History has a peculiar way of accelerating. Sometimes it can feel that more has been achieved in one week than was achieved during the preceding decade. Less than three weeks ago, police abolition was considered a ‘marginal conversation’, it is now a real possibility, for those in Minneapolis at least. The world is currently ‘moving fast,’ as socialists we need to remain flexible and responsive to the current moment. If the leadership of the Labour party has been less than disappointing on the issues at hand, we at the base of the party can and should be more precise in our condemnations and solidarities.
66 days after ‘stay at home guidance’ was first issued in the US, American cities have erupted in an explosion of social unrest and anger following the extra-juridical murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis policemen. This event has engendered a global wave of solidarity, with protests across the globe, stretching from Australia to Europe and from Latin America to Africa. In the UK the ‘ACAB Spring’ has been met by various attacks, from the far right, from the government and from the reactionary media, all designed to halt the popular social gains the movement is calling for, particularly focusing on the fractus nature of the ‘public debate’ after the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol last weekend. How we respond to this triple threat and how we offer our support to the autonomously coordinated BLM movement will be an important focus of our conversation moving forward. We plan to host a series of internal conversations redressing our role as Labour Party members in this moment; asking what ‘direct action’ entails, how best to act in solidarity with BAME led struggles and what ‘street activism’ requires in order to be successful. A proposed Direct Action/Street mobilation WG has been mooted, how this develops will require all of our initiative.
>> Internal Processes for Members.
On Sunday the 24th of May, LT held a general meeting to discuss a proposal for decision making procedures for the organisation. These were ratified by a vote held on the Forum over the following week. If you have not yet signed up as a member, and as such, opened an account on the forum, we strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible. Where possible we want to transition political conversation onto the Forum, strengthening the coordination of the WGs, whose activity can often be drowned out by unrelated chat on Whatsapp.
>> Joining the NOG.
As proposed on the 24th of May, the National Organising Group (NOG) is open to participation from all members within LT, and is actively encouraging members to step forward and join the group. We particularly encourage the participation of Women, LGBT+ and BAME comrades. The NOG currently meets weekly, on Wednesday evenings. You can find the proposal in full here, which contains details about the responsibilities and remit of the NOG.
>> Working group round up.
Trade Union WG
The Trade Union WG continues to meet every week (Tuesdays); currently focused on a campaign for this year’s proposed Unison election (in December). The group is also discussing the possibility of producing ‘outward’ facing content, with ideas being floated to produce a general ‘union newsletter’ ala America’s ‘Labour Notes,’ a conference, as well as creating some online trade union histories. The group is continuing to work through a collective orientation document- focusing on how we relate to trade unionism, the sort of trade unionism we want to see and how we can link different TU activists together.
Labour Party WG
The Labour Party Working Group continues to monitor and discuss the developing situation in the Labour Party, while at the same time engaging collectively in planning useful interventions. Under the conditions of social distancing, CLPs are not currently exercising their decision making functions, so the working group has been using this time to develop a thorough analysis of the conjuncture and the utility, for anti-capitalists, of the party itself. The Labour Party Working Group meets every other Friday at 18:00.
Race and Anti-Imperialism WG
Labour Transformed’s Race and Anti-Imperialism Working Group has been reading Tony Northfield’s the city as part of the regular reading and discussion circle hosted by the working group. You can view their schedule below. Get in touch if you’d like to be added.
Reading group: The City by Tony Northfield
Thursday 18 June: Chapters 1-3 (74 pages)
Thursday 2 July: Chapters 4-5 (53 pages)
Thursday 16 July: Chapters 6-7 (55 pages)
Thursday 30 July: Chapters 8-9, Afterword (60 pages)
Community Organising WG
Under the present conditions of social distancing, the community WG has struggled to coordinate an LT strategy. However, as the recent phenomena of local Mutual Aid groups have demonstrated, having roots within local communities is an essential and vital component of socialist organising. The group has recently circulated an online questionnaire, we encourage all members considering how LT can develop and consolidate a community strategy to join the group.
>> Momentum NCG Elections.
Elections for Momentum’s NCG open tomorrow (Tuesday 16). Labour Transformed have thrown our support behind the excellent candidates on the Forward Momentum platform. As an opportunity to break from the duplicitous backroom dealings and mismanagement of the past, represented in this election by the continuity platform, Momentum Renewal, we urge you to vote for the Forward Momentum candidates in your region. You can view the full list of candidates here.
