Why I think lefties should join Labour

with 28 comments

It’s a debate that has raged on the left since 1900, when an alliance of trade unions and left-wing groups decided that working people needed a political voice and set up the Labour Representation Committee. Is Labour the left’s only hope, or is it a thoroughly reactionary obstacle on the glorious onwards march to socialism?

So why bother wading in to an unresolved century-old debate, you may wonder. Well, for a start the left is at a particularly critical juncture in its history. We face one of the most right-wing governments of modern times, and it is planning a dramatic re-ordering of British society with “Maoist” zeal (as Vince Cable would have it). The left as a whole still remains devoid of any coherent political response. Lefties of all stripes simply cannot ignore Labour as part of any strategy to take on the Government.

The Tories’ shock-and-awe policy programme has, understandably, brought the debate back to life with unusual intensity. Many lefties would still prefer to mate with a cheese grater than sully their wallet with a Labour party card. Tens of thousands of others have wrestled with their conscience and, like Ellie Mae, joined up despite their huge reservations.

In the face of opposition of activists like myself, the modern-day Labour Representation Committee – focal point of the Labour left – recently defeated an attempt at its Conference to water down its commitment to the Party. Meanwhile, after their man won the Labour leadership race and the Party moved closer to their political agenda, soft left pressure group Compass responded in the only rational way possible: by walking away from the Party.

You can see why some lefties might have, at best, an ambivalent attitudes towards Labour. Anyone who has ever heard Tony Benn speak will have heard one of his favourite sayings: “Labour has never been socialist, but it’s always had socialists in it.” It may surprise some of you, but Labour only declared itself ‘socialist’ in 1995 when Tony Blair revised its iconic Clause IV. That was just a sop, because instead of meaning public ownership of the economy, it now effectively meant ‘being nice to people’.

What’s more, any anti-Labour lefty can passionately recite off by heart a whole list of reasons why you’d have to be bonkers to join up. Iraq. Marketising public services. Keeping in place Thatcher’s anti-union laws. Failing to address the huge levels of inequality that exploded in the 1980s. Sucking up to big business. Laying the foundations for the Cameron Project. Being in the same party as the likes of Tony Blair, Alan Milburn, John Hutton and (shudder) the Prince of Darkness himself, Peter Mandelson.

So what’s the case for a lefty activist apparently taking leave of their senses and adding their names to Labour’s membership lists?

- The trade union link. The Labour Party is institutionally connected to the trade unions. That’s what links it to millions of working people, and at least gives it the potential to represent their political interests. It is this that makes it a ‘labour’ party.

The Party is dependent on the donations of millions of union members; unions have representatives on the National Executive Committee and the National Policy Forum; they can send delegates to Constituency Labour Parties; they make up a third of the electoral college (thus preventing the most Blairite candidate for the Labour leadership from taking the crown); and they have a major role in selecting prospective Labour candidates.

They don’t always (or often, arguably) use this power effectively: for example, by repeatedly voting against union policies on the NEC or backing right-wing prospective candidates over left-wingers. But that’s largely a battle to be had within the unions. And that’s a far easier battle to win than the huge extra leap of getting them to back an entirely new “workers’” party.

– Labour’s right-wing shift can’t be seen in isolation. The left has been hammered the world over by a perfect storm: the rise of the New Right, and the neo-liberal triumphalism that was victorious everywhere after the fall of the Soviet Union. Social democratic parties, Communist Parties, former national liberation movements like the African National Congress – all swung dramatically to the right in the aftermath. If Labour had stuck to a traditional social democratic position, it would have been almost exceptional among mass parties.

Here in Britain, we suffered the repeated defeats of the labour movement – the backbone of the left – at the hands of Thatcherism.

Let’s face it, this claustrophobic right-wing atmosphere has even had a major impact on  the remnants of the hard left. The top rate of tax after Winston Churchill’s last Budget in 1944 was 95%. In the 1970s Labour Party Conference voted through a motion calling for the Party to “formulate a socialist plan of production based on public ownership, with minimum compensation, of the commanding heights of the economy.” You will of course find radical lefties calling for public ownership of the railways, or for a 50% tax band over £100,000 – but rarely anything as far as this. They may want these policies, but they realise it is almost impossible to credibly propose them in a stifling neo-liberal political culture.

That’s not to be defeatist: we can tear down this neo-liberal consensus down and propose alternatives. But don’t kid yourself that a rightward shift is peculiar to Labour. If you do, you’re mixing up symptoms with causes.

