On 18 and 19 January, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty members from across the country met for our annual conference to debate and democratically decide upon our programme and priorities for the class struggle ahead of us, and elect our committees.
The conference opened with a discussion on a document which provided a comprehensive Marxist analysis of the climate crisis. It argued for a socialist environmental transitional programme, fighting for worker-led “just transitions”, and for a united front approach to campaign on issues such as fracking, new fossil fuel plants, and the Socialist Green New Deal.
Trade union activists emphasised the necessity of scrapping the anti-trade union laws to fight effectively in our workplaces, and the importance of linking unions and workplace activism to the inspiring climate strike movement. One point of difference was on the argument that phasing out almost all animal products will be necessary to allow adequate reforestation and reduce carbon emissions: the conference decided to remit it for further discussion.
Our second debate, about regrouping the socialist left and building our own organisation, registered the setback of the 12 December 2019 general election. It fits in with the rise of a new radical right internationally, of which Johnson is a UK variant.
Much debate focused on the long-term changes in the working-class movement as a result of four decades of ruling-class attack and neoliberalism. Though the Corbyn movement saw a large membership boost for the Labour Party, much potential was squandered. Many members remained atomised and passive supporters, without becoming consolidated into an activist force that could remedy the profound democratic deficit in the party.
The surge of a political left found no equivalent echo in the trade unions, which for now remain bureaucratised and usually with a stagnant and ageing membership and a low rate of strikes.
Our agency for tackling all these challenges is the building of a Marxist organisation, critical, sceptical, principled, and strengthened by a culture of political education and working-class solidarity. Even on 12 December, young people mostly voted left-wing, but that youthful leftism mostly remains atomised. Our task is to turn outwards, to make ourselves visible and accessible to interested young people, and persuade young radicals to become active socialists and workplace agitators, and to transform the labour movement to make it fit to fight for socialism.
A discussion on the Labour Party leadership contest brought some vigorous debate. The majority vote was to support none of the candidates for the time being: we see no sufficiently clear differentiation that marks any one out as the “left candidate”. Rebecca Long-Bailey’s record is meagre: her most distinctive themes have been “progressive patriotism”, and close ties to the Unite union bureaucracy, which has been a force for equivocation on free movement, Brexit, and climate politics in the Labour Party.
Our stance will be an active, interventionist, one, promoting a charter of democratic demands on the Labour Party, including open selections, democratisation of the trade union link, a culture of open and free debate and political education in the party, and an end to the exclusion of socialists simply for their beliefs. This will be necessary to build and empower the rank-and-file of the movement to hold any leaders to account, and return Labour to its labour movement roots.
Other key debates at our conference included a socialist feminist document which re-stated our Marxist analysis of the roots of women’s oppression. We resolved to further develop demands for the labour movement against discrimination and sexism, including interventions into Labour Party structures, and will consider organising further reading groups, public meetings, and even a conference.
We also discussed the situation in Israel/Palestine, with the increasingly chauvinist Israeli government counterpointed by some signs of hope with organisations such as Standing Together. We resolved for renewed campaigning for Two States, as well as further discussion on the nature of left antisemitism and racism.
We were all agreed on the need for universal secular education, and a push back against the pressures on children from reactionary religious elements within communities and families, but the conference rejected a proposal to make propaganda for a ban on the hijab for children in primary schools.
As well as written statements from a number of supportive organisations in France, Italy, Iran and our sister organisation in Australia, we also received greetings passed on from the L’Étincelle faction in the NPA in France, reporting on the wave of struggle against the Macron government.
These greetings, together with a rendition of the Internationale, left comrades inspired to throw ourselves into the struggle ahead, to fight for solidarity, for hope and for the socialist future.