Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/424/4963
'Crisis in working class political representation'
Manny Thain reports from the conference called by the RMT on working-class political representation.
It was unanimous: New Labour does not represent working-class people. It was nearly unanimous: New Labour cannot be changed. During three hours the discussion centred on what can be done to address the issue of political representation. Over 300 people attended. Over 100 could not get through the door.
Bob Crow (RMT general secretary) said that anyone who thought that New Labour could be reclaimed should explain how. He denounced the establishment parties for having one agenda: the market economy.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow
He stated the need for a socialist society. He said that trade unions can only go so far, they cannot change society. And he made the point that the rail unions a century ago helped lead the campaign to set up the original Labour Party.
However, in terms of practical initiatives he concentrated on rebuilding the shop stewards movement rather than steps towards a new party. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Lois Austin (Pictured left, housing campaigner and Socialist Party Executive) explained that if union leaders with a good record fighting for their members, such as Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka (PCS), called for an alternative to New Labour, it could quickly gain mass appeal. She suggested a national speaking tour to promote such an initiative.
Hilary Wainwright (Red Pepper editor) felt that a structured movement was for sometime in the future. Agreeing with John McDonnell MP, she suggested that just because New Labour was finished as a vehicle for working-class people, did not mean those in it were wasting their time or should have a strategy to change it.
Yet there are many compelling reasons why putting our energies into a campaign for a new mass workers' party is essential.
Robbie Segal (Usdaw NEC member) explained that 100,000-plus Tesco workers are daily suffering systematic increases in workload and worsening conditions, while their union takes little action and Tesco bosses scheme with Blair. A new party is not just a good idea, it's an absolute necessity for millions of low-paid, ripped-off people.
Jared Wood (RMT) said it was essential that any new formation was open, democratic and welcoming, organised on a federal basis. Again, trade unions are in prime position to give such a campaign credibility.
Dave Nellist, Socialist Party councillor, spoke from the platform
Andrew Price (Natfhe NEC member) contrasted the relative democracy of old Labour Party with New Labour's regime.
Bill Sutton was the only Labour Party councillor to speak. He said he had tried for years to change the party, but failed miserably. He should not feel personally responsible! Now, he backs the Campaign for a New Workers' Party and wants to stand as a Socialist Party candidate in next May's local elections.
After the main conference, the Socialist Party held a meeting to give people an opportunity to find out more about the Campaign for a New Workers' Party.
More than 100 people packed the room, indicating the interest and potential. Dave Nellist chaired and shared the platform with Roger Bannister (Unison national executive council member), Mick Barry (Socialist Party Ireland, councillor), and Hannah Sell (Socialist Party executive committee).
Campaign for a New Workers' Party
Sunday 19 March 2006
University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1
Local launch meetings coming up
30 January 7:30pm
Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle
Speakers: Dave Nellist, Coventry Socialist Party Councillor and Kevin Kelly, PCS Vice President.
- 23 February 7:30pm
at William Morris Centre, Walthamstow
- 9 February 7:30pm
at West London Trade Union Club, Acton High Street.
- 25 February 2pm
at Goldsmiths College, Room MB2106, Lewisham Way.
4 February 1pm
SADACCA Club, The Wicker, Sheffield.
2 February 7:30pm
Moorlands Club, Newark Road, Lincoln
For more information on the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, go to www.cnwp.org.uk
email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to CNWP, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG.
New pamphlet on the Campaign for a New Workers' Party. £1 or £2.50 for 5. Cheques made payable to Socialist Publications at PO Box 24697, London, E11 1YD. Available to buy online soon.
In The Socialist 26 January 2006: