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Continuing the Corbyn momentum – relaunching the Labour Left

Keep LeftOn 12 September we will find out whether Jeremy Corbyn is the next leader of the Labour Party. There is, of course, an increased reluctance to accept opinion polls at face value, so any optimism is still cautious. But whatever the result it is already clear that the Labour Party has changed. There has been a mass influx of 400,000 new members and supporters, of which 60% are thought to be ‘youth’. An unprecedented momentum has come behind the previously ailing Labour left, bringing with it great potential. But at the same time the situation is precarious: we urgently need to come together to ensure that these hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters do not vanish as quickly as they appeared.

If Corbyn loses on 12 September, platitudes will be given about how valuable his contributions have been, but behind the scenes the party machine will have already sprang into action. The Parliamentary Labour Party has already learned its lesson and now knows the danger of allowing members any power. Proposals to make future elections ‘fairer’ and ‘more transparent’ will come forward while left-wingers are publicly expelled and made examples. The right-wing will try to compensate for the Party’s ‘summer of madness’ by posturing more rightwards still. In response, the sectarians in organisations like the Socialist Workers Party will say ‘I told you so’ and claim their point proven: there is no future in the Labour Party.

Corbyn supporters will be demoralised. A few will leave and many more will simply lose enthusiasm.

If Corbyn wins it will be better but still not without problems. He will hopefully move quickly to politically reposition the Party on the left and to introduce long-needed internal democratic reforms to empower members. However, while the Party rulebook gives plenty of authority to the Leader, the Parliamentary Labour Party will still wield a number of significant weapons. As has already been announced in the press, some MPs will launch a public coup against the new leader. Others will undermine him in more subtle ways: leaking criticism to the press and finding excuses to not co-operate.

Even with a huge mandate behind him, the balance of power will be against Corbyn. He will only be able to drive through his policies and reforms, and maintain control of the party, if the membership is sufficiently mobilised. Huge pressure will be put on him to capitulate or to resign. No matter how principled, he will only avoid this fate if there is sufficient counter-pressure.

But what about us?

Both of these scenarios share a common assumption: the Labour left does not change. The Labour left is, as it stands, weak. There are plenty of existing groups – Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Red Labour, Labour Representative Committee, Campaign for Socialism, Labour Campaign for Free Education – and many more talented individuals. But on their own they are not enough. We do not currently have the infrastructure to support and channel the momentum and huge numbers that the Corbyn campaign has created.

The Labour left must be relaunched, bringing together the different groups, activists and strengths that already exist to create something bigger. All the relevant groups should come together to launch a new Left. Exactly how this is done, or what it looks like, is up for debate.

However we can start with two broad principles:

It must be democratic. This does not just mean policy conferences, elections and rules – although these are important. It means a culture of inclusiveness and accessibility where everyone shares responsibility and no one individual or group is in charge, where disagreements are had out in the open, and where everyone is prepared, on occasion, to lose the argument.

It must be outward facing and campaigning. We do not need just another left-wing Labour Party faction. It is necessary but not enough to get left-wingers elected onto Party committees, or even into Parliament. We need a mobilised membership which campaigns on the issues that matter: education, the environment, housing, pay and working conditions, trade union rights, migration, discrimination and oppression. This will help us to build the Party and the left within it. But more importantly, if we want to implement the policies for which we have spent the past months arguing, then we will need to go up against powerful vested interests. We can only take on these interests with an active and mobilised population behind us.

There is one area of the Labour left where I am confident that the move for improved organisation can proceed quickly.

Throughout history, youth and students have often played a transformative role in times of social upheaval. Today we must play this role in transforming the Labour Party and the Labour left. We must lead by example, in a spirit of co-operation and comradeship, and relaunch the left in Young Labour and Labour Students. In Scotland this is already happening with the launch of Scottish Labour Young Socialists. Hopefully we can do the same for the youth and students across the UK and contribute to a reinvigoration of the left in the Party in general.

The Labour Campaign for Free Education is calling a meeting in London of youth and students for the 20 September – a week after the election result – to begin discussions for a new youth and student Labour left on the basis of the two principles above. LCFE does not pretend to represent everyone. Other groups like Red Labour Youth, LRC Youth, Scottish Labour Young Socialists and the Labour Young Trade Unionist Network should co-sponsor and throw their organisational strength behind it.