- All left splits from Labour have ended in disaster – often in far better political circumstances. The Marxist Social Democratic Federation disaffiliated from the LRC in 1901 and disappeared into insignificance while its leader, Henry Hyndman, ended up backing World War I. The Independent Labour Party quit in the early 1930s during the last great crisis of capitalism – and spent the rest of the decade in terminal decline. In the 1980s, the Trotskyist Militant Tendency had 3 MPs, several councillors (and control of Liverpool Council) and around 8,000 members. Its post-Labour incarnation, the Socialist Party, is a poor shadow of its old self. And I won’t even bother talking about Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. Look at its website, for Christ’s sake.

- The last election exposed the fact the non-Labour left is going nowhere. We were in the midst of the biggest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s. New Labour was desperately unpopular among millions of working-class people: after all, five million voters had abandoned Labour since 1997, with only a million going to the Tories. If the non-Labour left couldn’t thrive then – when?

The Socialist Party’s Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (catchy) got a vote about half, nationally, what left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell got in his one constituency.

Their supporters claim their vote was squeezed because of the threat of a Tory Government. But under what circumstances will their vote not be squeezed? If the Tories are looking like they’re on-course to victory, most militantly anti-Tory voters will opt for Labour. If Labour is coasting to a sweeping victory on the back of massive disgust with the Conservatives (as in 1997), the non-Labour left will similarly lose their appeal.

Supporters of this strategy have to ask themselves: if it has failed in the last hundred years – despite better political conditions – why will it succeed now?

Working-class people are returning to the Labour fold en masse. Labour now has a consistent lead in opinion polls: of around 10 points in some. But while wealthy voters are still sticking with the Coalition parties, the disproportionately working-class voters who abandoned Labour under Blair and Brown are returning in the millions. That’s why YouGov generally has Labour in the early to mid 40s – and that’s before the cuts have hit. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have taken up party cards. In my ward in Hackney, the membership has doubled since the general election.

All lefties have to at least engage with this huge working-class surge into the Labour camp. At the very least, they should recognise that completely writing off the Labour Party is a case of running in the opposite way that the wind is blowing.

New Labour is not the same as the Tories. My position is that the worst Labour Government is better than the best Tory Government. Other lefties will argue that the Tories and New Labour are basically as bad as each other. Many of them are now protesting in defence of Labour’s public spending programmes and its Educational Maintenance Allowance. Similarly, it is farcical to argue that the Tories would ever have introduced the minimum wage – after all, they fought it tooth and nail.

Of course, New Labour’s domestic policies were profoundly disappointing, accepting as they did the Thatcherite consensus. But because Labour remains rooted in the labour movement, the Blair and Brown governments had no choice but to introduce some progressive policies that contrast with anything the Tories would have done.

There is a difference between New Labour and the labour movement. The best way of winding up a Labour lefty like me is to call me a member of New Labour. This is the attitude of the Socialist Party, who went from being members of the Labour Party to standing a candidate against John McDonnell in 2001. They are, of course, the most anti-Labour of the far left factions: they have the bitterness of ex-lovers, and the zealousness of the convert.

The reality is Labour lefties like myself have – as well as taking on the Tories – dedicated our political lives to fighting New Labour. Millions of party members and affiliated trade unionists opposed privatisations and illegal wars as passionately as any member of the SWP. Take Iraq. Such was the strength of feeling in the Party that – despite the infamously supine nature of the Parliamentary Labour Party – 139 Labour MPs voted against the catastrophic invasion. British bombs only rained down on Baghdad because of Tory votes.

Joining the Party does not mean you have signed up to the right-wing policies and betrayals of the leadership. Far from it: it means you are joining thousands of other activists determined to fight for socialist policies in the only real political avenue open for the left.

The Blairites are in retreat. The defeat of their man in the 2010 leadership was a genuine shock to the hardcore Blairite faction, and it’s left them extremely demoralised. Once they pulled the party’s ideological levers; now they’re in retreat. The likes of John Hutton and Alan Milburn have re-invented themselves as Tory advisers. Alan Johnson’s resignation as Shadow Chancellor was yet another set back for the recalcitrant Blairistas. That doesn’t mean the party is now ruled by lefties: it certainly isn’t. But the Party is in flux, and it’s all to play for in a way that it hasn’t been for a very long time.

