Kelly Rogers’ interview on the Labour conference in Solidarity 520, and article in 519, sketches an impressive intervention, replete with important lessons.
One is that sticking resolutely to our politics, not selling out on the hope of a favourable compromise, can “work”, as well as being more principled. Another is that even an — unfortunately — tiny group of revolutionaries within a much larger, reformist, Labour party can have influence well beyond its size. That is, if you have clear, bold political ideas, and good, open organising.
I want to add two points.
First, the division of the free movement motion from the LARAF/Momentum motion in the priorities ballot was not really an attempt to prevent either being debated. Most believed that the LARAF motion would be prioritised, and ours wouldn’t.
The main “resolve” of the LARAF motion — to abolish detention centres — was contained in our the free movement motion, which also included extending free movement and many other radical policies. The conduct of LARAF/Momentum suggests that they didn’t want those additional demands to be heard.
Secondly, our initial fear that conference would be closed early, before the free movement motion could be heard, was — I think — well founded. We kicked up a fuss inside and outside conference hall about it being scheduled on Wednesday.
It was, I suspect, because of this that the Leader’s Office felt unable to prevent it being heard.
Misha Zubrowski, Bristol
Passive on Hodge
Martin Thomas continues to advocate passive backing for Margaret Hodge in his response to me (Solidarity 520).
Thomas points out that Solidarity and the AWL are not in touch with left-wingers in Barking Labour, and that by all reports the small left-wing in that CLP have not played a significant role in the trigger ballot. These facts are not in dispute, but it does not follow that our stance must therefore be to defend Hodge’s position.
We have a responsibility to build a consistently anti-racist left that contests against the right to lead the battle against antisemitism. That means putting up a fight even where we currently out-matched, and attempting to spark fires where there is currently no activity. Not merely shrugging and ceding the field to an anti-socialist bourgeois migrant-baiter.
This is why I wrote that even a paper candidacy with no chance of winning would be worthwhile – a contender putting themselves in the running to broadcast the point that it ought not be a choice between left-antisemitism versus anti-socialist xenophobia (or, indeed, if Hodge’s local opponents are from the right, between two similar offerings of anti-socialist xenophobia). Our politics are, of course, coming from a long way behind, but we have to build from where we are.
We may not have direct contacts – but we work with others who might, and if that fails, there’s no reason a candidate couldn’t come in from a neighbouring area (or, if necessary, further afield).
The NEC may impose candidates – but we should fight that, any candidate should publicly declare themselves, and if selection does default to the NEC then we should help build a campaign to lobby for that candidate. And if all efforts are blocked or fail, our commentary should not be passive lesser-evilism, but vigorous agitation against both evils and for building a left that can take them on!
As long as the likes of Hodge are allowed to position themselves as the uncontested leaders of the struggle against left-antisemitism, that struggle will be impaired – ultimately, fatally so.
Ben Tausz, Hackney
Martin Thomas replies
Ben’s second letter reinforces my opinion that he is evading a response to the actual conflict by postulating an imaginary alternative one.
He now says that anything other than a starting-from-zero attempt to get a leftist opposed to antisemitism as Labour candidate for Barking is “passive”.
So, all Solidarity readers should be on the streets in Barking every evening and every weekend?
If so, why do we pick Barking? Why not in every constituency?
Aren’t we shamefully “passive” if we take the fact that we have no like-minded contacts in many constituencies as an obstacle to winning local majorities there within the next few weeks?
In fact, the “non-passivity” here is imaginary. No one is actually going to Barking — or the many other constituencies where we have no foothold — to win, supposedly, just by a few weeks of frenzied activity there, the political hegemony often is difficult enough to build even where we have been active for some time.
The real passivity is in responding to the actual conflict by saying: “Ah, I wish we had a different one”.
Also, Hodge is surely a right-winger. To describe her as standing out in the Labour spectrum as a “migrant-baiter” on the basis of a couple of “off” remarks 12 or 13 years ago is, however, an attempt to introduce a false “symmetry” here.