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Model resolutions for Labour Party conference 2016 – on schools, anti-racism post-EU referendum, the banks, expulsions and the NHS

Below are some model “contemporary resolutions” for Labour Party conference 2016 (which is 25-28 September, in Liverpool), on the following topics:

• Schools – anti-academies/grammar schools
• Anti-racism and uniting our communities post-EU referendum
• Public ownership of the banks
• For a democratic, pluralist Labour Party – against expulsions
• Saving the NHS (this is a motion written by a wide range of Labour-supporting NHS activists and circulated by Momentum NHS)

For a useful explanation of how resolutions work and how to agree / submit them, see here. Each CLP can submit one resolution, as long as it hasn’t already submitted a rule change. The word limit is 250 words (plus 10 words for the title), the submission deadline is 15 September. Continue reading Model resolutions for Labour Party conference 2016 – on schools, anti-racism post-EU referendum, the banks, expulsions and the NHS

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Short motion for Labour wards/CLPs in defence of Jeremy Corbyn

This motion has been passed at a number of Labour Party branches and CLPs up and down the country. Why not use in yours?

“We express confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as party leader and call for the party, including our MPs, to rally behind him.

“Instead of undermining our leader, elected by an overwhelming majority of members and affiliated supporters, we should be uniting to take on the Tories – to highlight their responsibility for the referendum result; to insist that their austerity program, not migration, is responsible for the problems society is struggling with; and to put forward clear policies on jobs, homes, services and workers’ rights which can begin to really tackle the social distress on which nationalism has fed.”

After the referendum: the way forward for Labour – resolution from Liverpool Momentum

liverpool demo

Liverpool Momentum overwhelmingly passed the following resolution at its packed meeting last week. Shortly afterwards it held a 2,000-strong demonstration in support of Jeremy Corbyn!

The demonstration and the debate on the motion was reported in the Guardian here. Continue reading After the referendum: the way forward for Labour – resolution from Liverpool Momentum

Proposal for Momentum/anti-coup meetings

Please put this forward in upcoming meetings!

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After the referendum vote, the labour movement urgently needs to step up the fight against nationalism, racism and anti-migrant ideas – and build itself up as a political force.

We must begin by defending Jeremy Corbyn, and resisting pressure to accommodate to the right – including on immigration. We will fight to defend and extend migrants’ rights and freedom of movement. Stagnant and falling real wages, the housing crisis, public services stretched to breaking point are caused by the bosses and their government, not migrants. Our answer is working-class unity to win more and better jobs, homes, services and rights for all.

The labour movement should seek to limit the damage of Brexit by campaigning to defend migrants’ and workers’ rights, getting serious about resisting “austerity”, and developing stronger links with workers in Europe and beyond, across borders.

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In our fight against nationalist ideas we will stress class politics: the labour movement and Labour Party should organise, represent and fight for working people against capital, in the first instance workers in all their diversity – British and migrant, different ethnicities, blue and white collar, secure and precarious, different levels of formal education, employed and unemployed, all religions and none – building unity around common interests in workplaces, communities and wider society, interests which can cut across divisions of all sorts.

The Labour right’s decades-long drive to undermine class consciousness, class politics and struggles to defend the working class bears a large part of the responsibility for the problems our movement now faces.

To begin to challenge the long-term, severe, growing social distress on which nationalism has fed, we will agitate for the Labour Party and unions to campaign for an Emergency Plan of clear pro-working class policies on the following lines:

End poverty pay and insecurity, strengthen workers’ rights. Ban zero hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour without exemptions, introduce strong workers’ / union rights, build union membership
Decent jobs, benefits and services for all. Create two million secure, well paid and useful jobs in the public sector. Fight hard to stop and reverse cuts, privatisation and outsourcing. Increase education funding, fund expansion of community school places. Restore and increase benefits. Cut down inequality
Decent homes for all. Build hundreds of thousands of council homes a year, refurbish existing stock and stop sell offs. Introduce rent controls and strong tenants’ rights
Rescue the NHS. End privatisation and cuts in the NHS and reinstate a fully public health service funded to meet patients’ needs.

