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The conference of the LRC takes place from 10.30am to 5pm on Saturday 9th February 2019 at Student Central (formerly University of London Union), Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY. Conference registration will open at 10am. Student Central has full disabled access.
Closing date for the receipt of resolutions is Friday January 25th
Closing date for nominations and personal statements in support of nominations is Friday January 25th
Closing date for request of creche facilities is Sunday February 3rd.
1) This document assesses the state of the movement, the problems we face, and how the LRC should address them.
2) Corbyn’s victory in 2015 represented a long-delayed revolt against the consequences of a period since the Great Recession of 2008 when working class living standards have at best stagnated for more than a decade, a situation unique since the nineteenth century. The disaster has been exacerbated since 2010 by Tory-led policies of austerity which have savagely butchered what is left of the welfare state, picking on the most vulnerable in particular, the disabled, the jobless and the poorest in the land. Tory Britain is a land of foodbanks, rough sleepers and long-term unemployment.
3) It is not possible to catalogue here all the human consequences of austerity. Labour has charged that by 2020 86% of its burden will have fallen on women. This is mainly because of the long freeze on tax credits and benefits (a cut in real terms), which, apart from women generally, has disproportionately hit BME households, lone parents and the disabled.
4) The roll out of universal credit is already plunging more and more working class people into despair. The long delays in payment drive many to foodbanks and into debt. Sanctions and arbitrary denials of benefit (half of which are overturned on appeal) add insult to injury. There is a huge wall of discontent building up against the iniquities of universal credit.
5) A further ticking time bomb is the crisis in social care. Social care faces a funding crisis, as local authorities have been harder hit by cuts than any other aspect of public expenditure. There will be a shortfall of £1.5 billion in social care by 2020. Three million hours of home care have been lost since 2015. To save money the criteria for eligibility have been raised, so 400,000 elderly people are losing out. Care homes and nursing homes are a broken business model. Homes are losing money while some are closing, yet residents or their families are stretched to pay the astronomical fees. This cannot go on.
6) Amid this crisis all the talk is of Brexit, as if that were the only political issue on the agenda. Brexit is indeed a vital issue in its own right for the working class. On top of that it has the possibility of creating a political and constitutional crisis. At the time of writing the situation is extremely uncertain. Britain could exit the European Union without a deal, with Theresa May’s preferred deal or a variant, or remain within the EU – we just don’t know. There could be a general election at any time. The Prime Minister could be toppled by a revolt within the Conservative Party.
7) Corbyn winning the Labour leadership against the odds has opened up immense opportunities, but at the same time exposed the many weaknesses of the movement. It is not just that our unions are at an extremely weak point (both in membership and strike days lost), but we also face the structures put in place by Blair and others in the Party to stifle democratic input, together with the resistance of the Party machine, Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and local government structures to both left policies and democracy.
8) Neo-liberal policies, with their consequential increasing inequalities, are backed up by structures which enable them to be enforced, especially the anti-union laws and weakening of workplace union structures.
9) Much of this stems from the serious defeats suffered by the movement in the 1980s and beyond, which have not just enabled the ruling class to run rampant, but also resulted in the right of our movement rarely being seriously challenged.
10) Corbyn’s victory – beyond the pressure on MPs which got him on the ballot paper in the first place – came as a result of the hatred of austerity and war policies among wide swathes of the working class, even though that hatred had rarely been expressed in organised resistance to those policies.
11) This means that at the same time as pushing to win a general election with the outcome of a Corbyn-led Labour government, we also have to build that resistance to the Tories in the Party and wider movement, and build a movement across the organised labour movement, and beyond to the working class in general. Such a movement will need to resist the Tories now and also provide the counter-pressure which will back up and take forward Labour’s policies if and when Labour wins.
12) Clearly, the preferred option of the ruling class is to prevent Corbyn ever becoming Prime Minister. At root their concern is his stand against austerity and imperialist war. They are prepared to throw anything at him, firstly to prevent him retaining the Labour leadership, if that fails to prevent him winning a general election, and as a last resort to tame him into watering down his policies so he offers no threat to their interests.
