The Left’s clear victory in the Labour NEC elections must be used as a platform for sweeping changes across the Party, Adam Booth writes. We need mandatory reselection and socialist policies.
The Corbyn movement took another important step forward yesterday, with the Left winning a landslide in elections for Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee). This victory further cements the Left’s position and programme within the Party. The task now is to use this increased strength to complete “the Corbyn revolution” within the Labour Party.
Three new positions representing ordinary members on the Party’s leading body were up for grabs. Momentum-backed candidates – Yasmine Dar, Jon Lansman, and Rachel Garnham – won by a country mile, with between 60,000-70,000 votes each.
By comparison, the next nearest candidate, the comedian Eddie Izzard, received only 39,508 votes. Izzard was one of several ‘independent’ and ‘moderate’ candidates (read: right-wingers) put forward to challenge the Left – ultimately in vain. These latest events will therefore be a further demoralising blow against the Labour right wing.
The Momentum juggernaut rolls on
The NEC election victory demonstrates what an unstoppable juggernaut the Corbyn movement – organised around Momentum – has become.
Hundreds of thousands of new members have joined the Party, the vast majority of them Corbyn supporters. The 2017 general election acted to galvanise and organise these new activists. Reports indicate that the Left is taking back control of CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) across the country. The annual national conference last September, meanwhile, demonstrated the changed balance of forces inside the Party, with Momentum organising an army of delegates to win key votes.
The wind is clearly in the sails of the Left. With three new positions on the NEC (in addition to the Left’s recent win in the Scottish Labour leadership election), the ground is prepared for more sweeping changes throughout the Party. A ‘democratic review’ is already underway, aimed at democratising Labour’s internal structures.
The right wing are running scared. In particular, right-wing Labour MPs are terrified of the prospect of mandatory reselection being brought in. “Sources close to the NEC,” the Guardian reported, “said there would be little the committee could do to shield MPs should the leader’s office decide to press ahead with such a measure.”
Elsewhere, speculation in the Independent suggests that the new Left majority on the NEC might be used to wrestle control of Labour’s Disputes Panel back from the ‘centre ground’. The current Disputes Panel chair, Ann Black, has presided over a wave of expulsions and suspensions in recent years. Many of these are based on trumped up charges and spurious allegations. Socialist Appeal supporters, meanwhile, have been caught up in a McCarthyite purge of socialist activists from the Party.
The leaders of the Corbyn movement should act now to turn these rumours into a reality. Despite Guardian claims that Lansman – Momentum’s head honcho – “backs mandatory reselection”, in truth the veteran Left has flip-flopped over the demand of late. But with other vocal figures on the Left, such as Paul Mason, now also calling for genuine democratic accountability of Labour MPs, it is clear that this is an idea whose time has come.
Similarly, the reversal of all unjust expulsions and suspensions must now begin. The Compliance Unit led witch-hunt against the Left must be stopped immediately. Purged socialists should be let back in. And the Party apparatus must be taken out of the hands of the Blairite bureaucracy that currently holds the reins at Labour HQ.
Left wins clean sweep in Labour NEC membership elections. Now let’s have mandatory selections of all MP candidates in every parliament
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) January 15, 2018
Fight for a socialist Labour government!
At the same time as democratising the Party, steps need to be taken to democratise Momentum itself. The organisation’s democratic structures were abolished by Lansman this time last year, in favour of an amorphous system of online surveys and top-down social media campaigns. But, 12 months on, even the promised online polling and discussion forums have failed to materialise.
The result is that grassroots Momentum members now have next-to-no means by which to democratically discuss the policy and strategy of our movement. This was seen at the last Labour conference, when left-wing delegates simply received instructions on how to vote via an app. Undoubtedly the technology helped to organise and win key decisions. But who was in control? Who was calling the shots? And on what basis?
Similarly, the three candidates put forward by Momentum in the recent NEC elections were themselves never elected by Momentum members. Instead, activists were encouraged to put themselves forward, with the Momentum head office then selecting who would be backed by the organisation. Unsurprisingly, Lansman himself was one of the three selected.
Momentum has clearly become a powerful tool for advancing Corbyn’s anti-austerity, anti-war programme and reclaiming the Labour Party from the Blairites. But now this tool must be placed firmly in the hands of rank-and-file members, in order that grassroots activists can decide the future direction of the Corbyn movement.
“For too long, politics has been top heavy and Westminster-centric,” Lansman, the self-appointed Momentum leader, recently told the Guardian. “If we want to transform society for the many, not the few, we need a socialist Labour government that works in tandem with experienced activists on the ground.” We 100% agree.