A number of new intiatives are springing up from Labour activists who want to remain involved but fight for changes to existing structures. Forward Momentum launched last week, and today three groups – LRC, Red Labour and Jewish Voice for Labour – have come together under the banner “Don’t Leave, Organise” to call for a new broad left network, supported by the BFAWU trade union, former MP Laura Pidcock and a number of former parliamentary candidates.
Their new website argues:
Socialists in the Labour Party have suffered recent defeats, but we are not defeated. This is the time to unify and build around our shared socialist principles, the policies in our 2017 & 2019 manifestos, full democracy, due process and natural justice in the party.
We urgently need a way of bringing together the wide range of new and existing organisations in our movement – groups organising in communities and workplaces, unions, constituency-based left groups, Covid-19 mutual aid networks. Not yet another organisation with leadership aspirations.
Instead we need something new and different – a grassroots umbrella network, run democratically by its supporting bodies, to coordinate our actions and our demands, to support and act in solidarity with each other.
Their founding statement can be found below:
The loss of the General Election, the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn, and the defeat of the left in the NEC elections, together constitute a major setback. But we are not defeated. We are also working in the unprecedented landscape caused by Covid-19 and the government response to this health emergency.
So we urge all socialists to stay in the party, contribute to the efforts to re-unite the left, and be part of a renewed focus for mobilising to demand the society we need for the many.
One great achievement of the Corbyn period was to bring the left together into a force able to influence the terms of debate, to mobilise for and win a left orientated NEC and get radical motions passed at conference. Before Jeremy’s election we worked as many separate groups, but under his leadership we showed that together, we could wield real influence.
Remember how much we’ve achieved in the past 5 years. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic Labour had forced the Conservatives to make reverses on austerity – including the promise of new investment in infrastructure and public services. The £10 an hour Living Wage campaign was and still is a great example of successful campaigning that became Labour Party policy and pushed the Tories into moving on this issue.
We reaffirm our commitment to the Labour Party which remains, through its historic connection with the trade union and labour movement, the most important expression of the organised working class and a voice for the many.
Our tasks are twofold:
- First is to help build a strong opposition to the right-wing Tory government. Sadly, we cannot always rely on support from within the Labour Party for our socialist policies, industrial action and active campaigning.
- Our second task, therefore, is to help strengthen and reconnect the Labour left. There is a major task of reconstruction to be taken up urgently.
United we are rock – divided we are sand
Many existing left groups and trade unions, as well as emerging new grassroots organisations, have complementary strengths and a shared purpose, so we are calling for a national network of the grassroots Labour left. The signatories to this initial statement of intent will be part of the answer but we do not presume to offer a complete solution. This is just the start – one piece of a much bigger jigsaw. Any genuine coalition of the left should include both traditional established organisations and emerging new groupings.
Developing such a movement is the first stage in a process of getting people to think about what kind of society they want to live in. This has to be a grassroots activity bringing together individuals and groups, both within and outside the party together with trade unions, councillors, MPs and others in influential positions who actively support a transformative agenda – and demonstrating the importance of going back to our roots through workplace and community organising. We also need to promote understanding of the socialist potential a post-Covid-19 political landscape will offer.
A new and different landscape
The Covid-19 crisis, along with its tragic consequences, has made campaigners think about new ways of organising and mobilising. It has already highlighted the importance of public services and exposed the damage that decades of austerity have done to workers’ conditions while destroying any opportunities for our youth to thrive.
Across all regions and nations of the United Kingdom, party members are joining mutual aid groups. This kind of co-operative activity could sow the seeds of radical change, moving away from the cruelty of Tory individualism and its market-led ideology. The crisis around the pandemic has also seen a growth in workplace militancy, in particular resistance to working in unsafe conditions.
And in the unprecedented environment of lock-down we are finding different ways to communicate, organise and express solidarity – through social media, chat groups, virtual meetings and events. These are particularly important while most party structures are all but shut down. We need to demand they are opened up virtually to ensure that all members have a voice in party business.
Our principles and commitment to concrete action
Socialists in the party need to work together, in coalition, now more than ever. Alongside others in the Labour Party, we will help rebuild the left around a new, national network, which will be a place to organise, educate and debate in order to deliver the socialist society we all need.
We commit to democratic and transparent organisation; working to democratise the Labour Party and the trade unions; defending party members against unjust disciplinary processes and supporting the self-organisation of groups contesting particular oppressions.
Some of the key policies that we will be supporting and campaigning for are:
- A commitment to repealing all anti-trade union legislation;
- Struggles against employer attacks and oppression of workers; struggles for unionising unorganised workforces;
- Combating damaging climate change nationally and internationally;
- Public ownership of, and investment in, our public services, in particular our NHS and social care;
- Opposing all forms of racism including antisemitism, and all other forms of discrimination;
- Rolling back the growth of the far right;
- An internationalist policy stance based on justice and peace which by definition includes support for the Palestinians.
Labour belongs to us. Let’s unite to form an opposition and movement we can be proud of, to build the society we believe in.
How to get involved – we want to hear from you
We are already talking to groups we expect to be among the first participants in this network. If you are in a left Labour/Momentum/constituency group, trade union branch, self-organising group representing liberation strands or broad left Labour organisation which you believe would be interested in joining this network we want to hear from you. We will use contact details, with permission, to put people in touch with each other and start to develop the networking potential of the Labour left. We also want to involve community cultural and arts groups to support diversity of political education.
There are many vibrant campaigns going on at grassroots level. Here are a couple of examples supporting people working in low paid jobs and the gig economy that stand out in their organisation and ambition. Please contact them direct for further information and to sign up. We’re proud to support:
We look forward to connecting activists involved in many such campaigns, covering issues including our NHS, housing, education and many more through our network as it develops.
Please get in touch via: email@example.com and our Facebook page
We are also building an internet hub of resources and materials for education, communication and organisation – open to everyone in the network. Get in touch if you want to contribute ideas, skills and local campaign details.
We aim to hold a major gathering, virtual if necessary, to connect all groups working towards our shared goals. Please contact us if you would like to be part of an organising group to make it happen.
Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
Socialist Campaign Group of Councillors
Ian Hodson, President Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
Tosh Macdonald – Retired President, ASLEF
Jo Bird – Secretary of Wirral Labour Group
Jane Aitchison – President Leeds TUC and Labour PPC for Pudsey 2019
Kate Linnegar – Labour PPC for North Swindon 2019
Sophie Wilson – Labour PPC for Rother Valley 2019
Rebecca Gordon- Nesbitt – Labour PPC for South Thanet 2019
Tina McKay – Labour PPC for Colchester 2019
Pamela Fitzpatrick – Labour PPC for Harrow East 2019
Others can sign up here.