Monday, September 08, 2008

LRC Fringe at the TUC

I am one of between 40 and 50 people listening to Pete Keenlyside of the CWU opening the Labour Representation Committee fringe meeting at the TUC. Pete argues that we have to start from where we are by persuading the trade unions to fight for union policies within the Labour Party.

We cannot know whether this fight will succeed and if the unions were blocked by the right-wing there would be a case for a new workers party, but right now we have to argue for socialist policies in the unions and take those into the Labour Party.

I agree - and will blog updates about the next speakers...

Janice Godrich is now speaking (in a personal capacity). Janice has different views but welcomes the debate which needs to take place.

She says that we have to start with the question of whether the Labour Party is a vehicle for our politics. As President of a Union most of whose members are employed by the Labour Government she doesn't think it is - and makes a sound job of itemising the many reactionary policies and practices of this Government.

Unions are funding a Party which is attacking our members.

She says that it is well-intentioned to try to fight for our policies within the Labour Party but she disagrees. Janice points out that PCS can campaign for their policies - the problem in other unions is the leadership, but that is a separate question from the question of political representation.

Is it though?

Janice concludes that there cannot be a fight within the Labour Party and that there needs now to be a new workers party.

Mick Shaw has now introduced John McDonnell to address the meeting.

John says we must not be over emotional in this debate.

We have to consider ourselves as socialists rather than being wedded to a particular organisational form.

We have to ask - is there room for democratic debate within the Labour Party so that we can advance socialist policies? There is now very limited room for this.

It was the General Secretaries of the unions who accepted the closing down of Labour Party Conference - and who have accepted the welfare reforms at Warwick without getting anything back in terms of trade union freedom.

We also have to ask - do working class people still look to the Labour Party? John says we shall see - he expects the next election to be more 1931 than 1979.

Then we have to ask - particularly given the First Past the Post system - is another option viable? John says he doesn't know what the PLP will look like after the next election.

We need to find an organisational form for cooperation. Where we can use the Labour Party as a vehicle we should do so. We may also need to look at single issue campaigns, industrial struggles etc.

We intend the LRC to be such an organisational form, to draw people together. John is now also promoting the Trade Union Coordinating Group. We need organisational forms to facilitate common action to deal with the urgent issues of the moment.

My battery is giving up now so I shall go and recharge somewhere.

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