By Pete Firmin
These are difficult times for the left. Many are leaving the Labour Party in despair at the politics (or lack of) and performance of Keir Starmer, but many are fighting on. We’ve seen an increase in industrial struggle in response to attempts to keep down pay and worsen conditions, the extreme example of which is the use of fire and rehire by many companies.
We face a government which failed to deal adequately with the pandemic, resulting in thousands of deaths, and is introducing laws which attack the right to protest and build on the `hostile environment’ in their attempt to deflect anger towards migrants.
Yet Starmer has gone back on the pledges which got him elected Labour leader, has driven thousands out of the party, either through spurious allegations or disgust. He has shown more passion over `partygate’ than the corruption during the pandemic, the cut in Universal Credit, or the panoply of reactionary legislation from the Borders and Nationality Bill to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill neither of which the Labour front bench seem even to notice.
When workers strike to defend themselves from the massive rise in the cost of living or to protect services as well as jobs, the Labour leadership should be supporting them. When climate activists demand a plan to curtail global heating based on principles of internationalism, this must be one of the causes of Labour.
When protestors demand the right to food or organise to defend our NHS, we get solidarity from MPs on the left – and from football stars – but the Labour leadership ignores those causes. Even where the majority support us – they are more concerned about appealing to their friends in the City than working class communities
The Labour Representation Committee does not claim to have magic answers for solving the left’s dilemmas. While we have spoken out consistently against the witchhunt and for thoroughgoing democratic reform of the party’s structures, we recognise that the left in the party has been seriously outflanked by the ruthlessness of the right. But thousands of Party members are determined to continue that struggle, as shown by the many excellent resolutions passed at Labour conference last year.
The task the LRC attempts to address is how to bring these disparate elements – the industrial struggle, the fight against climate change, the struggles inside and outside the Labour Party – into a movement which can not only defeat the policies of this reactionary government, but also lay the basis for a political revival of the left.
Saturday’s conference will hear from Jeremy Corbyn and Apsana Begum, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, UNISON President Paul Holmes and Palestinian trade unionist Neda Abu Zant.
It will also be an opportunity to discuss the LRC’s assessment of the political situation and the tasks facing the left, including several resolutions on key issues.
The conference is online this Saturday, 5th February from 11-4.
You can attend the conference as a visitor or join and be entitled to vote.
All the details of motions and how to register to attend are on the LRC website https://labourrep.com/
Pete Firmin is an LRC National Executive member, and vice chair of Brent Trades Council
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