13) Hence the onslaught of propaganda from their mouthpieces and supporters, whether Tories, business, the media or the right of the PLP. This has been stepped up whenever an election (council or general), is imminent. While some of this is laughingly trivial (the wrong sort of coat at the Cenotaph), and easily brushed off (Czech spy), they have found mileage with the accusation that the Party harbours large numbers of antisemites, and even that Corbyn himself is antisemitic.
14) The LRC and Briefing have rightly distinguished between real antisemitism, which obviously exists in the Party, though much more marginally than suggested, and which must be challenged, and criticism of Israel, up to and including the argument by many that, as a colonial settler state, it is an intrinsically racist endeavour.
15) The storm against ‘Labour antisemitism’ over the summer has been extremely frustrating and damaging. It has held the Labour leadership back in building support and further developing policy. Not only has it put Labour in a defensive mode when it should be on the attack, but it has also caused dissension and confusion even among some in the ranks of the left of Labour, Corbyn’s natural support.
16) This issue has not gone away. On the contrary, anti-Zionists are still being expelled, and more and more councils are adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition and examples of antisemitism and using it to discipline workers. We can expect an upsurge in allegations, new or old, whenever an election looms.
17) The Labour Party machine, under General Secretary Iain McNicol, worked hard at undermining Corbyn in a number of ways, from notorious purging for spurious reasons, to trying to block Corbyn standing in the second leadership election. The belated replacement of McNicol by Jennie Formby is welcome, though change is still working its way through the Party. Members are still being wrongly accused of antisemitism, are still being told allegations have been investigated without any knowledge of those allegations, and are still waiting for far too long for allegations to be investigated. “Bringing the Party into disrepute” is still used as a catch-all when other charges cannot be made to stick.
18) Jennie Formby has told Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) that they are not entitled to challenge decisions of the National Constitutional Committee (NCC). (When did socialists not campaign against perceived miscarriages of justice?). There is still a long way to go before the proposals in the Chakrabarti report regarding natural justice are properly implemented. But, as with other issues, we cannot just sit back and wait for changes to work their way through. Protests against injustice and replacing witch-hunters in the Party machine and disciplinary bodies, are crucial to changing this. That’s why it was so crucial to get a Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) member, Stephen Marks, nominated and elected to the NCC.
19) But separating anti-Zionism from actual antisemitism is not primarily about process, but about politics – about an understanding of the nature of Israel, its laws, practices and its treatment of the Palestinians. Moreover, these false allegations are intended to weaponise the accusations of antisemitism against Labour. Such allegations must be challenged politically, and it is why the passing of the resolution by 2018 Labour Conference and the accompanying waving of Palestinian flags was so important.
20) While the Democracy Review (its full version) addressed many of the critical issues in Party structures, it was considerably watered down and even sidelined in many of the proposals which reached Conference. Thus, while beginning to redress the lack of structures allowing the self-organisation of women, BME, LGBT+ and disabled members, there were no proposals to Conference on the National Policy Forum (NPF) and local government. We must not allow the positive proposals of the Democracy Review to be cast aside. This was an important opportunity to help democratise the Party, and we need to back up the remaining proposals for implementation right up to the 2019 Conference.
21) The proposals on the trigger ballot for Parliamentary selections and the nomination of Leader fell far short of a serious democratisation – the hurdle for nomination of Leader was set higher than previously. While the reformed trigger ballot makes it easier to have a proper selection for disliked MPs, it does not create the open selection which would mean every sitting MP having to justify their right to continue to represent the Party.
22) The leadership supported the step back on leadership nomination and open selection. There are occasions when we have no interest in accepting compromises, and this is one case where we have to maintain an independent position.
23) The role of unions in supporting the watered-down democracy proposals, and even blocking discussion of open selection (contrary, in several cases, to their own policy), produced a backlash against the unions at conference. While, for instance, Len McCluskey was given a standing ovation for his attack on the right of the PLP, his role in ignoring Unite’s policy was also noted. But much of the left chooses to turn a blind eye to the fact that this was done to support the Party leadership’s wishes.
