First, let me join the legion of people throughout Britain – and far beyond – who congratulate you on your astounding success in the election for leader of the Labour Party. The stand you have taken on so many of the important challenges facing our society – poverty, inequality, injustice, bigotry and prejudice – has brought hope to vast numbers of people, within and without, the Party. They long for some fundamental, systemic changes – economic, political and social – and also seek a very different type of politics.
The struggle for those changes will have to take place on many different terrains. Obviously a key battle field will be at national level where the ground must be laid for a new government: one which has broken with the suffocating dogmas of austerity and the ‘free-for-all, devil-take-the hindmost’ market priorities.
Some key battles will also have to be fought at the regional and local level – especially given the rigid centralism of the British state. You will want to work with like-minded allies who want to see a root and branch reform of the UK constitution. Now is the time to throw Labour’s weight behind the demand for a Constitutional Convention – not least to shape the shared values that should underpin the democratically accountable powers rightly demanded by the people of Scotland, Wales and the English city regions.
The fight for a more democratic, federal British constitution can help forge an alliance between Labour and other democratic and progressive forces who want to move in the same direction. These will also be allies for you in the brave campaigns you have waged against the militarist adventures to which British foreign policy has been prone. They will also support your stand on a generous and humane policy towards all the refugees fleeing war and repression and for a radical and enlightened response to the threat of climate change.
Another terrain of vital importance for all of these struggles, however, will be the European Union. You have rightly stressed your desire for “a different Europe.” Given the paralysing economic grip of the disastrous austerity policies which have been imposed by the mainly right wing governments within the EU in recent years, this is hardly surprising.
The tectonic plates of change are also beginning to move across the European Union. Whatever the fate of the brave Syriza government in Greece, the Greek people have shown inspiring courage in challenging the paralysing doctrines of the neo-liberal dogmatists. The rise of Podemos in Spain may also shift the balance of forces about growth and social justice in that country as well.
Elsewhere, the demand for change is also growing. A new European left is emerging and under your leadership, the Labour Party can play an important role in bringing it to fruition. What is vital in the months ahead is the creation of a European alliance of political, trade union, civil society, environmental and other social forces opposed to austerity to build that “different” Europe.
This, of course, demands that the left in this country oppose the potentially disastrous campaign to withdraw from the EU. It is designed by some of the most reactionary, right wing forces in Britain. Should they succeed, many of the most important EU social and workers’ rights reforms won in recent decades risk being lost. The Tory/UKIP crusade to undermine the human rights provisions of the European Convention and to undermine both workers’ freedom to seek employment across the EU and especially the rights of refugees and asylum seekers will in the end threaten our own democratic rights.
The most immediate and urgent task is for an alternative European economic recovery strategy. You will find many sympathisers with your opposition to mindless austerity who are working on a range of strategies aimed at boosting jobs and sustainable growth.
Measures to boost investment in human and economic infrastructure are vital but investment (and consequently economic growth) is still frighteningly anaemic across the EU. The Financial Times last week reported:
Cash piles at European non-financial companies have swelled to $1.1 trillion – more than 40 per cent higher than in 2008.
This at a time when investment in our economic and social infrastructure is so urgent!
Perhaps, when you and your new team are in place, you might consider calling a ‘summit’ meeting of all the socialist and social democratic parties in the EU to plan joint campaigns for a stronger, more democratic and more ‘social’ Europe. Forging a new, joint EU economic strategy could be a vital step in this direction.
It is the kind of initiative that many MEPs are demanding and even some technocrats in the European Commission privately concede is urgently needed. I am sure that the European trade unions and a vast range of European civil society organisations, appalled by our obscenely unequal society, will respond to such an initiative.
Yours in solidarity,