Build Labour into a workers’ party, rebuild the labour movement

Submitted by Matthew on 26 April, 2017 - 10:50 Author: Editorial

The intense election activity, drawing in a lot of people who have not yet come to meetings, has the potential to alter the longer-term shape of the Labour Party and the labour movement. We can make it a much broader movement of activists, with local parties having deeper roots in communities and a higher level of political activity.

We also need to ensure that all sections of the labour movement — Momentum groups, union branches, Labour Clubs, Young Labour groups — and all activists are mobilised. In the first place Labour needs every activist it can get! In addition to launching a membership drive, the party should stop wasting members’ and affiliates’ money on paying officials to witch-hunt the left, put a stop to expulsions of socialists for being socialists and extend an amnesty to those who have been expelled.

So that we progress in rebuilding the labour movement socialists need to see this election not just as a mechanical exercise of “getting out the Labour vote” — finding out whether a person will vote Labour, collecting information, and going on to the next house. This election should be an opportunity to have political conversations and to politicise Labour supporters, winning them to the idea that ongoing socialist activity is valuable and necessary.

That is why campaigning should not be counterposed to democratic organising or political debate. With most local Labour Parties shutting down for the duration, Momentum groups should meet and use the election to rally and organise people for campaigning, and to discuss Labour’s programme and our political demands. This too will prepare the ground for the broader, more political labour movement we seek to build for the future.

No selections?

The snap general election has stopped local Labour Parties organising trigger ballots so sitting MPs can be reselected or selecting their own candidates in vacant seats. A document sent to all CLP secretaries states: "The NEC has agreed MPs will be reselected automatically if they wish to stand again. Vacancies will be advertised on Friday 21 April and after close of applications on Sunday 23 April will be selected directly by panels of the National Exectuive and Regional Board members. It will be simply impossible to hold trigger ballots, selection hustings and meetings in the 631 Parliamentary constituencies in the given timescale.”

By Tuesday 2 May all candidates will be in place. The rumour is that there has been some deal made between the Leader's office and the right of the party to split the seats to their preferred candidates on a 50/50 basis. Labour members have been given less say over their choice of candidates than in many Conservative associations! The process of democratising and transforming the Party must continue after the election.

Labour must fight Tories over Brexit!

This election has been pitched by the Tories as a referendum on Brexit. Labour needs a clear policy on that. In the first place Labour cannot afford to ignore the issue, or effectively ignore the issue, by campaigning on everything but Brexit.

Many voters on both sides of the European referendum debate see the issue as important. Moreover the Labour Party cannot continue as it has done, to give the Tories a free hand to shape the debate on Brexit. Far from “holding the Tories to account” they have voted with the Tories in Parliament, for instance, on triggering Article 50.

Labour must make good on the words of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who said last October: “By pulling up the drawbridge and tearing up longstanding ties to Europe, we will inflict huge and unnecessary pain on our society... a hard-line Tory minority believe [in] the fantasy of turning our whole country into a giant offshore tax haven, with rock-bottom wages and no public services. It is a nightmare vision that I believe would be rejected by the majority of people who live here”.

Labour should be convincing people, including those who voted for Brexit last 23 June, that the Tory vision of Brexit, should be rejected. A key debate is over migration. Labour should not shy away from this debate. It should defend EU nationals right to stay in this county and argue against May’s restated pledge to push down net immigration, despite the risk of collapsing the economy and leaving vital services like the NHS understaffed.

Labour should be clear ending free movement in Europe is a terrible step backwards, a blow to unity between workers of different countries and origins, and paves the way for trashing workers’ and other rights which entered British law from the EU.

There is a real danger that the Liberal Democrats will succeed in pitching themselves as the main opposition to the Tories on Brexit, with Labour caught looking incoherent in the middle. Even on the basis of its existing policy, Labour could argue for opposition to the Tories’ Brexit plans, for defence of free movement and migrants’ rights, for remaining in the single market. We should fight for this.