Fabianism is older than the Labour Party. Its tradition stems back before the Labour Representation Committee, before Keir Hardie and before version one of Clause 4. And yet Fabianism was crucial to every Labour government since it formed the party and must still be crucial to contributing to the formation of the next Labour government.
Sunder Katwala moves on from his service to the society and leaves it at time of renewal across the Labour Party. The Fabians and the Labour Party will both have new General Secretaries in 2011 and both individuals will have the challenges of making their organisations adapt to opposition.
Young Fabians and Young Labour members should rise to this moment and to Ed Miliband’s assertion that a new generation has taken over the party. In 2010 over 190 of the Society’s 320 new members were Young Fabians.
So here are three suggestions I would offer to the new Fabian General Secretary as an active member of the Young Fabians:
1. Membership is more than paying your subs
The Young Fabians pride ourselves on being an inclusive organisation, where being a member means more than receiving a magazine and pamphlet in the post each month and going to conferences. Young Fabian members are encouraged to attend social events, contribute to policy commissions, join in online debates, write for our blog and for our magazine. We strive to make our members feel part of an organisation of like minded young people that they have ownership of and a space where they can debate and offer ideas. There is more the senior society can do to foster a sense that Fabians are part of a tradition, a community, a movement, where their ideas are valued and contribute to the future of the Labour party.
2. Campaigning is an important part of politics
Whilst we’re unashamed of being part of “pamphlet labour” and talking policy is our usp, the Young Fabians have a great tradition of being young campaigners as well as young thinkers. For local, general, European elections and even the US and Swedish General Elections, the Young Fabians have hit the #labourdoorstep and given the shoe leather needed to win elections for Labour candidates. There is a time for pamphlets and a time for action and the Young Fabians are as proud of our canvassing as of our policy and research. Without campaigning, Labour candidates would never get elected and our policies would stay in pamphlet books rather than getting on to the statue book.
3. Politics happens outside London
After some deserved criticism and a lot of hard work, the Young Fabians have made huge strides at improving our reach outside of London. The key lesson we learned, wasn’t to mandate a largely London based Executive to travel up and down the country running meetings. It was to learn that empowering non-London based members to run events with advice and guidance was more productive and brought better results. We still have further to go on this but there is much to be gained from empowering Fabians to run their activities, with relevant support, wherever they are. The new General Secretary should build and develop the Fabian local societies, encouraging them to become active parts of the Labour party in the regions and areas they work.
I’m sure there are more ideas that other Young Fabians would like to add to the debate about the future of the Fabians. Please join the debate and submit your contribution here.
Brian Duggan is Policy Officer for the Young Fabians.