The annual conference of the Labour Party takes place in Brighton from 27-30 September. It comes just two weeks after the dramatic victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest.
Over the last thirty years Labour’s annual conference has become unrecognisable as a working-class political conference. And the preparation and documents of this year’s event were mostly drafted before the Blairites were aware of any coming defeat.
In the official programme there are dozens of business-sponsored meetings, with (former) front bench spokespersons invited to speak. Included in the sponsors of such meetings are key agents of privatisation: ATOS, Deloitte, KPMG, G4S etc.
Chuka Umunna, still titled as the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, is listed about 10 times as speaking. Chris Leslie is listed several times as speaking as “Shadow Chancellor”.
The new Party leadership has not had the opportunity to pulp the inaccurate programme, never mind formulate changes to the conference’s procedures.
But the Party conference needs to thoroughly debate the policies on which Corbyn won the election, as well as others that have so far been declared.
Until the views of the membership can be forcefully expressed by debates, policy motions and votes, Blairites within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will have the maximum leeway to divide the Party and undermine Corbyn.
We need to discuss nuclear disarmament, promoting workers unity, anti-austerity and workers right in the UK and across the EU, the opening up of Britain and Europe to migrants and refugees; the crisis in the Middle East and the defeat of religious sectarianism, dictatorship and the denial of national rights to oppressed nationalities such as the Palestinians and the Kurds.
The weekend’s conference won’t get through this agenda. Only four motions from local Labour Parties are taken for discussion at conference, and they have to jump thorough many obstacles to make it to the conference floor.
Rule changes to increase the number of resolutions and amount of time given to have such discussions have been submitted but these will either be opposed by the right wing or prevented from going onto the agenda.
So don’t expect a radically changed Party because of this conference’s deliberations. For that we need to overthrow the old procedures and make the delegates to subsequent party meetings more representative of the new Labour Party that is now forming.
The delegations will have been decided many months ago.
So although there will be a slight shift to the left, the conference will be more of an opportunity to measure how the centre-ground of the Party has changed.
We can hope that the trade union delegations — which will not have changed hugely from earlier years — will be prepared to demand more from the Party.
Before we can get real change we need to organise the left of the Party throughout the country. We need to get campaigning and debating, renovating the Party organisations with the new recruits and the new enthusiasm.
But most of all we need to discuss how we can defeat this government now and replace it with a workers’ government as soon as possible.
Labour Young Socialists set up
Over 130 young leftwing Labour members rallied in London on 20 September to launch Labour Young Socialists, a united youth organisation of the grassroots left in Labour. Attendees debated the way forward for the Labour left movemet that has sprung up around Corbyn, and discussed how to build local Young Labour groups as campaigning, educational bodies at constituency level, and how to win the argument in CLPs and Labour Clubs for socialism.