Huge crowds flocked to The World Transformed event in Liverpool last weekend. It was organised by Labour left group Momentum.
The event coincided with Labour’s conference this week. It was a showcase for the enthusiasm and interest in radical left wing ideas that the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader has generated.
There was a big working class Liverpool audience and people debated Labour’s relationship to social movements.
Many warned against focusing on internal fights because, as one described it, it “would be the death of Momentum”.
Rail worker Craig thought the event was “a good idea” because “it gives you a more left wing view of the Labour Party”.
Craig reflected the frustration felt by many Labour members towards their elected representatives.
He said, “There was a big march today to stop the closure of Liverpool Women’s Hospital. But not one single Labour councillor or Labour MP from Liverpool turned up.
“They were all sitting having their nice meals but they should be out on the streets with us—they are an utter disgrace.”
Hundreds packed into discussions on topics such as the future of the left in Europe, Black Lives Matter and how to build a social movement. Some sessions had 300 people in them.
People queued down the street to get into a rally on the type of society the left can strive to build.
It was a world away from a rally in an alleyway round the back of a pub held by right wing Labour members on the same day.
There, men in suits discussed how to keep right wing, pro-austerity politics in the Labour Party.
MP Chris Leslie said, “I don’t believe in fibbing to the electorate. That we have this magic money tree growing in Parliament Square”.
He added, “There are lots of people who are not going to give up, and fight for the Labour Party we know.”
MP Ruth Smeeth pleaded with right wing Labour members to stay in the party and fight the left. She said, “The people in the CLPs who’ve already started resigning—we’ve got to go back and beg them to stay.”
Hilary Benn, who triggered the attempt to remove Corbyn in June, used his speech to congratulate Corbyn on his victory.
“It is no good debating and arguing among ourselves,” he added. “We have to look outwards.”
To cheers from most of the older men, MP Conor McGinn compared the fight in Labour to his “favourite film”, Zulu. Quoting a scene from the film he said, “Why us? Because we’re here. We stand our ground and we will prevail.”
An anti-austerity party?
Around 150 left wing Labour members joined a Labour Assembly Against Austerity fringe meeting last Sunday.
They celebrated Corbyn’s re-election—and the fact that Labour had kept an anti?austerity leadership.
Labour activist Kathy said shifting left could help Labour connect with ordinary people.
“We were out knocking on doors in the 2015 general election, speaking to people on estates,” she told Socialist Worker.
“They said they could see no difference between us and the Tories. That’s why we lost.”
MP Richard Burgon said, “Anti-austerity has gone from being the fringe of the party to being the mainstream.
“Last year John McDonnell said Labour was now an anti-austerity party. This year we made that permanent.”
He warned Labour activists against getting drawn into protracted internal battles. “Let’s leave the constitutional wrangling and other obsessions to others,” he said.