Resolutions passed at Counterfire Conference January 2018
Resolution 1, Resolutionary socialism and the extra-parliamentary struggle - Steering Committee
1The Tory government is in a unique state of disarray and its policies are hugely unpopular.
2The rise of Corbynism has created an audience for socialist ideas larger than any for more than a generation, given confidence to activists, and raised the real possibility of a break with neoliberalism.
3The struggle between the Corbyn left, the right, and the soft Left in Labour continues. Even people close to Corbyn have been making political concessions, and there is a sense that politics is returning to normal which is causing some disquiet on the left. As the possibility of office comes closer, the pressure to bend will increase.
4That if the results of most opinion polls were to be reflected in the next general election Labour would fail to command as overall majority in the House of Commons.
5Momentum has become an effective organiser for the left with in the Labour Party, but Momentum’s statement of aims was altered between 2016 and 2017 so that all reference to socialism and trade union struggle were removed. Momentum also appears reluctant to discuss foreign policy issues.
1Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaigns for leader and the general election campaign involved large scale rallies which motivated a considerable support base.
2There has been a notable decline in mass activity, particularly extra-parliamentary struggles, since the general election of 2017.
3That the dominant strategy in Labour is to pose as ‘the government in waiting’, and to wait for the Tory government to fall.
4Our commitment to mass activity and our arguments that Corbyn needs to stay radical and that a really left wing programme can only be implemented with the participation of a mass movement are attractive to many activists. This is clear from the respect that we have in the wider movements and on the Labour left, the take up of our paper and publications, the popularity of Lindsey German's briefing and other articles, and our strongest growth so far over the last year.
5That though many Labour members agree with these kind of arguments they are not being systematically put inside Labour, by Momentum or any other group. The logic of reformism in the party is overwhelming. It takes independent revolutionary organisation to challenge it.
6That more effort needs to be made to reconnect the mass movements with the rank and file Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party.
1To use model resolutions for forthcoming movement events (the NHS demo, the Peoples’ Assembly conference, the Stop the War speaking tour) aimed particularly at CLPs and trade unions in order to increase the depth of support among Corbyn supporters for extraparliamentary struggles.
2That these resolutions should aim to commit CLPs and union branches to action: the donation of money, sending of delegations, participation in and the building of extraparliamentary struggle.
3United fronts of which we are a part should publicise support for these resolutions and keep in close contact with those that propose and support them.
4Those we work with in the Labour left should be offered the CF paper on a regular basis and should be invited to CF meetings both locally and nationally.
Resolution 2, Trump, imperialism, and the antiwar movement - Steering Committee
1That Trump’s foreign policy has been highly reactionary and dangerous; the ramping up of tensions on the Korean peninsula, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, enhanced special relationship with Saudi and it’s reactionary Crown Prince and the forging of an Israel-Saudi nexus paving the way for confrontation with Iran, are all disturbing developments.
2Trump’s is particularly volatile and xenophobic but he has essentially adopted mainstream neoconservative US foreign policy by continuing the War on Terror and support for NATO, including committing 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan and supporting its expansionist activities in Eastern Europe.
3That Britain under Theresa May is still committed to an aggressive imperialist foreign policy and has done everything it can to maintain and bolster the Special Relationship with the US including supporting a potential pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea, refusing to condemn Trump’s many outrageous actions and upholding the invitation for Trump to visit the UK.
4That the UK has continued and increased arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite the ongoing devastation of Yemen, and during the centenary of the Balfour Declaration reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the State of Israel and its hard-right government despite the continuing oppression of the Palestinians.
5That Jeremy Corbyn has long been a committed anti war activist who has campaigned against the War on Terror, nuclear weapons and Western imperialism and is a friend of the Palestinians. His leadership of Labour is both a product of anti-war campaigning and a big opportunity for the anti-war movement.
6That the high turnaround of senior officials in Trump’s administration, his approval ratings being the lowest of any American President in history and his inability to pass legislation despite controlling both the legislative and executive branches, show that his government is crisis-ridden and provides an opening for the left to organise and gain ground.
1Given the growing threats of war, it is important to grow Stop the War nationally including by promoting and participating in the national Why We Need an Anti-War Government tour to ensure the antiwar message is part of the anti-Trump and antiTory movements.
2To work with our allies in the Labour Party to systematically push for a foreign policy position that better reflects the position of the leadership and of the anti-war movement.
3To build and participate in the mobilisations against Trump’s visit through Stand up to Trump, ensuring that anti-imperialism is at the heart of the opposition to Trump, which can give a huge blow to his presidency, to Theresa May’s government and to the imperialist Special Relationship.
4To campaign with our allies in the Palestine solidarity movement against the UK government’s acceptance of Trump’s Jerusalem Embassy move and strengthen the organised presence of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle in British society.
5To support Jeremy Corbyn and in doing so reassert the importance of ending the Special Relationship with the US as well as the War on Terror, stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Israel, opposing NATO and turning away from militarism and imperialism.