I hope that the moves being made by left-wing Labour youth will have a positive effect on the wider Labour left too.

There is great potential ahead of us. Let’s not squander it.


  1. Robert says:

    Yes but it will only take the wrong leader getting elected and all those young people will be off, I will be for sure I’ve had enough of Blair and the right wing Tory Lite.

    This is the last chance Saloon and with all the right wingers now moaning about the influx of Tories, the same Tories they will be chasing if they were to get elected make this all laughable.

    I suspect if Corbyn does win labour it self will be looking at the courts to remove the left winger, because that is how far Progress now have influence within labour. I expect the Reeves and all those that back Progress and of course the Blair ideology refusing to take up positions as the deputy Chancellor has stated although he will be no loss to Corbyn or labour.

    I suspect as I said we are a long long way from getting a left wing leader and a million miles from winning the next election be it left or right.

    Labour is simply not trusted to take the country forward, yes I know it was not labour faulty the banks went boom, but they did and labour were in office and they did not argue at all that it was not their fault Brown even accepted responsibility .

    We are still suffering from the expenses scandal and the report on the wars have not come through yet and they need to sooner rather then later so labour can either say see not our fault or say we are seriously sorry for allow this.

    Either way we need to sort this one out and then the other things like paedophile rings all are affecting the trust of politician and the wage rise did not go down well either.

    I was a student as were many others but to be honest many of the students i went with ended up to the right not the left and many even worse ended up being Tories not labour once they started to earn a living.

    So in the end what we need is to win and then have another clean out of the Progress mob who are not just a think tank they are an ideological right wing splitter group.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      I completely agree with you and Corbyn could still end up being as damned because of people’s wholly unrealistic expectations, as because of him being basically a socialist.

      As you say, “we are a long long way from getting a left wing leader, (even were JC to be elected,) and a million miles from winning the next election be it left or right.”

      It’s not only, “all those young people,” who will be off either if Labor gets this wrong. It will also be me and all the people like me, who have given Labor one last chance to sort themselves out as well, for example, despite us having a thoroughly decent, effective and honest constituency MP for whom I had previously voted with enthusiasm, I still voted UKIP at the last election rather than endorse the likes of Reeves, Burnham and Balls and all the other right wing low life that have so cynically battened onto the Labor party corporate only for their own advancement and profit and for nothing else.

      I really didn’t regard any of the facile suggestions being put forward in the article above, about relaunching the Labour left having much merit either. It has always been a huge problem for Blair’s vacant and sterile progeny that being of or to the left is the result of accepting a specific historical, economic and political analysis one that isn’t really that negotiable or open to amendment in ways that would increase it’s marketability to people who despise us anyway and too often on no rational grounds.

      So if elements inside Labor don’t like socialism there really isn’t going to be a great deal of room for us to maneuver and ultimately it might well be better for everyone if labor were to split; this county really has no need whatsoever for a second conservative party, (but still with a place for the left,) which stripped of the disingenuous rhetorical spume, is all that’s really being offering above.

      If I and all the people like me are ever going to seriously support the Labor party again; then it will need to recognize that the only way forward now is to recognize the extent of their problem with electorate and that many of us have no interest in an accommodation with the same people and the same ingrained bureaucratic management culture of secrecy and intimidation that allowed the failing at Mid Staffs, (the “appalling abuse,” of the Francis report,) to continue unabated for so many years.

      What James McAsh and Rida Vaquas are really saying (or so it seems to me,) is that UK demographics now dictate that they desperately need the support of what I’d call the broad left because without us they can’t win, but they still refuse to accept the validity of our criticism or even the need for it.

  2. Jon Lansman says:

    I welcome this as a piece for debate and there needs to be discussion about the future organisation of the centre-left in the party. I think some of the urgent tasks are clear – extending democracy within the party, ensuring we have proper debate about policies, about why we lost the election in May and what we need to do next time. I don’t think setting up new complex structures for “policy conferences, elections and rules” is a priority – though they may come later. As the authors say it is “inclusiveness and accessibility” which is important and that means acting collaboratively. I don’t think announcing a conference and expecting others to fall in line is sufficiently collaborative though. It would be better to call for discussions about what sort of youth movement we want in the party and how we achieve it.