How long would it take for a left party to get as many MPs as the Labour left? It’s only on the Labour ticket that we’ve got MPs like John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Katy Clark. Non-Labour socialists often call on them to quit Labour and stand as candidates for a new socialist party. That’s what the hugely popular and effective constituency MP (and one-time recipient of the Spectator’s ‘Backbencher of the Year Award’) David Nellist did in 1992, and he lost.

We’ve also got a broader grouping of genuinely progressively-minded MPs, like newcomer Lisa Nandy, for example.

How long would it take a new left party to get as many MPs?

And bear in mind that, while the RMT was expelled from the Labour Party and the FBU disaffiliated, both unions still maintain Parliamentary groups made up exclusively of – yes, you guessed it – Labour MPs.

What about being a single-issue activist? There are a number of hugely inspiring single-issue campaigns and activists out there. Take UK Uncut as an example: it’s achieved the fairly unlikely feat of driving tax avoidance to the top of the political agenda.

But if you want to push for a coherent political alternative to the status quo, then you have to join a political party. In any case, single-issue campaigners need political sympathisers, at the very least within Labour. That’s why the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament had a dedicated Labour strategy in the 1950s. It paid off when, in 1960, the Party voted to support unilateral disarmament – prompting right-wing Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell to pledge to “fight, fight and fight again to save the Party we love”.

What about the Green Party? The Greens have a number of left-wing policies, some genuinely progressive activists and even a Member of Parliament. Aren’t they a potential new home for the left?

For a start, it’s debatable whether the Greens are going anywhere. Their electoral total in 2010 wasn’t much higher than 2005 – despite the fact they stood 128 more candidates. In my constituency, Hackney North and Stoke Newington – one of the great Green strongholds – their vote more than halved. This is overlooked because a part of their stagnating (or, in real terms, sharply declining) vote was concentrated in Brighton Pavillion, electing them their first MP.

Secondly, it depends what your politics are based on. My politics are based on class and the labour movement. The Greens’ politics obviously aren’t.

Thirdly, they’re a real ragtag bunch – ranging from liberals to different shades of socialists. Their manifesto includes the following commitment: “End the corrupting effects of big private and Trade Union donations to political parties, and bring in a fair system of state funding.” In other words, they are committed to driving trade unions out of political life, equating the democratic organisations of working people with big business as a “corrupting” influence.

Fourthly, look abroad for examples of what happens when the Greens come to power: particularly Germany, and Ireland – where they helped implement one of the most extreme austerity programmes of any modern Western state. For parties whose shared USP is a progressive alternative to social democracy, this is not promising.

None of this is to deny that there are thousands of fantastic, committed lefties outside of the Labour Party, and that will always be the case. A debate that has lasted 111 years is not going to die any time soon. But – as arrogant as it sounds – I strongly believe that the case for lefties joining us in our struggle for socialism in the Labour Party is unanswerable.

For a lot of people, the terrible betrayals of the New Labour period will make becoming the proud new owner of a glossy Party card one step too far. For everyone else, you can join here.

Written by Owen Jones

March 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

28 Responses

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  1. The short answer is yes. But, as you effectively outlined, it’s because of a lack of better (or genuine) options. That should never be the case, there should be genuine political choice available.

    Ed Simpson

    March 2, 2011 at 11:58 am

  2. I recently joined the Greens. Why? They are the only party not committed to neo-liberalism. Perhaps if they had the massive funding of the other parties they’d do better in elections. Though if they ever got into power, there’s nothing to stop them tearing up their entire manifesto and joining the other parties on the right…


    March 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    • Interesting piece Owen, but I remain unconvinced. You’ve us all a history lesson, but you’ve failed to explain why joining Labour now will make any difference at all.

      Miliband has failed to come out against the cuts. He’s dithering on everything – scared of straying away from Blairite politics to the one you refer to. All in all – in a bloated party – how can an individual who just wants an actual socialist future possible succeed in bringing about that success by joining Labour?

      You’ve also dismissed the Greens as being confused – but every party has diversity. Environmentalism, ethics and socialism go hand-in-hand, but ultimately, socialism is only a single step towards a fairer society. That society should be community-based, run by those with vested interest: mutuals, co-ops, etc. I need hardly point out that Labour has been funded by CORPORATIONS as much as Unions.

      Germany & Ireland have let us down, but a glance at New Zealand, Australia, and the hundreds of our Southern partners in South America, Africa and Asia show a much stronger commitment to socialism and that in an antiglobalisation manner. I don’t think any Green would be proglobalisation, for that matter.