6To analyse the developments resulting from Trump’s actions and the actions of the UK government.
Resolution 3, Confronting racism and the far right in an age of austerity - Steering committee
1The ‘Great Recession’ has led to an erosion of the parties of the “extreme centre” across the advanced capitalist world, leading to a polarisation to the left and right.
2In recent years, racist ideas and xenophobic forces have made major breakthroughs in several important countries in Europe and beyond.
3The rise of the right has been uneven and in some important countries like the UK the parties of the right are currently at an historic low.
4Very often leaders of traditional capitalist parties are at the forefront of promoting racist ideas to divert the anger at the misery caused by neoliberalism away from class struggle.
5This promotion of racism is underpinned by years of stoking Islamophobia which has become central in mainstream political and media discussion following the War on Terror
6It now comes together with the crisis of the European Union, which is the destination of millions fleeing the havoc unleashed by imperialist war in Central Asia and the Middle East.
1The rise of racism and xenophobia is not irresistible or universal.
2The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK shows that where the left puts a fighting alternative to austerity, it can also make a breakthrough.
3Mass mobilisation in several European countries like Austria, Germany, Greece, Poland and Sweden and beyond shows that it is possible to organise against the right.
4The embrace by parts of the left of the undemocratic and neoliberal European project as a bulwark against racism is a dead end.
5In the UK, it is important not to reduce the Brexit referendum to racist anti-immigrant attitudes as that leads to an underestimation of the scale of anger against the establishment in the working class.
6Campaigning against racism needs to be a high priority, but in order to challenge racism effectively, the left needs to develop a joined up political approach that can address its complex causes.
7United initiatives like the Convoy to Calais in June 2018 and the SUTR demonstration on March 2017 are a good example of the way forward.
1To link demands for freedom of movement and against immigration controls to an effective fight against austerity and for working class demands especially through the People’s Assembly.
2To campaign for antiracism as part of the struggle for a new, anti-war foreign policy through the Stop the War Coalition.
3To continue to give anti-racism an important place in the CF paper and website, and to organise local and national meetings to strengthen anti-racist positions in the country.
4To be part of initiatives nationally and internationally which seek to take the fight against racism, imperialism and austerity to the ruling class.
Resolution 4, Tacking climate chaos - Bristol Counterfire
1That the existing climate science and research is fairly conclusive and presents a dire situation without drastic positive transitions and changes being enacted in the coming years, yet alone if things stay the same or gets worse.
2In light of President Trump’s withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Agreement – an accord which was already an insufficient response to the nature of the problem- there is an urgency for action on a whole host of environmental and ecological matters.
1That under the current system it will be the international working class that will bear the burden of climate change and pay for the climate damage.
2That even with substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of ecological deterioration will exacerbate existing interrelated political problems including the refugee crisis, international conflicts relating to resource scarcity and economic, living standard and health inequalities.
3That a possible Corbyn government would be considerably more ecologically-conscious than previous regimes, but would be under the same structural pressures to avoid meaningful action, which would hinder the creation of publicly-funded genuinely green infrastructure.
4That a strengthened environmental movement, with organised socialists at its heart, will be necessary to support a Corbyn government in resisting these pressures and achieving real action, both on climate change and on mitigating the effects we are already seeing.
1To encourage Counterfire members to be involved in outward-looking environmental movements locally, particularly in branches located in cities with a more concentrated existing environmentally- conscious population.
2To hold Counterfire meetings on climate change, to highlight the importance of a Marxist understanding of environmental issues.
3To encourage other environmentalists to further organise within trade unions and different community forums such as The People Assembly, and to support positive campaigns such as ‘One Million Climate Jobs’.
4To help build the mobilisation against any future Trump visit to the UK, as a key campaign for climate activists.
Resolution 5, Building Counterfire - Steering Committee
1Corbyn's leadership and his possible election has opened up a generational opportunity for socialists, and politicised large numbers ofpeople.
2There is a widespread perception that society is dysfunctional. There is contempt for the government, and a virtual consensus that neoliberalism has failed, with some beginning to question the system as a whole.
3We have growing respect in the wider movements and on the Labour left as shown by the take up of our paper and publications, thepopularity of Lindsey German's briefing and other articles, and our strongest growth so far over the last year.
4Revolutionary organization is necessary to provide clarity and a basis for strengthening the movements.
1This is a moment to raise Counterfire's profile. This means systematically drawing in the widest possible layers of Corbyn supporters tojoint activity, extending the reach of our arguments around the Corbyn project and relating to the growing sense of system failure by developing and popularising Marxist theory.
2Regular - where possible weekly - meetings are essential to this. In addition to meetings on the concrete situation, we should be having more theoretical meetings about capitalism's failures, the role of the state, the tradition of revolutionary struggle etc. The Marx anniversary is a good opportunity to do this.
