Monday, November 09, 2009

Community socialism / Local Action Network

Here's two Labour MPs, talking about some of the work that they do:

"In my constituency, if something moves in the community that we haven’t either started or been a part of we get worried. There isn’t a local community organisation, residents and tenants association, or environmental group that hasn’t either been set up by us or which isn’t organised by sympathisers.

The BNP and in the past the NF have always stood against me but we have managed to box them in because we are ahead of them in tackling community issues and concerns...having a Labour MP and local community activists addressing the issue and leading the campaigns denies the BNP the space to organise.

We call this community socialism and I always describe myself as a community MP and our local councillors describe themselves as community councillors."

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"So we patiently started helping local people bid for money and projects, and things started to happen. E-Caffs started for teenagers. Training for people seeking work. Outreach among disaffected youngsters on our toughest estates. ‘Frustrated voices’ became community activists. And the community activists started joining the Labour party...They needed advice, connections, money and perhaps above all, someone who believed in them. That’s what we helped provide.

Today, many have not only joined the Labour party, but they’re out door-knocking with me on Friday nights. A month ago, one sought selection as a Labour council candidate. He won hands-down.

This is only one story of political change. But as I’ve talked to activists around the country, I’ve heard strong endorsement. One said “so basically you want the Labour Party to be a community service organisation like the WI or British Legion”. Another said “it sounds just like what the Church of Scotland do where my mum and dad live”.

I think that’s right. The Labour party needs to be the home of realistic radicals who change their local community."

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John McDonnell and Liam Byrne are from opposite wings of the Labour Party. But whether you call it 'community socialism' or 'Labour's local action network', they are doing the same kind of work. John's been doing it a lot longer than Liam has, but it's something that every Labour representative should be doing. Starting from now.

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