By Caroline Colebrook
LABOUR councils must absolutely refuse to implement spending cuts ordered by the Con-Dem Coalition – even if it means a Government commission stepping in and imposing them. This was the message of resistance that came loud and strong from the annual general meeting of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) that packed London’s Conway Hall last Saturday. It is impossible to oppose the cuts and at the same time implement them.
The LRC was established in 2004 by left Labour Party members, MPs and trade unionists who want to restore the Labour Party to its original socialist roots.
The New Communist Party affiliated to the LRC in 2005 and a number of party members and supporters took part in this year’s conference including NCP leader Andy Brooks as well as Michael Fletcher, Daphne Liddle, Ken Ruddock and Theo Russell from the Central Committee.
The meeting was entitled “Resist the Cuts; Rebuild the Party” and LRC chair John McDonnell MP opened with a fitting tribute to veteran campaigner Tony Benn and a run-down of measures currently going through Parliament.
These include the Localism Bill that will end council housing as we know it and lead to the social cleansing of low income people from being able to live in fashionable areas.
There is also the NHS Bill that will hand control of the finances to General Practitioners – who will in turn hand it to private companies. “This is the privatisation of the NHS,” said McDonnell.
“The rise in tuition fees will mean that education is no longer a gift from one generation to another but a commodity to be bought and sold.
“The cuts in benefits and pensions will be causing impoverishment of the kind we haven’t seen since the 1930s.”
He went on to stress the importance of pushing the TUC and union leaderships into action, mobilising for the big demonstration on 26th March and hundreds of other actions around the country. The 29th January students’ demonstration is now turning into a really big event.
And he again stressed – we must demand “No cuts at all!” – at any level, not to jobs or services.
Many spoke in defence of the postal services and Conference passed an emergency motion backing the fight of the Communication Workers’ Union against Royal Mail privatisation.
Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack, called for unity in the fight against the cuts and against sectarianism of the kind that was mocked in the film The Life of Brian – “We can’t have the Judean Popular Front refusing to speak to the Popular front of Judea.”
He also attacked those who fought cuts by saying, “Don’t cuts us, cut somewhere else”.
“We want no cuts at all, anywhere,” he declared.
After a lively discussion Conference agreed to “actively but critically” support the campaign of Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London as he was “committed to protect Londoners from the effects of economic uncertainty and government cuts”.
Many other motions were debated and passed including one from the New Communist Party, moved by Daphne Liddle, on wages jobs and working hours – as well as one from Left Front Art including the LGBT Community in the fight against the cuts
Only one was rejected that sought to change the slogan from “Rebuild the [Labour] Party” to “Rebuild the Labour Movement”. The argument that the fight to rebuild inner party democracy was essential to winning genuine working class policies and defeating the right-wing opportunists, including what is left of “New Labour” won the vote.
Veteran Labour statesman Tony Benn spoke to a standing ovation in recognition of his lifelong contribution to the working class movement. He spoke of the history of state welfare and the vital role of local government and he reminded the conference that at the end of the Second World War the tax rate on the super rich had been 95 per cent.
In the afternoon Jeremy Corbyn MP put the struggle in an international context, explaining the huge international dimension of the economic crisis.
He explained that the extreme monetarist economic policies pioneered by the fascist regime of General Pinochet in Chile had been the model that imperialism had tried to impose throughout the Third World ever since and was “effectively a recolonisation”.
Corbyn explained that it is this economic policy – giving absolute free rein to the banks – that was behind the sub-prime crash in the United States. Now they are trying to impose a similar economic doctrine in Europe, starting with Greece.
“Will we be carved up like Latin America was in the 1980s, or will we stand up to the IMF and the economic imperialists?
“There has to be the same internationalism in everything we do,” said Corbyn, “if we don’t we are going to be picked off one by one.”
A guest speaker from Tunisia, Mohammed Ali Harrath, brought news of the “revolution” he said was happening there. The exiled Tunisian Islamist leader said “this is our 1917” in his report of the upheaval that had, at last, driven out the hated dictator.
Student leader Clare Solomon, the president of the University of London Union, was another guest speaker, and she stressed the importance of Maintenance Allowance that allows students from low income families to stay in further education between the ages of 16 and 18. It covers their bus fares and other costs but without it thousands of students, however brainy, will not even get a chance at university entrance.
LRC membership has increased by around 25 per cent in the past year and now stands at over 1,000 individual members. The committee is supported by five Labour MPs, a number of trade unions at national and regional level, and socialist, co-operative and progressive movements, including the NCP, that do not stand against Labour in elections.
The increase in membership could be seen by the contributions from delegates from all round the country. There were dozens of significant contributions from the floor from seasoned trade unionists, peace campaigners like Walter Wolfgang and young students new to the movement. It was a day of debate and commitment to the struggle to build a fighting, democratic Labour Party that will defeat the Tory-led coalition on a platform based on union rights, social justice and public ownership. It ended, as always, with a rousing rendition of the Red Flag.