Analysis comment Guest article

The house of the people: the change we need will only come when we have authentic working-class voices in Parliament

Guest article by working-class activist Andy Searson

The systemic change we need will only come when we have authentic working class voices in Parliament. The future lies within our communities!

The neoliberals within the Labour Party have declared war on their own membership and on those who identify as socialists within Parliament – an unnecessary, monumental act of self harm. Hundreds of thousands of activists drawn to the party by the authenticity and hopefulness surrounding the Corbyn leadership have been given a two fingered salute.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner has now stated she will expel ‘thousands and thousands’ of members. There was not a hint of realisation that she doesn’t even have the power to do so! This is the rhetoric members and activists are faced with in the party.

The feeling amongst dedicated, grassroots activists is that Starmer’s party is walking away from them. Particularly the hundreds of thousands who flocked to the party under Corbyn. They feel that they are not wanted. They’re to be replaced with millionaire donors. Sadly, the interests of millionaire donors reflect their own interests, namely the millionaire class. The interests of everyday members reflect the interests of the millions of everyday citizens whose votes Labour needs in order to govern.

Areas in purple show constituencies in which there were more non-voters than the majority of the winning candidate.

It’s clear which direction that Starmer’s Labour are heading in: right back to business as usual. Yes to austerity, no to trade unions, backing the status quo and to hell with the millions who have already had to carry the burden of ten years of Tory misrule.

It’s a struggle for an economy that works for the tens of millions of citizens and not just for the millionaires! It’s a struggle for social justice, morally right choices and fairness. It’s a struggle for humane values of decency, equality and egalitarianism. It’s ‘socialism or barbarism’.

This is a moment of crisis and, I feel, a moment of existentialism for the Labour Party. Are Starmer’s Labour the representatives of the many or the few?

I’ll admit, I didn’t vote for Starmer as I looked closely at his recent history and actions as Director of Public Prosecutions and at those who are close to him. As my mother would say, judge a man by the company he keeps. You only have to look at his campaign team, financial backers and his shadow cabinet to see what he’s about.

Although I view the recent Starmer-made crisis as the possible end for Labour, I don’t share the pessimism of many Labour activists. I see this not as the end of the Corbyn project, but the next step in reinvigorating the movement that gave birth to the Labour Party in the first place. Reigniting its beliefs, values and its moral crusade for social justice and egalitarianism.

We have thousands upon thousands of dedicated, trained activists, millions of trade union members and people who are yearning for change. We have witnessed a huge surge in people willing to help their neighbours, within communities and beyond. Throughout this pandemic ordinary people have done extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances.

People who are concerned with the common good and willing to be active in pursuit of it.

Let me be clear here, I am not endorsing shifting government responsibility for our citizens welfare or replacing the welfare system as the coalition and subsequent Tory governments have. I am firmly of the belief that food-banks are a sign of the failures of government. As Mhairi Black put it so eloquently on the proliferation of food banks in her constituency: ‘Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are a symbol that the welfare state is failing.’

So what is to be done?

Those trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party should redirect funds from Starmer’s Labour and invest in community organising. Why fund a leadership and his political machine that is willing to work against the interests of millions of workers and everyday folk? If you doubt this just check out the voting record of those who make up Starmer’s shadow cabinet and close team.

We need the focus of the Trade Unions to be on representing workers, our class, our communities and our people.

The House of the People

In Spain you find centres in every village and town called “L Casa del Pueblo’ – The People’s or Village House. In Spain my village equates to my people. They are centres of culture, heritage, political education and support for local people eg citizens advice – advocacy and legal help.

They can be found at the heart of a community – a central point of focus to gather and formulate actions of mutual support. If we developed this idea in Britain we could forge a new relationship with the people within our communities. Use this to grow Cooperatives and mutual societies to serve our own community needs.

These ‘People’s Houses’ could become the social hubs that replace the diminishing welfare clubs, institutions and associations that grew from organised labour in the communal work places. We could grow micro Co-Operative shops and cafes to reenergise high streets in villages and outlying towns.

We could use trade union legal teams to help create local building societies and credit unions. The Trade Unions could become a platform for regeneration and engagement at local grassroots level. True Parliamentary representation for the working class will never happen via this party leadership and the shadow cabinet.

