Labour Party members and others took to the streets for a national day of campaigning against grammar schools last Saturday.
They held rallies, campaign stalls, and leafleting and canvassing sessions in towns and cities across England.
It came after Corbyn and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called on party members to join the campaign at Labour’s conference last week. The NUT teachers’ union also held over 70 campaign stalls on the day.
People crowded around a campaign stall in Newcastle city centre when Corbyn paid a visit. Rayner joined campaigners in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens.
In Tooting, south London, campaigners dressed up in gowns, dunces’ caps and mortar boards.Ian, a Labour Party member in Battersea, was at the stall.
He told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had lots of people taking leaflets and a shedload of people have signed the petition.”
Ian added that Corbyn’s re-election as leader, and the Labour left group Momentum, had encouraged party members to become active. He said, “People from Momentum have been getting involved in the Constituency Labour Party and getting people out.”
He added, “Corbyn has definitely had a radicalising effect. There’s still some hostility towards Corbyn, but I’m hoping that we can get down to the real business of taking on the Tories.”
Carole, a teacher who joined Labour in June, said she was hopeful that campaigning on the streets would be the way forward for Labour. I feel good every time we go out—like we’ve been doing something worthwhile,” she said.
“The NUT has been out leafleting as well. That’s the good thing about Corbyn’s leadership—people inside and outside Labour can work together on issues like this without being divided.”
The day of action was a welcome sign that Labour’s new mass membership can be mobilised in campaigns against the Tory government.
There is a temptation among some Labour left wingers to focus their activities on internal battles. The left was defeated in key votes at Labour conference last week.
At a fringe meeting many left activists argued that the key task was to win support for left delegates and rule changes at next year’s conference.
One Labour member suggested this was more important than building a movement against the Tories. “If we don’t democratise the party, no social movement will save us,” he told the meeting.
Yet the defeats for the left at conference show the right still control many of Labour’s structures—and will use them to beat back the left.
Attempts to defeat them through those structures take a lot of time and energy.
Building where the left is strongest—as part of a movement—is the best way to build on Corbyn’s victory.
The day of action last Saturday was a good start.