progress is not the elimination of struggle, but rather a change in its terms’ - Aneurin Bevan

Listen to me very carefully, I will only say this once

The workers’ movement in the UK has faced years of defeats. Legislative and industrial change has reduced the collective bargaining power of workers through their unions to the advantage of capital. The composition of the working class has changed – there are more workers who are sole traders, and the nature of the workplace has been transformed as information-communication technology has proliferated.

The workers’ party, the main political organisation of the labour movement, has also faced defeats – but after an unprecedented period of success. The nature of that success is hotly contested, both its causes and what led it to end in defeats (narrowly in the 2007 Scottish parliamentary elections, then in the UK general election of 2010). Undoubtedly, something went badly wrong.

The Labour reshuffle has brought to the forefront a number of concerns. For example, how are differences of opinion to be expressed? What are the forums for debating areas of disagreement? These are democratic questions for the whole of the workers’ movement as it undergoes a legislative and industrial assault by the British ruling class.


Civil war or broad church?

Understanding people’s fears means imagining their best self. If you were in their position, what would be your hopes and how might these be threatened?

From the perspective of those that won the Labour leadership contest, the fear has been that those who lost were not and are not going to accept defeat. The concern is that their view of what constitutes electoral success will not be heard because a losing faction are seeking a re-run of the leadership contest.

From the perspective of those who lost the Labour leadership contest, the fear is that being dropped from the shadow cabinet is the beginning and not the end. The concern is that their view of what constitutes electoral success will not be heard and that Labour is on course for another general election defeat as a consequence of elements of the leadership platform.

As an observer watching from a distance, it seemed unlikely that a broad-based cabinet could last given these fears. There was not acceptance from some that there could be an organisation to advance the platform of the leader, just as there were organisations to advance the platform of previous leaders.

If Labour is described broad church, then it makes sense think of there being a division by an aisle. Seated on one side, members whose perspective is closer to Momentum and Open Labour, and on the other, members whose perspective is closer to Progress and Labour First.

Faith is something that we trust others possess – we cannot see the ideas people have in their heads, their hopes and fears. So, this takes time to be established.


Losing streak or learning curve?

It is fair to say that the congregation has swelled in the past year. This poses challenges for those who lost the leadership – how to organise at the grassroots where previously this was perhaps not thought as necessary outside of party conferences? Labour First have taken the lead, to some degree, and this perhaps reflects the organisation’s origins in the broader labour movement. And Progress is now organising meetings across the country.

Regardless of their origin, activity, or funding, it is the case that both Progress and Labour First represent traditions within the workers’ movement which – like Momentum and Open Labour – can only find effective representation through the Labour Party.

For those of us who were active in supporting the election of the party leader, the main challenge is not just sustaining and developing participation of new and returning members, supporting and developing activism which will deliver election victories. We are also having to sustain and develop the approach taken in the leadership contest, where the candidates focused on policy and campaign ideas in a series of comradely hustings.

In the coming period, we will have to listen carefully to the voices of those who lost – not just those who lost the leadership contest, but the people whose support for Labour was lost and those whose trust has never been gained.

We must listen to the concerns of people losing out under the Tories and work hard to learn and win trust.

Things can change. Let’s start the new year with a renewed focus.

Why won't the losers accept they lost?

Those who gained 4.5% in the Labour leadership election have been quick to defend their “colleagues” dropped from Shadow Cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn’s New Year reshuffle.

That a number of them resigned before they too were reshuffled out merely speeds up the inevitable. They lost, were offered a chance to be part of the leadership team, but could not accept the platform on which the leader won.

Those complaining of a “North London Labour Party” have no grounds for doing so – they also have seats in parts of the country long considered Labour strongholds. I don't recall Kevan Jones ever speaking at Durham Miners’ Gala, though... Striking in solidarity must be a new experience for the “hard right”.

Their wisdom doomed Labour in Scotland and would doom other Labour strongholds. If they had their way, Labour would be liquidated completely, both at the ballot box and in terms of its link to the broader workers’ movement.

Labour's conservatives, organised in the Progress faction, and in the witch-hunting “Labour First” group, do not accept majority party policy as established in the leadership contest – and by a majority of Labour MPs and a majority in the Shadow Cabinet who voted against another war in the Middle East.

Progress is a faction in Labour which is funded by capital. It has its origins in the SDP split and is committed to the absurd notion of “progressive capitalism”, rather than Labour as a democratic socialist party.

Progress and Labour First are opposed to an independent foreign policy for the labour movement, instead wanting our party to follow the lead of ruling class institutions not directly accountable through democratic elections.

They have nothing to say about democratising the economy and nothing to say about opposing the austerity programme imposed on the majority in society across Europe to boost the wealth of the billionaire class.

The way that the workers’ movement ultimately decides the policy of its party is through selection processes. The leadership selection was changed in 2013 to advantage the pro-capitalist Progress faction after they tried to smear Britain’s biggest union for daring to be involved in the Labour Party. The “opt-in” rule was designed to smooth the transition to a party cut off from the rest of the workers’ movement.

The victor in the leadership selection contest stood on a platform of yes, democratising the policy-making process. But his leadership platform was based on opposition to austerity through an alternative economic strategy based on stronger support for workers’ rights and common ownership.

And the leader made clear that he would be leading the party solidly against the permanent wars of the ruling class, their weapons of mass destruction, and the racism used to justify these wars and to weaken and divide our class.

Labour’s majority faction – in coming together to build Momentum for Labour victories in the future – should listen to and learn from dissenting voices in the party, but ultimately the winners of an election must be allowed to govern. Sadly, the Tories won the election last may. Those who led Labour to that defeat were able to accept it and move on – they should now accept their other election defeat.

Those MPs who want to oppose the historic choice made by Labour and trade union movement should do so from the backbenches and be open about their desire to re-run the leadership contest.

The only way we can be certain to develop a coherent platform against the Tories is if democracy is practiced in the Labour Party. Sadly the minority faction appear to be set on coup-plotting and attempts to purge supporters of the leader - an effort they carried out during the leadership contest to deter people from trying to participate in the workers' party.

This must be challenged from below with a solid defence of the anti-austerity and anti-war platform chosen by the majority in our movement.Labour MPs should not be siding with the Tories against Labour's leadership, or against striking workers. Solidarity is needed. The old ideas of deference to the powerful and silence in the face of injustice must be replaced.

(More about opposing the the witchhunt of Corbyn supporters here.)