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NPF policy responses: International

A critique of Labour’s NPF International Policy Commission Document.

Before looking at the very limited content of this International Policy consultation document, a word on its methodology. The provision of extremely short, and what are obviously seen by its authors (from their entirely neoliberal status quo mindset) as deliberately non-controversial “motherhood and apple pie” bland statements in all these “consultation documents”, interleaved with the asking of a wide range of  hugely broad general questions, is a quite deliberate abdication by the authors. Their task is to actually assemble facts, analyse them, relate them to the Corbyn Leadership outline policy proposals that secured his victory, and then offer a range of amended policy proposals for comment by the members and the public. There is no evidence whatsoever that the NPF’s authors take any notice of the submissions made to them.

So what is going on here?  I think that the clear game plan of the overwhelmingly right and centre majority NPF members can only be that they are determined to “see out” Jeremy’s term as Party Leader, by procrastinating and ensuring the policy development process is entirely  fruitless and circular. Having said that I have nevertheless reviewed the short International Policy document, for what it does say, but equally significantly, what it does not.

Defence – the missing review topic

This document should of course also be examining UK defence policy as part of this broad “International policy” area, and even claims to have “looked specifically at Britain’s defence and security priorities in 2016”. Really? Most of us will recall that the highly controversial Emily Thornbury defence review that set out with such a radically broad remit in January 2016, was in fact abandoned amidst open civil war in the PLP! And so Labour is actually not going to examine defence policy at all, but is still stuck with the continuation of Labour’s Blair/Brown/Miliband era defence policies, supporting US global objectives unconditionally, and the wasting of around £100bn on the unusable white elephant, the Trident nuclear ballistic missile system. Nevertheless, although defence isn’t specifically a core topic for this document, the writers choose, unwisely I think, to sneer at the Tory record on defence:

“They claim to be the party of defence , yet they have slashed and miss-spent the defence budget…” (p3). This is very cheeky indeed from Labour. Read my previous Left Futures article on Defence Policy of January 31st , “It’s time for Labour to take defence policy seriously” to see just how utterly implicated past Labour governments have been in the grossly miss-spent, dysfunctional Defence budget. Given the decade or more long “lead-in time” for every major defence programme it is the Blair/Brown Labour government’s originally responsible for pretty much every disastrous decision made in recent UK defence procurement.  In fact the consequences of the disastrous commissioning by Labour of the two totally useless Queen Elizabeth Class mega sized aircraft carriers I refer to in my previous article, has just got a lot worse, with The Times reporting on March 16th (behind the paywall I’m afraid ) in an article “Warship’s launch is delayed amid fears over rising costs”, that not only are the costs still totally out of control, along with their American F35 jets, but the current sea trials of the first carrier are proving hugely problematic technologically! And it now turns out, despite denials from the embarrassed MOD, that all seven of the UK fleet of Astute and Trafalgar class nuclear powered attack submarines are currently out of service due to ongoing faulty design and poor build quality-caused  problems!

The key areas covered in the 2017 Consultation Document – The EU and Brexit.

Labour’s NPF has no real analysis or view of the EU in any way different from, for instance, the Liberal Democrats, or most pro EU Tories. It has nothing to say about the impact of the entirely neoliberal “Four Freedoms” on the UK economically or socially, or any analysis or criticism of the overall core neoliberal nature of the EU project. The ongoing crucifying of the Greek economy and its Left Syriza government by the EU/IMF Troika is of no interest to this review.  There is apparently nothing requiring to be said about the EU signing up to the recent, entirely multinational Big Business favouring CETA trade deal with Canada (and via US subsidiaries in Canada, the US), or the EU’s highly secretive attempt over 10 years to sign all its members up to the even worse TTIP deal. The document quite deliberately (mis)represents the EU as an entirely progressive organisation, just concerned with that apparently value-neutral activity of “trade”. Hence the document repeatedly makes that slippery, and actually entirely bogus, distinction between “Theresa May’s Hard Brexit” and the supposedly better Labour option of “soft Brexit”, which claims to only involve the UK “maximising its access to commercial markets” . The fact that “Soft Brexit”, ie, staying in the neoliberal Single Market, actually requires the continued adherence to the neoliberal EU Four Freedoms, including total Free Movement/unlimited labour supply and other rigid rules which would make even the most basic “Corbynist” Left Keynsian interventionist economic programme impossible, is clearly unworthy of note!

