DESPITE media focus on another row over antisemitism, which is allegedly a huge problem in the Labour Party because of a remark by an individual at a fringe meeting, and on London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fantasising about a second EU referendum vote, the real story from conference yesterday is the further democratisation of Western Europe’s biggest political party.
Labour’s leadership certainly needs to be alert over anti-semitism, to ensure all forms of racism are unacceptable in its ranks but also to guard against the cynical use of bogus accusations by the likes of the Jewish Labour Movement, whose pretensions to speak for all Jews when it offers apologias for the racist brutality of the Israeli government have now been punctured by the welcome launch of Jewish Voice for Labour, which already has the affiliation of the Unite and Aslef trade unions.
And Jeremy Corbyn was right to slap down Khan over his ill-disciplined intervention over the EU, since continued membership of the bloc despite the people’s vote to leave has become a cause celebre for a liberal Establishment determined to erect barriers to the party’s plans for a revival of public ownership and the redistribution of wealth from the owners to the earners.
But the rule changes endorsed by conference yesterday will help to empower members of the Labour Party and build the mass democratic socialist movement that is taking shape around it.
Additional seats for members and trade unions at the national executive are, as shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has argued in these pages, a sensible response to the fact that the party has trebled in size since Corbyn became leader and hundreds of thousands of new members deserve a greater say.
Westminster pundits tend to view this as a struggle between the membership and the parliamentary party, and it is true that despite greater unity since the election and a fine crop of outstanding new MPs such as Laura Pidcock and Jared O’Mara — interviewed today — the membership remains to the left of the PLP and far more supportive of the leadership.
But rebalancing the party’s structures in favour of the members also speaks to Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s commitment to extra-parliamentary politics and to change coming from activism on the streets and in the workplace as well as in Parliament.
As Labour’s election campaign proved, a relentless focus on the bread and butter issues that affect working people — poverty pay, insecure work, the cost of housing and energy — can cut through the Westminster crap and mobilise voters in their millions.
This success will only be enhanced by a party more in tune with the grassroots activists who were the real heroes of that election, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets and turning proposals in a party manifesto into a national conversation about change for the first time in decades.
And a reinforced link to the trade unions will help develop the twin track industrial and political offensive against the power of exploitative big business and the Tories who do its bidding.
This week’s German election has highlighted the importance of success for Corbyn’s transformative project.
Like “centre-left” parties from France to Greece, Germany’s Social Democrats have taken a pounding for their collaboration with a neoliberal assault on public services and working-class communities.
The result is an open door for the fascists and the far right.
There is one exception in Europe, one party of the left that is bucking the trend and shooting ahead in the polls.
That is the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. And those who seek to drag it back to the discredited policies of the past cannot be allowed to win.