Thursday, May 31, 2007
Where Next for McDonnell supporters?
A good outcome from the McDonnell leadership campaign is that it has put a lot of the Labour Party left into active contact with each other, and I recommend the new collective blog, Labour Left Forum , that has got off to a good start. In particular I found the post Which Way Forward for the Left quite realistic and sensible.
But how it strikes me as an outsider is that the Labour Left seems to organise around Labour Left Briefing, and through the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) and the McDonnell campaign, which are structures that are actually OUTWITH and independent from the Labour Party, but as a peculiarity they require LP membership to participate in them.
To really operate as a Labour Party left they have to organise WITHIN the Labour Party structures, seeking to control wards and CLPs, getting union branches to send left delegates to the CLP, get on the council, forming a left caucus of councillors in town halls, having a left block on the NEC (which means breaking from the Brownites in the Grassroots Alliance). Have a clear left slate for the National Policy Forum elections, with alternative policies that they want to pursue. Forcing their issues onto the conference floor.
I think the argument about whether socialists should or should not be in the Labour Party is a futile one: comrades are going to come to their own conclusions one way another based upon their own experience. However much hot air and ink is expended on the issue, we are not going to convince each other. The approach of the Socialist party and Respect to say McDonnell’s defeat shows you are wasting your time come and join us, is unhelpful in the extreme, But similarly the approach from some of the Labour left, that all of those who have decided not to be in the party are incorrigible sectarians and ultra-lefts is equally unhelpful.
If the Labour Left is going to build on the McDonnell campaign they need to build practical activity. They must work to develop specific left policies and campaigns, sometimes in cooperation with the socialist left outside the Labour party: then these can be promoted through the movement, the unions and the single issue campaigns.
But they also need to promote them through the Party. Only if they can demonstrate success in winning commitment to left policies from the Labour Party, and then implementing left policies in local councils under left control, can they demonstrate that work in the Labour Party is effective. I see that John McDonnell is writing a position paper to discuss where next for his supporters, I will be interested to see what practical strategic steps this spells out.
To be frank comrades, the rhetoric of “its hard but we just have to keep beavering away till it gets better” is wearing thin.