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Monday, May 24, 2010
Join the Resistance!
LRC backs McDonnell for Labour leader
by Theo Russell
THE TORY-Liberal Democrat assault on public services and a Labour Party leadership contest provided the backdrop of a conference last Saturday called by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) that came with an invitation to “Join the Resistance”.
And immediately after the conference the LRC national committee voted to endorse John McDonnell MP as a Labour leadership candidate and urged LRC members and others to lobby Labour MPs and pass motions in their Constituency Labour Parties and trade union branches to nominate McDonnell.
A statement urged “people who have left the party to rejoin in order to vote for John,” adding that new members will be eligible to vote in the Labour leadership election.
On Tuesday John McDonnell accused the Labour Party of organising a “discredited” leadership contest after it set a deadline for nomination as a leadership candidate of 27th May – even though the winner will not be announced until party conference in September.
He needs to win nomination from 33 MPs before that date for his name to appear on the ballot paper and will struggle to make it in under a fortnight.
McDonnell said this would exclude make rank and file members from choosing him and reduce the chances of a fresh start.
Around 300 people from across the country turned up for the Join the Resistance conference at the University of London Union on 15th May despite the very short notice.
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, delivered the welcome news that in the previous week Labour had gained 12,000 new members, many believed to be disgusted Lib-Dem supporters.
McDonnell told the conference he may not get on the ballot paper, but said “don’t be disillusioned. We’ll run our own campaign in parallel with the leadership battle to put our ideas across.
“I won’t support any of the others on the ‘faux left’ – anyone who has blood on their hands from the Iraq war, supported the privatisations of the past 13 years and the most severe attack on civil liberties in the past 50 years.”
He described how Labour had alienated its supporters since 1997, failing to deliver on trade union rights and the environment, going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and attacking pensioners.
“We’ve alienated that coalition, we lost our moral compass, and we lost at the election because we deserved to lose”, he said, adding that where left-wing Labour candidates such as Jeremy Corbyn and Kelvin Hopkins stood Labour’s vote had increased significantly.
“Now we’re going to learn through brutal struggle. Jobs across the public sector will go, and trade union rights will be attacked as the only way to ensure more privatisation and public sector outsourcing.”
Peter Firmin, joint LRC secretary, pointed the finger at trade union leaders “who didn’t campaign for our policies, who sponsored over 100 MPs who voted for right-wing Labour policies”.
He also condemned the Trade Union Labour Organisation’s call for tactical voting, saying “members of affiliated unions should demand to know why they encouraged people to vote Liberal Democrat, when their manifesto called for privatising the Royal Mail”.
Gary Heather, a Communication Workers’ Union national executive committee member and chair of Islington trades union council, pointed to the success of the campaign to save the Whittington Hospital in north London (with plans to close the Accident and Emergency department shelved at least for now) as an example of a non-sectarian campaign bringing people into activity.
Luton Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins said that the British people were “to the left of the Labour Party”, with polls showing majorities supporting increased pensions, higher taxes to pay for services and re-nationalising the railways.
“What New Labour don’t like is active branches and campaigning socialists,” he said. “People who voted Liberal Democrat thinking it is some kind of left-wing party have been totally disillusioned. I think the Liberal Party is finished and we’re going to go back to a two-party system, representing capital and labour – they represent capital and we represent labour.”
Veteran Labour activist Walter Wolfgang urged people not just to join the Labour Party but to come forward as candidates and delegates, and work actively “to make the Labour Party what is was meant to be – a major force for socialism”.
Tony Benn was among several speakers to point out that “new parties are not the answer,” and call for focused campaigns.
“Thatcher knew what to go for – trade unions, local government and public ownership,” he said. “We need to recognise that campaigns on issues such as Iraq and the BNP can rally people from across the labour movement. Pick the main issues and campaign around them.”
He added that although the Tories are in power “it seems to me they are a bit frightened – they are in a very difficult situation and know their task will not be easy”.