I attended a day conference on ‘new kinds of Labour politics’ organised by the Lewes Labour Party. There’s a lot that those outside of Labour can learn from the processes going on inside the party.
Mark Perryman in his introduction explained that he opposed the cult of personality developing around Corbyn, but at the same time it’s useful for people to come together and discuss what Corbyn is about. One of the aims of the conference was to map out and define ‘Corbynism’.
We already understand clearly the aims and strategy of the Labour left - that has been well documented in stacks of books and journals. What we lack is a thorough analysis of the force which has been summoned outside the organised and established Labour left. For example, where did Grime4Corbyn come from?
The panels were mostly made up of authors who had recently written about the resurgence of the left. On the one hand I was a little worried that the event could have been damaged by treating it as a series of book promotions. We’ve all been to talks where someone’s blatantly trying to sell their book, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that but it does sometimes limit discussion. On the other hand, I’m very glad to see there’s a growing body of new literature emerging around the Labour left. And, these writers have an element of critical self-awareness, very much informed by the debates of the 1980s. Miliband, Benn, Panitch & Gindin.
New discussions are now playing out in Jacobin and New Socialist. And, we have conferences like The World Trasformed, or the one in Lewes.
What kind of party will Labour become, and what kind of party does the left want?