Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/423/4949
RMT conference on workers' representation
Build a political alternative to New Labour
THE CONFERENCE on the crisis in working-class representation called by the RMT rail union this weekend is potentially an important step forward in the struggle for a new mass party of the working class.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow, believes new workers party is necessary
This is the first time that a national trade union has called a conference to discuss the question of political representation and the Socialist Party and the Campaign for a New Workers' Party fully support this initiative. Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist will be speaking from the platform.
Fiona Pashazadeh and Hannah Sell
Whilst Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT, has stated that he believes a new workers' party is needed, he has also made clear that this conference will not take any steps towards the foundation of a new party, but will be a discussion of the issues.
Undoubtedly, some of those attending this conference will argue that we should concentrate our efforts on reclaiming the Labour Party. The Socialist Party does not think such efforts can succeed.
Since 1979 the trade unions have given £300 million of their members' money to the Labour Party - £100 million of it since 1997 - but it has not gained a fiver's worth of 'influence' with the government. New Labour has shown since it came to power that it is firmly on the side of big business. It has left the vast majority of the anti-trade union laws intact.
Blair and his ministers have attacked working conditions, the welfare system, free education, public services and are bringing private companies into the NHS and schools. Despite huge levels of protest, the war and occupation in Iraq continues.
At the 2005 Labour Party conference the delegates' seating remained half empty while corporate sponsors were present in unprecedented numbers. A majority of constituency delegates voted against all attempts of the unions to push Labour to the left. Where the government was defeated, due to the unions' votes, ministers immediately made it completely clear that the vote was as irrelevant to them as was the lack of WMDs in Iraq!
We believe that, without a major influx of workers into the Labour Party any campaign for rank-and-file control will be ineffective. But, as the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) discovered when it attempted to launch a recruitment drive in the anti-war movement, workers and young people entering struggle have no interest in joining the party they are fighting against. On the contrary, older trade unionists, who had been Labour Party members for decades, are leaving in disgust. The LRC itself has only 500 members.
That is why we will be putting forward the argument that not another penny should be given to New Labour by the trade unions, which should instead move to found a new party. The Left Party in Germany, which won 54 MPs and 8.7% of the vote in its first time out, gives a glimpse of the potential for such a new formation.
Time for a political alternative
It is time for a political alternative to be built that will stand up for working people against the attacks of big-business and the neo-liberal policies of the three main parties.
After the conference, there will be a fringe meeting* with speakers putting forward this point of view and there will be a chance for others to contribute to the discussion.
Socialist Party meeting:
Friends Meeting House, Drayton Suite, immediately after the RMT conference finishes
THIS WEEK, a UNISON branch secretary and 'Campaign for a New Workers' Party' supporter collected 21 new signatures in support of the declaration from his union branch at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London.
Also, Socialist Party members in Sheffield held a stall outside a civil service workplace calling for a new workers' party in England and Wales with banners containing slogans such as 'New Labour - Old Tories'. During this, they gained 16 new signatories in support of the campaign.
New signatories this week include (all in a personal capacity):
Graham Geliher Mansfield Bus RMT Branch Secretary, Ian Whyles Whitwell Parish Councillor (Socialist Party), Dave Hamer Executive member NATFHE Wales, Pam Neild Executive Committee member NATFHE Wales, a Tower Colliery NUM Lodge Committee member, Zena Awad Socialist Students National Co-ordinator, Grant Fryatt Amicus Workplace Representative, Nick Long Green Party Candidate Lewisham West 2005, Clive Williams President Swansea Trade Union Council, Andy Beadle TGWU, Lawrence Stevens Vice-President, Lewisham NUT, Richard Belbin TGWU (South Yorkshire Voluntary Sector) Branch Secretary, Paul Heron Unison shop steward Lewisham Law Centre, Bill Meeds Sheffield CWU Pensioners Section branch chair, Calvin Payne Convenor "We Want Our Buses Back" campaign, Sheffield, David Robbie PCS branch secretary DWP Head Office branch Sheffield, Jackie Mahon DfES Branch Youth Officer.
In The Socialist 19 January 2006: