Labour Party Conference 2019 is ongoing. So far the atmosphere has been radical, with the party rank and file supporting, amongst others, the motion to restore Clause IV. We post here four short articles on the events of the conference so far.
Socialist Appeal activists have been on the ground in Brighton – inside the Labour conference and outside. Delegates have argued passionately in favour of socialist policies. And out stalls have received an enthusiastic reception from visitors and other delegates.
- Clause 4 gets a standing ovation – fight for socialism
- Lessons of the Tom Watson debacle: we need mandatory reselection
- Reject Blairite hypocrisy: we need unity on our terms, not theirs
- Green New Deal motion shows why we must fight to transform the union
Well done delegates! Despite opposition from the NEC, there was massive rank-and-file support for restoring our socialist Clause 4, thrown out by Tony Blair in 1995.
62% of CLP delegates supported the rule change motion to bring back the original wording of Clause 4: “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry…through the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.”
This is a fantastic result, showing the strong grassroots support that exists in the Labour movement for the socialist principles of Clause 4.
Unfortunately, however, the trade union and affiliate delegates voted against, meaning the constitutional change failed.
Nevertheless, the NEC has now promised a review of the wording. We must continue to campaign in order to ensure that this is a members’ review, and not another committee review that will just gather dust somewhere.
It is the membership that must decide what our party’s aims and values are. And we believe these aims and values must maintain the socialist aspirations and principles outlined in the old Clause 4.
Conference heard brilliant speeches from comrades from the Forest of Dean, Wallasey and Wavertree – all speaking to restore Clause 4. They had a tremendous response from delegates, even gaining a standing ovation. It is clear that grassroots members from the CLPs want to restore Clause 4.
“The reason why we adopted Clause 4 was that capitalism had failed,” stated Jim Brookshaw, delegate from the Forest of Dean, who moved the constitutional amendment. “Our task was not to patch up capitalism, but to do away with it.”
Jim quoted Blair’s version, which praised the market and the wonders of competition. Jim said he had experienced first-hand these “rigours” of the market when he, as a print worker, was fighting Murdock for his job in a year-long strike, along with thousands of others who were sacked.
He said Labour stood for a socialist planned economy, not the anarchy of the market.
Jim also criticised the NEC for opposing the proposed rule change. Instead, they have suggested a “review”. “We had a review in 1995 with Blair,” Jim noted, and we know how that ended.
He ended by saying: “if common ownership was good enough for Keir Hardie, it should be good enough for us.”
The motion was seconded by Mike Hogan from Wavertree, who linked Clause 4 to the horrific realities of PFI and privatisation seen in Liverpool, and the disaster of pro-market policies.
The comrade from Wallasey, Luke Agnew, put in a great performance. He backed up the argument by giving the example of his working live, dominated by a race to the bottom and insecurity. A fundamental transformation of society is needed.
Onwards and upwards
The massive applause and standing ovation given to the Clause 4 speakers reflects the widespread support amongst the membership for bringing back Clause 4.
The NEC will now set up a working body to look at a new wording – one that will replace the current Blairite pro-business clause.
This means that the Blairite Clause 4 is heading for the dustbin. That in itself is a great victory! This stain on our movement will finally be eradicated.
Again, this victory is not down to the NEC, which was quite prepared to maintain the status quo. It is down to the rank-and-file and the great work done by the Labour4Clause4 campaign. Without this hard work, we would be stuck with Blair’s commitment to privatisation.
We must now demand a proper review to amend Clause 4 – one that is thoroughly discussed and debated throughout the Labour movement. This will provide us with a great opportunity to fight for a new, bold, socialist Clause – a commitment to the socialist transformation of society.
We will rise to the occasion. We will organise a renewed roadshow to ensure that the socialist commitment of the original Clause 4 is not watered down. We still want to “secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of our industry” on the basis of the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.
Please help us to promote the Labour4Clause4 campaign by organising a roadshow event in your CLP or union, and inviting a campaign speaker, to discuss the way forward for our party and our movement.
Onwards and upwards! Forward to socialism!
Tom Watson is rightly detested by the majority of members for the role he has played in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. From day one, this wannabee Machiavelli has been at the epicentre of all anti-Corbyn plots. The sooner he goes, the better.
However, the way in which Momentum leader Jon Lansman has attempted to get rid of Watson has only played into the deputy leader’s hand. The bureaucratic attempt to remove Watson by abolishing the position of deputy leader will only be seen as a blatant manoeuvre.
After the “driveby shooting” failed, Watson was rubbing his hands. He immediately attacked Jon Lansman, gleefully saying: “This move from Jon Lansman has backfired spectacularly. It has bolstered my support within the PLP and been strongly criticised in the media.”
Watson is correct. Those going for him on the NEC have been forced to beat a hasty retreat.
The way to remove Watson must be a political one.
The reason that he cannot be challenged is because party rules state that any deputy leadership contest requires the support of 20% of MPs. But given the present composition of the PLP, made up of Blairites, this threshold acts as a right-wing veto.
This raises the question of deselection. If the PLP was made up of genuine representatives of the rank and file, this 20% barrier would be achieved easily. On this bottom-up basis, a left-wing challenge could be made and a new deputy leader could be election – one in tune with the membership.
This emphasises that the battle to complete the transformation of the Labour Party remains firmly on the agenda.
