by Rida Vaquas and James McAsh (reposted from Left Futures)

On 12 September we will find out whether Jeremy Corbyn is the next leader of the Labour Party. There is, of course, an increased reluctance to accept opinion polls at face value, so any optimism is still cautious. But whatever the result it is already clear that the Labour Party has changed. There has been a mass influx of 400,000 new members and supporters, of which 60% are thought to be ‘youth’. An unprecedented momentum has come behind the previously ailing Labour left, bringing with it great potential. But at the same time the situation is precarious: we urgently need to come together to ensure that these hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters do not vanish as quickly as they appeared.

If Corbyn loses on 12 September, platitudes will be given about how valuable his contributions have been, but behind the scenes the party machine will have already sprang into action. The Parliamentary Labour Party has already learned its lesson and now knows the danger of allowing members any power. Proposals to make future elections ‘fairer’ and ‘more transparent’ will come forward while left-wingers are publicly expelled and made examples. The right-wing will try to compensate for the Party’s ‘summer of madness’ by posturing more rightwards still. In response, the sectarians in organisations like the Socialist Workers Party will say ‘I told you so’ and claim their point proven: there is no future in the Labour Party.

Corbyn supporters will be demoralised. A few will leave and many more will simply lose enthusiasm.

If Corbyn wins it will be better but still not without problems. He will hopefully move quickly to politically reposition the Party on the left and to introduce long-needed internal democratic reforms to empower members. However, while the Party rulebook gives plenty of authority to the Leader, the Parliamentary Labour Party will still wield a number of significant weapons. As has already been announced in the press, some MPs will launch a public coup against the new leader. Others will undermine him in more subtle ways: leaking criticism to the press and finding excuses to not co-operate.

Even with a huge mandate behind him, the balance of power will be against Corbyn. He will only be able to drive through his policies and reforms, and maintain control of the party, if the membership is sufficiently mobilised. Huge pressure will be put on him to capitulate or to resign. No matter how principled, he will only avoid this fate if there is sufficient counter-pressure.

But what about us?

Both of these scenarios share a common assumption: the Labour left does not change. The Labour left is, as it stands, weak. There are plenty of existing groups – Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Red Labour, Labour Representative Committee, Campaign for Socialism, Labour Campaign for Free Education – and many more talented individuals. But on their own they are not enough. We do not currently have the infrastructure to support and channel the momentum and huge numbers that the Corbyn campaign has created.

The Labour left must be relaunched, bringing together the different groups, activists and strengths that already exist to create something bigger. All the relevant groups should come together to launch a new Left. Exactly how this is done, or what it looks like, is up for debate.

However we can start with two broad principles:

It must be democratic. This does not just mean policy conferences, elections and rules – although these are important. It means a culture of inclusiveness and accessibility where everyone shares responsibility and no one individual or group is in charge, where disagreements are had out in the open, and where everyone is prepared, on occasion, to lose the argument.

It must be outward facing and campaigning. We do not need just another left-wing Labour Party faction. It is necessary but not enough to get left-wingers elected onto Party committees, or even into Parliament. We need a mobilised membership which campaigns on the issues that matter: education, the environment, housing, pay and working conditions, trade union rights, migration, discrimination and oppression. This will help us to build the Party and the left within it. But more importantly, if we want to implement the policies for which we have spent the past months arguing, then we will need to go up against powerful vested interests. We can only take on these interests with an active and mobilised population behind us.

There is one area of the Labour left where I am confident that the move for improved organisation can proceed quickly.

Throughout history, youth and students have often played a transformative role in times of social upheaval. Today we must play this role in transforming the Labour Party and the Labour left. We must lead by example, in a spirit of co-operation and comradeship, and relaunch the left in Young Labour and Labour Students. In Scotland this is already happening with the launch of Scottish Labour Young Socialists. Hopefully we can do the same for the youth and students across the UK and contribute to a reinvigoration of the left in the Party in general.

The Labour Campaign for Free Education is calling a meeting in London of youth and students for the 20 September – a week after the election result – to begin discussions for a new youth and student Labour left on the basis of the two principles above. LCFE does not pretend to represent everyone. It has been backed by LRC Youth and the Scottish Labour Young Socialists. Other groups like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Red Labour Youth and the Labour Young Trade Unionist Network should co-sponsor and throw their organisational strength behind it.

