The spirit of Labour Party Conference returned to Brighton this week. The good old days of open debate and factional back-stabbing may not have totally returned but the sterile bureaucratic agenda that made Conference a meaningless charade in the days of Blair and Brown has gone, hopefully for good this time.
Labour Conference has never been the sovereign body of the Party and its decisions can be, and have been, regularly ignored or side-lined by Labour Governments and the Parliamentary Labour Party, which, until recently, was a rule unto itself. Nevertheless Conference endorsed calls for the repeal of the anti-union laws, the restoration of some but not all of the old public section, the raising of the national minimum wage and the introduction of a four-day week within ten years.
Whether these pledges, along with support for climate change action and a ban on fracking, eventually get on to Labour’s election manifesto ultimately depends on the balance of forces within the labour movement as a whole.
Most Labour MPs are Blairites or relics of the old Labour right-wing platform that has dominated Labour Party thinking since its foundation in 1900. These bogus “social-democrats” always sought to serve what they believed was the dominant trend within the ruling class. They were “Atlanticists” who backed NATO and parroted anti-communist bourgeois propaganda to justify support for Anglo-American imperialism during the Cold War. They were the people who witch-hunted communists and other militant union activists and preached class-collaboration in one form or another to justify their treachery. And they could always rely on the solid support of the trade unions to back up their claims to represent working people. Thankfully these “moderates” have little or no support in the unions today.
Gone are the mealy-mouthed words about an “ethical foreign policy” that were trotted out in the early days of the Blair era.
Now delegates have called on an incoming Labour government to “adhere to an ethical foreign policy” on trade with Israel, including ending any trade in arms used to violate Palestinians’ human rights, the motion passed on Monday states.
In the past Labour was a staunch supporter of Zionism and the State of Israel. Now the Zionists are on the defensive. Zionist moves to drive Palestinian supporters out of the Labour Party have succeeded in hounding out some well-known activists including Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker. But their attempt to derail growing support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians has stalled. And support for the Palestinians is growing.
In Brighton this year delegates voted overwhelmingly to recognise the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and oppose any proposed “solution” for Palestinians not based on international law, including their right “to return to their homes”.
It also reaffirms the party’s relatively new commitment to end all arms sales to Israel.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign supported the motion that commits Labour to ending Britain’s financial and military complicity with Israel’s oppression.
“Labour Party members have said in one voice to the Palestinian people – we stand with you in your fight for justice,” PSC director Ben Jamal stated. “What is required now is for this crucial motion, passed overwhelmingly by members, to be translated into official party policy as we move towards the next general election”.