Sunday, 30 September 2007
I think it is crucial that the points he makes and conclusions he draws are debated in the wider movement. The issue of Labour Representation is not going to go away. Far from it, as workers move into struggle, more and more will be drawing Political conclusions and the Labour Left will have to think a little more 'outside of the box' when it comes to trying to attract the workers to the ideas of Socialism.
There is a debate over at Socialist Unity blog ( http://socialistunity.com/ )
AFTER the events at the TUC and Labour Party conference, it is time for the left to take a hard-nosed look at where we go from here.
First of all, we have to face up to the harsh realities of the new political world in which we are operating.
The historical path of the left stems from working people coming together in the workplace and discovering their strength through solidarity. Nourished by socialist ideas, they recognised that, if they wanted to exercise power beyond the workplace, they needed political representation. So the Labour Party was born.
Democratic party structures were established to develop the policy programmes to be implemented when power was achieved.
This week’s vote to close down democratic decision-making at the Labour Party conference and Gordon Brown’s first speech as leader demonstrated that the old strategy is largely over. The conference is now virtually irrelevant and its replacement, the National Policy Forum, is a behind-closed-doors exercise of centralised control of party policy-making.
Brown’s speeches at both the TUC and Labour conference demonstrated decisively how much he fundamentally believes in the principles of neoliberalism - the dominance of the market, flexible labour and privatisation.
Even if there was the potential to use what is left of the party’s structures to attempt to influence him, it is clear that the overall political direction of the Brown government is non-negotiable.
The left has the difficult task of accepting and explaining to others that the old routes into the exercise of power and influence involving internal Labour Party mobilisations and manoeuvres have largely been closed down. We have to face up to the challenge of identifying and developing new routes into effective political activity.
The contradiction is that the more undemocratic the Labour Party becomes, the more it cuts itself off from the real world at a time when new social movements are emerging.
People may be increasingly giving up on political parties, but they haven’t given up on politics. They still want to challenge the injustices they meet in our society and they are devising a multitude of mechanisms to do so, from independent media and climate camps to affinity groups organising direct action.
New social movements have mobilised on a vast array of issues ranging from climate change, asylum rights, to housing and arms sales. Many trade unions have also rediscovered their roots as social movements themselves in their new campaigns on everything from private equity to the exploitation of migrant workers.
New alliances are being forged and, where trade union leaderships have been incorporated as supporters of the status quo, rank-and-file activity within their unions is re-emerging and organising.
The difficult task for the left now is to appreciate that new strategies, new coalitions of forces and, above all else, a new dynamism are needed to deal with the new political environment where the traditional routes have been so narrowed.
The left needs to open itself to co-operation with progressive campaigns within our community, learning from them, treating them with mutual respect, rejecting any patronising or sectarian approach and, where needed, to serve as the catalyst to instigate and facilitate campaigning activity. Creativity is also needed to stimulate the analysis, debate and discussion of the ideas and principles which we may share in our wish to transform our society.
The main political parties are increasingly seen as irrelevant to the real-world issues facing our communities, resulting in declining participation rates and election turnouts and deepening scepticism.
This doesn’t mean that people are apathetic. Far from it.
There is a growing radical nature to our times and an opportunity for a period of exciting, frenetic activity capable of creating a climate of progressive hegemony which no government could immunise itself from no matter how ruthlessly it closes down democracy in its own party.
John McDonnell is Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington. His book Another World is Possible: A manifesto for 21st century socialism is available to buy online, price £2.50 inc p&p at www.l-r-c.org.uk or by sending a cheque payable to LRC to PO Box 2378, London, E5 9QU.
Sunday, 23 September 2007
Reading this I can only see that OMOV will only be granted to those members who can afford to take time off work to attend these forums. How will they be informed of them? If there's a snap election then once again an opportunity to vote on something will be removed from a large proportion of members - so why should we trust this new OMOV? He goes on :-
So local parties will get more support to hold their own discussions on policy and be able to invite in people from the community who can help. Every member will be invited to a regional policy forum with ministers. Every member who takes part will now be kept informed as policy develops.
And now there will be one member one vote.
Not just for selecting candidates
Or electing the leader
But [also] one member one vote on the programme they will stand on.
So what are these programmes?At the start of this section he talks about national issues and policy, but when he gets to the grass-roots - the only discussions appear to be about LOCAL politics. This to me heralds the end of CLPs - putting all the power into either the PLP - who will no doubt be funded and supported by the party/big business; or by those elected councillors - who are solely focussed on battling with the opposition in council on local issues only. When will they have time to focus on local forums about national policy?