I hope that the moves being made by left-wing Labour youth will have a positive effect on the wider Labour left too.

There is great potential ahead of us. Let’s not squander it.

Facebook event:  Youth and Students for Corbyn: Relaunching the Young Labour Left

The Labour Campaign For Free Education is appalled to learn of the barring of many people en masse from voting in the leadership election. This includes many longstanding Labour activists as well as people who have newly joined to fight the Tories since the election.

Many rejectees are free education activists from organisations such as NCAFC, who have been dedicated to the fight for social justice, perfectly in line with “our aims and values”. The Labour Party should welcome these new members and what they have to contribute to our party. Their rejection undermines the hard work of many Labour Party activists in convincing others that the Labour Party is an effective political project to be involved in. The Labour Party should be proud that so many people feel the party is now their political home, as opposed to shamefully purging them just in case they vote the wrong way.

The fears over ‘entryism’ are misguided and cover for an attempt to flatten a mass democratic event. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed up to be a part of the Labour Party, a sign that the party is reconnecting to the wider labour movement. The expulsions even go against the spirit of the leadership election as set out by acting leader Harriet Harman ““It [the leadership contest] is about actively reaching out to engage with people who did not support us, not just those who did.” It hardly needs pointing out that shutting the Labour Party off to thousands of activists, new and old, is a very strange way of ‘reaching out’.

The legitimate ground for suspension is concrete: current membership of another political party. It is not the Labour HQ trawling through your social media looking for evidence of thought crime.

It only goes to show the party Right have lost the political argument, but they haven’t lost the machine.

This leadership contest is meant to be an opportunity to shape our future. We cannot let it be strangled by the machinations of the past.

If you have been purged, contact the Compliance Unit (0845-092-2299) as soon as possible and challenge their ruling. The reasons given for people’s exclusion are in general extremely nebulous, and therefore very difficult to evidence. Add your name to this list ( https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1suH2QiYyld-kfrFLGLiL-E5bP8LE8pnNQeGKI0Ita24/viewform ) so we can continue to compile evidence of these shameful manoeuvres. If you are a Corbyn supporter, contact the Corbyn campaign (info@jeremyforlabour.com). Most importantly, kick up a fuss. This party belongs to the collective labour movement, not just the few people at the top who want to deny us our voice.

The fight for party democracy continues.

By Beth Redmond and Luke Neal (re-posted from anticuts.com)

As the last month of the Labour leadership contest approaches, those of us watching with baited breath finally got to see some Actual Policies about education being announced this week.

Liz Kendall pledged to “end inequality from birth” by extending early years education. Jeremy Corbyn announced he could make higher education free by increasing corporation tax by 0.5%. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, clearly not wanting to stray too far from the middle of the road, announced that they would abolish tuition fees – in favour of a graduate tax.

It’s good that the work the student movement has done over the past 5 years, combined with Corbyn’s (so far) successful campaign and leftward-drag on the leadership election, is having some sort of influence over what the other candidates are saying. And it’s indicative of that good work that Burnham and Cooper feel the need to disguise their policy and pose it as “abolishing tuition fees”, when in fact it isn’t that at all.

Dressing up moderate policies with a left-wing headline in a bid to steal votes from Corbyn, whose ideas are dominating the leadership election, is nothing new for Burnham. Only a few days ago he announced that he is in favour of re-nationalising the railways, but take a closer look and you will see that actually, he just wants to lift the ban on public providers bidding to compete with private companies running the rails.

A graduate tax isn’t good enough; it’s essentially a rebranding of tuition fees. Burnham claims he wants to “lift the millstone of debt” from students, but is actually proposing a very similar form of funding, through decades of deductions from graduate wages. While a graduate tax pushes the headline of a fee into the background, it still depends on the idea that individuals who receive the financial benefit of a degree should pay for the privilege. So what seems like a step forward – taxation rather than loans and debts – actually relies on the same logic: of education as an individual investment in a competitive market. Unless it is a tax to fund HE is on wealth itself (as Corbyn is proposing a form of), this represents little progress.

The details of the policy are typically unclear; it is highly unlikely that Burnham and Cooper’s version of “abolishing tuition fees” would apply to students coming to Britain from outside the EU.

