The Labour Party democracy review will not be just a rehash of reports carried out in the past by leaders but instead represents the most significant opportunity in a generation for activists to remake the party structures and culture.
The internal structures of a political party are profoundly linked to the type of changes its members and leaders wish to see in society. Since the 1980s, Labour has increasingly prioritised a particular form of stability, using a number of obstacles to build and maintain a hierarchical structure which has allowed the party leadership to effectively neuter the membership.
This made the party “fit to govern” – but primarily on the basis of maintaining the existing class structure and economic model of the country, which has progressively allowed a small elite to capture an ever-increasing portion of the country’s wealth.
Given that Labour has now made a decision to reject neo-liberalism and build a political strategy around fundamentally remaking the economy in favour of the majority, members will be asking themselves what type of change is necessary to ensure the party is equipped to collectively implement its programme in government.
In an era of massive inequality; austerity policies which have killed thousands of people; unprecedented technological change; and a climate change crisis which poses a fundamental threat to human wellbeing, Labour needs to be an evolving, learning organism, capable of responding to a changing society and of continuously re-equipping itself to transform society in favour of the many.
But none of this can happen without meaningful participation of as many party members as possible and at all stages of the process of reform.
For too long, discussions of reform have been limited to tiny numbers of activists and party staffers discussing rule changes which are understood by few. The outcome of this is that the full range of ideas and talents of the party’s membership have not been fully harnessed, limiting the horizons and imagination of party activists.
Momentum aims to rectify this by using our own digital platform to encourage members to put forward ideas as to what our official submissions should be. Not only that, Momentum will also be taking ideas from our members’ council – selected randomly from our membership to ensure representativeness – which will meet in December to generate recommendations.
Finally, all official submissions will be submitted to one member one vote ballots amongst before being adopted as Momentum proposals on party reform.
Activists will be able to openly debate and vote on proposals to address key challenges, like ensuring greater accountability of local government representatives, reforming Labour’s policymaking to ensure that party members can contribute meaningfully to the manifesto, and increasing the influence of BAME, young and female members.
Any activists stuck for ideas can seek inspiration in proposals for reform which CLPs and activists have been making in recent years, using them as the basis for further debate and discussion.
Ultimately, the real promise of the democracy review goes beyond specific rule changes. It provides the opportunity to fundamentally remake the culture of the party, opening up forums for ordinary people to have meaningful influence and in the process expanding democracy in the country as a whole.
If party members and trade union affiliates can do that, then the Labour Party will emerge from the review capable not only of winning an election, but of providing deep and meaningful representation to millions of people, and implementing a socialist programme to transform the country.
Rachel Godfrey-Wood is a Momentum organiser.