Oliver Milne, Chair Glasgow University Labour Club, celebrates affiliation to the LRC.
When I heard the news that Labour Clubs were going to be allowed to affiliate to the LRC I was ecstatic.
In this first instance it was personal. For many years I have been concerned about the inability of the current Labour Party to communicate effectively on our campuses. This isn’t because students are apolitical or disinterested. The intense political organisation around resistance to austerity, equal marriage and many other issues has long shown this simplistic understanding of student political activity is simply untrue. Rather, I believe the problem is the failure of the current Labour Party to provide a viable alternative.
With a generation of students graduating saddled with incomprehensible levels of debt and entering into a job market which we can only describe as apocalyptic, the need for an alternative is more essential than ever. The LRC is committed to transformative redistributive taxation, genuine social equality and radical social change in the interests of the majority. This presents a message I believe we can stand by in campuses and workplaces all over the country and begin to reclaim our Party — and young people will see something to fight for within our movement.
Secondly, I felt the decision to allow university Labour Clubs to affiliate to the LRC would be great news for Labour Students more generally. This will seem anathema to some people but I strongly believe it. Labour Students have for many years been viewed as one of the strongest elements on the Party’s right flank, but this has always been somewhat of a misrepresentation of the political makeup of student members of the Party. While undeniably some of Labour Students’ most prominent members are paid up members of the reactionary Progress project to drive the Party to the amoral centre, this is far from true of the majority of Labour Club members at universities up and down the country.
When we begin talking about the socialist alternatives within Labour Students we make the organisation more relevant to the pluralistic nature of its membership and start a debate about the direction of our movement. This can only be a good thing. Students on the Labour left have long been poorly organised.
It is this reason, not some innate conservatism at the heart of the student movement, which has led to Labour Students being out of step with ordinary students and members across the country. Labour Club affiliation presents an opportunity to organise a fight back, talk about policy openly and to honestly reflect on our successes and failings. It is for this reason that Glasgow University Labour Club will be among the first to take this opportunity to affiliate to the LRC. For many in the club, who have felt alienated within what appeared to be an uncaring and unlistening bureaucracy within the Party, this is an energising moment. Not everyone in the club agrees, but the decision to affiliate was an important one. We’ll begin the much-needed debate about the future of Labour Party and the left more generally, and we’ll do so as part of the LRC.