Something is growing in our party. Labour-led grassroots community action is sprouting around the country. In Lambeth, local parties are establishing homework clubs, projects to help teenagers escape from gang life and planting community gardens. In Cumbernauld, activists expressed their internationalist values locally by collecting toys to send to disadvantaged children around the world. A coalition brought together through community organising in Walthamstow has given Stella Creasy a powerful and authentic voice on personal debt. Increasingly, brothers and sisters are doing it for themselves and putting their values into direct action.
Deprived of government power after our longest period in office, there is something almost therapeutic about finding new ways to make change happen. Unless you are lucky enough to be a Welsh minister, Labour council leader or (after May’s elections) a Scottish Labour minister, you are unlikely to wield executive power any time soon. A handful of enterprising backbenchers might be skilful enough to pass a private member’s bill. But what about the other 99.99 per cent of us? Thousands of new members have joined in branches where we already have both Labour councillors and Labour MPs. They joined wanting to change the world. We need to offer something more than being part of maintaining the local political status quo.
There is more to this than improving the experience of activists – community organising can open another front in our battle to see power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many, not the few. For a community organiser, redistribution of power cannot stop at better representation by, or consultation with, traditional elites. Community organising seeks a fundamental and permanent redistribution of power from the bottom-up. It works to give those people who we talk about as ‘the powerless’ or ‘the voiceless’ a sense of the innate power they possess; giving them the skills and confidence to use that power to deliver change. Power will rarely be given up voluntarily. The fairer distribution of power that Labour strives for must be organised for and won.
This is the transformation of party, community and country which Movement for Change exists to support. Our organisers will work in partnership with Labour to provide training for local parties and members. We will also work in specific areas to support local campaigns for change; to identify and nurture talent; and to develop new responses to the challenges that people face.
Drawing on other organising traditions and the roots of our party, Movement for Change will be a permanent home for the development and promotion of community organising within the Labour movement. We will be a genuinely bottom-up organisation which aims to ally our party more closely with communities. We won’t make national policy but will be free to engage in campaigns which represent the authentic voice of local communities. We believe this is rooted in Labour’s traditions and, if the NEC is willing, we will aim to formally affiliate to the party as a socialist society.
We have big ambitions for a small organisation. But the community action lead by activists around the country shows the appetite that exists for a more direct role in delivering change.