From the beginning, the regional Labour leadership in Wales has been firmly against Jeremy Corbyn and the programme that he stands for. As a result of their Blairite approach, the Welsh Labour leaders have risked losing the party's support amongst workers and youth in Wales. Maciej Krzymieniecki from Swansea West CLP looks at the changes needed in Welsh Labour if it is to offer a way forward for ordinary people.
The Welsh Labour leadership sighed with relief on the eve of Bonfire Night, after it was decided that the structures through which the regional Labour leader is elected would remain unchanged.
Going against the wishes of the majority of Welsh CLPs, the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) rejected the One Member One Vote (OMOV) proposal, and decided to keep the old Electoral College Vote (ECV) system.
Welsh leadership out of touch
The Welsh leadership is cut from the same cloth as the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), as shown by their support and participation in the “chicken coup” of 2016 - the attempt to remove Corbyn after last year’s Brexit vote. In the run-up to the 2017 general election, meanwhile, Carwyn Jones (the Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales), openly distanced himself from Corbyn’s Labour Party.
This clique, which is completely out of touch with the views and class interests of the membership, has now attempted to further entrench its grip over the Labour Party in Wales.
Without a doubt, this latest decision to reject OMOV will deal a blow to the trust of Welsh Labour members in organs such as the WEC. Grassroots members had hoped that an OMOV electoral system might provide some light at the end of the tunnel: a means by which the rank-and-file could elect a more representative leadership - as seen with the election of Corbyn as Labour leader in both 2015 and 2016 on the basis of a OMOV system.
The main issues with the ECV system is the disproportionate weighting of votes given to MPs, AMs and MEPs compared to those of ordinary members; on average, the vote of these elected party officials is worth 517 times that of a grassroots member, clearly highlighting the potential for the party establishment to try and block anything that doesn’t benefit themselves.
What is needed is a set of sweeping democratic changes that transform the party as a whole - to sweep away the old, conservative, and bureaucratic layers and replace them with new, enthusiastic class-fighters, armed with socialist policies. Allowing these fighting layers to lead the party will mean that Welsh Labour’s character can turn in its opposite: once again, it could become a beacon for workers and youth.
A key starting point in this democratisation of the party must be the right to recall any elected representative - surely a basic democratic right within the labour movement. Concretely, this means the demand for the mandatory reselection of all elected representatives within the party. Until the old leading layers - antagonistic to the interests of the working class in Wales - are kicked out, the problems of Welsh Labour will remain.
Hollow rhetoric from the bureaucracy
Carwyn Jones, was clearly relieved by the decision to prevent any change to the Welsh Labour democratic structures. We hope the reader will pardon this lengthy quote from Jones, but it is an excellent demonstration (from the best of the best) about how to talk a lot without saying anything:
“I am pleased that the Welsh Executive Committee has decided today, by a clear margin, to retain the system that has worked so well for Welsh Labour since the advent of devolution.
“It is right and proper that those people who do so much to ensure Welsh Labour wins at the ballot box and delivers in government should all have their say on future Leaders and Deputy Leaders of our Party. It is also right that we in Welsh Labour make decisions here in Wales that work best for Wales.”
With such straightforward and insightful answers to the burning questions of the labour movement, it is no wonder that Welsh Labour parliamentary candidates decided to print leaflets with pictures of this charismatic icon rather than of Jeremy Corbyn.
Such vacuous statements from Jones and his ilk reflect the fact that they have nothing to offer in terms any future for ordinary people. Those ruling layers within society (and not just within Welsh Labour) that cannot justify their own existence are only able to provide empty and hollow speeches, slogans, and soundbites - mind-blowing nonsense that has no connection with the lives and needs of, in this case, an ordinary Welsh Labour member.
Through accepting the office of First Minister, Carwyn Jones has - just like his predecessors Alun Michael and Rhodri Morgan - tripped over himself to become a most “respectful statesman”, intent only on managing capitalism: a system which sucks all life and hope out of workers by mercilessly attacking and exploiting them.
The acceptance and defence of this broken system, and of the austerity and attacks that have flowed from this in Wales, has tarnished and embarrassed the banner of Welsh Labour in the minds of many Welsh workers.
Social democracy’s crises
The memory (and current experience) of Tory governments in Westminster is also clear, and the boiling hatred of this main class enemy is - at this stage - much more significant. But as events in Scotland over recent years have shown, Labour's rule in its traditional heartlands is not an eternal truth. This is the fundamental lesson that the Blairite bureaucrats refuse to learn from: that their contempt and complacency towards the membership and the working class nearly led to the extinction of the party in Scotland.
Not just in Scotland, but throughout Europe, workers and youth are running out of patience with traditional Social Democratic parties that fail to offer a real alternative to the austerity that capitalism demands. This is the lesson of the crises facing the Social Democracies in Greece (PASOK and SYRIZA), Spain (PSOE), and France (Hollande’s Socialist Party).
The only reason a similar downwards spiral was stopped in Wales and the rest of Britain - in spite of the Blairite clique around Jones and in the Westminster PLP - was Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and bold left-wing programme, which enthused hundreds of thousands of workers and youth.
Break with Blairism! Fight for socialism!
The move for democratisation of the party in Wales, sparked by a WEC consultation motion passed in the Swansea West CLP, represents a clear cry for change in the way Welsh Labour is run and who runs it.
The so-called “centre-ground” is dead. In order to regain the trust of the working class in Wales, there needs to be a decisive break with the Blairite mafia. There is no reason why Welsh Labour can’t lead the way.
With the ruling class fundamentally split over Brexit, and the working class desperately seeking a way out of this crisis, Welsh Labour can and should replace any bureaucrats and right-wingers with true representatives of the working class, to build the leadership that Welsh workers deserve and which they will fight for.
Through the introduction of a democratic process of reselection, new militant layers of trade unionists, socialists and other fighting activists could lead the party in Wales under the banner of socialism - under the banner of nationalising the banks and key industries in order to end the austerity of capitalism.
Fighting for genuinely democratic structures and leadership with a bold socialist programme is the only way out of the current malaise. This is what the Marxist tendency of the labour movement - represented by Socialist Appeal - is calling for and fighting for in Wales and the rest of Britain.