      Being a member of the Greens now, I know I can still shape things. I know I can talk to potential voters without being a hypocrite. And I know I can renew hope in areas where New Labour’s policies have forced thousands to give up hope in politics because of the way they’ve been treated.

      As reluctant as you are, Owen, we NEED to work together on the left if we want to get rid of the Tories. Old party divisions and waiting another 4 years for an election isn’t part of the solution.


      March 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      • >>>how can an individual who just wants an actual socialist future possible succeed in bringing about that success by joining Labour?<<<

        Well they are a damn sight more likely to succeed than they are by joining the Greens which is ultimately Owen's best argument.

        If you think about for example getting elected as a councillor (let's face it, there are only 656 MPs so most people will never be one so perhaps this is more relevant) – yes, the Greens have them, but how many? In the vast majority of local authorities across the country the Labour Party at least have some representation. If you are a socialist and decide you want to change things by running for political office – the Labour Party is there as a political vehicle in nearly every area with proper infrastructure behind it.


        March 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  3. Well, this is an odd argument. If Richard Seymour wrote a blog post called “Why the SWP is the Left’s only hope” he’d be rightly pilloried for daring to suggest something so outrageously sectarian (and grandiose).

    The main issue I have with your argument is that it looks at every break from Labour’s dominance inside British working class politics as if those breaks had/have no potential other than failure. It is the Left Labour version of T.I.N.A., hardly a good place to start any debate.

    There is also a sense in which your argument is a version of the old “the party is the class is the party” line and hence Labour’s own failures (now pretty damn legion) are parcelled off as merely transient aberrations from this imagined identity of party and class.

    Despite your apparently kind words to “fantastic, committed lefties” outside Labour, your argument is actually a pretty dismissive attack on them for failing to wake up to Labour’s inevitable hegemony. It’s a pretty old hat approach, but one with precious little credibility after nearly 30 years of rightward drift.


    March 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    • The reason it would be sectarian for the SWP to do it is that they don’t actually have a strategy to get a government elected. Fine, if that isn’t what you want to get involved in, but whilst this is the case you always need the bigger brother of the left to do the dirty work of actually running things.

      And don’t get me wrong, the SWP do a lot of fantastic work and as a long-standing anti-fascist activist I would highlight that as one area in particular but these kinds of things alone don’t deliver things like the NHS or the minimum wage.


      March 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm

  4. Great article, but it seems unfair to dismiss the Greens without mentioning environmental policies. Labour’s record on the environment is yet another source of disappointment for many. Some Labour activists I’ve spoken to bizarrely regard this as a middle-class issue unconnected to the Left – perhaps not dissimilar from how feminism and other identity politics were once regarded. But the Greens have at least attempted to present a narrative that shows how environmental policies go hand in hand with left-wing projects – job creation, social equality, anti-consumerism. Labour needs to do more and ensure that environmentalism is not allowed to be seen as merely a peripheral or middle-class concern.


    March 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    • On this issue, I would point out to environmentalists that LGBT activists for example acheived a lot more by joining the Labour Party and trying to get policies changed than they would have done if they formed their own party.

      You don’t think they were met some scoffing from the old flatcapped types at the back of the room? They did but they kept going and with some effective organisation and perseverence, sense prevailed. Then the Labour Party got elected and sense prevailed in parliament – section 28 was repealed, legal homosexual age of consent was brought in line with heterosexual consent, refusal of service was banned, civil partnerships introduced, etc

      I think environmentalists would achieve far more with the strategy LGBT activists took in the 80s and 90s than they do by joining the Greens.


      March 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

  5. I agree with the post’s argument so much as the trade unions themselves are willing to go to the brink to assert’s the Labour Party’s, well, labour identity.

    The crisis is immediate, the pain of working people immediate and unending, and working people naturally need an immediate and unending fight on their behalf by labour.


    March 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

  6. Well as you know Owen, this post convinced me and I’m now a member.

    I used to dismiss Labour in its current incarnation as being the same as the Tories. I used to say their differences were marginal. But as Johann Hari once said, ‘people live and die in those margins.’

    That’s the case now more than ever.

    Fact is, I want this government out, and soon. If that happens, they will be replaced by Labour. And that being the case, Labour need to be a better party. I’d rather its grassroots consisted of people like me and you than morally ambivalent Blairites.