    1. Max Shanly says:

      I completely agree with what Jon is saying here. And whilst I agree with you that the youth must lead, I am quite worried about the way in which you propose all of this coming together. Calling a conference and expecting others to fall in line does not match up with your call for co-operation, it reeks of sectarianism.

      1. Robert says:

        This is labour your talking about here mind you I spent 44 years in this party going to conference a few times going to conferences then with my Union.

        When labour say changes are coming then you had better expect this to happen any time within the next fifty years, unless you get Blair who basically took the power away from Conference to make the changes he wanted.

        Labour has never been fast at what it see or wants to do.

        We need to give power back to the conference first and then they can change the structure with the members

        1. swatantra says:

          I’m reminded of that other road sign : ‘Look Right; Look Left … and then Look Right again!’ otherwise you’re likely to get knocked down and flattened like a hedgehog with no road sense.
          Its a mistake to just ‘Keep Left’ without being aware of what’s happening all around you.

          1. Robert says:

            Left is the way we are going, the right have worn out the welcome.

  3. Patrick says:

    I think you mean by youth anyone under 60, up to this summer the average age of our 140 members was 65.
    Prove me wrong on 10th September we have a by-election, we should win easy!!!!!!!!!!!! with 550 new members then.

  4. Bazza says:

    “They’ve got so much things to say right now, so much things to say” – Bob Marley.
    Oh dear, what a lot of pessimism here.
    Jeremy may actually win; and we may then have a progressive Leader and a generally progressive (and newly refreshed) grassroots although we may also still have a generally cautious number of Labour MPs.
    But we just need to give power back to grassroots members via conference and through regular consultations.
    I have argued the new leader could send policy ideas on a topic to CLPS and affiliated societies say every few months (ideally written simply and ideally brief on just one side of A4) such as on housing and members could then discuss them and offer suggestions and amendments. We could even have Open CLP meetings where Labour supporters are invited and we could leaflet communities asking people for their views on the topic i.e. housing.
    We should just have faith in democracy and ideas then discuss them and decide by voting on them.
    I am confident the many of us outside of the Westminster Bubble can help to construct policies with mass appeal drawing on our reading, research, and our life experiences.
    And we as well as MPs will all need to listen to each other.
    Perhaps grassroots, bottom up, participatory, democratic, and peaceful is the future, and I have always believed the way to beat distant, top down, greedy, exploitative, undemocratic, cheap labour Neo-Liberalism is by having more democracy and more say for people, workers and communities.
    They can attack us and distort but Labour and particularly the Left believes in MORE DEMOCRACY!
    More power to the grassroots (if some hesitant Labour MPS would only realise) would also free them from their self-imposed Neo-Liberal straight jackets!
    We should also have a minimum membership fee of say £5 to build a mass movement then then have it based on sliding scale of income (like some trades unions) plus I would also like to see at least 2 working class candidates on Parliamentary shortlists (social classes 3-6) out of a diverse shortlist of 6 and then may the best democratic socialist win.
    Why can’t we also get Parliamentary candidates in place 2 years before the 2020 election so they can work their areas?
    Why can’t we also (3 year before the Election) open a section of CLP websites (without sitting MPs) where Labour members who are interested in standing in that area can register their interest for free, and outline their ideas?
    It may also be a good idea to have 2 Deputy Leaders (one male and one female).
    Time I think to offer hope and time to be positive as I am sure many of us are bursting with ideas!
    Time to also organise the fight back against this Tory Government for the rich!
    Hedge Funds gave £50m to the Tories before the election and got a £145m tax cut!
    Yours in solidarity!

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:


      Reading your post above it’s as if suddenly, the wholly despicable Blair administration with all it’s abuses had never happened, and, “Democratic,” labor hadn’t dragged this country unwillingly and without any political mandate into several bloody, continuing and completely pointless campaigns of military aggression the only aim of which was furtherance of American foreign policy and of commercial and corporate interests to our own determent and everyone else’s.

      We’re daily being invited to feel outrage and are being encouraged to hate, the large numbers of desperate migrants trying to gain access to the UK, but are seldom reminded that every singly day the RAF are being sent out to bomb these people’s homes and their families repeatedly back to Stone age.

      I was told recently that prior to WWII, (Viet Nam being the tipping point,) the ratio of military to civilian casualties in any conflict was roughly 90%, (military,) against 10%, (civilian,) but that since WWII this has now been reversed.

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