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Despite the hype around electing a chair, Labour's national policy forum had bigger democratic questions at its heart

THE weekend’s Labour Party policy forum seems to have revolved around a theme, democracy.  

Democracy is a powerful word and an even more powerful concept. On the one hand it can be a word of power in our political discourse — sounding the word “democracy” can be a way of claiming the moral high ground on any issue regardless of the strength of one’s argument.  

On the other hand, democracy is the very essence of progressive struggle.

Of course, the policy forum concept itself was borne out of an internal struggle within the labour movement around the application of democracy to the party’s policy-making processes.  

Those on the right wing of the party, who started the moves towards the current arrangements, did so with the intention of reducing the democratic input, via conference and national executive, in favour of the greater control by the then Parliamentary Labour Party leadership.  

There is some irony then that, this weekend, the attacks on the policy forum’s agenda come from Corbyn’s enemies in the right-wing of the Labour Party.  

It is to be hoped that a continuation of the left leadership of the Labour Party will indeed lead to greater internal democracy and reform of the policy process.  

This needs to be opened up, not concentrated in the hands of the policy forum chair, however they are elected.

But this internal battle is the lesser of the weekend’s ironic abuses of the term democracy.

The greater is around the policy issues themselves and unsurprisingly the capitalist press is ignoring these in its coverage.

The events of the weekend have shown a renewed commitment from the Labour Party to the extension of democracy into a number of fields of everyday life — not least the extension of democratic controls into the economy.  

For the left the themes discussed at the policy forum represent opportunities requiring further development.  

An extension of democracy in the workplace must be the central plank of the Labour’s plan for “The Future of Work” — democratic control of the railways and wider transport infrastructure, together with the implementation of municipal socialism with public housing, needs to be the basis of Labour’s plan under the banner of “Giving People the Power to Shape their Local Communities.”

Democratic oversight of the public sector in education, the NHS and the financial sector are also now on the table for discussion.  

We must not be distracted from the important work of building a fairer future and placing power in the hands of working people.

Unfortunately, our friends on the right within the Labour Campaign for the Single Market and Open Britain have a different vision.  

Both the single market and the customs union are anti-democratic tools. Both aim at removing major policy decisions about the economy away from the people’s elected representatives.  

The single market insists on curbing the people’s right to back policies of state intervention in the economy through the ownership and control of productive industry.  

The customs union blocks the free negotiation of trade deals between democratic governments in favour of a Fortress Europe approach which is a barrier to international solidarity.  

Their vision for Europe is one where any mutually beneficial economic co-operation is weighed against the interests of the western European banks and big business.  

When the major decisions that affect the lives of millions of European workers and their families are taken in the boardroom rather than at the ballot box there is one political fundamental that suffers.



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