The vote at Labour conference 2019 confirmed what Labour4Clause4 supporters have known since the campaign was launched early last year: that there is a great appetite amongst grassroots Labour members to restore the original Clause 4 – our party’s socialist birthright.
On the first day of this year’s conference, 62% of CLP delegates voted in support of a rule change motion to bring back the words of the old Clause 4. This pledged to “secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry…upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange…”
This tremendous result is thanks to the enormous efforts of the Labour4Clause4 campaign and its supporters over the past couple of years. It demonstrates what a resounding echo the campaign has had within the labour movement – as does the presence of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, CWU general secretary Dave Ward, and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka on the platform of our fringe meeting in Brighton.
Importantly, the conference vote shows what a burning desire there is amongst Labour’s rank-and-file for the principles of common ownership and socialist policies.
Unfortunately, despite this backing from local Labour parties (reflected also by the standing ovation that the motion’s movers received from the conference audience), the constitutional amendment to restore Clause 4 fell, due to opposition from trade union delegates.
Nevertheless, a great opportunity now lies ahead of us. The Labour NEC have agreed to conduct a review of the wording of Clause 4. At the very least, this means that the old Blairite clause – with its praise for “the enterprise of the market” and “the rigor of competition” – will be thrown into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.
We must seize this moment and take this chance to affirm, once again, that ours is a party committed to the goal of socialism.
For this reason, we have decided to relaunch the Labour4Clause4 campaign. With Blair’s pro-capitalist clause behind us, we can now look ahead and decide what our real aims and values must be.
In order to do this, we need a thorough discussion throughout the ranks of the Labour movement. Unlike when Blair scrapped the original Clause 4 – as part of his New Labour project of privatisation – in 1995, we need to ensure that any new wording is decided on the basis of a genuine democratic debate with the party and the unions.
With this in mind, we have written to Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, welcoming the prospect of a review. However, importantly, we have insisted that this must not be a committee-led review, but a members-led review.
Our party’s principles are too important to be decided by an unelected panel. It must be grassroots members and activists who define our movement’s goals. A new Clause 4 must reflect the socialist desires and aspirations of Labour’s rank and file.
The Labour4Clause4 campaign will be redoubling our efforts in the year ahead to ensure that such a discussion takes place.
On Saturday 19th October, Rob Sewell (national co-ordinator of the Labour4Clause4 campaign) and Ian Hodson (president of the BFAWU bakers and food workers’ union), will be speaking at the plenary rally of Teeside Transformed – a two-day regional event of talks and discussions about building a movement for a Corbyn Labour government.
From this platform, Rob and Ian will be launching round two of the Labour4Clause4 roadshow.
Taking place over the past 12 months, our last roadshow was a great success, with meetings organised by local Labour parties, trade union branches, and Momentum groups across the country – from Redcar, Liverpool, and Lincoln, through to Oxford, Plymouth, and Canterbury.
At these events, campaign speakers put forward the case for Clause 4 and the demand for common ownership. Everywhere we went, these ideas were met with enormous enthusiasm.
In the year ahead, we will use the roadshow to open up a discussion about what shape a new Clause 4 should take. We call on all our supporters to help us in this aim by getting in touch and organising a roadshow event in your area.
Above all, we will argue that a new-and-improved clause must retain the key socialist principles of the original 1918 clause: guaranteeing the working class the full fruits of its labour on the basis of the common ownership of the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy.
Furthermore, we believe that our party’s constitution should commit to bringing in workers’ control and management, to ensure that nationalised industries are genuinely in the hands of the working class.
Most importantly, we must unashamedly proclaim that we want to do away with capitalism and carry out the socialist transformation of society. Let us proudly enscribe socialism on our banner and affirm that the Labour Party is a socialist party.
I am writing to you on behalf of the Labour4Clause4 campaign, which was set up last year by party members to campaign to restore Clause 4.
Given the debate at this year’s Labour Party conference, we are proud to have placed Clause 4 again at the centre of things. In relation to CLPs, 62.2% voted to restore the original version, which shows the strength of feeling among our members to retain common ownership as our central aim.
Conference agreed to back the NEC position to set up a working party to see if the wording of the 1918 version can be modernised. We welcome this opportunity to clarify our socialist aim.
However, we would request that the working party be membership-led. In that regard, we would ask you to accept the participation in the working party of one or two of the movers of the defeated CLP constitutional amendments.
We are all aware of the way in which the 1995 constitutional change was introduced by Tony Blair, which was extremely unsatisfactory, to say the least. No amendments were allowed and it was a question of take it or leave it. We very much hope that whatever emerges from the working party that Labour members will have the opportunity to democratically amend the draft proposal.
We hope that you will give these proposals the seriousness they deserve.
I look forward to hearing from you.
With best wishes and solidarity greetings,
Rob Sewell, Labour4Clause4 campaign co-ordinator
Model motion: For a members-led Clause 4 review
This CLP welcomes the promise made by the NEC at the 2019 Labour Party conference to conduct a review into a new wording for Clause 4, which outlines our party’s aims and values.
This CLP notes that the constitutional amendment debated at the last Labour conference – to restore the original Clause 4 wording – received 62% support from CLP delegates. This demonstrates the strong desire that exists amongst rank-and-file Labour members for our party to commit to the principles of common ownership.
This CLP believes that the new Clause 4 review must be membership-led, involving a proper democratic debate throughout the party.
We note that the decision to scrap the original Clause 4 in 1995 was done on the basis of a very limited discussion. Members were presented with a fait accompli, and were provided with no opportunity to vote on any amendments. We cannot allow this situation to be repeated.
We therefore demand that the new Clause 4 review include the following conditions:
- Any review working group to include grassroots representation from those CLPs that proposed the Clause 4 constitutional amendments at the last conference.
- All CLPs and affiliated organisations to be provided with the opportunity to amend any draft proposals for a new Clause 4 wording emerging from the working group.
- Labour conference 2020 to vote and make the final decision on a new Clause 4.