The EU is described as an unconditional global agency of peace, democracy, liberal values, and progress. The actual empire-building aggression of the EU in fomenting and encouraging the takeover of the Ukrainian state by a Far Right neoliberal oligarch clique backed by numerous openly fascist militias, a key causal feature of the now still “hot” civil conflict between the western and eastern Ukraine rival statelets, and their respective EU/US and Russian backers, is apparently unknown to the document’s EU enthusiasts. Similarly, and this emerges again in the section on US relations and NATO, the hugely provocative major global conflict endangering role of both the EU and its effective armed wing, NATO, in the Baltic States, and right across the EU/Russia border interface, is never hinted at.

The transatlantic relationship 

This part of Labour’s document is utterly lacking in any analysis beyond restating the unlimited loyalty to US global hegemony that Labour has shared with all the mainstream parties since 1945, and the emergence of US imperialism as the capitalist global hegemon. In fact the document, strangely for a supposed “policy” consultation exercise, seems mainly aimed at short term point scoring vis a vis Theresa’s May’s scuttle across to the US to glad hand the unpredictable maverick new President, Donald Trump.  Apparently, Labour’s main beef is that Trump “doesn’t appear to share British values” .  These “values” are summarised as being “respect for the rights of women and minorities and a strong commitment to democracy, freedom of the press and the rule of law”. Anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of even only 20th century and more recent  US and British imperialist history would be forgiven for laughing outright at such a whitewashed self-congratulatory caricature of the reality of the US and UK on the world stage!

There is no broad political analysis of the Trump Presidency beyond these simplistic , liberal, platitudes, or indeed the quite clear highly dangerous continuation under Trump of the recently adopted “pacific rim reorientation” of US Defence focus under Obama, to ever more globally significant  highly perilous growing confrontation with China, particularly in the South China Sea area. A confrontation the Tory government has been keen to participate in, with a recent dispatch of UK Typhoon  fighter bombers to Japan and longer term plans for our white elephant new aircraft carriers to be “part of the action”,! Labour hasn’t apparently noticed! Also, whilst sneering at Theresa May’s attempt to stitch up a quick new US/UK trade deal, the document has nothing to say (or perhaps even remember ?) about the toxic TTIP deal that Labour was so openly keen on in its 2015 Manifesto, and which was so overly favourable to the interests of globalised multinational corporations as against democratic nation state governments, that even the demagogic Right populist, Trump, had to cancel the deal at the US end to satisfy the very legitimate concerns of his large (white) blue collar supporter base.

Labour’s vision for international development

This focusses narrowly on the need for the UK to safeguard its international development budget – as against Tory cuts, and their increasing use of this budget as a component of UK “power projection” quasi military spending. All very nice, but the problem with this conveniently narrow focus is that the document has deliberately ignored so many other key areas in which the UK actively facilitates the impoverishment of the “Third World” via its policies and institutions. A good example being the UK’s tolerance of key global tax havens in its overseas dependancies . Similarly the UK, (mainly the City of London banking sector) is a key global centre for money laundering and the hiding of wealth looted from the Third World by their corrupt rulers and criminal gangs. The Overseas Aid budget is important, but frankly a drop in the ocean compared to the global impoverishment enabled by these two UK structures alone. The document doesn’t want to be seen as “anti business”, so these vital areas are left uncovered.

Playing to Britain’s strengths

Lastly the article provides some superficial upbeat flattery about the “peace and justice” promoting role of UK diplomatic services and our “global networking role” (for peace, justice and all things progressive). It says “at a time of rising nationalism and protectionism, the UK must draw on these unique strengths to be a champion of multilateralism, diplomacy, and conflict resolution…” All nice sentiments – but a big retreat from any idea of a real ethical foreign policy which, for instance, aims to positively prevent UK sourced arms sales to regimes which are oppressing their people, or engaged in aggressive war. So there is no comment on the undoubtedly profitable, but also demonstrably hugely destructive to innocent lives, “sell weapons to anyone” Tory policy, which has armed the Saudi theocratic dictatorship in their murderous proxy war with Iran in the Yemen. Or any criticism of the current UK government turning a blind eye to any dictatorial regime oppressing its people, where there is “business to be done”, whether in Burma or Turkey, or the Gulf states, or anywhere. No Robin Cook-style “ethical foreign policy” commitment or even proposal from this policy document!

