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We must rebuild our Party from the grassroots – by fighting back

angela eagle2We all recognise we have a mountain to climb to win the 2020 General Election. This will be impossible if we do not inspire, motivate and organise Labour members and supporters in our communities and workplaces. We have to harness the enthusiasm and creative energy of all our new members more effectively than we have done in the past.

The Tories are attacking working class living standards through their proposals to restrict the right to strike and to dismantle effective workplace union organisation in their Trade Union Reform Bill. This is a blatant partisan attack. Taken together with the massive cuts in benefits already proposed in the Government’s budget and the Welfare Bill combined with the tendency of the DWP to sanction people for breathing in the wrong direction, our communities are under massive pressure. Our priority must be to build a fightback on the ground to oppose this ideologically extreme Tory Government obsessed with cutting our society back to the Victorian era.

The Government proposals in the Trade Union Reform Bill will have the effect of ensuring that employee’s pay is kept low, and employer’s profits high. The already unacceptable disjunction between average wages and CEO pay and bonuses identified in the most recent High Pay Commission report will accelerate. This and an out of control DWP more interested in pumping out lies and propaganda than supporting those who need it most is a challenge to all of us in the labour movement who care about fighting poverty.

It is through defending our communities against these attacks and fighting this Tory Government that we can rebuild our Party. Local CLPs should support the TUC campaign against the Tory Trade Union Reform Bill and work together with our trade union affiliates to explain that this Bill is an attack on democracy and dignity at work.

Not only do we have to listen to, support and show solidarity with trade union affiliates but also to the diverse groups and interests campaigns that make up our movement. Self organisation is a key to creative successful activism. Young Labour members who initiate campaigns should be encouraged, more autonomy should be given to BAME, disabled and LGBT Labour members to organise events which reach out to their communities.

We need to build bridges with campaigning organisations, socialist societies and faith communities who fight Tory policies on the ground whether this be through humanising the debate on immigration or reminding us of the urgency of global and environmental concerns. Labour Councillors who are doing their best in local communities need to be supported by Party members getting involved on the ground.

We must be an outward facing Party and have the courage of our convictions. We have principles of social solidarity and we need to practice them. The right wing media are only just beginning their attack on our Party. It will only get more serious over the next five years. We need to hold our nerve, remember who the Labour Party exists to serve and have the confidence to articulate our vision of social justice and economic equality.

8 Comments

  1. David Pavett says:

    There is no doubt that the Labour Party needs to be reconstructed on genuinely democratic lines but I struggled to find any ideas about this in Angela Eagle’s piece.

    She says that we need to “inspire, motivate and organise Labour members and supporters in our communities and workplaces”, “harness the enthusiasm and creative energy of all our new members more effectively than we have done in the past”, “Our priority must be to build a fightback on the ground to oppose this ideologically extreme Tory Government”.

    We are told further that we should “defending our communities against these attacks” so that we can “can rebuild our Party”. We must “listen to, support and show solidarity with trade union affiliates”, “Self organisation is a key to creative successful activism” youn members who “initiate campaigns should be encouraged”, “We need to build bridges with campaigning organisations, socialist societies and faith communities who fight Tory policies”, our actions should result in “humanising the debate on immigration” and should remind us of “the urgency of global and environmental concerns”.

    Finally we must “be an outward facing Party and have the courage of our convictions”, “hold our nerve” and “have the confidence to articulate our vision of social justice and economic equality”.

    I find it really depressing when an experienced and no doubt well-meaning politician cannot get beyond this sort of waffly rhetoric. That is really the sort of Labour speak that I would like to leave behind. None of this constitute proposals/policies but merely a wish for proposals/policies. I think that we have the right to expect more than that from our politicians.

    1. Sue says:

      I agree ——- a lot of words which actually say nothing :0(

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        I completely agree with you that this is not really a serious policy platform at all, but just yet another tired, “string of empty platitudes.”

        As for the Trade Unions; which in practice and particularly in this context really means only the cosseted public service unions and their, “fat cat,” and in my view, overpaid union leaders (who did not for example, distinguish themselves at Mid Staffs either by all accounts,) I’m really not particularly alarmed by this set of proposals which seem to be insisting only that a trade union now has to establish a reasonable consensus among it’s members before striking.

        What is most evident here is a huge cognitive dissonance; between Labor’s perception of themselves as being the, “good guys,” as it where, and the voters own and far more accurate evaluation of them and of their shabby political and their sleazy economic records which certainly cost them the last election.

        It’s an implicit belief among people like Ms Eagle and her colleagues, that they, “we,” somehow represent all the things to which most people in the UK aspire to, when in fact they too often represent only their own greed, dishonesty and a shabby political record of failure and corruption that is the very opposite of inspirational.

    2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      In fact I’m forcibly struck by the complete absence of any real content in Ms Eagle’s statement of her aspirations above, certainly nothing that might be described as being; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time limited; but at least it’s a plan.

      Except that it really isn’t.

      1. Sarah Boden says:

        Totally agree. I am from Liverpool but live in London, JC was my MP until 2 months ago and I was talking on a liverpool forum – Angela Eagle was talking the exact the same kind of rhetoric – but it was before JC had a nomination so it sounded like it was in line with the usual New Labour line. I am sceptical I am afraid. Because of what I said above, but mainly because there really are no policies discussed at all. Dissappointing.

  2. karen capovila says:

    I believe she is saying that the best line of defence of the working class to the degradation of their standard of living are the unions, they are being threatened with castration by the bastions of avarice and bullying AKA the old pals club the tories. With careful judgement the new members of the labour party can be motivated to help stop the tories robbing their children of a meaningful future in which they can flourish and enjoy life, the first step, the most important step is to shine the powerful light of publicity on every rotten move the tories make via the new members of the party using social media and organising to get the message out there for the first time since Kinnock threw in the towel

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks for offering an answer to the questions that I and others put about Angela Eagle’s contribution above.

      However, your response just repeats similar generalities to those of Angela Eagle while avoiding obvious problems that need to be addressed.

      Yes, we need unions to defend workers’ rights and yes new Party members need to make careful judgements to counter Tory policies which need to be exposed in a glare of publicity. Most of us can say this sort of thing in our sleep – and no doubt some of us do.

      But what of the challenges. TU membership is in long-term decline. It is now less than half of what it was at the beginning of the Thatcher era and most of those remaining are in the public sector. Party members certainly need to judge carefully but how and about what? For example do they need to be able to judge the difference between the neo-liberal policies favoured by Labour’s leaders and those put forward by Jeremy Corbyn? Finally, can it be said that Labour abstaining on the Tory Welfare Bill (Angela Eagle was not among the ‘rebels’ who voted against) is a way of turning the glare of publicity on the assault on public provision?

      As I said above, we need to go beyond hand-waving generalities in order to deal with the specific challenges we face.

  3. David Pavett says:

    How naive of me. I really thought that after the comments above someone supporting the candidature of Angela Eagle would come forward with a defence of her article, or at least a claim that the authors of the comments have missed her substantial points. Or failing that an admission that the article is not up to much but providing a link to much better things that she has written.

    But we got none of that. All we got was silence. Strange way to promote a candidate for an election. That sort of inability to handle criticism on the left really worries me. It will not help the cause of Jeremy Corbyn if he becomes Labour leader.

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