The first phase of the Labour Party’s Democracy Review is very much upon us. The deadline for submissions on the organisational aspects of Young Labour, BAME Labour and Women’s Conference is 12 January 2018. The questions which are specifically asked in the first phase are
How should Young Labour be organised nationally, regionally and locally?
How should Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority members and organisations be represented in the Party?
What role should Women's Conference have?
Ann Black’s report from the NEC Committee meetings of 31 October assured us that “there is no pre-set agenda and no documents which pre-empt the conclusions, and deadlines are fluid, with further thoughts accepted after the stated dates.” That’s just as well, as Labour Party bodies have had precious little time to consider these questions.
It may well be that it will take more than the length of time from Conference 2017 to Conference 2018 to formulate and implement proposals to democratise our Party. Indeed there is no compelling reason why Party democracy ought not to be under continual review and reconsideration.
That said, we need to do our best to engage with the timetable which has been set for this review if we are to maximise the democratic influence of ordinary Party members. Clearly these first questions are of particular interest to young members, Black, Asian and ethnic minority members and women members.
However, all members should be engaged in the struggles against the oppressions experienced by these groups of members and ought therefore also to be engaged in the discussion which the Party is seeking to have about how these groups of Labour Party members should organise themselves within our Party.
Indeed, since the reason why groups of members experiencing oppression need to organise themselves is because of that oppression and the need to fight it (rather than simply in order to express diverse identities), the question of how to organise is as much about the end of resisting oppression as about the means of (what we in UNISON refer to as) self-organisation.
Since each form of oppression has its particular characteristics, so the answers to the questions which arise from the struggle against each oppression may be as different as may the questions themselves. For example, whereas there are few who deny the legitimacy of a youth organisation, we would be foolish to believe that everyone (even every Labour Party member) understands the daily reality of racism in today’s Britain, and hence the need for self-organisation of the members who are on the receiving end of that racism.
Our fight for democracy within the Labour Party is not separate from our struggle to transform society.