Conclusion

No-one who has been following the various NPF policy consultations should treat it as a genuine consultative policy development process which takes fully into account, and tries to adjust policy in line with, the huge Leftward  political shift in Labour membership policy desires that the 2015 and 2016 Leadership victories of Jeremy Corbyn represents. The NPF “consultation process” is utterly lacking in background research or political analysis beyond the restatement of the dominant neoliberal narrative, methodologically barren, forever putting forward  bland statements on policy which never step beyond the narratives of the Blair/Brown/Miliband years, and asking broad brush questions which secure unstructured policy submissions which are then simply ignored.  The NPF process is a con,  deliberately structured to preserve Labour’s entire “policy bundle” as it was at the 2015 Election, whilst the Right and Centre work tirelessly to get rid of Corbyn, then to return  to “business as usual”.

24 Comments

  1. C MacMackin says:

    Very good analysis, John. Do you know if there are there any plans underway to come up with an actual, substantive, international policy submission?

  2. JohnP says:

    I understand that work is in train by the CLPD to get teams of comrades together in each topic area to work up credible alternative policy documents, C Mack. A vital task for the Left.

    Secondly, there is a glitch in the hyperlink in my article to my earlier article on defence policy (and in a typo I slightly mistitled it too, oops !). It can be accessed here https://www.leftfutures.org/2017/01/its-time-for-the-left-to-take-uk-defence-policy-seriously/

  3. Robin Edwards says:

    What the labour movement needs is a programme for working class power and the transition to socialism that offers the whole of society a route out of the capitalist dissolution.

  4. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Sadly I believe there are probably a lot like myself that did not take part in the NPF farce because we knew that the people associated with it would ignore any genuine responses that did not match their bullet points.

    In essence until Tom Watson goes, the alliance against Jeremy Corbyn will stifle everything they can get their hands on.

    We do have to be patient in the meantime and organise as many delegates to conference that will remove the barriers that stand in our way.

    We in this country have deluded ourselves into thinking we are a world power, we still think military might is fundamental to our well being, in reality the last fifty years and even further back to the end of the last war, we have been the puppets on a string to our masters in Washington.

    When we look at other European countries is it any wonder that their economies are more stable than ours,(our readiness to engage in America’s wars) all we have today is the City of London as a bulwark against abject poverty, which by it’s very nature is actually the creator of poverty.

    Poverty is a political policy, which enriches those that are already rich and the evidence is there to prove it.

    Socialism works and capitalism doesn’t, this link to the Mondragon Cooperative spells out how people can create wealth and redistribute it. This process has created a world wide phenomena started back in 1954 by only 6 people and today stands with employees around the world totalling 74,000. In truth before the crash they had reached 106,000 workers in the organisation but was forced to cut back because the market had collapsed and left them with no other alternative.

    http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/eng/

    When we combine money creation with people the process seen under this cooperative movement can rapidly change the way people think and act. I have in fact visited this coop in the Basque country of Spain, and they told me they are in the business of creating profit to create jobs, and that is their core aim.

    Needless to say they have their own schools, University (where local people choose to send their children to), hospitals and medical facilities etc., all owned and run by the workers of the coop.

    I am not advocating that we should emulate this coop although it is a magnificent institution, but highlight what is possible when people are dedicated to overcoming problems in the face of adversity.

    In short, with a government with this kind of will, can transform a declining economy into a vibrant society that works for all. This can be achieved very quickly because unlike the Basque people who started life under the fascist dictator Franco, and not being an industrial area had to learn the basic essentials as they progressed.

