Tens of thousands of people have rallied to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership campaign. Older Labour supporters whose left-wing views were not extinguished by Blairism, trade unionists who want a working class-centred politics, radicals who previously voted Green in frustration with Ed Miliband's Labour, far left activists, big numbers of unaffiliated young people and students and many others have got behind Corbyn.
To rally and organise a substantial number of these people after 12 September requires the Labour left to go beyond its existing valuable but small organisations and create a more united and expansive structure.
Already there are a number of local organisations, some of them quite vibrant, organising the Corbyn campaign in their city or town. These campaigns involve a wide range of activists and are not affiliated to one of the existing Labour left groups. A new national organisation would help such local structures grow and develop, coordinate them nationally and provide more space for them to discuss demands and ideas.
Young Labour Party activists are moving forward, with the Labour Campaign for Free Education initiating a broad conference on 20 September. It looks as if the youth sections of other Labour left organisations will be supporting it too. Young people in Scotland have created a Scottish Labour Young Socialists network and youth groups are now appearing in English cities. The existing Labour left should get behind these developments.
The Corbyn movement has things in common with other left movements in Europe that have emerged in Europe since the economic crisis began in 2008 – particularly Syriza and Podemos. After years of advance for the right in many countries, a considerable minority of people are drawing broadly left-wing conclusions about capitalism. In Britain, the Labour leadership election and the Corbyn campaign have created a lightning rod for much of this sentiment. Without boldness and flexibility about developing left organisation, there is a danger of it dispersing, and particularly so if Corbyn is not elected. If he is elected, and there is no strong democratic organisation behind him, there is a political danger of it all going wrong, as what has happened in Greece shows.
We want a united, democratic movement not just from more abstract considerations, but because it is necessary to put pressure on Corbyn, make sure his promises are implemented and push for more radical policies.
A new Labour left movement, whatever form it takes, will be immediately confronted by a number of live issues.
Many hundreds of councillors support Corbyn. If he wins, what will they do about new rounds of Tory cuts, which will be even worse than those of 2010-15? We advocate that Labour councils resist implementing the cuts, and help workers and communities rally, locally and nationally, to demand the Tories restore funding. The Councillors Against the Cuts movement created in 2012 should be refounded, this time on a much bigger scale and with the support of the national Labour Party.
Will Corbyn's party full-throatedly support strikes and working-class struggles, or will it hem and haw as the campaign did during the last round of Tube strikes?
There is the big issue of party democracy. The left should oppose concessions to the Parliamentary Labour Party and party machine on democratisation. We should fight for Labour Party conference to become fully sovereign, for the undemocratic system of Policy Forums to be abolished and for alls bans on left-wing organisations and individuals who want to join and support the party to be rescinded. We need a much more responsive system of reselections so that rank-and-file activists can hold accountable and if they want replace MPs and councillors who resist moving the party to the left.
A renewed, united, democratic Labour left is also necessary to debate what policies we want to use party democracy to push forward.
Workers' Liberty will continue to education, agitate, organise and recruit for our revolutionary socialist, Marxist ideas. At the same time we ask that others on the Labour left be true to their ideas, and argue and fight for them. Class struggle and socialism should not be ideas we exchange amongst ourselves in private or mere rhetoric to occasionally rouse the faithful before getting on with managing capitalism. We need to debate how these kinds of ideas can be made a, shaping force in politics. After years of political retreat such explicit radicalism is awkward, but necessary.
We need to put debates about capitalism, class and class struggle back into political mainstream.
We should use renewal of the Labour left to debate issues of disagreement on the left – like international conflicts (where Corbyn combines some reasonable positions with the widespread “left” softness on reactionary anti-Western movements) and most urgently, Europe.
Immediately, we advocate the party fights for an Emergency Plan to protect and benefit the working class and the workers' movement, and help us organise. Tax the rich to rebuild public services; renationalise privatised public utilities with workers' control; restore and improve benefits; repeal all anti-union laws; nationalise the banks; end deportations and detention. These sorts of policies are the very least we should demand from a Corbyn-led Labour government. Going back to Labour c. 1970 is not a good model. The left should fight for a government which is accountable to the labour movement and serves the working class, a workers' government.
A Corbyn-led party will face a huge assault from the ruling class, political establishment and media, or about the fact that since Blair public opinion has in some respects moved to the right. The point is that left-wing and even socialist policies can convince the “centre ground” – which is not an ideologically fixed right-wing location, as Blair would have us believe. The labour movement and left should seek to persuade the working class through campaigning and thoughtful advocacy.
If Corbyn wins, it will make sense to argue for uniting the labour movement around the Labour Party, while organising for democracy, working-class interests and socialist politics within it. We generally support trade unions affiliating to the party, starting with a fight for the politically very important reaffiliation of the unions pushed out under Blair, the FBU and RMT.
Ends bans in the Labour Party!
The right-wing Labour Party group Progress has its own distinct programme, its own national, regional and local events, its own website and its own publications. No one in the Labour Party suggests banning it. On the contrary, it has been fêted by all kinds of party dignatories, including three of the four candidates for leader.
While Progress is wined and dined, some socialist organisations on the left of the party are proscribed. In stages between 1982 and 1985 the party banned Militant (now split into Socialist Appeal and the much larger Socialist Party, which is outside Labour). In 1990, it banned Socialist Organiser, as Workers' Liberty was then called, going on to expel a number of our members as well as a number of Labour Party people who weren't!
One of our comrades was barred from restanding as the parliamentary candidate for Wallasey, despite losing by a hair's breadth in 1987 and receiving the vast majority of local party and union support, and right-winger Angela Eagle was imposed in clear violation of the party's own rules.
These bans (under Neil Kinnock's leadership of the Party) were major steps towards transforming the Labour Party, leading to Tony Blair imposing an authoritarian organisation where dissent was squashed, the democratic structures trashed, agreed policy ignored and decisions made by a clique around the leader, all in the service of marginalising the left and even the old-fashioned Labour right.
These bans were pushed through with the help of the big trade unions. The ban on Socialist Organiser was opposed by a majority of Constituency Labour Parties but only by a few small left-wing unions.
Lifting such bans and allowing freedom of organisation in the party is an essential part of democratising it and pushing forward any left-wing agenda.