This year’s Labour conference will be pivotal. Delegates will have the opportunity to define the direction of the party and sculpt the most radical manifesto ever. We call on delegates to fight for bold socialist policies.
This year’s Labour conference marks a turning point for the Corbyn movement. With Parliament paralysed and Boris Johnson now leading a minority government, it is clear that a general election is on the cards. The prospect of a radical Labour government is within our grasp.
Although MPs have so far refused to cooperate with Johnson’s attempts to call an election on his terms, it is obvious that an election is coming. And in reality, the starting gun for the race to Number 10 has already been fired. The campaign – the fight – for a Corbyn government has begun.
For all these reasons, this year’s Labour conference in Brighton will be unlike any other. The atmosphere will be electric, as delegates discuss and decide which demands go into the manifesto that activists will soon be campaigning for on the doorstep.
Grassroots party members and trade unionists are faced with a historic opportunity to sculpt the most radical Labour manifesto we have ever seen – one that will inspire a “people-powered campaign”, in the words of Jeremy Corbyn.
Green New Deal
Up for debate are a range of key policies and proposals. Amongst these, the demand for a ‘Green New Deal’ will no doubt become a flagship Labour policy – giving a political expression to the mass movements of environmental activists and youth against climate change that have mushroomed internationally over the last year.
The main Green New Deal motion on the agenda, backed by Momentum, commits a Labour government to decarbonise the economy by 2030, through mass investment in renewables, rolling out public ownership “as far as necessary”, and providing green, unionised jobs for all.
Adopting such a strategy would mark an important step forward in the fight against the climate catastrophe. We would add, however, that Labour’s environmental programme needs to be explicitly socialist.
It is capitalism that is killing our planet. 100 major monopolies are responsible for over 70% of global emissions. The solution to this pollution is to nationalise these big businesses, under workers’ control and management, so that we can rationally and democratically plan production on the basis of needs, not profits.
This idea is encapsulated within the words of the original Clause IV – Labour’s socialist commitment to the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange”.
Thankfully, delegates will have the opportunity at this year’s conference to remove the current Blairite New Labour clause, and restore the old Clause IV to the party’s constitution. We urge comrades to vote for Clause IV, and to help reaffirm that Labour is a socialist party.
With the 31 October Brexit deadline looming, the question of Europe will no doubt also be a central debate at conference.
The hope of the Labour right wing is – and consistently has been – to use this issue to undermine Corbyn, and to drive a wedge between the Labour leadership and rank-and-file members. We must not allow this to happen.
The Blairites do not care about internationalism or migrants. Their defence of the EU is primarily about maintaining access to the Single Market and defending the profits of the City. Whilst they bang the drum about Europe, they willfully ignore the fact that working class communities have experienced a decade of austerity and attacks inside the EU.
Tom Watson and his gang bleat about the need for a so-called ‘People’s Vote’. Yet they have actively attempted to delay and thwart any chance of a real people’s vote – a general election.
Instead, the Labour right-wingers have been all too eager to jump into bed with the Liberal Democrats, ‘rebel’ Tories, and their former colleagues from Change UK, in a desperate attempt to patch together a ‘unity’ government – one designed to keep Corbyn out of Number 10.
Notably, Watson and co. have not reacted so kindly to the idea of offering local Labour members a vote on who should represent them in Parliament, spitting blood at the suggestion of ‘trigger ballots’ that might end up with them being removed and replaced.
Unfortunately, this question was left unresolved at last year’s election, with mandatory reselection nudged off the table in a concession to the Blairites.
It is time, however, that this demand was seen through, so that the careerists in the PLP can be replaced by genuine class fighters – those aligned with the left-wing views and socialist aspirations of ordinary Labour members.
Delegates at Labour conference must steer clear of any Blairite shenanigans and sabotage. Rather than dragging the debate down into the gutter of Leave vs Remain, we need to stick firm to call for a general election, a mass mobilisation on the streets, and the opportunity to bring a Corbyn Labour government to power.
Only the fight for a socialist Labour government and a socialist Europe can carve a path out of the current quagmire and offer a way forward for workers and youth.
The Labour4Clause4 campaign and its supporters – including a number of left-wing Labour MPs and leading trade unionists – are delighted to hear that this year’s Labour Party conference will be debating the question of Clause 4.
Five CLPs have passed rule change motions calling for the original Clause 4 to be restored. Another, Dundee, has been in the news for putting a motion to conference calling for “the restoration of the pre-1995” version, which pledged to carry through the “socialist transformation of society”.
Unfortunately, there are some in the party who are not so pleased about these developments. These include all the usual Blair acolytes, such as Alan Johnson, Wes Streeting, and Pat McFadden.
An alarmed Daily Express headline states that Corbyn wants the “nationalisation of EVERYTHING”. The consistently hysterical Daily Mail, meanwhile, warns that Corbyn is “lurching back towards Old Labour”.
Alan Johnson has suggested that reverting back to the original Clause 4 would mark the “final triumph over Blairism”. We 100% agree! But whereas Johnson sees this as a bad thing, we think it is a very good thing.
It is precisely for this reason that the Labour4Clause4 campaign believes we must restore the original Clause 4 wording, drafted by Sidney and Beatrice Webb in 1917 and adopted into the party’s constitution in February 1918.
This clause is our socialist birthright. Blair removed it as part of his New Labour project. He and his supporters preach about ‘modernisation’. But it is they who are now the dinosaurs, wanting to take us back to the past and reverse the radical transformation of our party that has taken place under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Blair’s 1995 amendment committed Labour to ‘the enterprise of the market’ and ‘the rigor of competition’. But we saw what this meant in practice under New Labour: privatisation, outsourcing, and attacks on working people and public services.
This privatisation and outsourcing has been a disaster for the public. The foundations of the NHS have been eroded. Wages have stagnated. And prices for rail, energy, and water have risen astronomically.
The ‘market’ and ‘competition’ have brought working class communities nothing but misery. Just look at the collapse of profiteering outsourcing giants like Carillion and Interserve, or the decline and closure of British industries, such as steel, shipbuilding, and car manufacturing.
No wonder that support for public ownership has grown dramatically in recent years. Opinions polls have found that over 75% of voters now support the nationalisation of the utilities and the railways. 50% even agree that we need to take over the banks.
This is why Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have promised to nationalise rail, water, and energy networks in the last Labour manifesto. It is why Labour have pledged to end the scandal of outsourcing. And it is why the upcoming Labour conference is set to pass a motion for a ‘Green New Deal’, calling for “public, democratic ownership” to be expanded “as far as necessary” to eliminate carbon emissions.
‘More relevant than ever’
Blair’s supporters, such as McFadden, assert that we need “a Clause 4 for today, not one from a century ago”. But as John McDonnell stated at last year’s Labour conference, the original words of Clause 4 are “more relevant than ever”.
After all, what could be more relevant than the demand for “common ownership of the means of production” to “secure for workers the full fruits of their industry” in addressing urgent and pressing issues such as climate change, automation, and inequality.
We know, for example, that 100 big polluting monopolies are responsible for over 70% of greenhouse gas emission. These companies should be brought under public ownership and democratic control in order to stop a climate catastrophe.
If extra words and sentences are required to address other issues, then we can add additional clauses and parts to Labour’s constitution. But let’s start by restoring the original socialist Clause 4 to where it belongs.
Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party, fought for the ideas encapsulated in the 1918 Clause 4 – for the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange”. If it was good enough for him, then it’s good enough for us.
We say: it is time to bring back Clause 4. We call on delegates at this year’s Labour conference to support the Clause 4 motions on the agenda, and to help restore our socialist legacy.