  5. Bazza says:

    Yes the NPF was set up by Blair et al as a fig leaf for internal democracy to be completely ignored but until we can get rid of it can try contributing and get lefties on it – some have been nominated already for this for this year’s Conference.
    But you do need somone/a group to put something together to stimulate discussion as something to agree or amend, enrich and add to.
    I would appeal for it to be in simple language and brief like our policies so we can communicate with millions – not bloody War and Peace! (perhaps a fault of the Left!)
    All we need is 12 or so action bullet points per JC’s statements but I think John is correct perhaps the vacuous Right are deliberately kicking policy into the long grass because it suits the vacuous who are devoid of ideas and have nothing to say.
    I did think of having elected working parties by topic say housing and have 20 or so with all housing tenure reps covered and perhaps some spaces for housing campaigners and academics and give them strict deadlines for coming up with 12 brief bulletin points by and the group can liaise on-line but it is also about getting the best ideas passed as resolutions by Conference too.
    What is frustrating is I bet a few of us on here could come up with 12 bullet point action points per the latest 8 topic areas over a bloody
    weekend!
    I have had my comprehensive (to an extent) housing policies passed at my branch for the CLP!
    Anyway a few comments re John’s post (and the non-lefties are not adverse to adopting good ideas – the centre left Brownites took may idea of funding overseas placements in less developed countries for working class kids as it was often only middle class kids who could afford to participate and this was carried out).
    DEFENCE
    * complete overall procurement.
    * smart conventional defence for 21st C after initiating consultations with military, academics, rank and files of services.
    * Trident – multi-lateralism has produced no movement – options:
    (a) 100% end trident?
    (b) 95% reduction?
    (c) 75% reduction?
    (d) 50% reduction?
    (e) 25% reduction?
    (f) 100% retain trident?
    My heart with (a) head with (b) but could live (a).
    * Ethical arms deals – 10 point checklist including “will not use military equipment against own people” etc. etc. which Govts have to pass, fail one and feck off!
    EU
    * Control labour supply.
    * Control capital supply (want good, not bad).
    * Negotiate deals Right to Remain UK EC migrants here and our citizens in rest of EC.
    * Negotiate deals – HE including exchanges, border security and policing, joint R&D, access to tariff free EC market paying lump sum instead of individual businesses but not on Neo-Liberal terms.
    US & GLOBAL PEACE
    *Have independent foreign policy and not one which when the US says “Jump!” we say “How High?”
    * We are told certain countries are enemies and who benefits but the capitalist military-industrial complex (particularly in the US) so we should talk to the so-called “Rogues” working people of no country are our enemies – could we set up a World Alliance to replace NATO?
    * Overseas aid – kick Neo-Liberal promotion out of this and genuinely empower less developed countries to own their own development and by the way £10b to Greece so they have at least basic foods and medicines would be a good act of solidarity and return the Elgin Marbles!
    Yours in peace & international solidarity!

  6. David Pavett says:

    John is right, this is an awful document. Was it written by a young SPAD hoping to make his/her way up the greasy pole?

    I really dislike the overtones of “make Britain great again” with “Labour made the UK a world leader …”, “The case for continued UK Leaderdhip is clear” and do on.

    There is not the slightest hint in the document that global capitalism is subverting the democracy of states around the world or that there is a clear clash of intersts between between working people and those who seek to exploit them to the maximum extent possible. The clear wish of the authors of the document is for us to seek to remain under the umbrella of the US on the world stage

    Chris M is right, though, that we need to move on swiftly from critique to constructive alternstives. Let’s hope that John is right and that the CLPD is in the process of doing just that.

  7. John Walsh says:

    Re DP para above beginning “There is not the slightest hint in the document …”, just to emphasise the important point made here: there is no point in writing policy documents if they are devoid of politics.

    The bland NPF docs are necessarily bland in order to stifle the left (as JP points out) – if they contained a sense of a political philosophy that would be the issue we’d argue with. Instead, they are written to prevent political thinking, they’re ‘cleverly’ written to orient the focus on keeping us bogged down in content details.

    As such, surely a crucial task here is to reinsert a political philosophy into policy documents? To try and provide an example of this, what JP has written tends to have a particularly overt political philosophy – I take issue with the philosophy (does it contain anachronisms?) but it’s great that it’s there. In contrast, what CM has produced has tended to not confront the political issues (obviously, he’ll have to argue the toss and have the last say! …).

    Of course, a problem with wanting to have policy documents that are guided by and are consistent with a coherent political philosophy is that on the left it’s not a good time for a coherent political philosophy. Without it, though, is it possible to provide a constructive alternative?

  8. JohnP says:

    I assume, like me, most comrades have just had an EMAIL invitation from John McDonnell to:

    “OUR annual national ‘State of the Economy’ conference in central Birmingham on Saturday 20 May.
    Jeremy Corbyn put the need for an economy that works for all at the heart of his successful leadership campaign. Over the next year we’ll be helping to build on this vision by discussing more detailed proposals for the next General Election.