The history of working class organising in our communities all over Britain can be reinvented for a modern age. A Coalition of the willing, acting collectively in their community on mutual local interests. A type of municipal socialism working towards the common good. It would mirror the emancipatory ideals of those pioneering early trade unionists and develop a ‘can do it for ourselves’ mindset.

That’s how our great grandparents built our towns and villages from mere shanty towns built around mines, steelworks and factories to what we see today. They created communities wherein people felt they were active stakeholders. This brought empowerment and promoted self agency which was built via the ideals of self help and collective endeavour. Not small ‘c conservatism’ but everyday socialism rooted in finding solutions to people’s everyday challenges.

In Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire the local activists and membership have developed a similar model. It’s a place where people can access food, support and advice. It’s socialism in action.

For those doubters who think these ideals are mere pie in the sky. Look no further than Spain’s Mondragon Corporation. It is a prime example of self help. It’s aims were and still are about workers and community. Their aims are stated clearly;

We are a dedicated group of people with a cooperative identity forming a business group that is profitable, competitive and enterprising, capable of successfully operating in global markets. Our organisation uses democratic methods in its corporate organisation, and its aims are employment, the personal and professional advancement of its workers, and the development of its community.’

It goes on;

Furthermore, based on the Cooperative Principles and its own experience, MONDRAGON nurtures the values of self-motivation and shared responsibility, intercooperation, social transformation.’

You can read more about Mondragon here:

Workers Cooperatives are already on the politician’s radar. They realise communities all over Britain are at breaking point. It wasn’t only on the Labour Party’s agenda at the last general election. Even the Tories back worker led Cooperatives now.

The Labour Party notes the value of building societies and the strength and diversity that a healthy mutual sector brings to financial services. The Liberal Democrats assert “mutuals, co-operatives and social enterprises have an important role to play in the creation of a more balanced and mixed economy. Mutuals give people a proper stake in the places they work, spreading wealth through society, and bringing innovative and imaginative business ideas to bear on meeting local needs.

The Conservative Party sees mutuality as the way forward within public services and pledge to support co-operatives and mutualisation as a way of transferring public assets and revenue streams to public sector workers; essentially employee-led co-operatives. Find out more here.”

Imagine the transformative impact of Trade union funded ‘People’s Houses’ in each town or large village all over Britain. Organising local people for the common good. Helping establish self help, CoOperatives, mutuals and credit unions. This is how our movement grew via self empowerment and collectivism. We can rebuild again from community grassroots up.

We must begin a program of emancipatory activism and work alongside our people in working class communities. Then maybe, if we cannot reclaim our Labour Party, we need a new party of the people. A party representative of our communities, with representatives drawn from those communities. We can build a representative party as our ancestors did.

Utilise those extraordinary people, the real life super heroes of community activism who are driven not by self profiteering or careers, but driven by authentic altruism. These are the people who would and will produce the real social and systemic change our people require and demand.

We can no longer put our faith in those who cosy up to the establishment few at the expense of the many. We need our own representatives chosen from our own people, who will act in the interests of our communities and people!

We stand on the shoulders of giants who showed the way. The systemic change required to radically redress the years of decline in living standards of the working class will only come about by a democratic revolution built from within our communities and from the ground up!

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    1. Just keep your tongue up Starmer’s arse, don’t think, just parrot neoliberal bollocks.

      Also, piss off and post else where as your contributions have zero relevance on a Socialist Blog. And, this is very much a Socialist Blog.

    2. Steve makes a valid yet uncomfortable point here for the left, the tories are clearly a party which serves the interests of the bourgeoise yet attract working class voters (without whom they’d be nothing, which explains Farage’s power over the tories, hes like catnip for w/c tories)

    1. Trust SteveH to come up with a couple of negative comments! Well, I mean, the very last thing his paymasters want is for people to come together. Divide and rule is THEIR motto, right Steve.

      1. Allan – You could try doing something useful and address the questions I have posed instead of just moaning again..

  1. Open up your Constituency party building,to the homeless and the victims of the Conservative and right wing Labour party parasites.The membership need to exercise their power through a class led war against the establishment.The weathers turning,make sure you do something practical for your people and come together to create and organise..Open your minds and take your assets and use it….please GOD help the homeless and the destitute through the combined mass of the working class.The above might jeer but remain steadfast and open your doors NOW

    1. Sadly , behind the superficially radical rhetoric of this article , lies very banal, (Co-operative Party-like) profoundly Left Liberal, NOT SOCIALIST , drivel ! The mere fact that the article’s author cites the Basque Mondragon co-op movement as a model for localist organisation reveals his Left Liberal ideology. For those not in the know, the Mondragon Co-ops , as profit-requiring businesses like any other, have also had to radically ‘adjust’ to the forces of global neoliberalism , and have ‘outsourced’, significant production work to China , just like any other profit-maximising business. Worker’s co-ops are not the answer to a rampant neoliberal capitalism – particularly one in profound crisis.

