Sketch by Inga Bystram Sketch by Inga Bystram

Pete Webster reports from a lively and important gathering of local councillors who are determined to create an alternative to Labour  

On Saturday a conference organised by Independent Socialist Councillors drew a crowd of around 200 activists to discuss how best to overcome the shortcomings of the democratic process in parliament and in local councils and how to support each other over the coming months. 

Many of those on the platform explained why they had broken with the Labour Party after a sorry litany of suspensions, resignations and expulsions. All detested Starmer’s acceptance of the neo-liberal agenda with one former member – now expelled –  declared ‘We did not leave the party – the party left us.’ 

The participants recognised that the Palestine cause has become the lightning rod to unite a broad range of grievances from continuing austerity, the rise of racism and Islamophobia, reneging on climate change, and uncritical support for UK foreign policy. 

Not surprisingly the victory for George Galloway in Rochdale and the trashing of Labour, the Tories and Reform in that by election added extra impetus to all the discussions.  

Many of the councillors and others on the platform see the calling of a general election as a way of galvanising opposition to the political elite. But this is yet to be announced and is more likely to be in the autumn if Sunak can hold on.  

Meanwhile the barbaric butchery continues today with no end in sight.  

The reason why the conference took place was because of the unprecedented pro-Palestinian movement.This has caused a crisis for our politicians who, along with the mainstream media have lost the argument with the majority of British people. Hence the marked increase in police repression including dispersal orders and night-time arrests of several activists setting a worrying trend. 

That is why next Friday’s Day of Action on International Women’s Day and the following national demo on Saturday are especially crucial to maintaining the momentum of the movement. It is our numbers that are critical here. 

As revolutionary socialists we recognise the limitations of all forms of bourgeois social democracy but we do not abstain in participating in the process. The political landscape is certain to change significantly once a general election is called and, where credible socialist alternatives to Labour are standing, we should support them. There will be other constituencies where it would be correct to vote, albeit through gritted teeth, for the Labour candidate.  

Overall there were a range of different views on how to take this project forward but there was enthusiasm to do so. It was also largely free from sectarian point scoring which is welcome. The conference marked a very important first step in gaining a left of Labour consensus over electoral work, and the debate and discussion will continue at a second conference in Blackburn in April.  

Meanwhile – we keep marching and protesting. The movement was the force that created this break with Labour to the left, and its success remains crucial in forming a new political agenda.  

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