Unfortunately, due to compromises made at last year’s conference, when mandatory reselection was kept off the agenda, we have wasted a year in terms of democratising the party.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost and Lansman has attempted to use top-down bureaucratic measures to resolve a political problem.
Trigger ballots are underway. But these are not enough. We need mandatory reselection.
This Labour Party conference should be the platform to launch our campaign for the coming general election.
But, terrified of a Corbyn victory, the capitalist media are engaged in a dirty campaign to discredit the party and sow confusion. This is to be expected from our ‘respectable’ press.
There have been many newsworthy reforms pledged by Labour at this year’s conference. But all these have been deliberately ignored by the anti-Corbyn media. Instead, they concentrate everything on divisions, blowing up arguments in order to discredit Corbyn. Watching the news, you would be forgiven for thinking that Labour conference wasn’t even taking place!
The media has deliberately concentrated upon the controversy over Andrew Fisher’s resignation, trying to exaggerate divisions within Corbyn’s team. They are ably assisted in this aim by the Blairites.
These right-wingers hypocritically talk about ‘unity’, when it is they who have sown division at every turn.
“I want us to unify,” stated Tom Watson following Jon Lansman’s failed attempt to oust him. Such words are astounding coming from a man who has used his position as deputy leader to endlessly attempt to sabotage our movement. Watson is like the school bully who sticks the boot in when he is on top, and then cries foul when his victim fights back.
Brexit is a case in point. Rather than bringing working people together around class issues, Watson and the rest want the party to side with Remain. The Blairites are scandalously trying to divide the movement along Leave-Remain lines.
This is in contrast to Corbyn, who has attempted to unite workers – Remain or Leave. However, Jeremy has been continually contradicted by figures in his own front bench.
Len McCluskey was correct last night, speaking at the Tribune rally, to attack those at the top who are attempting to undermine Corbyn. As he stated: “We must not let ourselves be divided as Leavers or Remainers – but be united as socialists.”
Hypocrisy about ‘unity’ was also on display from Dave Prentice. The general secretary of Unison used a speech about the NHS to call for ‘unity’, demanding that Labour’s membership abandon trigger ballots and deselection.
But it was only last year that Labour members were told to forget about open selection in favour of trigger ballots. Now, apparently, we must forget about trigger ballots too!
The purpose of these – whether it be open selection or trigger ballots – is precisely to replace those most disloyal and most hostile to the idea of uniting behind the fight for a Corbyn victory.
Of course, the billionaire press has never been friends of Labour or socialism. If they praise us, then we must be doing something wrong! Their so-called ‘impartiality’ is being exposed on a daily basis. They reveal their dirty role every day in their slanders, bias, and attacks on Corbyn and Labour.
Of course, there can be no such thing as a free press, as long as the media is in the pockets of the rich. The oligarchs and moguls will never reconcile themselves to Corbyn and the leftward moving Labour Party.
We must answer these lies. And we must resist this internal sabotage by Labour’s Blairite Fifth Column. This means introducing mandatory reselection and democratic accountability. We ignore this urgent demand at our peril.
Delegates representing the Green New Deal must be a tired bunch by now. For two nights in a row, they have been engaged in a long debate over the compositing of the most popular motion of this year’s Labour Party conference.
The issue is clearly one of the defining questions of Labour conference 2019. Climate strikes have rocked the world in the past 12 months. The latest day of action – taking place last Friday, the day before conference began – saw an estimated 100,000 turnout in London alone. And a hard-hitting and theatrical protest by Extinction Rebellion shut down the roads along the Brighton shore yesterday.
The strong-feeling behind this burning issue has been reflected amongst Labour’s grassroots. Motions for a Green New Deal had been proposed by 128 CLPs in advance of conference. And the topic was also a clear first in the priorities ballot.
The main model motion coming from activists calls for many radical demands, including “the provision of universal services”, “expanding public, democratic ownership as far as necessary”, and a guarantee of “well-paid, unionised, green jobs for all”.
However, despite these assurances, delegates from certain layers of the affiliated trade unions have resisted the ambitious motion being put forward. Above all, big industrial unions such as the GMB are worried that the commitment to “zero carbon emissions by 2030” will put jobs in energy-intensive or polluting sectors at risk. Their priority, instead, is to defend current, existing jobs.
Rather than resisting this urgently required change and action to save out planet, union leaders should be fighting for a socialist planned economy, run under workers’ control and management.
On such a basis, obsolete industries could be wound down in a managed way; workers could be retrained, and factories re-equipped; new, green jobs could be created on a mass scale; and the benefits of modern technologies could be spread across society.
The Green New Deal is by no means the only issue this week where union delegates have found themselves at odds with rank-and-file members from the CLPs. On a number of important occasions over the past couple of days, block union votes have squashed progressive demands coming from local Labour parties – including the restoration of Clause 4.
Frustrated, some well-meaning party members may draw the conclusion that the only solution to this tension is to diminish the role of the unions at conference, or in the party more widely. But this would only be an organisational measure to solve a fundamentally political problem.
Instead, what is needed is to take the Corbyn revolution – which has transformed the Labour Party over the past four years – into the trade unions. This means democratising the entire labour movement from top to bottom.
But above all, it means inspiring fresh, radicalised layers of workers and youth to join the trade unions and turn them into militant weapons – weapons that to be wielded by the working class in the fight for socialism.