Ease the lockdown on Labour debate!

Submitted by AWL on 28 April, 2020 - 1:12 Author: Mohan Sen

Labour Party general secretary Jennie Formby has sent round a letter instructing local Labour Parties that any online meetings they hold cannot take votes and decisions. But many activists report meetings starting up again, particularly branch meetings.

We have reports of Constituency Labour Parties or branches holding online meetings across the country – in Newark, Mid-Worcestershire, Sheffield Central, Islington North, Islington South, Croydon Central, Edinburgh Southern, Newcastle East…

Others report that their CLPs are not meeting or active at all. Regional officials generally say that informal meetings with political discussion and so on are allowed: but not formal decision-making meetings, except Executive Committee meetings to deal with “organisationally critical decisions” including CLP accounts.

In general left-led CLPs and wards seem to be meeting more than right-led ones, but many left-led ones are not meeting.

In some areas where Labour Parties aren’t yet meeting, local left caucuses are – for instance in Darlington and Stevenage (Stevenage CLP itself is planning to meet, but hasn’t yet).

Everyone should push for online speaker meetings, discussions, socials and whatever they can get in their ward and their CLP, bringing people back together and introducing as much political discussion as possible. The more meetings that happen, the better for the movement, and the better to put pressure on councillors and the parliamentary Labour leadership to act on the pandemic.

We also need to raise the question of formal decision-making. Labour Parties need to be able to discuss and take positions on responses to the pandemic, the crisis in social care and many other issues. Unions are taking decisions. Labour can too.

It is now only two months to the 30 June deadline which the Tories wrote into law and agreed with the EU as the date by which any extension to the Brexit “transition period” must be sorted out.

More and more EU and capitalist figures are pointing out the obvious: that it will be impossible to negotiate even a halfway-workable Brexit deal by 30 June, because the negotiators are not even able to meet, decision-makers are distracted, and all discussions now have to be on the basis of economic conditions which are in drastic and unpredictable flux. It’s like learning how to ride a bike in the middle of an earthquake.

From the point of view of the labour movement, the essential thing is that any deal (or no deal formula) rammed through before 30 June will necessarily be done without even a minimum of democratic scrutiny. The labour movement should demand that Brexit procedures are paused until they can be discussed properly!

Many Labour activists, even ones who were pro-Remain, are reluctant to discuss this. Oddly, the idea seems to be that we shouldn’t raise the demand... because we might well win! The Tories, when it comes to it, will have to recognise the need for postponement. So, cunningly, we should let them take the “blame” for postponement, rather than being seen to demand it.

But our first job is to tell the truth. And the truth is that a Brexit decided by 30 June makes no sense even if you are in principle for Brexit.

Labour Parties need to discuss that. And campaigning, too: to support mutual aid groups, trade unions, councils demanding funds from the government...

Many people on right and left seem to think campaigning is something we can start again when things return to normal. But all those issues are urgent.

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