How we engage people beyond our membership.
Political change, whether it is local, national or international, doesn't happen because of politicians or political parties alone. Debt relief for the world's poorest countries happened because we campaigned and reached out beyond our party. And if we think about the coming years, we need a Labour Party that can reach out again, changing minds and attitudes on issues from child poverty to climate change.
And we need to recognise that real change in communities only comes when people are part of it. Whether it is a new zebra crossing, getting drug dealers off the streets, or better youth services, we can only do it by being rooted in communities we serve.
As a local MP I say to people: I can't solve the problems on my own. I need your help.
So local Labour parties need to be --- as many already are---community organisations showing people the difference we can make by working together.
And there will be new support for local parties to do that. And that's how we will recruit new members and build a stronger party.
Parliamentary selections will be controlled by who? Head Office? Where does the ordinary supportive member get his say on national issues in a local forum with friends, comrades and experienced executive committees? Without this backing new members will never develop - or indeed ever understand the machinations of the party.
Is ignorance bliss?
IMHO this is the most dangerous attack on democracy I've yet to witness.
Thursday, 20 September 2007
My last real conference?
Delegates must veto New Labour's bid to reduce the party membership to a glorified fan club Tony BennThursday September 20, 2007The Guardian
Next week's may be the last real Labour conference I shall attend after 65 years membership of the party. For if constitutional amendments put forward by the leadership are accepted, delegates will no longer be permitted to pass any resolutions on any policy questions.
The argument put forward is that when there is a Labour government it is unacceptable for members of the party, at conference, to be able to vote for policies that are in conflict with government policy. This process began in the 90s, when New Labour came to power and most proposals were referred to the national policy forum in which the government had a permanent majority.
But it was agreed that eight resolutions could be put to the conference every year - four from constituency parties and four from the unions. The conference was able, for instance, to vote for a restoration of the link between pensions and earnings. The government did, however, succeed in preventing discussion on other sensitive issues like Iraq and its decision to go ahead with Trident.
If the new proposals - now endorsed by the NEC and apparently some major trade unions - are accepted, delegates will only be allowed to identify issues they want looked at by the policy forums, and the manifesto that emerges will be put to a referendum of party members to accept or reject in full, with no possibility of amendment. This would complete the New Labour project under which the conference becomes a platform for ministers and a few handpicked delegates - and, of course, a big trade fair. There would be no point in joining the party locally or affiliating as a union in the hope of discussing policy.
In short, party members will only have one campaigning function - to get councillors and a government elected with policies which they have played no part whatsoever in formulating. If this divorce happens, policy campaigning will revert to those outside the party and parliament. This would be a tragedy, but it would indicate clearly that the New Labour leadership's attitude to the party and the movement is not only that they don't want certain policies passed but also that they don't want any decisions reached they do not control.
Of course this would also affect MPs, who would become elected "civil servants". I very much hope conference rejects the change, and makes clear that it intends to strengthen its role in policymaking; this the delegates in Bournemouth will have the power to do. But those who want to deal with issues not on the government's agenda will have to campaign vigorously outside parliament and build a body of opinion so strong no political party would be able to ignore it. Since I left parliament, all my work has been along those lines - against the Iraq war, privatisation, student loans; and for comprehensive education, union and workers' rights, civil liberties and public housing. The focus of these campaigns has hitherto been the conference, but if that opportunity is removed, the party will deprive itself of the support of activists when polling day comes.
Conference will then be an annual meeting for the fan club of the parliamentary bigwigs and their business friends. Even the fringe meetings which are now so vibrant could disappear, because those who attend them will know the issues they are interested in will never get on to the conference floor.
That is the choice that has to be made in Bournemouth - and it is the biggest decision since the party was founded, for it could also end the role of parliament as the buckle that links the demonstrations on the street to the legislation on the statute book upon which democracy itself depends.
· Tony Benn's latest book, More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-07, is published by Hutchinson next month firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran....The intelligence officer said that the US military has "two major contingency plans" for air strikes on Iran. "One is to bomb only the nuclear facilities. The second option is for a much bigger strike that would - over two or three days - hit all of the significant military sites as well. This plan involves more than 2,000 targets."
This guy reminds me of my eighteen month old nephew - once he's knocked over one pile of bricks he looks for another.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
The Campaign group looks like collapsing to about a dozen at this rate.
Is the Labour really saveable anymore?
Friday, 7 September 2007
-Updating the link to John McDonnell's blog (and removing the double link);
-Removing the the double link to Grim up North;
-Merging the "Left Blogs" and "Interesting Links" sections