Black Labour: Speaking for Ourselves!!!! – 6th December 2017 at Peckham
Labour missed an opportunity in the 1980s to embrace and consolidate the support that it had from the mass of African and Caribbean people. These people had mostly voted Labour at elections and the rejection of their own movement, Black Sections, was a kick in the teeth for most of the activists especially since the leadership was often unwilling to support them as candidates in winnable seats in areas where there were a lot of black people in the population.
I attribute this rejection as the reason for our inability to grow confident activists who should rise within the party without patronage. The result now is that we cannot influence policy and help set an agenda within the party that would encourage more race equality.
The past couple of years have presented some opportunities but we are still so slow to take these up to create a formidable movement that should reflect our electoral usefulness to the party.
The party has agreed to the formation of the Black Socialist Section in the party, but this has not quite translated into the political success of activists from African and Caribbean communities. The issue of the name is important, there are many who are Labour who are not comfortable with the socialist label.
An Ethnic Minority Taskforce is in operation that incorporates BAME Labour, Chinese for Labour, Somalis for Labour, Labour Arab Group and Africans for Labour. The concern is that the voice of the A4L will continue to be muted if it continues to be reactive to issues within the party and expects that it will be called to the table to discuss issues of importance to the party. Even now that there are several persons of African heritage in the shadow cabinet, we are in danger of having the agenda set for us if we continue to be docile.
We know that the talk at our dinner tables and when we are on our own is about how disenfranchised we are. We know that whilst it is easy for people to demand all women shortlists at party selection we still do not have the clout to ask for black only shortlists. We privately admit that the party is taking us for granted and by extension taking our community for granted.
We have seen an organised well-resourced movement grow to have influence within the party within a short space of time!
We know that as councillors we are rewarded with cabinet positions when we do not complain too much and that to a large extent we are easily set against each other; we get recycled and are almost always in danger of being deselected. We even suspect that the leadership is ambivalent about promoting more race equality lest it result in a perceived backlash from the majority community and yet we continue to do nothing about this state of affairs. We allow ourselves to be more disempowered
But we know that there is a lot that we can do!
We know that Labour has always been a broad church with the competing forces between modernisers and traditional Labour , Blairites against Corbynistas and new Labour against old Labour and we assist in this divide when our issues are about racial equality and looking out for the best interests of our black communities. Even as we speak today there is a battle for who are the legitimate owners of the Momentum Black Caucus or Connexions!!!!
Our issues are about racial inequality and discrimination! Our issues are about poverty and marginalisation! Our issues are about jobs, hope for our youth, health and social care. Our issues are about anti-austerity.
If this is the party that we commit to, then we should let our voices be heard at the high table of our party. But we can only do that if we are able to plan properly, organising appropriately and find resources needed to operate in a formal way so that we can become a force in Labour. We must be bold and assume that we can set an agenda for the party acceptable to all.
We must be courageous, we must be resolved, we have to be united and we have to know how to set objectives that resound with will, we need to be able to plan our strategy and we need to organise to attract more black members to the black labour movement wherever they are – not too difficult since they probably vote Labour anyway.
So what must the Black Labour movement do to ensure that it can be listened to and that it exerts some influence in the party and amongst the large numbers of people who vote Labour at the elections?
Let me know what you think!