The situation inside Labour is at an impasse. The right wing are attacking grassroots members, carrying out suspensions and banning democratic discussion. Only an immediate national conference can resolve this crisis.
The Labour Party is being convulsed by a deep crisis. The right wing are engaged in a civil war against the left-wing membership, who were largely drawn into the party after the victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Grassroots members gave wholehearted support to the introduction of left-wing policies, which were a decisive break from austerity and the years of New Labour.
The resignation of Jeremy Corbyn and the victory of Sir Keir Starmer as Labour leader represented a turning point. Since then, the Labour right wing have renewed their attempts to purge the party of what they see as ‘Corbynism’.
In doing so, they have reverted to all kinds of subterfuge and bureaucratic manouevres to demoralise and drive out left-wing members.
Starmer’s removal of left-wingers from his shadow cabinet and his tacit cooperation with the Tories, together with his failure to back the teaching unions in their fight for safe working conditions, have disgusted many. Tens of thousands of party members have resigned in protest.
Then came the suspension of Corbyn from membership, his readmittance, then his expulsion from the PLP. Many members were outraged by these undemocratic actions. A host of local Labour Parties passed motions against these actions and in support of the former leader.
In doing so, members were told they could not discuss such matters. Those who defied these orders have faced disciplinary action, resulting in dozens of local party officers being suspended or put ‘under investigation’ for breaching these diktats.
In effect, Labour’s general secretary, David Evans, has gagged the membership from expressing its views and denied members their basic democratic rights. This has caused shock and outrage.
The deputy leader, Angela Rayner, has outrageously threatened that thousands could be excluded from the party, and that she would be happy with such an outcome.
This whole sordid affair, egged on by the mass media, has brought the Labour Party into disrepute.
Such a state of affairs cannot be resolved by the NEC, the PLP, the general secretary, or the Labour leader. All of these figures and bodies have, to one degree or another, been involved in this scandal.
There is only one democratic body which can deal with this acute crisis. And that body is the Labour Party conference.
The demand has been raised on the left for such a conference – a recall conference, made up of delegates elected at the previous conference in 2019. We 100% agree with this proposal.
A national conference of the Labour Party should be convened immediately, with the express purpose of dealing with this crisis.
As Chapter 1 of the Labour Party rule book states, in Clause VI:1…
“The work of the Party shall be under the direction and control of Party conference, which shall itself be subject to the constitution and standing orders of the Party. Party conference shall meet regularly once in every year and also at such other times as it may be convened by the NEC.” (Our emphasis)
Furthermore, as outlined in Chapter 3, Clause III:1:A-C…
The NEC shall (whenever practicable) convene an annual session of Party conference during September / October in each year, in accordance with the conditions laid down in the constitution and these rules. It may also convene special sessions of Party conference when it deems necessary. [Our emphasis]
When a Party conference is called at short notice, the secretaries of affiliated organisations and CLPs shall, on receiving the summons, instantly take steps to secure representation of their organisation in accordance with the constitution and these rules.
Any session of Party conference summoned with less than ten days’ notice shall confine its business strictly to that relating to the emergency giving rise to the special session.
We thereby call upon the NEC to organise a recall national conference, as stated in the rule book.
If this is to be an online conference, then so be it. We cannot wait nine months for the next conference! Too much damage will be inflicted if we were forced to wait.
Far better to reconvene conference now, despite the adverse conditions. The NEU (National Education Union) successfully held an online event of some 400,000. This shows what is possible under these circumstances.
We must lift the ban on freedom of discussion. To do this, the NEC should immediately reconvene our party’s national conference, with resolutions from CLPs and affiliated organisations on the agenda, in order to democratically decide on what steps are needed to resolve this damaging crisis, and to reestablish the party on a firm democratic and socialist basis.
We urge all our readers and supporters to urgently present the following model resolution to local Labour Party CLPs, branches, and affiliated trade unions and societies wherever possible and appropriate:
This meeting notes the escalating crisis within the Labour Party, which is threatening to spin out of control. It is clear that the general secretary is operating in a factional manner and by his actions is bringing the party into disrepute. Tens of thousands are leaving the party.
This meeting therefore believes that the party’s crisis needs to be addressed urgently.
This meeting recognises that the highest body of the party is the national conference, composed of delegates from the CLPs, trade unions, and other affiliated organisations. We believe that this is the only body with the necessary authority to resolve this crisis.
We therefore demand that the NEC organises an immediate national recall conference of the Labour Party, under rule Clause VI:1, with the sole purpose of ending the impasse, restoring freedom of speech, and offering a real way forward.