    As part of that conversation, I asked a number of experts from the world of economics and beyond to join me in a series of regional one-day conferences to lay out the policies our country needs to build a future where prosperity is shared, and where no one and no community is left behind. This includes discussions of how a Labour government can make a real difference to your area.”

    It’s “deja vu – all over again “! So rather than really getting down to the massively overdue serious task of working up a credible Left Economic Strategy/Programme, McDonnell is persisting with yet another vacuous celebrity economists roadshow. Surely we all remember that soon after the last one many of the celebrity economists involved promptly denounced Jeremy Corbyn and all his policies during the 2016 PLP Coup !

    Big conferences , and speeches from celebrity (usually firmly non socialist,bourgeois Keynsians) economists are OK for general propaganda ( but only assuming the celebrity economists are anti Austerity Left Wing socialists) but definitely NOT a serious platform for detailed policy development.

    No serious Left economic strategy will emerge from this distraction. McDonnell is therefore quite deliberately choosing trivial roadshow posturing over serious policy development. This is an utter, unforgivable, tragedy for the Labour Left – when the NPF “economic policy document” clearly shows the “maintain a policy void – for the neoliberal status quo to fill” strategy of the NPF Right and Centre majority.

    1. Peter Rowlands says:

      It wouldn’t be so bad if the ‘Economics Roadshow’was designed as part of a strategy to produce a comprehensive policy, but that was not the case last year,and we cannot be optimistic about this year,although perhaps submissions from Left Futures, CLPD and others might lead to a more positive outcome.

  9. John Walsh says:

    Contrast: “This is an utter, unforgivable, tragedy for the Labour Left” (JP above) with …

    “I used to find politics uninspiring and didn’t think it was for people like me. But that all changed when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. His policies are just plain common sense to me: everyone should pay their fair share of tax, big businesses shouldn’t be making profit out of our NHS and the government should invest in house building programmes.” (Momentum email)

    The latter is another one of those “it’s all so inspiring” Momentum messages, this time from a new member lucky enough to have shared a platform with McDonnell at Momentum’s ‘conference’ last weekend – “it was amazing”.

    The point is that while members on here see the left opportunity evaporating, to a large degree because of the lack of policy development, there is an alternative narrative from Lansman-Momentum and no doubt among new members on social media – we have our 10 pledges, it’s all ‘common sense’, onwards and upwards (etc.).

    Is it the case there is a need to construct a ‘why we need policy development’ narrative? As bizarre as this may sound to some, it’s easy to see how JC and JM have a social media comfort zone, that important work needs to be done in unpicking the “we’re making steady progress” narrative?

    1. JohnP says:

      When the utterly unexpected “Corbyn insurgency” occurred in 2015 (as part of the Europe post 2008 Crash wide anti Austerity “Left Surge) I’m sure most experienced, battle-scarred, old socialists , shared my bemusement – as to where on earth all these hundreds of thousands of apparently radical socialists had been hiding for the last 30 years !

      Today, the harsh reality must be clear to everybody – the bulk of those who flocked (mainly passively online , or attending the odd Corbyn rally) to support “Corbynism” in the two Leadership contests are not “socialists” in any meaningful sense at all. They are, politically, mainly well meaning Left-leaning liberals – with no understanding of the capitalist nature of our society at all , or the neoliberal privatised path the UK is firmly set on today – and no counter narrative ,collectivist, vision of a radical state-intervention led comprehensive planning based democratic socialist alternative type of society – even of a 1945 to 1980’s mild “Butskellite” mixed economy form.

      This leaves most of the newer “Corbyn wave” entrants to the Labour Party ideologically disarmed against the neoliberal policy agenda supported by the Right and Centre. In fact too many “Corbynites” have actually absorbed an entire raft of slippery faux radical “bleed over” policies from the 30 year neoliberal hegemony, with a “leftish” gloss added. The current fad of “Citizens Income” and the uncritical liberal belief in the sanctity of total freedom of Movement/unlimited labour supply, and the uncritical widespread belief across the liberal Left that the EU is some sort of “progressive” institution, being examples of this ideological poverty.

      Without a radical comprehensive transformational democratic socialist policy agenda , linked to at least a basic understanding of the capitalist current reality, and the alternative socialist society possible beyond the marketplace, there can be little effective mass radical political action to oppose Austerity and the utter destruction of our Welfare State.

      It is going to be a long struggle to rebuild that socialist consciousness on a mass scale.

