One of Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers, Andrew Murray, has been in the news the last couple of days in connection with the ongoing anti-Semitism crisis Labour has been having.
There have been reports about his political past in the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and how he left them in late 2016 to join Labour. I’ve compiled a short list of Mr Murray’s politics for those unaware of his history.
1. Straight Left.
In 1968, the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia to put a stop to the “Prague Spring” which was an attempt by the Czechoslovak Communist Party to liberalise the one Party state. The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) opposed this “intervention” (as they deemed to describe it) but there was a pro-Soviet opposition who supported the invasion(1). The organisation Straight Left was formed in the 1970’s by some on the pro-Soviet side.
One distinctive feature of Straight Left was that it had members who were in the CPGB and in the Labour Party. For example, Andrew Murray was in the former and Seumas Milne (who was Business Manager of the SL newspaper) was in the latter. Milne (Labour’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications) is, of course, Corbyn’s key adviser. Another ex-SL was Steve Howell who briefly worked with them all in 2017.
More background information on Straight Left can be read here.
2. North Korea.
In 2003, as part of his political report to the CPB Executive Committee, Mr Murray had this to write when regarding their collective support for the totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea:
“The clear desire of the USA to effect ‘regime change’ in its second ‘axis of evil’ target could well provoke an armed clash there, too. Our Party has already made its basic position of solidarity with Peoples Korea clear.”
3. Stop the War Coalition.
In October 2004, Andrew Murray and Lindsay German on behalf of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) wrote up a statement which was sent out to various supporters including the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) on 8 October and the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO) where the full piece can be read. It included the following passage-
“The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends.”
Workers Liberty describes what then happened -
“The text was widely circulated in electronic form. By the Monday in question (11 October), when the text appeared in print in the Morning Star, the words “by whatever means they find necessary” had been removed, perhaps in response to the murder of Ken Bigley on 8 October. But before 11 October the STWC officers had endorsed, and made public, a statement including those words.” (2)
Unsurprisingly, there were repercussions.
As Gary Kent reported in 2015:
‘Former railway drivers’ union leader Mick Rix resigned from the STWC executive saying,
If you think I am going to sit back and agree with beheadings, kidnappings, torture and brutality, and outright terrorisation of ordinary Iraqis and others, then you can forget it. I will not be involved whatsoever, to me it is akin to supporting the same brutality and oppression inflicted on Iraq by Saddam, and the invading and occupying forces of the USA.
Rix told Murray:
‘The language that was used was deliberate, archaic, violent, and plain downright stupid and dangerous if you happen to be an Iraqi at this present time. Then again you are not … I don’t think you also realise the danger that your actions and those of the Respect colleagues in the STW have placed Abdullah and perhaps others in the IFTU [Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions] against attacks from extremists.’ This was sadly prescient. Within weeks, the IFTU’s international secretary Hadi Saleh, was tortured, garrotted, and shot dead in Baghdad by Saddam’s goons.’
Another report on this story (and on the politics of the “anti-imperialist left” and violence in Iraq) by Oliver Kamm can be read here.
During the time Andrew Murray was a member, the CPB fully backed Brexit. I think it is reasonable to say that he probably voted “Leave”. Now, as an adviser to Jeremy Corbyn on that same subject, I would imagine that Mr Murray is not too keen to back a People’s Vote. Indeed, according to an article in the New Statesman (October 2018), Murray suggested backing the Withdrawal Agreement -
“True, there are issues on which the leadership’s main players are genuinely divided, such as how to tackle the final Brexit vote. At a recent strategy meeting, Andrew Murray — who works part-time as Len McCluskey’s chief of staff and part-time in Corbyn’s office — argued that the Labour Party should vote for Theresa May’s deal to avoid a no-deal exit. At that point, Abbott intervened to disagree. She argued that the party’s pro-European membership would never forgive them for bailing out a weak Tory government and that May’s Brexit agreement would in any case be a disaster that Labour should not be seen to endorse.”
I’ve only covered some of Andrew Murray’s political history here. His views (and those of the CPB and StWC) on matters such as Syria, Israel/Palestine and Venezuela for example can be found by googling. Any links, of course, are welcome in the comments.