>> Strengthening our internal culture.
On June 7 we hosted an online screening of ‘The Year of the Beaver.’ It was a lovely day outside and we had poorly advertised it, as such, engagement was pretty low. However, the film generated a good conversation among those who did turn out to watch it, allowing us to think through the utility of documentary film for community and workplace organising. The film is shot as an inquiry, allowing the voices and struggle of workers to talk for themselves. We are proposing continuing to show films followed by discussions, with a rough schedule for the last Sunday of every month currently being mooted. You can still watch Year of the Beaver here. We highly recommend it. At the moment the film program is being put forward by folks from the NOG, but we’d like to expand the group. If you have suggestions for films, or ideas for a cultural program of events please get in touch, or better yet, open a thread on the forum.
We are proposing to show ‘Future Communism’ on July 5 – a rare opportunity to see this film with English subtitles. You can watch the trailer here. Please keep an eye on the LT ‘general’ whatsapp closer the time for reminders.
Communist Reading Group
The Communist reading group continues to meet every Sunday to discuss the Communist Research Clusters series on ‘European Socialism and Communism,’ given people’s capacity. People are still welcome to join the conversation. The group supports the need for ‘good conversation’ in the communist movement. Here is a link to a PDF of the syllabus we are using – the group is coordinated by Whatsapp- link here -and is currently working through Chapter 6. We strongly advise reading the introduction before commencing with the chapter..
This month has seen the world rapidly turn in unexpected and dramatic ways. For those of us organising within an ‘In and Against’ politics, the social destruction wrought by the Covid19 crisis, the resignation of an overtly socialist leadership at the top of the Labour party and the emergence of an international wave of grass roots mutual aid networks, is forcing us to reconsider what is possible and necessary in the immediate term.
Virtual Social Centre
Unsurprisingly, social distancing has delayed some of our promised activity. We still have plans to expand our website to include regular trade union and community news, a calendar of actions, strikes and community campaigns and leaflets and draft motions for download and distribution. Our need to respond to this crisis and our attempts to try and keep abreast of developments, let alone coordinate action has led us to prioritise ‘online work’ on our newly launched Virtual Social Centre, which we hope will prove a useful information hub, until at such a time when we can find each other again on picket lines, meetings and at social events.
The Virtual Social Centre is an online information point and coordination space. An idea proposed and then constructed across LT’s working groups. Social centres have long provided an important backbone for the extra-parliamentary left, providing space to organise, discuss ideas, congregate, socialise, and create new forms of community.
As COVID-19 has, for the foreseeable future at least, cancelled physical experiences of community and solidarity, we need to create useful, productive, and radical spaces online that can inculcate the best lessons of the social-centre tradition: the free exchange of useful information and the creation and coordination of campaigns.
We want the Virtual Social Centre to coordinate responses to the threats presented to us in the combination of COVID-19, the financial crisis, and the Tory government.
It is hoped that by placing mutual aid initiatives, workplace, and community union information in one space, we can cut down on the disorientating ‘‘white noise’ many find online, providing a useful ‘one-stop’ shop for news and campaign initiatives in one space. We hope this will have the added benefit of introducing different groups to unfamiliar ideas, inspiring new strategies and coalitions.
We see the hope of a new world, one based on mutual aid, solidarity, and compassion in the current efforts of people to self-organise for our collective survival. Mutual aid and solidarity are the bedrock upon which socialist movements were historically made. They also hold the blueprint to a future society—one no longer based on competition and individualisation but on collective human flourishing and happiness.
We also see the possibility of another future, one predicated on tighter social controls, debt servitude, social scapegoating, 24hr surveillance and international conflict. What future we will inherit, will be shaped by the organisational efforts of the working class in the present.
We are still in the process of adding material and information and we expect this site to be constantly expanding. We are producing a daily briefing, a condensation of website news, a round up of campaigns, guidance updates and calls to action.
If you have an event or campaign you want advertised, or alternately want to join the editorial group, then please contact us via the email.
Here is a link to Labour Transformed member Seth Wheeler, talking about Labour Transformed, TWT, Momentum, social distancing, mutual aid and the virtual social centre- starting at 18min in.
