August 20, 2022

The way forward for the LLA – two statements

Political differences have emerged on the LLA Organising Group when we started to discuss the way forward and the strategy for the LLA and the left internationally. We believe that there is no problem with having political differences – quite the opposite: They are a reflection of the LLA as an alliance of people and groups with different political backgrounds and experiences. We will therefore have two draft lead statements for discussion at our conference – a majority statement, which was supported by roughly 2/3 of the members of our OG, and a minority statement. We want to debate them in a comradely and transparent way, not just at our August 22/23 conference itself, but also in the run up to it and beyond. We are inviting all LLA signatories to submit amendments to either or both of the draft statements.

The two statements are available as a Word document here and a PDF document here.

Version 1

(supported by a 2/3 majority of members of the LLA Organising Group)

i)    The conference meets during a serious political, environmental, and economic crisis. The growing recession, partly as a result of the coronavirus, will bring a further slowdown in economic activity, rising unemployment (especially amongst the young), and falling living standards. Whilst the full impact of the crisis remains unclear, it is certain that life pre-COVID-19 will not return. Within six months since the December 2019 general election the situation has radically changed.

ii)    Despite the Tory government’s supposed new direction and a rejection of policies of austerity introduced after 2008, the response of the capitalist class in Britain will be to make the working class pay for the crisis.

iii)    Given the nature and depth of this crisis, Labour could find mass support if it advocates a clear socialist alternative. However, the response of Starmer and Rayner has been woefully inadequate, offering only ‘constructive opposition’ to the Johnson government and basing their ‘alternative’ solidly within the confines of capitalism.

iv)    The defeat of the left in December 2019, the victory of Starmer in the leadership election, and the continuing witch-hunt, have had a demoralizing effect on the Left, with many members leaving or lapsing into inactivity. The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey shows the weakness of the Left. The timid response of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and the way many left-wingers are keeping their heads down indicates that they have accommodated the new regime when instead a fight-back is required. 

v)    The fight for a socialist programme and democracy in society goes hand in hand with the fight for democracy in the Labour Party. The role of the Labour Left Alliance during this time should be to rally the left in the Labour Party and the trade unions in support of an international socialist programme. In the face of Starmer’s Blairite attempt to turn Labour into a fan club and a stage army in support of his leadership, a process executed opportunistically during a ‘political lockdown’ during the coronavirus crisis, the LLA must continue to fight for full party democracy, free speech, mandatory re-selection, and the sovereignty of party conferences. The defence of comrades attacked during the witch-hunt must remain a priority.

vi)    To campaign for such a socialist programme means we must show a clear way forward on social, economic and environmental issues. Simultaneously we must break with the purely reformist concessions to capitalism that have characterized the politics of the Labour left, including the Corbyn project. At the heart of our programme should be the demand for a democratically planned economy. Socialism as the rule of the working class can only be achieved through the conscious self-organization and activity of the working class.

vii)     The manifestos of 2017 and 2019 were radically progressive compared to the previous 20 years, with policies that were widely popular, including pledges to:

  • Invest in renewables and achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the 2030s
  • Fund the NHS; reverse privatisation; nationalise banking, mail, rail, water, energy
  • Introduce a National Care Service and a National Education Service
  • Scrap universal credit, raise the minimum wage, and ban zero hours contracts
  • Improve employment and union rights and reduce the working week to 32hrs 
  • Stop state pension age rises and compensate WASPI women
  • Build 100,000 council homes per year; control private rents; end homelessness
  • Suspend arms sales to repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Israel

Though we must be honest that social reforms like these are only a fraction of what socialism will offer, and will only provide temporary relief to working people, the fight for such reforms still remains vital or we risk failing the working class. Every retreat from such policies by the new Labour Party leadership must be clearly exposed as an attempt to shift to the right, and must be resisted and countered with demands for even more radical policies, to rally the left in the party to the struggle for socialism.

viii)    We call on all members of the Labour left to remain inside the Party. However, membership of the LLA remains open to comrades who have been expelled or suspended from the Party, or who have recently left in protest at the actions of the Starmer leadership (provided they do not encourage more to leave Labour or to support other organisations or individuals who are standing, or intend to stand, candidates for election against the Labour Party). Despite the triumph of the Right and the collusion of many former left-wingers in the witch-hunt, Labour still remains an important site of struggle for socialist politics.

ix)    We must seek to rally the Left to firm socialist principles, not trim our politics in search of a spurious ‘centre-left’ unity. The history of Momentum and the situation we now find ourselves in show us the dangers of that approach.

