Tony Mulhearn:

triangleFilm - Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast

Peter Taaffe:

triangleMass rally to commemorate 1917 Russian Revolution

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

14/2/18

Homeless

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street

14/2/18

Pay

I'm now a 'manager' and I can barely manage!

7/2/18

Socialist

The Socialist inbox

7/2/18

Cinema

Darkest Hour: Not the usual flattery of brutal Tory Churchill

7/2/18

Revolution

Bernie's book shows need for workers' party

7/2/18

Students

GCSE grading game stresses out students - even more than before!

7/2/18

NHS

Tragic death exposes criminal understaffing of NHS

7/2/18

Sexism

Fighting sexism: Positive discrimination - yea or neigh?

31/1/18

Cricket

Capitalism v cricket

31/1/18

Film

Trump as Nixon: urgent questions about press freedom and the state

31/1/18

Sexism

Presidents Club sexism scandal: what you thought

24/1/18

Carillion

Carillion crisis exposes PFI chaos

24/1/18

Universal Credit

Universal credit: set up to fail

24/1/18

The Socialist

The Socialist inbox

19/1/18

Carillion

Carillion and the construction industry

triangleMore Reviews and comments 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

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

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

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999