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Resolutions passed at Counterfire Conference 2020

Resolution 1: The Tories and the political crisis

 

Conference notes:

1The election result has given the Tories a substantial Commons majority.

2At the last election the Tories won 13 million votes, only 8% more than Labour won in 2017.

3That the divisions in the Tory party have been suppressed for the time being.

4That Brexit is not over.

5In November last year the ONS reported that ‘looking at the picture over the last year, [economic] growth slowed to its lowest rate in almost a decade’, narrowly avoiding recession.

6The global economy has slowed in the last year, with growth falling below IMF predictions.

7That any likely outcome of the Labour Party leadership contest will mark a move to the right and a partial abandonment of both the spirit and letter of Corbynism, especially on issues of foreign policy.

Conference believes:

1That it would be mistake to assume that the election result means that Tory ideology is popular among working people. Labour’s anti-austerity politics were not the cause of its election defeat.

2That the Tories are governmentally strong but socially weak.

3That the Tory shift to rhetoric that seems to abandon austerity will not be matched by spending or legislation which substantially alters the long term crisis of the welfare state, the neo-liberal workplace environment, or that gap between rich and poor.

4That the British state has rarely been weaker, threatened by renewed instability in Ireland, independence movements in Scotland, isolation from Europe, and increased dependence on US imperialism.

5That the emphasis of the resistance to the Tories will shift from internal Labour Party politics and parliamentary developments to extra-parliamentary movements.

6That the social conditions that created the Yellow Vests movement and the mass strikes in France or the Sardines movement in Italy also exist in Britain.

7That a complex social, political, and economic crisis of this nature demands a left capable of analysing it using a Marxist framework in order to effectively develop party and movement organisation to mount resistance to the Tory offensive.

Conference resolves:

1To strengthen Counterfire organisationally, financially, and ideologically to meet the new conditions of a Tory offensive.

2To help sustain the People’s Assembly and the Stop the War Coalition as essential united front vehicles of resistance.

3To renew our commitment to covering and supporting industrial disputes.

4To develop ways of relating to new movements of resistance, like the climate change movement, in which we do not necessarily play a leading role organisationally.

Resolution 2: Brexit after Corbynism

 

Conference notes:

1Brexit is an effect of a larger political crisis.

2The left failed to take advantage of this crisis, with the following results: the increasing rise of right populism and the failure of the Corbyn project.

Conference believes:

1That the Labour Party’s slide to remain was the principal factor in it losing the 2019 general election, which functioned as a de facto second referendum for a majority of leave voters, whose trust Labour lost.

2The Conservative government will not resolve the crisis in the interests of the majority who voted to leave the EU in 2016.

3That the collapse of the hegemony of the political centre must be met by a left that can offer a better path for workers than the populist right.

4That Brexit still represents an opportunity for rupture with Europe’s capitalist institutions and only makes sense from the left. There is no better deal for capital than the one it currently has.

5Seeing Brexit as emblematic of a culture war predicated upon divisions of age, race, and social attitudes is a strategy that is a substitute for the real divide in society, which is class, and the terrain on which the right wish to fight.

Conference resolves:

1In the context of the end of Corbynism and the inevitable moving rightwards of the Labour Party, to continue making the arguments within the left that making a break with the institutions of the EU is a necessary step on the road to socialism.

2To fight for workers’ and migrants’ rights in post-Brexit Britain.

3To support the LeFT campaign in its work.

Resolution 3: Turning to the class on the climate crisis

 

Conference notes:

1That record global temperatures in 2019 emphasise the reality of anthropogenic climate change, while the Australian wildfires are a vivid reminder of the dangers we face as a result of the climate crisis.

2That the youth climate strikes and XR actions have raised the profile of the climate issue significantly, but this did not translate into electoral politics, with the climate crisis receiving comparatively little attention in the general election campaign.

3That we now have a majority Tory government which has no credible plans for dealing with climate change and getting to net zero emissions.

4That the climate crisis is a class issue. As we have seen since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, natural disasters and extreme weather will hit hardest those with the fewest resources. Green campaigning however can have a class problem, with some in the green movement viewing working people and trade unions as at best uninvolved and at worst actively hostile to green measures.

5That some right-wing leaders, like Trump, have portrayed concern for the climate as a liberal plot against ordinary people as part of their pitch for working-class support.

6That on the other hand green policies can be made to sit with a right-wing agenda, as demonstrated by the coalition between the People’s Party and the Greens in Austria and a possible similar blue-green alliance in Germany. Macron’s attempt to use concern for the climate to justify the fuel tax rise that sparked the Gilets Jaunes movement also shows the use to which green issues can be put.