24) How are we to assess the impact of the 2018 Conference? On the one hand it unleashed enormous enthusiasm among a big layer of delegates, many of whom have been swept into political activity in the wake of the Corbynist movement. On the other hand, the back-stage manoeuvering and deals which held the movement back show, despite the huge gains since the days when Tony Blair treated Conference as a support rally, how far we still have to go to achieve a Conference that truly represents the mood of Party members.
25) The behaviour of some unions in the CLPs, such as the affiliation of multiple branches with no delegates under the control of regions, purely for the purpose of protecting sitting MPs, and the willingness to make right wing members delegates from unions with which they have no intrinsic connection, has gone some way to convince newer members of the Party that the unions are inherently holding back the movement.
26) The ill thought through rule change which allows CLPs to move easily from a delegate to an all-member structure (and vice versa) has already created a situation in several CLPs where sections of the left are attempting to use this rule change. While it is often the case that some on the left believe such a move is necessary in order to release the bureaucratic grip of the right on the Party, in fact it seriously dilutes the input of union delegates into CLPs, a dangerous step. It took 3 months for the affiliated trade unions (organised in TULO, now called Unions Together) to wake up to the issue and put out a statement arguing against the change, and another week for the National Executive Committee (NEC) to issue its guidelines about how the rule change should be handled. With some on the left even questioning the union-Party link at any level, it is incumbent on socialists to argue for retaining that link, while taking up the cudgels for democratisation of that union input. Hence the importance of the LRC’s approach, which, while working with national unions, attempts to also take the arguments into the unions at every level, rather than simply relying on support from union leaderships.
27) Momentum as a national organisation has shown itself on many occasions to fall far short of what is needed for the movement to grow and be up to the tasks facing it. From the failure to challenge and resist the general purge of left members by the Party machine during the leadership elections, to a refusal to challenge – if not go along with – the accusation of antisemitism against those critical of Israel, to its retreat over democratic changes to Labour’s constitution at Conference, the Momentum leadership has failed to adequately promote the transformation of the Party. The drive to get the IHRA definition and examples of antisemitism adopted by the NEC, the attempt to block a JVL member standing for the NCC and the attempt to block Pete Willsman winning a place on the NEC exposed these shortcomings to a wider audience.
28) These weaknesses have produced a movement of independence and dissent among many Momentum members and some branches. While many Momentum groups are healthy and “do their own thing”, there has also been the development of Labour Left groups outside of Momentum’s orbit, not least because Momentum nationally seems unreformable. While Momentum is still able to get the message – and the vote – out for internal Party elections, and no doubt will be able to direct people to winnable seats when a general election comes, in terms of encouraging involvement and policy-making, it falls well short.
29) Policy making: the lack of proposals at Conference 2018 on the reform of the policy-making process leave it unclear how policy is made in the Labour Party. The NPF produces very feeble reports, large chunks of which are referred back by Conference, while policy resolutions are passed overwhelmingly but then ignored by shadow ministers on such issues as welfare reform and housing.
30) That the 2017 manifesto was popular and addressed many of the issues facing us, is no answer to having a clear decision-making process for the Party as a whole. The move to scrap the limitation of resolutions to “contemporary” issues and expansion to 20 resolutions should go some way to ensuring Conference decisions are sovereign, but clarity is still necessary.
31) Though ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ represented a huge step forward in casting austerity as a political choice made by the Tories and not an economic necessity, there are huge areas of policy which have been neglected or ignored. The 2017 manifesto is far from being a socialist programme for Britain in the twenty-first century. We have a lot of work to do in putting forward proposals, especially as bigger organisations on the left like Momentum see it as no part of their business to help develop policy.
32) There are still crucial issues on which the LRC believes policies do not go far enough or are not clear enough - stemming in many cases from the actions of shadow ministers or the NPF. The Left has a clear responsibility to put forward policies which address these issues, while supporting the leadership in general.
33) At the core of this shortcoming in policy is the reliance on fiscal (taxation) policy to tackle inequality in Britain, with inadequate proposals to tax the super-rich. Reducing inequality is crucial. Labour needs a comprehensive and far-reaching set of policies to deal with it.
