Organising to win — Jon Cruddas full speech

Alex Smith

By Alex Smith / @alexsmith1982

As I reported earlier, Jon Cruddas is signalling today that he will stand for the position of Chair of the Labour Party in a speech to Labour Friends of Searchilght’s Organising to Win conference today.

You can now read the full speech below:

Thank you for inviting me to open your conference this morning.

Thank you Nick and Sam for organising it and for your work in building the extraordinary movement Hope not Hate.

Today we begin to discuss Labour’s journey of change.

A party of organisers. Organising for a party of social justice and community.

We have Hope not Hate, London Citizens, the Christian Socialist Movement Labour Neighbours Projects, Compass, and many examples in various Constituency Labour Parties.

We must learn from each other.

We bring different methods but we are united in our belief that organising is the heart of politics.

Community is the strength of the people.

We are here to work together.

And we know that communities do not just exist. They have to be built by making relationships. We do not simply have a neighbour. We have to make ourselves someone’s neighbour. In our neighbours we make a common life together. In our welcome to strangers we show our humanity.

Labour needs to be a party that lives by its values. I want to see a more democratic party with an actively involved membership. A conference that is strengthened and its agenda setting opened up. We need to turn the party outward to the communities we seek to represent.

We must create a party rooted in a culture of organising.

We organise to build relationships with each other for the common good: the living wage, a new playground, safer streets, affordable housing.

These local goals matter as they reflect our belief in a sense of neighbourliness, of duty and obligation, responsibility and solidarity. But how do they relate to the larger Labour Movement?

At the heart of all transformational movements is the politics of virtue – creating a life well lived.

Vaclav Havel said in ‘Power and the Powerless’:

“We must not be ashamed that we are capable of love, friendship, solidarity, sympathy, and tolerance, but just the opposite: we must set these fundamental dimensions of our humanity free from their “private” exile and accept them as the only genuine starting point of meaningful human community.”

Organising is the struggle for a virtuous life of love, justice and compassion. These are relational qualities that we show to each other. It is the way friendship (comradeship) leads to reciprocity.

Put simply, ‘Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself.’

And reciprocity leads to the ideas of justice and the equal value of all.

It is where ethics meets politics.

We are part of the tradition we can trace back to Aristotle- the desire to build the Polis – the community – the city – that allows humans to flourish. The Politics of Citizenship. Democracy has always been the way people organised against the domination of the market and became citizens.

The struggle for democracy teaches us to look at the world with new eyes.

Political struggle has always been the university of Labour. It is how we learn politics and become political leaders.

Not action alone.

Not theory by itself.

But action and theory informing one another.

A party dedicated to organising must also be a party committed to open minded thinking.

To a convivial culture of knowledge and education, of writing and speaking and conversation and laughter.

It means listening to what people care about and not what we think they should care about.

For all sections of the party, that’s perhaps the hardest thing of all.

Labour has lost this kind of politics. We became a machine spinning stories to the media and pulling the levers of power.

The leadership retreated into the offices of state and lost touch with the people. In many areas we stopped organising and so we stopped learning and thinking.

And we stopped understanding the ordinary lives of the people and the sentiment of the country.

This afternoon we will hear from the leadership contestants. The contest is about more than 5 individuals competing for office. It is about the future of our party and the fate of our country.

The Coalition Budget threatens us with a new recession.

The Spending Review will report in October and the size of the cuts it proposes will be both unnecessary and devastating.

We are living in the eye of a storm.

The low paid, the poor, welfare claimants will pay for the greed of bankers and the inflated salaries of public service managers and consultants.

This is the politics of the Conservative Party who are the defenders of the property rights and prerogatives of the rich. It is the politics of the Lib Dems who have been lost to their free market fundamentalists.

They are soft on the banks, hard on the poor, and threatening to growth.

That is the basis on which we should take on this government.

But make no mistake the Coalition is a serious threat to the future of Labour.

The political realignments of this crisis could exclude Labour from government for a decade. This is the goal of the Coalition – a centre right majority for the next decade cloaked in the progressive mantle.

And make no mistake they are actively investigating new forms of community engagement and organisation.

But it will not succeed because we will build an alternative.

We will begin locally in our workplaces and neigbourhoods.

We energise communities.

We engage in dialogue with people.

We build new relationships.

And so we create a new kind of Labour movement as part of a New Covenant with the People.

There are no short cuts to a Labour government of transformational change. What do we need to begin our journey?

First we need a leadership that will effectively oppose the Coalition and be able to embrace the political changes for Labour’s revival.

It means being both sure-footed and open to uncertainty.

It means a politics of pluralism and alliances.

And it means a collegial, inclusive style that values good relationships and draws on collective wisdom

We need to change our party:

We need a new statement of our identity; our essential purpose; what we are for, to build a new language anchored in the ordinary lives and sentiment of the people:

A new chair that is elected by conference;

A new commission on party structures and a renewed culture of organisation;

A comprehensive review of policy under a joint secretariat of Party Chair and Party Leader;

in a root and branch deliberation about Labour’s future politics and policy strategies.

We must democratise the National Policy Forum.

For that reason if the position is created I would put myself forward for the elected chair of the party – to help build this plural, democratic Labour Party.

But we need more, much more.

Labour needs a new political economy.

We need a politics of the Good Society – to allow people to become genuinely fulfilled.

Mutualism, association and relationships are Labour values. Compassion our prime virtue.

We must take them back from the Conservatives.

Labour can be at the forefront of new economic thinking; engaging with new ideas in political philosophy and sociology; working out new approaches to society, the family and welfare.

If we combine organising and thinking together we will create a winning movement.

Second, we need our leadership to do two things:

* dare more democracy

* rebuild the economy of our country for a common prosperity

We have to take on the vested interests that have brought our country to its knees.

Rebuilding a productive and social model of capitalism means working together in partnerships, and for economic democracy.

There can be no democracy and no common prosperity in Britain until the banks are reformed.

The power of money is real and we need to build a real opposition based on democracy.

We need finance to help build the low carbon, sustainable economy of the future.

The banks that are ‘too big to fail’ must be broken up.

Employee representation on remuneration committees so that managerial prerogative can be challenged.

Cap interest rates on unsecured loans.

A regional and community banking system to bring credit to the people and capital to localities.

A financial transaction tax.

And tax justice – end corporate tax evasion and tackle price transferring.

A common prosperity means a regional spread of sustainable wealth creation.

Increasing demand by creating good properly paid jobs

Legislation for a living wage and equal pay starting with government public procurement contracts.

Pension funds investing in social enterprise, infrastructure development and green industries.

A major house building programme.

The mission of an organised labour movement is to make a common life between those who are divided.

The message our conference gives to the party today and to the 5 leadership contenders is:

We are making a new life anchored in a new politics of virtue.

Lets start the debate about how we will organise for it.

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