How can these things be paid for? The rich, whose wealth comes from workers’ labour, have got even richer at our expense! We call for a clear Labour policy of taxing the rich and nationalising the banks.

Labour, the unions and the left need to get on a war footing, and get out in communities and workplaces arguing for these kind of demands and for unity to win them.

Emergency motion for Labour Parties on defending Corbyn / turning the tide post-referendum

Please move in your branch or CLP.

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The referendum vote was a setback for the labour movement and left – but we should not become demoralised or panic.

Immediately we should:
1. Defend our elected leader, arguing against a leadership election and insisting that if one happens Jeremy is on the ballot. [We call on our MP to get behind our leader.]
2. Oppose anti-migrant agitation and defend free movement.

Stagnant and falling real wages, the housing crisis, public services stretched to breaking point have been caused by the rich and employers, and a government loyally serving them, not by migrants. We want unity between workers of all backgrounds to win more and better jobs, homes, services and rights for everyone.

For too long the idea that there is a problem with immigration, as opposed to inequality, deprivation, austerity, etc, has been allowed to go unchallenged.

We should seek to limit the damage of Brexit by defending migrants’ and workers’ rights, stepping up the fight against austerity, and building stronger links with workers in Europe and beyond.

To tackle the long-term, severe, growing social distress on which nationalism has fed, the party should campaign for an Emergency Plan of pro-working class policies like: ban zero hours contacts, raise the minimum wage, empower unions; reverse cuts and privatisation and fund the creation of good jobs, education, services and benefits; build council houses, introduce rent controls, strengthen tenants’ rights; rescue the NHS by reinstating a fully public health service funded to meet need…

These things are affordable if we take back the wealth the rich have gained at our expense. The party should argue to tax the rich and take the banks into public ownership.

Labour and the unions need to get on a war footing, and get out in communities and workplaces arguing for unity to win these kind of demands. We will do that locally.

The CLP will issue a statement on these lines.

Report of Young Labour conference and interview with YL national committee member Rida Vaquas

A report of the Young Labour conference in February, by Brendan Menezes and Tim Jones.

After three hectic days in Scarborough (26-28 February), the dust is yet to settle from the events of the annual Labour Students and Young Labour conference.

The Momentum slate was initially a resounding success in every region, getting an enormous number of Corbyn-supporting delegates elected. However the left ran into early difficulties with finances, as there was no assistance available from Labour with the costs of transport or accommodation. There was a compulsory £30/40 registration fee, an the conference was held in a part of the country hard to get to for the majority of members.

Momentum candidate for chair of Labour Students Ollie Hill lost narrowly to Kate Dearden on day one. That represents a major step forward, however, as Ollie got the highest vote for a left-wing challenger in many years. Leftwinger Caroline Hill won a 60% majority in the election for Young Labour Chair, and the left took an overall majority on the National Committee of Young Labour. Momentum supporter James Elliott lost to Jasmin Beckett in the race for National Executive Committee Youth Rep by 49.41% to 49.55%. It was a tense race which saw an orchestrated smear campaign and documented instances of delegates disenfranchised, widespread bullying and harassment, and more: all evidence that the long-honed stitch-up skills of the Blairite Labour Students faction were deployed to the full, as they fought their rearguard action in Scarborough.

Unite has already called for an inquiry into the disputed NEC rep election.

The conference passed motions in support of free education and of staying in the EU, and for migrants’ rights. Scottish Labour Young Socialists evoked memories of conferences gone by in their public statement: “40 years ago the ‘Icepick Express’ left Scotland to scalp Militant control of the Labour Party’s youth wing. On board was Bill Speirs, a key figure in the founding of the Campaign for Socialism. This weekend, after SLYS delegates had swept the board in the Scottish ballot, the ‘Eric Heffer Express’ returned to Youth Conference. The left won a resounding victory — 27/33 places on the Young Labour executive committee, including the brilliant Caroline Hill — Chair of Young Labour. How the wheels of history turn. The result of the NEC election remains up in the air, surrounded by smear campaigns, union delegates breaking their democratic mandate, and the party’s refusal to carry out a manual recount. We await the NEC’s investigation.

