AWL conference debated three resolutions on the Labour leadership contests. The texts of the two which passed (1 and 2), and the one which fell (3), are below.
Labour leadership: support none of the candidates
Outgoing EC, passed
• On the basis of the candidates' current campaign pitches, there is no clear left-right differentiation which qualifies any candidate as a "left" candidate who can be used as hook for left-wing agitation around key issues such as free movement, anti-union laws, antisemitism, open selections, conference sovereignty, and due process in disciplinary procedures and abolition of "auto-exclusion".
• Even if there were a clear and explicit distinction on attitudes to Labour Party democracy in words (though there isn't), our judgement on Rebecca Long-Bailey's candidacy has to be heavily informed by her meagre distinct political record (except on her "patriotism" theme, dating back to 2015 at least, and her recently reiterated support for a nuclear deterrent) and her long-standing ties via Alex Halligan with the central Stalinist clique in the Leader's Office and Unite, who do have a clear political record.
• We reject the idea that "non-sectarianism" means that we should vote Long-Bailey even if that means empowering our most unscrupulous enemies, on the grounds that would mean that some sort of so-called "Corbyn project" would continue, never mind that it's on the basis of excluding us. Similarly, Starmer’s appointment of Matt Pound of Labour First to a prominent position in his campaign is an indication of how a Starmer leadership would relate to the far left.
• Therefore we support none of the candidates. We understand why members may want to vote for Starmer or Long-Bailey ahead of Nandy or Phillips, but that is a different matter.
Labour leadership: A charter of democratic demands
We do not advocate any candidate. We explain that to do so is to spread illusions in any of them where none of them are adequate to the task of rebuilding a democratic labour movement. We create a charter of democratic demands to which any leader should pledge themselves. The demands should include for example: an opening up of the democratic structures within the LP making the leadership accountable to the membership; that the affiliated unions, in order to take part in the party's democratic structures should have the same rank and file accountability built in; the immediate right of recall of MPs or elected leaders not carrying out democratic decisions; for all branch, CLP and regional meetings to be elected on a delegate basis and transparent in their dealings; an end to any racism, sexism, antisemitism etc from our elected representatives and for any examples of such to be democratically investigated and acted upon in a transparent manner according to the rules of the Labour Party; an end to the expulsions and the reinstatement of socialists who have been excluded from the Labour Party for their beliefs; for maximum and open debate and education within the party and its affiliated unions; an adherence to the principles of working class struggle and to democratic socialism in all its writings, actions and training or discussion events bringing the Labour Party back to its working class roots to which it is accountable; etc., etc., etc. The charter to be the basis of a campaign that begins immediately and continues up to and after the leadership election, calling for signatories, endorsements from branches and CLP's and asking them to invite speakers from the democratic campaign for root and branch change in how our movement operates.
The issue is not which leader candidate has any credibility but whether there are structures in place to hold them to account. It is Important that we tell the truth. That is easy to say in a political climate when truth is such a damaged commodity. While we suggest one candidate over another, we are no more than a whisper in a cacophonous braying of lies, false claims, beside the point rhetoric and general noise. Why would anyone listen? Our movement is damaged. The damage has been building up for many years, probably since Kinnock began the witch hunts and closed down the democratic structures in the party. We need to reassert the need for democracy so that future elections within our movement can have real meaning and impact on the outcomes for our class. In the here and now, for the purpose of this election we say; whoever you decide to vote for sign this and join this campaign so that whoever gets in is hide-bound by the rank and file membership of the party and the unions.
Labour leadership: critically support the lesser evil
BT, BR, DK; fell
1. At present, the Labour leadership election looks to be a choice between greater and lesser evils. None of the candidacies are good enough to warrant energetic campaigning support. The bulk of our energies, and our headline messages, should therefore be devoted not to fighting for a particular candidate, but to pushing policies and principles.
2.Nevertheless, there are meaningful differences between the candidates and between the likely consequences of their victories. The result of the election matters: we should not abstain from saying so, or from explaining that we advocate preferential votes for the least-bad candidates, even as we explain the shortcomings of all of them.
3. Our tendency has traditionally supported candidates with whom we have serious political differences where they are the 'best of a bad bunch' and have the support of a broad left constituency.
4. To refuse to do so, would give off the impression of being aloof, passive commentators not invested in Labour – that is neither accurate, nor principled, nor does it help get a hearing for our more important messages.
5. We therefore recommend a critical vote for Rebecca Long Bailey. Among the field of candidates, she is the lesser evil in that she is the most likely to maintain the limited policy and democratic gains of the Corbyn period. The fact that she is presenting herself as "the" left candidate means that among the broad membership, she will have less mandate to pull the party right or to attack the left, and therefore her winning would hold open more breathing space.
6. This does not mean that we downplay our criticisms on issues such as 'progressive patriotism', her contradictory statements on immigration, her participation in the watering-down of Green New Deal policy, or some of reactionaries that she has invited into the centre of her campaign. Nor that we feel ourselves obliged to support undemocratic manoeuvres by her supporters such as the Momentum referendum. But where the issue comes up in CLPs, unions, hustings and wider debate, we state our criticisms and reasons for support before voting for her.