Well done delegates! Despite opposition from the NEC, there was massive rank-and-file support for restoring our socialist Clause 4, thrown out by Tony Blair in 1995.
62% of CLP delegates supported the rule change motion to bring back the original wording of Clause 4: “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry…through the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.”
This is a fantastic result, showing the strong grassroots support that exists in the Labour movement for the socialist principles of Clause 4.
Unfortunately, however, the trade union and affiliate delegates voted against, meaning the constitutional change failed.
Nevertheless, the NEC has now promised a review of the wording. We must continue to campaign in order to ensure that this is a members’ review, and not another committee review that will just gather dust somewhere.
It is the membership that must decide what our party’s aims and values are. And we believe these aims and values must maintain the socialist aspirations and principles outlined in the old Clause 4.
Conference heard brilliant speeches from comrades from the Forest of Dean, Wallasey and Wavertree – all speaking to restore Clause 4. They had a tremendous response from delegates, even gaining a standing ovation. It is clear that grassroots members from the CLPs want to restore Clause 4.
“The reason why we adopted Clause 4 was that capitalism had failed,” stated Jim Brookshaw, delegate from the Forest of Dean, who moved the constitutional amendment. “Our task was not to patch up capitalism, but to do away with it.”
Jim quoted Blair’s version, which praised the market and the wonders of competition. Jim said he had experienced first-hand these “rigours” of the market when he, as a print worker, was fighting Murdock for his job in a year-long strike, along with thousands of others who were sacked.
He said Labour stood for a socialist planned economy, not the anarchy of the market.
Jim also criticised the NEC for opposing the proposed rule change. Instead, they have suggested a “review”. “We had a review in 1995 with Blair,” Jim noted, and we know how that ended.
He ended by saying: “if common ownership was good enough for Keir Hardie, it should be good enough for us.”
The motion was seconded by Mike Hogan from Wavertree, who linked Clause 4 to the horrific realities of PFI and privatisation seen in Liverpool, and the disaster of pro-market policies.
The comrade from Wallasey, Luke Agnew, put in a great performance. He backed up the argument by giving the example of his working live, dominated by a race to the bottom and insecurity. A fundamental transformation of society is needed.
Onwards and upwards
The massive applause and standing ovation given to the Clause 4 speakers reflects the widespread support amongst the membership for bringing back Clause 4.
The NEC will now set up a working body to look at a new wording – one that will replace the current Blairite pro-business clause.
This means that the Blairite Clause 4 is heading for the dustbin. That in itself is a great victory! This stain on our movement will finally be eradicated.
Again, this victory is not down to the NEC, which was quite prepared to maintain the status quo. It is down to the rank-and-file and the great work done by the Labour4Clause4 campaign. Without this hard work, we would be stuck with Blair’s commitment to privatisation.
We must now demand a proper review to amend Clause 4 – one that is thoroughly discussed and debated throughout the Labour movement. This will provide us with a great opportunity to fight for a new, bold, socialist Clause – a commitment to the socialist transformation of society.
We will rise to the occasion. We will organise a renewed roadshow to ensure that the socialist commitment of the original Clause 4 is not watered down. We still want to “secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of our industry” on the basis of the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.
Please help us to promote the Labour4Clause4 campaign by organising a roadshow event in your CLP or union, and inviting a campaign speaker, to discuss the way forward for our party and our movement.
Onwards and upwards! Forward to socialism!