Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 6 June 2018

RMT special conference debates political strategy

Liverpool photo RMT, photo RMT

Liverpool photo RMT, photo RMT   (Click to enlarge)

RMT Socialist Party members

Delegates to the RMT transport union's special general meeting (SGM) have voted to maintain the union's current political strategy and not to affiliate to the Labour Party.

The union will develop its existing strategy of supporting Jeremy Corbyn's leadership but the right-wing grip on the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and local councils, together with the absence of real influence for affiliated unions, prevented affiliation at this time.

The different political situation in Scotland also made a proposal for affiliation extremely difficult.

The SGM debate reflected the understanding, on all sides, that Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader opens up the possibility of Labour becoming a genuine mass workers' party.

The issue of contention was how best to respond to this. The discussion at the SGM was framed by the 2017 annual general meeting where delegates had raised specific concerns.

Not least of these was the question of Scotland. The RMT had been the only union to ballot its members in Scotland before the 2014 independence referendum, coming out for a Yes vote while Labour campaigned for No.

Yet affiliation would mean that the union could only support Labour candidates in Scotland. The majority of Scottish branches and the Scottish RMT opposed affiliation and Scottish delegates explained that, with Labour-led councils carrying out cuts, it is generally still seen to be pushing the same austerity politics as the Tories.

The role of the new 'Corbynista' Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, was also highlighted. He has spoken against austerity but he recently voted with the right in Labour's national executive committee (NEC) vice chair election, denying Corbyn an important ally in the post. He also currently opposes even the right for Scotland to have a second independence referendum.

Other issues outstanding from the 2017 AGM included Labour's attitude to driver-only operation (DOO) of trains and cuts on London Underground and Transport for London (TfL).

Labour councillors have a majority on the authorities that oversee Merseyrail and Northern Rail, who are implementing DOO. Corbyn and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, have supported the union's fight against DOO but many SGM delegates wanted them to go further and pull the councillors and Mersey Mayor into line.

London SGM delegates raised similar points about Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan's cuts on TfL. Instead of publicly opposing cuts and demanding funding from the government, Khan is enthusiastically implementing them. Yet there are no calls from the leadership or Labour left for him to shift his stance.

Can RMT members on the tube really be asked to support, let alone contribute towards, Khan's next election campaign?

The SGM heard from delegates who supported affiliation and, without question, there would be some advantages to be had such as the right of affiliated union branches to vote on whether to run a 'trigger ballot' selection process in local parties (though only after the NEC agrees a timetable for this).

Overblown claims

But most delegates felt the claims of the pro-affiliation campaign were overblown. A seat on the NEC is not guaranteed and the RMT could only expect 16 delegates at Labour Party conference (less if we didn't affiliate our full membership) out of 2,700 or so.

On balance, delegates voted to spend RMT's political fund on candidates who support RMT policy and not dilute that across the PLP and right-wing Labour councillors.

RMT must now unite around the agreed SGM outcome. A serious campaign with other left unions could transform the Labour Party root and branch and open the way for possible affiliation.

But there are also concerns that proponents of affiliation may seek to bring RMT closer to the position of the majority of Labour councillors and MPs rather than seeking to transform the party.

It is noticeable that the union's public pronouncements on Welsh Labour privatising border railways have shifted alarmingly in recent weeks.

In August 2017 the RMT general secretary wrote to the Welsh First Minister and said: "I am staggered to find that it is a Welsh Labour government that is privatising Network Rail's infrastructure and is acquiescing with a Westminster Tory government in the piecemeal privatisation and break up of Network Rail."

But by May 2018 the tone had changed markedly: "RMT policy is for a national integrated railway under public ownership and the Welsh government has made it clear that this is their aspiration as well if they did not have to work under the pro-privatisation legislative straight jacket imposed by the UK government."

Any attempt to soften RMT's own political position to allow for affiliation would be disastrous. This is also true of RMT's industrial position.

A political strategy to deliver a Corbyn-led government must never become a substitute for militant industrial action on DOO, tube cuts, seafarers' rights or any other fight we become involved in.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 6 June 2018:

Labour and the unions

RMT rejects Labour affiliation - now step up the fight for workers' political representation

RMT special conference debates political strategy

Socialist Party news and analysis

Stop the Tory NHS wreckers

#NorthernFail: 250 rail services cancelled

Socialists defend Lush ad campaign against spy cops

International socialist news and analysis

Italy's political crisis is reverberating through Europe

No to Trump's trade war

Jordan: Workers and youth remove prime minister and demand end to austerity

Workplace news

Congress shut down by staff walkouts

PCS union launches strike ballot on pay

West Midlands firefighters vote to strike in massive numbers

East London housing workers fight privatisation of pay

'Made in Dagenham' strike 50 years on

'Made in Dagenham' Ford machinists pay strike 50 years on

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Liverpool meeting remembers 47 councillors who fought and defeated Thatcher in 1980s

Yorkshire 1,000 for issue 1000

People's Assembly event lacks understanding of task facing Corbyn

200 years since the birth of Karl Marx - come and walk in his footsteps!


Alt-right gains exposure - but tedious clichés betray lack of ideas

Rich, raw tale of financial crisis's impact on rural Ireland

The Socialist inbox


Home   |   The Socialist 6 June 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleFight P&O's billionaire bosses' jobs cut plan

triangleTransport workers and passengers mustn't pay the price

triangleTransport union RMT tells members: refuse to work in unsafe conditions

triangleTories put profit before lives - unions must stand firm on workplace safety

triangleNo increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions


triangleLessons from the Corbyn experience

triangleHull Trades Council debates workers' political representation

triangleCrisis in council services: Labour must fight or stand aside

triangleTrades council debates workers' political representation


triangleCovid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!

triangleEnergy firm plans to make 2,600 redundant

triangleNo return to unsafe construction sites


triangleSchools aren't safe

triangleChinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Lessons from the Corbyn experience



Covid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!



Reckless, lying cheats



United action can defeat Tories' dangerous school plan



Coronavirus pandemic news in brief



More blunders and profiteering in Tory track-and-trace scheme



Care home workers suffer PPE shortage and job loss fears



Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality



Johnson's reckless 'back to school' plans threaten everyone's safety



Confidence plummets in Tory strategy for Covid-19



Universal Basic Income: not a solution to insecurity and poverty under capitalism



Furlough cut-off could force millions back to unsafe workplaces



Crisis in council services: Labour must fight or stand aside



Rich get handouts - workers get pay cuts



Transport workers and passengers mustn't pay the price

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020