      Only by winning control of an entire STATE, though its ‘democratic,’ institutions , (or revolution in a state embroiled in profound class conflict) , can the necessary state-wide forces and mechanisms of economic planning be brought to bear to counter the huge power of the global market. Thus Andy Searson is simply distracting those correctly pissed-off with the easy recapture of ‘Corbynite’ Labour by its dominant, well-dug in, careerist Right and ‘Centre’ – into ‘radical’ Lib Dem or Green Party type ‘localism’. Apart from anything else, currently the mass of Labour’s Leftish-leaning members are so thoroughly middle class and utterly isolated politically and physically and occupationally from the eider, ‘blue collar’ working class , that there s no basis for the current UK ‘Left’ doing ‘missionary work ‘ in local communities ! This idea of ‘the Left’ doing soup kitchens/food banks and setting up tenants groups and other localist projects is currently a trendy ‘thing’ on the demoralised Left – but it is a diversionary waste of time.

      The Left actually needs to concentrate on setting up a new radical socialist PARTY , based on solid politics and policies which ordinary working people want – to compete with the politically bankrupt Labour Party at local and Westminster levels. The dead-end Left liberal localism recommended by the author of this pseudo radical article is a complete diversion from the class struggle. A radical nation-wide radical Left PARTY, with a mass working class membership – embedded in local communities, would of course engage constantly in many of the local organising projects suggested by the author – but in the wider , crucial, context of building a working class-led socialist mass movement to take state POWER – and only participation in the electoral process (or revolution of course if class antagonisms do eventually boil over – but that isn’t the current reality ) , can achieve that.

      1. ‘The Left actually needs to concentrate on setting up a new radical socialist PARTY , based on solid politics and policies which ordinary working people want – to compete with the politically bankrupt Labour Party at local and Westminster levels.’

        OK, so what’s stopping you? In other words, why don’t you go forth and do so instead of spending so much of your time posting comments on here forever finding fault with the left. The joke of it is – for anyone who BELIEVES your constant wholesale trashing of the left – that you somehow think that once this new left-wing party has been set up, there will suddenly be this ‘transformation’ from being everything you fraudulently claim about the left in your posts to a ‘new’ left that doesn’t have any of these faults you’re forever on about.

        Yeah, and I’m sure the Establishment and their media propaganda machine will be very supportive of such a party ‘winning control of an entire STATE though its ‘democratic’ institutions’, just as they were when Jeremy became leader of the LP. For a supposedly intelligent person you sure do spout a load of complete and utter bollox! I wonder WHY!

        So go on then, fuck off and start this new ‘radical socialist’ party with yur mate signpost! Or are you both just going to forever spend your time on here criticising and castigating left-wing politicians for NOT doing so?! Needless to say, you NEVER will of course, because just like signpost, you are a complete fraud and AREN’T on the left at all!

      2. The history of the working class organising within their communities predates a parliamentary party representative of that class – if there ever has been one. Our communities were built by organised Labour, trade unionism & collectivism not the PLP. That’s the point of this article. We can rebuild our communities again – outside Parliament.

  2. Whether there were more or fewer non-voters than the winners’ majorities I don’t see as particularly useful information to be honest – too many other variables.
    However sad a commentary on democracy it is, other than “canvass harder” I don’t see what use anyone can make of that information. In fact the more non-voters last time, the more potential new voters next time there are for either party. As always.
    Let’s not forget that a new voter is only worth half what a voter persuaded from Tory to Labour is worth.
    The biggest opportunity for the Tories I see is a snap election when the vaccine opens up the country again but before Brexit comes on line – but only if they spend enough on jobs.
    The biggest opportunity for Labour I see is if the Tories fuck up the timing or the spending.
    I see no opportunity for the left unless there’s a left wing party to vote for.

