WeeklyWorker

28.09.2017
Something of the past?

Now the real work begins

The left made limited, but real, gains at conference, reports Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

Labour conference 2017 was certainly historic: almost 1,200 delegates and 13,000 visitors made this officially the “largest conference ever”, as national executive committee member Pete Willsman says. It was also very leftwing, at least in its composition.

And there are many things the left can and should celebrate about this year’s gathering:

But conference business itself - while slightly less stage-managed than under Tony Blair - was still firmly in the hands of the right wing: to be precise, the conference arrangements committee (CAC). For example:

Clearly, the left still has a long way to go in its fight to transform the Labour Party. For a start, conference really must become the sole, sovereign decision-making body and to that end the NPF should be abolished immediately. It is an instrument designed to stop members shaping party policy.

The next 12 months are going to be very important in our fight to democratise and transform Labour and take it out of the hands of people like Iain McNicol, the compliance unit and the unaccountable ex-officios, who were seen hobnobbing at various fringe events. But though Corbyn is leader and the CLPs are ever more in the hands of the left, the right is far from finished. It dominates the PLP, the councillors are overwhelmingly on the right, under McNicol it controls the bureaucracy and there are more than a few of them in the shadow cabinet. But the left is making inroads:

What about the left? Most of them, including Momentum, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Labour Representation Committee, are so concerned about uncritically supporting Corbyn that they have voluntarily downed tools on a number of important questions: for example, the fight for mandatory reselection of MPs. So we cannot rely on them either.

We believe that members need to exercise as much pressure as possible over two concrete issues arising from conference:

1. The Corbyn review must be as democratic and wide-ranging as possible. Clearly, the Labour Party is ripe for top to bottom reform, but this must not be conducted behind the backs of the members. Branches and CLPs must be invited to put their views - and genuinely democratising changes must then be implemented. The review could easily become a pseudo-democratic exercise, where thousands of people send in their blue-sky thoughts and we end up with another compromise between left and right. This is, of course, the way the NPF currently works.

2. The NEC compromise on ‘prejudice’ in the membership conditions is a fudge. Yes, the worst excesses of the Jewish Labour Movement’s rule change have been removed. But the fingerprints of this pro-Zionist organisation are all over the compromise - we hear that the JLM is lobbying Corbyn and the NEC to be allowed to help write the new code of conduct. They hope this will enshrine in our rulebook the controversial ‘Working definition of anti-Semitism’, produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. This conflates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and has been widely criticised. The JLM must not be allowed to continue to exercise pressure way beyond its numerical size. Conference has shown clearly that the membership has no interest in appeasing those determined to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.