34) Taking the railways, for instance, back into public ownership is intended to follow the slow process of waiting for franchises to come up for renewal. Other utilities will be bought back into public ownership, compensating the private companies which run them. But the case has already been made for public ownership, especially of the railways. Very few would defend companies which have inflicted so much misery if they were nationalised without compensation.
35) A socialist strategy makes clear that there is no common interest between employer and worker and supports the collective efforts of workers to take control away from the ruling class. That is why such ideas as workers on boards in private companies and share ownership are of limited value. Instead, we want to build strong unions, backed up by laws which allow workplace and company-wide resistance to the employers. While supporting changes to the law which provide increased rights for workers, and collective bargaining, we also want an incoming Labour government committed to scrapping the anti-union laws, not just the most recent, but Thatcher’s too. The drive to unionise the “gig” economy and hospitality sector is crucial, not only to win rights for the workers involved, but also because it brings new and energetic young workers into a movement and re-asserts the fundamental nature of unions, collective action, not just individual rights. Though the overall level of strikes in Britain has been at a record low level over recent years, that is not an indication of social peace and harmony. It rather shows a mood of intense frustration, broken by inspiring battles by young workers, often in low paid and casualised occupations which have traditionally been very difficult to organise.
36) There are big gaps and inadequacies in Labour’s policy on housing, education, climate change and much else. The LRC needs to strive to put forward our own policies to deal with aspects of these gaps and inadequacies, but also to try to create the pressure within the Party to get these policies accepted and ultimately to generate the mass support to get them implemented under a Corbyn-led Labour government.
37) The far right, and re-grouping fascists, have used the Brexit discussion to assert a racist agenda. It is incumbent on socialists to challenge racism, and to organise to prevent the far right growing, where necessary by mobilising on the streets.
38) It is inadequate for socialists to sit back and wait for a general election, at which point we will of course pull out all the stops to mobilise to win. A large part of winning depends on what socialists do on the ground in advance of the election, and a large part of how successful a Labour government will be in transforming society depends on the work we have done in building and transforming our movement, both in terms of democracy and policy, in advance of the election, and which can be carried forward to face the challenges which will be thrown up after an election.
39) To summarise the tasks of the LRC, and the Left in general:
Building a movement in the unions and party which seeks to transform both in terms of democratic functioning and socialist policy. To this end we will work, as appropriate, with other forces.
Democratise and strengthen the Party-union link at every level, while also building the unions by supporting those struggles which break out.
Developing political education and policies and promoting their adoption.
Expanding the reach of the LRC by continuing to work towards employing a part-time worker, and at the same time encouraging the formation of local LRC groups, and the affiliation of sections of the movement.
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14. Even before he became Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn was being falsely accused of holocaust denial. For three years there has been a concerted attempt to paint both Corbyn himself and the pro-Palestinian Left as anti-Semitic. A full scale witch-hunt was launched by the Right and the pro-Israel lobby which resulted in the unjust expulsions of Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson, Moshé Machover and the suspension of many others. This witch-hunt has targeted Jewish and Black anti-Zionists and anti-racists in particular.
15. We reject the allegation that anti-Semitism is a phenomenon of Labour politics. In the words of Shami Chakrabarti: “The Labour Party is not overrun by Antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism ... it is the party that initiated every single United Kingdom race equality law.” In fact, a concerted campaign was launched by the pro-Zionist Board of Deputies and the Right to paint the Left and Jeremy Corbyn as anti-Semites. This weaponisation of anti-Semitism to attack the anti-racist Left undermines the fight against racism. Of course, there will be a few anti-Semites in a party of over half a million members, because low-level anti-Semitism does exist in wider society. Where anti-Semitism and any form of racism exists, it must be confronted. However, ‘Zero tolerance’ is the wrong approach. Backward ideas are best corrected through patient discussion, not driven underground through disciplinary action.
16. The real reason for the witch-hunt is that Corbyn is unacceptable to the Right. They will do anything to stop this outspoken supporter of the Palestinians because he is a threat to Britain’s imperialist political and strategic alliance with the USA and Israel.
