It hardly needs restating what unprecedented times these are, and how difficult a year 2020 has been both universally and for the UK left. We started the year still coming to terms with the disastrous general election defeat, and before we had the chance to reflect and recover, we were thrown into a leadership contest which saw the party shift in a more moderate direction. Meanwhile, at a time when our movement badly needed spaces to come together and think about our strategy going forward, a deadly pandemic made in-person organising impossible and confined us to the isolation of our own homes.
However, in these challenging times, some forms of solidarity have flourished. The explosion of mutual aid groups across the country encouraged many of us to meet our neighbours, think about our communities and learn to self-organise. Trade union membership has grown as questions of workers’ rights have been brought to the fore. The Black Lives Matter movement has shown that, even in these trying circumstances, it is possible to mobilise huge masses of people against injustice.
The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the crises underpinning the neoliberal status quo, causing tremors in the political landscape along their various fault-lines. The current way of doing things has given us a health crisis and an historic recession to pile atop ever-mounting inequality, climate breakdown and systemic racism. However, the experience of the last financial crash shows clearly that progressive transformation doesn’t happen automatically in a moment of crisis. Those in power gain too much to see things change, so it is incumbent upon the left to put forward bold ideas, and articulate an alternate vision for what comes next. To do this means bringing together all those working to build and fight for a better world: whether that’s rank-and-file trade union members, Black Lives Matter activists, or mutual aid organisers.
The challenge facing the Labour left is to unite, in a unique moment, these diverse and often disparate movements in order to articulate a strategy that combines the local with the national, and extra-parliamentary mobilisations with shifting the balance of power within institutions. Without the unifying force of Corbyn’s leadership, the left needs to redefine itself, develop demands that can bring us together, as well as a plan to make them reality.
Since we launched in 2016, The World Transformed (TWT) has aimed to provide spaces for comradely debate, accessible political education and collective learning. In the current moment, this project seems as important as ever. There are so many conversations to be had, about the successes and failures of the past five years, and the tactics we need to build and win power. That’s why, despite the pandemic, we decided to return for another year – for an extended, month-long festival taking place primarily online.
Digital organising can be tricky – no one wants to spend a warm September weekend in an endless Zoom meeting. Instead, we want to experiment with different forms of virtual interaction: such as participatory workshops, strategy games, policy labs, and a community forum active throughout the festival and beyond. But as well as challenges, moving online presents an important opportunity to deepen our understanding of the virtual world and how the left can take full advantage of it. It also allows us to reach new audiences, across geographical and even national boundaries, and to make our organising as global as the struggles we face.
One of neoliberalism’s most insidious narratives is that the status quo is all there is, and can ever be. This is, of course, untrue. A world transformed is not only possible – it is necessary, and we must be bold enough to envision it. But to do that, we need to take a step back and learn from our movement’s long history of radical ideas, past defeats and victories. We also need to learn from each other, share skills and look at examples of successful campaigns, across the UK and around the world. Finally, we must find ways of working together while embracing our differences.
This is TWT’s goal and ambition – to facilitate this process, so that we can come out of lockdown with new skills, plans and ideas, and a renewed sense of hope in the face of adversity. At the end of the day, it’s up to all of us across the movement to keep the dream of a socialist future alive – if we don’t, who will?
#229 No Return to ‘Normal’ ● Sir David King blasts the government ● State power, policing and civil rights under Covid-19 ● Hope and determination in grassroots resistance ● Black liberation and Palestine ● The future of ‘live’ ● Pubs, patriotism and precarity ● Latest book reviews ● And much more!
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