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We need a revolution in political education – Richard Burgon exclusive #TonyBennSchoolofPoliticalEducation

“We need a revolution in political education in the Labour Party – one that empowers Labour members to be armed up with the ideas to win people over to radical alternatives to our broken economic model that is destroying lives, communities & the planet.”

Richard Burgon

By Richard Burgon MP

This week, it was confirmed that austerity is literally shortening people’s lives. Resistance not only to Tory austerity, but to the Government’s inaction on the climate catastrophe and its dangerous foreign policy is needed now more than ever.

As a Labour Party, we know all too well that this resistance cannot be limited to fighting the Tories in Parliament. And over the coming years with a large Tory majority, the victories in parliament are going to be few and far between and the key battlegrounds elsewhere.

That makes grassroots organising more important than ever and, as Deputy Leader, I will be a Campaigner and Organiser in Chief, with the aim of winning over millions more people to our causes and policies.

But to do that we also need to be building widespread support for alternative ideas. So we need a revolution in political education in the Labour Party – one that empowers Labour members to be armed up with the ideas to win people over to radical alternatives to our broken economic model that is destroying lives, communities and the planet.

This is why I’m pleased to announce that as Deputy Leader, I would launch the Tony Benn School of Political Education. This would provide free online courses to Labour members in progressive history – such as feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles, on the fight for democracy and the formation of the labour movement – but also on alternative economics and on climate and international justice. The School would provide online materials including access to podcasts, video talks, reading materials and guest lecturers.

This would be part of a wider transformation of Political Education in Labour. The party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has done a fantastic job of expanding the membership and in mobilising members but what is now needed for members is a forum for the kind of discussions that don’t necessarily have the space to breathe in local Labour Party meetings or campaigning sessions.

My five-point plan to overhaul Labour’s Political Education also includes:
● Global Justice Education: with Labour’s Annual Conference choosing a global issue each year on which 100 CLPs would twin with communities to show solidarity. This could be CLPs twinning with communities in Colombia where trade unionists are killed, with towns in Occupied Palestine or Kashmir, or with areas hit by consequences of the climate catastrophe.
● Strikers’ Solidarity Tour: The Labour Party nationally would coordinate for hundreds of CLPs to hear from speakers involved in nationwide strike actions such as the current University and Colleges Union action. That would be about educating members as well as building practical solidarity.
● Promoting Trade Unionism: A huge push about why every Labour member should become a member of a trade union.
● Cultural Events that promote political education. This could include a Labour Book Club where members would host reading groups on key texts such as Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and Aneurin Bevan’s In Place of Fear. It would involve a Labour Cinema Club working with local independent cinemas to host public screenings and Q+A discussions with political films such as I, Daniel Blake or John Pilger’s film The Dirty War on the NHS or the Academy-nominated Petra Costa’s film The Edge of Democracy about Brazil’s far-right government. And we can learn from, as well as work with, campaigns like Love Music Hate Racism to organise music events with a political message to raise funds on behalf of key social justice campaigns such as the McStrikers’ demand for a proper living wage.

This transformation of political education is just one of the plans I have for the Labour Party if elected as Deputy Leader next month alongside a huge push to turn us into a million-member party. My three key pledges to members are to extend party democracy through Open Selection, to hardwire public ownership with a new Clause IV and to defend anti-war internationalism with a Labour Party Peace Pledge.

Knowledge is power and so I hope you’ll back my idea for transforming our party’s political education, my wider pledges – and my candidacy to be Labour’s next Deputy Leader!

  • For more info on my campaign, visit richard4deputy.com

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