Six key tasks for the Labour left

Jeremy Corbyn speaks on stage after he is announced as the new leader of The Labour Party during the Labour Party Leadership Conference in London, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Corbyn will now lead Britain's main opposition party. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

1) Take the fight to the right

Although we have defeated the right once more in this leadership election, there is no doubt that they will launch another coup before long… if we let them. If they don’t split, they should be banished to the backbenches and not elevated into another shadow cabinet of “all the talents”. There can be no amnesty for the traitors.

The rules on the leadership election have to be changed: the threshold needs to be lowered and it needs to be confirmed that the incumbent is automatically on the ballot paper.

 

2) Sack Ian McNichol and abolish the compliance unit

Restore full membership rights to everybody who has been suspended, expelled or otherwise purged within the last two years – be it for trumped-up charges of Anti-Semitism, for supporting candidates and parties other than the Labour Party in previous elections or for using ‘rude’ words. If there is any evidence of any real cases of serious misconduct, they need to be handled properly and transparently: the evidence must be presented without delay to the accused, who must be able to defend himself in front of a jury of his peers (ie, Labour Party members) within a set time frame.

 

3) Bring back mandatory selection of parliamentary candidates

All elected representatives should be subject to mandatory selection, as was the case between 1980 and 1989 (and is the case for councillors today). In the meanwhile, we must take full advantage of our current rules. The ‘trigger’ mechanism allows local party units, including Labour Party branches and affiliated organisations, to determine whether the constituency holds a full, open selection contest for its next candidate, in which other potential candidates are nominated, or reselects the sitting MP without such a contest.

 

4) Win new members, trade unions and the left to the Labour Party

Facebook, Twitter, etc, are not the future of politics. They are, in fact, echo chambers. We must persuade Corbyn’s Facebook, Twitter, etc, supporters that they have to become full individual Labour Party members … and then regularly attend face-to-face meetings. If you want to defend Corbyn, if you want to ensure that he stays true to his principles, if you want to transform the Labour Party, then you must use your vote to swing the NEC to the left, select and reselect MPs, MEPs, councillors, etc. Only card-carrying members can attend branch and constituency meetings and stand for officer positions.

Within the affiliated trade unions we must fight to win many, many more to enrol. Just over 70,000 affiliated supporters voted in the 2015 leadership election. A tiny portion of what could be. Over four million pay the political levy. Given that they can sign up to the Labour Party with no more than an online click, we really ought to have a million affiliated supporters as a minimum target figure. We should fight for militant unions like the Public and Commercial Services’ Union (PCS), the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) to affiliate as soon as possible.

Then there are the leftwing groups. They too can be brought under our banner and should be allowed to affiliate. Labour can become the common home of every socialist organisation, cooperative and trade union. In other words, the Labour Party can become what Leon Trotsky called a permanent united front of the working class.

 

5) Transform Momentum

The inertia that paralyses us today must be replaced with … well, momentum. That can only come about through democracy, open debate and the election of and right to recall all Momentum officials. Membership lists must certainly be handed over to local branches as a matter of urgency. Without that our ability to fully mobilise our forces will be severely diminished. Momentum members must be encouraged to caucus and organise together.

Every constituency, branch (ward) and other such basic units must be seized, revived and galvanised by the left. The right has done everything to make them cold, uninviting, bureaucratic and lifeless. The left must convince the sea of young new members, and the elder returnees, to drive out the right. Elect officers who defend the Corbyn leadership. Our constituencies and branches can then be made into vibrant centres of organisation, education and action. Only then can we hold wayward councillors and MPs to account.

 

6) For a full programme to radically change the Labour Party

Such a programme should include:

  • Bring the Parliamentary Labour Party under democratic control of Labour Party members. The shadow cabinet to be elected by Labour Party NEC.
  • MPs should be subordinated to the NEC and the NEC should be elected and accountable to the annual conference, which must be the supreme body in the party. Instead of a tame rally there must be democratic debate and binding votes.
  • Elected representatives on all levels should take only the average wage of a skilled worker, the balance being donated to furthering the interests of the labour movement. This will weed out many of today’s careerist plotters.
  • The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, the whole horrible rigmarole must go. Politically we need a Marxist – not a Lassallian, not a Blairite – clause four and a programmatic commitment to working class rule and international socialism.