By Mohan Sen
The “Centre Left Grassroots Alliance” campaign for Labour’s National Executive Committee, supported by Momentum and other organisations, recently launched under the banner “Grassroots Voice”.
The front page of the campaign website includes a 180 word political programme (see below). Keeping the slate’s basic political pitch concise has sense; but 180 words is very short indeed. Even in something that length, however, it would be possible to make some important points. The Grassroots Voice statement doesn’t.
If you’re not really paying attention it reads as left-wing, namechecking various good causes, but in terms of what it actually advocates it is extremely vague and general. It says nothing either about procedural questions which are crucial particularly for NEC members, eg sovereignty of conference, due process over suspensions and expulsions, proper reporting of NEC meetings; or about wider political demands and struggles.
Again, there is good sense to keeping things concise and in the circumstances of a slate like this, cobbled together by a range of organisations and groupings, it is presumably all fairly tricky. But the fact remains that what has been produced will not improve the political level of the movement or give the left a clear guide to what needs to be done.
The statements from the individual candidates include a few more concrete bits and pieces, but not much.
Obviously more can be said later in the campaign – and in August Momentum has announced a meeting to discuss policies. But in general it seems necessary to begin with a clear, concrete statement of what you stand and will fight for. (Also the “More later” argument is often a way of punting things off – as in the Momentum NCG election, where Forward Momentum left various agreed policies out of its ‘Plan’, responding to complaints by promising a further document which never appeared.)
The longest section of the Grassroots Voice statement is “For liberation and equality”. This promises a fight against a long list of different forms of bigotry and oppression. The comprehensiveness is welcome, but it all seems fairly tokenistic.
When the GV website first went up, there was a link to an additional statement, signed by NEC candidate Mish Rahman but seemingly on behalf of the whole slate. This included a clearer commitment on the issue of trans rights, which has been a subject of controvery, including to reform of the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification.
“Seemingly on behalf of the whole slate” because it is/was not clear. I assume this odd mechanism was adopted because some candidates (Ann Henderson? Laura Pidcock?) were not willing to sign.
But to add to the mystery, this second statement has now disappeared from the site!
It is not a matter of indifference whether left-wing candidates win the NEC election (in addition to the CLGA/Grassroots Voice candidates, there are others, for instance Open Labour’s Jermain Jackman). But left organisations and activists need to push for debate and clarification on what the left candidates stand for and are committed to.
That is particularly the case because some of the left candidates have poor or unclear political records: not just Ann Henderson and Laura Pidcock on trans rights, but eg Lara McNeill on the mess the Stalinist “left” has made of Young Labour. More generally demanding at least some political clarity and concrete commitment is the right political approach for the left.
In deciding its slates, the left should first agree on a political platform – limited, of course, but clear and substantive – and choose candidates on that basis, rather than first choosing candidates and then trying to persuade them to sign a platform.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
For a Green New Deal
Faced with the threat of climate collapse, we’ve got no time to waste. By 2030 we need to create a zero-carbon economy that works for the vast majority of society, not the billionaires.
For an economy for the many, not the few
Our rigged system is in crisis. Right now, falling profits for the billionaires means catastrophic unemployment for us. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is massive public support for transformative socialist policies that can create the future we need.
For liberation and equality
Our movement must join with Black Lives Matter in the fight for systemic change. We will take on the political elites who try and use racism and prejudice as weapons to turn us against one another. We will make sure our party is unified in the fight against racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, Afrophobia, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, ableism, sexism, sexual harassment, and the scapegoating of migrant and Traveller communities.
The time for waiting is over. Let’s build a Labour Party that will fight for the future we need.