Last month saw the second of Bristol Transformed festivals, which was a resounding success. Labour Transformed members Archie Woodrow and James Meadway, alongside our comrades Sarah Jaffe, and Kulsoom Jafri were on a panel discussing strategy. You can listen to that here.
A campaign calling for the ‘refounding’ of Momentum was launched today, with the aim to contest Momentum’s perennially postponed NCG election. The platform put forward here proposes turning Momentum’s internal democracy back on and transforming the organisation into a member-led social movement. How, if at all, this is to be achieved, is as yet not clear. One notable absence from Forward Momentum’s list of demands regards Momentum’s resources themselves, which we would add, would need to come under democratic member control, if any of what Forward Momentum are proposing is to be meaningful. Another omission is a vision for Momentum as a class struggle organisation. We believe we outlined such a vision for Momentum in our own proposal, Building a Movement with Teeth.
Regardless, Forward Momentum is a welcome initiative, seeking as it does, to turn Momentum from a glorified mailing list into the rank-and-file campaigning organisation we have so desperately needed. We express our critical support for this initiative and encourage Labour Transformed Members to read their materials.
Labour Transformed is not currently involved in Forward Momentum, but our organising committee will be discussing our engagement with the campaign and consulting members about the type of practical intervention we should make going forward.
Starmer’s election as the leader of the Labour Party will force us to have some difficult conversations concerning the continued utility of the party going forward. Although, the Labour Party is the only viable site for a socialist regroupment at this time, we will need to consider carefully whether our efforts are best spent on internal party motions (etc.), knowing as we do that the new leader’s ear will not be bent as far in the direction of the left as Corbyn’s used to be, or on consolidating our forces outside of the party.
Working group round up
This month has seen a proliferation (unsurprisingly) of on-line working group meet ups and activity,
Labour Transformed’s Trade Union working group has had a busy month, with transformations in the rhythms of work, legislation and workplace provision changing on a daily basis. Outside of sharing information produced by various trade unions, the working group has been thinking through its long term vision, the creation of a rank and file coordination across TUC unions and the ‘new’ base unions.
The Borders, Race and Imperialism group has kick started its long awaited reading group and is having an online strategy conversation regarding the new ‘state of exception’ and what this means for migrants, the paperless and us all.
The Labour Party working group is holding an online strategy meeting this Saturday discussing recent transformations and what these mean strategically. .
That’s all for now comrades, if we missed anything out, or got anything wrong, we apologise, but fuck it, its the end of the world.
Stay safe, wash your hands and remember…It is we [the workers] who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. […] That world is growing in this minute.
— Buenaventura Durruti
March 21 2020
Labour Transformed have launched an online Covid19 solidarity resource the ‘Virtual Social Centre.’ The idea behind the website is to bring together the different campaigns and initiatives emerging in response to the triple threat of Covid19, the financial crisis and authoritarian governance into one place. Our hope is, by doing so we will introduce people from different groups to new ideas, acting as a bridge between the different campaigns emerging in response to these threats. We have also included information and links to health and benefit advice, as well as a list of radical education projects and online content designed to overcome isolation and boredom.
If you have any suggestions for content then please contact us at https://virtualsocialcentre.org.uk/suggested-resources/
March 12 2020
On the Coronavirus and the social crisis
An open letter to the Trade Union movement from Labour Transformed.
Labour Transformed are extremely concerned about the situation presented by the Coronavirus and the inadequate responses from both the Conservative government and the organised Labour/Union movement. We appreciate a lot is going on, ‘behind the scenes,’ but believe a collective response from the union movement is long overdue. Hopefully such a response can help to quell social anxiety and provide the leadership necessary to deal with the crisis as it unfolds over the coming weeks.
All current modelling regarding the spread of the coronavirus suggests that the UK is currently two weeks ‘behind’ Italy in terms of infection rates, although some modelling has already suggested the UK will suffer a larger number of cases given the current rate at which the virus is spreading here. If we end up with a 20% infection rate in the UK, with only 5% of those needing ICU care – we would need 600,000 ICU beds.There are only 4000 ICU beds across the whole of the NHS, and these are already 90% occupied.
The slow incubation period attached to Covid19, the moment between infection and displaying symptoms will in no doubt, contribute to the spread of the virus. Without a generalised program of ‘social distancing/ self-isolation’, the risk of the disease spreading further and developing into an unprecedented social crisis remains extremely likely.