“We unequivocally stand in solidarity with our comrades in Unite. Every attack on them is an attack on the entire labour movement.”

The election of Jeremy Corbyn has sent a left-wing surge through the youth structures of the Labour Party, and the wins for the left – in the face of bitter resistance and shameful tactics from the right – have consolidated the new, left-wing mood of the party. But in order to build a real youth movement that can be a “seedbed of the left” and make a lasting and major change in UK society, local, constituency and branch-level Labour youth groups need to be built, as organisations for activism, political education and debate, and cultural life.

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A interview with Rida Vaquas, West Midlands rep on the newly elected Young Labour national committee

We shouldn’t understate the victory of the left slate. Previously we had a minority of regional representatives who regularly organised with the left. We now have won every position.

I think my campaign, on a firmly socialist and democratic basis, went well (I won!), but out of 3,000 young members in my region only 141 votes were cast. How does the left develop a truly mass democratic movement?

If the left wins at the conference, how much difference will it make?

This depends on the work we do. Socialists have to be extremely cautious of a new inert left bureaucracy replacing the bureaucracy of the right. Socialists should put in the work of grassroots mobilisation, of organising across the country.

A combative youth wing does not just come about by good people winning positions, but through the utilisation of those positions to facilitate action.

How can Young Labour increase participation and particularly working-class participation?

More work in trade unions, definitely. Also Young Labour needs to be embedded into local communities.

Currently to be involved in Young Labour usually requires travelling miles across a city or even across the country. That’s disengaging. We need genuinely local groups. Campaigning on issues that affect young people, being present in community campaigns, these are all things that affirm Young Labour’s relevance.

What should Young Labour be campaigning on?

To start with, on issues democratically decided by conference! Currently what happens is that we pass motions deciding our position… but no action is taken. For example: 45% of 25-34 year olds privately rent, up from 24% in 2004. Rent controls, tenants’ rights and the building of social housing are therefore critical policies. The crucial point is that we need to take policies seriously. A perfect political programme means nothing unless we organise to win it.

What changes are needed in the Young Labour structures?

One member one vote is a necessity now. A policy-making conference every year, in which motions can be submitted on any topic, not just on policy commissions decided centrally. NEC representatives should be mandated, by conference and by the National Committee.

What are the policy debates coming up at the conference?

Trident and free education. In both of these cases, we have a Labour Party leadership which is sympathetic and agrees with the left position, but a Parliamentary party which is hostile. These issues will be hotly contested by the Labour right. Supporting the junior doctors is also an important precedent for showing solidarity with industrial action, crucial in a time of trade union repression by the state.

How should the Young Labour left organise?

Absolutely in a democratic and open manner. Socialism can never sneak in through the backdoor, it announces itself proudly. To build a sustainable Young Labour left, we need formalised structures, in which people discuss ideas and learn how to organise. We need everyone to feel confident in doing organising work and debating their ideas out. Momentum Youth and Students can play a role, but only if it evolves from its current state, and calls a democratic conference open to all of the Young Labour left, in which constitution, structures and principles are decided, as a well as an elected committee.

What should the left do about expulsions of Labour activists?

Publicly oppose them, support comrades in fighting them. There is a strong historical tradition of revolutionary socialists in the Labour Party, but also a strong historical tradition of witch hunts. Expulsions of people who have supported and worked for Labour victories is an attack on the left as a whole.

“The EU referendum is about migration, basically” – interview with Michael Chessum

Michael Chessum is a member of the Momentum national steering committee and organiser for Another Europe is Possible.

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Another Europe is Possible was set up to be the radical “In” campaign in the referendum, going public in October last year.

People initially involved were left NGOs, like Global Justice Now, with a lot of Labour members but also a lot of Green Party support, and a lot of activists who’d been around in social movements in the past few years. We wanted to shift the whole debate to the left as well as persuade the left to go for “in”.

It’s been more difficult that we anticipated to get everyone on board. In the labour movement there is a reluctance to get involved on this issue. The big unions are slowly coming on board, but in a very general way. Jeremy Corbyn’s office is saying the right things, but not necessarily very loudly. There’s a need to bring new layers on board, with a more labour movement orientation.

