29 September 2011
Labour Party conference LRC fringe meeting
No way forward given by 'reclaim Labour' speakers
The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) fringe meeting at Labour Party conference in Liverpool was addressed by a heavyweight platform of speakers which included Tony Benn, Len McCluskey, Mark Serwotka and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
The scene was set for this discussion by the call to arms during the conference by Ed Balls with his ringing declaration to the mass of the working class desperate for leadership: 'Vote for us and nothing will change'!
Tony Benn called for activists to make demands on the Labour leadership, however no demands were formulated.
Len McCluskey told the meeting that he expected Labour leader Ed Miliband to pursue policies which met workers' aspirations, but sounded totally unconvinced that it was going to happen.
John McDonnell deplored the failure of Labour MPs to even support his amendment to the Tory anti-trade union laws which sought to remove the most pernicious element of the legislation.
Mark Serwotka in a fighting speech told the meeting that of the last four strikes in the Department of Works and Pensions, three of them had taken place against the policies of staff reduction and wage restraint implemented by New Labour.
Jeremy Corbyn made a point of welcoming members of the Liverpool 47 (we led the struggle of the socialist Liverpool council in 1983-87) to the meeting and expressed his support for that magnificent struggle. Also, John McDonnell jokingly remarked to the meeting that the right-wing's notion of allowing non-party members to influence policy would give 'Tony [Mulhearn] a chance to conduct an entry tactic back into the party!'
In the past Tony Benn would always refer to the magnificent struggle of the 47 whom he supported unstintingly in the 1980s, addressing many rallies and demonstrations in Liverpool. Any reference to the 47 by him on this occasion was notable by its absence.
All of the speakers' comments reinforced the reality that the Labour Party is now constitutionally, ideologically and organisationally incapable of reflecting the interests of the mass of working people.
Mark Serwotka underlined this when he remarked that 'if we had more MPs like John McDonnell, the interests of the working class would be better served'.
But, the iron grip of the right wing on the selection process for MPs and councillors is now so rigid that anybody professing to stand for socialism would automatically be excluded from consideration for public office.
Yet, in spite of this, not a single speaker called for the breaking of the link between the unions and Labour, nor was there even a strategy advanced for the now impossible task of winning the Labour Party back to where it was before it was hijacked by capitalist entrists Blair and Mandelson and their army of lickspittles.
I had my hand raised to contribute, but unfortunately during the debate which followed no speaker was allowed in to call for any socialists in the meeting to recognise that Labour had been transformed into an openly capitalist party and that the best course of action is to join the campaign for a new mass party of the working class.
Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool Socialist Party and Liverpool 47
Labour Party conference - a sham
I watched some of the Labour Party conference on TV this week. Never again.
In the 1980s, when I was a Militant supporter in the Labour Party, the party's annual conference was something to get excited about.
There was a real clash of ideas and programmes, with the chance of the leadership being overturned at any time.
Every year some Militant supporter - Ray Apps, Pat Wall, Tony Mulhearn - would make a barnstorming speech and a socialist resolution would be carried, to the embarrassment of the leadership.
But now? The conference resembles nothing more than a rather dull training day like I used to experience at work, with minimal participation and utterly predictable outcomes.
In the phone hacking 'debate', after two speeches, we were treated to a coffee table discussion between the Shadow Culture Secretary, a journalist and a lawyer. I thought that BBC2's Newsnight had started early!
Then came the 'debate' on justice and communities. There was a long speech from Tessa Jowell, then, mystifyingly, a video.
The BBC wouldn't show it because they said it was a party political broadcast and they played some music over it. So the only people who were watching the party broadcast were the delegates!
Coffee table chats, videos - anything to prevent the cut and thrust of debate. Talk about stage-managed.
Even witch-hunter Unison leader Dave Prentis complained that Unison's position on pensions wasn't fairly reflected in the public services composite. Yes, Dave, you can dish it out, but you can't take it!
Any shift or part-time worker who turned on during the day hoping to hear some answers would have been disgusted. A sham conference for a sham party.
Paul Gerrard, Salford Socialist Party
These articles were first posted on the Socialist Party website on 29 September 2011 and may vary slightly from the versions subsequently printed in The Socialist.