      1. Mervyn Hyde says:

        Absolutely agree John, but can you now bullet point the essential items on your agenda for the transformation of Britain.

        I would also add the Neo-Liberal response would be how do we fund it? As you constantly deride my formula for paying our way, perhaps you could put some meat on your proposals.

        1. JohnP says:

          I refer you to the number of articles on Comprehensive Economic Planning, and the motion on a Socialist Economic Policy I wrote (with Danny Nicol) for Left Futures, and the excellent Alternative Economic Strategy 2012 Document I have repeatedly referred to .

          A Left government would pay for a Left Economic Programme using the usual methods , ie, taxation (and closing tax loopholes), borrowing, and SOME “Peoples Quantitative Easing” money printing (within the limits of inflationary consequences at the time) , encouragement/enforcement of companies to use their profits for investment, not speculation, saving £200bn on Trident. The only thing a government can’t do is simply print UNLIMITED amounts of its currency to fund it all. But I’ve explained that many times – and you still remain true to your Positive Money belief system.

          1. John Walsh says:

            Surely, spelled out by JP and MH, here is the central issue for ALL policy development – every element of a socialist program for transforming Britain (or just making it a bit better) will be instantly felled in the media by “how are you going to fund that?” (this might be why McDonnell has given up – he’s fed up with providing / can’t provide a response).

            The “positive money” stance will be trashed as fairytale economics (and punished by the money markets) / funding via the “usual methods” will not be swallowed by those hordes of well meaning left-leaning liberals, never mind the rest, such is the stranglehold of the neoliberal mantra “the economy is like a household, so we have to be prudent”.

            To my mind, here is where we should be focussing effort – not on policies as if they could be funded, because as things stand they can’t be.

            Of course, for many, this is the realm of the leadership. They are the people who devise ‘presentation’. Fair enough, but is the problem far greater than presentation and in any event who has confidence in the current leadership on this? Maybe that was always unrealistic – should we expect JC and JM to unpick 30 odd years of the neoliberal project ingraining a mindset? No, and that’s why we need to understand where to focus our efforts.

          2. Mervyn Hyde says:

            Thank you John, that has been my objective for years now, if we constantly talk in Neo-Liberal terms of how the economy is supposed to work instead of how it actual works, then all we do is to perpetuate that mythology.

            This is the latest blog from one of my favourite economists, Bill Mitchell who talks about Marie Le Pen’s economic policies. I listened to her on News Night last night and to my astonishment heard her expressing coherent views on our relationship with Russia and economics. That goes without saying as does Bill Mitchell that hearing her views doesn’t mean support for her Fascist policies.

            This blog covers those areas which concern how we manage money creation:

            http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=35655#more-35655

          3. JohnP says:

            You are very pessimistic. There simply isn’t any problem funding a radical Left Keynian economic programme, John Walsh. Regardless of the predictable hostile market response. The mass medias will rubbish it, but with a lot of professional help from Left economists such a programme can be both outline costed and justified.

            The problem is that Labour has done NONE of the require costings because it has no , even mildly radical Left Keynsian UK regeneration Programme to cost. If the Left is too frightened of the reaction of the billionaire owned mass media to create an alternative economic programme which challenges Austerity, there is no point in us carrying on.

            Attlee’s 1945 government was in charge of a bankrupt, war-torn country, with a press just as vitriolicaly hostile as today – but they built the NHS and laid the basis for the wider Welfare State.

            There are perfectly economically rational, easily fundable, Left Keynsian strategies available for Labour . We just have to want to grasp them.

          4. C MacMackin says:

            Of course, the key difference between the Attlee government and what we face today is the social conditions. Attlee was elected at a time when capital had been ravaged by the war and the state was really the only credible actor which could start to rebuild. There was also a mass, militant labour movement and the apparent example of the Soviet Union (however rotten that system was in actuality). We have none of that today, which would leave a Left government in a weaker position.

            I am certainly not saying that we should give up on this project or that we should refrain from developing Left policy. Rather, I’m saying that it will be equally important, and probably more difficult, to organise people in workplaces and elsewhere so that they are capable of forcing such policies on capital. I honestly don’t think we can acheive this by 2020, but maybe we could make some decent progress by 2025.

  10. John Walsh says:

    What I hear from this conversation is the value in reorienting the Leftfutures focus on policy – instead of solely aiming to influence the NPF (by writing better policy) or devise motions for conference (CLPD?), the acid test for policy ideas should be the reception by the membership, especially those neoliberal infused new members.

