By Kelly Rogers
The internationalist, class-struggle left of which The Clarion is part had a huge impact on this year’s Labour Party conference.
When the Leader’s Office was fishing for compromises on Brexit in the run up to conference, some prominent Remainers were arguing that we’d already won everything we wanted, and that it was reasonable for Labour not to argue explicitly for Remain.
It was at the Labour for a Socialist Europe steering committee that was all put to bed. Following that, the Another Europe is Possibl/L4SE campaign was clear all the way through conference: we were going to refuse to accept being swallowed into a single composite (as in 2018), force the debate out in the open, and argue our side.
The overwhelming majority of CLPs stayed in our composite: over 50 came with us, eight went with the CLPD Brexit-neutral composite. We came a lot closer to winning that most of us thought was possible, and we really gave the leadership a run for their money. We came out of it with a lot of new connections and a lot of people very fired up.
And all of the compromises being offered by the leadership in advance of conference have been included in the final formulation: the main one being the special conference, post-election, to decide the party’s Brexit position.
The victory over free movement and migrants’ rights was again was down to the hard work of our wing of the left. I don’t think we would have won it if it hadn’t been for the Brexit debate taking place earlier in conference, us winning lots of people over to us, and the leadership running out of road formanoeuvring and backroom shenanigans.
They certainly tried though: the CAC initially separated our Labour Campaign for Free Movement motion from the Labour Against Racism and Fascism/Momentum motion on closing detention centres, in the hope that neither policy area would get enough priority votes on its own – or that the LARAF one would get heard and ours wouldn’t.
But a campaign on conference floor with lots of speeches about hearing the motions together and a lot of leafleting outside in favour of our motion got us over the line.
Then the Leader’s Office sent in their people to try to water down our composite (despite all eight delegates in the compositing having almost identical text). The delegates did a phenomenal job, defending almost all of the text in the face of a lot of pressure and guilt-tripping from people including Diane Abbott.
And then the party machine scheduled the motion to be heard on Wednesday, when lots of delegates would already have gone home. We feared that conference would be closed early following the Supreme Court ruling was announced. But we made a big fuss, and I think the Leader’s Office knew that doing that would be too damaging for them, with everything else that had gone on at conference.
So we won — almost unanimously, with only a handful of CWU delegates voting against, and even their delegation was split. (Of course the fight for the policy to be implemented now continues.)
In the Green New Deal compositing, too, it is clear that our wing of the left was very important. If it wasn’t for the motions that The Clarion got submitted (and the FBU and Bakers’ motions based on them) and our people in the compositing meeting, it looks like Labour for a GND would have rolled over under pressure from the leadership.
But the delegates stuck it out, and most of the radical policy submitted got into the composite that was passed.
You could add other initiatives such as the demonstration in solidarity with workers and the democracy movement in Hong Kong our comrades organised.
More generally, the nearest thing to an activist, interventionist left at the conference was the grouping of activists around Labour for a Socialist Europe, Labour Campaign for Free Movement and Another Europe is Possible, which leafleted, distributed bulletins, caucused, and organised and lobbied delegates.
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