3Both our online presence and the paper need to be developed and promoted more effectively. Online we need to diversify further into video, podcasts and by using more platforms. Most importantly we need to increase the amount of online content. Organizing around our newspaper is crucial to increasing our profile and influence amongst on the wider left and beyond. It can help promote resolutions and campaigns while popularising our arguments. It also gives our members a practical task that helps them develop links in their communities and workplaces.
4We should start to take working around universities seriously. Although the organised left in the colleges is weak, there are thousands ofpoliticised students in the universities looking for left wing ideas and ways to get active.
5Struggles in the workplace are increasing, and we must support and relate to this process to strengthen union organisation and combativity.
6We need to focus on growing. Our recruitment push at the end of 2017 worked well. Given the disarray on the radical left, relatively modest growth can make a big difference to our impact on the movement. Turning supporters into members matters for its own sake, but it is also the only long term way to increase our income, and therefore be able to prepare for the big opportunities to come.
1To move to weekly meetings wherever possible and incorporate more events which focus on Marxist theory.
2To start the process of setting up new groups where we have one or two members.
3To encourage more people to write, report and film for our online platforms, and to share our material more systematically.
4To organise paper distribution more effectively so that the paper is handed out all movement and Labour Party events at a minimum. Every local group should have a publications organiser.
5To regularly intervene around colleges with paper and leafleting sessions to attract people to our activity and meetings. Also to find waysto hold meetings, book launches etc in the universities themselves.
6To make sure that every Counterfire group is a centre of support for all workplace pickets and protests. To spread solidarity with every workers' struggle, and encourage our members to organise in their workplaces.
7To promote recruitment to Counterfire by running regular articles about joining, making sure every local group elects a membership secretary, and that chairs and others at meetings always encourage people to join.
Resolution 6, Welcoming new members - Bristol steering committee
1Counterfire’s membership has expanded significantly in the last year.
2This has brought in people sometimes with significant experience and sometimes entirely new to the revolutionary left.
3New members are joining Counterfire on the basis of the strength of our positions, but also on the basis of our successful, regular open discussion meetings and our nonsectarian and dynamic approach to movement-building.
4There has been a significant shift to the left in large sections of the population; the driving force in this has been the anti-austerity movement and the Corbyn project; effective mass mobilisation and also increased electoral prospects for the left.
5The Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn is a mass membership party that includes hundreds of thousands of people who take left wing positions on a variety of issues.
1There is a greater opening for revolutionary ideas amongst the population in Britain - particularly young people - than in decades.
2Many supporters of the Corbyn project understand that it faces significant pressures and opposition within the Labour party which are having a limiting effect on the prospect of advancing the more radical ideas associated with it; many are seeking forms of organisation which can more ably express the increased support for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist ideas.
3Counterfire seeks to welcome anyone into its membership who supports the revolutionary socialist agenda and strategies we promote and put into practice; no matter what their level of theoretical understanding and practical experience.
4Many new members join without being certain about how they can be involved in the organisation’s activities, what its structures are and all of its positions on various issues. It is important that all members become confident in these things and feel able to raise them in discussion.
5An essential objective of the organisation is to facilitate the education and practical development of all new members, including building the level of theoretical and historical understanding.
6The system is in crisis on many fronts and major political and social debates are abounding on which there are a number of different positions amongst the left, and on which it is important the organisation has discussion and takes positions where it can.
1All new members should receive a substantial welcome pack. This can comprise of online and postal elements according to the resources and judgement of the national membership office.
2Such a welcome pack would include a well-presented ’statement intent’-style pamphlet (shorter than book length so as to be easily readable) setting out Counterfire’s positions, along with analysis and strategy, on a wide range of issues in the general contemporary political and social context.
3All new members should be invited locally to an informal chat with one or two experienced members whom they feel comfortable meeting with, to discuss any questions they might have about the organisation and how they can be actively involved.
4The steering committee should investigate the possibility of a succinct and accessible recommended general reading list to be openly available online and to be targeted particularly at new members.
5Where possible local groups should recommend manageable amounts of reading for local public meetings - such as a key article or book chapter - to help develop the understanding of members and encourage them to contribute in meetings. An alternative would be a monthly book group, following short classic Marxist texts, as initiated by the London group.
6The section of Counterfire’s website describing the organisation should be updated and revised as appropriate, and be expanded to included basic ideas for new members on how they can get involved - such as local movement meetings and national events.
7As local groups expand, local structures need to be evaluated and developed in relation to the needs of each group, in liaison with the organisation at a national level.
More articles from this author
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- The public supports urgent action on climate chaos: it's government that is failing
- Trump in the tropics: Bolsonaro takes power in Brazil
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- Stop Tommy Robinson, All out for 17 November - Counterfire Freesheet November 2018
- Tommy Robinson and the far right must be driven out of mainstream politics now
- Stop Tommy Robinson: leaflets for National Unity Demonstration Against Fascism and Racism