We can make activists out of rally-goers

Submitted by Matthew on 2 September, 2015 - 11:56 Author: Pete Radcliff, Broxtowe Labour Party

I have travelled to a number of towns talking to party members and others about what is going on in their local Labour Parties, and what to do after the leadership election.

Even if Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t win, there will be tens of thousands of energetic new activists and the possibilities of many thousands more.

The biggest problem is the state of the constituencies. 152 constituency parties nominated Jeremy. Some were like my own in Broxtowe, where the majority of branch officers and all the constituency officers backed Corbyn, as did the members at the nomination meeting by a clear first majority.

There are other constituency parties (CLPs) which nominated Corbyn but where the constituency officers were against him. These party officers were probably somewhat alarmed by the mobilisation of old members and new left-wing members seen at the nomination meetings. Where might these new members take those parties, and what would they now expect from their representatives?

There are a surprising number of CLPs in special measures – particularly, it appears, in the West Midlands. And then there are constituencies where branches don’t meet and function or where the constituency meetings have no democratic structures. Labour Party Regional Officers and the NEC were happier for the local Party to be inactive than to have activity that might be critical of the MPs or influential local councillors.

So enthusiastic Corbyn supporters will find themselves in hugely different situations in the constituency parties they join.

The newly forming left in the Party will need to support activists in all of these situations. It will need to be able to democratically co-ordinate outside the party apparatus.

Democratically — because as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out this has to be a movement based on policies not on personalities. It is essential that that is not lost.

We must welcome in the Labour Party all working-class people who want Labour to be successful in elections. We must lift the bans on those who have in the past supported various protests votes, and end exclusions on the basis of beliefs or “values”. We must have free speech in the Party, an end to proscriptions and bans on those who campaign for alternative policies as long as they support a Labour vote.

We must restore Party Conference as the sovereign policy-making body of the Party.

All MPs should be required to go through mandatory reselection between elections.

Labour should invite all unions to affiliate and give them a meaningful role in the decision-making process.

One of our greatest challenges in the Corbyn campaign is to make rally-goers into activists.

Rallies lift spirits, but they are not the best way of getting to those who have been alienated from the Labour Party for decades and whom we need to win back. There are huge numbers mystified by all politics and disoriented, and they are often pulled to UKIP and the right.

We have known for a long time that UKIP voters aren’t hardened racists. Many of those voters have concerns about growing poverty and the lack of housing and decently paid jobs. In the absence of any party addressing these issues with any urgency, they have been pulled towards UKIP.

We can pull in people both on the left and from the confused right. It will be done by running high-profile campaigns that win gains for working class people whenever we can – outside of elections. We need to demonstrate that we can not only talk optimistically about the future, but fight now and win.

It will be done by explaining in one-to-one conversations on doorsteps and stalls.

This will need to be done in the teeth of media hostility, with prominent Blairites, with ready access to the press, attacking us again and again.

We have to organise on a town-by-town and constituency-by-constituency basis. And in many CLPs that will be difficult. There are vested interests in some of them, who will try and maintain their political power-base by obstructing new member involvement and any conversion of supporters into full members.

And we have to debate. That tradition has been stamped on in much of the Party and it is weak in the wider left, which has had a recent diet of nothing other than rallies and demonstrations.

And that debate will need to be both local and national. Corbyn will come under incredible pressure from the right in the Parliamentary Party (PLP). We will need a vigorous independent left to counteract that pressure.

There will be many views that have to be debated in the Party after decades of near silence. We must organise in the industries that we want renationalised or increasingly regulated to make sure that bosses and businesses can’t undermine the purpose of renationalisations.

On international issues Corbyn’s policies have understandably been greeted on the left as a breath of fresh air – which indeed they are after the slavish following of US foreign policy – based on keeping happy the powerful capitalist interests in the arms, oil and other profit-making industries.

But whilst Corbyn clearly dismisses direct military interventions by Western governments in places like Iraq and Syria, his policy is pacifistic and does not explain who can defeat the fascistic Daesh. The Kurdish community in UK particularly want him to go further than his condemnation of the Turkish government’s attacks upon them and to support their secular militias fighting against the Daesh in Northern Syria/ Rojava.

Corbyn calls for two states in Israel-Palestine, but his approach is that of a well-meaning diplomat wanting to pull the various parties into negotiations and avoiding clear condemnations for fear of giving offence. We have to recognise that not only the Israeli government is an obstacle to peace; so also are the Hamas leaders in Gaza. We have to oppose not only war-mongering but also the different governments’ attacks on the democratic rights of their own people: in that regard Hamas is even worse than the Israeli government.

Above all we have to take working class politics into the very heart of working class communities. In the early 1980s, this was neglected. The Party needs to get into the workplaces and into the working class communities. Corbyn’s victory, if it happens, will be where the battle will seriously begin.

• From Beeston Leftie

Don’t wait to fight

Ed Whitby, speaking at Newcastle’s Corbyn rally

I’m a convenor for Unison at Newcastle city council. I’m also member of Unison’s Northern committee, which helped win Unison’s support for Jeremy Corbyn.

Yesterday we heard that chief execs of the top 100 companies now earn 183 times more than their workers average workers. Newcastle is home to the largest foodbank.

It’s estimated that 50,000 families have used it in the last two years. You can understand why public sector workers and Unison members want to fight for an alternative. Not only do we support those families; some of our workers are those families.

This is why workers need a socialist political voice, and political representatives who fight for our interests as militantly as the Tories fight for those of employers. We need a government which serves us as loyally as this government serves the rich. Our unions fund and support the Labour Party — we should demand it supports us.

I’m increasingly confident that we’ll win this leadership election. But win or lose, we can’t wait for a Labour government. If we wait, the Tories will crush us. The campaign to elect Jeremy must be a launch pad for a real fightback.

We need a fightback in our workplaces and industries; we need a fightback in our communities and on the streets – starting by fighting the threat of new anti-union laws and from the Welfare Bill. We need workers and all sections of our community to stand together and take action to stop the Tories in their tracks. We need to recruit a new generation to our unions and make the labour movement fit to struggle.

The Labour Party should be an essential part of that. We should have councillors, MPs and a party leader who, instead of helping the Tories with their dirty work, stand strong with workers and communities in our struggle.

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