Thursday, November 22, 2007

Broadening the battle to rescue Real Labour

by New Worker Correspondent

AROUND 250 members and delegates from affiliated organisations, including the NCP, attended the annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London’s Conway Hall last Saturday. The LRC unanimously approved some major rule changes to broaden its structure. Full membership is now open to all affiliates and individuals who are not members of parties that stand in elections against Labour. This gives the NCP full affiliate rights and now any individual member of the Party can join the LRC.
The LRC also welcomed two major trade unions – the train drivers’ union Aslef and the National Union of Mineworkers – as affiliates. Existing affiliates include the RMT transport union and the Fire Brigades Union.
The LRC was formed three years ago in an echo of the first Labour Representation Committee that founded the Labour Party, to recover the party for its original primary function to give representation in Parliament for the organised working class – the trade unions.
It suffered a set back earlier this year when LRC leader John McDonnell MP failed to get enough MPs to back his nomination to trigger a leadership contest when Tony Blair resigned.
This was in spite of a huge campaign in trade union branches and constituency Labour Parties all around the country that mobilised thousands.
Ironically this campaign resulted in a surge in Labour Party membership as people were persuaded to join and fight against Gordon Brown’s automatic succession to the premiership.
At the conference McDonnell thanked all those who had supported the campaign, including the affiliated unions and the Socialist Youth Network. But he acknowledged they had overestimated the political strength and integrity of the Parliamentary Labour Party. US colony
Veteran socialist Tony Benn was the first speaker, who began by saying that Britain is now “in effect an American colony” following Gordon Brown’s recent Mansion House speech, in which he pledged Britain’s continuing loyalty to the United States.
“We are now managed, not represented,” said Benn. He went on to say that New Labour policies in support of American imperialism have “alienated our supporters” but that “anger and mistrust are not the same as apathy”.
There was much discussion and anger at the conference over the way that the leadership of the “big four” unions had agreed to the changes in Labour Party conferences to remove all policy discussion from the conference floor.
“Now we have a conference where you can’t move a resolution. Why did the unions go along with it?” said Benn. He finished by saying: “I’ve stopped protesting. I’m too old now and protesting has become part of the culture. They take no notice. Now I’m demanding!”
Other speakers included CND leader Kate Hudson, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, John Trickett MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and Karen Reissmann, the Manchester mental health nurse who has been sacked for trade union activity and campaigning against closures and privatisation.
standing ovation
The conference gave her a standing ovation as a bucket went round for contributions to the Manchester Unison strike fund for the action that is demanding her reinstatement.
There were many contributions to discussion from the floor, including two from New Communist Party delegates. NCP industrial organiser Mike Fletcher spoke on the struggles of Unison members employed by NHS mental health services in East Anglia and voiced support to Karen Reissmann. And Daphne Liddle spoke on the plight of bonded labourers in Pakistan.

photo: Daphne Liddle making a point

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