A series of powerful speeches by left-wing MPs in support of RLB’s Labour leadership bid emphasised the policies that activists must fight for: open selection, a new Clause IV, and socialist policies to fight austerity and the climate crisis.
On Monday evening, around 300 hundred Labour activists gathered for a rally in Stratford, East London, in support of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s leadership election campaign.
Alongside ‘RLB’ herself, speeches were given by several new left-wing Labour MPs: Zarah Sultana (Coventry South), Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse) and Sam Tarry (Ilford South). Outgoing shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also spoke in support of Long-Bailey’s campaign.
Central themes of the speeches included: the response to the election defeat and the need to continue the fight for a socialist Labour government; the climate emergency and the ‘green industrial revolution’; and fighting the attacks on migrants and uniting workers from all backgrounds.
Only a couple of months ago, Zarah Sultana gave a militant maiden speech in Parliament about the climate crisis. On Monday, she began proceedings by discussing the same subject.
Sultana made clear that the climate crisis was not the outcome of individual actions, but a systemic problem of capitalism, with its endless drive to maximise profits in the interests of a wealthy elite. The victims of the crisis, however, are overwhelmingly the poorest and most vulnerable layers of society.
Sultana correctly stated that the only solution to the climate crisis is socialism.
No return to Blairism
Sam Tarry formerly managed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign in 2016. At this rally, he spoke about the recent election defeat. Brexit, he argued, was central to Labour’s defeat, with Labour adopting a Brexit position seen as a complete betrayal by working-class voters in the North, Midlands and Wales.
The 2017 election demonstrated the massive public support for Labour’s anti-austerity programme, Tarry stated. He correctly noted that, had it not been for the attacks of the Labour right wing in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), Labour would have won that election. The ‘compromise’ position on Brexit adopted in the most recent election, however, was seen as a weak, undemocratic, and patronising manoeuvre by many – hence the defeat.
Tarry emphasised that a move to the centre would not make the party ‘electable’, but would alienate working-class voters even more. Workers are sick and tired of austerity and the politics of the establishment. The Labour Party must continue the Corbyn revolution and fight for socialism.
Rebecca Long-Bailey spoke about the fight to democratise the party and the need to concretely establish Labour as a socialist party. She correctly called for the implementation of open selection to ensure that the PLP reflects the interests of the party membership.
Unfortunately, RLB’s criticism of the Blairites in the party was very weak. While she criticised their attacks and slanders against the left, she defended the idea that Labour needed to be a ‘broad-church’. Instead of calling for members to deselect the careerists and saboteurs, she appealed to the Blairites to restrict their opposition to the left wing of the party to internal debate.
But such calls for compromise and ‘unity’ with the right wing will achieve nothing. These renegades will ignore such pleas, and will instead continue their ceaseless campaign to regain control of the party in the interests of big business.
The danger of this soft position is that it creates confusion amongst rank-and-file party members, blurring the distinction between the two wings of the party. This is what has allowed Keir Starmer to gain support. By presenting himself as the ‘unity’ candidate and opportunistically co-opting left-wing language, Starmer has been able to hide his real intention – to bring the party back to the right.
Long-Bailey also brought up the question of Clause IV. She stressed the need to entrench Labour’s commitment to public ownership into the party constitution. Although she was unclear on the scope of her proposed new-Clause IV, this commitment to put common ownership and socialist policies at the heart of the party is vitally important.
Socialist Appeal supports the call for a new socialist Clause IV, and is backing a proposal that pays tribute to the words of Tony Benn, who called for Labour to fight for the socialist transformation of society.
Finally, Diane Abbott spoke about the need to fight against racism and attacks on migrants. She criticised those who seek to win back “Labour heartlands” by throwing migrants under the bus, correctly emphasising that workers of all ethnicities, nationalities, and religions have a common interest against the bosses.
Attacks on migrants will not end austerity, revive industries, or solve the housing crisis. Any attempts to divide the working class will only help the interests of the capitalist class. The working class must unite and fight for the socialist transformation of society in order to provide a decent standard of living for all, regardless of colour or creed.
Monday’s meeting showed the desire to continue the Corbyn movement and fight for a radical change in our society. However, it also highlighted the task that lies ahead: to organise the left wing of the party around clear socialist policies; to drive out the Blairite Fifth Column in the PLP; and to complete the transform of the Labour Party into a vehicle for socialism.