We need a rank and file approach, or at least activist-based approach — go into every union branch you can, pass motions in support, get people involved. I don’t think we’re precious about being a centre for the radical “In” campaign — trade unions are doing their campaigning, Clive Lewis held his own meeting separate from the official Labour campaign, there is Workers Europe… but we need to develop a base, making this a topic of conversation in union branches and Labour Parties across the country.

Until the 7 May elections people will be just focused on those, legitimately so. The disenchanting nature of the debate is also a problem. But, still, we need to get organised now.

There is a London-wide AEIP student meeting co-hosted with the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts at the end of April. The key thing is not so much how students are going to vote, but getting them to turn out. Students are overwhelmingly for an “in” vote. Even in NUS, there was no real argument, the issue is the bureaucracy ignores calls for a left campaign.

What about the official Labour campaign?

The main argument I’ve seen it use online is, stay in the EU so we can barter better trade agreements with China and the US. That’s terrible from an internationalist perspective; it’s a pure ruling class and right-wing argument. And what does it mean from the perspective of workers? Free trade with America and China is part of capitalist globalisation, negotiating a better deal means our living standards and working conditions going down towards their levels. In some ways the Labour campaign is to the right of Britain Stronger in Europe. It’s very inactive.

At the launch of Clive Lewis’ initiative, which doesn’t have a name but was reported in the Financial Times, apparently Hilary Benn and lots of “moderate” Labour MPs were there and were congratulating it. So possibly they recognise problems with the official party campaign. That’s partly why the Labour right are going to Britain Stronger in Europe. And BSE are the only people doing public activity door-knocking and so on.

What about Momentum taking a position?

We will take a position at the 21 May national committee meeting. I imagine the two main positions will be campaigning to stay in, and not campaigning. There could be an “out” motion, but I don’t think there’s a serious Eurosceptic bloc. I imagine the supporter base, if you polled it, would be 80 per cent “In”. I think we will go for an “in”, which is positive, and meanwhile local groups should debate it.

Of course it’s not necessarily the top priority at the moment, given the election, the junior doctors strike and many other things, but the debate can start. Groups should get a speaker to the meeting, they can contact me.

What’s your assessment of the “out”left?

They seem incredibly weak. I recently had a debate with a Eurosceptic officer of a London Labour Club. What he was arguing was better than the Bennite position, quite lucid, but then the guy said, actually I’m not going to vote!

Some Momentum groups have polled their members and said things like, we’ll only take a position if it’s 75 per cent or more, and they got it for “in”. The Socialist Party isn’t what it was, certainly the SWP isn’t. You’ve got the RMT of course I guess in a way the biggest labour movement bloc for “out” is the trade union wing.

What arguments should we raise in the referendum?

A lot of people, who feel European, think that should be the focus for the “In” left. But I don’t think even people on the left feel European. That’s fine, but it’s not an argument in the referendum. This referendum is about migration, basically. If we lose freedom of movement, even on the lines we have now, it will be lost for a generation. Even a Corbyn government in 2020 would find it hard to re-establish it. So this is a referendum on migrants.

Of course we should make a pro-active case for a better Europe for a social Europe.

Doesn’t that idea need clarification? After all plenty of neoliberal social democrats say they support a social Europe.

Sure. The key thing in democracy, and workers rights. A workers Europe, a socialist Europe. But to be honest I’m not sure whether anyone takes the German SPD’s arguments seriously. Also this is not a concept or a phrase that has been used much in Britain. We have open territory to define the argument.

We need to talk about pan-European solidarity. If a Corbyn government is going to have a chance it will need to have a Podemos government in Spain, a left-wing Greek government, a left-wing French government. Socialism can only be a trans-national project and if we withdraw from Europe it’s less likely.

There is a very direct defensive argument here too; about what will happen to migrants and to British politics. The only thing the nationalist left has to counterpose to that is dubious arguments about leaving making it easier to carry out left-wing policies, which are just absurd from a class-struggle point of view. The EU is a bosses club? So is every country in the EU, so is Britain.

If this is a choice between two capitalist options why not abstain?

