Notes from the Labour Left Internationalists round-table meeting 28 January 2024

Labour Left Internationalists organised a socialist round-table Zoom meeting on 28 January 2024

Labour Left Internationalists organised a socialist round-table Zoom meeting on 28 January 2024. Speakers are identified only by initials (the Ds are not all the same person!)

J from Keep our NHS Public:

KoNHSP has about 50 active local groups – all in England, as it happens. They have local autonomy in their campaign priorities. For example, in Leeds the chief campaign is around a new private hospital.

KoNHSP works with Health Campaigns Together and SOS NHS, which has the backing of all the major unions.

KoNHSP is very disappointed with current Labour policy. That has four big ideas: better care in the community, new tech, increasing measures to prevent illness, using the private sector.

The hopes from new tech as the same as in 2014, except that the 2014 review recommended new spending to make those hopes happen. KoNHSP objects to using the private sector. The private sector is parasitical on the NHS. Using it will drain consultant capacity out of the NHS and increase private sector prices.

Otherwise, it’s just the magic efficiency tree and the reform fairy.

KoNHSP campaigns for a people’s vision of the NHS – more funding, but not just that. A publicly-provided NHS. Well-funded. With good pay for staff. Enhanced public health provision. Rebuild the NHS. KoNHSP is producing a booklet and 14 factsheets.

C from the Labour Campaign for Council Housing

LCCH is relatively small compared to KoNHSP. We have a housing crisis because of the failure of successive governments. Homelessness and housing waiting lists are increasing, despite a little new council housing being built in recent years.

LCCH sees its aims as not very radical, but important. We are soliciting grassroots views. Also addressing the problem councils have with temporary housing.

The efforts in successive conference priorities ballots to keep housing off the agenda suggest that the leadership feels challenged. Unison has a good housing manifesto. Many housing charities have similar policies.

LCCH produced an open letter, “stop the sell-off” (of council housing) – decided to put it like that, rather than using the words “stop right to buy”.

We need hundreds of thousands of new homes, not just a bare increase in the number of council homes.

D from Free Our Unions

Free Our Unions was launched by Lambeth Unison, and is supported by the FBU and RMT. It is for the repeal of all anti-union laws, not just the Minimum Service Law, and a positive right to strike. It campaigns for rank and file organisation for defiance of the Minimum Service Law, and a national demonstration in London against the law. It calls for unions to refuse to comply with the MSL and take action to defend workers penalised for refusing to strike-break.

Free Our Unions had success on policy in the Corbyn period, but obviously it is more difficult in the Labour Party now.

FOU has a meeting with Matt Wrack on the next steps on 15 Feb.

It is circulating a model motion initiated by a CWU branch.

D from Labour Campaign for Free Movement

LCFM works in the Labour Party and the trade unions. At Labour conference 2023 LCFM was defeated in the priorities ballot, though it did run what was effectively an LCFM session at The World Transformed. The Labour leadership is even worse than it was before on ignoring the membership. LCFM has been set back, and needs to rebuild capacity.

CY from Workers Against the Chinese Communist Party

WAC was set up in June 2023, bringing together Uyghur solidarity groups, Hong Kong solidarity groups, Chinese student groups, and others.

Chinese students in the UK have long been wary of activity because of the work of CCP agents here monitoring them, but since the White Paper movement more have become active.

WAC recently organised a protest about the trial of the HK47, who include the secretary of the HK Confederation of Trade Unions. The HKCTU has been shut down by Beijing pressure, and so now the only “trade unions” in HK are the HK Federation of Trade Unions, run by the Chinese state.

WAC is planning demonstrations for workers’ rights at Apple, which makes the bulk of its products in China, including by Uyghur forced labour.

WAC has not yet developed a definite tactic in the Labour Party, though it is seeking support from and speaker invitations to trade union branches.

Workers in HK face a double yoke of the new National Security Law and British colonial legislation, now being harshly interpreted.

M from Labour Left Internationalists

LLI is a renaming of Momentum Internationalists, which in turn grew out of Labour for a Socialist Europe, the main Labour left anti-Brexit campaign in the Corbyn period. We recognise that we are now on the back foot in the Labour Party, and realistically that will continue to the general election and probably for a period after that.

But there is still room to organise. The limiting constraint for now is not lack of such room but the willingness of left activists to stick in there and push issues. Successes in CLPs with motions on Gaza and on “no work notices” show that. We push motions, organise a profile at Labour conferences, etc.

If Labour wins government, clashes between the leadership and the ranks are likely before too long, on issues like the NHS and green investment. There may in fact be more fiscal “room for manoeuvre” than the leadership, anxious to damp expectations, admits, but there is no doubt that a refusal to raise taxes on the rich mean continuing rundown of public services.

For now the unions seem to be in election mode, damping down their differences with the leadership. That could continue for a while after a Labour victory in the election, too. LLI campaigns with Free Our Unions for clear and sharp commitments on such things as anti-union laws.

LLI also takes up Brexit. Brexit is far from a “done deal”. And a majority of Labour voters are for rejoining the EU.

D spoke about UK Friends of Standing Together (not as an official representative of the group, just as an individual activist in it telling us about what it is doing.

UK FOST is a network of UK supporters of Standing Together, an Arab-Jewish movement in Israel for peace, equal rights, and democracy. UK FOST has been incubating for some time, but had its public launch in December 2023. It hopes to construct links between Standing Together and groups in the UK; and it now plans to develop local UK FOST groups, following asp successful experiment with one in Nottingham.

D spoke about Another Europe is Possible, again not as an official representative of the group but as an individual participant in it.

AEIP now has three axes – against Brexit, for refugee rights, against Islamophobia. We didn’t get a clear reverse-Brexit motion through the priorities ballot at Labour conference 2023, and Labour Movement for Europe had put only very weak motions. At least the GMB is now for rejoining the Single Market. But the Trade and Cooperation Agreement will be a day one issue for an incoming Labour government. The TCA of 2020 has a sunset clause requiring review after five years. And meanwhile the EU is looking at internal reform, possibly internal reform which will make the UK rejoining easier.

Euro-elections are coming up in June 2024. EU citizens in the UK can vote in those elections, though sometimes with great difficulty.

New elections are coming up for the AEIP National Committee.

Points raised in discussions

• Nottingham City Council has issued a section 114 notice, setting it on the road to lots more cuts. A campaign against those cuts is underway. There are some hundreds of people involved in campaigns like that, across the city, but we need to have thousands. It’s the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike this year. In those 40 years Nottinghamshire outside the city has gone Tory.

• Devolution may have an impact, with some Labour mayors having very public differences with Starmer.

• What about the Brown Commission report? It calls for abolition of the House of Lords and a second chamber, regionally-based.

• Eton College has sponsored three free-school sixth forms in Oldham, Teesside, and Dudley. Oldham council (though not the councils in Teesside and Dudley) has applauded this. But the CLP and the Local Government Committee are clearly against. The CLP and LGC have adopted “no work notice” policies, and it looks like the council will follow. At the North West regional conference a motion rejecting public ownership of water was voted down.

• There is no magic way to go from hundreds of campaigners to thousands. The time will come. To be able to seize the opportunities when they arise, we have to stick at it now.

• Where left-wingers find it difficult to get motions to CLP General Meetings, maybe because of quorum issues in branches, it can be good to set up a local branch of the Socialist Health Association or the Socialist Education Association. It can serve the dual purpose of an informal left caucus and a channel for motions to the GM. The left in Islington North in the O’Halloran years used a local branch of the Fabian Society for that purpose.

• Getting invites to CLPs from KoNHSP, LCCH, UK FOST, etc. can be a useful way of raising issues.

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