x)    Following the recent announcement of the NEC election process, the Labour Left Alliance’s request for affiliation to the CLGA received no response, and was not properly discussed despite being raised by several CLGA affiliates. Some of the 13 organisations involved have complained about the secretive nature of negotiations, the failure to consult members, and the politics of some of the candidates that have been chosen, which includes their failure to report from NEC meetings and the absence of any means to hold them to account. The political emphasis is still on ‘centre’ rather than ‘left’, and in this current struggle, where the very survival of the left in the Labour Party is at stake, that is not good enough. LLA will continue work – with others where possible – to democratise practices within the Labour left. The change to STV election of the NEC CLP section is an attack on the left, but it also gives us the chance to encourage candidates to stand on a clear socialist and democratic platform without serious danger of giving even more NEC seats to the right.   

xi)     The original and continuing purpose of the LLA was to seek collaboration and unity with left organisations in the Labour Party, trade unions, and beyond, and we have been doing this, and should continue to do so despite the reluctance from some of these organisations thus far. We must prioritise our political positions and continue to criticise others among the left that we disagree with – especially in relation to crucial mistakes of the past 5 years, but we must maintain and improve our tactical and diplomatic approach, and promote unity and solidarity. 

xii)    Our organisational work must continue to seek affiliations and other forms of organisational co-operation with and from existing local and national socialist and Marxist groups and organisations and also, where there are none, to build new LLA groups, including regional groups where local groups are not yet practical. A national organiser and regional organisers are important roles that need to be filled to help us grow. The LLA’s structure is working well and demonstrates a successful, transparent, engaging democracy that is serving as an example to the left.

xiii)     We must urgently increase our focus on work in the trade unions, as the industrial front is likely to become a substantially greater factor as the attacks on the working class rapidly increase in the immediate future. The trade union leadership only takes progressive political action under pressure from the rank and file, so the democratisation of the unions is necessary to develop and take opportunities in that field. We should also take the opportunity to provide political influence on the rank and file, and draw them to support our work.

xiv)    Our educational programme can play an important role in providing political influence on the Labour Party and trade union rank and file, and it is vital to ensure that programme is given the resources to continue with regular sessions, covering a broad range of subjects, both theoretical and practical in nature. To further increase their popularity we should seek guest speakers from across the movement, either to provide specialist subject knowledge or to take part in debates where their political position differs – comradely debate that is not simply confined to our close supporters is essential in drawing wider support, and showing the strength of our arguments.

xv)    With a climate catastrophe underway and likely to accelerate due to the callous ignorance of world leaders and monopolies that champion capitalism and imperialism, the fight for socialism has never been more urgent. We have immense potential to rapidly develop the science and technology required to address the existential crisis of climate change, species extinction, and mass displacement; but this development is suppressed by chaotic capitalist global markets, imperialist interventions and war. Now is the crucial time to overturn this rotten system and manage the world’s resources democratically, in international solidarity, for the needs of the planet and its inhabitants, rather than for the wealth of the tiny number of elite exploiters. Only radical changes, brought about by a dedicated, unwavering, and organised socialist movement, can achieve this. In the turbulent times ahead, the LLA can play an enthusiastic and optimistic role in this, starting with transforming the key institutions of the UK Labour movement, and drawing mass support in the process – to defend the working class, to protect the future for our youth, and to fight for socialism.

Version 2

(supported by a 1/3 minority of members of the LLA Organising Group)

Capitalism in crisis
                           
i)  Conference meets during a serious political, social, economic and environmental crisis of the ecologically destructive, wasteful and polluting social system of capitalism. The catastrophic economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic will see further unemployment and falling living standards. In Britain, the situation has radically changed since the December 2019 general election, and it is clear that the pre-Covid-19 ‘normality’ will not return. Despite the Tory government’s rhetoric of a new direction and a rejection of policies of austerity introduced after 2008, the response of the capitalist class will be ultimately to make the working class pay for the crisis.               

ii)  In an increasingly unstable hierarchical world system of competing capitalist states, US imperialism remains thoroughly dominant and is attempting to reverse its relative decline through confrontational diplomacy, trade wars and ‘America first’ nationalism, which points to a future of continuing international tension and wars.                       

iii)  The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated once again the inability of the capitalist system to resolve social problems in the interests of humanity, and the necessity of replacing the rule of the capitalist class with world socialism – the rule of the working class – which can then start the transition to a stateless, classless, moneyless society that embodies the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”.                   

