Compass points in two directions 25.03.2011


Cat Smith, National Chair of Compass Youth 2010-11, describes why some youth comrades are moving on from Compass to fighting the cuts and building within the Labour Party.

Compass has recently chosen to allow members and elected representatives of parties which stand against Labour to become members of Compass and help set its direction. This will necessarily diminish the role that Compass is able to play in shaping Labour’s future, estranging itself from many Labour supporters.

It was the way in which Compass challenged thinking in the Party – on the role of the market and the need for an active state – which drew in activists from a broader left in the Party. The divisions over tuition fees and Foundation Hospitals helped bring Compass to life, but it really established itself when tackling those in the Party who were advocating public service reform in the shape of Post Office privatisation and trust schools.

Making the decision to resign from an organisation I’ve helped build up since 2007 didn’t come easy. I joined Compass as an organisation seeking to give a coherent voice to mainstream members of the Labour Party when the party leadership was becoming dangerously divisive. I’ve committed years to running Compass Youth events, making links, running campaigns around issues like youth unemployment and supporting the wider youth politics around education funding.

I was joined by the majority of the Compass Youth Committee in my resignation. All eight of us felt Compass is a political organisation and it was right that we should promote our politics in and support the Party which most reflects our democratic left beliefs. That party is the Labour Party and Ed Miliband has invited us to participate in policy and campaigning. Compass’s move to change the basis of our internal membership is being seen as a hostile move towards Labour and Ed Miliband.

In September 2010, as Ed Miliband was elected as leader, many of us in Compass felt we had a greater opportunity than ever to reshape the direction of the Party, but that debate still needs to be had.

In Compass Youth we looked to the new activists – sixth formers; university students; community campaigners, trade unionists and progressives; the 50,000 new Labour members and the millions yet to engage in party politics – to join in our work. They have joined Labour as the only mainstream progressive party in British politics. They share our politics and they want Labour to represent and campaign for them.

In the immediate aftermath of our resignations, we worked together to support the action against the cuts on 26th March. The Con-Dem Coalition has brought nothing but bad news for young people – from cutting apprentiships and the Future Jobs Fund to pricing ordinary young people out of studying by slashing the Educational Maintenance Allowance and trebling university tuition fees. It’s clear they now plan to sell off our public services, our “public inheritance” and society’s silverware to bail out the spivs and bankers who jeopardised our stable economy. It is imperative that young people stand shoulder to shoulder with trade unions and the labour movement to challenge them and fight for a fairer more equal society.

Those of us who have resigned from Compass feel it necessary to organise in support of the politics initially espoused by Compass as members of the Party within the Party, rather than through a broader structure, so that we can credibly have this debate. It is for this reason we have resigned from Compass. We would welcome all those who share our view of a changed Labour Party to continue this discussion on how we move forward.

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