The Conservative government’s response to this crisis remains wholly inadequate: instead of implementing the appropriate measures – social distancing, closing non-essential workplaces, schools, universities etc. – measures essential to limit the spread of the disease, the Tories have chosen to put the needs of the economy (and the interests of the capitalist class) before public safety.
Let’s not forget that this crisis will fall hardest upon those who can least afford to cope with it – the working class. In Italy, where all non-essential services have been suspended, food courier companies are still allowed to operate in the centre of the epidemic. Workers without union representation or adequate sick pay are forced into a difficult choice, starve or go to work. Working during a pandemic, because of the threat of no sick pay, is not only cruel but incredibly dangerous for those who they come in contact with. Companies like Deliveroo see an opportunity to make huge profits while people are quarantined and unable to get food themselves. Capital will profit from this crisis at our expense. Here, too, it is workers who will be coerced into endangering themselves and others as they cannot afford to self-isolate themselves unilaterally.
We, the working class, cannot afford to sit back and wait for the government to impose self-isolation in two weeks time, we need to act collectively and now, so we can head the spread of the disease ‘off at the pass’. Trade unions and the Labour Party should be calling on their members to do just that – ‘stay at home.’
Staying at home and self isolating is an act of social solidarity, one that ensures that the burden of ill bodies falling onto the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in the NHS is someway manageable. We demand all trade unions call for an immediate stoppage of non-essential work. We ask that union funds be made available to members taking this course of action, and that donations be made to support community initiatives like food banks and other services, which are essential for working class survival.
We can limit the spread of this virus, but only if the labour movement acts fast and in solidarity with the whole of the working class, not just the workers they represent.
We encourage all our friends and comrades to think about what they can do to protect the most vulnerable over the coming weeks, particularly the homeless, the incarcerated and the elderly. Self-organised initiatives are already showing another way to deal with the virus, as in the example of Queercare, LGBTQ activists who are organising inside their community to provide practical solidarity to vulnerable members.
The trade union movement needs to act also, throwing their resources and their collective power into this struggle for life. Unions need to create a social solidarity ‘pay,’ akin to strike funds, payments made available to workers to ensure they aren’t tempted out of their homes by the threat of unpaid bills, overdue rents or rising debt..
Instead of an authoritarian ‘self isolation’ imposed from above, let us create a collective response predicated on solidarity ‘from below’.
As such we demand the trade union movement call for:
- An immediate cessation of all non-essential work.
- A strict policy of social distancing for those who must remain in work.
- Union funds to be made available to cover the financial losses incurred to workers who elect to support ‘self isolation’ solidarity if needed.
- Union funds to create a ‘solidarity fund’ that can provide financial support to non-unionised workers, food banks and other services necessary for working class survival.
Furthermore we call on the trade unions to demand of the government to:
- Fund wage level sick pay to all employees who do not go into work in order to self-isolate.
Bring all private hospitals into emergency public ownership.
- Begin a mass testing program.
- Emergency funding for social services
Give the public the best possible information about the pandemic at all times.
- Empower Ofcom to significantly penalise any regulated media found to be spreading fake news about the pandemic.
- Compel medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies to sign planning agreements that direct research and production towards public health rather than profit, in return for public financing.
- Guarantee full sick pay for the employed and self-employed without any thresholds or waiting periods.
- Temporarily suspend all mortgage, rent and bill payments.
- Immediate halt of all non-essential work.
- Make provision for pandemic response in prisons for prisoner health.
- End deportations, immigration detention.
- Remove all NHS surcharges to make access to healthcare universal.
- Ensure families in receipt of school meals are fed over the duration of the crisis.
If the government does not agree to support mass self-isolation by the middle of next week and agree to the demands listed above, the trade union leadership and movement must call a strike of all non-essential services.
March 9 2020
Apologies for our recent ‘radio silence’, our server and all its back-ups crashed a little over a week ago taking all the content with it, which has set us back slightly. We are working hard to get it back up and running and hopefully the website will be live again by the end of the coming week. The revitalised website will now include union and community organising pages, hosting a series of leaflets and draft motions for members to download, as well as a calendar of upcoming events (pickets, conferences etc) that we encourage all Labour Transformed members to attend.