    I absolutely agree with unions defunding Starmer’s Junior Tories but I’d go further.
    It’s the lies about Corbyn, antisemitism and the left that cost us so dear and without turning that around we’re always going to be screwed six ways from Sunday.
    Union members with critical jobs in the media like photocopying, switchboard operating, minutes-taking, personal-assisting etc could be supported by unions to become whistleblower heroes.
    Union leaders could do far more to get the word out to members.
    A joint statement on the crooked media from union leaders would be as significant as from a Labour leader.
    If they promise to demand of the next Labour government ex post facto legislation, prosecutions and imprisonment of those in the media, politics or any other public arena proven to have intentionally subverted democracy, that’d set the cat among the pussies.

    1. ‘A joint statement on the crooked media from union leaders would be as significant as from a Labour leader.’

      Yes, of course David, and I’m sure the MSM would give it front-page headline coverage and be VERY supportive of such a statement by union leaders if they were to do so.

      What a load of claptrap bunkum! And given that it IS, why do you keep on reiterating the same such asinine garbage?!

    2. ‘Kinnock comes to the rescue… Ed must be really desperate! Former leader blames media for Miliband’s woes’

      Yes David, I’m sure the MSM would fully back such a statement! About THEMSELVES! Oh, right, but once the left are in power (which the MSM wouldn’t do anything to sabotage of course!) then they can lock them all up for their lying and their falsehoods and their smears and subverting democracy…..

  3. Even the Tories and Libdems like it. Well that’s nice. I’m in after all what could possibly go wrong. Workers organisation that appeals to those from the libs and tories. If we’re good perhaps a dame or a knight. Workers organisations don’t need their advice and support.

    1. Posted as much before. The PLP, CLPs, Region and Head Office, have no care for the many. That lot are worse than any virus. A virus sickens the body, but that lot sicken body and soul. Like Blair, they are sin sick. They are slithering along the creature’s slime trail to the most lucrative troughs.

      HOWEVER, let’s face facts. More than any other PM in recent decades, Blair was able to LEAD, to lead THOUSANDS of OUR young men and women to life changing injuries on needless wars. Thousands. Blair LED hundreds more of them to their unnecessary deaths thus making BILLIONS for international arms dealers.

      1. ‘The PLP, CLPs, Region and Head Office, have no care for the many’ says the all-knowing signpost shill!

        Head office is one thing under the present leadership, and I dare say that many of the Regions are still controlled by Blairites, but to make such a sweeping falsehood about Labour Party MPs and CLPs is just precisely THAT. A Big black propaganda Lie.

        You obviously forgot to throw in left-wing members AND former left-wing members and the rest of the left! Anyway, if yur so clever and superior signpost, why don’t you fuck off and form yur own party and show us all how it’s done. Please! And ESPECIALLY the ‘fuck off’ bit!.

      2. Allan Howard white flag man… Youve been okay this last couple of days,but youve now regressed with the usual scatter gun approach to posters whom you continue to harass and defame.They are not the enemy excluding davidh and Mackisson malaise..I would suggest more bedrest and take advantage of the NHS whilst you can.

      3. Oh look, Mr Okeefe ‘defending’ signpost the shill! Defending signpost’s big lies. The reason he does so of course is because HE himself is a fucking shill.

        Back in May signpost claimed that Robin Lees – the guy who spotted Cummings in Barnard Castle during the first lockdown – was taking legal action against Cummings, and then praised him for taking ‘ROBUST ACTION’, and then immediately criticised JC for NOT doing so. Turns out it was complete fabrication which signpost concocted so that he could then criticise Jeremy (who he was obviously alluding to). The following is what signpost said, and although it was a Big Lie – concocted and contrived so that he could then discredit Jeremy by comparison – time and time again Mr Okeefe comes to the defense of signpost – ie he supports a lying little fascist shill on the one hand, and attacks the person who exposes the Big Lie and the Lier on the other. Now who would do THAT but ANOTHER fascist paid shill. Anyway, this is what signpost said, and did so right at the start of his post:

        I’m no fan of the potter woman as she did not support jeremy. she had the means and great ability but declined. anyway, she is providing lots of money to help the excellent marvellous glorious Mr Lees to pursue legal case against cummings. this is the sort of ACTION we needed and need. ROBUST ACTION. Clear robust thought. ZERO APPEASEMENT. It has never worked. It has not worked. It will never work.

  4. A few observations on a valuable article that suggests clearly that the Labour Party don’t give a fuck about regular folks, which is about as clear and concise we can get.