7War is not often mentioned in mainstream discussions about the causes of climate change.

Conference believes:

1That raising the profile of the climate crisis is clearly vital but is only a first step to get the action needed to reduce emissions.

2That the climate crisis is ultimately the creation of capitalism, but that public spending on creating new, green infrastructure could provide at least a partial fix within the current system. The lack of significant progress on this is due to austerity and privatisation.

3That Labour’s green new deal proposals, including for a just transition, could have been a step towards concrete solutions to the crisis through class politics.

4That building a working-class movement to demand a green transformation of infrastructure, green jobs and a just transition would not only advance the climate issue but could be a contribution to the work of rebuilding the Left in the areas which saw the worst Labour losses in the general election.

5That war isn’t just a waste of resources that could be used to tackle climate change, but is itself a significant cause of environmental harm. The armed forces have considerable carbon footprints.

Conference resolves:

1To build alliances everywhere we can with trade unions, trades councils and others to call for a green new deal and for just transition measures.

2To explore other alliances at national and local level for a potential high-profile intervention into the climate movement.

3To commit to holding public meetings and producing literature about different aspects of the climate crisis.

4To ensure that we are developing the confidence of our members on climate issues.

5To highlight the link between war and the climate crisis.

Resolution 4: Ideological intervention: building the revolutionary tradition today

 

Conference notes:

1The deep crisis of legitimacy facing neoliberal economic regimes evidenced amongst other things by mass insurgent protest movements in many parts of the globe and the return of significant workers’ struggle in some economically key countries including India, France and the USA.

2That the lack of alternative models on the part of ruling class makes further political instability and radicalisation likely.

3The need for the reassertion of Marxist politics and the revival of revolutionary organisation, made particularly sharp in Britain by the defeat of the Corbyn project.

Conference believes:

1That the first task of socialists is to build the broadest, most effective resistance to ruling class attacks. Particularly given the defeat of Corbynism, we must persuade the greatest possible number of activists to focus on strengthening trade unions, solidarity, and rebuilding mass movements of resistance.

2That socialist organisation is crucial to developing this resistance. At the same time, the level of economic and political turmoil raises a wide range of questions about the nature of class today, democracy, the environment, imperialism, economic planning and struggles against oppression.

3That especially given the low ideological level in the Labour Party, we need a revolutionary left that is capable of encouraging serious discussion about these questions and starting to provide answers. Helping to organise resistance and supporting the Corbyn project has been crucial to Counterfire, but in the context of this work, it is our political ideas, explanation and analysis that have allowed us to grow.

Conference resolves:

1To strengthen Counterfire by stepping up our intervention in the movements and the unions, increasing our output online and off, raising our theoretical level and increasing our public profile, particularly through the use of the paper.

2To ensure all our members are actively involved in this work by setting up as many new groups as possible. To strengthen existing groups by ensuring we have regular political meetings and educational events, including members’ meetings where members can come together to discuss priorities and interventions.

3To campaign for growth and to rapidly increase our income. In the last two months, Counterfire has had its best ever recruitment at a national level. Many of our members have also increased their monthly contributions. Growth is important in itself but it also allows us to strengthen our infrastructure which is now vital. We need to translate this systematic effort to the localities and local branches.

Resolution 5: How to organise

 

Conference notes:

1That the election was a serious defeat for the left and there now needs to be a reorientation of the left in new political terrain.

2That Counterfire played a positive role in critically supporting the Corbyn project, defending the Corbyn leadership and working with the Labour left during the last 4 years. We played an important role in organising Corbyn-supporters to oppose the attacks on the leadership as well as bringing them into the extra-parliamentary movements.

3That Counterfire has produced important analysis though our website, monthly freesheet and Lindsey German’s briefing to the left inside and outside the Labour party.

4That as a result, Counterfire’s online reach has been steadily growing and had the biggest, most sustained readership during the election, and our membership has been growing at a much faster pace since the election.

Conference believes:

1That there are new challenges for the left to face with a right-wing Tory government with a majority in Parliament, and what is almost certainly going to be a more right-wing Labour leadership, in the context of ongoing social and economic crisis on various fronts.

2That Counterfire is well placed to provide leadership to a large number of activists, many of whom may have lost confidence in reformist politics, and provide an avenue for activity to go beyond the internal Labour party battles and instead on building the mass movements and trade unions around the country.

3That as a growing organisation, Counterfire needs to strengthen its organisational structures and put more emphasis on a) being more interventionist and b) ideological education.

Conference resolves:

1To set up new branches where new members have joined, and a formal London branch should be reinitiated.

