from New Worker Correspondent
AROUND 200 people gathered in Euston, London last Saturday to hear speakers from the trade union and labour movement and to debate and discuss the future of politics in Britain after Blair in a conference organised by the Morning Star.
The opening plenary session was chaired by the Morning Star’s editor, John Haylett and the first speaker was Jon Cruddas MP – one of the candidates for the Labour deputy leadership. Cruddas spoke about rebuilding the Labour Party and regaining the 4.5 million votes the party lost between the general elections of 1997 and 2005.
He called for support for black and ethnic minorities, public sector workers, students coping with serious debt and manual workers.
He also spoke on the way that the neo-Nazi British National Party is winning votes from people who do not know where the BNP is coming from and who are turning to them from despair.
Cruddas blamed lost votes on the Iraq War debacle, a failure to defend multiculturalism, the privatisation of public services and the deterioration of working class housing.
In a debate on trade union freedom Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, declared: “Social Democracy cannot save the working class from the effects of global capitalism.” Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, reported to the conference that the prison service chief Phil Wheatley has taken his union to court five times, aiming to criminalise the union for defending its rule book.
Union lawyer Peter Hendy spoke of the struggle to regain trade union rights taken away by the Thatcher government – a fight he intends to take to the European Court of Human Rights.
In a debate about privatisation and public ownership, Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack spoke of the effects of free market capitalism that has been unleashed in Britain since the time of Thatcher and Reagan. “Public service has been sliced up and contracted out,” he said. And he predicted that Gordon Brown would be unlikely to change this.
Other speakers included Father Geoffrey Bottoms, CND’s Kate Hudson and Andrew Murray of Stop the War on a debate on peace.
Then Tony Benn, Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners’ Convention and Salma Yaqoob spoke in a debate on social equality. thanked
In the final plenary session John McDonnell MP thanked those who had backed his bid to challenge Brown’s accession to replace Blair – though the breakthrough failed to happen. And London Mayor Ken Livingstone spoke of next year’s mayoral election.
The prevailing politics in the conference were social democratic Labour and Communist Party of Britain revisionism and there was a complete lack of input from any Marxist-Leninist perspective.
Nevertheless it was a very intensive and worthwhile conference, covering lots of political issues with powerful contributions from union leaders and from the floor.