Left NEC vote holds up, but there are challenges ahead
The National Executive Committee (NEC) election results represent a good outcome for the left, achieved in the face of sustained attacks while many were leaving the party.
In percentage terms, the left obtained around 55 percent of the votes cast, not far below the level reached in NEC elections during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Five of the six left-endorsed Grassroots Voice candidates were elected despite the impact of the new STV voting system. We look forward to hearing their strong socialist voices speaking out in defence of members’ democracy and the policy achievements of the past five years.
From a very difficult starting point, a joint left slate was achieved and the coalition held together throughout our common campaign, illustrating the potential of working together across the left.
A strong showing for socialist councillors in the local government section is another positive for us to applaud.
However, only 27 percent of eligible voters turned out to cast their votes, reflecting a failure to engage with a majority of Labour members. There are gaps in the Labour left that must be addressed before they become chasms.
We have long argued that a substantial rebuilding project is required.
During the Corbyn years, we clearly neglected the fundamentals of organising. Political honesty is required about the shortcomings of the last period:
· a lack of political firmness and clarity under pressure. This included mixed messages at crucial points in the campaign for Open Selection and an attitude of appeasement, rather than opposition, to the witch-hunt and threats to members’ democracy in the party;
· a failure to look outwards to the broader movement, not connecting and engaging sufficiently with trade union struggles, communities and campaigns outside of the Labour Party;
· an excessively bureaucratic and undemocratic mode of operation, resulting in a failure to build on the grassroots potential of the 2015 leadership race by both established and emerging political organisations of the Labour left; and
· a failure, from the top, to understand the importance of the link between the political project in Parliament and a growing, mass membership, resulting in a reluctance to mobilise members in defence of the leadership.
Reforming the process, rebuilding the left
The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) has long been the vehicle for the left to contest internal party elections. This process is cumbersome, undemocratic and lacks transparency. It was clear before these elections that it needed to be radically reformed or replaced, so that our socialist politics are reflected in the process as well as the end result.
If we are to maximise socialist unity in the party, we must create a slate-making process that encompasses, as far as possible, the entirety of the Labour left. Currently, our ways of selecting candidates doesn’t match the commitment, energy or potential of our activists. Our structures must become much more engaging, democratic and accountable and based on the full diversity of local Labour left groups and national organisations.
These are difficult times for socialists in the party, but we should not forget or dismiss what we have achieved, against overwhelming odds. We are still here. We are still fighting. Thousands are being mobilised against the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn and the attacks on member’s rights and free speech in the Labour Party. Our challenge, however, is not just to hold on to what we’ve got, but to build on it. We must channel this mobilisation into a reinvigorated, organised, vibrant Labour left.
Now is not the time for the old sectarianism. We must be brave, inclusive and democratic in our approach. We will need left discipline and unity. We cannot expect those parts of the left excluded by our internal selection processes to be bound by its decisions. Don’t Leave, Organise (DLO) intends, through its constituent organisations and as an umbrella network, to play a constructive part in charting the way ahead. Alongside a broad range of socialist organisations and left trade unions, we can rebuild – this time, on solid foundations.