“The first obstacle to making the Labour Party safe for capitalism is the membership… and secondly the democratic structures.”Rachel Garnham, CLPD
By the Labour Outlook Volunteer Team
On Thursday, over 700 activists joined a Labour Outlook event on Zoom – and 10,000s have since viewed on social media – to discuss ‘What drives Starmer’s attacks on the left and Labour member’s rights’. The meeting followed a renewed round of attacks on party democracy as the leadership moved to proscribe left organisations working in the party, and auto-expel any members who had anything to do with them.
After the Chair, Nadia Jama’s, initial comments, the first speaker, Rachel Garnham, Vice Chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, said Jeremy Corbyn was able to ‘put together an electoral coalition in 2017 that prevented Theresa May from putting together a government’ and that he began ‘building an anti-tory majority’.
‘The capitalist class is absolutely focused on increasing profits and that means the political agenda of austerity… [they] need to avoid anything approaching the 2017 election result from ever happening again’.
She continued: ‘The first obstacle to making the Labour Party safe for capitalism is the membership… and secondly the democratic structures’.
James Schneider, one of the founders of Momentum, a former Labour spokersperson and Jeremy Corbyn’s Director of Strategic Communications said, ‘they think we live in a conservative country, and they are wrong. There is a nascent social democratic trend in this country which Corbyn activated’.
‘If you wanted to be rational, you’re starting point would be the 2017 general election and build out.. that’s what you would do if you just wanted to be Prime Minister.’
But he went on to stress – “‘Because left ideas are popular, we won’t be attacked’ doesn’t fully understand the nature of the party”.
‘The Labour Party is an institution within society with a split nature. It has one foot in communities and society… and it has one foot in the state… it’s one part to challenge power, and one part to protect power. The party has conflict written through it by definition’.
But he insisted that the left need to engage in that struggle because ‘the Labour Party isn’t an identity, it’s a battle ground’, and is still ‘open for a left leadership’. He also pressed for the need to engage with wider social movements and to bring those issues into the party.
Speaking on behalf of Save our Socialists, Maia Kirby argued that ‘fundamentally the Labour right don’t want to challenge inequalities… They see themselves as having a role in the party – they’re the sensible managers and we’re the children’.
But, she continued, “they’re weak – they have no policy ideas… their coalition is built on opposition to us, so they need us. It’s very tempting to see this weakness and think ‘I’m going to leave the party’, and I think our biggest problem is overcoming demobilisation”.
Emphasising the importance of staying in the party, she argued ‘they think they can defeat us by killing hope, but we have to take a broad view of what we have achieved – we’re a significant force in the Labour Party and we must hold on to each other’.
As Rachel Garnham argued, it’s vital we continue to engage and fight the attacks on democracy because ‘”as a well-known socialist once said, ‘we are the many and they are the few’”.