Young Labour: democracy, struggle, Internationalism

Submitted by AWL on 9 September, 2020 - 10:36 Author: Steve Michaels
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Set up to back internationalist, class-struggle candidates in the current Young Labour elections (nominations close 27 September, ballot 19 October to 12 November), Young Labour Internationalists also aim to connect Young Labour activists with social movements and struggles.

In particular, they plan to get young activists involved in the NHS workers’ fight, and in making solidarity with freedom struggles in other countries: Belarus, China, Montenegro, Poland... You can read their full platform here.

Young Labour Internationalists candidates include Benj Eckford (Northern rep), Robbie Scott (international officer), and Sacha Marten (student rep).

Democracy is also a major theme of the Young Labour Internationalists platform. On Friday 11 September at 6:30 they will be running a public Zoom meeting on democracy and the Republic, along with the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. Details here.

There is a need for greater democracy and better culture within Young Labour and Momentum as well. Momentum ran a “primary” election to select the candidates it would recommend for Young Labour.

So far, so good. But turnout was poor: we hear that the winning candidate for one committee position reportedly won by 9 votes to 7. (Possibly because they were so poor, actual voting numbers have not been released by Momentum following the election.)

In an organisation of tens of thousands, such figures raise the question of whether those responsible for running the primary actually wanted members to participate in it.

A number of candidates were excluded from the primary by a panel of unnamed experts and with no right of appeal, Danielle Wright, a supporter of Socialist Appeal, was removed for having written a tweet seeming to imply that the Labour antisemitism outcry was simply a put-up job. Cam Rose was excluded for having lent a nomination to a trans candidate (not backed by Momentum) with the explanation that they were doing it to get more trans people onto the ballot.

Workers’ Liberty strongly disagrees with what Danielle Wright wrote in her tweet. But that would make us vote against her, not exclude her from the vote.

In any democratic organisation, the membership is supreme. It is the membership, through ballots and conferences, who should decide who is or isn’t a good candidate — by voting for them, or not!

To delegate that power to nameless experts is a Blairite method of politics, technocratic, obsessed with scrubbing away anyone who might not fit with a squeaky-clean image. It creates cruel, panicky, anxious, conservative and undemocratic organisations.

The decision to ban Cam Rose is especially bad after Momentum lent its support to candidates for in the Labour National Executive Committee elections who refused to give commitments on trans rights asked for by Momentum itself.

And worse still. A candidate for Young Labour under-18s officer, the leftwing climate activist Scarlett Westbrook, has reported that she has withdrawn from the running after receiving menacing messages from anonymous social-media accounts, threatening her if she does not stand aside for their preferred left candidate.

This is surely an egregious examples of online bullying on the Labour left, and against a 16 year old. Momentum and Labour should deal with it seriously.

Whoever was responsible for the bullying, it also demonstrates the degree to which the culture in Labour has been debased, including on the Labour “left”. Witch-hunting, bullying, and an attitude that winning committee places for your mates is the highest virtue, all have to be swept out of Labour — right and left.

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