Grassroots Black Left (GBL), which entered the political arena last autumn at a parliamentary launch featuring Labour MPs Clive Lewis and Chris Williamson and is affiliated to CLPD (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy), has just issued a statement expressing serious concerns about the process used by key left-wing organisations for selecting its ‘slates’ – and going as far as suggesting institutional racism in the process on the part of Momentum.
The statement is also highly critical of CLPD, but supports Jewish Voice for Labour member Stephen Marks – the candidate to whom Jon Lansman objected and whom Momentum has not included in its slate.
GBL, working with the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), Red Labour and as Momentum members and supporters, has attempted to use the mechanisms of the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) to help forge Left unity in the deciding of left slates for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Constitutional Committee (NCC).
This has been thwarted by the undemocratic back-room deal making of the leadership of CLPD and Momentum, insistent on the stitching up of the process between themselves. We would have thought the CLPD leadership would have learnt their lesson after the serious breach in Left unity caused by the Momentum leadership most recently withdrawing its support for Peter Willsman, CLPD’s secretary, being on the left slate for Labour’s NEC.
The genuine support of CLPD and Momentum for the self-organisation of under represented groups, including Black people, requires them not to hand-pick tokens but to accept those people put forward by organisations like CLPD’s Black affiliate, Grassroots Black Left and Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL). JVL supports Jewish representative Stephen Marks for the NCC slate and so do LRC, CLPD and GBL. We note the statement that said: “The LRC continues to have serious concerns about how left slates are constructed, whether by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, or parts of it, particularly the way in which Black candidates are hand-picked by predominantly white organisations with no reference to organisations of Black members.”
While we welcome African, Caribbean and Asian comrades being on Left slates, they must be truly representative and accountable to the communities they serve. GBL was not consulted, and to our knowledge, nor was any other Black organisation, about the inclusion on the slate of any of these candidates and therefore cannot vouch for them. We note many prominent Black groups and individuals have written in protest to the Momentum leadership about concerns they have, effectively calling it out for institutional racism. How this matter, including the issue of truly representative and accountable Black representation on the left is resolved will decide whether the CLGA survives. The unity of pro-Jeremy Corbyn organisations and Left groups is seriously under threat. If that unity cannot be maintained Left organisations will end up going their separate ways with disastrous consequences for the Corbyn project and its prospects of forming a Labour government.
Momentum and CLPD have been contacted for comment.
The deficiencies in the selection process are beyond serious dispute. Both Labour and CLPD have urgent work to do to address those flaws and to ensure that the process properly enfranchises members and gives an appropriate voice to those from minorities.
Both organisations no doubt have the will and willingness to do so, but Thurday’s events have revealed the urgency of addressing all the issues and creating a process that genuinely empowers the grassroots of the movement.
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