    Yes, the idea of appealing to the new members rankles with long-time comrades but they are a ready-made focus group for taking socialist ideas to the wider electorate. The right are very happy with Leftfutures efforts spent on attempts to influence the NPF or devise Conference motions – they are battles on their turf.

    Appeals to the new member mindset is an altogether different challenge. The reoriented Lansman-Momentum is especially disappointing given the sole focus on foot soldier training. Again, the value of considering the new member mindset as an ideological battleground (which the right can’t control) has been ignored.

    I don’t pretend to know how to make this happen but when John P is saying “it is going to be a long struggle to rebuild that socialist consciousness on a mass scale” I feel we are closer to defining the job at hand.

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      I have made the point many times in my local constituency that we need to educate our own before they go out to convince others.

      This is someone locally I know personally, that has taken the Bull by the Horns and produced this video.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rUk-r0G1eQ

  11. Peter Rowlands says:

    I generally agree with John’s article, except on the EU where I do not think it is politically possible to hold any other position than Labour’s current one, for reasons I have spelt out.
    At the least Labour should commit itself to a thorough review of defence policy, NATO, the transatlantic relationship and aid. It is possible that the advent of Trump may facilitate a more positive
    scenario in this regard than previously.

    1. Christopher MacMackin says:

      In fairness to John, this article does not explicitly call on Labour to reject the EU, but rather to acknowledge the very problematic aspects of it, as it currently exists. Even if our goal is to stay in the EU to reform it, we need to start by acknowledging these problems if we are to know what we need to change.

      1. JohnP says:

        You are “behind the current political reality curve” , C. Mac. The goal of “staying in the EU to reform it” was yesterday’s slogan – a quite persuasive position Jeremy took during the Referendum.

        However , The Referendum majority clearly voted to LEAVE the EU, and as Jeremy Corbyn very carefully explained to Andrew Neil a few days ago, Labour’s position (well, OK, make that Jeremy’s position ) is that “Labour respects the Referendum result, and will now work to ensure the best possible UK ACCESS to the Single Market, and to defend UK employment and other rights against the Tory neoliberal free marketeers”.

        Now this is supposedly the Labour Right and Centre’s position too, but the Keir Starmer Six conditions make it clear that in fact they are determined to try and stay IN the neoliberal Single Market (even they have probably given up on the full cream EU membership) – a position little different in reality from the Lib Dems, Greens, and SNP. All seem to hope some sort of “UK economic catastrophe” on a short timescale causes an extraordinary change of heart by the UK public, and a new mass wish to beg Mr Tusk on bended knee for rapid re-admittance – or even cancellation of Article 50 .

        The “Stay in and reform it” chimera boat has sailed – even if that daft idea of imminent economic catastrophe happened – as beloved of middle class Guardianistas everywhere (“that’ll teach the knuckle-dragging fascist lower orders from their ghastly estates having the temerity to venture out from their uneducated squalor to cast their Referendum votes – against our supremely well-informed wishes !” copywrite Polly Toynbee or any Guardian journalist. ), the Labour Right and Centre, the Lib Dems, the SNP, have no interest whatsoever in reforming the neoliberal EU, or its Single Market in any way. They love it, and the endless insider privileges it bestows on their class, and their children , just as it is.

        1. Christopher MacMackin says:

          I was saying nothing either way about what the UK should do regarding the EU (my position is probably closer to yours than Peter Rowland’s). I was simply pointing out that even those who think Britain should stay in the EU need to acknowledge its problems.

        2. David Pavett says:

          It is strange that left Brexiters tend to take such a strident line to the effect “We’ve had the vote, a majority were for leave, end of story, stop talking about it.”

          I voted for Remain on balance of the arguments. I thought the whole idea of the referendum was a democratic absurdity. I thought the bulk of the arguments used on both sides were a joke.

          I also think that if the 20th century taught us anything it should be that political life can be full of surprises and that we should always be ready for the unexpected. People who confidently know what the future will be like and the very ones we should not listen to.

          So, while I have no expectations one way or the other as to what the shape of the final deal will look like to Parliament and to that section of the population that cares to follow events I would predict nothing.

          The idea that a flawed election process must decide an issue once and for all strikes me as ridiculous. So I am with C Mack on this.

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