Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/698/13346
Why I joined the Socialist Party
Fighting Tory and Labour cuts
Les Woodward Remploy trade union national convenor (personal capacity)
I first became politically aware in 1968 at the age of 14. I had been injured playing rugby and my father gave me Alexander Cordell's Rape of the Fair Country to read to pass away the time. This injury, in later years, meant I became registered as disabled.
But it wasn't until I entered the world of work in the early 1970s that my leanings toward socialism started to develop. It also helped that my uncle was an ex-Communist Party member who I could have discussions and debates with, along with my father and copious amounts of good red wine!
By 1984 I had started working for Remploy, Margaret Thatcher's Tories were in power and the miners' strike was in full swing. A few of us at Remploy decided to revamp our Furniture Timber and Allied Trades (FTAT) union branch. We got involved with Swansea Trades Council where I made a life-long friend and comrade, Alec Thraves. Alec persuaded me to come to Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) meetings, but I never joined.
I was elected a shop steward in 1993, and FTAT merged with the GMB on 1 January 1994. I was elected onto the Remploy trades union consortium in March of that year at our first GMB industrial conference.
By 1997 I had joined the Labour Party. I honestly thought that Labour, even under Tony Blair, could make a huge difference to society and to disabled workers. I campaigned alongside a host of Remploy workers up and down the country. My links with Militant had long vanished, though I often popped along to the stall in Swansea, chatted with Alec and bought a Socialist paper.
However, by 2000 we were in the fight of our lives. Remploy started coming under attack. Labour MP Margaret Hodge, the then minister for disabled people, called Remploy an institute of industrial segregation and a ghetto. Of course, there was never any consultation with Remploy workers. There was no mention that Remploy workers had manufactured uniforms and nuclear, biological and chemical suits for the army, which we had seen every day on the TV during the First Gulf War.
I finally resigned from the Labour Party in 2003, on the day Iraq was invaded.
Fast forward a few years, Blair resigned as prime minister and I rejoined the Labour Party. I attended hustings and badgered the new Labour leader, Gordon Brown, at every opportunity, as did many other Labour Party members in Remploy. This time, however, my party membership barely lasted a year.
In November 2007, Brown's Labour government announced it was going to close 29 factories. I was in the York factory, one of the sites chosen for closure. I cried alongside other workers. How could a party that was formed to represent the working class do this to some of the most vulnerable members of society?
For the second time - and this time for good - I resigned from the Labour Party. This was done very publicly along with several comrades from Remploy.
It has taken nearly 30 years for me to find my natural political home, and realise that capitalism cannot be tinkered with. It has to be replaced with a socialist system based on a planned economy for the benefit of everyone, not for the greed of the few.
In The Socialist 14 December 2011:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party reviews
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis