CLPD Newsletter No.25

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CLPD Newsletter

No.25 (Conference Resolutions Edition) April 1982

CLPD: the Alternative Strategy for Socialists

The gains made by CLPD at successive Annual Conferences have not come about by accident, or simply through some favourable conjunction of historical forces. CLPD's experience suggests that up to now socialists have failed to take full advantage of existing opportunities. Caught up in the orthodox round of elections, meetings, magazines and marches, traditional activists have neither achieved concrete results nor explained how they could ever realistically hop to do so.

CLPD began in 1973 as a rank and file response to Harold Wilson's statement that his government would refuse to be bound by any Conference decision to take 25 of the largest 100 companies into public ownership. Then, as now, the brutal truth for Labour was that the trade unions and constituency parties supported socialist measures, but the PLP did not. Furthermore, in any confrontation arising from this basic disagreement, the PLP was bound to win.

Clearly the membership had no real influence over the parliamentary leadership. Equally clearly, Conference resolutions on nuclear disarmament or whatever were of no use if a Labour government would not carry them out. The passive majority in favour of Labour's Programme had to be mobilized to change the balance of power to bring about majority rule within the Labour Party. Accordingly CLPD was formed to make the PLP accountable to the Party as a whole, on the basis of the following statement:

"We believe that policy decisions reached by Annual Conference should be binding on the Parliamentary Labour Party, and undertake to secure the implementation of this principle."

At first CLPD found itself at odds with many of those committed to conventional Labour politics. CLPD alone raised the question of implementation, and alone identified constitutional issues as being decisive, while the establishment at every level - Right, Left and Centre - preoccupied with glamorous but empty gestures, dismissed CLPD's proposals as irrelevant. Slowly but surely, however, they have increasingly come to realise that:

1)A majority of the trade unions and constituency parties are prepared to support policies which go some way towards realisation of the aims stated on our Party cards.
2)A majority of the PLP are unwilling to implement these policies and insist on retaining their 'freedom of judgement'.
3)Neither the policy decisions of Annual Conference nor the propaganda efforts of pressure groups and tendencies have any hope of swaying the PLP as long as it remains a law unto itself.
4)Constitutional changes must therefore be accepted as the priority for any affiliated organisation or activist ehose policy demands are meant seriously. Those who call for policies without supporting the changes needed to get them carried out, no longer deserve to be taken at face value.
5)Working for constitutional changes must take the form of campaigns for specific single demands. Experience shows that neither all-embracing package resolutions nor those consisting of vague generalities can make any real impact on events. Carefully formulated resolutions must be put forward through branches to commit the maximum number of constituencies, trade unions, and finally Annual Conference itself.
6)These campaigns must be concerted and sustained. If at first the resolution does not succeed, the mover must be ready to try and try again. Mandatory re-selection was only won thanks to being demanded by numerous constituencies for five consecutive years.
It goes without saying that these demands must therefore be
a)capable of commanding widespread support.
b)clearly central to the Party's fundamental aims.
Given these basic requirements, support can be sought right across the Party spectrum. The struggles for mandatory re-selection and the electoral college show that support can be gained from all sections and almost all shades of opinion within the Party.
8)For such campaigns to be credible - and credibility is a precondition for success - the organisation responsible must seek to represent as wide a range of views within the Party as possible, and conduct its affairs as openly and democratically as can be.
9)Finally, success depends on a group of activists being prepared to give absolute priority to the campaigning organisation. These key people must seek out sympathetic individuals and organisations throughout the movement, and maintain regular direct contact with each of them to ensure that immediate campaigning needs are clearly conveyed and taken up. All those who show support should be encouraged to join the organisation to facilitate this - if necessary by setting up an ad hoc umbrella body like the Rank & File Mobilising Committee - and the keenest should be encouraged to take on the responsibility of co-ordinating the campaign in their own area or organisation.
These are the reasons we have gained mandatory re-selection and the electoral college, and through these reforms the real prospect at long last that the next Labour government may carry out socialist policies.

Vladimir Derer
Victor Schonfield

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