“At a time when some of Blair’s heirs are desperately trying to drive as many left-wingers as possible out of the Labour Party, it would simply play into their hands for people to abandon the struggle for socialist policies & party democracy.”
The ‘Arise’ Volunteers team argue now is the time for us to look ahead, fighting together for socialist solutions to the crises we face and to oppose the Tory agenda.
As we begin our campaigning in 2021 it is difficult sometimes not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of what the Left and labour movement are up against – and the extent of the crises we see unfolding.
It is clear Boris Johnson’s government will launch a volley of offensives, on a range of fronts, whilst at the same time totally failing to address the public health disaster we remain in the middle of.
We know we are likely to face austerity 2.0 under the cover of “dealing with debt” – local government and social care have already been denied the emergency extra funds they need, and more cuts are on the way. A full-on assault on workers’ rights was recently trailed in the media.
Additionally, we are already seeing sustained attack on civil liberties and protest movements, including through the Spy Cops Bill.
And then there is the incredible increase in military spending. When we see this alongside continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the rise of the ‘new cold war warriors’ when it comes to relations with China, support for US interventions and the far-right in Latin America, and much more besides, it shows the Johnson regime is committed to a reactionary, aggressive agenda internationally.
Trump may have gone, but Johnson and this Conservative government have learnt lessons from his approach to effectively ‘divide and rule’. It means we can expect more scapegoating of migrants and Black communities – and seeking divisions amongst working people wherever they can be exploited.
The Tories have had one of the worst and most reactionary responses in the world to the Coronavirus crisis. They do not have anywhere near the agenda needed to tackle the climate emergency. They look set to use the pandemic to further restructure the economy in the interests of the super-rich.
Such a prospect means that the Left must rise to the challenges ahead.
Last year, despite the problems in organising posed by the pandemic, we saw many communities, trade unions and campaigners on other popular causes make a stand against the Tories’ reactionary agenda.
We must stand with all those resisting this agenda, not just in words but with deeds, including through giving full support to the global Black Lives Matter uprising.
We must also further develop the social movements and extra-parliamentary campaigns that can build, link-up and co-ordinate resistance.
This means being at the heart of organising that resistance, including through the trade unions, in our localities and communities, and through the vital nationwide movements organising against key parts of the Tory agenda.
Building a massive movement for jobs must be a priority as unemployment grows and the insecure jobs spiral.
It also falls on us to provide the policy solutions forward out of the crises we face, including in terms of articulating the need for a #ZeroCovid strategy alongside a Peoples Plan to transform the economy and defend jobs and livelihoods.
Whilst we have suffered defeats in here in recent years, the time for socialist solutions has come, and transformative change is needed more than ever, not least to tackle the global climate emergency.
As well as seeking to support, reach out to and organise with new allies, we must also do all we can to seek to defend the gains that were made in within the Labour Party in recent years – both in terms of policies and to a degree in terms of structural change – which face sustained attacks from the ruling class and those who do their bidding (consciously or otherwise) in our movement.
In the Labour Party, the Left must build on the unity that helped achieve impressive victories in the end of year NEC elections, and the spirit of co-operation we have seen on campaigning for the whip to be restored to Jeremy Corbyn and on the platforms of Arise’s ‘Fighting Back in 2021’ event.
It is totally false to argue that this work inside the Labour Party and building movements in our workplaces, communities and the streets are in some way counterposed or contradictory.
As Tony Benn argued again and again, both are essential and supplement each other.
At a time when some of Blair’s heirs are desperately trying to drive as many left-wingers as possible out of the Labour Party, it would simply play into their hands for people to abandon this struggle for socialist policies and party democracy.
Furthermore, a central part of criticism of rightwards shifts in Labour’s direction must be that they will not help Labour to win again.
In terms of being neutral on (or even against) struggles against key parts of the Tories’ agenda – for example as happened around the NEU’s struggle for safe schools and communities – Labour is falling out of step of public opinion which is clearly moving against this disastrous Government.
And in terms of economic approach, returning to the ‘austerity lite’ approach Labour took into the 2015 election will not motivate voters or party members.
Finally, the Left has re-emerged as a major force in British politics, and still is despite the defeats we have faced.
But we cannot take this for granted, especially as those who want to dampen resistance to the Tories will seek to divide and demoralise us.
While resisting these continual attacks, we must be vigilant not to fall into the trap of discussing politics on grounds set by our opponents but to fight the Tories and promote our own alternatives.
The latter must include not only the alternative economic programme, but also why we need an anti-war government, why we must build international solidarity and why the fight for equality and liberation for all is an integral part of socialist politics.
To defend health, jobs, and livelihoods and to win real change in the future, unity in action on the left is essential, both within the Labour Party and beyond it. Join us and 1000s more at ‘Fighting Back in 2021’ this weekend and let’s move forward together.
- A version of this article was recently published in the Morning Star.