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Critical Times, Paul Wayrider

Claiming the space

Hot’s Sean O’Shea interviews Clare Walton, Political Organiser, Red Pepper Magazine regarding their recent interactive evening (Sunday 27th September 2015) held at the BMECP Centre (Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership) Brighton.

 

The aim of the evening was to discuss how the space that has opened up on the left might be claimed and developed.

The meeting advocated the formation of local Communities for Corbyn (CFC) groups modelled on cross party collaborative work undertaken by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

***

Could you inform our readers about the background to Red Pepper Magazine and its aims?

Red Pepper is an independent bi-monthly magazine and website of left politics and culture. We’ve been going for more than twenty years and we take pride in creating a space for debate on the left, as well as supporting grassroots groups and campaigns. As we’re not tied to any party or organisation, the strength of Red Pepper is the diversity of what we do – we host events in support of Scottish Independence, we publish pieces from people we know supporting refugees in Serbia and Calais, we promote protests and we have decided to throw our weight behind Jeremy Corbyn.

You have recently convened a meeting in Brighton to discuss if radical campaigners and activists should be joining the Labour Party. What were some of the views of the participants on this question?

There was an interesting mix of views in the room! Clive Lewis (newly elected Labour MP in Norwich and now a member of the Shadow Cabinet) was on the panel and he was asking grassroots activists to join Labour, to support the anti-austerity politics of Corbyn and McDonnell. He suggested that groups could send a ‘delegate’ to their local Labour Party. A participant said that local Labour Party representatives should be the ones to go out and meet grassroots campaigners. There was a feeling that there is a wide variety of ways to support the policies of Corbyn (such as affordable housing, public ownership, preservation of the NHS), and that might mean joining Labour ,or it might mean joining your local community campaign, or it might mean setting up or joining a local ‘Community for Corbyn’ group.

You also explored what kind of autonomous movement could be organised which welcomed members of the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid, and encouraged close ties with grassroots trade unionism and activism. What have been some of the ideas that participants expressed about this?

We had a speaker from the Green Party on the panel and there was a lot of praise in general for Brighton MP Caroline Lucas who has consistently worked with other parties and organisations to get important work done. Caroline has set out a cooperative, progressive model that many hope left Labour MPs will now follow. In that spirit, ‘Communities for Corbyn’ is an idea which would be plural and wouldn’t require you to be a Labour Party member. One has already been set up in East London and the hope is that the community group model will take off all over the country. You could be a member of any party or none and go along to your local group which supported Corbyn’s politics. This might involve practically supporting your local NHS campaign or it might mean creating a space in your local community centre to share ideas and understanding about what’s going on. Corbyn, McDonnell and Lucas are all MPs who have consistently supported radical grassroots initiatives in a plural way. They have never asked who is a member of what party. We can continue that tradition.

Could you summarise the main conclusions to your discussion and what participants felt should be the next steps?

It’s hard to sum up the discussion in a couple of sentences, especially as a good part of the evening was in small discussion groups. But the sentiment was firmly – do something! A space has really opened in the Labour Party for the first time in decades, and we could really put our progressive, radical politics in the centre of mainstream political discussions, so we need to make the most of that opportunity. The feeling was – do what you want to do, keep fighting for your community, join Labour, create a Community for Corbyn group, keep doing direct action or campaigning on the issues closest to your heart.

It was acknowledged that Corbyn and McDonnell can’t survive the onslaught and smears from the mainstream media, and the attacks from within the Labour Party machine, unless there is significant support from outside Labour for their politics and policies. So there is a responsibility to act now.

****

Update on newly formed groups in support of Corbyn

Red Pepper Magazine (http://www.redpepper.org.uk/) has been one of several initiators of the Communities for Corbyn (CFC) group/network and hosted the latter’s initiating statement.

Momentum is another recently formed group in support of Corbyn and a successor entity to the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader Campaign Group. It aims to create a mass movement for progressive change. It describes itself as ‘independent of the Labour Party leadership.’

While CFC and Momentum are distinct groups they have similar goals and intend to collaborate and share resources.

For further information:

 

SOS, Oct 2015

 

Posted 10:02 Saturday, Oct 17, 2015 In: Politics,SOS

Also in: Politics

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