In the meantime those of us who make up the provisional organising group, have been busy planning activities and laying a foundation for a more open organising structure. Here is an update on recent activity:
Wednesday 19th February – London.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of ‘In and Against the State’, activists from Labour Transformed gave a talk at Housmans Bookshop. Recently, this short text has had something of a revival of interest, due in part to the overton window opened by Jeremy Corbyn’s successful challenge for Labour Party leadership in 2015. It would be fair to say, ‘In and Against the State’ has haunted the political imagination of a growing current within Corbynism that has become increasingly hegemonic among younger corbynite activists; providing a theme for 2018’s The World Transformed festival, as well as generating a variety of articles, from authors as diverse as John McDonnell, Hilary Wainwright and more avowedly extra-parliamentary communist groupings. While the original text spoke to the direct experiences of revolutionary socialists working within the public sector, more recently ‘In and Against the State’ has come to take on a wider conceptual meaning, talking to a growing and ‘international tendency’ of anti-authoritarian activists, who now find themselves engaged in parliamentarian or municipal projects that seek to incorporate the sensibilities, organisational methodologies and principles of the extra-parliamentary and anti-authortrain left. How we can make sense of this apparent contradiction was the purpose of the talk. Addressing ‘class composition,’ and other lessons drawn from autonomist Marxism, Labour Transformed activists made a call for a regroupment of revolutionaries within the shadow of the Labour Party.
For further reading on these ideas see – For a Party, For Autonomy.
Saturday 7th March- Bristol.
This coming Saturday at Bristol Transformed Archie Woodrow and James Meadway, members of Labour Transformed, will be discussing strategy for the contemporary moment alongside Sarah Jaffe and Kulsoom Jafri. This talk will take place at 12 noon.
Blurb from the Bristol programme- ‘There has been a resurgence of leftwing organisations, think tanks, activists, politicians and ideas in recent years, and in America it seems the left is on the brink of power. But all of this happened almost accidentally, and without serious strategic thought. In this session we ask activists from the UK and the States how the left can coordinate with effective strategy to win power.’
If you are currently taking UCU strike action, you can get subsidised tickets for Bristol Transformed – please contact them if you want these sort of tickets.
Tuesday 10th March- London.
This coming Tuesday, activists from Labour Transformed’s Union Working Group will be running a ‘teach out’ and public discussion at 1.45pm outside the History of Art Department at UCL–address- 20 Gordon Square. Picket lines will be running from 8am if people wish to arrive earlier and show their solidarity which we encourage. The proposed discussion is themed around ‘where next for the movement after the defeat of December the 12th?’ We welcome all LT members who have the time to come and attend and contribute to our discussion.
Opening up organisation.
At present Labour Transformed’s provisional organising group meet every week. We want to expand the participation of these meetings and have recently proposed that every second of these organisational meetings should also be attended by members from the working groups (ideally two members from each) in order to propose and develop campaigns, coordinate activity and check in with one another. At our last meeting, delegates from both the Trade Union Working Group and the Race and Anti-Imperialism Working Group were able to attend. Ideas were discussed to produce forms of direct action and solidarity for two ongoing struggles in London.
Each working group should ensure that delegates are able to attend moving forward. The provisional organising group will continue to remind members in advance of meetings via our WhatsApp channels.
Working groups are organising for action.
Part of the motivation for establishing Labour Transformed was to incorporate the lessons and sensibilities of the ‘new’ rank and file community and workplace unions into the organisational repotorie of Labour Party activists. With this in mind we are planning two upcoming open meetings in order to devise campaigns, solidarity and direct action in support of upcoming union struggle and in defence of Haringey’s Latin Village. We invite all members to attend. Dates for these meetings will follow shortly.
Further Working group news.
A proposed reading group is being set up by the race and anti-imperialism group, further details will be forwarded as and when dates have been set.
Looking ahead to July, Labour Transformed is planning a one (possibly two) day conference of culture and politics which will draw together different sections of the international ‘class compositional left’ in order to assess the continued utility of the Labour Party for revolutionaries. We also hope to have a massive fuck off party in the evening as well as an interesting cultural programme running throughout the day (you lucky philistines). Keep an eye out for updates and ways to get involved, help set the agenda and contribute as the weeks unfold.