Hornsey & Wood Green CLP and a volunteer with Arise –
A Festival of Labour’s Left Ideas, says unity in the struggle for change is an integral part of socialist politics.
Socialists have always kept alive the links between trade unions, social justice and equality campaigners across a spectrum of issues, peace and anti-war movements, with the Labour Party at every level. This has been the case for both affiliated and unaffiliated unions.
It was those links, embodied in socialists being collectively active in any and all ways they can be, that enabled Jeremy Corbyn to become Labour leader.
It is these links that now also give us the best chance of blunting Conservative attacks and wherever possible preventing them, and the best foundation to put forward and build support for the socialist solutions that are so desperately needed to the challenges we face.
As we continue to see the devastation of the Covid pandemic, the existential threat of climate crisis and a hard right Conservative government, it is hard not to think that this time it really is socialism or barbarism.
It must be the Left that puts forward concrete policies to end the pandemic and be at the heart of organising resistance against the Conservatives. Last year, despite the problems in organising posed by the pandemic, we saw many communities, trade unions and campaigners on other popular causes make a stand against the Tories’ reactionary agenda. In the months and years ahead, we will see the emergence of many more campaigns, big and small.
It is totally false to argue that work inside the Labour Party and building these movements in our workplaces, communities and the streets are in some way counterposed or contradictory. As Tony Benn argued again and again, both are essential and supplement each other – and we’ve seen that time and time again.
When Blair was Labour leader we saw the emergence of the ‘awkward squad’ of left wing trade union leaders and of course campaigns such as Stop the War alongside older peace campaigns such as CND, and local and national campaigns to oppose privatisation.
After the election of the Tories in 2010, Occupy and then the People’s Assembly, local communities and again the trade unions, were the crucial bedrock in opposing cuts, with socialists in these campaigns, unions, in CLPs and individual MPs taking this fight through the Labour Party.
Now, we must stand with all those resisting the Conservatives in the years ahead not just in words, but with deeds, including through giving full support to the global Black Lives Matter uprising.
Building a massive movement for jobs must be a priority as unemployment grows and the number of insecure jobs spirals.
As well as seeking to support, reach out to and organise with the new allies that emerge, we must also do all we can to defend the gains that were made within the Labour Party in recent years.
When some of Blair’s heirs are desperately trying to drive as many left-wingers as possible out of the Labour Party, it would simply play into their hands for people to abandon this struggle.
The Left has re-emerged as a major force in British politics, and still is despite the defeats we have faced. But we cannot take that position for granted – especially as people seek to divide and demoralise us, and some wish to dampen resistance to the Tories or oppose them on purely managerial grounds.
In the Labour Party, the Left must build on the unity that helped achieve impressive victories in the NEC elections and the co-operative campaigning emerging on a number of issues against those seeking to move Labour to the Right.
This unity on the Left mustn’t just be about the economic alternative, but also why we need an anti-war government, why we must build international solidarity and why the fight for equality and liberation for all is an integral part of socialist politics.
The fightback is on – to defend health, jobs, and livelihoods and to win real change in the future, unity in action is essential, both within the Labour Party and beyond it.
- This is an edited version of a speech given at Arise’s ‘Fighting Back in 2021’ event. You can watch in full at https://www.youtube.com/c/AriseFestivalChannel