Key battles for the left ahead – Matt Willgress, Arise Festival


“It’s time for the Left to come together and get our act together.”

By Matt Willgress, Arise: A Festival Of Left Ideas

A great Italian socialist once said, “I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, not life. Indifference is the deadweight of history.”

These words from Gramsci in a very different context sum up the situation socialists face in Britain today.

Now is the time for everyone in the labour movement to take sides. You can either take the side of the one percent and the whole rotten capitalist system.

Or you can take the side of all those people fighting back against the ruling-class offensive, including those workers across many sectors who have taken industrial action over the last 18 months.

And we must also take the side of all those others that have said “no more” to Tory reaction – including BLM and refugees welcome activists, those groups defending our right to protest, and movements calling out the climate catastrophe.

And facing the situation we do – of multiple and deepening crises – more and more people in society agree it’s time to take a side.

Especially amongst younger people, Tony Benn’s message for the labour movement that “We are not just here to manage capitalism but to change society and to define its finer values,” will resonate more and more.

The current situation is that Sunak’s Government has exposed itself as a Thatcherite a Government as ever.

But they aren’t getting away with it, and we on the Left can play a vital role. As many have said, this mean fully backing these resistance movements mushrooming up – and it also means more conscious moves to co-ordinate and sustain actions across different movements.

In terms of such co-ordination with regards to industrial action and union activity, ‘Arise’ was delighted to be part of the ‘Organising Committee of Union Lefts’ launch event at the TUC Congress called by NEU Left, PCS Left Unity, RMT Broad Left, Time for a Real Change in Unison and Unite United Left. This can in their own words “build momentum to bust the Tory pay freeze and prevent striking workers from feeling isolated.”

To give another positive example, when Extinction Rebellion and Don’t Pay both gave support to – and added supplementary actions to – a day of action called around the cost-of-living crisis last year, it helped amplify the core messages and bring together different activists that have a common enemy.

Such developments need to be the norm not an exception if we are to build up the resistance to the levels needed. And in this spirit of solidarity, it is possible for people across the Left to work more productively together where we agree.

And those of us who are in Labour on the Left face a particular challenge in this regard – we need to work together consciously, consistently, and better, to do what we can to back these vital struggles in society inside the Party.

There is no reason, for example, why groups across the left couldn’t promote model motions on the same key struggle each month. It would win support for those struggles, help inject discussion on the need for socialist solutions back into our movement and galvanise people.

Taking sides at this vital moment means we also need to speak up more and consistently on the deepening attacks on Labour Party democracy, remembering that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Thousands of Labour members have been pleased to see people speaking up against Keir Starmer and Co.’s treatment of Diane Abbott in recent weeks – but campaigning on attacks on the Left such as this must be a permanent and integral part of our work.

To put it simply, it’s time for the Left to come together and get our act together.

Featured image: The Arise Festival Conference on December 10th, 2022. Photo credit: Labour Outlook

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