    Ellie Mae

    March 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm

  7. It’s a bit odd criticising the Green Party for being an ideologically ‘rag-tag bunch’ when the Labour Party ranges from old-style Clause IV socialists to market liberal New Labourites… or attacking their companion parties’ record in government given what the last Labour lot did, and given that an awful lot of the Greens (including, full disclosure, myself) are about as fond of the Green Party in Ireland as students are Lib Dems. The argument about Greens in Ireland and Germany would, in fact, only really be relevant if we were trying specifically to get the Irish or German Green Parties elected over here, but we’re not, and the Green Party in England and Wales is actually a pretty left-wing party!

    I don’t wholly disagree with you – the trade union link is certainly important (and I don’t agree with GP policy on this) and, like it or not, Labour is the biggest party with left-wing members in it. But this doesn’t mean all other left-wing parties and groups should be discouraged and their members join Labour to try and turn it left – after all, if we’d taken that attitude 100-odd years ago, the Fabians would never have left the Liberal Party and any Labour Party would command the electoral support of the SWP.

    There is always room for a plurality of voices on the left. Yes, this means having a strong voice inside the Labour Party attempting to swing it towards the left. But it also means having voices outside the party, articulating alternatives to Labourism as well as alternatives to the current global economic system. There is not merely one road to socialism.

    Jack Price

    March 3, 2011 at 1:50 am

  8. If Richard Seymour wrote a blog post called “Why the SWP is the Left’s only hope” he’d be rightly pilloried for daring to suggest something so outrageously sectarian (and grandiose).

    Yes, because he would be suggesting something objectively risible. Where are the hundreds of thousands of working-class SWP members? Where are the millions of affiliate union members? You may think that the Labour Party is the road to socialism, you may think it’s not but it’s part of the answer, but you’d have to be insane to think you’ll get anywhere nearer socialism fighting against it. It’s the numbers that do it.


    March 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

    • Given the really existing Labour Party’s abject historic failure in getting “anywhere near socialism”, I’m not sure Owen’s claim would be any more risible than my hypothetical one about the SWP.

      My objection to Owen’s (now retitled; kudos to him for doing that in response to criticism) post was not that I believe the Labour Party can be somehow “gotten around” in the struggle for socialism but because of the way his argument implied it was the only serious vehicle for such a struggle.

      Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes some on the Left outside Labour make is to presume they can merely denounce the party’s betrayals. The more logical approach seems to me to be to argue for the Labour leaders to back every fightback against Tory cuts, a process that can unite workers who follow Labour and those who don’t.

      Surely that kind of concrete unity is what is called for — in contrast to what I think is Owen’s inappropriate and dangerous identification of the Labour Party with the working class movement as a whole (a very T.I.N.A. view).

      If that unity is built then the question of which party people want to join will at least be on the basis of how each one has acquitted itself in that class battle.


      March 6, 2011 at 1:52 am

  9. Glad to see you’ve included a comment about The Greens. Outside of Lancaster and Norwich, the Greens have probably proven most successful in my constituency, Lancaster & Fleetwood, where they are the largest group on the city council.

    I think many of the commenters here have failed to realise the extent to which The Greens have a very confused political ideology. Whilst they claim to constantly be the only left party in existence, in Lancaster we’ve had Green Councillors (Professor Whitelegg) propose that we sell of council housing. We’ve had them oppose any development of a city, which literally has a collapsed economy, because it would involve allowing shops being built which are part of companies they don’t like. The mentality seems quite literally to be that we can suddenly spark up an agrarian economy.

    The other interesting thing about the Greens is which ideological strand they prioritise, whether it’s socialism or environmentalism. They’ve been in pretty hot water over manifesto commitments to oppose Stem Cell Research funding and to introduce homeopathy – which betrays something of an anti-science lobby within the party (even if they have now ditched these policies).

    Aodhán Curtin

    March 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    • Labour have a bigger group than the Greens on Lancaster City Council. In fact, the biggest group are independents if you add the MBIs and other independents together.

      In the other borough of your constituency, Wyre, the Greens have no representation at all. But then you wouldn’t really expect it in places like Fleetwood.


