Left unions and an array of member groups demand action to reclaim party and transform UK
Trade union and Labour Party member organisations have today united around a call for party democracy and transformative socialist policies, with a launch statement condemning Labour’s failure to mobilise a fightback against the “most right-wing government in living memory”.
A one-day event on Saturday 18 September will be the first in a planned series and will give voice to all sectors of the Labour left, building unity and organising around goals that serve working people from all communities.
The Labour leadership must abandon its destructive attacks on left-wing members and its proscriptions targeting left-wing groups – and focus instead on mobilising in opposition to the reactionary policies of the current Tory government, according to a statement released today by 16 labour movement organisations.
Many weeks of talks between the groups, including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG), Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), Labour Black Socialists (LBS) and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), have resulted in a joint statement of common goals and the 18 September event – the Saturday before Labour’s annual conference in Brighton.
More left unions and organisations are expected to sign up once they have consulted through their constitutional structures. Signatories demonstrate their support for the principles in the statement, not for each other’s organisations.
“Unions that founded the Labour Party, and ordinary members who are its backbone, no longer feel themselves to be represented by the organisation. More than 100,000 have left since Keir Starmer became leader and the party’s finances are in crisis,” said Ben Selby, FBU Vice President and Chair of Don’t Leave, Organise, which initiated the talks.
”By organising this initial gathering – which will be the first of many – we proclaim our determination to build a movement which can reclaim our party as a democratic force for socialist transformation, offering real hope for working people from all their diverse communities devastated by the pandemic and fearful of its aftermath.”
The statement has been published on the website of Don’t Leave, Organise, an initiative launched in April 2020 to combat the demoralisation sweeping through Labour’s ranks following Keir Starmer’s election as party leader. The full statement reads:
Labour Left for Socialism – Building the Resistance
The current Tory government is the most right-wing in living memory and people are suffering terribly as a result. The Covid-19 virus has made around five million people sick, put almost half a million people in hospital and led to more than 150,000 deaths in the UK. But Labour has not organised or mobilised opposition.
The people need and deserve an Opposition worthy of the name. Below are just some of the pernicious government actions that Labour needs to organise around and lead opposition to the Tories:
– Britain has had one of the highest per-capita COVID death tolls in the world – plus many now suffering from long-term health problems
– The impact of the pandemic has not affected communities equally: disabled people, women, people from African, Caribbean, Asian and other racially marginalised communities, those on low incomes, older people and frontline workers have been hardest hit
– Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, enabled by draconian anti-trade union laws, and thousands more will be lost when furlough ends
– The NHS is being privatised at speed, vast sums of public money have been squandered and corruption is rife in the allocation of contracts
– The Tories are using the worst ‘divide and rule’ tactics, whipping up racism and promoting ‘culture wars’ to divert attention from their disastrous handling of the pandemic
– Climate change poses a growing and existential threat and the Tory response is pathetic
– Our rights to protest are being severely curtailed
– Undercover police are being permitted to commit crimes, including murder
– British military forces can now commit war crimes and not face prosecution.
These are just some of the many reactionary policies of the current Tory government.
Unfortunately, on almost all of these issues, Labour has not effectively opposed the Tories; on many of the issues, Labour has rather echoed the Tories’ approach, as in its racist treatment of Black members and with Islamophobic and anti-Traveller positions put forward in election campaigns and much more.
This has enabled most of these policies to be adopted with ease, thereby encouraging the Tories to go further to the right, deepening their reactionary offensive confident in the knowledge they will face no serious opposition.
A consequence of Labour’s failure to stand up against the Tory government has been the party’s steady decline in the polls since last summer, overwhelmingly poor local election results and huge loss of votes in three by-elections.
Meanwhile, the democracy of our own party is under threat. A growing number of local parties have been taken over by unelected officials; the Forde inquiry report has not been published; many members who have spoken out have been suspended or expelled; proscriptions have been introduced against socialist groups; Jeremy Corbyn remains without the Labour whip. As a result, over one hundred thousand members have resigned from the party over the last year.
We will not stand idly by and allow this to continue. We are, therefore, coming together in solidarity not only with the people who are being so gravely disadvantaged by this government but against the purge of the left, which is key for the Leadership to achieve its aim of reversing the socialist policies brought in under Corbyn and to make the Party a safe place for capitalism. We stand firmly against proscriptions, and stand in solidarity with every grouping that is proscribed solely for holding socialist views. We will always oppose the proscription of any groups that remain committed to supporting Labour and that do not stand or support other candidates.
As part of the ongoing fightback, a conference has been called for Labour members and activists to discuss the changes in the party that are urgently necessary and how to achieve them. The conference will be led by party members active at local and national level and by key trade unions, and organised around specific demands:
-Restoring and strengthening democracy throughout the whole of our Party
– Ending the wave of suspensions, lifting those already unjustly imposed, reversing bans and proscriptions against the left
– Committing Labour to repeal all anti-union laws, ending zero-hours contracts and “fire and rehire”, demanding fair statutory sick pay
– Ensuring that the Labour Party is actively anti-racist and supportive of international solidarity issues
– Ensuring that the Labour Party is demonstrably committed to equalities in its practice
– Ensuring that Labour becomes a place for open and respectful political discussion and learning.
– Building on, with no retreat from, socialist policies, for example as developed after 2015.
Labour must oppose the Tories and once again make the case for a socialist transformation of society. We must fight and organise to get our party back.
The initial signatories to the statement are:
- Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
- Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD)
- Campaign for Socialism (CfS), Scotland
- Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
- Grassroots Black Left (GBL)
- Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL)
- Labour Representation Committee (LRC)
- Labour Black Socialists (LBS)
- Labour Left Alliance (LLA)
- Labour Women Leading (LWL)
- Northern England Labour Left (NELL)
- Red Labour (RL)
- Save our Socialists (SoS)
- Socialist Appeal (SA)
- Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG)
For more information on the drive for radical change, read DLO’s ‘What next for the Labour left?‘
Published in April 2021, this document outlined the rationale behind a call for the Labour left to come together. “Join us in reconstructing a united Labour left to make the gains so desperately needed by the many.”
Under Keir Starmer’s leadership, the party has lost at least 115,000 members and is making 90 staff redundant after already sacking its community organisers. Its finances are in a perilous state.
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