LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS who live outside Britain can stay active in the Party by joining its international section, called Labour International (LI). LI is supposed to be organised like a normal constituency party, with local branches. The difference is that the branches are scattered all over the world - 70% of the membership is in Europe and 30% elsewhere, mainly in English speaking countries.
Corbyn’s first leadership victory saw a massive influx of new members, just as we’ve seen elsewhere in the Party.zz Membership went up from about 600 in early 2015 to currently just over 3,200. The 2015 executive majority was solidly right wing, and their reaction to the EU referendum result was to more or less go on strike. Social media is a very important way for the LI membership to keep in touch with each other, given that the membership is scattered all around the world and some members are physically isolated. Little if any new material for the LI website was produced after the referendum. Offers to help work on social media and to build new branches and recruit new members were ignored or, in some cases, rejected.
On 17th August last year, during the leadership election two members of the exec shut down the LI’s closed Facebook group, used by 300 people, at two hours’ notice because of “abuse”. The Facebook was an important way of keeping in touch for many members and this came as a bolt out of the blue. Fortunately we managed to save the publicly accessible membership list before the site completely disappeared and we were able to have a new site up and running within three hours, under new management, with half of the membership back within 24 hours.
Shortly afterwards we set up an informal Momentum International Branch, with its own Facebook page and Facebook group. Feeds from the page back to Momentum HQ have contributed to there now being over 800 Momentum members and supporters who live outside Britain and to Momentum HQ taking an interest, after having ignored requests to set up an international branch for nearly a year.
Through making contact in this way around 100 members of Labour International came together to discuss and debate. A number of members decided that enough was enough and that it was time to transform Labour International and breathe some life into it. We put together a slate of five candidates and supported the incumbent CLP secretary who seemed to be the doing most of the work on the previous exec. The campaign was run entirely electronically with its own website and regular mailshots from Momentum HQ during the election. We beat the right wing 60% to 40% and took all of our five target places.
And now here we are, with a CLP of 3,200 people and 14 Labour Party Conference delegates, almost entirely from the left of the Party. We are now building on this by helping to build new branches, launching campaigns on migrants’ rights in the broadest sense and showing the Labour Party that British people living and working abroad are not all Daily Mail reading bigots.
With Brexit and beyond, it has never been more important to have a strong and active wing of the Party internationally - with the potential to work with sister parties and sympathetic organisations worldwide.
is Co-Chair of Labour International