Such mild reforms will do little to undo the damage the market is inflicting upon colleges and universities. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will continue to challenge the rule of the market and fight for truly free education, funded by taxing big businesses and the rich. We will be encouraging students to vote for Jeremy Corbyn – the only candidate in the Labour leadership election to put our interests on the agenda.

We the undersigned student and youth activists are supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for Labour Party leader.

Whether it’s student fees and grants or the minimum wage, migrants’ rights or civil liberties, nuclear weapons or climate change, Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate speaking to our concerns.

We will build support for his campaign among youth and student organisations, including the young members’ sections of our trade unions.

We encourage young people and students to sign up as party members or registered supporters to support and vote for Jeremy.

Signed,

Shelly Asquith, NUS Vice President (Welfare) and UNITE
Rachael Ward, London Young Labour Executive and UNITE
James Elliott, Oxford University Labour Club Executive
Rida Vaquas, Young Labour National Committee
Liam McNulty, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP and UNITE
Freddie Seale, London Young Labour Executive and GMB
Max Shanly, Young Labour National Committee
James McAsh, London Young Labour, Labour Campaign for Free Education
Rhea Wolfson, London Young Labour, Labour Campaign for Free Education, GMB
Beth Redmond, NUS NEC, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC)
Katie Kokkinou, UNITE
Robin White
Daniella Lock, University College London Union (UCLU)
Alec Hinshelwood. UCLU
Anna Simpson, Oxford University Students Union (OUSU)
Jack Redfern, UCLU
Joanne Woodhouse, UCLU
Kieran O’Brien, UCLU
Colin Scott Stuart, UNITE
Josh Chown, Chair, Surrey Labour Students
Nathan Steele, UCLU and GMB
Alex McKenna
Jack Gamble
Tom Harris, Unison
Ed Armston, UNITE
Alex Booth, Student
Kieran Miles, Croydon North CLP, GMB
Joe Smith, GMB
Omar Raii, NCAFC
Andy Warren, KCLSU
Tim Rouse, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP, UNITE
Hannah Webb, UCLU, NCAFC
Christopher Fairley, LSESU
Zoe Salanitro, University of Birmingham, Guild of Students
Tiffany Chan, NCAFC
Chris Waugh
Ben Towse, Finchley & Golders Green CLP
Jack Chadwick, LGBTQ Officer, York University Students Union
Ella Thorp, Unison
Vijay Jackson, Hastings and Rye CLP, Hastings Youth Council, UNITE Community,Hastings Anticuts, Hastings Solidarity member, Hastings Independent.
Mahamid Ahmed, NUS NEC Postgraduate Taught Rep
Michael Muir, Uddingston and Bellshill CLP, UNITE
Fran Cowling, NUS LGBT
Benji Williams
Luke Neal, UNITE, University of Manchester
Daniel Brooks
Fred Craig, NCAFC
Dexter Govan, Chair, Aberdeen University Labour Students and GMB
Lewis Macleod, Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA)
Hattie Craig, NCAFC
Jamie Green, Vauxhall CLP, Unison
Tom Robinson, UCLU, NCAFC
Gemma Harris, Hornsey & Wood Green CLP
Yash Mishra, UCLU
Pat Grady, Unite Community
John Stephens
Mark Crawford
Adam Roberts
William Bonnell, Unite, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts
Kim Luetchford, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts
Dan Hale Bolingbroke, Birkbeck
Alasdair Clark, Mid Fife and Glenrothes CLP
Alex Norman, NCAFC
Christian Liberman
Will Graham
Phil Harper
Oliver Corke, NUT
David Bradshaw
Lucy Saville
Daniel de La Motte-Harrison
Katie Scott
Alistair Kalama
Stephen Michael
Eliza Gearty
Tabby Detroit
Meral Durgun
Yasmin Raza
Fielding Hope
Jessica Knights
Silja Stroem, Scottish Artists Union
Jeremy Jones, Equity
Fred Andrews
Lara Macdonald
Natalia Renwick,NCAFC
