A workers' plan for a renewed labour movement

Submitted by AWL on 15 September, 2015 - 5:42 Author: Editorial

Jeremy Corbyn will come under pressure from the Labour right and some union bureaucrats to moderate the left-wing policies he advocated during the Labour leadership campaign, some of which were more moderate than what he advocated before the leadership election.

On the other hand he will come under pressure from left-wing activists and from workers in struggle to push forward a radical programme to fight austerity. Which way will things go? To some extent, pressure will decide.

Socialists must raise, and educate the widest possible layers of activists in the goal of building a new society, fundamentally different from capitalism, based on collective ownership and production for need not profit. But what should we advocate as more immediate demands, policies which we can get the Corbyn-led Labour Party to campaign for? What policies will galvanise the labour movement and take it forward?

After the crisis hit in 2008, Workers’ Liberty advocated a “Workers’ Plan for the Crisis”, demands to mobilise the labour movement in opposition to the Tories and the capitalist bosses. We tried to develop clear, sharp demands that addressed immediate needs and issues facing workers, but with a radical logic cutting against the profit-driven grain of capitalism and linking to the possibility of wider anti-capitalist solutions.

The economic crisis is over, for now at least, but it has been converted into a social crisis.

Inequalities are growing; the Tories plan to outlaw effective trade union opposition. We still need a Workers’ Plan. As a basis for discussion in the labour movement, and Corbyn-led Labour Party we propose some ideas for what the labour movement should organise around, and demand:

• Back every fight against cuts, back every strike — clearly, explicitly, actively. Fight cuts politically at every level, from the strongest possible fight in Parliament to Labour councils refusing to carry them out. Pledge the next Labour government begin by reversing all cuts since 2009.

• Create decent jobs for all with security and a real living wage. Support the fight to raise wages, in public and private sectors. Build millions of council houses. Rebuild the NHS as a public service. Free education at every level and a comprehensive school system.

• Defend the right to strike, unshackle our unions. Use opposition to the anti-union laws as a springboard to campaign against all anti-union laws. Promise the next Labour government will repeal them and introduce a strong charter of workers' rights.

• Much heavier taxation of the rich, curb inequality. Nationalise the banks and big financial institutions to create a public banking service. Reverse privatisation, make sure services, utilities and industries nationalised are run under democratic, workers' and community control.

• A bold drive to bring down carbon emissions and tackle dangerous climate change. Public ownership of energy and transport, public funding of renewable energy, insulation, etc to create a more sustainable economy.

• Scrap nuclear weapons! We should support British withdrawal from NATO too, but scrapping nuclear weapons, with conversion to protect workers' livelihoods and use their skills, is the necessary first step. Cut defence spending.

• End the witch-hunt against migrants. Equal rights for all. End deportation and detentions.

We will continue to argue and educate for a socialist revolution to overthrow capitalism. Meanwhile the labour movement should takes its own existing ideas and demands seriously, fight for left-wing policies, and set itself the goal of a government accountable to and based on the institutions of the labour movement, a workers' government which serves our class as the Tories serve the bosses.

Build a student Labour left!

As the new University term starts, many thousands of young people who have been enthused by the Corbyn campaign will arrive at college. It is natural that these new Labour members and supporters will be drawn towards the official Labour Party organisation on campus — the local Labour Club.

Activists should organise to welcome these new leftwingers into political activity work to make the clubs open and lively.

In some places it will take work to get Labour Clubs up and running, especially after many of them have fallen into relative disrepair. To make clubs open, accessible spaces for debate and activism, we will need regular meetings, social events, and campaigning activity — building demonstrations for free education, against Tory attacks on unions and migrants, and for nuclear disarmament.

But we need a political change as well. For twenty years, Labour Students has functioned as the organised right wing in the National Union of Students, opposing the movement for free education and arguing aggressively Blairite politics, undermining support for workers’ struggles on campuses and campaigns of international solidarity, including the movement against the Iraq war.

Many Labour Clubs gained reputations (some deserved) as being little more than conduits for advancing political careers, organising drinks receptions for rightwing MPs rather than demonstrations or serious political education.

This has begun to change — in particular through the work of the Labour Campaign for Free Education and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and the efforts of determined local socialists. But the influx of many thousands of leftwing young people, and the change in the political tide in the party signalled by the Corbyn victory, has opened the way for socialist activists to turn Labour Clubs back into democratic centres for socialist debate and activism.

Campus socialists and radicals should push this process forwards, by joining Labour Clubs this term and getting active from day one.

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