2To have regular organisational meetings in all branches to discuss the political situation and movement and union activity to build/support/intervene in.

3To develop caucuses for members in particular unions/industries.

4To continue putting on public meetings around the country discussing the political situation, as well as having a great emphasis on education events, reading groups etc discussing Marxist theory.

5To continue a) building our online presence through more articles written by a larger section of our membership as well as more video content and interviews, and b) developing new ways of using and distributing the paper.

6To have a greater emphasis on recruitment so that we can strengthen the central office, including by hiring more staff, and to increase our ability to intervene in the left, to build mass movements and to strengthen our trade union work.

Resolution 6: Organisation

 

Conference notes:

1That Counterfire has a very loose organisational structure. Members tend to act as individuals and not as a collective. Many of the decisions are either taken on an individual basis or suggested from the top down.

2That this was seen during the election campaign. At least in London, there wasn’t a regional meeting to discuss how we would intervene. Individual members decided on their own where to go. We helped the Labour Party, the NEU, Keep the NHS Public or other social movements without giving a coherent and unified direction.

3That this is also seen in our participation in trade unions. Many of our members are in trade unions, but we don’t have democratic discussions on how to intervene collectively.

Conference believes:

1That more than ever we need to strengthen Counterfire, to influence even more the anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons, trade union, anti-austerity and international solidarity movements.

2That we need to organise Counterfire from the bottom up and give members a stronger ownership of the organisation.

3That despite having the best analysis of the political situation, we need to strengthen a forum of discussion where we can develop a Marxist praxis.

Conference resolves:

1To strengthen our regional structures by having regular meetings where practical actions of how to intervene in the social movement will be discussed.

2The meetings should discuss the political situation, the distribution of the paper and contribution to the website.

3With regard to London, there should be a regional meeting to discuss the best way to organise, whether as London as a whole or in different groups to intervene across London.

Resolution 7: Imperialism in the Trump era

 

Conference notes:

1The sharp escalation of US aggression towards Iran since the Trump-authorised assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in early January.

2The intensifying conflict between the US and Iran that has followed, with the serious threat of war between the US (and its allies) and Iran.

3The call of the Iraqi Parliament for US forces to leave Iraq and the hostile US reaction to this.

4The full support for Trump’s approach to Iran and Iraq provided by Boris Johnson’s Tory government.

5The extremely tight allegiance between Trump and Israeli leader Netanyahu, complemented by the Johnson government’s deep commitment to support for Israel.

6That although media attention has been temporarily taken off Latin America, sanctions and economic blockade against Venezuela and Cuba persist.

Conference believes:

1That the assassination of Soleimani was an act of war that deepened the existing conflict between the US and Iran, which has already involved Trump’s suspension of the nuclear arms agreement and the imposition of devastating sanctions.

2That US aggression towards Iran is part of the fallout from the US-led ‘War on Terror’ and its failures, including the immensely damaging long-term consequences in Iraq and the increasing status of Iran as a major regional power.

3That US aggression towards Iran intersects with the interests and actions of regional powers, notably Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, to fuel instability and military conflict in the Middle East.

4That the crisis in the Middle East has important implications for British politics, with Boris Johnson committed to maintaining UK subservience to Washington but risking a political and popular backlash by doing so.

5That although leading Labour politicians are opposing the drive to war in Iran, the Labour Party is weak on foreign policy, which puts the emphasis for anti-war politics on the extra-parliamentary movements against war, against nuclear weapons and in solidarity with Palestine.

6That the attacks on Palestine solidarity activism are likely to continue, and perhaps intensify, with renewed efforts to weaponise antisemitism, delegitimise boycott, divestment and sanctions tactics, and severely limit what is considered permissible criticism of Israel.

7That sanctions and economic blockade are an act of war when declared by foreign powers.

8However, when asked by liberation movements from inside the oppressed country, as is the case of Palestine, should be seen as a tactic of resistance, and should be supported as a demonstration of solidarity.

Conference resolves:

1To contribute towards organising and promoting the anti-war movement’s demonstrations and campaigning against US military action in Iran and Iraq.

2To play a central role in building and strengthening the Stop the War Coalition more widely.

3To work with Labour Party activists at every level to extend the reach of anti-war arguments into the Labour Party.

4To assist with campaigning efforts against attempts to delegitimise boycott, divestment and sanctions tactics and the cause of Palestine solidarity more generally.

5To develop our analysis of the Trump administration, British foreign policy and the current phase of imperialism through our website, paper and events.

6To carry on campaigning against the economic blockade against Cuba, Venezuela and any country that resolves to follow an independent path.