Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Left begins debate at Labour Conference as ‘Resist’ fringe pushed aside.

with 2 comments

The Resist! Event

Entertainment for the Last of the Headbanger Left.

There are real debates taking place at the Labour Conference in Brighton. Aside from the row over voting rule, which we could have well done without, there are different political visions being advanced. Groups like Labour First, the ‘moderates’ have a strategy they say could win. Their recently discovered eternal loyalty to Keir Starmer, without much more to back it up, although with a genuine wish to get Labour elected, can be contrasted with left wing criticisms of Keir Starmer put forward by former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

It is good to see the left of the party engaged again in real pollical and strategic thinking. It is perhaps sad, but inevitable, that the people at the Rialto, from the CPGB (PCC) Labour Party Marxist, Tina Werkmann’s fronts Labour in Exile/Labour in Exile , Greensteinism/Walkerism and Stan Keable in Labour Against the Witch-hunt, the Labour Campaign for Free Speech (“Reject the IHRA so-called definition of antisemitism”), and Chris Williamson’s merry band (which is pro George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain, the ‘Resist’ Movement have pushed themselves to the margins. One hopes at least that the music is good this afternoon. They can then bang their heads till evening comes.

By contrast many of us on the different wings of the democratic socialist left, will find much to think about in the judgements in McDonnell’s most recent article:

Dump the New Labour playbook, Keir Starmer, and set out your programme for radical change

John McDonnell

The party conference has been planned as the major relaunch of Starmer. It’s blindingly obvious that he has to change course if Labour is to stand any chance of winning the next election but rehashing New Labour just won’t work. That model crashed to defeat in 2010, with Mandelson running the campaign, in which the party slumped to 29% of the vote. The truth is no faction of Labour has found a winning formula post-bank crash – and we need to unite with some humility to find that. Starmer became leader on that basis, but is squandering goodwill internally and looking increasingly out of touch to the electorate.

There were people on different sections of the left who did not closely identity with Jeremy Corbyn’s views on international issues, and felt that Corbynism’s ‘left populism’ lacked depth on social and economic strategy. The influence of the Four Ms on the Labour leader, who pressed for a revamped version of the 197s Alterative Economic Strategy (AES) and backed Brexit, was a drag on Labour.

McDonnell, by contrast, brought together a talented team seriously worked on policies such as the reforming the unjust personal and business taxation system ,ideas about developing workers’ rights and new forms of socialisation. They advanced more internationalist ideas on the European Union. Both, nevertheless, as the McDonnell says, joined a long list of those unable to find “a winning formula post-ban crash”. This remains an issue open to many different responses.

Is he right to call for bolder policies, that, against this hope, “In prospect is a policy review that subjugates a meagre policy programme to the lowest common denominator demands of the rightwing media, big business and the City” ? The signs are not good, “Labour refocuses on concerns of working families ahead of the next election”. That,

Starmer will use his keynote speech this week to vow to give all pupils an “education fit for the future”.

It is set to include digital, work and “life skills”, as well as greater access to professional careers advisers. The plan would see the compulsory citizenship programme taught in schools widened to include practical issues such as applying for a mortgage and understanding employment and rental contracts.

What will be the content of Miliband’s Green New Deal? Every left and ecological party in Europe has one, so we can expect at least something in this direction.

But what of the rest of the package? Starmer’s pre-rbiefed announcement does not look that promising. .is training in how to apply for a mortgage and “life skills”, “someone sticking up for them and offering the hope of something better”? School students are taught in a system full of the inequalities and problems created by Academies. The idea does not look like from a break from the stultifying drive to make education at all levels an arm of business studies Does ‘work experience’ help deal with the problems of young people entering an employment system that keeps many in precarious causalised jobs? What of those continuing studying? Are there plans to tackle the reshaping of a higher education system with the crippling student loans system, and profiteering senior managers and chiefs?

Starmer, as this Blog has argued, seems short of social democratic reformist ambition.

That said the following will find people agreeing from many side of the party.

..As it is, we’ve wasted five days now that have completely overshadowed important policy announcements by Lucy Powell on housing and by Angela Rayner and Andy McDonald on workers’ rights. All the while, the government has been floundering as petrol stations run dry and energy companies collapse. Before any attempt at a New Labour rerun, it might be best to consider the words of an old German philosopher: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.”

There are other issues facing Labour.

Today there is,

Keir Starmer faces a crucial test on Sunday in his attempt to rid the party of antisemitism as delegates vote on plans for a new independent complaints process to tackle the scourge of racism.

I will not look good if this turns out to be true:

That minority will not achieve anything and only give hope to the ‘Resist‘ crew.

As indicated above these debates and issues have pushed aside those beyond the fringe. They are now on a trip to somewhere one of their supporters Alexei Sayle calls a place where people from Cloud Cuckoo Land holiday in when they get tried of its mundane reality.

Do the organisers of the Rialto event seriously think there are people out there willing to be hoodwinked by somebody like Williamson?

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2021 at 8:36 am

2 Responses

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  1. As an ‘old hand’ conference delegate (both for my CLP and once for my TU) I always delighted in trying to spot the seemingly innocuious little dodges the apparachiks tried on. This year was no exception. This morning, some bright little elf of a helper got today’s Chair (Yasmin Dar, one of Momentum’s NEC delegates and who should have spotted this one on the spot BTW) to announce that only one speech per delegate at the entire conference ‘would be allowed”. Someone had the wit to spot this straightaway and asked what rule this came from. After an apparachik whispered in her ear, she says it was ‘down to covid” (?) but that the CAC should ‘look at this’. Bet your bottom dollar they will. A ruse to stop any dodgy leftie getting two bites has to be measured against the entitlement of various “aldermanic” (In Coatesy’s lovely phrase) TU General Secretary or pompous MP to strut to the rostrum at will. Expect to hear no more of this one……

    David Walsh

    September 26, 2021 at 11:46 am

    • In the old days they would have learnt blunter tricks in the trade unions, but for decades they have had training in student unions and the NUS…aka political gamesman(person)ship.

      Andrew Coates

      September 26, 2021 at 12:00 pm

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