The failure of Corbynism

iv)  The dismal failure of Corbynism to transform society in the interests of the working class, or even to democratise and transform Labour into a socialist party, exposes both
                            

a)  the illusion that British capitalism can be governed in the interests of “the many, not the few”, and,
                                
b)  the disastrous strategy of seeking left-right unity in the party, and of appeasing the ‘fifth column’ of anti-working-class career politicians who represent capitalist class interests within the working-class movement.
                                
Keir Starmer’s ‘constructive opposition’ to the Johnson government makes no challenge to capitalism. The Starmer leadership wants to demonstrate to the ruling class that Labour is once again in safe hands – a reliable second eleven for capitalism.
                        

v)  Corbyn’s election defeat in December 2019, the victory of Starmer in the Labour leadership election and his continued use of the witch-hunt have had a demoralizing effect on the Labour left, with many members either leaving the party or lapsing into inactivity – a process accentuated by the complicity of Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro- Addy, promising never again to attend a meeting with victims of the witch-hunt. The miserable response of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs to the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from Starmer’s shadow capitalist government – begging for party unity with the pro-Zionist, pro-capitalism, Labour right – shows that they have learned nothing from the failure of Corbynism and are intent on continuing the failed strategy of appeasement.                   

Our demands

vi)  Socialists campaign for what workers need, not what capitalism can afford. We must stand firm for the defence and extension of democracy and freedom of speech in the party and in society, and combine building the struggle for economic and social demands with winning the working class for a political programme for the supersession of capitalist class rule by working class rule internationally. No gains of the working class can be permanently secured under capitalist class rule.
                        

vii)  That means prioritising the fight for democracy in every sphere of life, not least the state itself. Our immediate demands must include:
                            

  • abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and a single-chamber parliament with proportional representation, annual elections and MPs’ salaries set at the level of a skilled worker;
  • end the presidential powers of the prime minister; an end to prime ministerial appointment of ministers and all forms of prime ministerial patronage;
    abolition of the standing army and the police, and their replacement by a popular militia;
  • disbandment of MI5, MI6, special branch and the entire secret state apparatus;
    a radical increase in local democracy: service provision, planning, tax raising, law
  • enforcement and allocation of funds to be radically devolved downwards as far as practicable and appropriate, to ward, borough, city and county levels.
  • disestablishment of the Church of England, and a secular state;
  • the unity of Ireland and the voluntary unity of England, Scotland and Wales in a
    federal democratic republic, with the right of Scotland and Wales to secede;
  • a highest quality publicly owned national health service;
                                    
  • nationalisation of land, banks, financial services, public transport, electricity, gas, water and the pharmaceutical industry;
  • a massive council and social house building programme to end the housing shortage, with low rents and life-long secure tenancies;
  • freedom to organise in trade unions, without state or employer interference, and their democratisation: full-time officials must be elected, accountable, recallable and paid the average wage of those they represent;
  • a maximum 5-day, 35-hour working week, and a net minimum wage sufficient for a single worker and one child to live a full life, and state pensions and unemployment pay set at the same level, and,
  • full citizenship rights for migrant workers and ethnic minorities after 6-months residence; an end to all forms of discrimination by state or private bodies – turn formal gender equality into genuine equality.                       

viii)  Such a democratic programme can only be achieved by the conscious, active support of
the majority of the people and Labour should only form a government on this basis.
                   

For a democratic Labour movement – the fight goes on

ix) The fight for democracy in society goes hand in hand with the fight for democracy in the Labour Party and trade unions. The LLA will continue to fight for full party democracy and free speech, mandatory re-selection and the sovereignty of party conference. The defence of comrades attacked during the witch-hunt will remain a priority for us.

x)  We call on socialists to remain inside the party. However, membership of the LLA remains open to comrades who have been expelled or suspended from the party, or who have recently left in protest at the actions of the Starmer leadership (provided they are not striving to encourage more to leave the party or to support other existing or emerging parties in standing candidates against the Labour Party). Despite the triumph of the Right and the collusion of many erstwhile former Lefts in the witch-hunt, Labour remains an important site of struggle for socialist politics and a battlefield which should not be abandoned.
                        
xi)  We must not trim our politics in search of a spurious ‘centre -left’ unity. The history of Momentum and the complicity of some so-called left-wingers in the witch-hunt show the dangers of that approach. The electoral manoeuvring and secret deal-making exemplified by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance must end. We need left candidates, chosen openly and democratically, accountable to the membership and committed to fight for socialism and democracy within the party.

xii)  To build a strong organisation capable of carrying out the serious aims we have set ourselves, the LLA Organizing Group will propose to conference a constitutional amendment that replaces our current federal structure of local groups of supporters with a membership organization of local branches and a national leadership elected by a sovereign national conference.