Lewisham shows how networks can be built

Submitted by AWL on 13 October, 2015 - 5:20 Author: Sacha Ismail

Workers’ Liberty members in Lewisham, South London, have been involved in setting up a Jeremy Corbyn supporters network in the borough.

This network, which met for the first time on 17 September and had its second meeting on 12 October, has attracted a lot of interest, suggesting great potential for such local groups.

During the leadership campaign, there was a lot of support for Jeremy Corbyn in Lewisham — he won two out of three constituency Labour Party nominations, despite opposition from the MPs. Moreover Lewisham has a strong history of left and working-class struggles — including two recent victorious campaigns, against the closure of the local A&E and Maternity Unit (2013) and against the academisation of five schools (this year). However, this didn’t automaticaly translate into Corbyn organisation. As the leadership campaign came to a close, activists made a big, concerted push to get things going, with excellent results.

If we have certain advantages in Lewisham — the relative strength of the left and the relative smallness and compactness of the borough — the enthusiasm which Lewisham for Corbyn has generated suggests that such initiatives can take off almost anywhere.

The 17 September meeting, attended by about 90 people, allowed those present to air their thoughts and feelings about what Corbyn’s victory means for the left and labour movement. Despite negative comments from Deptford MP Vicky Foxcroft, a big majority of those present wanted to set up an ongoing left labour movement network in Lewisham.

The meeting agreed to hold an organising meeting within a month; to initiate a Lewisham Young Labour group; and to hold regular stalls using the Labour Party’s petiton on trade union rights. All of these were carried out.

Stalls at New Cross Gate have got a good response, with about a hundred signatures each time and several new recruits for the Labour Party. Young activists have pushed ahead with plans for a local Young Labour group and various meetings and activity. There was a youth caucus before the 12 October meeting and a much larger number of young people at the main meeting this time — in part because Goldsmiths University term started in late September.

The fledgling Young Labour group is going to work with the university Labour Club to build a stronger base of support at Goldsmiths. The first Lewisham Young Labour public meeting will be in mid-November.

The 12 October meeting, attended by about 80 people, began the process of getting Lewisham Corbyn supporters more organised. We discussed taking motions (including on union rights and Trident) to wards and CLPs; more street stalls; holding public debates including on Trident and council cuts; and taking the lead in stepping up voter registration, particularly in light of the very important London Mayoral election next year. The meeting broke into groups which came up with many other ideas which we will put into practice over the next months.

We also agreed to affiliate with the new national Momentum organisation and rename the local network Lewisham for Corbyn — Momentum. We will discuss a longer term name at a future meeting. The next one is on Monday 9 November.

• Facebook: Lewisham For Corbyn — Momentum

Lewisham for Corbyn

• Local Corbyn supporters' groups are now appearing under various names all over the country. This week, for instance, Corbyn supporters in Hammersmith, West London, held their first formal meeting; while Sheffield for Corbyn, possibly the first formal group to be set up during the campaign and one of the most successful, renamed itself Momentum Sheffield and elected a broad steering committee for the first time. We will carry more coverage on local groups in the coming weeks.

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