Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 27 July 2006

Labour Representation conference

Hope and desperation

THE LABOUR Representation Committee (LRC) held its annual conference on 22 July. It was dominated by Labour MP John McDonnell's announcement that he will be standing for the leadership of the Labour Party when Blair finally leaves within the next 12-18 months.

Jim Horton

McDonnell's announcement takes place at a time of debate within the trade unions on the question of working-class political representation and particularly whether the unions should break with the Labour Party or help to reclaim it.

The Socialist Party does not believe it is possible to reclaim the Labour Party for the working class and calls on socialists and trade unionists to join the campaign for a new workers' party.

Historically the Labour Party was saddled with a pro-capitalist leadership but its actions were constrained by a membership rooted in the unions and a mass electoral base in the working class. Today the sickening enthusiasm of Blair and Brown for the capitalist market and the enrichment of their friends has gone well beyond the failed old Labour idea of a mixed economy. New Labour is an open party of big business, whose attacks on workers' pay and conditions have left millions politically disenfranchised.

Past gatherings of the LRC condemned Blair's polices of privatisation and cuts to public services, and his Bush-toadying foreign policy of war and destruction. But there was no clear strategy of achieving the LRC's central aim of reclaiming the Labour Party beyond calling for trade unionists to become party members.

This year, McDonnell's announcement provided a focus, with the conference effectively launching his campaign. The LRC plans to go around the country, with McDonnell and other speakers appealing to the thousands of former Labour Party members to rejoin and fight.

However, highlighting the LRC's difficulties, one delegate pleaded: "I'm not asking you to be happy about joining the Labour Party; it pains me every time I write out a cheque for my subscription".

McDonnell claimed that this was the best opportunity for the left in the Labour Party since Tony Benn's bid for deputy leader in 1981. This fails to recognise the transformation in the Labour Party that has taken place since then. Benn himself spoke at the conference and received a standing ovation. He argued explicitly that it is wrong to found a new party and instead the aim should be to 'refound' the Labour Party. He said he would like to see the RMT and FBU come back to the Labour Party.

Trade union leaders Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka and Matt Wrack all praised McDonnell's parliamentary trade union group work and endorsed his campaign. Ironically however, as Crow acknowledged, none of their unions, who back the LRC, are affiliated to the Labour Party. But unfortunately, none of them is taking the necessary bold step of giving union backing to the idea of forming a new mass workers' party.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack stated that had McDonnell been leader of the Labour Party it was unlikely the FBU would have disaffiliated. Another FBU member said that if McDonnell won the FBU should re-affiliate.

Bob Crow however, while backing McDonnell's campaign, questioned those who call on people to stay in the Labour Party and fight. Crow cited privatisation on the railways and tube as reasons why his members are not convinced about joining the Labour Party to reclaim it. Crow went on to explain that people in Barking and Dagenham were not racist but felt let down by the Tories and New Labour.

The immense hope placed in McDonnell was evident at the conference but also a sense of desperation. One delegate warned that if McDonnell is not elected, demoralisation amongst party ranks will continue.

Another delegate correctly pointed out that all the recent big movements had happened outside the Labour Party and no new generation was coming through Labour's ranks.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 27 July 2006:

Invasion of Lebanon

Bush gives green light to the Israeli onslaught

Eyewitness account from socialist in Lebanon

Thousands march against Israel's attacks on Lebanon

'The politicians and generals are dragging us into the quagmire'

When Israel occupied Lebanon (1982-2000)

No politics please, we're anti-war

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Resistance grows to NHS cuts and closures

NHS workers must organise for action

Physios protest at lack of jobs

Romsey says: "Save Our Birthing Centre"

Strike ballot at NHS Logistics

Socialist Party youth and students

Young people in revolt

Socialist Party campaigns

Class - a matter of life and death

Schools victory scored in Bury

Hope and desperation

John McDonnell's leadership bid

Militant pioneer dies

Bus drivers vote to strike

Socialist Party national trade union meeting


Home   |   The Socialist 27 July 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleNo fudge with the right wing

triangleCarlisle debate - socialism or social democracy?

triangleCorbyn's left must seize the advantage in Labour's civil war

triangle100 years since women won the vote

triangleLabour NHS rally reveals horrors but offers no way forward


triangleSave Salford nurseries!

triangleLabour councillors push through savage cuts in Kirklees budget

triangleBlairite mayor faces open election after democratic 'irregularities' - fight for a no-cuts mayor

triangleBuilding the campaign against clearances of the working class


triangleFire service victory

triangleTrade unionists march to defend 650 local jobs

triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap


triangleNHS - build the fightback

triangleNHS we're ready to fight

Bob Crow:

triangleThe left unions and the Labour Party affiliation debate

Mark Serwotka:

triangleNSSN lobby of the TUC 2017: rank-and-file solidarity to smash the pay cap

John McDonnell:

triangleMcDonnell says Labour would put services 'irreversibly' in workers' hands

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Lecturers strike around country in defence of pensions



German engineering strike puts shorter week on agenda - but could have won more



Cardiff Refugee Rights gig success



Nottingham hospital black alert


East Midlands

Lively discussion at East Midlands Socialist Party conference


West Midlands

Tremendous determination on show at West Midlands conference



Successful Socialist Party Wales conference sets tone for the year ahead



Bradford protests against kids' service cuts


May Day

May Day, May Day! Celebrate solidarity!



Labour councillors push through savage cuts in Kirklees budget



Save Salford nurseries!



Victory: Pontllanfraith leisure centre saved



Northants council crisis - protesters demand an end to cuts and privatisation



Leicester Uni makes Tory fee tripler David Willetts chancellor - sack Willetts!



Bosses divided - university pension strikes can win!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns 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: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

February 2018

January 2018