Eleanor Clarke, NCAFC
Alastair Curtis
Jennifer Mills, UCU
Laurence Butler, Labour member
Claudia Turkington, Unite
Michael Chessum, Tottenham CLP
Samuel Jones High Wycombe
Amanda Shaylor, Teesside Free Education Campaign
Robin Clark
Guinevere Carter, UCL Union
Rachel O’Brien, NCAFC, Defend Education Birmingham
James Moulding
Harriet Pugh, UNITE, University of Manchester Students Union
Grace Edwards
Josh Berlyne,
Deborah Hermanns, NCAFC NC & UNITE
Joe Bradley
Yousuf Farooq, NPSC, University of York labour club
James Hodgkiss
Thomas McDonald, UNITE
Joe smith, GMB
Ryan Kemp, Unite, Aberystwyth University
Joseph Tozer
Rebecca Christian
Geoffrey Hewitt
Ross Holden
Lauren Razavi, National Union of Journalist, Sheffield Hallam CLP, NCAFC
Daniel Brathwaite-Shirley
Josh elton
Matt Heaney, student at Open University, Labour Party member
Malaka, NUS Executive Committee
Jonathan Hosseiny
Harry Barnes
Henry Mendoza
Joseph Grice, Francis Crick Institute
Alex Anthony, UNISON
Paul Ritchie, University of Oxford
Thomas McAleney, Crawley Young Labour, Deputy Chair
Rebecca Hedges, Hertsmere CLP
Leyla McCarthy
Matthew Stafford
Will Sears
Sinan Kose
Matthew Filer, P.S.
Hannah Dixon, Havering Young Labour
Patrick Pennington, NUS
Joshua Booth, Warrington Young Labour, Red Labour Warrington
Edward Lightowlers, Leeds North West CLP
John Comer
Beth Haines, Unite
James Harland, University of York
George J. Severs, Royal Holloway Left Forum, Basingstoke CLP LGBT Officer
Ryan Loonan, Bury South CLP
George Widdicombe
Michelle Conway
Amy Jo Balmer
Christopher Rathe
Jordan Morris
Demaine Boocock University of Sheffield
Saad Hussain
Sam Lundy
Paul Cumming, Unite, Edinburgh Central CLP, Edinburgh Students
Luke Myer, Edge Hill Students’ Union
Seán MacCorsain Youth Officer, Glasgow Cathcart CLP, GMB
Luke David Thompson, Warrington South
Katrina Ellis
Jacob Bentley, UNITE
Jill Murphy
Ashlie Spedding
Clevan Johnson, Croydon North CLP
Michael Burgess
ADRIAN PAUL MILES, WALSALL SOUTH
Evan Millard, Colne Valley
Katrina Ellis
Frederick Reece
Hassam Iftikhar, Bradford East
Jeni Hunneyball
Liam Collins
Cerys Lewis-Ayling, Aberconwy CLP
Elliot Gudge
Martin Dunbar, Hartlepool CLP / unite union
Dan Iley-Williamson
Toby Wainwright
Zebedee Corry-Wright
Finley Harnett
Jack Edward Cunningham, Houghton & Sunderland South CLP
Oscar Holch
Daniel Halpin
James Forward, Rainforest Limited
James Briffa , Wolverhampton University
Glenn Michael Harper, Mature & Part Time Students Officer, SUARTS
Tajjamal Ali, Peace4Palestine
Joseph Dwyer
Callum Huseyin
Jack Cunningham, Houghton & Sunderland South CLP
Brian McLaughlin
John Stainsby
Jack Cunningham, Houghton & Sunderland South CLP
Marcus Cameron, Warrington South CLP
Sam Pither , EndOp
Jayne Strange
Elliott Dean, Disabled Students’ Officer, SUARTS
George Norman, UNITE, University of York Labour Club former chair, current LGBTQ Officer
Becky Downer
Liam Sebastian Bittles
Liam Gleeson
Lucy Hall, UNITE
Paul Grant
James Hunter, Musicians’ Union
Victoria Johnson
Lawand Omar
Claire Murphy, Equity
David Whitaker
Harriet Vickers, GMB Young London
Karl Johnson, GMB Young London
Joseph Levin
Laura Fisher
Eve Newton
Matthew Balnaves, UNITE
Ebruba Abel-Unokan

 

The Labour Campaign for Free Education attended the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts Conference this weekend.

It was a successful intervention:

  • Our National Committee member, Rida Vaquas, was elected onto their National Committee as the Further Education Rep.
  • We submitted and passed 2 motions calling for NCAFC to campaign for better childcare provision and to support LCFE in its fight in Labour Students (motions B6 and B12 here)
  • We produced and distributed a double-sided bulletin, which you can see here and here
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