17. The storm against ‘Labour antisemitism’ over the summer has been extremely frustrating and damaging. Not only has it put Labour in a defensive mode when it should be on the attack, but it has also caused dissension and confusion even among some in the ranks of the Labour left. We regret that Momentum in particular has seen fit to give credence to false allegations of anti-Semitism.
18. This issue has not gone away. Anti-Zionists are still being expelled, and over 150 councils have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition and examples of antisemitism and are using it to discipline workers. We entirely reject this bogus definition of anti-Semitism and note that amongst its supporters are the anti-Semitic regimes of Poland and Hungary. Because of the misjudged adoption of the IHRA definition by Labour’s NEC we can expect an upsurge in allegations, new or old. We will campaign for the NEC to reverse this decision.
1. The LRC rejects the IHRA ‘definition’ in its entirety and notes that the OED defines Anti-Semitism far more succinctly: “Hostility to or prejudice against Jews”.
2. The IHRA’s ‘definition’ raises a number of questions:
a. What is a “certain perception”?
b Is anti-Semitism merely a perception?
c. If anti-Semitism “may be expressed as hatred towards Jews” what else might it be expressed as?
d. Why do seven of its eleven examples refer to the state of Israel and not Jews?
3. The definition’s real purpose is to defend the Israeli state from its critics - not Jews from anti-Semitism. It conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.
The definition has been subject to searing criticism by academic and legal scholars:
a. Professor David Feldman called it “bewilderingly imprecise”.
b. Hugh Tomlinson QC warned of its “chilling effect on public bodies”.
c. Sir Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge said it “fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite”.
d. Geoffrey Robertson QC described it as ‘unfit for purpose’.
5. The adoption of the IHRA definition by the NEC has not brought an end to the claim that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semites but it has massively expanded the grounds being used for false allegations of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn supporters.
6. We will campaign for the NEC to reverse its decision.
7. We fight for freedom of speech, including the right to call the Israeli state racist and discriminatory.
LRC conference 2019 welcomes the opening up of policy debate within the Labour Party now that the dead hand of New Labour is lifting.
Conference agrees we must try to produce documents, publications and events focused on specific policy areas and publicise them as interventions into national debates under an agreed LRC brand.
Whilst recognising resource limitations we believe there is a wealth of experience and talent which can be tapped if we make our presence felt.
At this stage the Political Secretary must take responsibility for guiding this activity but the NEC should consider establishing a Policy sub-committee and/or appointing Policy Editors to develop specific projects, They must be approved by the NEC before public launch.
For a socialist Clause 4
The LRC resolves to campaign for the Labour Party to reject the 1995 'New Labour' version of Clause 4 and the 1918 Fabian version drafted by Sidney Webb, and to adopt a genuinely internationalist and socialist Clause 4 along the following lines:
1. Labour is the federal party of the working class. We strive to bring all trade unions, cooperatives, socialist societies and leftwing groups and parties under our banner. We believe that unity brings strength.
2. Labour is committed to achieving a socialist world: replacing the rule of capital with the rule of the working class; introducing a democratically planned economy; ending the ecologically ruinous production for the sake of profit; and moving towards a stateless, classless, moneyless society that embodies the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. Only under such benign conditions can every individual fully realise their innate potentialities.
3. Towards that end Labour commits itself to achieving a democratic republic. The standing army, the monarchy, the House of Lords, state sponsorship of the Church of England, and the secret state must go. We support a single-chamber parliament, proportional representation and annual elections.
4. Labour seeks to win the active backing of the majority of people and to form a government on this basis.
5. We shall work with others, particularly across Europe, in pursuit of the aim of replacing capitalism with socialism.
Opposing local government austerity
Labour cannot be an anti-austerity party unless the words are matched by action. In local government Labour councils are by and large implementing austerity. There has been no national campaign to oppose the unprecedented scale of cuts nor even a national meeting to discuss how the Party could practically oppose austerity and campaign for an alternative.
With no framework for discussion, left wing Labour councillors, are isolated and in small numbers. There has been some intake of new left wing councillors but there has been no effort to bring them together.
This LRC conference, therefore, proposes that we organise a national meeting bringing together councillors, trades unionists and community activists, to discuss a strategy for opposing austerity in local government and what programme we want a Labour government to implement.