The Labour Party’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell made a call for the socialist transformation of Britain in a speech in Brixton at the weekend.
He said: “Socialism is about the redistribution of power. The next election is not just going to be a lot of Labour MPs getting into power, we have got to have the concept that we as a community are in power.
“You can only transform the state if you have the power to do it. We need to build a social movement and then make sure we have the resources to tackle the problems.”
McDonnell was at a conference entitled Building Left Power, organised by the Labour left in the Dulwich and West Norwood constituency in the Loughborough Community Centre.
He spoke alongside Ted Knight, the Lambeth council leader of the 1980s, who led the council in a bitter confrontation with the Tory government of the time. Knight’s Lambeth was in alliance with the Greater London Council under the leadership of Ken Livingstone, whose deputy was John McDonnell.
“When Labour went into power at the GLC, the whole community went into power,” McDonnell said. “This is what we will do again now – reclaim the power in the community.”
Ted Knight is still a leading voice in the local Labour Left. He told the conference that Lambeth council was failing to resist the current Tory government’s cuts. “We reject what they call resistance. They had a consultation to ask people where the £43 million cuts should fall. They were asking: ‘tell us which of your neighbours should suffer the cuts’.
“We are demanding that Labour councillors should actually lead the people who elected them. You get rid of a government by mobilising a movement against them, not by just asking them to stop. We have got to build that movement.”
The conference discussed opposing Lambeth housing policies, especially the demolition and regeneration of its estates, and its current plan to close five children’s centres as part of the cuts. Delegates also discussed the intrusion of the private sector into local government, education, and the NHS.