      March 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

  10. Always happy to serve as the poster boy for ‘ineffectual Green’, Owen. :p

    Matt (Hackney North GPEW candidate, 2010) :)

    Matt Sellwood

    March 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    • You’re still a great bloke though, Matt! And the point is it wasn’t your fault – there was a general swing away from the Greens

      Owen Jones

      March 9, 2011 at 5:46 am

  11. Matt what were you doing standing against Diane Abbott?

    Daniel Blaney

    March 3, 2011 at 6:52 pm

  12. Umm, we have different politics (I’m to her left), she is a member of a party that I think is ideologically and strategically bankrupt, and there was no danger of her losing to anyone to her right. Three good reasons that leap to mind. :)


    Matt Sellwood

    March 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    • Strategically bankrupt? Your election against her says otherwise. She is clearly the more astute socialist because she stood intending to get elected. I don’t believe you actually believed that it was possible for you to do so.


      March 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

  13. Same old strategic entry guff we used to hear, year in year out, from the Militant and that we now hear from Socialist Appeal.

    It appears Owen recently fought and won a brilliant battle at the LRC conference and “defeated an attempt at its Conference to water down its commitment to the Party”.

    Was I at the same conference? I thought it was a discussion about whether “build the LP party” was a good slogan for an organisation that involved groups and unions not affiliated to Labour.

    Its all very well laughing at the decline of the far left outside the LP, Owen, but what about the left inside it? I suppose we have gone from strength to strength since the 1980s and the LRC has become a mass force?

    First cast the beam out of your own eye.


    Stuart King

    March 6, 2011 at 1:41 am

  14. Dave Nellist didn’t quit labour in 1992, he wasa expeelled for being a trotskyite, Katy clark may be a new left winger but her calls fr kettling and cs spray to be scrapped arer laughable, actuallyt the 1995 clause 4 replacement doesn’t say labour is a socialist party ,it says labour is a democratic socialist party, trots are undemocratic and i’ll fight for them not to be allowed to rejoin.

    John reid

    March 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm

  15. I agree with your arguments for joining the Labour Party Owen, but the most difficult issue is whether people will know what to do once they have joined and whether they can be stopped from leaving as soon as the Right launches an offensive as happened after Iraq in 2003.

    One key dilemma at the heart of Labour’s dwindling socialist left is whether it has a dynamic and decisive influence over trade union organisers and activists to the point of getting them to take on the Blairites inside the Labour Party and thus taking up an active political role. My guess is unfortunately NO.

    My experience of the LRC is that it plays a very important role at the top due to the excellent ability of John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and other MPs to forge alliances with trade union leaders and to represent their interests in Parliament, but at the ground level it is a mixture of unrealistic ultra-leftist groups and a loyal but aging band of ‘old labour’. Unfortunately, the Labour Left as a whole, including the self-proclaimed revolutionaries among us, lack a long term perspective for changing the Labour Party and many have little commitment to it apart from using it as a form of purgatory until something better comess along. The resultant is a frustrating inability to recruit younger activists, unless they are part of a plan by asocialist sect to enter the Labour Party in order to recruit more followers (not a particularly fruitful exercise).

    So what ahould the Labour left do? Well it needs to renew its ideological perspectives and get away from the 57 varieties of ‘vanguardist’ sectarianism which have been the blight of the left for the better part of a century. The fact of the matter is that most committed socialists have serious doubts as to whether the Labour Party can be changed at all and probably believe that it will have to collapse or be destroyed altogether before any progress can be made.

    I, like you, believe that the Labour party can be changed but the theoretical and practical means will have to be developed through a concerted effort by those of us who remain committed to the Labour Party (as opposed to entryist sects) to resolve these problems through an open and extensive ideological debate, and through taking up an active leadership role inside the Labour Party and among the mass of ordinary working people who continue to vote Labour.

    Over to you Owen.


    March 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    • Very well put, Robin. I’ve got a lot of sympathies with your analysis! As for how we actually build a strong Labour left: there’s a very protracted debate to be had about that. I’ll try and get together a post at some point with my own thoughts…

      Owen Jones

      March 9, 2011 at 6:14 am

  16. Does labour need union money labour only had 30% of it for the funds in 97 and 40% in 2001, my local party never gets any form unions and we make as much in fudnrasing as we get rid of,
    why are the uunion laws at the moment anti them ,people are allwoed to go to picket lines ,strike and join a union, whats undemocratic about that,

    John reid

    March 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

  17. [...] some on the Labour left (such as Owen Jones) have argued that this actually gives reasons for left-wingers to join Labour, rather than leave it [...]

    • Don’t they have more reasons to join the Tories now they’re livin’ it large?


      January 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

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