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Winning the battle of ideas

RICHARD BURGON MP previews this weekend’s Arise — a festival to showcase Labour’s left ideas

I’M really looking forward to speaking at Arise — a festival of Labour’s Left Ideas in London this weekend. It’s a major event which couldn’t come at a more important time for the Labour left.

The rise of Donald Trump, the far right in Europe and the re-emergence of Nigel Farage require radical socialist solutions to the challenges we’re facing politically and as a society.

We’ve got to be clear that Trumpism can’t be defeated by centrism.

People have suffered over the last decade under austerity. But it’s not automatic that there will be a return, at some stage, to past levels of rising living standards. After all, in the US, despite all the growth over recent decades, the real weekly wage has barely increased for 40 years.

Trump, Farage, Boris Johnson and their allies scapegoat and divide the working class in all its diversity, distracting and diverting from the real causes of the economic difficulties so many are facing. 

Of course, they do all of this while defending an economic system that serves the interests of the top 1 per cent.

So more of the same just won’t do. We need a new model for society. That means making socialist ideas and policies part of the mainstream.

Labour is leading that debate through our plans for a green revolution, new models for greater public ownership, and the exciting vision being put forward of our new ministry of labour. 

In my own brief as shadow secretary of state for justice, our plans include an expanded network of law centres empowering working-class communities to fight back against attacks on their rights.

John McDonnell was right to point out the contrast with the Tory leadership contest. How few new ideas or positive policies the candidates have between them! 

That internal election, which will determine our country’s future, is offering not much more than rehashed Thatcherism.

Johnson doubling down on his comments about veiled Muslim women at his campaign launch suggests that the cynical lessons of unapologetic Trumpist demonisation are being learnt by the right here.

While a new unelected Conservative prime minister will only offer more of the same when it comes to austerity — alongside never-ending scapegoating of some of the most marginalised and deprived people in our society — we can be proud that we have a positive vision of a better world where people and planet come before private profit. A vision we are developing all the time.

Jeremy Corbyn’s entirely rational and responsible response to Trump’s recent attempts to beat the drum for war on Iran, despite warnings from the UN, European nations and others, underlines why having a prime minister who prioritises global justice and peace is such an unwelcome prospect for neocons in Washington.

So, this year’s Arise festival couldn’t come at a more crucial time.

On Friday evening, it will kick off with a rally co-hosted with the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, demanding a general election. 

The country’s future, including whether we get a prime minister who’ll push for a disastrous “no deal,” rests with just 313 Tory MPs. 

That’s just wrong. People should get the chance to have their say on a dystopian Thatcherism 2.0 that risks the NHS being flogged off to US multinational healthcare giants and Britain turned into into a tax haven off the shores of continental Europe. 

Throughout Saturday there’s going to be plenty of great discussions that I hope you can be part of. One will look at how we can build on the wonderful work of the school student strikers and Extinction Rebellion protests to put climate change at the top of the political agenda.

There’s also important discussions on winning equality and liberation. Those horrific pictures of the young women assaulted in a homophobic attack on a bus underline why we need to be prepared to refight many battles again and again in the face of a more toxic political atmosphere.

Other discussions will look at what a people-focused economy will look like in the 21st century and why we must defend peace and the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland.

Guest speakers from countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Palestine will not only show the Labour’s left internationalist tradition is alive and well, but also give us an opportunity to discuss how we further show our support for with those fighting against the populist right’s reactionary global agenda.

The experience of the 2017 general election showed that the left can develop and articulate popular policies that can enthuse both Labour’s members and the electorate.

Of course the powerful won’t give an inch without a fight so we need the broadest unity on the left. It’s great to see Arise bringing together all those seeking to win a Corbyn-led, socialist Labour government. 

Trade unions, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Momentum, the Morning Star, Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America, Stop the War Coalition, We Own It and many more are participating in Arise.

It’s going to be a great weekend in the best Bennite traditions — I hope to see you there!

Arise takes place from 6.30pm Friday and all day Saturday. Speakers include John McDonnell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Richard Burgon MP, Laura Pidcock MP, CWU general secretary Dave Ward, Morning Star editor Ben Chacko and many more. You can get tickets in advance at or register on the door from 6pm Friday at Hamiton House (NEU), Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AZ and from 9.30am Saturday at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL.


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