Because this is a clear cut choice, one side needs to win, and the left needs to be relevant. This isn’t simply a split in the ruling class, though it is that, but it also has very clear impacts for us, for our movement, for the working class.

If Britain leaves the EU we will lose limited free movement, our workers will lose certain protections, and most importantly it will be a mandate for the right wing of the Tory party and UKIP to run riot in their attacks on migrants but also with turbocharged austerity.

There’s an idea on the left that after an “out” vote we can somehow define the vote, but there won’t be that discussion. it will be a victory for Nigel Farage. This is not an issue we can stay neutral on.

MOTION OF THE MONTH: Oppose the Trade Union Bill, demand workers’ rights

righttostrike

This motion was passed at Forest Hill ward Labour Party to go forward to Lewisham West and Penge CLP in February. Please put a version of it in your ward / CLP.

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STAND UP FOR WORKERS’ RIGHTS

This branch notes

1. The vicious attack on workers’ rights and trade unions that the Tory government has unleashed with its Trade Union Bill.
2. That in addition to even more severely curtailing the right to strike, and criminalising many forms of trade union activity, the Bill also attacks unions’ ability to organise and fund a political voice, including the vital link between the unions and our party.
3. That party conference voted unanimously for strong opposition to the law, for the next Labour government to repeal it, and also for the repeal of earlier laws passed by the Thatcher government to limit workers’ rights – including the ban on solidarity action.

Believes

1. That workers’ rights, including an effective right to strike, are essential both to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests and to democracy.
2. That the Tories are blatant hypocrites, requiring 40 percent or more for a strike though their party took office with the support of less than 25 percent of the electorate.

Resolves

1. To campaign locally on this issue using the party’s petition against the Bill, which has already been signed by 340,000 people.
2. To strengthen our campaigning links with local trade unions and support their struggles.
3. To work with Unions Together, affiliated unions and other grass roots organisations in order to promote this campaign.
4. To call on the next Labour government to repeal the Trade Union Bill if it passes, repeal all the anti-trade union laws passed by the 1979-1997 Tory governments, and introduce a strong, positive charter of workers’ rights: to unionise, win union recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket, take solidarity action and take political action.
5. To promote this position through the party, in [the constituency] and beyond.

Councillors should resist cuts! Speech from Lewisham Momentum meeting

On 9 November, Lewisham for Corbyn – Momentum (a local Corbyn supporters’ group in South London) organised a packed debate on Labour councils and cuts. The two speakers, councillor Luke Sorba and Sacha Ismail, were both Momentum supporters but argued different positions. This is Sacha’s speech.

Momentum
(Luke Sorba addressing the debate)

After the Tories first came back to office in 2010, some Labour council leaderships talked about campaigning against the cuts in local government spending they imposed. Gradually that faded to almost nothing. More recently Labour councils have kept quiet, not even demanding that a future Labour government restore the funding they have lost – not even in the run up to the general election. So much for seriously wanting to stop cuts!

By and large, the Tories got the cuts they wanted. Some Labour councils did it in a slightly better way, making positive changes around the edges of making cuts, while others went more enthusiastically with the flow. But all Labour councils made massive cuts.

Councils lost about a quarter of their funding during the Coalition government. Now we are facing the same order of attack again, meaning complete social devastation. Either we find a new approach, or Labour councils will be reduced even more purely to local administrators of the Tories’ demolition job on our communities.

Instead Labour councillors should refuse to make cuts, defy the Tories’ plans, and help mobilise the labour movement and the community to defeat them.

There are no guarantees of victory, but both logic and historical examples suggest that such a struggle could be successful. Moreover, the risks are smaller than they once were, and while the Tories would have many advantages in such a battle, our side would have many advantages too.

So far I’ve spoken in quite general terms. Let me explain more concretely.

Sometimes the alternative is described as setting a “deficit budget”. I think that’s misleading or a red herring. Councils can borrow money in the same way individuals can, but unlike central government, they cannot operate in a sustained way on the basis of a deficit, borrowing more or less at will or printing money. Nonetheless, they are large organisations with complex finances which give them quite a bit of leeway. They can cut top management salary and perks and scrap wasteful spending like using agency workers and consultants. They can sell non-service-providing commercial assets. They can juggle accounts to move spending items from one financial year to the next. They can begin to run down reserves.

