Almost 1,500 people have been involved in Labour In Exile’s first fightback meeting on Saturday 27 March.
More than 550 people registered for our Zoom meeting and the rest watched via Facebook, many of them live. You can watch the video below. People from across the country, including comrades who have been expelled and suspended as well as many still in the Labour Party, spoke about their opposition to the assault on democracy by the current leadership.
In the first part of the meeting we heard reports about how comrades are carrying on the struggle for socialism and free speech by setting up “shadow” or “ghost” CLPs. The second part of the meeting saw the launch of eight fightback working groups. These will tackle everything from transforming the Labour Party and analysing the witch-hunt to engaging with the media and the weaponisation of antisemitism.
Kicking off LIEN’s first fightback meeting on March 27, Carel Buxton said: “We’re not leaving the Labour Party, the Labour Party seems to have left us.”
Carel is one of a growing band of left wing rebels who are fighting on despite the attempts of the Starmer leadership to purge the party of Corbyn-inspired socialism.
Carel is the chair of a local party West Ham local Labour Party, which, along with the neighbouring CLP, East Ham, was suspended by the party just two weeks ago. Between them the two local parties have 5,000 members who are, Carel said, now effectively disenfranchised.
Thousands joined the party in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn became leader and Corbyn supporters have been in the forefront of campaigning in the area. Since then, Carel said they have been subjected to “vilification, smears and abuse”
The suspension of the two CLPs has been on what look like totally bogus grounds in a cynical attempt to smash the left. But instead of giving up the activists have formed Newham Socialist Labour, which are, in Carel words, “a network of like-minded socialists who are prepared to fight back.”
They want to reach out to other groups facing similar problems in other parts of the country. Carol said: “”There’s nothing now we can do but fight back and that’s what we’re doing.”
The meeting heard, too, from Roger Silverman, also from West Ham, who said they had no option but to keep on campaigning/ He said: “We didn’t ask to be suspended. When we were, what were we supposed to do? Were we supposed to submit, go home, keep our mouths shut, abandon the working class of Newham who are among the most deprived populations in Britain?”
The campaigners of Newham are saying that Labour can’t wait for the national conference in September and that the left, including the left wing trade unions, must call a conference now. Meanwhile Newham Socialist Labour will carry on campaigning. Roger said: “We are the active party membership in the area and we won’t be silenced.”
Newham Socialist Labour is only the latest example of how members of the Labour Party are continuing to be active despite a hostile bureaucracy and leadership.
People from across the country told the FIGHTBACK meeting stories of setting up “shadow” structures. Hedley Bashforth, a suspended officer of Bristol North West local Labour Party, explained how bureaucrats have been seeking to “deal” with his CLP since they got a Labour MP elected to a traditionally Tory seat in 2017.
By suspending and threatening officers at the end of last year the bureaucrats have effectively closed the CLP down, Hedley said, but activists have managed to continue to function via a “network of 50 comrades”.
Wanda Lozinska of Stroud local Labour Party spoke about the vital need for communication to keep left wing activity alive and how they set up a Facebook page to keep activists in touch. this paid off in a big way in the recent elections to the Socialist Health Association, with all 15 candidates opposed to privatisation in the NHS getting elected – “a clean sweep”!
Pat Campbell, political education officer of Plymouth Moor View local Labour Party, explained how they’ve set up Plymouth Regional Left Alliance and, he said, despite intimidation and harassment, “scored massive victories against right wing dominance.”
These are just a few of the contributions to the FIGHTBACK meeting, with many more people speaking from the floor. And it you have your own “shadow” Labour Party group and want to connect up with others email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WORKING GROUPS: ACTION NOT WORDS
The first eight LIEN working groups were launched at the FIGHTBACK meeting, all designed in different ways to continue the campaign for a socialist Labour Party. They deal with everything from transforming the party and the weaponisation of antisemitism to disabilities and how we keep talking to each other.
LIEN’s challenge is a big one. We need to fight three separate battles at the same time. We need to fight the purge. We need to plan for changing the party and we have to carry on the campaigning activity so badly needed by our communities.
Our working groups for press, social media and outreach, witch-hunt analysis, racism, racism and antisemitism broadly speaking are about fighting against the purge.
The Changing the Labour Party and Republican Labour groups are mostly about working out how we change the party, and the Disabilities and Coffee Mornings working groups are both, in very different ways, about carrying on our campaigning activities.
But essential to all our working groups is enabling grassroots members to move beyond debating the issues we face to actually doing something about them. In the current crisis we need action not words.
Our current collection of working groups is by means exhaustive. If you have an idea for a working group, please draw up a proposal of around 200 words and send it to email@example.com. For more details – see here: https://www.labour-in-exile.org/working-groups/
We will hold another open event very soon – watch this space!
Please consider joining LIEN – annual minimum fee of £5 unwaged/£10 waged: https://membermojo.co.uk/lien