our attitude to the Labour Party

Statement by the LLA steering committee, May 7 2020. Approved by LLA Organising Group meeting on May 16 2010.

The defeat of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party and the resignation of Jennie Formby as General Secretary will present many members with a stark choice: should I stay or should I go?

We understand why many members inspired to join under Jeremy Corbyn may now want to turn their back on the party led by the centrist Keir Starmer. The Covid-19 crisis really has exposed how tame and ineffective a leader he really is. He is busy trying to turn the Labour Party back into a safe ‘second eleven’ for the management of capitalism. We also have no doubt that the witch-hunt against the left will further increase – his reprimanding of Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy for attending the same meeting as the unjustly expelled members Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein being further proof (click here for our petition).

While we do welcome all left-wingers and socialists into the LLA (if they do not support candidates standing against Labour), we do urge comrades to hold on to their Labour Party membership cards, if they can. Here are our key reasons:

1) By leaving, you would do Keir Starmer and his supporters a massive favour. They want all left-wingers to leave, so there won’t be any challenging motions at CLP meetings; no critical petitions by Labour Party members; no left-wingers elected to the NEC, and no sea of Palestine flags at annual conference.

2) The Labour Party, whatever its shortcomings, remains a hugely important arena of the class struggle. In the last four and a half years, this is where the war between capital and labour has been fought most openly and most viciously. 

3) We are living through extremely fluid and unpredictable times. The economic and political crisis that Covid-19 has created is deepening and we cannot even begin to appreciate how severe it will eventually become. In such uncertain times, anything can happen – and when it does, we want to be with the working class.

4) Much of the working class sees the Labour Party as its natural home. To a large degree this is down to the undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system, which disenfranchises socialist parties. They tend to remain small and ineffective and there is very little chance that any will gain even a single seat in parliament. 

5) You don’t have to attend every single branch or CLP meeting (we know how deadly dull, bureaucratic and soul destroying they can be!). But, where it is possible and worthwhile, we urge comrades to continue to play key roles in branches and CLPs at least.  And, as a member, you get a vote in the NEC elections. In February this year over 80,000 people voted for Richard Burgon as deputy leader – and he stood on a platform to the left of Jeremy Corbyn. If the left can agree on a slate of solid, left-wing NEC candidates, we could have at least nine clear voices at the heart of the Labour Party.

We  need a strong movement to push for principled politics and candidates, to prevent the gains we have made from being rolled back, and to enthuse comrades to fight for some of the demands that Corbyn could not deliver, such as mandatory open selection of all parliamentary candidates.

Our political orientation is towards the Labour Party and the Labour movement. But our attitude to the Labour Party must remain flexible. In the new political situation the LLA may need to increase its efforts on campaigns outside of the Labour Party’s structures. Developments inside and outside the Labour Party determine how much emphasis we put into each of these different areas at any particular time.

Therefore we ask you to join the Labour Left Alliance – whether you wish to focus your efforts inside the Labour Party, or outside it – and keep up the fight alongside us!