    Further, and in response to Keith Starmer’s resident Troll on this board, the fact remain most working class folks are not politically engaged and actually many cannot be bothered to vote, which kinda undermines the Trolls input – just look at the usual turnout in once Labour strongholds, as in Torfaen, voting percentages are usually under 60% of the electorate. And who can blame them for not wishing to engages with a Party that thinks the likes of Chris Bryant represents the common man. Again, the dick heads who run Torfaen only think Oxford Graduates should have a shot at becoming the Constituency’s MP. I kid you not I’m afraid.

    On a positive note, and as detailed previously, in the past 5 years we’ve seen growth in local Trade Union Councils, which could form the basis of new community self-help centres. Alas, to operate these you need a public front, namely a space where people can easily access. This ain’t so easy, particularly in many a high street with boarded up premises – cash of course for commercial rent and council business taxes being a huge issue, as any charity shop will tell you.

    However, nothing is impossible, even if it means operating out of a Pub or Social Club, which is what folks have done in my neck of the woods.

    So, I concur with the authors analysis, namely trades Unions should focus on local communities, make use of the Trades Union Council Model and open up space in buildings they own or rent for such entities to establish firm community roots.

    1. Chris rogers…whats wrong with using constituency offices now they are redundent for debate.And yes I do understand the law,but when people are in need I am sure that can be overcome,because they are already covered for public gatherings.and fire etc.

  5. Parliamentary research doc – Social Background of MP’s 1979-2019.
    Table 11 shows previous employment of MPs.

    49% of Lab MPs were Party or TU staff/officials/researchers
    12% professional charity workers*
    18% lawyers & education
    6% Business Commerce
    5% NHS/Social Work
    1.5% Manual Workers
    8% Misc

    *(I place this group here because it’s arguable that this occupation is in many ways very similar to the group above it)

    If you held the ambition of becoming a Labour MP its obvious which occupations might successfully lead to you becoming one. Although I have nothing against “staffers” becoming MP’s its seems to me to be rather unhealthy that such a high proportion of Lab MPs should originate from the Party’s &TU administration. Added to that are the 12% who were professional Charity workers who would have a very similar job profile. This means that 61% of Labour MPs originate from a very narrow but highly politicised occupational band.

    Manual Workers only 1.5%. The Labour Party really?

  6. A really great speech on Socialism and what any Labour Leader Front and Backbenchers Activists all CLPs The NEC and the PLP Should carry in their Hearts and Minds every minute of every Day, Your piece about the Trade Unions withdrawing all funding from Starmer and his New New Labour Party is a master stroke and will send shivers down their spines well it would if him and his Stormtroopers had a spine, This Abomination of a Party bear absolutely no resemblance to a Working Class Socialist Party this is a Party full of self serving greedy twisted people in power every one of them should be in Jail not sitting in Parliament, I admire your article very much I myself am disabled had never been out of work since age of 9 working the papers the milk the bread and the fields yes fields we had them back in the 50s as soon as I was old enough I joined my Union when it was a Workers Union sadly I have watched with a heavy heart as the insidious SCABS of Kinnock and Blair have wormed their way into positions of power by crawling and ingratiating themselves with the Membership before showing their true Colour which is Tory Blue, They Assassinated the only hope we had simply because He was a True Man of the People Kind,Truthful, Honest and incorruptible in their eyes JC had to go how could anyone in England believe the likes of Hodge Sugar Baldrick Philips Starmer Watson the Backstabbing SCAB Lippmann about a Man with not a Racist Bone in His Body being Anti Semitic and Racist how stupid is the English Working Class Jeremy Corbyn was the only Leader MP who could’ve Saved their Precious Union and they abused him and just as bad they Voted against The one and only Dennis Skinner WTF are they thinking!!! “BREXIT IS A WAY TO MAKE THE RICH RICHER AND YOU LOT MORE SUBSERVIENT”, This is just one of the reasons I am Voting for Independence for Scotland never again will we suffer under the Jackboots of Facist’s.

    1. Dennis Skinner is a Brexiteer! Starmer & chums ensured that Jeremy’s plan for a Customs Union & closer ties with EU could never become viable & demands for an ‘Are you sure you aren’t too stupid to vote the right way’, 2nd Referendum ensured a Labour defeat. The Labour Party is indistinguishable from the Lib Dems.
      n.b.Any form of Nationalism is Right Wing.

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