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For a new socialist Clause 4 – in the words of Tonn Benn

Next week, on 12 December, the country goes to the polls in what will be a historic election. With Labour advancing and the Tories’ lead narrowing, we have everything still to fight for. Thousands are taking to the streets to campaign and knock on doors. On Friday 13 December, there is every chance that we could see Corbyn enter Number 10.

Whatever the outcome, there is an important debate to be had to define the mission statement of our movement. In power, we will be faced with the challenges of implementing the most radical manifesto in generations. In opposition, we will need to set out the bold programme required to take on the Tories.

This is why the Labour4Clause4 campaign has such a vital role to play in the battles ahead. At the last party conference, the Labour NEC agreed to establish a review into a new Clause 4: the section of our party’s constitution that defines our aims and goals. We must seize this opportunity to commit the labour movement to fight for common ownership and the socialist transformation of society.

We believe that this Clause 4 review must be led by the membership, with a thorough discussion throughout our movement; and with the chance for grassroots activists to democratically decide what our party’s core values are.

Most importantly, we believe that we need a commitment to socialism. With this in mind, we are proposing the following wording (see below) for a new Clause 4, based on the words of the late, great Tony Benn. We believe that adopting this constitutional clause would be a fitting tribute to Benn – a giant of our movement, and a lifelong fighter for the cause of the working class.

Please help us put these words into practice by passing the following motion in your trade union or CLP. In particular, members of affiliated trade unions should look to get this motion on the agenda of their union conference; and similarly for Labour members in relation to upcoming regional conferences.

Deadlines for many important unions (Unite, CWU, etc.) and regional conferences are fast approaching. This process will culminate at the next Labour annual conference in Liverpool.

With your help, we can enshrine Tony Benn’s socialist principles into the heart and soul of our movement.


Model motion: For a new socialist Clause 4 – in the words of Tony Benn

This CLP / trade union branch / conference notes the decision of the 2019 Labour conference to establish an NEC review to look into a new wording for Clause 4.

We also note that 62% of local Labour Party delegates voted to maintain the original 1918 wording, which committed the Party to common ownership.

To fulfil this obligation, we also believe we should pay tribute to the great contribution of the late Tony Benn to the Labour Party.

As a result, we believe that the Party should enshrine into its constitution a new Clause 4, using Tony Benn’s own words. This reads as follows: 

“We stand for the inherent rights of all people to useful work, good homes, education, health care and dignity in retirement, free from all forms of discrimination. We believe that these rights cannot be fully realised under capitalism where human values are subordinated to the demand for profit. Our aim is to abolish the obstacles to the realisation of those aspirations.

“As a socialist party, we do not exist to manage capitalism. We aim to bring about a fundamental transformation of society, which will give to everyone a chance to live a full and satisfying life. We will adopt the means necessary for that purpose by, amongst other things, the common ownership, under democratic control and management by working people, of the commanding heights of the economy, including the banks and finance houses, the land and all the companies which dominate our economy. We stand for a democratic socialist society based upon the principle from each according to their ability to each according to their need.”

Conference believes this would be a fitting testament to Tony Benn. We therefore agree to submit a resolution to the next Labour Party conference calling for a new Clause 4 using the above wording.