The biggest opening for some time

Submitted by Gemma_S on 6 September, 2016 - 3:12 Author: Gerry Bates

A meeting of a number of readers of Solidarity from across the country on 3 September discussed the ferment in the Labour Party set off by the right wing's attempted coup in June, and the leadership election for which the ballot closes on 21 September. Gerry Bates reports on some of the
conclusions.


There is a new surge of life. In general, Momentum groups are holding bigger meetings, finding new people. Despite the fact that the apparatus has tried to stop local Labour Parties meeting, many of these people want to be active in Labour.

Before the Labour right launched their coup attempt against Corbyn in June, there were people around Momentum, and supporting Corbyn, who saw no real need to be active in the Labour Party.

That has changed. There are still some who have a "Corbyn cult", who project all their political wishes onto the personality of Corbyn. But more people understand, or can be got to understand, that real progress depends on transforming the whole labour movement, not just having Corbyn in the leader's job.

Before June, most left-wingers were cautious about reselecting Labour MPs. Now many want to settle accounts with the coup plotters, and they want "workers' MPs on workers' wages".

The party machine has responded with a new wave of expulsions, trawling through social media to find justifications for them. We need a broad campaign to resist the purge and demand due process.

This is the biggest opening for socialist politics for some time, and all socialists should become active in Momentum, in the Labour Party, and into making Momentum groups active on a ward and CLP level.

They should be good citizens of this movement, but not only that. There will be pressure on many left-wingers now to become councillors. That will be a mechanism to chew them up and tame them unless it's a matter of a whole council slate committed to defying cuts.

Socialists should raise the questions which the whole movement will have to deal with at the next, or next-but-one, stage.

What kind of government do we want? How do we shift the balance of class forces? What do we propose about the entrenched, unelected, state machine?

Some people in Momentum regard nationalising the banks as extreme, but to be serious about social change we have to explain where the money will come from.

"Policy development" in the Labour Party still tends to be seen in terms of looking to the "leader's office" to come up with good schemes. That needs to be turned round: if the labour movement is to become a real force for change, it must develop its own policies, through debate at the base and through democratic conferences and votes.

Momentum, too, should have proper democratic structures.

The universities will start back just after the Labour leadership election result is announced. Student Labour clubs can turn themselves into the hubs on campus for left wing dicsussions, socials, campaigns etc., and levers to help build Young Labour groups in constituencies, while making sure the younger members call the tune there and are not overwhelmed by super-articulate university students. Developing new young socialists is central.

No transformation of the Labour Party can be thorough or stable if it does not go hand-in-hand with a transformation in the unions, and a thorough democratic transformation and revitalisation which goes beyond backing "left-led" unions against the others.

Socialists active in the unions should draw people from the new upsurge into activity alongside them. This work will require tenacity and patience. Organised rank-and-file networks in the unions are as yet weak, and industrial disputes are at the lowest level since records began. But the work is essential.

Local Momentum groups and left-wing Labour Party units can establish revitalising links with local union branches. The Labour Party should be turned to being the party which supports strikes.

A radical government policy is fundamentally not possible in a single country. Syriza foundered on that rock. In arguing for freedom of movement against the Tories' Brexit plans, we must also argue for labour-movement solidarity across borders for a social and democratic (workers') Europe.

Comments

Submitted by Jason Schulman on Tue, 06/09/2016 - 20:48

"A radical government policy is fundamentally not possible in a single country. Syriza foundered on that rock. In arguing for freedom of movement against the Tories' Brexit plans, we must also argue for labour-movement solidarity across borders for a social and democratic (workers') Europe."

Yes, precisely. Very good.

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