LONDON’S Conway Hall was once again the venue of the tenth annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee where left-wing Labour Party members – and a few others including delegates from the New Communist Party which affiliated to the LRC in February 2005.
And NCP comrades ran a joint New Worker/Searchlight stall throughout the day of debate on the most pressing issues facing the Labour and trade union movement.
Numbers were a little down this year but there were a number of other events on the same day – a march against drones and a march to demand the release of Shaker Aamer to name just two – which left activists thinly spread between events.
The conference was opened by John McDonnell MP presenting the National Committee statement, covering the long list of topics mentioned in the statement.
He was followed by journalist Owen Jones and Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil service union PCS.
There were many resolutions concerning the Fire Service cuts and firefighters’ pensions, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, energy prices, fracking, benefit cuts, defending the link between the unions and the Labour Party and many more.
Few were controversial but an emergency motion on Grangemouth and the privatisation of the Royal Mail from Brent and Harrow LRC led to a heated debate.
The motion was moved with passion by Graham Durham, who began by pointing out that he had been to many recent meetings of the LRC, the People’s Assembly and other forums of the left and heard exactly the same speeches from McDonnell, Jones and others but the fine words had failed to prevent the disaster of the defeat of Unite, Britain’s largest union, at Grangemouth or the privatisation of the Royal Mail.
This was the wrong message to deliver to a room of very hard-working activists, many looking well weary but still fighting. And it was unjustified. Grangemouth and the privatisation of the Royal Mail were indeed defeats for the working class but those present were not culpable.
Since the defeat of the miners’ strike, the passing of anti-union laws and the fall of the Soviet Union we have suffered 30 years of working class retreat and demoralisation but it is not the fault of those activists who have done all in their power to hold the line and are at last now beginning to have a few successes.
These include the vote in the House of Commons in September against going to war with Syria and court battles that have stopped, for the time being, cuts to Lewisham Hospital, the rescue of the Independent Living Allowance and the ruling that compulsory workfare was illegal. All proving that campaigning and activism are worthwhile and can succeed.
But the masses of the working class are not yet properly woken up and mobilised and there may be more defeats like Grangemouth. But as the oppression of the working class is ratcheted up by our greedy and callous ruling class the anger and the level of mobilisation have to grow and defeats can be reversed. It’s all a matter of numbers out on the streets – and even more important, out on strike.
There were other problems with the motion – it wanted to affiliate the LRC to the Grass Roots Left faction in Unite – and apart from the opening statement most of the motion was rejected by conference.
The afternoon session included a debate on Syria. The LRC has taken a principled position of opposing all imperialist aggression in the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran) and Libya.
But there was some controversy over the attitude to the leaderships of these countries under attack, some feeling that in addition to the imperialist propaganda they had to add their own barbs.
How is it that left-wingers can see through the vile demonization by the ruling class media against figures like Len McCluskey and Bob Crow but believe every allegation made against Assad and Gaddafi?
There is still clearly a strong influence from Trotskyism that anyone elected to the leadership of a country, a union or a movement automatically turns into a monster on taking office and must be brought down – an attitude that is bound to doom any working class mobilisation.
This was reflected in what the movers conceded was a badly worded motion, which the NCP and its supporters could not support, and it was easily defeated.