Obviously, by themselves, such financial gambits are not a long term strategy – they can only buy a relatively short amount of time. The point is that this time could be used to mobilise a fight. Councillors should mobilise alongside council and other workers, council tenants and the wider community in a campaign to demand the funding taken in cuts is restored.

If the council took a lead, the response would almost certainly be very big. Demonstrations, strikes, rent strikes, residents withholding council tax, the council withholding certain payments to the government and many other things could all be tried. The aim should be mounting pressure to force concessions from the Tories, push them to back down, and create the best possible conditions for their replacement by a Labour government committed to fully refunding services.

In place of the current refusal of most councillors to even discuss cuts in their local Labour Parties, councillors should help to build and integrate themselves as a part of a democratic anti-cuts movement which discusses, debates and decides how to pursue and escalate the campaign against the government. They should call a democratic local labour movement conference to discuss what to do. If councillors want to argue there is no option but to accept cuts, why not argue it in the broad movement in the most open possible way?

In my view councillors will have little credibility with workers, tenants and the community unless they themselves take a stand against the government by refusing to vote for cuts. That is why things like cutting top management pay are so important – they would go nowhere near plugging the funding gap, but they would show Labour is politically serious. Unfortunately instead we have Labour councils which continue to pay huge salaries at the top, use consultants, private services, academise schools and so on.

If any significant number of Labour councils defied the Tories in the way I have described, refused to make cuts, and mobilise a big campaign, the government would have to retreat quickly. If even one council took a stand, the Tories would have a serious fight on their hands. And of course, one council taking a stand would make a serious national movement much more likely.

The only two Labour councils in the past which took a strong stand of defiance against a Tory government and stood firm in the face of attempts to crush them – Poplar in East London in the 1920s and Clay Cross in Derbyshire in the 1970s – both won.

The kind of thing I’m advocating should have been done beginning in 2010-11, but it could still be done now.

What are the risks? No major struggle is risk free but in some respects the risks are smaller than they used to be. The Tories can no longer jail councillors, as they did during the Poplar struggle, or heavily fine and bankrupt them, as they did in Clay Cross.

The Secretary of State for Local Government has wide powers to send in commissioners to try to take over and run a council. This is often presented as a terrible threat – it is argued or implied that commissioners would wreck services which Labour councillors are currently protecting. I think this is highly dubious – firstly because in fact Labour councils are currently carrying out the big bulk of the cuts the Tories want anyway, and secondly because in fact such commissioners would not be in a strong position.

Imagine unelected commissioners being sent by the Tories to take over a Labour council elected with a massive majority, attempting to impose cuts on defiant councillors and council workers, and a mobilised local community. If they did send commissioners, which they might well be reluctant to do, the resulting situation could be very difficult for them indeed – in fact it might well provoke a wave of even greater defiance and militancy. Remember the response in Lewisham when the Tories’ hatchet men tried to shut down the A&E and maternity unit?

As I said, none of this would be risk free and victory would be far from guaranteed. But the only alternative is passively overseeing and being complicit in devastating damage wreaked on our communities.

One last comment. I think it is very unlikely that any Labour councils or even many councillors will adopt such a stance until there is a groundswell of grassroots support for it in the labour movement and Labour Party. In the first instance that means building a strong anti-cuts movement to fight the cuts regardless of what councillors do, building unity across the left and labour movement in that fight. Secondly it means making the arguments about what councils should do with urgency. As things stand, though, it seems very likely that in the coming year all Labour councils will make cuts and the overwhelming majority of Labour councillors will vote for them. Some on the left will argue that it is therefore necessary to stand council candidates against Labour, for instance as TUSC.

I don’t think that follows at all. Getting a tiny vote and simultaneously excluding yourself from the political battles currently going on in the Labour Party will not help the cause of fighting the cuts. We need to fight the cuts regardless of what Labour councils do, but we also need to fight in the party to demand councillors take a stand as part of that struggle – even if it takes a while to win the argument.